Friday, November 30, 2007

Ground effect

I had been running around the lake this evening, finally trying my legs at getting back to running form after a break due to a shin injury, the place where I run is the very scenic and much polluted Kukkarahalli Lake. Although most of the disposal from the university finally finds its way to the lake, it still manages to house a lot of fishes, snakes and also the odd croc to catch you off guard and give you something to run about. But during some times of the year, it also becomes a home to some of the birds migrating for the winter and that, takes the beauty of the lake to a whole new level, especially during sunset.
It was once such lovely sunset this evening, the sun returning home from his duties on this side of the planet, when a familiar sight struck a huge bell in me and made me marvel at nature and its intricate designs. There was a bird (I beg pardon from all the ornithologists and ornithology enthusiasts who might possible read this) which looked like a swan, with a wingspan of nearly five feet by the look of it. Having mastered the dynamics of flight during its infancy, it was out to optimize on its skills, you know, cost-benefit, maximum gains for minimum loss of energy. It had a trick up its sleeve, it is called ground effect, it was something the soviets tried and succeeded in, although they built only a prototype before the project was scrapped due to lack of funding, they did however show the world how to utilize a major aerodynamic effect.
The bird, with its huge wingspan, flying just above the water surface, on the buffer of air underneath its body, between the water and itself, which its aerodynamic shape created and was skating on top of the water, inches above it, and what more, it was flying, I mean to say flapping its wings (as opposed to gliding, in which you don’t flap your wings) and the wing tips never even touched the water, they were cushioned, quite wonderfully on the layer of air just above the water, and it was a majestic sight, the proximity, the speed, the agility, one wrong move and you’ll have the worst accident of your flock, but the bird was making light work of it and indeed putting on a show.
Within seconds the bird disappeared and great speed, and I was on my way back again regretting that I never seem to have my camera with me when for such great moments!

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Road-dog, Wanderer, Nomad, Wagabond, Call me what you will.. yeah!

Hello boys and girls! I had been having something of a crisis searching for something to write about in the past week, but thankfully the end of it proved to be a pretty strong solution for all those prayers. It isn’t the fact that I have been bored sitting at home for the past week, rather was feeling the urge to get out and do something apart from sit home pumping neurons. Have to admit, it was nearly a year and a half since I felt the pinch of the winter’s sun. The blessing came in the form of, well, of course as it is in most cases, friends; yes, they’d planned a one day trip, something, the scale of which we’d be attempting after nearly three years of abstinence from one day trips due to logistics, time, money and lately, work. But this time all the pieces of the jigsaw seemed to fall into place perfectly and even though the final destination was shrouded in ambiguity till the previous evening, the overall sign was a big fat GO!
So, late the previous night, the decision was made to go to a waterfall nearly 130 km away from Mysore in the district of Kodagu. Good then, we no longer felt like gypsies! A relief! And the departure time was fixed, compensating for the slowest riser amongst us, as 6:45! Just how we would manage a feat of such sorts at such an ungodly time was still uncertain and as it turned out, it never happened, we left just when the sun was starting to take a peek at us over the buildings, that was because of a small matter called breakfast and the people who made a lunch out of it! (No offence guys, really)
We were off, at a very fancy time of 7:47 Anti Meridian. The starting ride was silky, the road was as smooth as a baby’s bottom and the cold wave which is hanging around these days meant the engines were breathing and breathing well! Among the three bikes which started, one bike was new and had done less than 2000 km so we had an agreement to put a cap on the speeds we would do, but, later as the kilometers passed, there were times when we held our bikes at just under three-digits speeds for certain stretches.
After a while (I’m really not good at remembering times) came the first of our scheduled stops at H.D Kote. The usual customary tea was ordered, and we were served the usual customary village tea. Tasty or not, it did the job of defrosting our hands, feet and brains very well so we would have a lesser chance of taking off into orbit over the odd and unexpected road-hump we encountered now and then.
On the way we thought of stopping and stretching our legs before we hit the, supposedly, very dangerous forest. Those who were not keeping their eyes on the road decided to stop at a lake which, by the look of it had more plants and plankton than water, after a quick photo session, we were about to depart and it was then that yours truly tried a Valentino Rossi and ended up doing a Colin McRae! For non-motor sport people, I’ll put it down in layman’s terms, yours truly was trying some wheel-spin stunts on his bike, and at last wanted to test the launch control of the, newly self-repaired and reinforced, clutch. But the launch was unexpected and slamming on the brakes to avoid going into the lake along with my bike caused the front wheel to lock still and the bike to collapse with me still on it! Thankfully, any major disaster and injury was avoided and we were on our way with an understanding that the next stop would be the actual falls itself, but, the road has lots of other things in store for us as you’ll soon find out.
We hit a check post at the start of the Nagarhole Forest range and consequently hit a very stubborn check post watchman who insisted that we carry along on any other route but this one as there was supposedly a danger of elephants on that stretch of road running through the forest. Any form of negotiation (both verbal and financial) was futile since he claimed that the passage of every vehicle would be recoded in a log book. He did, however suggest an alternate route, heading back for a couple of kilometers, taking a detour, connecting four villages to emerge on the conventional route taken by people to reach the falls. This road, we did find, however, we also found out that it was not asphalt! It was pure country road, as bumpy and dusty as they come, and, our luck, 20 km of it! It did all but completely destroy the bikes suspensions and shock absorbers, not to mention the riders’ and pillions’ backs, finally after an hours ride on those roads we connected to a main road and were on our way again on some smooth tarmac. Approaching the Kodagu district, the whole scenery changed, suddenly there was an abundance of green, hills, coffee estates, and perfectly picturesque tree lined roads! The sight was really something to behold. But not to be dared doing that on a bike, cause to make sure you don’t stop looking at the roads and start looking at the scenery (or some Kodava girl?) they’d made the roads narrow enough for just one car, and to make matters even more challenging, there was a good five inches deep step from the road to the dirt on the side of it. Welcome to Gonikoppa the board said in Kannada. It’s not hard to make out that you’re in Kodagu, it’s a very special district, nothing they follow, in terms of culture, resembles rest of Karnataka, but the reach of Kodava people is anything but limited! They’ve held or are holding many great posts and especially excel in sports or in the Army and are, sometimes, frighteningly brave and adventurous. Enough knowledge about them for now, moving on, we were not quite there yet, a left at Gonikoppa took us to Ponnampet, from there on, it was another 10km of dust covered, rock littered, twisty, blind and dangerous roads through the forest to reach the foot of a hill! For people who’re interested in what I call “technical riding”, it was a dream, you’d never fall asleep on those roads, it was very, well, technical, twists, blind curves, ditches, rocks, tricky braking, hairpins and rocks and rocks and more rocks! Phew, by this time nobody had the energy to attack the roads (almost nobody, and I was not supposed to tell I liked those roads, or I’d risk being slaughtered and had for lunch, cause everybody was that hungry too). Anyway, the last two hairpins were successfully tackled and we landed at the foot of a hill which covered our entire field of view, it was the hill which houses the very beautiful Irpu falls and is the source of the river Lakshmanteertha. A short trek through a man-made pathway took us up the hill to the falls and boy wasn’t it a sight for sore eyes! Falling majestically over 51 meters into a pool just over a meter deep, it welcomed you with a hug of cool water-spray with every splash which echoed in the hills. But the water masked a very important thing for which we were not prepared. It was time for us to strip off most of our clothes and head to the water, one foot in the water sent chills down our spines and jolted us back to reality with the sound of our teeth rattling cause of the cold. The water was freezing, ok, defrosted, but only just! It was so cold! And me being the thinnest of the group (read it as person with the least blubber) obviously felt the cold right to the core of my bones, so I took my own sweet time getting in. It was then that I found out what 51 meters did to the water, it was slamming down on my head, so much so that I couldn’t lift it up or stay directly under the falls even for a minute. It didn’t take long for me lose sensation in my hands and feet from the cold. I jumped out, well, not really, because I couldn’t move my hands and legs faster than an century old tortoise, I crawled out, content with the feeling that another waterfall was under the belt, another trip successful, worthy and another trip survived, both by the bike and by me without glitches or gremlins, that is the most important thing you can take away from these trips and comes second only to the pleasure of the scenery, the fact that you still have the drive to do such crazy things, ride for nearly 300 km a day, ride through the dust covered, rock littered road in sweltering temperatures, as though you’ve been possessed, to stop and find out for your own shock that you’d been concentrating so hard thru those roads that you had gone into a trance-like state. To feel the adrenaline pumping, sometime so hard that you can feel your heart beat in your head! Somebody (make that six of us) would be sleeping with a grin from ear to ear tonight.
With the main part taken care of, it was time to head back, which looked like a breeze considering that we’d be taking an easy, smooth road, and as usual with all our trips, the objective was to clear the forest before nightfall and with the customary stop for tea once before and once after the forest. Riding on roads dodging friendly elephants into the full moon rising in-between the trees is every rider’s utopia! Makes you come away from it with higher ambitions for future trips. This was one weekend worth waiting a year for!

Monday, November 19, 2007


Well, I’d suppose you’d be wondering where I was all this time, well, so just to keep the world informed about happenings in my life, I am going to tell you where I was all this time and what was I up to.
To being with, well, let’s start at the beginning! Somewhere in the late twentieth century……. Sheesh! I guess, that’s way too far back to call the beginning (would prefer the word pre-history, whatever that may mean). I was about to tell you that I was born in the late twentieth century, but I guess it ain’t of much use to anybody including myself (apart from getting a few greeting cards every year and if I’m lucky, a medium sized cake).
The real beginning happened when I was out of home for the first time, I got a job!!! It was a lousy place where my company had set up camp, only because they were getting things free from the government, and unfortunately they had forgotten a fact that they’d planned an oasis but, built a hut and that too 60 km from civilization as you’d know it! And so we had to live at least half way near to that oasis, which sometimes became a royal retreat for us in times of drought, or risk spending more for traveling than the meagerly pocket-money like figures promised to us! So obviously we ended up living somewhere in the slums (nearly) on a highway but ironically wore every imaginable formal attire other then a Tux (for the shocking surprise of fellow slummers), and once at the oasis, the place was so mind-numbingly boring that people were talking to themselves to stop themselves from going insane. Quite understandably, people who hadn’t completely lost their heads came to know sooner or later that these “talking to yourself” episodes have been going on for a long time in history (great people call it an auto biography, glimpses of world history, my experiments with truth, insights of a curious character, Bridget Jones’ diary???? or, in this case captain’s log) and started to write their thoughts down. It was then that technology gave a helping hand, because you see, with an old fashioned, hand written letter, as charming and filled with feeling and emotions it may be, but, you’d have no guarantee it’ll end up with the recipient, or worse, no guarantee that it won’t end up in the hands of the wrong recipient!
This offers one more very useful help, the safety of anonymity, you can pose or proclaim to be whomever you want and only the government or Interpol can take the pains to find out who you really are, the rest of us really don’t have so many resources at hand. And the chances of me being dragged into custody by Scotland Yard is one in two billion (assuming two billion people have access to the internet worldwide out of the six billion on Mother earth), and incidentally, the chances of Mother Earth being hit by an asteroid is just a little weaker than that (you can work out the rest of the math), so, for pessimists, you’ll be arrested by MI 5 the same day the earth will be hit by an asteroid! (Ah! It makes me feel invincible).
I suppose I have deviated greatly from the topic, but these are the factors that I considered before opening up to the world (call me a chicken). Coming back to what I was telling, that brief spell with people on that remote island made this otherwise quiet person into a chatter box! And since then began the quest for knowledge and new opinions, views, subjects and other chatter boxes thereby opening up a maze of a network called friends! And sadly since then, I have lost touch (physically) with almost all of them, but by one way or another, we flock together. And this Captains Log is a summary of the things I would’ve talked with various people on various occasions about various topics; starting from this very conversation which I can relate to one I had with a close friend of mine about a month ago.
Well… here goes! Look forward to more.