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Posts Tagged ‘Travel

Of Tequilas and Jumping Out Of Planes

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The evening before had been a Tequila Fest. A blood test might have revealed some traces of Scotch too. The beep of the phone woke me up. On the other side, was this guy. If it weren’t for him, I might not have experienced how jumping from 15000 feet felt.

Our destination was a town called Cuautla (Mexico) in the neighboring state of Morelos. Our driver was a friendly Mexican chap whom we had known from our daily commute to work. It took us nearly two hours before we came in sight of flying planes, a large rectangular green strip and all things typical of a Sky Diving venue. The journey had been spent in mostly fantasizing about how it would feel to do what we had embarked upon, apart from desperate measures to get rid of the Tequila that had flooded the insides.

Realization Dawns
The dame on the registration desk handed over a form. It was an official, sophisticated version of a suicide note. It stated that I was fully aware of what I was getting into and also that I might not get out of it. I wished I couldn’t find a pen to sign it but she handed me that too. I pledged myself.

Slow & Steady

Slow and Steady
I took my own sweet time in getting into the gear and because I was the last one to board the aircraft, I felt at ease just a tad bit. FIFO (First In First Out) was my algorithm of choice but LIFO (Last In First Out) was the unanimous choice. With sweat dripping down my forehead, I managed to smile for the camera. While the trainer tightened the harness, I felt curling and tightening in my insides. This wasn’t just any other airplane journey. It was like the rare one where one had to take the emergency exit. I must have said a silent prayer.

Air Borne

There were indicators for altitude and air-pressure inside the aircraft. The trainers’ eyes were glued to it while they chit-chatted. I tried to recollect the instructions that were given pre-boarding but my mind drew a blank. In vain, I tried to rack my brains. Then, there was an alarm and the door opened. I recollect people around me smiling. I couldn’t reciprocate, however. I’m not sure till date if it was a push from the trainer or it was a slip from my side or something else, but there I was – In The Air!

Like A Bird

For the first few seconds, I felt like a bird learning to fly. I had wings but didn’t know how to flap them.

Finally, it sinks in
Then, the parachute was pulled out. And with it came a jolt which pulled me up. It felt like the end of days for a split second but then the world seemed beautiful. The cool breeze soothed my senses and I loved what I saw – clouds above me, hills and water bodies below me! It felt like being suspended in heaven.

An Accomplished Bloke

An Accomplished Bloke
This jump dates back to November 2011 but even today when I see the video, it gives me goose-bumps. Yes, I had put myself out of my comfort-zone but it was worth it. Besides, being comfy all the time is just plain boring. Upon landing, I had imagined myself turning into a celebrity and people running towards me to click pictures and get autographs. None of that happened, alas! However, a feeling of accomplishment was quite conspicuous.

This post is an entry for a contest by CupONation, an online retailer of discount coupons, and The Shooting Star travel blog.

Written by Sangfroid

March 10, 2013 at 6:51 pm

The Tour Of Nilgiris – 2nd Edition

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Everything hurts. Your back hurts, your feet hurt, your hands hurt, your neck hurts, your legs hurt, and of course, your butt hurts – says the legendary Lance Armstrong in It’s Not About the Bike.

My personal experiences as a motor-biker are in consonance with his views on at least two counts –
a) the butt, sure, hurts b) it is never about the bike

In spite of being an active Bikenomad for a while now, I haven’t progressed to being a cyclist, unlike ardent proponents of the cause like Sameer (Yes, moving from a motor-bike to a bike is progressive in more ways than one)

Sometime back, I had a candid conversation with a friend who happens to cycle regularly, delving on city riding vis-a-vis long tours. Below is an audio clip of the same

If Gautam(the unfailing cyclist in the audio) lacks the expertise to be on such a tour and Sameer has gained it through rigorous and committed training, I should better make the first move.

When I’d first heard about the Tour Of Nilgiris more than a year back, I was greatly excited. I had made a secret resolution of participating in the next edition. Leaning on the slopes of the Nilgiris on a bicycle while negotiating a curve, wading through the early morning mist would be such an emancipating experience, when compared to being greeted by one’s boss in a farm of cubicles.

This year the Tour of Nilgiris has grown bigger and better. The rider list has grown from 40 to 70 and the ’09 edition takes into consideration the requirements of riders with varying skill levels, different bicycles and the desire to get as much as possible from the tour. Expert help in the form of bicycle mechanics and health-care professionals will be available to all riders throughout the 8 day journey, covering a total of 901 kms.

As kids, we loved our bikes. It signified liberation and independence, one’s first set of wheels. It is time to get back to them (And I of course don’t mean the tri-cycles) for the greater good of the world. And that is what this tour is about, ultimately.

“You’re gonna win the Tour De France one day” – Chris Carmichael, Lance’s coach said to him.
“You’re gonna be on the Tour Of Nilgiris one day” – I, the coach and the pupil, say to myself.

Written by Sangfroid

October 25, 2009 at 8:24 pm


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Being agnostic to religion, places of worship or religious towns do not appeal much to me.
I have been appreciated for my aesthetic sense, all right, but that does not make me an architect or a designer.

Considering the above, what was I doing at the 14th century temple town called Lepakshi on my country’s Independence Day ?
The answer lies in the fact that Lepakshi meant travel. Travel by road, riding my bike, which I so cherish doing.

The heavy overnight rain was causing concerns and fellow riders had almost trashed the plan. The ride however started, although as late as 0830 hrs instead of the planned 0630 hrs. Time wasn’t a concern as the distance was minuscule. At Hebbal, two more riders joined taking our count to six, and of bikes to five. Until we reached BIAL, the needle never went beyond 60 kmph, thanks to the blackberry wielding cops that Bangalore is seeing of late.

NH4 being a part of the Golden Quadrilateral, although with numerous diversions, is heaven for burning rubber.

As straight as a needle - Cruising on NH4

As straight as a needle - Cruising on NH4

We cruised, ripped, ambled until we halted at Kamat, at 1100 hrs, for a late breakfast.
As I always mention, any ride in this part of the world is incomplete without the proverbial Idli Dosa and other South Indian delicacies.
And Kamat is one chain which has set good standards in serving the same.
We filled ourselves and finished it with a cup of milky tea.
Those wanting the black variety of it were left to sulk.

The destination was close from here but as luck would have it we missed the left turn and overshot by quite some distance. In the end, it was estimated to be around 50 kms of unwanted riding. I, for one, did not seem to mind that. The weather was perfect for riding. It drizzled in between but remained overcast mostly.

We reached Lepakshi at 1400 hrs and headed straight to the main temple.

In one word, it was – Grand.

The carvings of the Sheshnag and Ganesha stood out in particular. I wanted to go click happy but a ‘Change the batteries’ message greeted me when I switched on the camera. For the record, of late I’ve seen a number of off days with my electronic gadgets.

Lord Shiva, his holy serpent and ... a mortal

Lord Shiva, his holy serpent and ... a mortal

Anyways, we spent a good two hours checking out the two temples. The main is called Vidarbha (an incarnation of Shiva) temple and the other one is the Nandi temple. The line of pillars and the architecture reminded me of Hampi. In spite of being kilometers apart, interestingly, the Nandi is so positioned that it faces the Sheshnag in the main temple. This particular imagery was depicted in most of the postcards selling there and had me confused until I got to know this tidbit. And that was the ‘Aha’ moment for the day.

On our way back, we stopped for chai on the highway while some bought guavas. We had taken a liking to the guavas earlier, when we waited for the riders to regroup. Lack of a good eating joint on this route forced us to stop at Kamat yet again.

Colors of Independence

Colors of Independence

We made sure to order different stuff than what we did for breakfast. Guess what, it was yummy again. Post that, we did some Independence Day photography – the tricolor fluttering on our bikes.

I felt proud to be an Indian. But as it is said, excessive pride leads to downfall, so I let it pass of quickly.

1930 hrs and I was back home – happy and content!

In hindsight, it was a fun day of disciplined riding and meeting some new riders.
Lepakshi is a must visit for the historically / architecturally inclined. Others wouldn’t be disappointed too.

For  more pics, visit Gomsi’s album

Important Information

Place – Lepakshi, Andhra Pradesh, India
Distance from Bangalore – Approx 125 kms
Food – Kamat Upachar (On NH4, 50 kms before the destination)
Route – NH4 (BLR-HYD) all the way barring the last 15 kms.
On NH4, once you pass RAXA Academy, be on the lookout for a left turn. This is easy to miss. Take this turn (mixture of dirt track, no track, some track) and continue for 15 kms

Written by Sangfroid

August 17, 2009 at 10:29 am

On Road Trips :: 78mm aka ‘Larger Than Life’ Adventures

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The phone vibrated. Early for a Saturday morning, I lazily answered it with a lethargic Hi hoping that my friend would have pity and call me later. A minute into the conversation and I was out of bed, talking to him animatedly, simultaneously admiring my stubble in the mirror.

For me – travel, road-trips or anything even remotely related to it generates instant euphoria. More so, when the circuit is as challenging and adventurous as Ladakh. While I blurted out name after name (Pang, Sarchu, Leh, Gata Loops and the likes) to him deciding on his itinerary, my Ladakh trip from last year came flashing back. Priorities for the summer of 2009 are set otherwise I would have been heading to nature’s lap in the Himalayas, this year too.

I’m caught up but maybe you are not and are indeed contemplating … on a vacation amidst serene surroundings, on a road-trip, on camping by the riverside, on doing that trek. If so, read on. Even if that isn’t the case, read on. You might as well change your mind and be a part of this adventure called – Road Trip to the Forbidden Land.


The detailed brochure can be downloaded here. Give it a shot and be blown away.
The mode of travel is no constraint. You could get your cruisers, 4×4 or hire one. Going by the itinerary, these 9 days promise loads of adventure for the adrenalin junkie in you. Registrations have already started. Hurry before the seats fill up.

For latest updates, join live discussion at the 78mm Adventures forum and get all doubts clarified.

I, for one, have no doubts about the fun and adventure that lies in store for whoever embarks on this 9 day road trip. But as luck would have it, the possibility of yours truly doing epic road trips, such as this or Ladakh, in 2009 is ruled out.
In hopes of appeasing my wanderlust with a short trip in South India while you(I hope) unravel secrets of the forbidden land.

Written by Sangfroid

April 25, 2009 at 8:00 pm

Bandipur and its vicinity

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If peeled skin and a broken tooth for a cow … errr ox and the damages to the thunderbird were not enough, there were a couple of blown fuses leading to ignition problems and a minor issue of the key getting stuck in the toolbox.

And yes a stray dog doing a 360 turn in the air with an incessant ‘bow wow’, after being hit by the foot peg.

Well the (mis)adventure did not end there, as word has it … folks were in kissing distance of a wild tusker in the darkness of the night.

Just because all the above happened, concluding that the trip was jinxed and pitying the plight of the riders would be a mistake and far from the truth. The two days were quite wonderful and memorable.

If the need to derive conclusions out of a ride are too pressing, let them be as follows:-

#1 Never stop for a stray dog. Of course slow down but there is no point in jamming the brakes at the last moment if the creature comes out of nowhere. It would cause more harm than good.

#2 Proper Riding gear (a minimum of knee guards, gloves and a good jacket) saves life.

#3 Always carry spares (Fuse being the most basic of ’em)

Deadman Inc aka Vaas has saved me some time (Not that I would have minded) by doing this

I will therefore fill in with what happened while most of ‘The Others’ were leaning against the curves on the ghats to Ooty.

After having tried our(Vaibhav and myself) luck at the entry-prohibited waterfall at Masinagudi, we met fellow riders on our way back to Bandipur just as we spotted a herd of elephants. Since we had just done the route only minutes back, ways were parted which ended up in we going for the Safari. Although the most-wanted remained elusive, we did spot quite a few animals.

Sundown was nearing by the time we freshened up after having reached MC Resort. One cannot expect night-life in places like these and so we weren’t. Exploring unchartered territories was the best option to spend rest of the evening. My companion was darn zealous about this and it rubbed off on me too.

What followed was a tiring and adventurous 2 hour hike! It was slight deja vu for the both of us. Why … you may ask?

The lone tree in the far background at the begining of the hike – Feb ’08, Bandipur, Karnataka, India

The lone cypress in the 17 Mile Drive along the Pacific – Jan ’07, California, USA
LoneCypress, CA

We hiked till the tree only to find (as expected) no Pacific beyond that.

Ever heard of WYSIWYG – What you see is what you get!

Written by Sangfroid

March 15, 2008 at 12:44 pm