Monday, December 28, 2009
Distance covered (to & fro) - 720 KMs
Where - Bangalore - Chennai - Bangalore
Time taken - 10 Hrs 5 Minutes
Average highway speed - 75
Top speed - 100 (Going to Chennai) , 110 (Coming back to Bangalore) [ps: didn't want to push my bike to this speed but a avenger bike tried overtaking and that got me going.]
Pro's - Good fun, high speed, scenic sections, great highways (part of the golden quadrilateral)
Con's - Sore butt
Things to do
1) Get your bike serviced or checked for long distance riding. (Bullet garages do a long distance service / check), especially brakes needs to be tuned.
2) Fill your tank with fuel.
3) Get your tyre's filled with optimal pressure - I was ok with 23 / 33 (front / back) but even this was a bit bumpy for city bumps, but on the highways it was smooth riding.
4) Get nylon rope and not cotton rope, I was thinking that cotton rope is better than nylon rope and I used nylon rope while going to Chennai and cotton rope while coming back. With cotton rope I had to tie my bags 2 times and adjust them 4-5 times.
1) What do I do if I get a puncture on the highway?
I was also very scared if I will get a puncture and few things that I read and did are
a) Don't drive towards the edge of the road - the sweeping action of fast cars and trucks push the nails and other sharp items towards the corners of the road.
b) Don't do offroad driving - try your best to park your bike on the road itself and not on unknown muddy patches.
c) Keep noting puncture shops - as soon as you notice a puncture shop, register the odo reading in your mind. This way you know for sure how far you are from a puncture store.
PS: Ppl suggest to carry spare tubes but my assumption was anyways I will go to a town and get a guy to repair the Tyre so why bother. So you would have a hitch a ride and get the guy to come to your bike (note where you have parked your bike - landmarks) .
2) How far are puncture shops?
I noticed the following,
Closest shops - 2 Kms apart from each other.
Not so close - 30 Kms apart from each other.
Bangalore - Krishnagiri doesn't have many puncture shops but from Krishnagiri to Sriperumpudur there are loads of shops.
3) What do I do if my bike breaks down?
ans) Well nothing can be done if it is real trouble - Clutch you can do some makeshift arrangement, accelerator you can pull manually but otherwise you will have to get a mechanic from the nearest town. For bullet vehicles there is a garage atBangalore, Krishnagiri, one at Vellore and next at Chennai. The royal enfield website has the details http://www.royalenfield.com/.
- Bangalore South - Silk Board - 7.2 Kms- Hosur - 34- Krishnagiri - 72- Bargur - 17- vaniyambadi - 37- ambur - 17- pallikonda - 28- Vellore - 25 (230)- Ranipet - 28 (258)- Sriperumbudur - 73 (331)- Chennai City - 37 (368)
Same way while getting back.
PS: Ambur and Vaniyambadi are very famous for Biriyani so one could stop here for lunch / food.
Time taken with different average speeds
368 / 60 = 6.1 + 20 minutes (break / food)
368 / 70 = 5.3 + 20 minutes
368 / 75 = 5 + 20 minutes
368 / 80 = 4.6 + 20 minutes
Things to take
Helmet, gloves, backpack, bag, jacket,water bottle, cash, mech no's, bike papers, chocolates. Coolers / Shades are a MUST as the roads are shiny and tough to drive without them. I have a Vega helmet with a inbuilt shades.
Things to be aware off
a) Always don't follow a speeding car or bus - give atleast 50 feet distance.
b) If two or more vehicles are slowing down in the middle of the highway DON'T overtake them it means there is some trouble or a animal is crossing the road.
c) Give yourself and the vehicle a small break every 60 minutes (I gave a break every 90 minutes)
d) Don't race - remember - you are a marathon runner and not a 100 meter sprint runner.
Verdict - Must do - if not now WHEN?
Monday, December 21, 2009
Tuesday, November 17, 2009
http://sunfeastworld10k.indiatimes.com/ - March 23rd - 2010
http://marathon.auroville.com/ - Feb 14 - 2010
http://www.goamarathon.in/ - March 07 - 2010
Benguluru Walkathon - December 5th 2009
http://inside.nikeplus.in/ / http://inside.nikeplus.in/racedetails.php
Wednesday, October 21, 2009
An ant on the move does more than a dozing ox.
“Whenever I see an old lady slip and fall on a wet sidewalk, my first instinct is to laugh. But then I think, what if I was an ant, and she fell on me. Then it wouldn't seem quite so funny.”
“Though your enemy is the size of an ant, regard him as an elephant”
Never stop dreaming. Follow the omens.
Every grain of sand in this universe has a story to tell.
Every grain of sand in this universe has a experience to share.
Similarly I was recently sitting in my favorite news paper reading spot and observing the never ending energy of black ants. They were scurrying around running here and there, they were looking more busy than any manager I have met. An anomaly or a parallel thread started getting created in my mind, I started relating their actions to the actions of a six sensed human.
1) Ants greet every ant – DO WE?
I saw many ants greet each other or which ever ant crossed by, it was neither a gossip session nor were they in a un-conference mode, it was more like a handshake but in this case they shook their antennae or rubbed their antennae against each other.
How many of us greet fellow human beings on a daily basis be it a known colleague or a unknown human? I have seen people drop their head down to avoid conversation / to avoid eye contact. May be we must greet each other whenever appropriate and spread goodwill.
Scientific Reason: Ants can not converse they will communicate with each other with the chemical secretion called pheromones. When two ants meet they will secrete pheromones on the land so that other ants will follow the trail, some time tentacles(antennae) are used as visionary and auditory sensors depends upon the breed.
An forager ant that finds food marks a trail on the way back to the colony; this trail is followed by other ants, these ants then reinforce the trail when they head back with food to the colony. When the food source is exhausted, no new trails are marked by returning ants and the scent slowly dissipates. This behavior helps ants deal with changes in their environment. For instance, when an established path to a food source is blocked by an obstacle, the foragers leave the path to explore new routes. If an ant is successful, it leaves a new trail marking the shortest route on its return. Successful trails are followed by more ants, reinforcing better routes and gradually finding the best path.
Ants use pheromones for more than just making trails. A crushed ant emits an alarm pheromone that sends nearby ants into an attack frenzy and attracts more ants from further away. Several ant species even use "propaganda pheromones" to confuse enemy ants and make them fight among themselves. MORE
2) Ants carry every dead ant back – DO WE?
If an ant met a watery grave or was unfortunate to be showered with love by a slipper, its body was taken care by members of their tribe. I saw several dead ant bodies being transported from the accident spot, the dead body was moved to several locations and meetings were held over the dead bodies similar to a postmortem in human terms. Then in 5 - 10 minutes you will see the ant body missing.
I was surprised to see the level of responsibility and care taking abilities in a small ant – caring for another ant. How many of us stop to help people involved in an accident and hurt. How many of us in the advanced stages of humanization take a undertakers job. May be we must care for the injured, hurt and the unable whenever a chance comes our way.
Scientific Reason: In addition to defense against predators, ants need to protect their colonies from pathogens. Some worker ants maintain the hygiene of the colony and their activities include undertaking or necrophory, the disposal of dead nest-mates.Oleic acid has been identified as the compound released from dead ants that triggers necrophoric behavior.
A few (like Atta) have special chambers for this, but most carry the dead nest mates a short distance away from the nest entrance and deposit them in "refuse" piles. Corpse removal possibly evolved as a way of avoiding such fungal or perhaps bacterial invasions of the colony.
And in some cases, the ants bring the dead ants back and home to eat, because they're rich in protein. But I think that's specific to the one type of ant, rather than general ant behavior.
Tuesday, October 20, 2009
Jetty translates to underwear in colloquial Tamil language.
Intended usage - Bathing in your undergarments is prohibited.
Don't have a bathe after drinking Liqur (liquor) :)
Spotted in a small village in TN.
Thursday, October 15, 2009
An early Emperor of the Xia Dynasty in China about 4,000 years ago said
'A picture speaks a thousand words'
On these lines I decided to post pictures that closely represent the state of the
climate rise in our mother planet.
Earth - 100's of years before
Earth - Current State
Earth - In a few decades
Red Hot Earth
Lets join hands to save mother Earth
A finger is enough to switch a light off
Tuesday, September 29, 2009
Please post them as your comments.
Tuesday, September 15, 2009
Received this picture as a forward today, yes it may strike a chord to many, but don't worry there are many people who are being wise and this won't apply to them at all....
My 2 cents were if one could successfully define what is life? then there is no purpose left for that person to live anymore as he knows it all and there is no meaning to life and he has become super human.
In this same context loved a quote and a tagline,
Dr. Salim Ali, the famous ornithologist, had said, “Man does not live by bread alone. Just look at the people who have no hobbies and spend all their time solely in earning a living. After fifty when they retire from official chair-warming, they don’t know what to do with all the time in their hands and just spend it watching the clock! If they cultivated a hobby like bird watching – it is very healthy because you have to be out of doors to watch birds – they would have lived longer to enjoy their pension.”
Read this at Ranganthittu Bird Sanctuary, close to Mysore - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ranganthittu_Bird_Sanctuary
Loved the tagline of a company - The Fuller Life - 'One life. Do more'
Yes the forward can be viewed with various perspectives, optimism, pessimism well I choose the former.
Your comments please.
Monday, August 31, 2009
Call from customer care (CC): Hallo may I speak to M?
M: Yes this is M.
CC: This is regarding your complaint that you have registered at the customer care.
M: (scratching my head), now which complaint was this, tariff change? service activation? DND?...(anyways) YES tell me.
CC: Now is your connection and network coverage issue proper?
M: (I was surprised that they proactively cover everyone's network and in a hurry check my tower signal bar on the phone and see that it is ready to burst out of the phone) Yes it is fine. What was my complaint regarding?
CC: Sir, you have complained about your network coverage in ABC area.
M: uhhhhhhhhh? hmmmm? Are you serious?
CC: Yes sir.
M: Yes the network coverage is long gone, but I want to tell you something, this was a complaint given in the mid of 2007 and you are calling me regarding this a cool 2 years later. (Anyways thanks for remembering)
CC: Sorry for the inconvenience, is there anything else that you would to know from us.
CC: If you have any query please call 1234455 to get your queries answered, thank you and have a good day sir.
M: Wish you too a good day.
Makes me wonder if they are doing a great job in resolving all issues or are they having some ancient process / systems thats making their good intent to serve people go wrong. Are they losing on money, time, customer good will and above all are they barking on the wrong tree???
Can we apply Business Process Management (BPM) here?
ps: Yes I just finished a training program on BPM.
Thursday, August 27, 2009
Is this a big statement to make with Dr Radhakrishnan’s birthday coming up next month? In my case the entire blame lies with the teachers who made merry by messing up with the usage of the words read and study, this humongous error made me shy away at every instance of the word study or read.
Later in life when I could distinguish between right and write I also knew that the word read was not associated to the social evil – study.
That’s when I started the ’famous’ art of reading with the famous five and was ‘secretly’ reading the secret seven, then had a ‘hard’ time graduating to the hardy boys, didn’t know if mills & boon was a ‘boon or bane’ and now finally into biographies miles away from ‘biology’. The joy of reading increased when I realized that I neither needed to be in Sydney to read works of Sidney Sheldon nor be frost bitten to read works of Robert Frost.
I would be lying if I say that I float in milk colored clouds, surrounded by cute looking angels, and the sound of waterfalls in the background when I read, but the truth is I really get so engrossed by many books that I usually enact many of the characters and scenes in my mind and might end up with an Oscar nomination one moony morning.
To add to a saying of Mahatma Gandhi - Live as if you would die tomorrow learn as if you would live forever and read as if you would carry the wealth of knowledge to your next birth.
Friday, August 21, 2009
For the ones who have gone through the vice of running marrathorns lap after lap month after month, how do you motivate yourself to train when others drive Bentleys and builds palaces in sand with soft melodious background music of snoring. For the ones falling under the ‘L’ category (lazy, lucky & latter) don’t despair you are better off, bigger assets around the midriff, bigger healthcare bills & of course longer lifespan of your shoe soles.
Amateur marrathorners might have been unlucky to be dragged into the sport by some over passionate runner who covers distances like an auto ferrying passengers. But it is a blessing in disguise once you are hooked, running acts like a drug; it makes you yearn for more and in stronger dosages.
A runner’s best friend is the thump thump footstep sound that accompanies him throughout the grueling distance just that the intensity of the sound is inversely proportional to the distance (longer the distance covered softer the thump). A good runner’s thump is equivalent to a Royal Enfield bikes thump.
A runner’s worst enemy is thoughts of the cozy position on the couch with a coke, fries and a nice action movie on HBO. These thoughts are like mirages that float around the circumference of one’s mind especially when the mind is exhausted and wants to start spreading positive thoughts.
Disclaimer: I am neither an ultra marathon runner nor a health freak; all I am is a bad writer trying my luck for fame or rather a few nice comments.
Friday, August 07, 2009
Does it matter if you are a flower enthusiast or a macro maniac sorry I meant macro photographer??? The place to be is The Lalbagh Botanical Garden, Bangalore.
The flower show revolving around the Independence day celebrations in India has started. It is really worth a visit, but remember people travel from far to see this show so there will be a crowd. Try being there at around 8:30 and get into the glass house at 9;00 when it opens. If you go early you will be lucky to see all the butterflies having their morning snack - nectar and flowers in full bloom and not many to disturb your angles and your macro's.
PS: Will post my 2009 pictures soon.
My Lalbagh Set - 2007
history, address and details on Lalbagh,
We might have worked on various Job Scheduling Frameworks, one of the famous one that comes to our mind is Quartz. Yes quartz is a cool frameworks which has advanced error handling, job scheduling and various other great feature. Recently while trying to create a scheduling task for a task in UNIX I decided to check out the inbuilt job scheduling component - crontab, instead of setting up a java application and scheduling it using quartz. There is also a command like a timer at which a script can be run - at
chmod u+x /export/home/user/example/DeleteOldTmpFiles.sh
Is SVN / Subversion winning over CVS?
Find out more at the following links.
Monday, June 29, 2009
Here is the extract -->
There aren’t many images of clouds at night on the society gallery. Perhaps this is because the low light conditions present challenges for digital photography. Perhaps it is because cloudspotters like to go to bed early. Whatever the reason, we think that it is a shame, as the right sort of clouds lit by a full Moon is a sight of great beauty.
The high, streaked ice-crystal clouds, such as Cirrus, look glorious in the moonlight. Thin enough to let the light through with ease, they seem even more delicate and lace-like with a dark backdrop than they do during the day. But the best night clouds have to be Altocumulus – particularly those with gaps between their clumps, a variety known as ‘perlucidus’. If the Altocumulus layer is not too thick, the clumps of cloud develop a striking silvery glow, which is interspersed with inky rivers of the starry sky beyond.
And sometimes, as in these night-time clouds over Bangalore, India, the droplets of the Altocumulus cloud can diffract the moonlight to produce a fragmented ring of reddish colours, around a blue-white disc of light, which is known as a ‘corona’. As different clouds drift in the wind across the face of the Moon, these colours jump nearer or further from it, shifting position depending on the size of the cloud droplets.
Nothing beats a clear starry night when the Moon is less than full. But when it is shining at its brightest, the drifting schools of iridescent, silvery clouds are enough to make even astronomers, usually frustrated by the obstacle of clouds, put down their telescopes and admire the spectacle.
Saturday, June 27, 2009
This friend of mine has served me in days of sunshine, in days of rain etc etc. This friend of mine has fallen off the first floor and yet made sure I didn't have to take it to the doctor. This friend of mine has undergone pacemaker surgery of its battery twice yet served me well while several of its breed have failed owners in less than 3 years. This friend of mine was born in China and was given as a gift from my dad and was held in special esteem because multimedia in days were never in the bloodline. As I grant retirement to my friend, I have asked him to help in countries where my new friend might not work...Last few months deafness and dumbness was troubling my friend.
My great stats of my friend - lifetime till date - 1603 hours, 12 minutes 04 seconds
Here are few pictures of my friend.
Saturday, May 09, 2009
Thursday, April 16, 2009
Buying a camera, thinking of the type that you want, here are few pointers...
I am going to suggest only digital camera's...
I would say there are 4 clear divisions
1) Top end professional camera’s – VERY EXPensive
2) Entry / mid level professional camera’s (DSLR – Digital SLR) – slightly expensive
3) Almost entry level professional camera but in point and shoot – Not too expensive
4) Normal point and shoot camera – Affordable
For starters or amateur photographers I would say 1) and 4) can be ruled out, now you need to focus between 2) and 3) –
Advantages in 2)
a) Excellent quality
b) Very good for learning technicalities in photography
c) Good speed
Disadvantages in 2)
b) Lenses needed to be carried for mid range, close range and for zoom. Each lens can be expensive.
Things to look out for
a) Very good lenses
b) Mega pixel
c) Image stabilization
d) Manual Mode features
e) Weight of the body – how easy is it to handle/carry.
f) Power / battery consumption
Advantages in 3)
a) The latest ones produce very (very) good quality shots.
b) Can be quite good for learning technicalities in photography
c) Superb zoom modes are available in latest ones
Disadvantages in 3)
a) Speed is slightly lower when compared to SLR’s (very minimal and not noticeable usually)
Things to look out for
a) OPTICAL Zoom (not digital)
b) Mega pixel
c) Image stabilization
d) Manual Mode features
e) Ability to attach external lenses
f) Power / battery consumption
My personal choice of brands is
Though I use a 3) [canon s3 IS – for the last 3 yrs] now I am almost ready for a jump to 2) (but the cost is stopping me)
Hope this info helps, if you have more doubts or specific questions do post them...
Cameras are like pens, it’s the hands that hold them that really matter. - MiM
Saturday, April 04, 2009
If ever you get your hands on the book ‘Discoveries in Prayer’ by Malachy Hanratty try reading it.
Many of us are quite faithful to our own religious faith and if asked to name a few more religions would be able to match a child’s IQ in naming a few.
The internet gives staggering figures; there are 19 major world religions which are subdivided into a total of 270 large religious groups, and many smaller ones which could amount to about 4200 (yes four thousand two hundred) divisions. Every single one has their own practices, own merits and things they could improve on. Can you for a minute think of what is common in all the groups?
Yes prayer is a common thread running across several religious practices.
Each one of us would have prayed at one point in life. Can you try explaining what Prayer is?
Most likely you would have said, speaking to God, asking God for things, wishing for things to happen etc…
How about this explanation?
Prayer is speaking to God, asking God for things, wishing for things to happen and GOD LISTENING TO ME [MH]. Doesn’t the last bit add so much more relevance to the praying that we have been doing?
The next great idea in the book says if ever you want to start being happy / start praying start appreciating the small things in your daily life. It is called the ‘The Good Things Prayer’ – every evening / night when you pray just reflect on the small / big good things that have happened during the day [MH]. Malachy goes on to give some examples of good things,
a) The joy of meeting someone unexpected, whom you like a lot.
b) The delight of receiving a long awaited letter
c) The happiness of doing something successfully (like baking a cake, clearing a test, giving a good presentation etc)
d) The relief over a worrisome problem solved etc.
e) A refreshing walk.
f) Feeling patient towards other and caring for others.
g) Doing a good thing for the society / planet.
The real aim is that the more we recognize the good things, the more we appreciate God’s deep care of us in daily life and as a result we feel closer to God [MH].
Some constraints are
1) Sparing a fixed time say 5 minutes every day for this prayer.
2) Feeling distracted during the 5 minutes.
3) The negatives creeping in instead of the good factors of the day. Only will power and time will slowly ensure you see the positives ahead of the negative.
4) When a negative creeps in, turn to God and ask – Show me a good thing.
Also one needs to understand that prayers needn’t be super fast solutions, God could be biding his time planning for a longer term, more surer solution which you could experience a few periods later.
Use of mantra’s or specific terms as practiced by several groups could be instrumental in attaining the right frame of mind and getting closer to God [MH].
Malachy also gives a valid pointer in being concrete and clear in your prayers, example instead of asking for God to give you patience ask God for giving you patience say in tomorrow important business meeting. This ensures when you get that granted it is easier for us to recognize it and be thankful to God for granting it.
Another superb pointer is ‘dressing up’ you might be in a grumpy / angry mood but during prayer you act as if nothing has happened, remember God knows better than that. So be honest and true.
Another valuable pointer given by Malachy is that he has seen several pray for change to happen in others, say God please change xx’s attitude but the right way is God please change xx’s attitude but please start with me. This feels more like a reflection and acceptance.
Other factors in prayer are praying for all you loved ones, relatives, friends, the world, for nature, for what not, the list can just be endless and it purely depends on ones time.
I feel the best pointer in the book is when he talks about the relation between forgiveness and prayer, and defines what forgiveness means,
How would we define forgiveness?
Forgiveness means deliberately trying to return to the relationship that existed before the injury and forcing ourselves to imagine that it hasn’t happened. [MH]
Malachy gives a very beautiful definition – We must understand it as fully recognizing fully that it did happen but in spite of that injury we now want to make a whole new relationship with the person who injured me. I really felt it was such a wonderful and strong perspective to forgiving a person.
Hope this short snippet added value. Well it did a bit to me.
Wishing you all good luck and happiness.
Acknowledgement / Disclaimer: Many snippets are taken from the book Discoveries in Prayer by Malachy Hanratty denoted by [MH]. The other points are purely personal views and might not be agreeable to all.
Monday, March 30, 2009
I really don’t know if it is happening only to me or to others as well. I feel lost, my head spins, and my eyes flicker, my feet waver, and my hands wander to every possible shelf, feel quite giddy and finally end up with a heavy basket and a lighter bank account.
I am not being mugged, am not on drugs, am not on a joy / thrill ride, I am in a supermarket. Of late be it in grocery supermarkets or clothing super stores, I am feeling lost, seeing so many things arranged all around you (almost all over you), in different packages, different colours, different prices. The products, their packaging, their arrangement seem to scream at you, seem to order you to pick them up. Is this a new kind of marketing where they psychologically try to pressurize the shopper to buy things which might be really not needed or is it the age of the ultimate shopper – beware and be aware. I was thinking maybe it is just to do with the shopping supermarket but yesterday when I walked into a cloth super store, I noticed they do don’t have clear exits, you wander and wander among their lines for a long time, each type of a product is spread over 4 – 5 sections, making you walk across other lines as well and makes you / forces you to have a look at all their other lines as well. Their arrangement makes you feel dizzy and may be force you to pick up things that were put into your mind. Yes seeing the crowds and their heavy bags at these stores make me feel that they are succeeding, recession could bring out new techniques and I don’t know if I have witnessed one of the first.
Beware and be aware.
Thursday, March 26, 2009
Let's help by turning off lights at 8:30 PM local time in your country on 28th March. Save energy and reap the benefits as you go ahead.
Update: I barely managed to spend 30 minutes without the lights on. I spend the time in darkness by practicing dark photography. More pictures at http://www.flickr.com/photos/minmaxmim/
Wednesday, February 04, 2009
1st - 4th Feb 2009.
One of my pictures on MSN site...
For more visit
Monday, February 02, 2009
Without photography the memories fade faster - MiM
Cameras are like pens, it’s the hands that hold them that really matter. - MiM
Without photography the memories fade faster - MiM
Photography gives freedom to all the trapped souls - MiM
Photography is an extension of the dreams that we see with our eyes. - MiM
Photography empowers you, for taking a shot you don't need to get approval from your boss - MiM
Photographers are like rattlesnakes, all you hear is click – click - click - MiM
Photography is a complex algorithm each shot is a culmination of efforts between the eye, the mind, the brain and the finger. - MiM
Photography is the nemesis to the oblivion that we show to the environment around us. - MiM
Have a look at my book...
Monday, January 19, 2009
You can have a preview of the book and if you like it please do buy a copy.
The title: A bug called shutterbug
Subtitle: Biological eye vs. mechanical lens the war begins...
Wednesday, January 14, 2009
My journey to few countries in Europe in October 2008.
Europe had always remained a dream destination for me especially after reading Enid Blyton books when I was young, watching several movies filmed in London and Paris. Switzerland was completely out of my vision in the near future, only Roger Federer used to remind me of this place by his fascinating stroke play. I got lucky to come to the UK on an assignment for a short duration and after coming so close to many European countries, it’s a huge disappointment if you don’t get to visit your dream places. With all these thoughts running in my mind I started to search for some good tour agencies to get me going on a trip and that’s when I found out about Star tours, they were having a tour called the panoramic Europe a 5 day trip covering major destinations of Switzerland and France (Paris) and a little bit of Germany and Belgium. Hmm not at all bad for the price they quoted and the biggest bonus was that the Visa arrangement was taken care by them for a certain affordable fee and Indian food served on all days for lunch and dinner, who would want to miss nice Indian food after having cooked and toiled in the kitchen for the past few months trying to conjure some dish and appreciate it myself on a daily basis.
The days started running quite fast since the day the tour was booked, lists were getting drawn left right and center, things to do, things to take, time to leave, things to book etc…This was a coach tour with around 2500 – 3000 km’s to be done in 5 days pretty much of road burning and seat warming to be done. As the day neared my excitement shot up like a thermometer exposed to the hot Chennai weather. The shopping was all completed a few days before departure, the taxi was booked for 4 am October 1st and rechecked once again much to the drivers irritation.
October 1st (the previous year on October 1st I was in Wayanad, Kerala – beautiful place) (Oct 2nd is still special :)) came rather soon / started early, I woke up 3 am and got ready and waited for the taxi, the driver decided to take revenge for my repeated reminders by coming late by 20 minutes and didn’t he make me feel like a heart patient whose blood pressure was shooting up like a race car speedometer which had just won the pole position. I went and picked up my colleague and his family, Dinakar, Rajeshwari and their daughter Kavya. We reached Wembley Park at around 5:30 and were waiting for the bus with chattering teeth as the morning temperatures are quite stingy and stay low at 3-5 Degrees (nothing in comparison with the -4 degree as I write). The bus came and we settled down and I was busy battling my claustrophobic demons of a closed bus, I get hyper whenever I am caged up and the windows and doors are not in my control…anyways got settled down in a bit and started dreaming of the many places that were to present themselves to me. Another funny incident that happened was, in the morning when I just got out after having a bath, it was so cold that I started shivering for a few minutes and I tried something funny to stop it and I sprained my neck so for the first few days of the trip I was looking like a crane with a sprain.
We arrived at Dover for the ferry crossing to Calais, France; we got into the ship and got settled into seats. We were in for a rough crossing the channel waters were choppy and so the ship decided to play to the tunes of the water and we were tossed up, down and sideways and at this point I imagined the plight of the vegetables tossed about in a fancy salad prepared in restaurants. Many of us made slow, measured trips to the rest room to donate our breakfast by puking, with all our heads dizzy we were left wondering if it was better to be under the heater in office. Finally we spent an extra hour in the ship and reached Calais and our stomachs were literally growling ‘grrrr’ with the horrors of hunger exposed to it. After a 10 minute drive we reached a services area where we were to have the first lunch of the trip. The tour agency has a separate mobile kitchen which cooks on the move and gets to the planned services a few hours before us and serve a nice aromatic hot meal, we had a good vegetarian lunch and started our journey to Belgium, slowly people in the bus started opening up, many were software engineers or related to the IT sector, some were from other sectors as well, many with their parents. We reached Belgium after 3-4 hours of a sedate drive and were late to visit the Mini Europe center so we had to be content with visiting the Atomium center and a little bit of the town and then we moved on to the night stay in a town called Thionville in France, we got there passing through Luxembourg, Belgium. I checked into room number 404 in a hotel called Kyriad, pretty decent room. We were famished by this time and got to the eating center and gorged on a tasty prawn curry etc…Day 1 over!
When I went to sleep last night I wanted to make sure I wake up on time and don’t get left behind in a strange town, my brains were on a over drive to make sure I don’t over sleep, I was sleeping and I suddenly woke up and looked at my watch and the time was 8:30, shit we were supposed to leave at 7:45, ok they have left without me what do I do, I look out and see that it is still dark, I drink some water and again check my watch, please note this time I look at it the in the right direction and I find out that its only 2:00 am and am safe ufff a sigh of relief and back to bed….(if you look at the watch / clock turned upside down you will notice 8:30 corresponds to 2:00)
Woke up again on time and got ready and had a hearty breakfast of croissants, juice etc and we started from there to travel through Germany and more specifically the black forests and then by evening get into the borders of Switzerland. The highways matched all the good highways found all over Europe and we were travelling peacefully and after a few hours we stopped in the middle of the black forests of Germany and I must accept this place was filled with beauty. Black/brown trees with snow at the top, apparently black forest cake derives its name from this region that’s why the cake is brown in color and has white icing at the top. We then had lunch and then proceeded to a cuckoo clock making factory and we had a tour of the ways with which they make clocks and must say such an ancient art can still make you stand up and take note of the precision that the nimble hands of these craftsmen provide. I was lucky to see one of the earliest clocks ever made dating back to 1640 and after gazing for a few minutes at the over the budget cuckoo clocks which have a delivery for any place in the world and a service center in almost any part of the world. We stopped at Lake Titsee for a photo session and the other motive was to get every one to warm their legs. This was again a beautiful lake in a scenic location. We started from there to get into the Swiss border and we passed through a good part of South Germany which has a good number of maize fields. We were finally stopped at the Swiss border and our guide and driver left us sweating without the engine running for a good 20 minutes which left us all angrily muttering under our breath. We started to Rhine falls and reached soon, we again carried our cameras and then formed the queue to board the boat which takes you to the base of the Rhine falls and you can clamber upwards to a good view point. It was a 5 minute ride to the other side and we reached the vantage point to see the furious & swelled up waters of the Rhine falls flow defiantly not being bothered by the presence of so many tourists or by global warming. Again a few photos and we waited for the boat to return and a few minutes later we were back to the bus and all ready to go the next destination.
We travelled for a while and then stopped for some chow and had some yummy Chicken curry and ordered some Argentinean wine and then we checked into the hotel which was situated in a hill kind of slope and the bus could get us only half way and we had to walk the rest, I moved into the room 419 in the Hotel Terrace in the town of Engelberg. An interesting fact is that it has a population of c. 4,000, of which 600 are of foreign nationality (2007). On the way we had passed through the city Zurich and we saw the river Zurich. The rooms in this hotel were like a playground wide, spacious and comfortable. End of day 2
No midnight adventures like the previous night woke up and rubbed my eyes repeatedly as I was awestruck by the beauty that was seen from the window. The snow had just started that day for this season and the greenery from the previous season was still intact giving a combination of potent green and white art. Today was the big day as we were planning to go to the peak of mount Titlis a good 10000 feet high. Had a hearty continental breakfast and wore my thermals and got prepared for meeting the grail. After a 5 minute ride by bus we were at the base of the mount Titlis, where we were supposed to take the cable car to the peak. The last part of cable car way leads above the glacier Klein Titlis, and you could visit a glacier cave. Also this is where the world's first revolving cable car is present. With all this information we started the first cable car ride, we had to change at 2 stations and take 3 cable cars in total to reach the top of 3238 meters. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Titlis The views were spellbinding, the snow on the tips of the trees as seen from the first cable car gave way to trees almost covered completely with snow, and the change at the second station was smooth. We saw many cows or yaks in the high altitude braving the cold and munching away what ever could be seen above the snow cover. The last stage with the revolving cable car was fantastic, standing at one place you get to see all sides as the floor rotates slowly (there is a revolving restaurant in Chennai - Carnival Heights Revolving Restaurant). It was something which I had never seen, whiteness as pure as milk spread over the entire distance viewable by my eyes. We reached the top and the temperature was hovering between -11 to -15 degree temperature and I really pitied the cable car operator and the staff working at that height. The world’s highest bar was present there and we had a glimpse of the place, we went into the glacier cave and then started warming up for the real fun – the real glacier. We had to rent shoes and we walked like explorers on the poles visualizing a saga of discoveries and wandering. It was white and white and white and snow flakes showering us, I have never felt this good in the presence of water or it’s by products. I was playing there for about 30 minutes, drenching my camera in the process and then finally got back under human conditions. We started the ride back down and we were treated to denser snow fall. We then left Engelberg and proceeded to the town of Luzern / Lucerne. Due to its location on the shore of Lake Lucerne within sight of Mount Pilatus and Rigi in the Swiss Alps, Lucerne is traditionally considered as a good tourist destination. One of the city's famous landmarks is Chapel Bridge (Kapellbrücke), a wooden bridge first built in the 14th century.
We visited the Bridge and the Lion Monument. Bertel Thorvaldsen's famous carving of a dying lion (the Lion Monument) is found in a small park just off Lowenplatz. The carving commemorates the hundreds of Swiss Guards who were massacred in 1792 during the French Revolution, when the mob stormed the Tuileries Palace in Paris.
After some souvenir shopping for Swiss knives in Swiss, we then moved to Interlaken http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Interlaken .
This is where the world famous the Jungfrau peak (4158m) and the nearby Jungfraujoch railway station (3450m) is present. I must accept that this is one of the most beautiful towns (in terms of scenic beauty) I have ever visited. Blue waters, beautiful trees, snow peaks, greenery in all sides, I could go on and on. We saw some adventure sports like Para gliding etc being practiced. We were roaming for an hour far away from the town center to see the real beauty of this small town and then crawled back to the town center to catch a look of the various shops present. We then started back to Engelberg and the entire bus members were playing dumb charades and antakshari – reminded me of school and college days, what I won’t give to return back to school days but of course minus the exams, punishment and my chemistry teacher. We had a nice Indian dinner with Italian wine and got back into the hotel packed and got ready for a few hours of sleep in Switzerland.
[Few things learnt in this trip] King / Emperor – Guess what’s the difference between a King and an Emperor? While many say a king is one who rules a kingdom and an Emperor is one who rules an empire. While that is partially right the main difference is King is usually elected by hereditary right, while an Emperor has won a war and taken over the ruler ship.
Got up, got ready, had breakfast, moved luggage to the bus. Today was the longest drive from Switzerland to Paris – they were hoping to make it less than 7 hours. Pretty boring, was looking out of the window most of time, reading the book Zillij by Ameena Hussein a Sri Lankan author. My best savior was the kid Kavya; she used to amuse me with her knowledge, playfulness, energy, innocence and what not…time used to fly while playing with her. We stopped at a service for lunch and then again resumed my sleep. I have a vague habit, when I am in any moving object I get the notion that someone is rocking me to sleep and I blissfully doze. As we got closer to Paris everyone started bickering over every tall building, every telephone / TV tower to be the Eiffel Tower and we did get a proper view when we got off for the very important cruise on the River Seine. The 2 hour cruise starts almost at the foot of the Eiffel Tower and moves on to cover almost most of the cities important places and goes under all the important bridges.
We were screaming and running around the boat looking at different scenes of the French life around us. We finally got off and were treated to good scenes of the sunset and the Eiffel Tower standing tall giving an additional aura to the great sunset. We got back to the Novotis hotel had a wash and a good chicken roast dinner and were off at 10 PM. where??? For a night tour of Paris, Paris the city of lights in night is bound to impress the tourist in you and not the environmentalist in you. Every building small or big, every lane crowded or empty was dazzling with lights. I heard that the EU was moving a ban on lighting of many building and the Eiffel Tower in the night after a certain time as several hundred thousands of Euros are spent every day on the electricity charges. We witnessed the Eiffel Tower in full glory in blue lights.
The places that we got to see during the boat cruise and during the night tour are the Opera house, the Arc of Triumph, Concorde Square, Parliament buildings, Sean de alleys (the magnetic street with people at all times), the tunnel where Diana met her sad end, the back entrance of the hotel from where Diana left, Old England hotel (the place where Lakshmi Mittal has one of the worlds most expensive marriage of his daughter), Louvre museum, Notre Dame, the royal hospital built with gold and a few of more buildings.
Paris the eternal city of lights where people don’t sleep seems so true only when you are standing right there with them. At 23:00 – 1:30 in the night you see all the bars, eat outs are having long queues for people getting in, the streets are crowded like in India with party goers, people just walking around meeting friends and what not…The true spirit of Paris.
[Few things learnt in this trip] Roads – If you see the roads and by lanes of Paris you would see that the structures are perfect and a small little curve would be accentuated well by the buildings in that curve, when you look ahead for a fair distance the stretch would be visible with no blind turns. Napoleon III took an active interest in the architecture and construction and was very strict in enforcing good quality.
And we returned by 1:30 AM early morning, with fluttering eye lids and memories of vivid lights, busy streets of Paris, wonderful lanes, rash drivers, beautiful architecture, people full of energy and life.
[Few things learnt in this trip] Church / Cathedral / Chapel / Basilica / Abbey– What is the difference?
A cathedral is the chief church of a diocese in which the bishop has his throne.
Basilica has an architectural sense (St Peters Basilica, Vatican City, Rome). The pope can declare a particular church as a basilica.
"Chapel" - A place of worship that has its own altar. The word itself is associated with the idea of relics, since it is drawn from the idea that St. Martin divided his cape (chapelle) in half and left half with a beggar.
"Church" A place for public (especially Christian) worship.
Abbey - A church associated with a monastery or convent.
Yes 4 days of my wonderful vacation have vanished, have made stronger vows of returning back to Paris on my own. We got ready and went to the magnificent structure of the Eiffel tower, we were going to conquer the tower and get to the topmost floor of the structure. The tower is the icon of Paris, it is an iron structure, the tallest standing building of Paris, the most visited paid monument in the world, 1,063 ft high. It was built for a world fair to be demolished later but as it supported and worked as a good communication tower it was left to stand. They use 50 -60 tonne’s of paint every year to keep the structure rust free. The top of the tower moves up to 7 cm’s when there is a heavy wind blowing. Upon the Nazi occupation of Paris in 1940, the lift cables were cut by the French so that Adolf Hitler would have to climb the steps to the summit. When visiting Paris, Hitler chose to stay on the ground. It was said that Hitler conquered France, but did not conquer the Eiffel Tower. Another interesting story was that novelist Guy de Maupassant — who claimed to hate the tower — supposedly ate lunch in the Tower's restaurant every day. When asked why, he answered that it was the one place in Paris where one could not see the structure.
[Few things learnt in this trip] Picnic – The origin of picnic is from a French word pique-nique- for more details click here http://word-powers.blogspot.com/2007/08/word-powers-friday-fiesta.html
Coming to day 5 we stood at the base of the tower clicking away pictures, and to our sorrow we discovered the top most floor was closed due to the reason that the wind was so strong up there and could blow people off. So we had to contend ourselves with a visit to the second highest floor. We had to squeeze ourselves in an ancient OTIS lift which to my discomfort has been there from the past century. I was praying that the lift doesn’t decide in my presence to make a call to the mechanics. Hopefully we got up in quick time and had great views of the city and that’s when you realize that the Paris is indeed built with great precision and planned well – the roads and lanes are well cut and the city presents itself as being very organized. After clicking away to glory to the discomfort to my S3 IS camera we started our descent via the great steps of the tower 340 steps to the second level and 328 steps to the first level. We then went around the city center and then started our journey back home after 5 days of touring places, we got back to Calais and crossed the ocean which was in a better mood and did make us run to the rest room often. We reached East Ham at 9:30 and caught a series of tube, train and taxi and got home by 12:30 – 1:00 to end a fantastic, fascinating and fantabulous holiday. Though I had to wake up at 6:00 the next day and get to office by 8:00 and make up for my absence, nothing can beat the effort and the trip. Have a look at the pictures below.
For more pictures - http://www.flickr.com/photos/minmaxmim/