Monday, September 29, 2008

Get Tired in TADA

It was another photo trip organised by Chennai Photography Club, the place choosen was TADA, It is a place in bordering state(Andra) with Chennai, TADA is full of rocky terrain covered with thick forest. The trip started from a discussion in CPC yahoo groups and made its way to get materialized as photo trip. We were geared up with our plans expecting to feed greater pictures to our hungry cameras. Yesterday around 4AM in the early morning I woke up after my alarm’s continues wake up calls. As we were planned to go TADA in my jeep and 2 more cars, we had around 13 people in the tour. So we set our target for 5AM to getting out of the city. Early in the morning, we witness the city is already awake before us on a Sunday. The roads were already busy and traffic signals put us behind 15minutes in the schedule. Though we could manage to start around 5:30, and I have seen few guys in the team back footed to sit in my Jeep thinking that the trip may not be as good as they thought in a jeep. Photo Courtesy: RajkumarWe reached TADA after an hour of travel which is around 70kms from Chennai bus terminus, and had our break fast in the village. After our break fast, I quickly removed the Jeep’s top and folded the windshield down. Hurray… now people started noticing some difference in the jeep, that’s were the Jeep show off and actions started. We were again started going toward the TADA water falls also known as Ubbalamdugu Falls or Komba Falls which falls around 15kms from the village we had break fast and the place provides full fun for hillocks and hiking.

On the way to the forest I showcased some extreme offroad stunts with my jeep, after the stunt, man… I noticed all are almost became Jeep fans.

After brief offroading the jeep had issues with the clutch and we had to correct over selves as in the deep forest with no one to help. Then the group started moving towards the falls which is on the top of the hills, I thought the trip will have lots of walking but wrong, It was too much of hiking. One can really burn the fat much faster than they can do in a modern gymnasium. I have started feeling muscles pain and sweat everywhere in the body. But the ambition to reach the top kept me going, we crossed the water ways couple of times during the ascending path, Discussion with many visitors in the uphill path proved most are from Chennai. The running water was too clean and it was crystal clear and we could see the small fishes in large counts. The moment we put our foot in the water, the small fishes start biting us, many of those people climbing upwards took rest near the water ponds and started taking fish kissing therapy.

Finally we reached the top and man… it was a disappointment as not much of water in the falls, a lean water flows from the hills like water leaking from the tap. Though the ponds created by surrounding rocks had a good swim-mable water stagnation and I enjoyed it to my best.

With few clicks of butterflies, water bodies and the forest we started descending towards the car park area. In general the trip was too good with lots of physical work to the totally stalled information technology person’s body, but I felt real tired and exhausted. The return trip to Chennai was in open jeep with my hair flying on the air... this is the one think always bonds with my passion for opentop jeep. Now it is time for others to realize the fun traveling in jeep and couple of them tried to drive the jeep for short distances.

Monday, September 15, 2008

South India Tour - Jawadhu Hills

The envying effect on my team outing on September 1st weekend to Jawadhu hills reflected in my family too, hence no escape but to visit again to a hill station.

This time not in mini bus but in my Suzuki Zen Estilo car filled with four adults and two kids. Actually I thought I will take them to Yelagiri ,another hill station next to Jawadhu hills, hence we geared up our plans and started early in the morning to Yelagiri. The trip to Yelagiri included a lunch stopover at Ambur for the famous Ambur Dhum Briyani.

We started our trip after lunch from Ambur to Yelagiri & after a short drive we were already climbing on the Yelagiri hills. But I did not see any dark forest instead saw plains below the mountain. The hill route provided a panoramic view of downhill villages.
The hills route got couple of hairpin bends and we have seen lots of families sitting on the compound wall posing for our cameras. Look at the monkey family, they seems to be enjoying their weekend too.
Soon after reaching the top, I decided to go back as there was nothing much to attract us in Yelagiri, hence U turn to down hills. You know what, the car was accelerating towards Jawadhu hills. I took an alternate way to Jamunamathur. Now the route from Vaniyambadi to Alankayam then proceeded forward to Kavalur. Remember the observatory I was mentioning in my previous visit's blog.

We reached bit later than the last time, but now for my surprise the guards posted in the security poll of Vainu Pappu Observatory allowed us to see the Giant 93” world’s second largest telescope. Hmmm… bad luck, I didn’t carry a mobile camera and the security personnel already asked me to leave the digital camera behind before entering into the facility (Security concerns!!!).

Lucky my family!! we got into the largest telescope tower and the lab attender demonstrated its operations. Though we didn’t see any objects from the sky as it was not in the evening, but we have seen the telescope operational procedures.

Bits about the Vainu Pappu Observatory:

  • Asia’s largest telescope is called Vainu Pappu Telescope and the optical used in the telescope is 93”(Ninety Three Inches) in size.
  • The whole setup is indigenously developed including the optical lens, the observatory staffs claimed it took one and half year for them to make the lens.
  • The observatory was estabilished in 1986
  • The second largest telescope in this facility is 40” in size and Carl-Zeiss of Germany made the lens. The staff claimed the second size telescope provides around 98% accuracy.
  • There are totally six Telescopes installed in the facility, from 93” to 6” (I have already posted the pictures of 6” telescope while my teammates looking over it in my last visit)
There is an optical coating plant inside the observatory where the 93” telescope was made, now I found they are making another 24” lens to commission another telescope tower.

After spending fair amount of time in the observatory, we moved out approaching towards the guesthouse in Jamunamaruthur village. Remember I explained about route to the guesthouse from Kavalur.
With similar expectation to meet our wild friends I was driving on the grove, I have spotted a chameleon crossing the road… WoW the first feast to my camera in Jawadhu hills was too colorful this time.After taking couple of pictures, I again set myself into the car driving on the jungle roads. I heard my father calling me to look at the right side of the car window; if someone was taking my video would have realized the amazement in my eyes, We found a skull of Bison lying on the road side. Next moment everyone heard click! click! click!
Though I didn’t see the Bison, but I have seen the skull of bison. We were thinking it was going to be a Zoo trip but it became Museum trip after seeing the skull.
The day already vanished and my family was set into the guesthouse, since there is no crowd I didn’t take opportunity to set camp fire. Almost every one was tired and we did sleep early on the date.

Next morning was planned as usual with a trip to the Waterfalls. My younger son Adhava was all set to walk on the forest trekking path, he he he he was so amused to the no mans land filled with lots of things he had never seen ;-)
My kids were enjoying their forest visit and butterflies in the forest heard my shutterbugs.
A dip in the waterfalls, hmmmm good good second time in a fortnight. This time my kids have also joined with me. Blue sky and Green backdrop a unique combination for the day.
With some time on the Village for food and sight seeing we were already wound our trip back to Chennai.

Monday, September 08, 2008

Team Safari - Jawadhu Hills

We used be a scattered team working for the same project. I remember most of us don't even interact thinking that each other is from different planet (?). May be it was that we were from different geographical and technical background. Probably that is how everyone felt. The whole attitude changed with our Jungle journey to Jawadhu hills. We travelled to a reserved forest which is fenced by forest department where one can truly experience nature's nirvana. Since the day we planned the trip, I was overwhelmed by the excitement from team members and their support to make the trip alive. Pretty soon, I picked up the catalyst position to make the plan into action. Myself(Siva,Web team), Tamil(Service Delivery Manager), Gopi (GAM team) all started looking for list of to-dos as we had 100+ team members to be invited. However due to the service model and team members personal commitments the 100+ members made way for the 40+ people team outing.

Before I took the execution, Internet came into picture by providing first hand information about organizing a corporate tour, that was an eye-opener towards the possibilities. There I got to list Food, Accommodation, Transport, Activities, Locations, Safety, Route and Location guide into a checklist format. As we have chosen Jawadhu hills among three other proposals for team outing, the immediate attention was to organize accommodation and food, because the place we choose got not much of facilities, even though it was a beautiful place with lots of opportunities for fun. The first call to the Block Development Office at Jamunamarathur in Jawadhu hills for guest house booking was a success announcing our first action plan with right symbol in the checklist. The BDO's office got newly build guest houses with very attractive accommodation tariff. Since it is not a major tourist location, there is no restaurant.

So, with some influence of known people in the village I got a local villager to prepare food for our team. We had worries about the quality of the food even though we have placed the order for preparing food for us. People realized later in the trip that the food prepared by villagers are much better and changed our perceptions drastically.
Keeping few of my previous team-outing lessons in mind, I routinely started communicating people with what and what not to be expected in the village. In fact that’s one thing created a greater influence in teammate’s mind to join the trip. Mr. Tamil’s voice (I should call yard stick) drove the whole team to come out with a positive appearance to the trip. That’s when the transport arrangement had got kick started. Next to Accomodation, Food and Transport it was time to grab some articles for memento and prizes for the team games and activities.,, hmmmm "Saravana Stores" thats the magic. On the 6th September, early in the morning, my mobile started screaming at me to wake-up...opps 30mins to go, before I reach office as per my schedule. I really remember the 30mins time how I spent to make myself fit into the car to rush towards office. The trip was scheduled to start at 5:30am from my office building with two mini buses which can accommodate 20 adults each.
Though the plan was to take 40+ people, few had to stop due to various reasons hence we had 39people boarded on the bus in various pickup points. By the time the bus crossed the borders of Chennai we have already reaching 8:30am in the morning, I heard my soul saying I was behind schedule and for my fate we totally delayed 4 hours when we reached the top of the hill.

Leaving the highway drive back, each of the trip mates got full fun in spite of their hungry stomach for the lunch. We saw the mountains covered with a green carpet (should I say bed sheet?). The clouds passing the hills with mild cool atmosphere continued to become cooler and cooler as we started climbing upwards. After multiple delays we reached the top with little more than a smile at everyone's face. That was positive sign to me that the trip is going to make every one into a single circle. Obviously at the end of the trip the result was evident, the team outing made the team really bonded.
Quickly we served the food prepared by the villager. Much longer before we arrived at the top, the villager was punctual enough to bring in the food at right time. The empty stomachs of our folks made the food to taste more than delicious. You know what, I got a pass mark from the team about food arrangement. That was clearing all my worries about how the food going to taste like?
Our first challenge with the trip was food as it got cleared, the next one to take the fully tired team to the world 2nd largest observatory. A 91" telescope installed in Vainu Pappu Observatory in Kalavalur village of Jawadhu hills, it was around 10kms distance from the guest house we stated. The trip from guest house to observatory was fun as we were guided by a local person who explained couple of paths where the machine and wild life meet each other. Yes, he said many times the Bisons and Elephants cross couple of places we were driving. We got another reason for excitement, some started even praying that the animals should cross our path so we could encounter the all new experience of meeting the wilder animals at their court.

Driving in an unknown territory with full of hope to meet the wild without getting hurt, hmmm too much of expectations. Taking such a big numbers into the jungle was no joke. Many things could go wrong, bad road, nature’s mood, no prior experience, high possibility of breakdown, etc. In spite of all, we got very excited about driving down in an Jungle. After couple of minutes driving we reached the VPO at Kavalur. The gate was closed for security checks before allowing anyone into the facility.
The guys had real experience in seeing the largest telescope from outside as the day we visited got clear sky with lots of scientific observation happening, so we lost the opportunity to go inside the largest telescope. The largest telescope was in the height of 8 story building and the dome was designed to facilitate 180 degree rotational view for the telescope.
We were allowed to the 6" telescope for star watching, though we were shown the Jupiter and moon. My collogues from HCL were looking at the telescope with their eyes wide open. Tell me who wants to miss out such an opportunity to see a planet which is much far away from our home?

Now it was time to return to the guest house through the same jungle, hmmm there you go. The experience now is to drive the buses into dark jungle with same hopes of encountering our wild friends. Oh Boy! same bad luck, none of them were ready to show their faces, but we were not really disappointed as all of us were looking forward to the forth coming fun in the camp fire.Quickly the attender in the guest house built the infrastructure for camp fire, few bottles of cold drinks and of course the safety measures to ensure that we create no wild fire ;-). We finally gathered again to lit the light, the temperature in the hill top was already cooling down and the campfire added a unique weather around us. We also achieved the attention of passer by crowd.
Nothing worried any of us and the party began with added joy of hill station visit. It was really great to see highly trained IT professionals to perform the tribal dance. The time was ripe and all of us jointed our hands together creating a huge success to the trip and team. We played few team games with music to add some background fun.
After the team enlighten with real team spirit infront of fire god again, Now it was time for food, our dinner session. This time we were ran out of food to fill everyone's hungry stomach. But I received no negative feedback and everyone started smiling back with their support and cheers for making this trip in a right time. After camp fire was put out, we rolled over the sleeping bags to get back with the scheduled activities.

In the next morning with freezing cold weather, we woke up each other by increasing the ceiling fan's speed. ha ha ha I still remember how people expressed their reactions. hmmm but as per our plan we were about to reach the water falls to enjoy the morning bath. Quickly after few minutes the whole team was set into trekking mode towards the waterfalls in the jungle. We started marching on the village road which directed us to the jungle path.The trekking added more excitements to the team, they were started creating new fun by lifting stones, capturing the villagers and the nature in their tiny little digi cams.
We had even clicked a beautiful tribal kid wearing birth day suite who was doing cultivation :-).
The village was scenic with mountain cultivation and tribals. We had terrific experience of 360 degree filled with camera friendly landscape.
Guys in our team couldn't control themselves posing for pictures too... I remember hearing again and again "take my picture here please".
Now it is man who made the green out of nature. Green Green Green every where the color Green with lots of Green shades.
Hey forgot to tell that the professionals had already forgotten their computer screens and started acting like Tarzans. Wow.. the creepers and hanging folks Yaaahoooooooooo my camera had full fun too.We finally reached the water falls, setting a chorus “WOW” into every ones mouth while the eyes wide opened with load of excitement.
“God! Where in the earth you got so much of ideas to create such a wonderful facilities?” A rocky terrain with white broader line passing towards the earth that is called water falls. We observed many of us already lost our most of dresses and started moving forward to the water falls to take a dip. I too immediately rushed forward and waved the team and started loosing the clothes. The water fall was too chilled creating a wholly new experience, the nature's water massage and stone therapy all good for health.
The area was filled with lots of herbal aroma creating a fresh mood. I think this is going to create a envying effect to the people who read this article. Ladies and Gentleman that’s the nature's effect we can't help.
By this time, I had to push everyone to wind-up as we need to rush for our break fast. It was too difficult for me and Mr. Tamil to bring people out from the falls as no one seemed to be moving out. Later we got to extend our farewell to the waterfalls and walked in the very straight and deserted stretches of the forest. I also took the opportunity to share the information about Jawadhu hills to the team while we were walking on the narrow stretches. The walk was thrilled with the wild birds saying cookoo cookoo and green party shadow effect from leaves.Already we were behind the break fast schedule, but who cares as already the nature filled our mind with so much of happiness. After some time we filled our internal vessels with food. That is the point where we started moving towards boat club and cricket ground. Hence few guys joined with me for boating and rest of them pulled into the cricket pitch. That was a pedal boat with four seater arrangement, but I had six people to push in the water. Hence two boats with three member in each pedaling all the way around the lake.
End of Boating and Cricket was set for lunch session, Though some of us didn't miss the opportunity to play in the kinder's park at the lake side.

I realized our team is full of childish adults... he he he beer and bear seems to be always attracting the grown kids.
Wow.. we had experiences that is beyond our countable range. Everyone's contribution was excellent. The lunch was served with few veg and non-veg dishes. It was time for ringing bell for winding up our trip itself.
The prizes and mementos were distributed and already everyone was pushed into the buses, it is now down hill trip but I hear no sound from anyone. All of us looked some what sad face, as we were leaving the natures protected place.

After a while, a serious rain looked imminent. so we closed the side windows, and drivers were pushing the accelerator pedal high. Since we are driving forward, we wanted to reach home before late in the night. Otherwise transport the individuals to reach their home may become an issue. But for our luck, all were under control and I started receiving pager from everyone about their early reach at home.

It was a real good experience and fun for those who attended. Cheers!

Tuesday, September 02, 2008

Bangalore to Chennai - JAWA 250cc

It was fun driving a 1971 model JAWA 250cc bike from Bangalore to Chennai, guess what the bike did well in nearly 400kms stretch with only 2 stops.

I had terrific day driving a 38yrs old bike in monsoon rain for more than 200kms, however I really enjoyed the ride like hot and sweet. I was not expecting the rain hence didn’t carry a rain coat which is hot, same time stealing all the passer by eyes on the bike is sweet.

I also lost the path once and had to increase the distance by 75kms extra, the pretty thing after I reach home I got a good remark from the family saying WoW kool bike. Even at one stage during the drive, one of the fellow biker in the highway asked me if JAWA re-introduced in India by looking at my shining JAWA 250. Actually this is not a CZ imported JAWA but the first ever produced bike in the Ideal JAWA factory in Mysore, Karnataka, India. The factory was closed during 1996 due to labour and finance issues. Only this model bike came with the name JAWA from this factory, rest of the models produced in mysore factory was branded as Yezdi.

I covered the whole distance in 7 hours, the bike gave around 35kmpl. I think it is still economic to have a classic bike with this sort of running mileage.
Route traveled: Shivaji Nagar (Bangalore) -> Electronic city(Bangalore) -> Hosur -> Krishnagiri -> Vaniyambadi -> Ambur -> Vellore -> Ranipettai -> Sriperumbudur -> Poonamallee -> Porur(Chennai) -> Guindy(Chennai) -> Velachery(Chennai)