Category Archives: Travels

Rains of Fire (Brighthelmstone chronicles part 2)

<<Circa  January 2014>>

The Southern English sea winds create an extreme disparity that tests the bodily adaptation of a person. Especially when you run, generate a body heat and the sweat gets blown away  in the wind almost immediately creating a chill that would give you …well,  an extremely brittle sensation.

Climate is in the range of 5 to 10 degrees Celsius but the sea winds hits sub zero and with high speeds enough to make a not-so-heavy person fly along with the gale

Well ! Getting to the point.  When you try running by the beach of Brighton in such weather the body needs to rapidly shift between the heat generated by the intensity of the workout,  the 5 to 10 degree C temperature and the fluctuating sub zero winds. Not really a pleasant phsiological task. You pretty much freeze after running hard from the Brighton pier to Shoreham-by-the-sea and back.  (an overall distance of perhaps 12 miles/ 19.3 kilometres)

Then,  I came back to the hotel room from this fitness-obsessed misadventure. Almost immediately dropped my clothes and rushed into the hot shower (to get some relief from the apparent frostbite) . Relief I did get! Or perhaps it was some kind of over-relief. Where the weight of the temperature-fluctuation due to scalding water on the freezing body created not relief, but a “Rain of fire” .

images

It was a very unique feeling, since I had almost gone numb in the body, I could only feel a burning sensation minus the pain. Slowly , I felt pain (indicating the parts were getting less numb) and then releif at the gradual bodily temperature adjustment. Very much like a reverse prcess of Tempering

 

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Brighthelmstone chronicles

    Preface

It is pretty damp to see how a pattern oriented work life changes the way you look, prioritize and do things
work

For instance, my blogging which has over the years been a pride of mine (not that I got an award or monetary reward for the content in it, but speaking more from a posterity/ cherishing memories’ and thoughts’ point of view) Not that I had no stuff to write oF. I did. But just that I postponed the documenting (notice how I instinctively use “documenting” and not “writing” … work-lingo by-product! Phew ! ) Or alternatively, just thought of it as a pastime that is nice to have, but can be back-seated in the shadow of better things to do! (Not that I have really done anything better though .. )

Anyway sorry for digressing like an aimless dilettante. The idea here is to talk about my Business trip to Brighton in the United Kingdom (UK)

Pier

    Brighthelmstone

If the wonderful ‘reader’ (this can be anyone or just me in the distant future … hmm I am thinking Donnie Darko ish stuff now! Before I digress again, I will park that thought and get back to Brighton) put in so much dedicated effort 😛 to actually look it up, you would know that the ancient name of this touristic city is “Brighthelmstone” which I guess, justifies the title, haha ! I just find this name more conducive to sometimes-megalomanics like myself ! (Dont blame me for this! Grew up on RajniKanth )

    I have been here for quite some time

I have been here before in September and October but owing to the same reason as mentioned in the Preface above, I didn’t muster enough enthusiasm to document this (Oh no! Not “Document” again ) . Also, owing to the whole micro-blogging revolution, my updates have been going very well with Twitter and Facebook, but just not with the self-fulfilling openness of writing in your own blog

    Weather

It can get cold here.The Southern English climate is, as anyone might have already guessed, unpredictable. When it rains during a climatic temperature of 3 degree Celcius , it feels like “icicles shot at your face with a machine gun” (Ok! This catchphrase is now officially my most often-used metaphor this month!)

Ice_rain<

I was a person who kept complaining about the heat in India and was not used to temperatures less than 16 degree Celcius (Hyderabadi winter! Yes! Thats all it goes down to) Living here for a brief period has given me a life-long enlightening feeling about seeing the Sun. So when there is Sun here this time of the year, the feeling is of relief, pure and pristine. But of course it does not last long and folks go back to weather-induced-depressive-moods again.

sun and cold

But then of course, humankind has always found means to fight negative mindsets. The highly tentaive depressive mood is perhaps what drives people here to “get a life” rather than give in to “hibernating under your blankets and eating lots of cheese” . People make it a point to socialize more and also do more sport. Party and Get exercise! Now thats what I am talking about … (now by exercise, I dont mean “go all Arnold”, even walking on a Sunday instead of taking a taxi is exercise by my book)

    London

Now talking of weather reminds me of one thing …

    my ordeal on November 10th

! I wanted to go catch the Manchester-Arsenal match ( Dont be impressed! I didnt get tickets, plan was to see it with a friend of mine in a sports bar near London Bridge ) But then North-bound trains from Brighton to London were down due to bad weather . Boy ! Was I peeved …

London

Anyway, I have been to London in October though. Thanks to these two (Akshay and Manasi) I had a fantastic time. God bless them!

AkMa

Hey did I say God ! Its a coincidence ( would not like calling it Providence ) that I saw the fantastic movie “Rush” in England (considering its got a British central character … played by Chris Hemsworth ..yeah! Thor goes F1-driving!)

    The book

Talking of providence reminds me of this book

book

In times like these ( read, all outdoor plans failing due to bad weather …yes! the November 10th ordeal again ! ) , I have been reading this book. The book obviously champions atheism . As tempted to speak of it as I am now, I will save this for another day. Hmm.. do I hear the faithful taking out their chain-saws to judge that post? 🙂 Yes yes ! The time will come …

    Food

Now lets talk of food ..not unlike the rest of England, there is the famous “fish and chips” which I somehow am not a big fan of

fish&chips

I did try it once but was not particularly thrilled about it. Its just fried fish and a bad version of quickly fried potato. Perhaps its notoriety comes from the fact that it is warm fried food that can be instantly made. A sort of quick-fix and filling solution to a hungry stomach in cold English weather ..hmm … fair enough !

Talking of food takes me back to the November 10th ordeal. I had to compensate myself for the frustration of missing hanging out with pals because of no trains due to rains. I got myself a mammoth treat to please myself. Well ! At least one good thing is that you can get everything in a TESCO store from canned alcohol to quick-fix-takeaway food (yes even hot food) By the way, unless you do some sort of responsible recreational calorie burning, do not try this level of junk-snacking at home 😛

food<

(to be continued … )

Of Dhak and Tikona

Confounding my lethargy in writing a more real time update on my recent  treks! Yet, doing little about it other than finally sitting down to write in the face of pre New Year boredom…

Dhak Bahiri

It is an amusing name and this site has a formidable reputation for its difficulty level among the Western Ghats.  JPat  and Kansal seemingly had already been to this place before. So we had no qualms regarding the operational delay of finding trails

Anyway, this one too was in the Karjat area in the Raigad district. Enroute to reaching there, we sped on Landy‘s Micra (all treks these days of ours are preceded by a gloriously scenic  drive along the Mumbai Pune express way) Seemed like the guys in the car had a weird fetish for hats

Following the drive which was (as usual) laced with ‘Pitbull’ music and Landy’s dance-driving, we hit upon some rough roads along the Sahyadri. Owing to not knowing where exactly the Dhak hills were , we ended up going in circles around the Sandshi village area over ridiculously crooked roads (if at all we care to tag them as  ‘roads‘) . Took some roller coaster- like car riding and a verbal exodus of Landy’s road-cribs before we reached the hill’s foot

Surprisingly women are not allowed on this trail. Might sound sexist, but it is probably because of hygiene, safety and security issues

We found little refreshments at the village at the bottom   so we had nothing to stock our bag. As a result of which some of us gladly ate apple peels left behind by some previous trekkers 😐

There were moments where everyone except moi  were sitting on the edge of a steep fall.  I was quite scared (being a sucker for height phobia) that they might fall off and that I would be framed for culpable homicide *wondering*

Anyway we did find the good fortune to see the peak amidst mystique-building mist at the end of an ardous trek

x-x-x-x-x

Tikona fort

The more recent trek had been the one to Tikona fort. Not as long as Dhak Bahiri but a tad steeper and more rocky. Which presents a different kind of challenge to trekkers. Borders more on explosive energy than stamina

This time around, we had Dhaval, a colleague of Landy and Kansal …along with Rantu.The trek to tikona fort had to be preceded by a long drive and exploration routine along endless winds of kaccha i(bad quality)  roads. It took us  long to  find the hill. We actually stopped at tony dhaba  before we reached the trekking site. To stack up on the refreshments in order to avoid the man vs wild contingency we threw ourselves into the last time (ref: Dhak Bahiri and the apple peels)

But anyway the interregnum between the Tony dhaba landing  and the Tikona was filled with analysis and estimation of the  number of people required to finish ostrich meat in a single lunch session

The trek at Tikona was smooth till we reached the top to open our breezers and Parle-G biscuits. And then it happened. An army of monkeys decided to raid us in order to satisfy their carnal urge for Parle-Gs

We picked up our stuff and ran till we reached the Bajrang Bali point

All in all this trek was an all day event. Well interspersed was the drive back home with Landy’s speeding  and the wild wild west like scenery of the Tikona fort area

x-x-x-x-x

Operation Korigad

The Trek:

Korigad , 20 km from Lonavla on the Pune side. It had one of Shivaji’s forts. It was supposed to be an easy trek but the difficult part in the whole trip was to convince the bunch of guys to go there.

Anyway aginst all odds we made it last Saturday on the 23rd of July 2011 🙂

The Trekkers:

El Papa the (in- , dis- , un- )legendary El Mariachi duplicate, Uncle the ancient one , Landy the loose cracker , Nippo the doped one and of course, the crazy ol’ mental me ….

The Self-Persuasion:

This part is akin to the tumultuous and cumbersome due-diligence phase that usually precedes a merger/acquisition – lots of brain storming (not where to go or when to go but why to go ? 😛 )

If at all we had decided to go there was the question of logistics …not only the physical but also the psychological and mental (Boy! I must be making a little hill like Korigad, sound like Mt.Everest !). For die hard adventurers, it is no mean deal. It’s probably like going for a casual Sunday picnic. But for wee city lads such as the ones under current observation, psychologically preparing to move butts from Mumbai to the city’s outskirts and physically transitioning the body from a hung-over Saturday morning state to an excited Saturday-trekker state is a Herculean task.

The Car and the road trip:

Landy boy’s got a new Nissan Micra in the orange color. The car’s selling points for the trek:

  • We don’t have to take a train or book a taxi to reach the base village.
  • In the road trip, Landy would drive the 200KM+ distance (wouldn’t let us touch the steering wheel of his new car anyway, leaving us to blissfully get lost in dreamland)
  • It is orange colored! So stands out in the monsoon fog of the Western Ghats! God bless landy’s car …truly the hero of the story!

Anyway, so there we went. The Plan was to leave at 6 AM on the 23rd of July. Dutifully adhering to the lazily cultural and boringly traditional best practices of the Indian Standard Time, we did manage to leave not before 7:30AM.

We picked up Nippo on the way (finding the route where we had to pick up Nippo caused enough delay to give in to taking numerous smoke’n’tea breaks)

The highlight were the extra-cheese infested but totally lip-smacking burgers we managed to gobble at McDonald’s on the Mumbai-Pune highway. That was just the breakfast!

The climb

For all those who thought this was a huge killer operation with never say die shouting Rambos scaling unimaginable mental odds and physical hurdles, a colossal Hahaha at you 😀 !!!  It was a little thing, more like a walk up a hill with stairs (though the acromegalic stairs do screw your knee caps a bit)

landy - uncle - baba

landy - papa - baba

At the top, there was a fog driven hither and thither by the monsoon winds. There were other people, which motivated some of the more lecherous among our group to delve in stealthily appreciating the ladies among the other trekkers. Big bada Boom  was the little harmless CA (chick-alert ) war-cry ! Anyway, apologies for the digression …. Back to the story …

At the top, I do opine that most of the other trekkers were a mightyless bunch of in-depth pansies. Besides being on an easy trek, you don’t go around playing ringa ringa roses  on the top of a hill (boys and girls alike). So we decided to set some trends  ….true maverick macho groovy style

The trend-setting

Nippo

We took off our shirts (oblivious of contributing too much cognition  & recognition towards bellies, body hair and everything else) and jumped in the big lake on top of Korigad. Much to almost everyone’s delight (perhaps a little disgust)  that finally there was some amusing action on Korigad.

who are the men eh ??? 😀

Other strangers followed suit by jumping into the lake too…. 😉

The Return

We ate at a food court on the highway after descending the hill and driving a few miles. Some of the more lecherous among us were at it again at the food court, staring here and there, whispering big bada boom  and laughing  a**es off. And then  we hit the road again when we chanced upon the old man …

The old man

There was a car in front of us. There was an old man in the car with his family. There was a minor traffic congestion in a narrow lane. So a medium-sized queue of cars was piling up. Someone kept honking from behind much to a lot of annoyance …then it happened …

The old man in front of our car, suddenly got off his car in a fit of rage (perhaps because he wrongly thought we were the ones unnecessarily honking) and stared at us. He then noticed there were 5 buffalo-like guys (Well Landy is a  feather weight , so 4 buffalos + one baby buffalo! 😛 ) in our car. Landy made a “Aah! What !”  expression with a rooster-like swagger of his head. The old man silently went back to his car. Drove us to a state of hysteric laughter ….

So there! Harishchandragad ! You are next 😉

~Ghost Runner

————-

Greeting card pic from Korigad:

what exactly was stinking ?

2010: That year gone by

The previous year (2010) started with a prophecy which to my loved ones (starting with mom), was the prophecy of all prophecies. Potentially the greatest harbinger of my doom`s eventual finality (lol! What words! I should cut down on the ‘epic fantasy` reading :p)

So no matter how hard I didn`t believe  such jyotish (astrology), it did do some damage, I didnt blog for the first 6 months of 2010. Not  that there is any connection, but my blogger’s block and this astrology shit just happened to be concomitant events.

Anyway … I guess I am still alive and 2010 was one of the best years of my life …a pioneering year for many different things …! So Mr.Astrologer , take your prophecies , round them up real nice and stick it  straight up your monkey a**

x-x-x

Anyway looking back at 2010, it was quite the amusing year.Below I tried to stick to a chronological structure though I did give more priority to the free flow of thought

  1. It truly started with a bang  with me getting myself shifted to the Business Intelligence Unit at my company. Lots of statistics, heavy duty number crunching and an infinitely clanish little team! The kind of combo I would dig into any day 🙂 !
  2. Then came an event that marked the synchronization of identity with the place I live in. My future generations shall know that event  as *me shifting to a flat in Bandra (West)*, the jazziest of Mumbai residential localities by far. With food, drinks, clubs,Joggers’ park, Gold’s gym, and discotheques a breath away, non-busy times promised never to be boring again.
  3. Not to mention travelling with pals on treks around mumbai to Lohagad, Rajmachi, Manikgad et al, incidentally all spiced up by the monsoon rains.
  4. Then came the  main course of 2010. the trip to EuropeEverything from the Louvre’ in Paris to the Wall in Berlin to the crazy coffee shops in Amsterdam to the European Union Parliament  in Strasbourg !For good measure, also throw in a large measure of Curry Wurst, Khus khus, Tartflombay and 1 litre beer mugs ! Even raced against an English guy (who by the way was not the stereotypically fat British dumpty)  in Paris for a 10 round race around the Eiffel Tower.   Bumped into Mythalez and Tejo at Amsterdam (all doped in the  jolly good sense of course!)
  5. Then, there was Goa (as usual) where besides the time spent at the beaches oggling at the girls, an appreciable time was spent  biking across 100 km of the North Goa coastline … shirtless !! 😛
  6. Not to mention visiting  Hyderabad a couple of times in 2010 . Even went to the extent of biking drunk on the roads of Hyderabad . Thankfully, I was driving at 10 kmph (haha!) , too slow for anyone to get suspicious or me falling in trouble.
  7. The amount of reading  done in 2010 was a rather amusing observation.  Tried a tad more than lightly to digress away from my stereotypical tendency to stick to the sci fi and epic fantasy genre’.  Did a fair diversification  by  becoming familiar with the linguistic, historical , biographical, autobiographical, social, non-fictional categories too. Of course, never completely lost my loyalty to the epic fantasy and sci-fi genre’ . By the way, the end of 2010 from the books’ perspective sees me searching for Stephen king’s Dark tower series, waiting for Part 2 in the Left Hand of God trilogy and  trying to fully comprehend Malcolm Gladwell’s Blink
  8. Of course I did continue ( like years of yore) , with my controversial theories (for instance, the Black berry bitch) So i did invite everything from ire to appreciation from different quarters. Haha ! There was one queer instance when one particular theory (about nosy relatives on FB) got me under scrutiny in family circles.  But well! how do you become a family legend/cult  without controversy, without rising against sardonic moronisms, against …. oh God! forget it  …..
  9. Running: I should be shot if I dont talk of this. Yes! I did find my intermittently lost passion for running in 2010 …after two years (one more time!! Before I become old and crippled). Out with it came some new self-made techniques and strategies for running races. I guess I am getting into shape and preparing hard for various running events around India. Hope things work out well.

….. Well thats it for now!  2010 was not bad at all . I feel light now that I have put down the important stuff for posterity. There were obviously some bad-ass tales and some tragic ones in 2010 too, like it is for every one! But that set will find its place in the blog’s private part.

Yours truly,

Ghost Runner

Operation Rajmachi

A trek three months in the making … I don`t  imply the preparation time but rather the time taken for me to  persuade the guys .

The trekkers

Anyway so there we were  …. El Papa the El Mariachi wannabe , ‘Unclethe  wise one , ‘A2‘  – geek boy from IIT , Mallua good city boy not used to physical hardship 😛  and of course the whole operation’s creator, myself 😉

The train and the pre-process

We got out of office last Friday night (30th June ) and headed straight for Dadar station to catch the train. It was around 9 PM and the train was scheduled at 9:30 PM. We missed it since we, like genuine gluttons, decided to go have dinner at a nearby restaurant and lost sense of time while hogging on the substandard butter-seasoned pav bhaji

So we had no choice but to wait for the 10:30 PM train to Lonavla. We did manage to catch it and entered the sleeper class coach with general passenger tickets. So we managed to bargain with the TC and be allowed to sit in the coach … on the floor .. right next to the toilet room (not in the bathroom … next to it, outisde !!!)

Lonavla

We reached Lonavla at around 1:30 AM on the 31st of July amidst a bad-ass torrential downpour and a no-transport scenario. And that was when we made the decision that eventually almost  killed us all …walk all the way!!

Lonavla to Rajmachi

We walked along a combination of flatland and inclined areas, all characterized by bad roads, lots of rain water below , lots of rain above and mud piles bordered with multi-species’ shit

We kept walking . It was dark so we had torches. It was cold so we had whisky and fags to keep us from dying of crankiness. We went on for around 20 KMs.

The realization

Just before the crack of dawn, we came across a shed with a sleeping fat man. The sleeping fat man pointed upwards. We looked up and as the fog and the clouds slowly cleared, we saw the base of the fort-wall ! Around 300 vertical feet above us! The wall of Chhatrapati Shivaji’s fort on top of Rajmachi.

Mustering the last iota of our strengths, we made a dash for it…

40 min from the realization

We reached the top.

Top effects and the way down

Mallu kissed the flag pole on the top, since its finally over, not  just the trek but his exponentially increasing urge to keep complaining like a girl 😛

Uncle and I settled on the topmost outpost of the fort’s  remains. We stretched our legs and shouted  victory chants reminiscent of medieval  conquerors.

El Papa sat at a corner probably wondering why he was  not asleep among drunken dreams at home back in Mumbai.

A2 sat there too wondering why he hadn’t chosen to play AOE at home instead

Uncle was blissfully proud of therntu fact that we finished it by dwan.

The return

We came down via the Karjat village side of the mountain, shorter but relatively rocky area.Our our downward bound path, we came across some amusing waterfalls , standing under which we had some cold-fighting shots of whisky 😛

Gravity *s ugly side came about when every downward step we landed set up a chain vibration of our feet muscles thus royally screwing our knee caps.

Anyway we took a local train back to Mumbai, all wet ,and dirty , standing among the annoying  multitudes of Mumbai train crowds.

Still … inspite of the annoyances, the sense of conquest ( effort wise and time taken wise too) lived beyond that day. So ….. Lohagad! You are next …..

~ Ghost Runner