Friday, June 27, 2014

Cadence90 Sunday morning ride to BU - 22 June 2014

More than 2 months since my last ride with awesome bunch of cyclists turning up for Cadence90 morning rides on weekends, I was joining again. After the ride, I was in two minds to write yet another morning ride piece on my blog. But after midnight robbery (somewhere between 2:30 AM to 6 AM on 26 June morning, if my landlady is to be believed), I feel like recording my last ride - the loss is hurting even though I knew the risk before buying the bike from Decathlon on March 8.

I stay on 3rd floor of an independent house and the one occasion of hauling a friend's cycle up and down the cramped staircase had almost proved fatal. The only convenient option was to lock the bike in the small passage to left of steps - easily visible to street goers and no challenge in intruding other than someone happening to pass by or extreme misfortune of making loud enough noise to awaken those sleeping in ground floor. The chain lock was left wound to iron railings of staircase - my best guess is that the thief simply unwound the 1 or 2 loops from metal bar below seat. Earlier this month, my brother had lost (or stolen) the smartphone I had gifted him. My camera was ripped from baggage during bus travel to Rajasthan in February 2010. Clearly, some conspiracy here? :D (Update: a car stolen from next street last night - anyone got a solution to track vehicles after it is stolen?)

So, unless I move to a new place where I can keep a bike inside my room, I won't be buying another :( My fitness options are now going to be limited to trekking and running, but the greater pain is losing a commute option from Indiranagar to say Jayanagar/JP Nagar/Basavanagudi and obviously the weekend morning rides.

Coming back to topic, I had kept two alarms to avoid earlier lapse, but woke with first one itself. As with my first Cadence90 morning ride, I actually ended up reaching first - few minutes before alloted 6 AM. We started from Jayanagar around 6:20 AM (myself, Parameshwar, Narayan, Satish and Manjunath) - the waiting time talk centered around Dipankar's 54 hr 10 minute 1000km brevet. Not long after, it was left to Manjunath to guide me as the other three went well ahead, being accomplished riders and later joined by Phaneesh.

As we joined Outer ring road (with many ups and downs) near Banashankari 3rd stage, I got to see complicated route bus 201 going past stops like Kathriguppe on the way to Srinagar (someday I hope I will get to ride end-to-end :P)

Crazy bus route 201 :P
While downhills were thrilling (crossed 40 kmph), the many climbs (often gentle up slope for considerable distance) was challenging. That I could keep pace with Manjunath proved mutually beneficial. Now and then he would pass me tidbits of info of places we were crossing, previous rides, etc.

We turned left from Outer ring road to Gnana Bharathi Main road, greeted by the sprawling campus of Bangalore University. Flanked on both sides by trees, a polluted tributary of Cauvery (Nagarbhavi Thorai), long stretches of ups and downs, the overwhelming feeling was that of passing through a hill. Lots of early morning walkers, runners, cyclists were around and play grounds never empty.

The four of them were waiting for us at the end of road joining Bangalore University Road. After few minutes of rest and chit chat, we started the apparently famous round trip of BU road. Many other cyclists were doing their rounds and some of them branching to side road as we went past. The down slope was quite mesmerizing, enhanced by grey sky and chilling wind. That meant the return steep climb was daunting.

After one round, we all had tender coconut, except for Satish who went ahead for his second round! By the time we had our fill and cycling discussions, Satish had finished round two. And then about to start back, decision was changed to include yet another round trip :D Though I wasn't as exhausted as some of my earlier long rides, I played safe and didn't venture to sleep downhill. I didn't also want to keep others waiting.

Our next stop was for breakfast. Phaneesh left us to go directly to his place. Narayan was telling about some 100+ rides in coming monsoon months. The uphill to join outer ring road wasn't as tough I thought it would be. But generally, the pace was lot slower way back on outer ring road compared to morning. Climbs kept coming and descents seemed few and far apart. One particular steep climb in Banashankari 3rd stage was overwhelming.

Around 8:30 AM, we reached Kavali off Vidyapeeta Main road. The hotel is quite small, with barely enough walking space between eating tables. As is my norm during rides or trekking, I preferred idli+vada without even checking the menu. But was swayed to taste the unusual varities of dosa - I went with Manjunath's choice : Sprout dosa. Turned out a excellent choice, can't remember the last time I enjoyed dosas so much - I even gobbled few green chilly. Followed by half pineapple dosa - the sweetness not so gelling well with green chillies and chutney, but still good in its own way. I noted baby-corn dosa to be tried next time. Next we had Coffee (small size tumbler, but still quite good for just Rs 6). Oh, I so wish Kavali comes to Indiranagar soon. Much of discussion centered around Railways - fare hike, politics, unions, etc etc.

Going back towards Jayanagar, Satish and Manjunath were hatching a plan to Nandi. As I left them near metro, they bid goodbyes and to meet again in future rides. I told I was leaving to Rajasthan for two weeks and hopefully join in July. Little did I know that my cycle itself was vanish within four days.

And so, I am going to remember this 50+ kilometer ride more than it warrants compared to earlier cherished rides. I hadn't even required to pump air for 100 odd days I had the bike covering 600+ km. Even though there were minor issues, the loss has heightened the feeling that I had come to like it. Hope whoever uses it next would enjoy too.

Saturday, June 21, 2014

Make Day by Brainstars

After attending Make Day organized by Brainstars (Gandhi Bazaar Circle, Basavanagudi), I so wish I had concentrated on tinkering with stuffs than rote learning. I know it is not too late for that even now, but being the lazy bum that I am, I doubt it'll happen.

Took about 45 minutes to reach on my cycle and another 15 minutes for breakfast nearby. To ensure one doesn't miss any exhibits, we had to earn 'OK' stamp from all volunteers to finally receive a certificate (plus a kite).

The first one was 3D Doodler. This is handheld version of 3D Printer. Some sort of specialized plastic is inserted and two speed buttons to control drawing. My attempt to draw a circle turned into a broken quadrilateral. As you can see from above pictures, kids got creative.
Some exhibits were still coming up, so I took time to look around the place. I could spot little things given the creative touch.
Next was hands-on tinkering with a programming tool called 'Scratch'. To put it simply, one can create animations - be it for stories or games. A platform for learning to code with loads of fun. The kid in blue-white t-shirt was quick to understand the basics and had never ending questions to be answered.
Makey Makey taught concept of circuit in a very simple and effective manner. We played games and made music by touching each other or tapping fruits.
Make spirit was soaring for puppet show. Kids and adults alike took to drawing and cutting shapes. I especially liked Aditya's three gears working model of his Innovation 101 logo.


Finally, I got to see a 3D printer. I am still not convinced about its usability given high cost of investment and materials. But perhaps like other technologies, it'll improve and become household product. Apparently, there are houses built in China using 3D printers!

Vinod from New Horizon College came across as a very passionate guy about working aircraft models as well as tinkering with principles to create his own versions. He is even conducting workshops and handing out certificates that help students in strengthening their career prospects.
I missed the last exhibit in order to attend another workshop (Aditya's Innovation 101). Overall, the ability of kids to be open minded, curious, patient, no preconceived inhibitions as well as their parents' willingness to look beyond stereotype education was heart warming. 3 idiots movie crossed my mind more than once and I wish I had been forced to tinker with stuff than encouraged to aspire for top marks.

Photo credits: Jasmeet Singh

Monday, June 2, 2014

Short and sweet Kabbaladurga day trek - 31 May 2014

Good to tick off another trek from my to-do list. And doubly nice to exercise those dormant muscles after months of running and cycling. What a nice feeling that I can count upon BTC and fellow trekkers to add chapter of memorable events yet again. Some sort of Catch-22 events resulted in missing BTC events for 5 months after Kaurava Kunda night trek. Wait was worth it though.

Reaching 15 minutes before appointed time, I was surprised to see large group already assembled in front of Shantala Silk house. Most of them were going to Savanadurga (the other day trek organized by Anthony). Soon after, Sangamesh (our guide) arrived. We started few minutes before 7 AM and this time I was feeling comfortable with the group pretty soon (it helped that I knew Vaibhav and Sri from previous BTC treks)

Despite early Saturday morning, it was slow going on Kanakapura road, especially under the metro construction stretch. Cyclists, mashed dog, large solid cuboid of built rock obstructing one half of road, frustrated drivers unable to overtake trucks - just another day on this road flanked by trees. A few made themselves home by sleeping, others sharing previous trekking experiences. Wazid, coming off directly from night shift, wasn't feeling well. The driver stopped once to get a newspaper and again to fill fuel. This TT was finally different from past three events and unique too - could walk without bending, joint seats but without option to recline and less possibilities to open windows.

Fourth time in a row, I was having breakfast at Srinivasa Sagar in Kanakapura. As usual crowded and as before occupying the four tables in family dining room. For a change though, I ate Chow Chow Bath instead of idli vada. An amusing waiter served us - or rather managed to generalize our orders, taking multiple rounds to get them right and cajoled many to change to idli vada instead of masala dosa (citing long waiting time). We got tomato rice and Chow Chow Bath packed for lunch and bought water bottles to cope with blue sky in pre-monsoon season.

It was past 9AM by then and to pass remaining 30 minute journey to base of Kabbaladurga, Sri and Sangamesh started dumb charades. Dropping the idea of splitting into two teams, one had enact and whisper movie name to next guy. Narrow and pot-hole filled village road posed more challenge for the enactor until Naresh came up with Casablanca - ten minutes and three tries (Hiren, Naresh himself and Vaibhav) later Kabbaladurga arrived but no correct guesses.

Intro session
We formed a passable circle under tall, thick trunk trees for the intro session. Sampath, Vaibhav, Hiren, Sangamesh, Naresh, myself, another Naresh, Sharad, Spandan, Sribacha, Wazid were the all boys BTCians come together. One member was last-minute dropout due to some international client interaction - he'll as a consequence be blacklisted for few months.

Kabbaladurga Village
Sri packed bunch of bananas (we shouldn't have taken driver's word and got different fruits at Kanakapura only). I happened to be only one with camera (others preferring smartphones). Lots of sparrows around. Street shops primarily serving temple goers. On asking directions, a shop keeper informed people aren't allowed to trek, others pointing right way.

We passed series of well built houses before hitting trail. Weather was a bit cool from overnight rain but largely cloudless sky wasn't good omen. 15 minutes of crossing series of wet narrow paths flanked by grass and shallow pools of water, we came across one of the many small temples built in this village. As we resumed after taking few snaps, three village kids (brothers as we got to know later) hailed us from steep slope of hill (took a while to spot them too in bright sunshine) to correct our course.

All smiles, not knowing the steep climb ahead
Spotted steps of usual path but then were apparently off trail again. This time we ignored advise given in good faith and scaled more than moderate grade of steep slope. Thankfully, enough dry spots to avoid wet and extremely slippery regions formed by consistent water flow. First timers and pros alike were panting frequently - Sangamesh and Hiren (co-organizer) encouraged and calmed our nerves.

Steep climb
 After ten-fifteen minutes of break (during which the three village kids kept calling us to move forward as well as calling aloud to some still at base) we started again - with fresh drama. Some continued climbing steeper slope while others resorted to comparative safety of carved steps supported by broken rails. One particular bend was scary. Comparison to Madhugiri was inevitable and Savanadurga was billed tougher than this. Cool shade on green grass under trees on a man made raised platform was our next break - fifteen minutes. As expected, bravado team termed their stint as awesome experience.

From our vantage point, we could see entire village, white painted temple standing out. Prayers weren't restricted to temples alone - bangles, sacred threads, pendants, amulets, lockets, et al were tied to various cactus plants. And couple of rangoli drawings nearby.

One of the numerous short breaks

Yet again, we had to climb steep slope, longer stretch than previous two. Long break between trek as well as muscles getting used to two months of running and cycling clearly showed in my struggle - the body was trying its best to adjust. Sampath and I kept going leaving others behind only to stop again under trees. Once remaining member caught up with us, we started again. The village kids were always ahead of us, conversing now and then.

Steps near the peak

More carved steps, hot railings to hold around wet water spots and struggle - thought crosses why even bother with such excursions. Sampath felt bit of knee pain - cue to get my bananas out, only to see them smashed. We somehow managed to eat two apiece making our palms greasy in addition to heavy sweat. I worried myself silly thinking about tougher descent and possible encore of boils from hot rock/railing ala Madhugiri

All together by then, top of hill came as a sudden surprise around a broken ruins of fort/houses. Quite a large area with multiple worn out paths and uneven ground. Hiren was ahead and waiting when a monitor lizard scurried past. Further ahead, a branching path led to view point and past that was temple on a lower ground that it gets hidden unless one reaches too close. Apart from more decoration on cactus plants, villagers had also arranged stone mounds all over the place.

We trekked further to other end of peak to rest. Numerous breaks notwithstanding, the entire climb took only 90 minutes which actually felt as anti-climax. The view was well worth all our troubles. Surrounded by hills in front of us and villages on other sides. We dropped our backpacks under sunny conditions made pleasant by wind going around. I clicked few customary snaps when Naresh (Casablanca fame) climbed a boulder taller than trees with grass growing under it caught all our attention. Three of us followed him to top while others preferred edge of hill.

Perched atop
Time pass included past trekking anecdotes (mine invariably includes KP these days), snaps on a small cliff, listening to dog's howl, cow's moo reaching us from village below, watching Kite and other birds, the grazing sheep, future trekking plans, munching Sri's bananas, etc. Only about an hour's rest later we started back - not before taking necessary group photo :P
Group pic time
Mercifully, some clouds hid the Sun and wind created a pretty cool weather. Twenty minutes of relativity easy descent later, we perched under trees to have our packed lunch. I wasn't even feeling hungry, but we were leaving soon so as to visit Cauvery river for a bonus visit.

Cautious descent

Half an hour later, Sun was out and wind had died out. I found climbing down much tougher as always, legs shaking at times. Taking pics and slow pace almost led me to deviate from path. As I finally caught up, they were busy watching two goats fighting. By the time we took another break near temple, we were sweating uncomfortably. And had to watch kids enjoying in the two muddy pools around the temple.

Quenching our thirst
As we entered village road, we were welcomed with sight of water tank and allowed to wash/drink. It was only 2PM by the time we had another group photo with Kabbaladurga hill as background. Starting back meant spoiling afternoon siesta of two dogs under the Tempo Traveller.

On the way to Sangam, we restarted Dumb Charades. While no movie posed more than 2-3 minutes of challenge, dirty names crept in. Wazid and Naresh were standout actors. Just as we were closing on the destination, Wazid had another bout of vomiting. Do avoid summer day trek right after night shift in office ;)

Mekadatu Sangama

Mekadatu Sangama - meeting point of Cauvery and Arkavathi rivers, was crowded and banks were dirty. Entrance road (with plenty of cars/vans/tempos parked) and stalls were clean in stark contrast. We were actually planning to reach Mekedatu - but that required crossing waist deep Arkavathi river and 6 km to and fro hike. We decided against it and spent just few minutes.

Traffic on Kanakapura road was worse compared to morning. And number of sleeping beauties went up too. Tea break was too early to be had at Kanakapura, no decent places at Harohalli. So we settled for tender coconut and tea near APS college - one of the favorite among cyclists. Sri finally broke his fast too. Sangamesh wrapped up the break with feedback.

So happy to ticked off another hill around Bangalore. A short and sweet trek, could be combined with a visit to Sangam/Mekadatu/Chunchi falls.

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