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June 16, 2017

Visiting Nagalapuram – Queen of waterfalls

Filed under: My Life — Suramya @ 1:04 AM

This past weekend I took part in another trek organized by the awesome folks at Nature Walkers. This one was to the Nagalapuram Waterfalls and was a little bit easier than the last trek I had done with them (Tadiandamol). From the trek summary:

Nagalapuram is one of the beautiful hill station situated in Chittur District, southern part of Andra Pradesh, around 280 km from Bengaluru. Normally known for the various water falls situated in the hill station. We say Nagalapuram is β€œQueen of Water Fallsβ€œ, to see why you should come with us to explore

The trek started off on Friday night and was a bit of a crazy start for me as I had to rush home from Whitefield to make it to the pickup point on time. We were a group of 22 folks from different backgrounds and personalities who got together to experience a totally amazing trek. The group was quite diverse with lot of first time trekkers and a few regulars. Unfortunately due to the size of the group and the ridiculous cost of travel permits for large buses we had to break the group into two TT (Tempo Travellers) with 11 passengers in each. That kind of sucked because the group got divided into two and the folks in one TT didn’t get to interact with the people in the other TT as much as I would have wanted. It was an overnight drive to the falls and a few of us (Me, Jani and Shahrukh) were up till late catching up and then talking about jobs and interviews etc. I am sure after a point folks around us were wishing that we would just go to sleep.

We got to the Homestay around 7am and went in to freshen up. The homestay was run by the Andhra govt and more than anything it reminded me of the haunted houses in horror movies because of the look and the surrounding forests. The rooms were fairly basic but since we were planning on staying in tents it didn’t really matter. The rooms were just there so that we had a place to freshen up.


The not so haunted Homestay

We were welcomed by a whole bunch of monkeys and dogs and we offered them tea as a gesture of friendship which was accepted. After tea a few of us decided to go hang out with the monkeys in their native environment and ended up in the branches of a nice and comfortable tree. All this time the remaining normal folks were getting ready and waiting for breakfast.


The Three musketeers monkeys.


Waiting for breakfast.

After a little while the food arrived and we had to climb down since no one was willing to feed us in the tree. πŸ™ During breakfast we were fortunate enough to witness the declaration of true love and managed to get a photo of the happy occasion πŸ™‚


True Love!

After food we started off to the base camp to begin the trek in the TT as it was about 30 mins away from where we were staying. On the way we entertained ourselves by dancing (trying to dance in my case) and singing.


Starting the trek

By the time we got to the starting point the sun was up and it was really really hot. In this trek the first half hour is on a plain with no shade so it was like being on a flat plate getting roasted slowly. To pass time and distract ourselves from the heat me, Shahrukh and Anupam started singing and continued to sing till we reached the first stream. I am actually surprised that the others didn’t strangle us after the first 10 mins to get us to shut up. Once we crossed the plains and entered the forest the heat became a lot more bearable. The path was pretty smooth during this part of the trek. After about an hour we reached a stream and all of us took a break. Honestly none of us wanted to continue without a long break to relax and cool down but Manoj convinced us that the first waterfall was just a few mins away and a whole lot better than this small stream so we packed up and started the second stage of the trek.


Recovering from being roasted in the heat

This second portion was a lot more challenging with us entering hillier terrain and narrower trails, but it wasn’t too tough so we made good time to the first falls and reached it fairly quickly. It shows how well organized the Nature Walkers team is and how much they care about safety that they had ensured all the members of the trek had life jackets so that we could enjoy the water without taking undue risks. (This is in addition to banning all alcohol and smoking during the trek) We wasted no time in changing and jumped into the cold waters of the fall. Trust me the water was really cold and it felt amazing after the heat. We all swam around, climbed up the falls and basically had a blast. All too soon we we summoned out of the water so that we could head out to the second waterfall and we did so with a whole lot of grumbling as we were having a ball in the water.


Having a blast in the water

The path to the second fall was even more hilly and the trail was challenging with really steep climbs in parts. There were portions where we had to climb around a rock on the trail by stepping on a ledge that was not more than 2-3 inches wide. Then there was this rock chimney which was interesting to climb.

Unfortunately this is when the trip took a darker turn as we found out that one of the trekkers from another group had gotten injured in the next fall and was being carried back to the head of the trail. On speaking with the members of that group we found out that the guy had jumped in the water and for some reason failed to surface after going under. After 5-6 minutes his body surfaced and that’s when the rest of the group realized that something was wrong and rushed to help him. They did manage to get a lot of water out from his lungs but failed to get all of it out so he was still unconscious and they had to carry him through the hilly terrain back to the start of the trail.

One thing that I felt really proud of while watching and helping them was that *every single person* in the area pitched in to help when they found out about the accident. Not one person refused or ignored them. Its not everyday you see people helping so selflessly. However by the time they had reached where we were it had already been more than an hour. The kid had started bleeding from his nose and his pulse was really thready so we weren’t sure if he would make it or not. After helping them down from a chimney in the trail we continued on to the second pool but it was a much more subdued group that reached the second pool. We broke there for lunch but didn’t get into the water as no one was in the mood.

After a brief rest break the group started off for the third pool but a few of us decided against continuing to the third fall as we were still a bit upset/saddened by the accident. So 6-7 of us stayed back while the remaining folks continued to the last pool which apparently had a really good view along with a place where you could dive into the water safely. The folks who stayed back watched some idiots trying to prove how brave and macho they were by drinking and performing idiotic stunts to impress the girls. Its a miracle someone else didn’t get hurt as well.

The remainder of the group got back with just enough time remaining to allow us to make it out of the forest before dark. By this time we all had recovered our sense of adventure so we had a blast singing, chatting, and getting to know our fellow group members. When we boarded the TT our driver told us that the injured guy was pronounced DOA (Dead on Arrival) by the ambulance and that this was about the 10th death in the past 3 months in that region. It just shows that trekking and alcohol don’t mix. There are calculated risks that are ok to take and then there is being an idiot. At times the line between the two is extremely thin and once drinks are involved, it is non-existent. But there was nothing we could do so we started back

After stopping for Tea on the way we reached the homestay and there was almost a stampede for the bathrooms as everyone wanted to shower and change. By the time we all freshened up dinner was ready and we fell on the food like starving people. Since they gave us the food in buckets along with Pattals instead of plates, we all ate in the traditional style with a few people serving the food and the rest sitting on the floor to eat. Then the order was reversed and the folks serving in the first set sat down for dinner and the rest served food to them.


Having dinner the traditional way

After dinner a majority of the folks decided to crash from the night while a few brave souls stayed up to chat. Initially we had planned to have a bonfire but soon realized that it was too hot for it so just sat out in the open and talked. After a while we wanted to crash but found that the tents were doing a credible impersonation of being an oven. So we came back and slept in the open which was amazing as the moon was full (or near enough) and the the cool breeze made it quite pleasant to be outside.

In the morning we were woken up by monkeys who came over expecting morning tea like the day before and got really upset when they didn’t get any. Like any sensible people we decided that Discretion is the better part of valor and retreated in the face of their anger to the guest house to freshen up. Once all the folks got ready we broke our fast at this small shop where they made fresh dosa’s and puri’s and served them to us piping hot. Post breakfast we all visited Kone Falls and the Temple which was nearby and a few of the folks had a dip in the falls. We had to depart from the location a lot sooner that we wanted to but unfortunately we didn’t have any option as we were anyways way over the checkout time at the homestay.


Group photo taken just before we left

The drive back was again a lot of fun (and more interactive than the drive to the place) as it was daytime and everyone was awake. We played a bunch of games and sang (yes we do seem to sing a lot) quite a bit. All too soon we were back in Bangalore and had to head back home. With heavy hearts we said our goodbyes and went home.

I really enjoyed the trip and like always ended up making a whole new set of friends and am definitely looking forward to the next adventure/trip.
Special thanks to Manoj and Pavan for organizing the trip and managing it so well that all we had to do was focus on having fun.

This is all for now. Will post more later.

– Suramya

PS: In interest of full disclosure just want to let folks know that I am one of the official bloggers for Nature Walkers starting with this trip.

April 26, 2017

When traditional stories meet a budding astronomer

Filed under: My Life — Suramya @ 6:21 PM

A little while ago mom, me and Vir (my nephew) were taking an evening walk and mom decided to tell Vir a story to keep him entertained. So here’s how the conversation went:

[Mom] Vir, see there is Chanda Mamma (the moon)
[Vir] No, that is not Chanda Mama, that is Earth’s Moon and other planets like Jupiter also have moon’s. (and he went on about various planets and their moon’s for a while)

At this point mom didn’t know how to proceed so we changed the topic. After a few days she thought she would try again, this time we were driving to get Ice cream and here’s how the conversation went this time:

[Vir] Nani, look there is the Moon.
[Mom] Yes, the moon (Chanda Mama) has come out because Suraj Chacha (the Sun) has gone to sleep.
[Vir] No, Sun doesn’t sleep, It is night because earth rotates and the sun is now on the other side of earth so we can’t see it. The moon is on the same side and so is visible.
[Mom] I give up… All I wanted to do was to tell him a story about the sun and the moon.

I don’t think she will be telling him any more stories about the Moon.

– Suramya

March 8, 2017

My Trek to Tadiandamol

Filed under: My Life,My Thoughts — Suramya @ 7:13 PM

So last weekend I went for my first trek of 2017 with NatureWalkers to this place called Tadiandamol. Don’t ask me to pronounce it because I still can’t manage without sounding silly and it took me 3 attempts to spell it correctly. The trek is a total of 8kms long round trip and the peak which is the highest in Coorg is at about 1748 m high.

Tadiandamol is on one of the most beautiful, noncommercial peaks in Karnataka, it is elevated to about 1748 m and known as the highest peak in coorg/kodagu district. The Tadiandamol trek offers adventurers an opportunity to explore the stunning vegetation, rare mountain birds and pretty butterflies flitting from tree to tree. A panoramic view from the peaks is an eye-candy for the hikers. The trial takes you through the vast expanse of the Shola forest, It is a day trek which makes it even more doable for city folks- whether avid trekkers and hikers. A famous historical landmark β€œNalknad-Palace” resides at the foothills of the mountain.

This was my first trek with Nature Walkers and I loved it. A total of 18 of us were there for the trek with a wide range of trekking experience and age groups. The trip started at 10pm from Bangalore and we boarded the bus after donating a lot of blood to the Domlur mosquitoes (while waiting for the bus to arrive). We kicked off the evening with a round of introductions which included telling folks about something crazy you did and man some of the folks had donbe some crazy stuff (including me πŸ™‚ ) We had people asking their professors to dance, setting fire in the hostel to burn notes and scaring aunts with skulls.

After the intro round ended most of the people went to sleep but a few of us weren’t sleepy so we spent majority of the night talking and after a few hours just as we were winding down and I was about to fall asleep the driver switched on the AC at full strength and played some Kannada music at high volume waking me up. So we kind of half dozed while the driver took a nap and then we were on our way again reaching the Homestay at ~7am. We freshened up and then started for the basecamp after breakfast which was about an hour from the homestay.

We arrived at the basecamp all bright-eyed & bushy tailed and started the trek on a high note. The start of the trek was fairly easy with a shallow gradient so it wasn’t too painful. Though it was bright and sunny so that made it a bit uncomfortable and soon I was sweating enough that I had to remove the cap.


Group photo at the start of the Trek and you can see the energy and enthusiasm

We walked the trek at a fairly slow pace and used the time to talk and learn more about each other, plus take a lot of photos and snapchat videos etc. A large part of the group was 12 friends who had come for the trek together and their enthusiasm was infectious. I haven’t downloaded all the pics yet and can’t post all of them in any case so here are a few pics to give you an idea about the trek and the route.

Selfie on the way to the peak
Selfie on the way to the peak about an hour into the trek


Random spot that looked interesting and was perfect for a break

After a little while the terrain became a lot steeper and it got a bit harder to climb. Since the distance to the peak is only 4 kms it was a fairly steep climb most of the way. About half way through there is a big rock and a stream so we took a break and obviously climbed the rock. πŸ™‚


Group photo at the rock

The stream was refreshing but with barely enough water to be called a stream. We filled our waterbottels there and I got to use my water purifier to purify the water. Don’t think it was absolutely required but I needed an excuse to play with my gadgets so… In any case we spent about 15-20 mins fooling around and taking pics before resuming the trek.


The Amazingly full stream

It took us another 2 hours or so to climb to the top. Both Manoj and Amrita ensured that we all were pacing ourselves and constantly provided encouragement so all of us reached the peak together and the view was worth the effort spent to climb to the top. Thankfully it was a little cloudy towards the end of the climb and the breeze was very refreshing as well so that made it a bit easier as well.


Thanking the gods of the Peak that I made it to the top while Tejaswani and Amrita look on.


Look at how happy we all look that we made it to the top in one piece πŸ™‚

Once at the top we all took a break to have lunch, meditate and enjoy the view while Manoj took a nap to recover from the stress of herding all of us to the peak.


Me, Jani and Shahrukh meditating at the peak


Manoj recovering from herding all of us to the peak.

We started back very reluctantly both because we wanted to extend the stay at the top and because our feet hurt πŸ™‚ The way down was more adventurous as the path was quite slippery and everyone fell at-least once though there was a contest going on to see who would fall the most as well with the winner claiming the throne with 8 spectacular falls.

By the time we reached the base camp we were all ready to be flat on the ground and not move. But still we ended up dancing for a little while in the bus on the way back to the homestay. Interestingly our bus had a laser/disco light setup which made dancing fun. Although initially it was more of moving hands and pretending to dance than actual dancing. Once we got home and freshened up we sat outside and chatted about topics all over the place from weird food people eat to physics to astronomy and horror stories. The campfire made it cosy enough to sit outside and since we didn’t have any portable speakers we got to show off our singing skills instead of our dancing skills. The jam session continued till almost 1 in the morning and we all dragged ourselves to bed quite reluctantly.

Next morning we again made an early start and left the homestay after a lovely breakfast.


Pic with the owners of the Homestay

We were all feeling a bit more energetic after resting over night so we spent a large amount of time playing Mafia which I enjoyed for the first time. The last two times I played the game I found it very boring but with this group it was a lot of fun. I was a cop in the first game and got to play a few turns before getting killed and it was a lot of fun watching the players try to convince each other that they were not mafia. In the second game I was classified as Mafia and was there till the end of the game (We won πŸ™‚ ) but in the last one I was the first person to be killed so didn’t get to play at all.

In the middle we stopped at Namdroling Monastery which I have visited a few times before but it was still worth the visit. It is a very peaceful place and since we got there just before the afternoon prayers started we managed to see the temple and then watched the monks start their prayers as well. We did avoid the shopping complex as otherwise we would have been stuck there for hours while the ladies shopped πŸ˜‰ and were on the way back to Bangalore with brief stops for lunch & tea and lots of dancing.

We all enjoyed the trip so much that we didn’t want it to end so most of us got down at Indiranagar for dinner at Copper Chimney instead of heading home directly. The waiter gave us a weird look when the 13 of us were done with just starters and dessert but none of us were very hungry so it was good that we didn’t over-order.

Overall the trip was a great success and I really enjoyed traveling with Nature Walkers. I would highly recommend them to folks looking for a fun well organized trip.

Well this is all for now. Will post more later.

– Suramya

PS: For those of you who are wondering about what happened to posting about the previous trips, I realized that the list had gotten long enough that I wouldn’t be able to post about them (15 trips in 2016) and because I was waiting to write about the previous trips I wasn’t posting about the new ones either. So decided to bite the bullet and start with a clean slate. Hopefully this year I will be more consistent with my writing.

May 2, 2016

My Trip to Sri Lanka

Filed under: My Life — Suramya @ 3:18 AM

How do you summarize a 10 day trip to an island paradise with incredibly hospitable folks that you took with a group of awesome friends? This has been the question that has been annoying me over the past few weeks since I have gotten back from my trip and as you can guess by the lack of posts before this one I haven’t really found a good answer to it yet. However a month is more than enough time to ponder and I realized that because I was avoiding posting anything about the trip I was also not posting anything else on the blog either because that summary had to come first. So without any further ado here we go.

We flew from Bangalore to Colombo via Chennai. If you are ever planning on going to Sri Lanka take a direct flight, the Chennai airport is the worst airport I have had the ‘pleasure’ of flying out of. The duty free shopping area is 2 shops with minimal goods and the ‘food court’ is one shop that didn’t have have the items on its menu available. (this was at about 10pm or so). We got to Sri Lanka at ~2am and took a cab to our B&B which was decent, not great but decent. From there our grand adventure started the next day. We got lucky and got a great driver (Sujeet) who was excellent in guiding us and making sure we had a good time.

The first day we mostly traveled and didn’t really do much but starting the second day the fun started. We did a whole bunch of water sports (Jetski, water-skiing, Banana boat, River cruise etc) and we visited a turtle farm where we saw turtles aging from a few days to one over 150 years old. We also did a river safari where I tried out a fish spa for the first time. It wasn’t as bad as I was expecting and for the cost it was worth it.

The third day started off with me going for Scuba diving and the rest of the folks went snorkeling. Managed to do two back to back dives, one was to a sunken ship and the other was in coral. Got to see some really colorful fishes but nothing too spectacular. Unfortunately the underwater camera at the dive shop was broken so didn’t get any underwater pictures but the memories are certainly great. After we got done with the diving we drove down to Galle and saw the famous clock tower and fort. The tower wasn’t very impressive and was under repair. There was also a nice beach and some colorful nick-knacks to pick up. (Though we ended up not guying anything). The fort was nice and it was obvious that it would have been very impressive during its peak.

On the fourth day we decided to go whale watching and that meant waking up at 5 so that we were there at the port by 7am. The trip was nice but extremely hot and since we were on the deck with no shade all of us got tanned (and slightly burnt) by the time we got back. Unfortunately we didn’t see any whales but we did see a whole lot of dolphins as they were pretty much constantly following our boat. The fact that we didn’t see a whale was disappointing but later in the evening we visited an ancient stupa and prepared for an early morning the next day so that we could go on a leopard safari.

The fifth day started off really early again (before dawn) and though we saw a lot of birds we didn’t see any leopards. This and the fact that we didn’t see any whales earlier made us decide to avoid any further safaris in the trip and focus on other kinds of sightseeing. So on the next day we visited a couple of ancient temples, stupas etc and on the 7th day we went river rafting. The rapids were grade 3&4 for the most part but it was a lot of fun esp the part where we got into the water and swam around.

On the 8th day we visited Sigiriya which is a world heritage site and saw the amazing construction and palaces that had been built so long ago. It was impressive and humbling to see what people were capable of constructing with pure muscle power without any of the modern technology to assist them. If you visit, make sure you request a guide because otherwise you will miss out on a lot of the background information and things you def must see.

The last day was spent relaxing at the Colombo beach after spending some time shopping and seeing the local sites. It was with a heavy heart, amazing memories and a lighter wallet (not that much lighter since things were not as expensive as we thought) we boarded our flight back. I wish we had more time there because we weren’t able to cover any of the northern or eastern part of the country but that gives us an excuse to plan another trip so lets see how that works out.

I have uploaded the photos to Facebook so you can check them out over there.

Well, this is all for now. Will post more later.

– Suramya

February 1, 2016

Recovering from KP: Day trip to Hogenakkal Falls

Filed under: My Life — Suramya @ 10:54 PM

After the KP trek I wanted to relax so last weekend I went for a day trip to Hogenakkal Falls with friends and this weekend I did absolutely nothing and it was glorious πŸ™‚ This post was supposed to have been published last week but first I was waiting for the pics to be uploaded and then got busy with work so didn’t get a chance to finish the post before today. But better later than never so here we go.

We (14 of us) left Bangalore at ~7am which was quite good considering certain folks (and I am not going to name names) were running quite late and made me wait outside my house for almost 45 mins. We had hired a 13 seater Tempo Traveller for the trip and the guy made pretty good time. Coincidentally it was Shammi’s birthday so when we stopped for breakfast we cut the cake and created enough of a racket disturbing everyone else in the restaurant that the owner asked us to move to a private room so that we didn’t scare the rest of his customers away.


The Mandatory cake facial

After finishing food we were on our way and spent the next 3 hours fooling around. Played a whole lot of dumb-charades , took selfies and basically drove the driver nuts. The way was quite scenic and traffic wasn’t too bad but even if that wasn’t the case the company was fun enough to make the trip enjoyable. This time most of the folks who came for the trip were people who we knew so there were no unpleasant surprises like last time.


Everyone Smile

Once we got to the falls we found that the only place where you were allowed to go into the water was this one place that didn’t look very clean and there was a very long queue so we all decided to skip that and go directly for the boat ride in the coracles (Bamboo Boats) with the idea that we would get into the water in a cleaner less crowded area. As there were 14 of us and each boat could only take 4 people at a time we rented 4 boats and were off. The boat ride was a two part affair where we boated to an Island sort of place and then had to walk across to get to the other side while the boatman carried the boats across then we got back in the water and spent a good 2 hours (maybe more) in the water. Not sure of the exact time we spent in the water as I had to take my watch off and put it in the bag along with the phone to prevent it from getting soaked. Though having things in the bag didn’t really help much because my spare set of clothes were completely wet by the time we finished, thankfully the phone and the watch escaped this fate and were reasonably dry.


Us in the boat

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Some of the small falls we saw during the boat ride

Due to some restrictions we were not allowed to get in the water during the boat ride but thanks to some negotiations we were allowed to get in the water in a secluded area with a small waterfall and it was great. We spent almost an hour in the water over there and had to be forced out of the water.

After the boat ride finished we had a late lunch (really late ’cause it was around 4pm) at Hotel Tamil Nadu. The food was decent and quite tasty (though that could be because we were starving so all food would have tasted good by this time). After lunch we fooled around a bit outside the restaurant ’cause no one was in the mood to head back.

IMG_1860
Lets climb a tree like our ancestors used to…

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Group Pic outside the Tamil Nadu Restaurant

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How can we have a birthday celebration without Birthday Bumps?

On the way back we had a pit stop on the way to watch the sunset and it was gorgeous. Took a whole bunch of pics and then we were on our way again. After a bit folks decided the best way to pass the time was to dance in the bus. I am surprised that the driver didn’t get into an accident considering the amount of racket we made and how distracting it must have been to have 14 people dancing/screaming behind him for almost 3 hours. Unfortunately none of the photos I took of the dancing came out clean, but still the memories are crystal clear. We stopped for dinner at a roadside bar/restaurant but it looked very shady so we decided to get the food packed and ate our dinner in the bus itself which was an experience in itself.


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Sunset on the way back from Hogenakkal Falls

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Group pic at the sunset point

Finally we reached Bangalore around 10pm (maybe a bit earlier) and then all of us went our different ways with great memories and a plan to do similar trips again in the near future.

Well this is all for now, will write more later.

– Suramya

January 19, 2016

I did the kumara parvatha trek this weekend and it was amazing!

Filed under: My Life — Suramya @ 10:03 PM

This past weekend I decided to go to Kumara Parvatha for a two day Trek instead of spending it lazing about at home and even though my legs have gone on strike and refuse to work after the trip it was an amazing experience. The trip was organized by Shirky as part of the Bangalore Entertainment meetup group. This is the third trip I have done with him as part of the meetup (the others were to Gokarna and Mangalore for beach parties) and as always it was great fun.

Kumara parvatha is supposed to be the most difficult trek in Karnataka’s and comes to about 30km of trekking. The one advise I have for anyone attempting this trek is that this is not a trek for beginners, do not expect any amenities. It is hard and you need to be the kind of person who appreciates natural beauty to appreciate it. If you haven’t trekked before it is very easy to feel demotivated and put off from the entire concept of Trekking. Basically don’t expect Changing room, rest room, bedroom, shower, porters etc on this trek. Unfortunately there were some folks in the group who didn’t do their research and for some reason decided to come for the trek without any preparation or research on what to expect. For the most part everyone took it in stride and chalked it up to a good learning experience, however there were some folks (and I am not going to name names as that is not the point of this post) who decided to blame everyone except themselves for their lack of preparation which caused some issues later in the trek and post completion.

We started the Trek with 21 people from Bangalore via KSRTC bus and from the start itself the trip was quite eventful. We had our first casualty (one of the girls fell and hurt her knee) even before we boarded the bus and one of the guys lost his phone. When we called the number the person who found the phone picked up our call and asked for the pin to unlock the phone, when we refused for obvious reasons he told us that he had no intention of returning the phone. Thankfully it wasn’t an expensive phone but still, it was disappointing.


Group photo at the beginning of the Trek

We got to Kukke Subramanya at ~5am after an uneventful drive and freshened up over there before starting the trek at ~8am. The morning was brisk but within a few mins of walking I was dripping in sweat and ready for a halt :). We managed to walk for a whole 10 mins before we took our first halt which set the trend for the rest of the trek.

We made it to Battara mane by ~11am. This was after we stopped quite frequently for rest and spent a good 20 mins or so at a stream we found mid-way to recover. Battara mane which translates to Battara’s house is ~7kms from the beginning of the trek and is the midpoint of the route. For the most part the trail was in the forest so the sun wasn’t a big problem but the last kilometer or so was in grassland so it was burning hot and exhausting.


Refreshing halt at a mountain stream on route to Battara mane

Initially we had planned to continue to KP after a brief rest and food but we were told that camping on KP is banned due to a recent forest fire caused by Trekkers. So we decided to camp at the Forest department’s camping site about half a kilometer from Battara’s house. Which honestly speaking was a great stroke of luck because I don’t think a lot of the group would have made it that far and considering the amount of fuss that was raised about the conditions over here I shudder to think how folks would have reacted when they were told that there are not bathrooms/food areas at KP.

We had lunch at Battara’s and that was one of the more disappointing parts of the trek as the food was not that great. I had read online that it was very simple south Indian food but that doesn’t cover it. The food was bad. You pay 100 Rs for Rice and Sambhar which was more like Rice and Rasam because I didn’t really see any vegetables in it. Oh and you also got pickle :). The food is self service with no utensils like spoons provided so you get to eat with you hand. I saw a bunch of foreigners trying their hand at it and they enjoyed it. However if you are able to you should carry your own food as you can’t really have the food provided multiple times. We got to enjoy it 3 times and that was more than enough. For dinner you should ensure you are there early because at times you can have a shortage of plates and have to wait. In our group folks made do with 6-8 people eating from a single plate and it was hilarious.

After lunch we rested for a bit and then walked over to the Forest departments camp site where we proceeded to try putting up our tents. Interestingly only two of us had ever set up a tent before and it took a group effort with 10-12 people helping over an hour and half to get the first one setup. A few folks figured it was more important to sleep than help us setup the tents but in the end I think we were better off with them not helping. Though I did hear a few complaints from those folks later in the evening about how disorganized the event was and how no one knew how to setup tents etc.


Relaxing after finally managing to setup the tents

After the tents were finally up we checked out the nearby View point and got some amazing pics (see below). This time I spent a lot less time taking photos & more time enjoying the view and the company. I will share more photos once I receive them from the folks brave enough to carry a DSLR on the trek. Once it got dark we started a campfire and played a few rounds of antakshari with a couple of interruptions by cattle who wanted to stop by to say hello and try to eat any food items left unattended. By 10 we were ready to crash. Some of the folks felt that the view of the night sky was awesome enough that they decided to sleep outside. This turned out to be an eventful decision as they were woken up by cows a few times when the cows tried to eat their hair.


View from the sunset view point


Group photo at the sunset view point


Sunset

We woke up at 4:30am the next day as we wanted to start the next stage of the trek by 5:30am. Taking down the tents in absolute dark using flashlight was an interesting experience but with the help of most of the people we got it done fairly quickly and were ready to start on the remaining part of the trek. At this time 8 people decided that they did not have the capacity to complete the trek and wanted out. So they declined to continue and went back down the trail. Unfortunately they also declined to carry their sleeping bags/tent back down so we had no option but to carry them down ourselves.

We stored our tents/equipment etc at the forest department and started the trek with just food and water. Unfortunately by the time we got to Kallumantapa three of us out of the 13 remaining were not feeling well enough to continue so with a disappointed heart we came back down leaving the last 10 members of the group to finish the trek.


The valley covered in mist at ~7am


Breakfast at Kallumantapa

After we got back I slept for a bit waiting for the remainder of the group to get back while the other two went ahead down the trail to try to catch an earlier bus back. Once the remainder of our got back from conquering the peak and recovered we had lunch and started back. At this time since the earlier folks had not taken any of their sleeping bags etc with them we were left with 11 people to carry 15 sleeping bags, 6 tents and all our personal bags. Obviously this was quite painful and by the time we got down my knees were on strike and it took us long enough that we finished the last 30 mins of the trek in the dark using flashlights.

Once we got out from the trail we dragged ourselves to the lodge and got a room to freshen up post which I was feeling human enough to get dinner which was finally something other than rice and sambhar. At 9:30pm we boarded our bus back and reached Bangalore at 4:30am. At which time we found out that due to the last min confusion on who was carrying what we managed to loose one of the tents. Which was a brief downer but still, stuff happens in trips so it wasn’t too bad. Got home at 5:30 and crashed like a log.

Even though I didn’t get to finish the trek it felt great pushing my limits and I am def planning on doing this again in the near future so that I can say that I completed KP.

Well, this is all for now. Will write more later.

– Suramya

January 8, 2016

Happy New Year!

Filed under: My Life,My Thoughts — Suramya @ 9:09 PM

Wishing all the readers of this blog a very Happy new Year. 2015 passed really quickly in some aspects and was slow as molasses in others. Which is to say that the year had both pluses and negative points (as usual). Some of the pluses:

  • I have a adorable new niece [pic below]
  • I got to Travel to some interesting places with interesting people
  • Work is fun as usual, moved to a new team with new responsibilities and more technical role.
  • Made new friends
  • Attended live concerts by some of my all time favorite singers (AR Rehman, Usha Uthup)

There were a few downsides as well but don’t feel like dwelling on them so… In any case its a new year so time for New Year resolutions. Actually now that I think about it this is the first time I am making a formal resolution, usually I just decide and then wing it. But change is good and once I have it out in the open it will force me to follow through so without further ado here we go:

  • Last few years have been slow on the writing side for me, both on the Blog and on the Articles front. This year I am going to make an active effort to make a blog post every week (more frequently if possible) and at least one article every quarter.
  • Travel more. This is something I started implementing in the tail end of 2015 but will continue to do more in 2016. This will include both domestic and international travel.
  • Actually do something productive with the Raspberry Pi instead of using it as a glorified paperweight.

Well this is all for now. Will write more later.

– Suramya


My Niece

October 11, 2015

Finally managed to upgrade to latest Debian Testing without breaking my install completely

Filed under: Linux/Unix Related,My Life — Suramya @ 10:19 PM

Some of you might have wondered (for a very brief amount of time) based on my last post and then lack of activity if I had managed to get myself sent to Mars but unfortunately that wasn’t the case. The problem was more mundane, basically I had somehow managed to get my desktop in a state WHERE it thought that it needed to uninstall KDE whenever I tried to upgrade to the latest Debian packages using ‘apt-get upgrade’ or for that matter when I tried to install any new package as well. After ignoring the issue for a while I decided to take the plunge and went ahead with the upgrade thinking that I would just reinstall KDE after the upgrade completed. Unfortunately that didn’t work out as planned and I had to do a full reinstall from scratch. It was something I thought about doing so that I could resize the partition allocation but didn’t have the time/incentive to do it. So this was the perfect time to take the plunge.

I re-partitioned the drive and started the install. The first few attempts failed quite spectacularly because apparently some of the packages in the ‘Unstable’ branch are broken (which is not unexpected because after all it *is* called the unstable branch.) After I switched to the Testing branch which is more stable than unstable I got a bit further along but hit another snag while installing KDE as during the upgrade systemd kept complaining about not being able to talk to policykit and died after giving the following error message a few hundred times:

Error getting authority: Error initializing authority: Error calling StartServiceByName for org.freedesktop.PolicyKit1: Timeout was reached (g-io-error-quark, 24)
Failed to execute operation: Connection timed out

This stumped me for a while since I didn’t have the energy at the time to research the issue in too much detail. I would have resolved it faster but as I had my laptop working I was able to get work done and access the net, (even if it wasn’t the most comfortable way to work.) which reduced the urgency to fix the problem. After a few weeks I finally got time to sit and work on the issue. Turns out the problem was caused because systemd was expecting a later version of policykit than what was installed and apt-get wasn’t upgrading policykit before it started installing KDE. The solution was quite simple after I figured out what the problem was, which was to upgrade policykit by issuing the following command as root before installing KDE:

apt-get install policykit-1

After running that command I was able to upgrade to the latest Debian Testing and with that I also got a newer version of KDE (5:90 is what apt-get calls it) which is nice and has a lot of eye candy. However as with all KDE releases/upgrades to a new system (Plasma) it still has issues/missing features. Annoying stuff that I have found so far is listed below:

  • There is no quick icon widget. I put all the software I regularly use in the Quick icon bar and not having it is really annoying. There is a temp workaround where I can right click on a window and select ‘Show as a Launcher when not running’ but it is not the same.
  • There is a bug that prevents you from disabling the beep for system events for all events. So everytime I try to delete sometime I get a loud and annoying beep. I can’t switch off all sounds because then I can’t hear my music either. Lots of folks have been complaining about this so hopefully there will be a fix out soon.
  • Not all software minimizes to the system tray. Specifically, Tomboy which I use to take notes exits completely when I close it instead of minimizing to the system tray which is what it used to do. I am sure there is a setting that I am missing but I haven’t found the fix yet.

There are other minor annoyances but they are mostly caused because the new version does things slightly differently so I guess I just need to get used to the new way. To top things off my UPS battery has gone for a toss and I get an amazing 0.2 mins of backup with a full charge. πŸ™ I have ordered new batteries but till they arrive I need to remember to power off the system when I am not around.

Well this is all for now. Will post more later (hopefully more regularly now that I have a working desktop again).

– Suramya

September 7, 2015

Sending my name to Mars on NASA’s InSight lander

Filed under: My Life — Suramya @ 11:50 PM

NASA has this thing where you can register to send your name to Mars on their InSight lander. Since it is free and seemed like an interesting idea I registered and got my very own boarding pass. So what does it actually mean? Basically my name will be etched on a micro-chip and blasted to Mars on the lander. Pretty cool right? (Just for my name though but still it is cool.Hopefully there will be actual flights to Mars in my lifetime.)

snapshot1
My Boarding pass

If you want to have your name sent then you have till tomorrow to register. You can do so here. More details on the process and the lander are at the NASA page, check it out if you have some time.

– Suramya

September 3, 2015

How easily do you get Bored?

Filed under: My Life — Suramya @ 11:00 AM

I have heard a lot of people complain being bored when they don’t have their phone or are away from TV. Thankfully I never had that problem because ever since we were kids me and my sister were taught that there is always something interesting to do, observe or think about so we were not allowed to say that we were bored.

So I rarely feel bored but till now there was no way for me to check if this was true scientifically. Folks over at the New Scientist have created a quiz that claims to check ‘How easily bored are you?’ by answering a bunch of questions. Now I don’t usually take such quizzes but its New Scientist which is a respectable magazine on Science so I decided to give it a try and this is what I scored:

Your score is 45. That means you have a very high boredom threshold – scores range between 28 (not easily bored) and 196 (very easily bored).

If you score below 63 you are in the 1 per cent of the population who are hardest to bore – you may never or rarely experience boredom. People like you tend to be curious and have good self-control.

If you are curious give the quiz a try: How easily bored are you? (Alternate link, in case the previous one doesn’t work) and do share the results.

– Suramya

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