Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Train journey : Bangalore - Delhi

Last night I had my lower berth exchanged for a side lower seat to help a family sit together. I was also lucky to get my favorite berth, love to just sit here and enjoy the travel through the window. Woke up by 6am today, apparently we had just crossed secundrabad...had Tea served in a short while, made myself a cup of black tea. Nothing to complain about the tea but still missing the cardamom flavored ones available in my office pantry :D

One thing I noticed was there was nothing special about Rajdhani, the coaches were infact in a bad condition with excessive vibration and there were no individual reading lamps for the berths. Time for breakfast and had two bread slices and an omlette with another round of tea. Quickly flicked through the newspaper, situation in JK is still glum, India in a really bad position in the first test..looks like Murali will polish off India and complete his 800. Started the 'tropic of cancer', a controversial and fictional autobiography of Henry Miller...immediately impressed by the writing and the author's sense of humor.

Most of the morning I alternate between short naps and few more pages in the book. Kind of relaxed and infact I had stopped thinking about my trip plans and the worse weather conditions after manali. There are two ways to do the Ladakh trip from Delhi, one via manali and returning through Srinagar, second was to do it in the reverse. The Manali route is the most famous one and known for its breathtaking beauty. This one though was a lot more risky thanks to the heavy rains this season. For the first two weeks of July Rohtang pass (50km from Manali) had come to a standstill due to the landslides and hundreds were left stuck on either sides of it...even more scary, supposedly 2 of them had died due to cold/altitude/lack of proper food. I should thank the members of BCMTouring.com for their constant updates of the road conditions there.

We were tempted to use the srinagar route, but finally decided to try the manali route as we had enough days in case of surprises and the beauty of this route made it an easy decision. After lunch I was reviewing some of our trip plans, maps and thinking about the days which had too much distance to cover. Started chatting with the two families which were in my compartment section. Bhooshan and Syan, both in their early 40s were with their families. Bhooshan was returning to Delhi for a vacation and Syan was taking his daughter back to Ambala for the year end holidays.

They both were from the Airforce and to my excitement Bhooshan had been incharge of the Forest and Snow survival  coaching unit at Rohtang for a few years. His job was to train new recruits in survival skills and techniques. He was checking the safety gear and equipments which we were planning to carry. I had a thorough ground work done on winter clothing/gear and equipments to carry for the trip, courtesy my colleague Vishwa, BCMT and IndiaMike websites. Bhooshan was appreciative that we are better prepared. He was also giving tips on motorcycle riding in the hills there, do not use clutch or stay in neutral during a descend, be ware of oncoming traffic in blind curver. Few interesting tips were, not to get drunk with strangers as they might strip you off everything!...restrain from using 1,2,3 channels in walkie talkie, due to frequent military usage of them.

Syan was more interested n my camera, learned that he is interested in photography. Showed him how to use my SLR, the controls-zoom-focus-shoot and he was quick to grasp and started clicking away happily, had a small photo session....showed them some of my pictures I had in my samsung P3, they really loved the pics from Swara's birthday party, it was my team lead's daughter's birthday party.
Link to the flickr album : Swara's Birthday Party

Both Bhooshan and Syan had a look at our trip itinerary and expressed concerns with our attempt at Delhi to Manali 500kms in the same day. Recommended us to split it into two days as the last 200kms will be tricky due to ghat sections. I felt they were correct and no point in stressing right at the start of the trip, so getting prepared to use the free days we had in our plan to accommodate this modification.

Had dinner as the last serving in the journey, will reach Delhi before 6 am tomorrow. Tipped the pantry people for their service. The pantry service was one advantage of this journey, especially for solo travelers as there is to need to worry about food. Got the contact details of both Syan and Bhooshan.. they too wished me good luck for Mission Ladakh 2010! Corssed Bhopal by 10pm and went to entire train went to sleep. Put my favorite playlist on and sleep had come within 2 songs.

Peaceful and quite productive day it had been. Have to do a lot of things tomorrow, including some pending work for the technical paper :-)

Monday, August 16, 2010

Mission Ladakh 2010 : Pics

Got to process a few select pics from my DSLR.

A Wednesday : 21st July 2010

This day will stand in my memory for times to come, marked the start of the realization of my dream....a Motorcycle trip to Ladakh! This is it, I am going to be meditating in the Himalayas....well I always believe motorcycle riding is a form of meditation, your mind is no more a monkey during the ride!

The last two months were invested in preparation and planning. Me and two of my college friends, babu and bala were planning on this motorcycle trip. I have to thank my company and bosses for accepting my vacation and even accepted the change in plan fron June to July. The initial plan was to do it by end of june, after some difficulties, Babu had to support an emergency at his gujarat branch and Bala was busy stuck between two teams, they got their vacation approved for july end.

I have to thank lots of my  friends online/offline, colleagues and my parents for their support and help during the preparation phase... this will be a dedicated post at the end of my travelogue..I think I will complete this trip log unlike all my previous rides which are only in my memories and my pics..after all this is the trip of a lifetime

Coming back to this important Wednesday, my train was at 8:20 from Bangalore to Delhi...been working for the past three years in Bangalore..Bala will reach Delhi from Hyderabad and Babu's house at Noida was the start point of our ride which we called - 'Mission Ladakh 2010' 

Its 11am at office....collected a sleeping bag from Vishwa, my colleague, wishes from my team and some group pics just in case!!!! Was running late on some actions and a technical paper for an upcoming conference. After lunch had a discussion regarding the my work and left office 4pm.

Haven't packed my stuff yet and now I have to rush to ITPL to pick up a pair of walkie-talkies, which my colleague and college senior Srinath had agreed to lend for the trip. Lucky to have Mahendra's splendor, reached ITPL by 4:30, this is truly remarkable considering the notorious Bangalore traffic. Picked up the walkie-talkies and left by 4:50 and reached 6, was smiling how lucky I was to have escaped traffic in the onward trip!

Big mistake : Didn't know a reliable cab service, googled and got a booking at the third guy i dialed. Garden city cabs, requested cab at 6:30, they promised by 6:45. The checklist I had prepared was extremely useful. Packed everything and shifted stuff to the entrance by 7 and still no signs of the cab. Got a call from driver, stuck in marathahalli, very far, they don't have any other cab ready! Panic!

15 mins up and he has just reached HAL. Chances of missing train are getting very bright. Was extremely angry with myself, should have booked a better cab the previous day. Bad mistake. Now I am sure I might have missed something.. remembered Bujiv's technique to remember stuff while packing, he starts from toe upwards and recollects items..looked at my foot, shocked to find my indoor rubber slippers still!!!! The hiking boots should have been there, run back to house, change to shoes. Tat was close! Driver calls and he is near. Relived I forget the toe up check completely and wait for the cab eagerly.

My roomie Paddu arrives, cab reaches finally, dump all the stuff and jump to the front seat. Man I had too many things to carry. Four bags : a 40L wildcraft, a travel bag, my Lowepro with camera gear and saddle bags, all filled with stuff for me and lots for Babu and Bala. Four more carry ons : Riding jacket, Helmet, MRF rear tire for Bala, Tent... coming back, the driver dude is too excited to think clearly, asks me how to go to Bangalore City station! No way I will reach in 40mins, suggest him to try the Richmond circle route and shout at him to drive as fast as he could. 7:32 when we started.

Took 20 mins to reach Corporation circle, completely clogged. Lost all hope, now I am beginning to calm down and use the pre-exam technique of holding the palms and counting the pulse. It does work and calms you down. I am planning about a flight travel tomorrow. Driver dude is back to his senses, miraculously he takes the cubbon route and flies through empty roads to reach near Majestic by 8:03. I never knew this route...am I going to make it?

Remembered platform to be 8, but not sure, reached main entry by 8:12. Dumped the cab at parking entrance, porter asks 200rs, no time to bargain....me the driver and the porter, each carry the items and started running to platform 8, the weight of the backpack with tripod and sleeping bags, the camera bag and the tent exhausts me before we reached PF3, still run on, mouth has dried and am moving forward only by momentum... see 8:18 flashing above, climbed up to PF8 and relieved to see Rajdhani waiting. Reach B2 in another minute and dump all stuff.. 400 to the cab for ride plus luggage hauling and 200 to the porter and I sink at my seat, completely exhausted even to move my luggage.

All my co passengers stare at me, panting like a dog and sweating like a pig.. takes me full 15mins to cool down and feel the first effects of the AC working. I reflect upon how lucky I had been and send a few messages to friends. Did it! Started successfully.. man it was one hell of a beginning.