August 21, 2015

Jazz One : Shivanasamudra and Talakad



Took my Jazz on its first long spin to Shivanasamudra and Talakad. Having visited these regions way back in 2009, it was a trip down memory lanes. Was accompanied by my wife and my parents on this day trip, but unfortunately the falls were still not in their full glory, thanks to deficit monsoons this year. There are 2 routes to this area from Bangalore , one via Kanakpura (NH 209) and the other one via Maddur (SH 17). Both these routes have their own pros and cons. The route via Kanakpura is a good 2 lane road with minimal traffic but one doesn't have access to good eateries like those available in Mysore road. Hence it was decided to take Maddur route in the morning and while returning take the Kanakpura route in order to avoid the Sunday evening Mysore-Bangalore maddening traffic rush.

Gaganchukki
Selfie @ Barachukki
The morning drive was good till Maddur, within which we had our breakfast and packed our lunch. After Maddur the route to Malavalli is kinda ok with a lot of construction activity and road widening going on. At Malavalli we joined the Kanakpura National highway and after this it was a smooth drive. Normally at many instances a person who doesnt know a local language would face some difficulties in navigating through an area, but in my case it was the exact opposite !!!!. At one place we say a huge kannada board showing a left turn towards "Shimsha (shortform of Shivanasamudra)" and without thinking much we took the left turn and within no time we were lost :P. This route was actually the access road to the "Shimsha" Hydroelectric plant (the oldest in Asia !!!) and not towards "Shimsha" falls. Hence after riding through a lot of deserted and restricted roads (but scenic :) ) we finally managed to join the main road to the falls without any untoward incident.





The first falls one encounters from Bangalore is the Gaganchukki falls. In this particular falls one just gets a bird eyes view of the falls and nothing else. From Gaganchukki falls we came back to the main road and after travelling 10-15 kms on this picture-some road running along the river Cauvery, we took a left towards Barachukki falls which is synonymous with the "fun" falls since its in here one can get down to water. Initially we had a coracle ride wherein one is taken till the mouth of the falls and gets lightly drenched with the suspended water particles in the air. But the major disappointment was that they have cordoned off the area where one can directly walk to base of the falls and get drenched. That was one of the highlights of our previous trip, but still anyhow we still managed to play in the water and had a good time.



From Barachukki falls our next destination was Talakad. For this one has to come back to the main road (NH209) and then take a left which is clearly marked by the tourism department. Overall the roads everywhere were great and not a pain point unlike the experience the previous time around. We parked our car by the riverside and were approached by a guide who said that he would guide us to all the temple attractions of the place. This guided tour was very good, recommended and lasted for an hour or so. The guide clearly demarcated the facts from fiction and this impressed me the most since many guides elsewhere try to "masalafy" their stories in order to attract more customers.  The pancha linga temples are Pathaleshwara, Maruleshwara, Arkeshwara , Vaidyanatheshwara and Mallikarjuna temple.

Talakad
After the interesting guided tour it was time to travel back to Bangalore. There was another direct route from Talakad to Malavalli instead of taking the route we had taken earlier in the day to visit the falls. The drive back was eventless and the Kanakpura road even though was a 2 lane was great to drive in. Finally reached home at around 8.30 pm. Overall a great first drive experience on our new Honda Jazz.

Nandi Statue : Observe the torso in shape of a bulls face
Total Travelled Distance >  310 kms.

August 20, 2015

How To Buy A Car ????


Finally I got my very own car !!!!. This blog is primarily a description of my experience in short-listing and buying a car.  The first thing any prospective buyer must decide on is the budget one is willing to spend on a car. Remember that buying a car is not an investment and based on ones need , the budget should be set. Once that is done the next step is to list out the cars which comes within that budget and something which is intuitively pleasing to the owner. In that aspect I had narrowed down to 3 cars. Hyundai Elite i20, Volkswagen Polo and Honda Jazz. Frankly speaking earlier I had shortlisted only i20 and Polo, since during this initial process Jazz was yet to be released in the market. But having seen the great reviews in the abroad market decided to postpone my decision till July 8th when the car was to be launched in India. Hence on the release day and after the test drive Jazz just swooped down and vanquished all its opponents !!!!.

Apart from the below process of shortlisting a car, another factor which steered my decision towards buying the Jazz is that Elite i20 off late has become very common and even after buying my Jazz, I have never come face to face with another Jazz (apart from test drive cars) on the road making it unique and exclusive, atleast for the time being.

Another major aspect which went against elite i20 is that in the mid variant dual airbags are not present , and for me the safety is one of the top priorities. The other determinant which went against i20 was the huge waiting period for the car delivery, apparently 3 whole months (Jazz was delivered to me in 1 week :P). On the other side the factors which went against Polo was the cost of maintenance and spare parts. Hence Jazz emerged the winner , even-though it might not be an undisputed winner in any of the individual evaluation criteria, it was a winner overall, when all these criteria are put together. In summary it was the jack-of-all-trades :P.

The steps one must follow when buying a car (This is not 100% original, I read other blogs too before buying a car :P )

1. Decide on Total Budget
2. Device whether petrol or diesel. Rule of thumb is if driving more than 1500 km/month go for diesel.
3. Shortlisting the final consideration list.
4. Test drive the cars
5. Create a quantitative table with parameters and weightage given according to ones preference.
6. Winner of this table is the BEST CAR FOR YOU.

Below is the sample weightage chart I had created for my choice.

Jazz SV  Polo Comfortline Elite i20 Sports
Looks exterior (25) 20 16 22
Looks interior (5) 4 4 4
Safety (15) 15 15 11
Price + ownership cost (15) 12 12 13
Waiting period (5) 5 4 2
Power/Performance (10) 7 6 7
Mileage (5) 5 3 5
Ease of handling (10) 9 8 9
Interior space/headroom/rear legroom etc (10) 10 7 8
Total 87/100 75/100 81/100

Once the car has been selected these are the follow up steps:

1. Pay a token advance and book the car.
2. Do a pre-delivery-inspection of the car, once a car has been allocated to you by the showroom. Bcoz once the car has been registered in your name there is pretty much nothing which can be done to undo it.
3. Simultaneously process the loan if planning to apply. Banks now provide loans for upto 85% of onroad price or 100% of ex-showroom price. 
4. Once loan is processed the paperwork from the showroom will be completed and you are good to take delivery of the car. 
5. You would receive the registration smart card in mail within 40 days of registration.

This entire process right from the budget allocation till the car delivery took around 1.5 months and went like a breeze for us thanks to the showroom guys. 

July 28, 2015

The Run Of Raramuri Tribe !!!!!!


"Raramuri !!!!" . This is one event where I got attracted to the very unique name and the finishers medal rather than the actual course. Even though this event is in its seventh edition I came to know about it quite recently from fellow runners. Raramuri refers to a tribe in North America who are renowed for their long distance running ability especially over mountains, canyons and so on. Hence inspired with the same spirit of long distance running, this event was organized on an overcast July morning (18th July), on a track which mimicks traversing through the hills and canyons which an actual member of the raramuri tribe would have endured.

That is how u look when u are eating banana and
suddenly a photographer clicks ur image :P
In this event I was all set to run my second half marathon that too after a huge gap of 3 years. The last half marathon I had participated was for KTM in the year 2012. And surprisingly both KTM and Raramuri runs are considered to be the toughest marathons in the vicinity of Bangalore.  Rough track with lots of stones and the sun had made KTM a worthy adversary, but on the other hand steep climbs and drops has made Raramuri to be in the same league of tough trails.

The run started at sharp 5.30 in the morning which was a big boon for all the runners since by the time the sun was out, most of the participants had completed their race. There were close to 500 odd half marathon participants, 50 odd full marathon participants and 200 odd 10k participants. With an initial warmup session near KSIT college , Kanakpura road we were let into the track which initially follows the pipeline road, which comprises of huge drops and climbs unlike any other topography one would find in the vicinity of Bangalore. Hence within the first 8 kms itself, I was huffing and panting and taking breaks, which would not have been the case if the trail was through flat terrain.

With Finishers Medals
After the initial 10k which follows the pipeline road, we where let into the BSK 6th stage main road which goes through the Turahalli forest, one of the green lungs of Southern Bangalore. The initial part of the race was like a lot of unceasing concentratic waves whereas the later part of the run was like a single big wave of going down and coming up. With all these elevation variations, my knee started to complain near the 14km mark and after that point it was just pushing towards the finish line enduring the pain. Since even the organizers were well aware of the difficulty level, they had provided well stocked watering stations every 1.6km and this did help a lot of runners and at the end of the day there was no major untoward incident. Even the race director was out there on the field providing medical aid to the runners !!!!.

I completed my run with a time of 2 hrs 18 mins 4 secs and surprisingly this was 14 secs quicker than my KTM timing !!!!. I presume I could have shaved close to 10 mins of that time if my knee was not giving any trouble. Overall a race which was satisfying, well organized and fun to complete.

Elevation Profile


Official Stats

Half Marathon
Finished- 02:18:04
Bib: 228

Rankings
Overall 132/270
Male     122/239

Splits
Start            5:32:21 AM
5K               6:00:46 AM  (00:28:26, 5:42 min/km)
14.5K          7:02:08 AM  (01:29:48, 6:12 min/km)
Finish          7:50:24 AM  (02:18:04, 6:33 min/km)

July 14, 2015

Encounters Of Duathlon Kind, Dwithiya !!!!!



I always get my best "in action" shots while participating in a duathlon, dont know the reason why !!!!. Probably all that cycling gear hides the fatigue and projects a cool looking demeanor. I took part in this event when it was introduced for the first time in year 2013 which comprised of cycling on top of the electronic city flyover which was a novel experience. Once that was done and dusted I was reluctant to take part in the same event being conducted in the same venue in year 2014. since it dint excite me enough. Now in year 2015 when they shifted the venue to Uttarahalli road , literally my backyard, it was too good for me to resist. Hence registered for the event, which by the way was free of cost for me, thanks to Bookmyshow and my wife for having accumulated all those points in my credit card :P !!!!!!.

So early morning of June 14,  dragged myself out of the bed and reached the venue (RNSIT, Uttarahalli Road) on my bike at around 6.15. As with the earlier editions, it had a 2.5km run followed by 18km of cycling and finally concluding with a 2.5km run. One thing I love about these lesser known events is that the crowd is very manageable and doesnt look very overwhelming. Ofcourse the quality of competition is still very good and one is always compelled to push and go that extra mile. Initially participants of the 10k were let into the circuit after a warm-up session. Then it was our turn and we were let into the circuit at around 6.45am. The initial run took us to a backroad flanking the institutes boundary wall. As expected the 2.5km run went like a breeze. This was followed by a quick changeover to cycling gear and then again back to the track. The cycling track took us to the wide and empty roads of BSK 6th stage where one has to constantly face the headwind. Even then, there are certain sections of the track where one could just vroom up and go, but while returning it would be the complete opposite with steep climb and headwind to bother. It was in the same section that I have recorded my top speed ever riding my bike at 54kmph a couple of years back.



Anyway returned back to the holding area and changed gears to running mode. Now this is the most painful transition in a duathlon, of getting back to running after a thrilling-adrenaline pumping cycle race. Initially the legs would not budge at all and it takes some time to get back to the rhythm. Anyhow completed the race with an overall timing of 1 hr 12 mins , but unfortunately 4 mins slower than my younger self. Probably the circuit was much tougher, but with such a small difference it is very hard to tell. Overall still a fun race.

PlaceBIBNameTimeCategoryRun 1T1BikeT2Run 2
28232Nithin Uliyar1:12:24Duathlon Individual Men0:11:350:00:590:45:540:00:440:13:12

July 2, 2015

Hyderabad : A Boiling Cauldron Of the Modern and the Traditional


There are a couple of reasons as to why I have intentionally mentioned the term "boiling". The first reason being the dates on which we had planned to visit Hyderabad, the divided states of Telangana and Andhra were enduring one of the worst heat waves witnessed in the recent past. And the second reason ??? well let me not reveal that part just yet :).


Light Camera and Action
 Well generally speaking Hyderabad is not a typical tourist destination. If asked randomly about the places of tourist interest to a random person the only thing that would come to their mind is the Charminar and if that person is more informed probably Ramoji film city. Truthfully there are only a couple of other things which would interest a tourist and they are the Golkonda fort and the area around the Husain sagar.

:P
We had 3 days in hand to explore this city and we made sure we explore Ramoji film city on a friday so as to avoid the weekend + summer vacation crowd one can expect during this time. With an overnight bus journey which took around 10hrs from  Bangalore we landed at the MGBS bus stand. The journey was pretty good considering very good road connectivity between these 2 metros. We had booked room in Grand Elite Hotel in Abids area which was around 2 km from the bus stand, and pretty much the heart of the city in terms of connectivity. The hotel was good and VFM for the discounted price provided via goibibo online portal.

Mythological Set




Day 1 we got freshened up at the room and directly left towards Ramoji film city.  This film city is touted as the worlds biggest integrated film city, and is situated at around 30 kms from the heart of city. We had booked an OLA cab from the city and the driver was constantly cribbing that this is totally out of city limits and not within the purview of the OLA services, but still in the end he dropped us there. After collecting the tickets which costed us 900/head we entered the film city after a 15 min ride from the main highway which is provided free of cost by the buses operated by the filmcity. Once inside we went through a lot of film themed shows such as Action studio (wherein they show how movie processing is done), filmy dunia(where one hopes on to a tram ride which takes through different miniature movie settings from around the world) and ramoji towers (where there is 4D kinda show with floor shakes and wind blows). Frankly these shows were okayish type, nothing spectacular.





After this we went to a show "Lights camera and action" which was good. Here against a black and dark backdrop artists played around with props which glowed under the black light. The show lasted for some 15 mins and we enjoyed it. But one complain to the organizers was that the hall was stuffed beyond the seating capacity and people without seats would stand around inconsiderate to those people whose views they were blocking. After having lunch we attended another show which was "Spirit Of Ramoji" which gave a Bollywood award night feeling to us.





Apart from that there is a kids section with certain shows specifically targeted at them. A total of 3 thrill rides were available when we were there and this part was quiet enjoyable and thrilling. A bus ride is provided around the park showing the different gardens ranging from Japanese to Mughal. Also during this tour the guide takes us through different movie sets which have been setup for the shooting such as train station, airport, mythological court setting, london street, delhi street setup and henceforth. After this tour the tourists are let into a bird and insect park, which included a lot of colorful and beautiful varieties.





Since this period coincided with school vacation there was a special summer program going on which included shows in the evening by various artists such as acrobats and dancers from around the country. Some of these performances were quite jaw dropping and impressive. Around the closing time there was a carnival parade and it was just ok. But after nightfall this place is beautifully illuminated with lights and one must not miss them when visiting this place. While returning back we stuck a deal with a taxi guy and he dropped us to our hotel room without much of a problem.

Birds Eye View Of The Fort
The next day we explored the amazing Golconda fort. This is a very interesting place to visit for history and architecture buffs and hiring a guide to take one around is highly recommended even though they are very expensive. The guided tour lasted nearly an hour and half and he took us explaining all the nook and crannies of the place. Some of the most amazing places of interest include clapping at the entrance which can be heard very very clearly at the palace situated on top of the mountain, talk about medieval intruder alarm system :). Other places of interest was their water system, as to how they got it from a lake a couple of kms away, how they pumped it up the mountain, how it was protected from the poison arrows from enemies so on. The other most fascinating place was the huge queens room wherein whispers facing a corner can be heard crystal clear standing diagonally across the room, and this in a room which was nearly 30-40 ft in dimensions. The nawabs had specially appointed Turkish architects to design the entire place, making it all the more interesting for a visit to Turkey.



Darbar Hall At The Top
After wrapping up our tour of the fort we went to watch a movie at Prasads IMAX in order to escape from the afternoon sun. The screen was huge but got to know that since the format used at this theater is not digital and off late all IMAX movies are released in digital format, the movies showcased in here are not in IMAX format till the technology upgrade takes place. Even then movie was enjoyable (San Andreas- disaster movies look the best in big screen :P ). From here visited the Birla Temple which is quite serene made up of white marble and giving some great views of the surrounding places including the Husain Sagar. But all electronic items are banned in here and have to be deposited at the entrance.

Hussain Sagar and Necklace Road
The next plan was to visit the Hussain Sagar and Lumbini park. Right outside the temple there was one board mentioning drop to this location for 20 bucks per person in a taxi. If you ever see such a board. run like hell, because this is a big tourist trap. Once inside they would tell that they would be taking us to a pearl shop and even after our protests our driver took us there. So we just went in and came out in a fraction of a second and this kinda infuriated the driver, since he would have lost the commission. We got really pissed off and there was a verbal argument and just then he almost hit an auto and it resulted in a physical fist fight with the auto person and our cab driver. During all this melee we quietly slipped off and walked away from the cab :P. Anyway we walked and reached the park and it was terribly crowded, with it being a weekend. But apart from that it was a pleasant thing to sit around the banks of the Hussain Sagar lake. By nightfall it started raining hence the laser show which is showcased at this place was cancelled and we took an OLA cab who took a very circuitous route around the lake giving us an unwanted tour of the necklace road. With so many experiences during the day I somehow felt Hyderabadis were generally more short tempered and aggressive when compared to an average Bangalorean. Just my unbiased observation !!

Hulk In Museum
Day 3 of the trip we first visited the humongous Salar Jung Museum. The official museum showcasing the collections of the numerous generations of the Hyderabad Nawabs. There were rooms after rooms of exhibits and one gets really exhausted going through all of them. Frankly in about 3 hours, we visited only about 50-60 % of the museum. The most notable of the exhibits was the "Veiled Rebecca" statue which was just stunning even for an non-art enthusiast. And the most over-hyped exhibit was the musical clock wherein for every hour a doll of some sort comes out and does some activity/dance, and to watch this there were close to 200 people waiting. Frankly it was just a waste of time with it being similiar to any other cuckoo clocks :P.

Veiled Rebecca. Even the "veil" is carved from marble



After getting exhausted at this place we went to the icon of Hyderabad , the charminar which is situated in the heart of old Hyderabad. The older part of hyderabad is a chock-a-block with traffic, narrow roads and people. The charminar which was at the centre of the road was quite stunning amidst all the chaos surrounding it. One can climb up the minar to have a view of the surrounding place, but the queue was quite long and we decided to head to a much calmer place. With a couple of more hours to spend we headed to Snow World which was a fun place near Hussain Sagar lake. My wife really loved this place and its especially enjoyable to those who are seeing snow for the first time in their life. This place is just a giant freezer converted into a theme part wherein they spray powdered ice. One can indulge in various activities such as snow fight, snow slide and dance once inside. With this our Hyderabad trip came to an end. We took an evening bus back to Bangalore.


Snow World
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