Category Archives: Travel

Monsoon Roadtrip

The onset of Monsoon during June is an ideal time to witness the transition from dry and brown to green and fresh. The entire Indian sub-continent undergoes a transformation within a few weeks. What better way of witnessing it than driving through it all.

Route: Bangalore – Wayanad – Kannur – Marvanthe – Karwar – Hubli – Bangalore
Distance : ~2000km
Days: 5
States: Karnataka , Kerala

This is the first time I was shooting video as opposed to clicking pictures like I mostly do. In a way, this is my first experiment with video.

Music: N’to – Trauma (Worakls Remix)

Monsoon Roadtrip

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Contrast, Contrast, Contrast

India is diverse not only in its culture, but also in climatic conditions, terrain and temperatures. These are a few pictures and illustrations taken during my travel escapades. We have some of the  highest, lowest, coldest, hottest, driest, wettest places in India.

  • From extreme cold of Dras, Kargil district, Jammu & Kashmir (lowest recorded of -60 deg celcius)  to the extreme heat of Dholpur, Rajasthan (highest ever of 50.6 deg celcius)




  • From the wettest place in the world Cherapunjee, Meghalaya (annual rainfall 1,041.75 in) to the dry Thar desert, Rajasthan ( annual rainfall <10 inches).




  • From the highest Mt Kancehnjunga (height 8,586 m (28,169 ft)) and the snow clad Himalayas to the large coastline (length 7,517 km (4,671 mi)) and the 2 seas and 1 ocean that surround it.



  • From the dense forested areas of the Western ghats or Arunanchal Pradesh(total India forest cover 23%, with very dense forest of more than 70% tree canopy at 3%) to the arid expanses of Rann of Kutch, Gujarat and Rajasthan.




Coming to think of it, India has a lot of contrasting stuff if you look around!

A Natural 360 Degrees Astronomy Dome In Dholavira, Gujarat, India

There is a place, somewhere in the western extremities of India, which offers a perfect 360 degrees dome perfect for astronomy observations, star gazing and astro photography.

Let me highlight the elephant in the room first. There are many challenges of finding such a place. For many years, I have been on the lookout for “The Perfect Dome” – An unabated 360 degrees view of the night sky without any terrestrial features blocking the view. And more importantly, without any light pollution. It is very tough to find such a place these days with light pollution from cities, towns, villages and vehicles. You might say that there are many stretches in India where there are no towns,villages or cities. This does not really apply for long exposures, since having a bunch of light sources as far as 60 kms away can ruin your 3 hour night sky exposure!  And if light pollutants were not enough, there are hills, mountains, trees blocking your view.

To illustrate my point, check this picture that I had taken almost 4 years back. I drove about 130kms from Bangalore on NH-7 and then a further 15 kilometers on an untarred road to find an absolutely pitch dark place( to the naked eye). Once I setup the shot and clicked, the illusion of having found a dark place went through the roof. Take a look at the shot and look at the light pollution!

Starry Night

Considering all the above issues, finding the perfect dome was quite a revelation. On the way to a place called Dholavira in Great Rann of Kutch in the western most state of Gujarat in India, you come across a stretch of road that is dead straight for 50 kilometers and surrounded by salt pans in all directions. This is what it looks like during daytime:





Come nightfall, this place transforms into a star gazers and astro-photographers paradise. The milky way is clearly visible to the naked eye. Millions of stars light up the night sky. What you had seen in a planetarium when you were little kids suddenly seems like reality. (Wait, what?! counter-intuitive right?).  A friend brings out a light saber and we study the night sky. The light  saber in question is an astronomy laser used for pointing stars in the night sky. It is a green laser beam (wavelength of 532nm) and <5mW power rating so as not to be strong enough to bring down airplanes with it. (In fact you can see a glimpse of the laser in the picture below.)

After identifying the pole star , a few star trail shots were taken with a 11-16mm Ultra-wide lens. Since there was no foreground( and we wanted it that way!) there is no scale of reference except the little laser beam.

Star trailsThe best part about this road is that there is absolutely no traffic on it. I was on this road at this spot for about 5-6 hours and just 1 vehicle passed by. The irony is that the vehicle took about 20-25 mins to reach this point from the time we could first see it( from about 15-20kms away). Imagine shielding your camera for that long to avoid flooding your long exposure shot with the vehicle headlights. You will also have to pardon the high noise in the shot. My humble  Canon 450D just does not cut the chase for astro-photography. The shot was a 40 minute exposure. I wish I could have gotten a longer exposure of a couple of hours atleast. In case you are wondering which laser was used, THIS is the one.

So that wraps up this post. The verdict is out: In case you want to get some clear views of the night sky, head to Dholavira, Gujarat  and setup camp!

Let’s Get Knotty (….With A Theatrical Encore)

I never went to any NSS camp. I never went to any Army school. I never really learnt any knots.

There have been numerous occasions when I have been stuck with two ropes that I had to tie together or tie a rope securely to a tree or a pole. I would have made numerous attempts to tie the ropes, only to realize 5 minutes later that the knots have slipped. I always resorted to the “Granny knot” ( I just came to know that’s what it’s called!) or a double overhand knot. It’s called a granny knot because even grandmothers can tie knots better than that(apparently). Turns out that this knot is the worst possible knot that you can tie and is mostly ill-suited for most occasions for two reasons a) gets extremely tough to untie once it has been bearing load and b) its tough to untie when wet c) its not a stable/efficient knot.

On most occasions, I thought to myself- ” If only I knew these damned knots”. My lifelong predicaments with ropes instigated with my new found interest in mountaineering inspired me to learn the ropes(get the pun?). So here I am after a week of learning the most important knots that everyone and anyone should know. Even if you are not into mountaineering/climbing/sailing, trust me, these knots are *very* useful for everyday use-cases. Often, once I have tied ropes, it had been very difficult to untie it. The main advantage of using standard knots is that they are easy to tie and easy to untie(even when the rope is wet)

I armed myself with four lengths of rope ( 2 rope lengths each of varying diameter), an internet browser with Youtube and set off into the seemingly unknown and infinite world of knots. Let’s not kid ourselves, but there are literally hundred’s of knots, if not thousands, to learn. I settled for 11. Here is a quick rundown of 11 very useful knots( +1 bonus knot for a theatrical encore)

A knot’s charecteristics are evaluated by multiple factors:

1. Strength

2. Security

3. Releasibility. 

Here are the knots along with their use cases.

1. Figure of Eight. 

Use-cases: -> To prevent a rope from running through a pulley or a loop or a retaining device. -> Used in climbing and sailing.


2. Follow Through Figure of Eight

Use-caes: -> Tying into a rope using a climbing harness. -> Tying a rope around static pole.


3. Double Fisherman’ s knot

Use-cases: -> Tying two ropes of same dia together.


4. Sheet Bend

Use-cases: -> Tying ropes of different dia together where stress is in opposite direction. Eg towing a boat.


5. Bowline

Use-cases: -> Single most important knot to tie a loop. Easy to untie even when subjected to very heavy loads.


6. Bowline on a bight ( Double Bowline) 

Use-cases: For getting two loops out of a single bowline knot.


7. Clove hitch

Use-case: loosely tying a rope to a pipe/pole .


8. Prussik Knot

Use-cases: Arresting ascent or descent.


9. Slipknot( No, not the band!) 

Use-cases: To tie a rope very loosely to a boat and as a stopper knot.


10. Noose Knot 

Use-cases: -> Snares , Lasso.  ( Rodeo style lasso anyone ? )


11. Handcuff Knot

Use-case: Go figure!


And for a theatrical finish and for the encore, presenting the……

12. Hangman Noose. 


I have managed to learn all these knotty and I can tie them even when half asleep. I strongly urge you to learn them too! You never know when they will come in handy. Here’s to knotty times ahead!

Useful resource:

Please Note: All illustrations in this post are courtesy of

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The Day I Spotted 4 Tigers In The Wild – Nagarhole Diaries

Spotting a tiger in the wild in India is quite challenging. Seriously.

Tigers need space. Infact, this animal on top of the food chain needs lots of it. And space(habitat) is really hard to come by thanks to widespread deforestation and forest encroachment.

There has been an impetus for protecting tiger population and conserving their habitat. Project Tiger, which was started in India in 1973, gave an estimate of 1411 tigers in the 2008 census and subsequently estimated an increase in population to 1600+ in 2010. I seriously think that this is a gross overestimation. I feel there are far fewer than 1600.

Wait a minute, this is an optimistic post! This post is about having seen them and having some faith restored.  I can now proclaim to have seen at least 4 of them in the wild. This is by no means a trivial event for me. In fact seeing 4 of them on 1 day after having visited numerous national parks almost 10-11 times to get a glimpse. This day was a red-letter-day.

After having set off in a friend’s brand new car, we reached Nagarhole and started spotting the usual fauna. We were destined for Kabini, but there was some confusion with the bookings(cough.cough.. bullet bala) and we settled for Nagarhole (blessing in disguise No. 1) .We enquired with the forest office at Nagarhole and that was booked out as well.(blessing in disguise No. 2). We got out of the park and booked ourselves into this place.

We drove around the park and spotted quite a lot of wildlife on the way. We were greeted by an elephant charge. [ The tiger story is at the end, btw]

Followed by wild boar.

A Peacock…

An eagle

Deer at full gallop.


A langur

A few bison

A cat stalking birds 🙂

Macro’s are not my thing, but this one was too prominently out there and begged to be clicked with that vibrant green b/g

A herd of elephants frolicking

This was the usual stuff that everyone sees. We were there for the tigers. Expectations will nil. We set out on the last safari for the day. About 10 mins into the safari, we heard exclamations of a tiger spotting. We looked and saw a tiger, about 15 feet away, majestically seated under a bush. With the loud exclamations and the sound of the engine, it got up and slid away into the bushes. It took about 3-4 seconds to bring up my camera , 2-3 seconds to focus and by that time, it was gone. All I could manage is this picture. You can see just a little bit of the tiger. This is the only picture that anyone has of the sighting!

Content after our first tiger sighting in years, we moved on. Exactly after 3 minutes, we saw another tiger leaping across the safari track, leaping a few feet to high ground and disappearing. We were elated to say the least. The safari ended and we made a log registry entry of the tiger sighting at the forest office. We were lucky.

We had received a tip from the forest range officer that there is a temple about 20kms away and the road to reach it passes through the Kerala side of the forest range and a sighting is possible as the forest cover there was very thick. The thing about Kerala is that they don’t restrict vehicular movement in the night in the national park. Karnataka, on the contrary, does not permit vehicular traffic in Nagarhole between 6pm and 6am. Since  we were there for sighting the tigers and since we had nothing else to do at 7pm and we were officially in Kerala, we drove in anticipation. Similar to the safari, about 15 mins into the drive, we saw a tiger and a bison engaged in a fight. The tiger sped with the light of the headlamps while the bison stood there looking in the direction in which the tiger sped away. We were elated. We all thought we should buy a lottery ticket and we would have won in that as well. We reached the temple (in the middle of nowhere with a couple of small eating shacks) , had dinner, and started back. It must have been around 10pm or so when we reached the intersection of the temple road and the road to the guest house. There was a fork in the road and the other side of the fork was a road down south to kerala. We set ourselves a time limit of 30 minutes to drive down that road before heading back. All this while , we were still in the kerala side of the forest range. As we drove along the fork, we spotted another tiger at around 10-20pm walking parallel to the road. This tiger kept walking parallel to the road for about 2-3 minutes. We were amazed. Our fourth sighting for the day! The last was the best. We had a good 2-3 minutes view of the tiger.

The whole experience was insane! On earlier trips, when the expectations were high, the experience was very forgettable! With zero expectations came the experience that will not be forgotten!

Date of sightings: 16th June 2012.

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1 Really Simple Breathing Technique For Strenuous Or High Altitude Ascents

Here is 1 really simple breathing technique that can be used by just about anyone during that really strenuous ascent or during high altitude treks or when you run out of steam when you are attempting the staircase of a 10 storey building.


The trick is simple. Hyperventilate. And do this with your mouth closed. A controlled rhythmic conscious hyperventilation increases the oxygen in your blood. At high altitudes, your body automatically increases your breathing rate for acclimatization. However, doing it yourself aids the process. As you ascend, oxygen levels in the atmosphere drop necessitating compensation by breathing deeper or increasing breathing rate. Here is a chart that shows the drop in pressure and oxygen with increase in altitude.

Please don’t hyperventilate at sea-level as this leads to an increase in blood pH (making it more alkaline)(alkosis) due to reduced CO2 in the blood.

Hope this helps when you get sucker-punched during your next high-altitude ascent!

p.S: I am not a doctor.

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Apocalypse Now (errr….Always)

In the last few years, during my travels, I have had very interesting experiences. Almost always, the satanic (Yamraj*)  forces have conspired to add a few twists, turns  and seemingly apocalyptic events during my trips. I am not tempting fate here, but I cannot help but admire  this subtle conclave of disasters that strike. I am happy that these forces have been acting up on a spatial inverse of me.

Allow me to enumerate them in reverse order of screwed-up-ness. (countdown)

6. A couple of  incidences like the Bodoland agitation in Siliguri enroute Bhutan in 2009 and crossing Hyderabad in the thick of the Telangana agitation(think rioting)  in Hyderabad when going from Bangalore to Kolkata via Hyderabad en route Bhutan in 2009.


5. Witnessed live firing in Srinagar in 2007. J&K is notorious in this regard. On a family trip to J&K , we were enjoying the scenic beauty of the numerous gardens of Srinagar alongside Dal lake. We were in a tourist bus and being shown around town. All of a sudden we heard gunshots and when we looked out of the window, we saw some armed men shooting in the direction of a mosque. The driver of our bus took a sharp turn and we sped away from the scene. We could see  through the windows at the back of the bus,  the commotion and panic surging through the people.

Dal Lake

Dal Lake

4. Experienced an earthquake(6.9 magnitude) that shook the ground beneath the feet by a good 5-6 feet when trekking in darkness at around 16000 feet in Mt Everest region near  Namche in Nepal. This earthquake also shook Sikkim, Bhutan and parts of Bangladesh. It was around 7PM when it occurred and it was the only day that we were trekking into the night. It was also the longest day of the entire trek of Mt Everest Base Camp. 2 friends and I had started our descent from Periche’ and after a 2 hour delay due to our sherpa getting injured, we planned to reach Namche the same day. There was a very loud clap followed by hysterical distant screams and sound of landslides. We were fortunately not jolted too much or we might have tumbled down the mountain sides.

Namche Bazaar - Where the quake struck

3. Drove on a bike through Anantnag, 54 kms south of Srinagar on the Jammu Srinagar highway 1A , where about 400 mobsters were pelting stones, rocks and bricks. We had taken a wrong turn and suddenly found ourselves in the middle of the mob with all mobsters encircling us,  and asking us about where we are from and where we were going. One of our bikes had a flag which fortunately was a buddhist prayer flag and not an Indian flag. If it were an Indian flag , I would not be here today writing this. We were then declared as tourists and let out of the chakravyuh** of  rioters . Needless to say, our hearts were in our mouths.


Anantnag ***


Srinagar-Jammu ***

Flag of turmoil ( flag on the bike)

Flag of turmoil ( flag on the bike) ***

2. Bomb scare and suspect hijack on a flight. All passengers got delayed for almost 10 hours. Sapan, Sharath and I checked in at  Kathmandu Tribhuvan International Airport for our return journey to Delhi. We had been on a trek to Everest base camp. We had been trekking and travelling for about 19 days now. The flight started taxiing when we heard about a plane crash. A Mt Everest mountain flight had crashed into the mountains. Say what , we were trekking the same area a few days back. When travelling from Kathmandu to Lukla in a Donear 9 seater, we had seen numerous aircrafts in the Kathmandu airport which had some raw tinkering done on it. It was like the welding you see in a garage on an old car( possibly an ambassador or an old premier padmini fiat) . It was disheartening to hear, but I was not surprised. These small planes are really tough to manage once they develop a fault. This news, though disheartening, was not alarming. As we continued taxi-ing on the runway and as the pilot was gaining groundspeed, we heard the reverse thrust and the brakes being applied.We thought it was a technical snag, but after a few minutes of silence, we saw all sorts of personnel converging on our aircraft. Within minutes, multiple armed vans surrounded us. The pilot announced that we will all be disembarked till further notice.  We were not allowed to take out any belongings. As we exited the plane , it was evident: We were on a plane that had a bomb scare/hijack threat. About 180 passengers were escorted to a holding area along the runway. The investigation ensued and after about 10 hours, we were cleared for takeoff. Meanwhile we were witness to the procedures that are followed when a bomb scare situation arises.The troublemaker, a lady from Italy who had  been shouting doomsday slogans and abusing co-passengers( a bunch of girls from Delhi) was arrested. She had apparently told everyone she met that there is a bomb and that the world is going to end. This event caused an airspace shutdown of Kathmandu airport for over two hours! Multiple agencies had to ratify the aircraft clear – The airline , airport personnel, airport police, army, commando units, security agencies etc.

Kathmandu Airport - Amidst a storm

Kathmandu Airport - Amidst a storm

Kathmandu Airport - Amidst a storm

Kathmandu Airport - Amidst a storm

1. Leh cloudburst and flash floods. I have seen the flash floods of 2010 unfolding right in front of my eyes. A few friends and I had just reached Kargil at 10PM after a full day ride to Dha and Hanu villages, Aryan civilization settlements. We were touring Ladakh on bikes. We saw news OB vans all over the town and when enquired , we were told that Leh had been lashed by a cloudburst and flash floods just an hour or two ago. We had dinner and went to sleep. The rains in Kargil were just beginning. At around 1AM, the cloudburst and flash floods struck Kargil. The only bridge connecting Kargil to the NH was washed out and was covered in 4 feet of sand,rocks and slush. An entire mountain face had been washed away taking along with it numerous houses. The scenario in Leh was worse. We were stuck in Kargil for 2 days and 1 of those 2 days incidently turned out to be a Kargil bandh. We had made a hotel (Hotel Siachen) our refuge which was nicknamed “Hotel Baghdad” of Kargil. Akin to the Hotel Baghdad, this hotel was the only hotel which remained open during the Kargil war in 1999. As the floods were unfolding, we saw 10’s of journalists setting up their equipment in the main dining hall of Hotel Siachen. It looked like a mini NASA command center for those 2 days. We eventually departed Kargil for Srinagar and truly saw the destruction that was beset upon the state.

Kargil before the floods hit

Kargil before the floods hit

Kargil Flash Floods OB Van

Kargil Flash Floods OB Van ***

Hotel Siachen - The "Hotel Baghdad" of Kargil

Hotel Siachen - The "Hotel Baghdad" of Kargil ***

What were some the most scariest moments that you have gone through?

*Yamraj: The hindu god of death.

**Chakravyuh : A multi-tier defensive battle formation that looks like a blooming lotus which once an enemy enters, is impossible to get out of.

Pictures with ***are credit to : Sreenath , Kiran, Shrishail.

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I’m one feet from the edge and I’m thinking…..

I’m six feet from the edge and I’m thinking  6 feet ain’t so far down…. – go the lyrics of a song from Creed. This blog post is about a  bit more than 6 feet. Lets say it’s about 550 feet.

The first time you pull up and get down from your vehicle , you are instantly overcome by hysteria. Your mind refuses to accept what you see. Your assertion that you are a moron to attempt what your eyes see is validated. And then you step onto it.

You are taken to a calm and peaceful resort where the dangers of what you are attempting become evident. You are given a no-nonsense disclaimer form which says you agree not to sue in case you die and you are doing this on your own accord and no-one but you is responsible.

Your weight is taken and you are divided into 2 groups. Your weight is written on the back of your fist. You feel like you are being tagged like a featherless chicken ready to face the knife. You are offered lunch , but you know better – A chicken is offered it’s last meal before facing the knife. You politely make an excuse and request the stewards to hold on to your lunch for 2 hours and tell them that lunch shall be devoured in case you successfully return.

You are escorted onto the bridge.  The shock that you experienced earlier in the day begins to re-surge through your veins. When you got down from the vehicle and stepped onto the bridge for the very first time earlier in the day, your mind went numb. This is the 2nd time on the bridge, but this is it. This is the moment of reckoning.  The crossing of the bridge in the morning to reach the resort was a mere preview. Your mind does not know what to think.  It oscillates violently between  a blank void, fear, impeding doom, a sense of calm and what not. You are then taken to the middle of the bridge and asked to hold on as they call out the name of the first chicken. You are delighted that you are not the first. You rejoice that you will live for 5 minutes more. You then see the first person jump and your heart skips five beats.

If you haven’t already guessed, I am talking about Bungee jumping from the worlds 6th highest bungee in the world. This is located on the border of Tibet and Nepal , 3 hours north of Kathmandu,Nepal. The place is called “The Last Resort”. A cousin of mine has alluded to the bungee jump in Nepal a few years ago at a dinner. I had made a mental note of doing this jump whenever I visit Nepal. I got the opportunity to visit Nepal in September 2011 when a couple of my friends and I decided to trek to the Base camp of Mt Everest. I got the details of the jump on the interwebs, booked if and I was all set. Just to check out what it felt like , I decided to see a few YouTube video’s of the jump before trying it out. When I viewed it for the first time, it was outrageous,insane and unbelievable that someone would jump off a bridge so high. I knew that I had to do it. I had decided to do it , no matter what. Come hell or high water.

Then, your turn comes. They call out your name and weight.

You are harnessed and strapped. The videographer asks you for a few sound bites. You have no recollection of what you said because you are already in a state of trance and in a zen like state of mind. The only sound that your hear is that of the raging river about 600 feet below your feet. You can see the white water through the base of the bridge. You bend over the bridge and get a final look of where you are jumping. Suddenly, your vision gets narrower and narrower. Tunnel vision strikes. To make matters worse, you are asked to remove your spectacles and keep them in your pocket. All you hear is the seemingly distant voices of the Jump co-ordinator who gives you the final instructions. You take small penguin-like baby steps to the edge with the instructor at your back. You spread your arms and  look straight ahead. Time comes to a stand still when you hear the words ……3……….2………..1……. Bungyyyyyy…yyyyy…….yyy………….yy…………..y.

You take off from the platform like a bird.  You are free-falling straight down head first. The first 2 seconds of the free fall  is insane. For someone who has never jumped more than 15 feet from a swimming pool high board, this is insanity. The adrenaline rushes through your body. The blood rushes to your head. You scream your lungs out. Not having a fear of heights helps. I didn’t have a fear of heights so I could relish the moment. After a few seconds of free fall, you feel the bungee cord beginning to take effect. you reach the bottom apex of your jump at maximum stretch of the cord and then you are yanked back to a negative G-force. The negative G’s pump more adrenaline through your veins and in my opinion the negative G’s are way better in terms of thrill! By this time , which is about a few seconds after you jumped , you are on a high! You experience multiple falls and yank-backs  and bounce around a few times before coming to an upside down halt. By now , you have screamed your lungs out and just experienced the thrill of a lifetime. You are then lowered down to the river below when you are pulled to the bank of the river onto a platform using a really long pole.

As you lie down on the platform getting untied , you come to terms of what just happened…….

The coordinators ask you if you want to jump again.

Do I want to bungee jump again? HELL YEAH! 

Pictures below. Click to view large size images.

More details about The Last Resort here :

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