Tuesday, June 25, 2013

the river

He once asked him, 'Have you also learned the secret from the river;that there is no such thing as time?'

A bright smile spread across Vasudeva's face.

'Yes, Siddhartha', he said. 'Is this what you mean? The river everywhere at the same time, at the source and at the mouth, at the waterfall, at the ferry, at the current, in the ocean and in the mountains, everywhere, and that the present only exists for it, not the shadow of the past, nor the shadow of the future?'

'That is it', said Siddhartha, 'and when I learned that, I reviewed my life and it was also a river....

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Chasing the Monsoon - Part 3

This is a continuation of the Part 1 and Part 2 of the series "Chasing the Monsoon".

Day 2

Early morning risers were four of us. We went on an early stroll , had hot tea and samosa from the deserted Calangute beach, 

arranged bikes for all and made sure everyone was up in time for the day ahead. 2 Yamaha FZ-S, 2 Honda Activa, 1 Dio and 1 Avenger were arranged. I finished a small ride up to Baga beach and had a small tussle with parking fellows and ended up paying 250 bucks, only to be forgotten in the clear rains further ahead. Geared up and ready, we set out by 11 to Fort Aguada.
We met with heavy rainfall there, creating one more of those moments of the trip, which were 'for your eyes only' as all cameras were instantly tucked in. The heavy crowd in spite of the off-season were driven off by the rains and we roamed freely, dancing and waving in the rain that threatened to pull even me off my foot into the rocks below the fort where the Arabian sea was raging like a mother who was out for revenge. We held on to the battlements taking in the full force of the heavy drops and tearing winds on our new raincoats and face! I was satisfied as my purpose of the Goa visit was fulfilled to the point where it started showing green. Anything going wrong beyond that point still classified the trip worth remembering and loving.

But nothing went wrong and after some extended photoshoot of 'Goa nature', we left for the next spot. The central jail below the fort. Truly exciting it was to watch the mad sea rushing in and hitting the rocks. Soon I was in the thick of things and sitting at the farthest point taking in the heavy waves, tumbling off twice taking minor bruises and cuts. We had awesome photoshoots until it started raining and the policemen started hurling abuses and threats. We thought it would be safer to leave rather than land up in trouble and soon left for next spot, which was Sinquerim.
Sinquerim is my favourite beach in Goa after my first visit in April. This time around it looked completely different. There was no beach. It was all sea, madly raging against the fort and the restaurants nearby were sprayed and drowned by successive waves. These were places which in April were far from beach to catch even a good breeze. I fondly remembered my lonely night visit last time and tried to absorb the change I saw there now. We walked up further and found a nice place further into the sea, and less crowded.
I walked up the cliff from there to get a better picture, while a smaller group went down via the rocks to where the sea was hitting hard. My view was ultimate as I could see long distances, the rolling and raging sea ahead, forts aside, and soon the heavy rains started hitting.
I had all intention to stay there and let the gang return, but it was 5pm and it wasn't safe to be there anymore, especially in the rains and I realized I hadn't eaten anything more than a couple of samosas and a cup of tea from the morning. So we returned, and had a long-awaited lunch(or dinner).
Next, we hit Calangute beach and played in the beach until exhaustion. I had nice wrestling bouts and marathons, trying to evade being dragged into the water by three stout fellows. I stood victorious :P Dinner was in Baga beach and it was a fitting end to the tiring day. Tasty food in candle light, relaxing in the open air, discussing so many things, listening to the karoake in the nearby bar and sometimes strolling over to watch some dance performances or some random guy getting kicked in the ass by the bouncers :P

We even had physical competitions where we fit guys showed off our skills while others indulged themselves in relaxing activities. And it didn't rain at all until long after we finished our dinner. The rain actually caused us to leave and get on to next spot. After dropping off the few who wanted to take rest, around 8 of us came back to Baga and hung around for some hilarious moments until midnight, after which we returned and dropped off a subset of people again. The remaining 4 were the most determined off the lot, wanting to go to Anjuna beach(8kms approx) at 2AM.

And so set off this small gang, after loading up on icecreams from the nearby Amul shop. We soon hit the pitch dark road to the Anjuna and one crazy fellow suggested to continue without headlights and we agreed immediately. And so we continued in that fashion to Anjuna beach, figuring out routes in the dark. As there was nothing much to see, we used our headlights to check what lay ahead on the beach and enjoyed the tranquility for a while and returned by 3, only to stop again at the Baga bridge, take pics and discuss random things until we realized everyone was swimming in sleepiness. Return, hit bunk. Time 4.30AM.


Day 3
Waking up the fellows was difficult and we ended up leaving for Anjuna only by 12.30PM. Rushed through, clicked a lot of photos on bikes and headed out to Vagator. There were no rains and the sun came up by the time reached Vagator. It wasn't much fun as a huge Indian crowd thronged the place and there was no white sand(for which Vagator is famous), everything looked black. We returned somewhat disappointed, and had lunch. After lunch, just as I was returning to my room, I spotted a Nano, and it had the stickers of MTV Nano Drive 2 on it and it said #nanosouth. I thought, oh wow, the same team I support and followed over the last few weeks. The same people I talked to only via twitter and facebook were so close, and I didn't want to miss the chance to follow their exciting journey. I didn't think much. Followed em and after some frantic gestures, they stopped and had a nice chat with Moumita, Divyanshu, Reema and Udit.
Also met the production guy and rolled for a short video and some snaps before going our separate ways. They anyway are entering my domain. But it was a surprise to all that we met so unexpectedly after following and interacting on social media. It is a great jolly gang and I love the concept of the show. It was my lucky day to have been part of it. So for me the trip ended on a higher note than expected. After we packed, three cabs dropped us to Panaji for the return bus, after boarding which the rains smothered the town.

Sitting by the window seat and relaxing the aching muscles and getting to sleep a bit, my mind raced through the events of the last 3 days. We had pain,exhaustion,desperation,excitement,fear,bliss,hunger,fame and surprises, and lots of fun with the gang who hardly new each other 3 days ago.

As the excitement of the trip dies down and the boredom of routine office life starts dragging things, all that remains are good memories, feeling of satisfaction, lots of stories, and lots of new and unexpected friends made over a weekend.. cheers to the spirit of travel.... adios

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Chasing the Monsoon - Part 2

This is a continuation of part 1 of the series "Chasing the Monsoon"..

Frenzy broke loose and we broke ranks and ran to check with the engine driver and guard of the train on this sudden appearance. Confusion prevailed for some time until one guy came running with news from the engine driver that our train was on the way and would arrive shortly. Finally it did, and we clambered on as fast as we could, thanked the guard and settled down.

Never in my entire life had I waited so eagerly for a goods train to arrive, and an arrival of a goods train in a railway signal always caused me to frown. But now after this experience, I have started respecting and appreciating goods train. I am sure that from now on, spotting a goods train would give me fond memories of this trip and the lifesaver it turned out to be.

Sitting in the guard coach, we had a good view of the surroundings, though light was dropping rapidly. We all peered out to catch a final glimpse of the majestic dudhsagar as the rain chugged along slowly. The sight was again majestic and incomparable to any other, but our cries of jubilation and self congratulatory gestures were replaced by silent awe when we moved further and the train took a bend and the upper half of the falls came into sight in the twilight, covered in all other sides by thick fog. It was a very special moment for us when I spotted this and cried out. All chatter dropped, everyone stood up in spite of the cramps and stood in awe drinking in the splendour of the falls we just conquered. I stand corrected. It can't be conquered. It conquered us. No pics. For your eyes and heart  only.

The guard was a friendly fellow from Rajasthan who chatted about his work and his railway interviews for which he had come to Bangalore once. Relieved, we settled to crack jokes, clicked pics and singing and making loud noises. All this lasted only for a while until we realized the sounds of nature filling us from all around. Apart from hushed jokes and random laughs, all were immersed in the beauty of the rainforest drunk in the darkness and sensual after the fresh showers. Luckily it didn't rain throughout the 1 hour it took to cover the remaining 8 kms. We heard stories of tiger, bears and porcupines spotted near the railway track by rail guards and about how the railway operates in the region. It was a very relaxing and enjoyable ride. Everything went fine in spite of the tense moments, pain and the anxiety in between. All we wanted now was to hit the bunk.

We reached Caulem by around 8 pm and proceeded towards Calangute beach(75kms) in a single cab. It proved to be a difficult adjustment to cover so far a distance. But we did manage until Calangute, where after some confusion and walking in the rains, we managed to get ourselves rooms in the Falcon resorts near the calangute beach. Too tired to do anything else, the ones who had planned on a late night ride dropped it and all had pizza and hit the bunk.... snooze.. To Be Continued..

Chasing the Monsoon - Part 1

Rains - anyone who knows me in real life or any reader of my blog or my posts in Facebook knows that I love em. My love for mountains comes second. And hence the trip to Dudhsagar and Goa in the current season of heavy monsoon is justified with reasons for those who doubt.

The spark-
Don't exactly recall the spark for this trip. I think it just came forward during a discussion with my friend Aswin Pai.

The team-
The final team consisted of 11 people, off which excluding myself, I knew two others. One of them knew 7 others and the other brought his friend. We jokingly referred to our group as sleeper cells. I guess many of us will turn into real 'sleeper' cells in the aftermath of the trip.But that's a different matter altogether.

The plan-
Trek from Castlerock to Dudhsagar falls(15kms) with the luggage, continue to Caulem(8kms) if time permits and then continue to Calangute beach for accomodation.
Next two days, visit every beach in north Goa, see and explore as much as possible until the bus from Panaji leaves to Bangalore on Sunday evening. Monday, all go to office happy and relaxed. Read further to know what really happened.

Day 0
Met the sleeper cells at the Bangalore city railway station and boarded the train(Rani Chennamma Express). After nearly an hour of shifting people around, we all ended up in nearby seats. Cracked jokes, broke ice, clicked photos, weaved expectations.

Day 1
Beautiful morning at Londa. Had pav bhaji and some poor breakfast. Loaded up on eatables. Arranged cab to carry all 11 in the rain, in one Sumo. Fun ride with more jokes,getting to know each others and loaded up on more food and anti-leech supplies. The need for the former was underestimated and the latter overestimated.

Reached Castlerock by 10.45am and started the final dressing up with anti-leech and anti-rain packing. Saw many new techniques to ward off leeches for first time in my 3 years of travel. Felt the tension and anxiety on many newbies. Some proved toughies. The gang that chose to sit on top of the cab while taking jungle routes gave some wild moments to enjoy :) Started off along the rails in the direction pointed to by the train driver, ah I almost forgot being reprimanded for posing for photographs on the train engine without permission. So we started off with nice scolding and the rains picking up almost immediately as all put on the rain coats. Many were new coats and people were discovering methods to keep it on in the gushing winds.
 The start was amazing owing to the thick rains, and fog building up all around. Everyone got into rhythm and kept on. Soon the rains dropped but we happily kept on, using the chance to click photos and crack jokes on each others. I was picking up the fluency on Hindi that I had lost for sometime owing to not practising it :) Soon, we realized the folly of walking with the heavy loads and covered with rain coats. Slowly, one-by-one the rain coats started coming off and groups started forming based on pace. Normal and steady pace for an hour or more.

Goods trains and engines kept appearing on the tracks from time to time. The leading person signals the group to get to the dry ground along the track and it gets cleared in a sweep once the engine is in view. The initial encounters were filled with wonder and excitement, but soon we got used to it and just made sure we kept track of time differences between trains to know if we would encounter one in a tunnel. Some crazy math was also being talked about.
Speaking of tunnels, those are one of the major attractions in the Konkan railway route and the same applies to the section we were climbing. There were nearly 10(the last one was numbered 10 and the first 1, otherwise we didn't keep count) and they varied in lengths, shape,lighting and other special factors. Some had cracks through which light filtered in, creating enchanting shapes for the photographers, not that much successful efforts were made, owing to the need to make pace and pitch darkness inside. Others were bent, pitch dark, filled with litter or had roots hanging down. Some had water dripping in at points, making excellent subjects for photos. It was exciting and challenging at times to walk through these tunnels with the limited light supply we had.

With some short breaks in between for refreshments and photographs, we took nearly 5 hours to reach our destination. At many places we had to leave early to reach the falls before sunset and to avoid being stranded on top of the desolate mountains in the rains. Many newbies broke down and slowed down. But the moment we reached Dudhsagar falls, we were once again filled with excitement. One km ahead lie our destination and we dragged on.

The falls. There is so much I can tell about the falls. I watched the gang which reached earlier relaxing,  munching on snacks and people getting their portraits photographed in front of it. I dropped my bag, took out the camera and climbed on the side railings and lie there for 5 mins looking at the waterfalls without switching on the camera. I observed the v-shaped streams crashing on the middle platform to join once again as one single stream. I also observed the rivulets trying to make new paths all around. There were even some mini Dudhsagars around. The flow was uniform and one could track a sheet of water making its way from the top, getting split by the lone tree at the top(its very high. India's fifth tallest I believe). One could feel the immense force with which the water was flowing from its rumbling and tumbling. My shoddy shoes had resulted in excruciating pain in my feet and ankle after walking 15kms on the uneven rocks laid between tracks owing to the flat and thin soles. I don't remember how long I lie there, but I felt the energy from the falls getting transferred into me, and the pain was dissolved and washed away by it into the jungle. The soul content,and body rested, my mind made many journeys in the short period we were there. Clicked a few photos and walked back to Dudhsagar station to catch the last goods trains scheduled at 6pm to take us to Caulem. Didn't realize that I hadn't eaten a morsel of food that was carried up and it anyway went into one of the other poor guy's tummy :)

Filled with joy and now wearing chappals instead of the treacherous shoes, I felt more comfortable and we all covered the remaining kilometer in a jiffy. At the station we were presented with a troubling proposition. The officials at the station had no way to authorize our ride on a goods train and they were now not sure of its time and also whether it would be a goods train. An engine would not allow 11 people to travel on it. The next confirmed train was at 2AM next day. So our chances of survival hung upon the goods train coming up soon, in the right direction and the guard allowing us in, within 2 minutes that is allowed for stoppages. The rains were picking up, light fading, cold biting, insects invading, food supplies emptied and soon tension was high. Also we had to figure out where the guard coach would stop and after wild estimations of length and number of coaches we started walking towards the expected spot and spread out. Everyone was exhausted and each minute spent waiting on the tracks, fully loaded and wet, filled with anxiety was gruesome. Some were fully exhausted,but were in high spirits to catch the train and escape from the jungle rather than waiting for the next train in the desolate railway station without supplies or walking the remaining 8 kms in the dark and dangerous rain forest.


We must have waited for a good half an hour before heard the rumbling on the tracks from a distance. With the red light on the other track, we had all our eyes on the track leading to Caulem. We even saw a glimpse of the trains headlights coming through a tunnel. I had a sinking feeling that the sound was coming from the wrong direction and when the lights too came from that direction, my worst fears were confirmed. I shared it with the group, but none of us wanted to believe it and so we continued our wait. Finally the train did turn up, but in the opposite direction indeed. Oooops... 
                                              TO BE CONTINUED...