Monday, May 16, 2016

Horagina Betta Night Trek - 7 May 2016

Time to start trekking again in preparation for my first Himalayan trek next month. And as usual, had a fun time with BTC, even though it was my third visit to Horagina Betta.

Thanks to Metro line finally thrown open at least in East-West corridor, some of us had the luxury of reaching Terminal-3 well in time. With IPL match scheduled, the train was jam packed and big queue to get tickets (not an issue if you have Metro smart card). Others though were delayed  due to the infamous Bengaluru traffic. And so we had to start about half an hour late than scheduled.

By 7:15 PM, we reached Karahalli cross (we got down at an unscheduled stop on the highway and caught two share-autos to Karahalli). We spent an hour at a hotel there for dinner (pro-tip: if you aren't too hungry, share single plate of rice for two people :P)

It had rained earlier in the day there and thunder grumbled in the distance promising more rain. Thanks to detailed mail prior to event and remainder from organizers Virander and Deepthy, we had come prepared with ponchos and stuff.

We finally started our trek on the village road leading to Nandi Hills base. About 15 minutes later, we stopped for intro session. Was good to see so many new comers as well as many regulars. The organizers re-iterated BTC rules and we were on our way again.

It was a different trail than my previous night trek here. Easier and fewer thorny plants. Once we hit the rocky trail, it was pretty much straight route to reach the muddy road leading to trek path towards Horagina Betta. We stopped as and when we needed a break, which was quite often :P And then the ominous grumbling from sky above would make us scurry ahead again :P.

With just 10 minutes of trek left, the heavens decided to finally open up and drenched us all. We took shelter at the peak in an enclosed structure (close to the temple) - by the time everybody arrived, the rain had stopped and wind blew away the clouds during course of the night.

We hiked past the temple to the open and wider part of the peak. With wind blowing fiercely, water on the rocky peak as well as our clothes dried quickly. After a while, we moved again near a tree to sit around in a wide circle. Wind and still wet wood meant we didn't try camp fire yet.

After much discussion, we settled down to play a game. It goes something like this - we start counting from 1-14. The person supposed to say 7 has to say 14 instead and the person supposed to say 14 has to say a phrase instead and then allocate an interesting task for a particular number. As the game continues with counting from 1 again, whenever a person has to say those particular numbers, they have to also do the task set. Next time 14 comes, another task for another number gets added and so on. We played for quite a handful rounds with tasks like 'Sing a song', 'Say a movie dialogue', 'Run around our circle once', 'Tap the next five people on head while making an irritating sound', 'Rap on a melodious song', 'Hold your torch on the head' etc

With growing chill, we then went back to temple and started preparations for camp fire. It took a while to get the fire going with not-yet-completely-dried-wood. Time being past midnight, people started going to sleep and few brave souls went up again with their cameras to capture the night sky.

Those few gathered around the fire frequently switched places to avoid smoke as well as to gather more sticks to burn. A while later hot water was prepared for hungry souls eating cup noodles. To pass time, we started with a discussion on Himalayan treks - Deepthy leading the way with interesting stories and useful anecdotes. After a failed Antakshri earlier, we now moved on to play songs on mobile instead. Mostly it was melodious hits in both Hindi/Tamil (to cater the mixed audience :P) with occasional high-energy hits from Rockstar and the like.

While the wind had cleared the clouds, we were surrounded by mists now and then. And we had a few scary moments as well. A green baby snake was spotted pretty close to our huddle around the fire and just minutes later a scorpion.

The sky started brightening around 5 AM and we could see sea of clouds clinging to Nandi hills. There was a plan to start the descent around this hour, but was dropped. Instead we prepared coffee, watched bikers on the road to Nandi hills, took pics with clouds, rising Sun and started back after 6:40 AM.

We trekked back with very few breaks. In daylight, the surrounding hills and the odd flower/insect/grass were pleasing to watch and spot. By 8 AM, we reached the hotel for refreshment and breakfast. Feedback session was positive all around as usual, with some ideas pitched-in as well. Special praise for first-timers who mingled well with the group and co-ordinated without a glitch during trek.

With no direct bus for Bengaluru, we took one to Devanahalli first. Our total expenses, including a small amount for BTC fund, came to grand total of Rs. 300/- Fun and time well spent yet again, until next time, ciao.

Thursday, May 5, 2016

Book review - Apr 2016

So, 21 books read this year by end of April. I don't have stats from previous years, but I think this is prolific even for my standards :P
Rating scheme is based on goodreads: 
             liked it
really liked it
Cometh the Hour

Archer continues to use his own tropes again and again. This book itself shuffled between court hearings and weddings with a dab of politics. He builds it up just to deliver the punch line :P The series feels like an expanded version of 'As the Crow Flies' with plots from his other books added.

Wanted a fast and easy read and got that, especially second half after I had warmed up to Archer's style. Was good to see subtle plots connected in more ways than one. Little hints sprinkled throughout the book to prior events helped in recalling previous books and now can't wait for final book to bring a close to Clifton saga

The Seven Minutes

Would have liked to give it 5 stars, but the ending was short and abrupt (we do get the explanation and loose ends are wrapped up nice and tidy - but outside of courtroom drama)

First half of the book is massive build up to the case that then plays out in court. We get POV from both sides - while that prepares the reader in advance, the author still manages to introduce elements of surprise. Seasoned readers would spot many of the twists easily and yet the detail and depth of treatment by the author keeps us engaged

It's funny in hindsight that I had judged the book by its cover and wouldn't have read it if my friend hadn't pitched in with his raving review. I had read couple of books by Irving Wallace before and liked them as well. By the end of book, I actually wanted to read 'The Seven Minutes - by J J Jadway'


Short read, can be finished in single sitting. Writing wasn't sophisticated as can be expected from an author's early work. Decent story and interesting to read about use of computers in early 70s

Deep Wizardry

I kinda liked the story and philosophical conversations were great.. But like the first book in the series, the writing puts me off - I often read just a page or two before I got bored. I even started and finished 'Binary' around halfway stage before coming to finish this one

And like others have noted in the reviews, I liked the mix of sci-fi and fantasy too..


Bonus Links
Book title links and images courtesy goodreads

Other Works

Square Tic Tac Toe
Get it on Google Play

Beginner's guide to Command line and Scripting