December 30, 2012

Siddarabetta TreK : An Abode of Caves, Hermits and Temples

Sept 2011: The last bike tour I had , to one of the best biking destinations in India....LADAKH !!!!!!!!
Now after a 15 month gap got an opportunity to go for yet another bike trip and this gap might seem endless for a regular biker. But that's the way it is. End of the day I was content that I was able to have atleast one bike trip for the year 2012.

Initial Climb

On a lazy and chilly sunday morning of Dec 23 morning, 3 of us (SK, Shashi and Myself) decided for a bike ride, a short trek and cave exploration. Regrouped with everyone at the Nice Road-Tumkur road junction and it was smooth ride on this NH4. Had a breakfast stopover at Kamath near Dobbaspet and were mildly surprised by around 100 high end bikes parked in front of the hotel. "Woah!!!! did I miss something???, 15 months of temp retirement and the biker population has shot up". But not surprisingly it was a bikers meet, hence the concentration of bikes of all ages and power. Spotted a gorgeous Yamaha RD 350, among the gleaming bikes.

A water source inside the caves.

Negotiating a difficult section

After Dobbaspet it was a diversion towards Koratgere and this 2 lane road had a love and hate relation with us. At many places it was smooth, with awesome curves , a delight for bikers , but on the other hand it was potholed beyond imagination. Reached Koratgere and soon after exiting the town we get the final left deviation towards Siddarabetta. This part was recently tarred, hence no comments :). Reached the base of the hill, parked our bikes and started the trek along these pilgrim frequented route. Also note that many localites near the base advice not to wear footwear, but no one will stop you and near the top there is a shoe stand just before entering the temple.

The trek directly came to business, with continuous steps we started to sweat within no time. The normal pilgrims had a tough time climbing up. But just when you start to think that this is getting interesting the trek leads to the entrance of the temple. Time taken is just under 1 hr to reach this spot. Left our shoes at the shoe stand and it was time for some cave exploration. Seeing us no one would assume us to be pilgrims and within no time a guide offered to take us for cave exploration. Hence off we started. The cave exploration was quite adventurous, crawling in total darkness, bending our body so as to squeeze ourselves through a narrow opening. At some places it was difficult to negotiate the huge boulders, getting down using 2 parallel adjacent boulders for support :P. Also the guide showed some spots frequented by hermits @ night. These places were so difficult to crawl into , but on the other hand provided absolute silence and void of any sunlight. A perfect meditating spot I suppose. But one thing what surprised is that there are no signs of any creepy crawlies inside this damp place, not even bats.... interesting.

Group Snap

From the temple it was a 20 min climb to the top of the hill and in process we got lost. But we ended in a very good spot hence just rested in this place for some time, reached the top which had a pretty good view of boulder filled mountains everywhere and it was time to return back. Since I am a big time sucker for quick downhill climbs we climbed down from the top within 30 mins. Took the bikes, taking the same route we came in and reached home at around 4pm.

Trek Details --->
Total Trek Distance--> 3 + 3 km
Difficulty Level --->Easy
Total Cost Per Head -->750
Trip 'O' Meter ---> 230 km

View from the top

View Larger Map

December 18, 2012

Marathon Mania: 42.2 Kms @ Bengaluru Midnight Marathon

Thinking of a hypothetical situation I might face in the future, when I am being interviewed by a reporter (I am being optimistic about becoming a famous person in the future :P), which might go with a question like

"What was the toughest moment faced by you ???"

Of-course I have many and probably would face a lot more of them in the future, but my only answer would be
"Running and finishing my first marathon @ Bengaluru Midnight Marathon in 2012"

Bcoz nothing inspires people more than something which is elusive. And in my opinion nothing can be more elusive and glamorous than running a full marathon, with minimal financial investment. In fact a full marathon is a total different character than a half marathon apart from the distance. Its in full marathon that you start along with the everyone, and you struggle to reach the midpoint and suddenly the majority of those "half marathoners" are celebrating. God damn it !!!!!, I still have half of the distance left and 3/4th of the pain to endure. Running from "midnight to dawn" sounds very impressive, but running a marathon is one of those cases where you get f**ked up real-real-real bad , but still in the end you are overjoyed. It is the one where running after the 20km mark is pure unadulterated torture, without even a hint of pleasure, but people still do it and so did I. Why did I do it then?

- Bcoz not everyone can do it. 91 registered for BMM2012, 59 completed it, compared to 360 odd half marathoners, which makes it an exclusive club year on year.
- Bcoz I thought I could do it (hopefully !!!), with some decent training and torture endurance.
- Bcoz it was No.1 in my bucket list and financial investment required was almost negligible.
- Bcoz I wanted to prove a point to my mom that vegetarians can complete marathons :P.

Hence registered for the event as soon as it opened, so that I dont have any afterthoughts. Thank god for that, bcoz 1 month leading to the event I was riddled with injuries and I was not even sure of completing even half of the distance. Marketing Phenomenon "sunk cost effect" came into picture and I landed at the venue to recover as much money as possible of the 1k paid for the registration.

@Starting Line
The even started sharp @ midnight and off we went on the streets of Whitefield. The path had some decent gradients and loop of 4.2km length. So a full marathoner had to finish off 10 loops to complete his quota of 42.2km. Initial part of the run looked and felt like a normal marathon, eventhough at an unearthly hour there were a lot of other runners accompanying yourself. The entire pathway was lit up and there was ample security provided by the Bangalore Police (hats off to those guys who were there till the end :) ). The aid centers were placed at sufficient distance and were stocked decently. The initial 21.1km went like a breeze. I maintained a good momentum and finished it off in around 2 hr 20 mins.

From then onwards started the torture, both mentally and physically. Suddenly the circuit seemed a lot more desolate. Now it had come to a situation where I couldnt even see a single fellow runner, leave alone the 10-15 runners accompanying me in the previous laps. The temperature was dropping very quickly. I presume it was around 10-11 C with the windchill. The support staff were shivering, since they didn have the luxury of keeping the body warm like we did with all that running. Steam was accompanied by every breath. But thankfully was wearing a winter-friendly running jersey hence didnt feel that much chill due to my own sweat. But my legs were not so lucky. My calf muscles started to seize up, upto a point where it was difficult to even walk. But in the back of my head I knew that the moment I stopped, my entire body and not just my legs would seize up , which would ultimately  throw me out of the race. Therefore even with legs in such a condition I made a conscious effort of brisk walking till the legs felt OK and I could resume running. Hence started alternating between running and brisk walking whenever legs would seize up. The deadline for the marathon was 6am, so I had to finish it before that no matter what.

Before: @ around 5km mark
After : @ around 25km mark

Somehow when the clock was close to striking 5.30 am , I was staring down the finish line. Suddenly all of a sudden I had the urge to sprint towards the finish line and so did I. And not surprisingly the calf muscles again seized up, but surprisingly I didnt stop. The final push towards the finish line didnt seem right with anything other than a final farewell sprint. Jumped and shouted with joy at the finish line, which was keenly observed by fellow marathoners who had just finished theirs and which was followed by a smile in their faces. They understood :).  Within few moments of photo session saw the sun rising from the east. At that time it dawned on me that I had run from midnight till dawn.

The drive back home was another story, having a tough time keeping myself awake after a sleepless, hectic night. Somehow reached home and it was time for the much needed sleep. This was followed by 2 days of stiff muscles and joints, walking without bending legs raising everyone's curiosity at my workplace :P. In the end my marathon was powered by 8-9 bananas, 1 orange, 1 energy bar, 1 snickers bar, 2 Gatorade bottles, 2 bottles of ORS and lots of water, apart from the carb-loading done the previous 2 days. I lost close to 3.5Kgs when measured just before the race and after it !!!!!  Even though the timing of 5.29 hrs (my GPS gave a timing of 5.25 hrs :P) is nothing to boast about,  the fact that I completed, what I started makes it all the more satisfying. End of this , I learnt one important thing about myself "I am not a quitter !!!!" :).


Bib Number: 10
Rank: 47/59
Gender: Male
Gender Rank: 42/54
Net Time: 05:29:05

Split@1.9Km: 00:10:54
Split@4.2Km: 00:24:25
Split@6.1Km: 00:36:07
Split@8.4Km: 00:50:42
Split@10.9Km: 01:03:10
Split@12.6Km: 01:18:42
Split@14.9Km: 01:32:55
Split@16.8Km: 01:50:32
Split@18.7Km: 02:06:11
Split@21Km: 02:24:37
Split@22.9Km: 02:40:29
Split@25.2Km: 02:59:49
Split@27.1Km: 03:16:53
Split@29.4Km: 03:38:26
Split@31.3Km: 03:55:35
Split@33.6Km: 04:16:13
Split@35.5Km: 04:33:46
Split@37.8Km: 04:53:24
Split@39.7Km: 05:10:36
Net Time:               05:29:05
Gross Time: 05:29:12

December 12, 2012

An Outing to the Blue Mountains

 "Lets go to Hyderabad!!!!"
"How many days does that require????"
"3 days minimum"
"Naah !!! We are short on leaves, lets go to a 2 day destination"
"Ok, how about Ooty"
"Naah, I heard it is not so good nowadays"
"Ok, how about Waynad??"
"Naah, there are only mountains and lakes over there"

Blah Blah Blah Blah Blah........ (goes on for about 30 mins....)

"Uffff, too many constraints everywhere. Fine, lets go to Ooty itself"
"Finally. Ok"

After a frantic search for a family outing destination , we finally ended up going to Ooty against most of our wishes since for other destinations there was one or the other constraint involved. This was my 3rd trip to this Queen of Hill stations (looks like there are a lot of such Queens in India), the first as a kid in 1994, the second in an adventurous bike ride in 2009 and now it being a laid back vacation.

Opum Gangnam Styllleee !!!!
We left Bangalore in the wee hours of 1st Dec 2012. Ride along the Bangalore Mysore highway has become so routine, we might as well ride blindfolded :P.  Had breakfast at Kamat near to Ramanagara, our usual stopover on this highway. Reached Mysore , took the awesome ring road towards Ooty. Ride along this six lane ring road with not even a single vehicle was awesome :). But the joy was shortlived and the Ring Road abruptly ended and we entered a so called maze to find our way towards Ooty. The drive was eventless and in Bandipur we had some wild life sightings in terms of deers, peacocks and so on. Nothing spectacular in short.

After Madumalai we came to the crossroads, one leading to the famous and steep 36 hairpin bend route and the other normal bus route. Anyway we decided to take the bus route since I had remembered it to be very good if not the shortest . But presently it is in a bad state, littered with potholes. But the views started to get good. At one point we were surrounded by dense eucalyptus trees and it was here we decided to take a break. After we stopped it hit upon me this was the exact spot where I had stopped while returning back all wet, dirty and freezing during the 2009 trip. NOSTALGIA :).

My brother had already booked rooms in a resort name Delightz Inn on top of Tiger Hill, based upon trip advisor reviews. Even though finding this place is a bit difficult with it being around 4 kms from the city center, the views from this place is the best even when compared to some of the tourist frequented attractions of Ooty such as the lake, botanical park etc. But ya this comes at a price and only those with a private vehicle of their own wouldn't have a problem of reaching it. There is absolute calmness around this place which was surprising since Ooty is notorious for being an overly commercial hill station.

Delightz Inn
View from the resort
Our first destination in Ooty was the Botanical Garden. And boy it was such a huge disappointment. There were hardly any blooming flowers and probably this had got to do with the season. Anyway we spent some time in this place since the weather was very good, chilly infact and it was also sunny at the same time. So you get that cozy feeling :).  After this we went to the Boat house and took a relaxed boat ride in the overly commercialized lake till nightfall. Next it was the hunt for homemade chocolates of Ooty, and since I have a soft spot for them I was the one leading the charge to find the best place to get some. In the end we got some, everyone loved it and the next day we were back to the same shop to buy some more. You cant get enough of chocolates :). By this time the temperature had dropped to single digits and out came the thick woolens. Somehow I feel that Ooty in non-peak season is a decent place where one can just chill out. When we returned back to our resort there was death silence, as if I was on some trek. Absolutely loved that !!!!!

View from Doddabetta
The next day our first destination was to the Dottabetta peak. Standing at 2637m this is the highest peak in the Nilgiris and surprisingly it also has a "motor-able" road till the top. Before we started we had a good breakfast at the resort, soaking in the morning sun , with the weather being chilly. The drive to the peak is dotted with pine forests and after a half an hour drive in a not so good road we reached the place. Similiar to other tourists destinations of Ooty, I didnt expect much, but at this place I just said "Woahhh !!!!!!". There was clear blue sky and a layer of cloud below , covering everything in sight. A mindblowing view indeed.

family pic
 After this we had drive to Conoor, again went to the not so impressive Sims park and since it was already afternoon we didn expect any good views from Kottanad View point etc. So decided to start the return journey back to Bangalore. Were able to witness a wild herd of elephants in the Bandipur forest which was the highlight of the return journey. Hence even after expecting nothing spectacular from this Ooty trip, we were still amazed , the resort, doddabetta, chocolates, bandipur and so on :).

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