Saturday, September 3, 2011

Korigad trek

What was going to be a relaxed long drive to Lonavala changed to a bike trip + trek after mom backed out at the last moment. I don't think I have EVER been on any trek where someone hasn't backed out.

Me and dad left home at 6:30 on my bike. I drove slowly so that dad could enjoy the light rain and the washed out scenery. We reached RamaKrishna at 8:30, had a hearty breakfast and then set out for the second leg of our journey along the Aamby valley road. The road after Bushy dam, which is maintained by the Sahara group, has always been awesome and was no different this time. It was completely fogged out after Lion's point and the road twisted, turned along till Aamby valley. The base village for this trek is Peth Shahapur, which comes 18 kms after you take the turn from Lonavala.

I parked my bike at the village temple. The route starts from behind the temple and the fort is always at your right side through the route. The first 20 minutes were through a well defined, mud path which halts abruptly close to a tar road that comes in from Aamby valley. This was my first view of Aamby valley and it was very impressive -- wide well paved roads and great looking bungalows. I hear it's 5000/- for spending a day in there.

Anyway, when you see the Aamby valley road, take a right which takes you through a short forest patch. When out, you will see the steps that take you up to the fort. The steps seem to be laid by the Sahara group and there are even hand holds at a couple of stretches. When we were there, a group of workers were clearing the road where there had been a mini landslide. The steps should take around 15 minutes but because I was with dad, we moved slowly taking frequent breaks.

Halfway through, there's a Ganpati temple and a big cave. The Ganesh Darwaza (you can climb to it's top) signifies that you are almost there. The top is a big plateau with a wall running around it's side. Make sure you take a walk on top of this wall -- you can see Aamby valley (with a runway), the lake of Mulshi dam, and if you go in the monsoons the fog coming in from Lonavala valley. Quite some sight!

There is the Korai temple on top and two ponds. We checked them out, took a few pics and quickly headed back down. Dad was missing mom already and I didn't want to come in the way of love. Going down was quicker than I expected with us back at the village within 30 minutes.

The ride back was awesome as the fog had reduced visibility to some meters. Dad had only heard of these things from me and was quite happy to experience it first hand. At Lonavala we again had lunch at RamaKrishna and after a two hour ride were back home before 5 PM. The earliest I have ever come home from any trek.

BTW, this was dad's first bike trip or trek.


Thursday, September 1, 2011

My happiest day as an amateur photographer

In the future everyone will have their fifteen minutes of fame - Andy Warhol

Today was Ganesh Chaturthi. I am a firm non-believer in organized religion... however there was always something not quite right about Ganpati. As a kid, I was regularly taken to temples and if you have ever been to one, you will know that every temple has a Ganesh statue. Rather than remembering each god by his name and the technique to pray to each, I would simply hold hands in front of the Ganesh statue and petition for a cycle/good marks/my crush of the time.

I also liked the Ganpati temple at Titvala, not just because going there involved a full day trip but as it was really peaceful once you are in. It's very Maharashtrian, very old school, which works for me.
In junior college and a significant part of my engineering life, I was a regular at the local temple, thanks to my influences at that time. It was a Shiva temple but I would pray at the Ganpati idol outside the main sanctum and consider my visit done.

Also, some of most cherished memories are of the time I (with a group of my close friends) organized the Ganesh Chaturthi celebrations in my society. The buzz surrounding the festivities was infectious and I was involved in every activity, of course except the dancing competition.

Anyway, today was Ganesh Chaturthi. We have a set routine that's followed every year on this day. Dad plays tapes of Ganpati aartis in the morning, we hear the society Ganpati being brought in to the sounds of Nashik dhols, and this is followed by a traditional lunch on a banana leaf. Things were going fine till dinner after which I came online to check my emails. I glanced through the emails on Yahoo and then logged into Gmail -- It said 54 unread emails! Something was not quite right. I first thought that I was the victim of some spam attack but that was before I checked the subject line of these emails. All the emails were notifications from Picasa -- in the last 20 hours I had recieved close to 60 comments and another 40 had favourited me (still counting).

I checked the oldest of these mails and they were comments on the crab picture I had taken at Kalavantin. And below the first comment I saw another 20 comments. Didn't take long for me to realize that this picture was a featured photo on Picasa. Second on the list, not sure if that's of any significance. What I do know is that anyone in the world logging into Picasa would see an impression of my photo if he cared to scroll down. There were comments from all over the world, and thanks to Picasa's built in translator feature I could make out the good things being said.

It was unbelievable that this was happening to me. Every time I logged in to Picasa, I would look at featured list and seriously doubt if I would ever make it to these hallowed halls of fame. It was a day I only dreamed of... because there was no information online about how a picture makes it on the list, which could be engineered to make my way into the list. I still don't understand how photos are selected for the featured page. This pic is not the best I have clicked, in fact I wouldn't rate it above average. While I am still elated, I have a feeling similar to what A.R. Rehman must have had on winning the Oscar for Slumdog Millionaire.

On that note, here's my winning speech. I would like to thank the crab who tried swimming in flowing water, my friend Mahesh who pointed him out to me, and lastly... the great Ganesha who continues to work in mysterious ways.
As I said there was always something not quite right about Ganpati ;)