Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Summer Night Camping

This write-up, on Summer Night Camping , is written by Bharat Reddy. Thank you for the write up on the experience, Bharat! Very well written.

This write-up is originally posted here:

I just came back from what was my first ever night camping trip. I’m perhaps completely exhausted right now with the amount of physical activity I’ve been through on an April Summer day. But I want to write about it before the excitement sinks in and I fall trap to the regularities of a frustrating IT life.

I joined the Great Hyderabad Adventure Club (aka GHAC) a few weeks ago and went on the Moulali Trek (see my blog post here). That experience was so very exciting that I feel like going on every one of the adventures/trips/treks GHAC organizes.

I signed up on this Night Camping and Adventure trip (RSVPd as folks at meetup call it!) and along came Vijay, Karteek, Pranshu and Puja. Shradda who co-organized the trip called us to meet at the pick-up point, Yatri Nivas near Paradise, Secunderabad. We were to meet a few more GHACians there and were to car-pool and head to the adventure destination.

All that was in store!

That’s where we met LakshmiPathi. We five hopped on to his Bolero to meet a few more GHACians in Nanal nagar which was the other pick-up point. Soon as we introduced ourselves to LakshmiPathi, he asked us to call him Pathy instead. So did we! And more interestingly we came to know, Pathi is a Scientist working with Dow Chemicals. Me being a techie, rarely do I get a chance to meet people with careers completely different from mine. Luckily for me, I meet these amazing people from both GHAC and Toastmasters.

As we reached Morine Bakers just by the Nanal Nagar junction, we saw so many more GHACians all decked up for the trip. While I expected some hi-hellos there, Sharadda was rather busy ticking out the attendees and noting which car would each of us travel in.

Bonfire, cave, wild flowers, beer bottle chimes, tents and more

So where were we headed? We were to reach a place called ‘Trails’ by the Anantagiri hills near Vikarabad, some 55Km from Nanal Nagar. Did we know the route? Nay, none in our car did! But fortunately for us, Shradda gave us the GHAC stickers to be stuck to the rears of our seven odd cars. So, we could follow any of those other cars. This was fun, trying to follow. We only had people following us lost-souls, but not one car for us to follow!

We were to stop by at this Tawakkal Family Dhaba for dinner. Less did we know that many had other plans and stopped by at a different place. While we figured out what to do, Srini joined us and more GHACians came soon. Tawakkal Dhaba had this lush lawn (of course sans the grass!) where they clubbed tables for eleven. While we ordered food and waited, we had quite some time for intros, well actually three rounds of them!

First round was sort of an ice-breaker where every one would intro their names and what they did for a living. We thought the food would come by then. It didn’t. So we thought we’d know more. To somehow match the context, each of us shared about places we’d traveled to. That was done. The food did not come yet. So there was another round of talk, and here, each of us would share some thing of their personal lives. Most talked about their life partners, would-be s. One interesting part of that chat was Puja, who assumed the head-of-the-family position at the table and the only girl in the current gang. Obviously, she was asked to talk first, each time!

Finally the food came. Let me tell you, the food was good. Even the cats at Tawakkal Dhaba knew it, for, Puja shared almost half of her rotis with cats and kittens that came greeting us visitors.

By the time we finished dinner, we came to know one IT consultant, a chemical Scientist, four TCSers of which I was one, three IBMers of which one was a Bengali another was a mallu born and bought up in north India and who thinks IT guys don’t really have a personal life, one entrepreneur who owns a Castro Bike Zone franchise, one Oracleian who hopped eight companies in his twelve year IT career, been to the Everest base-camp twice and traveled the length and breadth of India, one Satyam Ventures automobile designer, and what not.

After what I call one-hell-of-a-dinner, we were headed towards Trails. On the way there, we checked out a three meter long viper, dead, apparently killed by a few people. While we thought we’d be one of the first that would reach the venue, as irony would have it, we were the last but one!

We were shown the place where we’d erect our tents and camp for the night. It was a matter of minutes and the tents were there. A small one, an Igloo style tent, a looking-like-a-cave tent etc.

Shradda arranged for an intro for us thirty two member camping enthusiasts. And as would it obviously be, at least 25 were IT guys. Not again!

When we were trying to figure out what to do, a bonfire was lit and we joined for some talking. Okay, I cant miss telling you that we had one Mr. Neeraj, the Guitarist. Neeraj started by saying he is not much of a guitarist and not a good singer. And as a matter of fact, for some reason, not many of us knew most the songs he sang. So every time he said he was missing a line or not playing the guitar well, we all repeated in chorus ‘we wouldn’t know, so keep playing’. But to end this ordeal, Neeraj played John Denver – Leaving on a Jet Plane, and proved that he is not at all a bad singer, and that he could actually play the guitar!

An antyakshari of sorts ensued soon later as the bonfire cooled down. It was bed time. It was more than bedtime but we went on a small little trek on which Puja told us ghost stories (ha, she does that, you know!). The story inspired us to click this.

We reached the tents at around midnight and contrary to the usual expectation, most of us slept outside the tents, thanks to the summer heat! Puja thought it was unfair to tell the Ghost story to the select few on the trek. So she repeated it again to all that were already struggling to catch some sleep. Good night was that?

After a few hours of sleep-of-sorts, Jitendra who was co-organizing the trip, woke us up at a ghostly 0530hrs and said “lets get going guys”. We stood in queues at the one and only toilet and freshened up soon as we could, went out to a morning trek into the wild. I had been through such walks before as a kid but this one felt different. Well, it seemed to me as though a bunch of us got lost, and I thought it was fun to be lost in a jungle. But as fate would have it, we eventually were back at the camp. It seems the other groups (who were apparently not lost) spotted rabbit, deer, peacock and wild boar. We could only spot the most peculiar species on planet earth, the humans, us! :-) My camera spotted a little more.

beautiful sunrise, (clock wise) ant hills, wild plants, burnt grass and don't-know-who's shit!

We came back and talked and talked as waited for breakfast. Waiting for food has never been so much fun! There was a host of other activities lined up for the rest of the day. So, we were split into two groups headed by Shradda and Jitendra each. I thought that it would be easy on me if I put the camera and phone in Vijay’s bag and be care free. But what I miss now is the snaps for what I’d talk here on!

Okay, so people, it was rock-climbing time! This was much like the simulated rock climbing we see in Prasads cineplex. What I realized however was that it takes quite some energy and stamina. Thanks to a sleep-deprived night, a jungle walk and puri for breakfast, my batteries were at the lowest to start with. I could manage rock climbing, of course clinging on to a harness, a helmet and someone holding you tight up with the ropes. But I could not manage Zoomering, which is climbing up ropes using a device called zoomer. It requires quite a bit of your arm-strength.

After that, we did Earthquake. Well not actually quaking the earth, but crossing a host of wooden swings, while still wearing a harness! These activities were more than just exciting oneself with the adventure, physical and psychological challenge. It was loads and heaps of fun with the group who tease, appreciate, make fun of and encourage each other. I came to know more of each of them in my little group, we almost became friends! I’m sure if we meet again somewhere in the real world, it’d bring us back these wonderful memories. :-)

Shortly after that, we valley crossed clinging again to a harness on ropes and pulleys. While that was not too exciting, it was sure fun to watch everyones’ expressions!

The feeling was exhaustion and what would come tomorrow would be body pains. Shradda said these would be ’sweet pains ‘.

After so much activity, which we would usually not do in our lazy lives, we were mighty hungry. We washed fast (and some even asked ‘haath dhona zaroori hai kya?’) and jumped to eat some yummy lunch. The food was good, especially the jalebi.

It was time for a group photo and then a game in the shade. My photo doesn’t capture all of them, but believe me, there were thirty two of us! Soon after, we reluctantly joined for a group game. The game was something like this – I choose a partner, and my partner responds to questions I’m asked, and that too quick. If he/she could not, he becomes the questioner. That kept us all completely alert!

Then Shradda and Jitendra did some accounting, and we tried our hand at Archery.

L to R - Me, Pranshu, Puja, Karteek, Pathi, Vijay

It was parting time and we did the bye byes quick!

The resort ‘Trails’ was a litter free and well maintained place, not too many arrangements and not any less. The staff were friendly and ready to help. Good food and great ambiance.

All in all this was one hell of a camping trip, thanks to the diligent organizing by Shradda, Jitendra and all those who assisted them. And thanks to all the thirty two who attended, and made it memorable.

I would look forward to more such trips. The spirit that you see amongst GHACians is unparalleled.

Guess I wrote too long a post. I’d so much to say, what do? The trip was worth it!

Please share your views in the comments section. I would like to know how you’d appraise my writing skill as well.

PS: On any of these trips GHACians follow one basic rule – No booze, No litter!

Wonderful fellows eh!

Dandeli Adventure Weekend.

This write-up, on Dandeli Adventure Weeked , is given by Prasad Kothe. Thank you for the write up on the dandeli experience, Prasad!

This write up was originally posted here:

"Big jump with water around going thru a cave.”

We reached hubli sometime in the morning @ 7.30 AM and travelled to Dandeli via a bus and reached the outskirts of the
sanctuary from where the jeeps of the resort took us into the wildlife. It reminded me of Jurassic park and I am very happy that the dinosaurs are extinct. We had some poha(good start when u r hungry) and left for pitching the tents and had lunch after our introduction and this helped as I now know at least 4 of 30 people by name. It was now afternoon and we had the excitement of water rafting blown away as there was rain the earlier day due to which the dams gates cannot be opened as it could drown the village. You see government thinks about the people, . Since village was more important than our rafting, we moved to plan B of doing the Big Jump while Rappelling for the remaining part of the day and hoped we could do rafting the next day. Suddenly, for some strange reason the gates were opened by the authorities and everyone jumped out of joy except those who still could not have their rappelling fun for now. “The water cannot wait but the rocks can” so we moved to the shore of river kali and had fun like kids where we welcomed everyone into water with splashes of water. I did not know swimming and so I made sure I had someone who knew it beside me and that was good. Finally the boats(air filled water floating material called rafting boats) came and we had now divided into 4 teams( 8 , 8, 8, 5) and had started getting into river by round 6pm which was the time when the rafting would normally end as it gets dark. since GHAC is the greatest we were given a chance and we enjoyed the fun. This was a good team of people who did not see each other until 20 hrs back but still able to go in the dark on the river. The water trek was an 8 km of drive with water around and the possibility of being alive if we fall into water was feeble as there are no lights and the sun did not care to wait for us. But after 2.5 hrs of rafting in the wonderful weather and peaceful wildlife sanctuary under the moon(nelavanka) we reached some place where the jeep had its lights on indicating we still are on earth. I believe this is an example of team work where everyone collaborated perfectly even
with a stranger. Finally we called it a day of outing and had dinner at the resort and in the campfire some had exhibited /demonstrated skills of singing (good for singers like me, others cannot escape and I can have my full course vocal meal ).The music by Kranti on his guitar was very nice while others sang nice songs in melody that people fell asleep(also could be due to getting exhausted). Next day we got up at 5.00 and left for the cavala caves by 5.30 and reached a spot from where we had walked for about 4 kms to reach a curvy stairs of 500 steps which ended at the entrance of the cavala caves. The guide had taken everyone in a set of 10 people thru the cave where we had seen the lord Shiva formed by water drops from the cave. Nature can design wonderfully even in dark caves, and we just still can’t agree that nature is better than us. We did enjoy the dark caves and as per the guide there is a route from the cave to haridwar(I don’t know if I can try it). We started back but this time the jeeps were there at the end of the 500 steps and boy that was good as I had some issues with my knee and this was a relief (at least for me) which took us back to the resort. Enroute we stopped at a kirana store and had some soft drinks and played volleyball before getting on the jeep and going back to the resort. On the way back we feared poha so much for breakfast that we branded Poha(poha , poha juice, poha pickle, poha shirts, poha media company and others).But thank god, it was upma , ha ha ha. Now, I wanted to sleep for a while as others were going for either rapelling(due from y’day) and for swimming(I did not know swimming). We finally started back to the Hubli Bus stand by taxi/jeep and took bus to Hyderabad and reached home in time to leave to office for monitor check(after all we keep seeing monitors so much that everyone of us can become an expert in monitor quality check).
Thanks to Sishir, Prashant Pai and everyone for the pains in organizing this, and being a sport. I had fun time.
I am waiting for my next fun time, are you?

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Kids and juniors summer outdoor adventure

This write-up, on Kids adventure , is given by Vibha Naik. Thank you for the article, Vibha. So, GHAC adventurer and organizer Vibha, on the first ever GHAC kids adventure...........

Most kids got up and reached the pickup points on time - they were surely very excited about this trek. Processed with rituals like disclaimers and some queries that some parents had, we were off on the bus. Keku took care of the kids in the bus, got them mingled up, played games and put them in the picnic mode.
On reaching there, everyone was very excited to see all the adventure activities that was awaiting. Some jumped onto the swings, some perched on the natural log benches, some watched the quacking birds.

They served us a welcome drink - neembu pudinah and that cleared our throats for a round of introduction. All from different schools and different grades (some in the school of life) were excited to know about each other. Some kids discovered that they belonged to the same school, same class but did not know each other (as they were in different divisions) and some discovered that they stayed in the same apartment complex, same floor but unaware that they all were coming. Pleasant surprises! Then came the breakfast - idli chutney sambhar and we stuffed in some calories before the exhaustive day began.

 A brief warming exercise conducted by Keku and Ranjanji helped stretch the body and muscles, preparing for the upcoming feat. The groups divided into 2 groups - one for valley crossing and the other for vertical surface climbing. After dressing up with the safety gear and guided by commandos, the activities commenced. The bold kids were the first to jump and others slowly made up their minds as they saw others perform. The kids were having a fab time - some wanted to repeat them as well.

Then came up enthusiastic parents giving a try and to their surprise, they did much better than what they expected themselves to perform. Water with glucose, vitamins and electrolytes (read Tang) was made available in ample quantities to avoid dehydration.

Then we took a short break for snacks and then started with rope walking and the burma bridge. Burma bridge was really hard and it was surprising to see many young kids perform the feat of course with all the safety gadgets. Some parents followed too.

And we were hungry to the core again. The lunch tasted so good - was it the preparation or just the fact that we were terribly hungry? And some parents were tired and sleepy, so caught up on the commando nets to swing and feel the cool breeze for a short nap. But kids, they wanted more.....And we began activities in the shade. First 'Housie' was conducted by Jaee and gathered so much excitement in kids and all. Then Ranjanji has an interesting game for kids convincing the importance of concentration in all the activities that we do. Venky then impromptuously conducted a concentration game which everybody so enjoyed. Then Keku began an innovative game for kids which helped them develop speaking skills and promptness. And yet the game was so much fun.

Then we were ready for some outdoor activities again - Adults tried their hand on archery while the kids were sent for river crossing. And then came the hot samosa and tea. As the sun started setting, we were ready for the guided jungle trek. Kids found this really interesting as we walked through the thorny bushes, posed for pics, spotted some wild boars at a distance and made some eerie sounds. We were back after the sunset on the ramp that gave us a beautiful view of the forest that we trekked.
Yes., All were tired and after a brief vote of thanks, we climbed up the bus on our journey back. Most kids as well as adults slept on the way back, but some super active kids were still enjoying the fun. Back in Hyderabad, all dispersed as they shared their contact numbers and hoping to keep in touch as they shared a memorable day out together.