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Tales from the Trails -1 : The Superstitious Superintendent of Police

    Above pic is copied from (I could not spot a tiger)

Along the course of time, I have derived a lot of interesting incidents from all of my trips, especially from the guides who accompany me. One such incident involves the guide who accompanied us on the Safari ride to Satpura Tiger Reserve. He was a very young guy with immense experience of the place we were visiting.

As we were driving through the Jungle in hope of spotting a Tiger or a Leopard, he went on to share a very hilarious story of the Superintendent(SP) of police who had visited the reserve a couple of months back before our visit.
The Satpura Tiger Reserve has five open jeeps for the Safari out of which four are green and one is black. The SP  got late in the morning for the safari and four of the green jeeps had already left leaving behind only the black jeep for SP. And it so happened that on that particular day , a tiger was spotted near a water hole and all the Jeep drivers coordinated amongst themselves to ensure that the tourists can sight it. Our guide was supposed to take the SP and requested him to hurry up as it was one of those rare opportunities of spotting a Tiger, but the SP refused to ride in the black jeep as it is supposedly inauspicious and insisted on getting the green one for him. Despite all the requests from the staff and the guide, the SP did not budge. After waiting for around half an hour, one of the Green jeeps returned and SP was rushed to sight the Tiger but alas, the Tiger had already left. This made SP furious as all the other tourists had sighted it and he was the only one who couldn't. SP was fuming with anger and said "How can you not show me the Tiger, dont you know I am the superintendent of police" , and guide said in the calm voice

"Sir, I know you are the superintendent of police but the Tiger doesn't"

Tales from the Trails series : Introduction

The best part of any trip to me is the journey, the place, the people, the culture and the food. And when I go out on the trips especially the ones I take solo or in small groups, I get to interact with a lot of people and each of them have a story to tell. Its amazing how people trust you and let you in their lives in such a small amount of time you spend with them. I get to meet people from all aspect of life which makes the experience even more interesting. While some stories are just amusing  others are so intense that make you think and retrospect your own life.
While I had so far only listened to what they had to share , it dawned on me recently that I should document them. This is my attempt to narrate their stories through my blog.

Trip to Grand canyon - 1 (Super Bandy Ride)


While I was switching from one blog to another like the mice following the breadcrumbs, I stumbled upon this article titled "Grand Canyon of India" with a magnificent picture of the gorge. It took me a while to believe that this place was in India. On reading a little more about the place, I figured that it was located in Andhra Pradesh at a distance of around 300 KM from Bangalore (my current location). I talked to a few biker and traveller friends about the place and surprisingly no one had heard about it, these guys have really travelled around the country but when asked about 'Gandikota', they were clueless.  This only fueled my curiosity and excitement and the next few days were spent researching this place. A bike trip was long pending and I had already made up my mind on the destination - The Grand Canyon Of India, Gandikota. The Grand Canyon of USA had never caught my fantasy as much as the Indian version did. I chalked out the plan, the route and the stay in an excel sheet but unfortunately the trip kept getting delayed. Finally I decided that I am making this trip on the coming weekend. Initially I was planning to go solo but two days before the trip, a friend Amit who is an avid biker and his wife Varsha decided to join me on their Royal Enfield Thunderbird 500. The plan was to leave on Saturday morning and be back by Sunday evening. We decided to meet on NH7 near Bangalore Airport around 6:00 AM. I couldn't sleep much as it always happens a night before the trip, I reached the airport early and waited for them while having strong espresso followed by a King sized cappuccino. I really wonder if it helps you stay awake, because it never works for me and I fell asleep. I was woke up to Varsha's call that they were starting and by the time I walked from the airport’s coffee day to the parking and loaded my bike, they had already reached. Now that was fast but then that’s Amit!

The journey begins!

It was 7:00 AM  when we started from the airport toll. The weather was pleasant and the roads were excellent. We had to ride straight for around 100 Kms till Kodur (ahead on Chickballapur ) on NH 7 before taking the right to SH 87 towards Gorantala. We rode almost non stop with minor butt breaks and stopped just before the right turn for breakfast. We realised we were already in Andhra when we ordered the Idly and the sambhar were a little extra spicy!  After a tasty breakfast we moved on to the state highway which was narrower than the NH7 but in excellent condition. We rode through very small towns and stopped at few places for taking pictures. The road condition deteriorated and we feared that it would remain like this till the destination which was still around 100+ Km away, it was so bad that if a truck or a  bus came from the opposite direction, we had to ride off the road.After 10 Km of really bad or no roads the smooth tarmac was back and we revved up. While we were enjoying our ride we saw a stand still jam of trucks, buses and four wheelers. We navigated our way to the front to see around 40 kids sitting on the road protesting with the parents standing on the sides. The situation looked tensed and I was for a second worried. While we stopped , a group of children surrounded both the bikes and were saying something in Telugu. Initially I thought they are asking for some money as a donation for some religious function but when I listened closely I could catch two words "Super Bandi" , I realised they were pointing at my bike and then I knew it could mean only one thing "Great bike" which made me smile and I sighed with relief. A little older kid who seemed like their leader  made his way through to me and introduced himself , appreciated the bikes and then directed us through the side of the road, people made way for us and we could get past the road block. We were given special consideration while others with four wheels or more had to wait there. I guess its always easier to connect with people while you are traveling on foot or two wheeler rather than the closed vehicles. This felt good, we waved good byes to the kid who cheered for us, someone even shouted "bachelor bachelor" when I passed as I had no Pillion. We rode on and the landscape was changing drastically after every few KMs , We could see rocky terrain with hills all around which were replaced by the grasslands and a few more Km further there were lush green farms (not necessarily in same order, thanks to my memory). It was as if someone had randomly and impatiently placed these terrains one after the other. We were closing our destination and we were starving, guess we had not eaten anything after the breakfast. It was getting hotter and we realised that it was way too hot for November and our heavy riding gears were making it worse. There were very small towns on the way and we could not spot any restaurants as such. Finally we stopped at this town and we saw a lady cooking something at the roadside mess. It was a really tiny mess with concrete seating for 4-6 people. It was so narrow that two people cannot pass through it together but the food was really tasty. We ordered multiple servings of rice, sambhar and aloo sabji. With our stomachs full we started on the final leg of the journey. We had to pass through a village, an under construction road , a small but beautiful pond and a ride uphill. After not so long ride we were entering our resort, the Haritha resort maintained by aptdc.

The Art of travel

Mastering the art of traveling is not accomplished with practice or talent.No school will give you bachelors degree in not getting shot while backpacking through eastern Africa or avoiding Montezuma's-revenge under trek through Mexico. Its a way of life,unknown to the majority and almost impossible to convey to your friends back home over the coarse of single conversation.Its more of a more of a feeling.Its the excitement I experience a night before a trip, The high that comes with booking a one way train to the place i have never heard of. Its the little things that so often go unnoticed.
I wonder how did I get here, why me? And I remember all that I have seen and done, the friends I have made, the countries I have called home and all the bugs I have eaten by accidents.
Think back to all of it and I ask myself a deeper question, Why not me? Why should I be immune to the lessons life has to offer,I think life is about how you let the bad days change you and what you take out of the experience. May be its not the secret of life but then it works for me.I wish I could say this came to me in the moment of clarity on top of the mountain somewhere, unfortunately I stumbled upon it when buying countless round of whiskey I met along the way. - The art of travel movie .

P.S: Its just one of the most awesome movies if you love to travel the offbeat paths!

Experimenting with light

As soon as I got up a brilliant idea struck me, to capture the lights and fireworks as it was Diwali today. The pictures of fireworks I had seen online over the years looked spectacular and now that I am learning photography , I thought its a great opportunity to get some beautiful shots .The sparklers , the fountain firework, the row of candles and diyas , the colorful bright explosions in the sky, they all  look amazing. I was quite confident that it would be a cakewalk capturing these, just point at them, wait for the right moment and 'Click', its done!  I was excited and thought would read a few things about shooting fireworks online. As I did some reading, here were few things I learnt :
  1. Set your ISO to the lowest possible value ( 80 to 100 ).
  2. Set the camera’s white balance to auto mode.
  3. Use a tripod to ensure that the camera does not shake and defocus the main subject.
Except for the fact that I dint own a tripod it all sounded simple. There were other articles and there were other tips but the ones mentioned above seemed to have produced a good output like the one below.

I thought it was a good pic taken with a point and shoot camera.I was looking forward to some fireworks picture collection of my own by the end of the evening.

After the puja at home, I set off with my camera to capture some light.At a distance I saw some kids getting ready to launch a rocket, one of those which goes up and explodes into bright colors. Now here was my chance, I switched on my camera,marked the trajectory and pointed the camera at a point I thought the rocket would explode. I heard the small 'whoooossh' sound and few seconds later, I pressed the shutter button, result- a blacked out pic. 'Never mind' I thought, the kids lighted another one and it exploded and ended before I could press the button. It took 6 rockets for me to realize its not working and I told myself not to get disheartened as its my first attempt at something like this. Next target - Fountain firework , now that sounded reasonable, I get enough time to focus as it lights up, also gives me enough span to click. I went a little further to find some people lighting those, I checked the settings ISO set to 100, white balance auto, so yes I was all set. And these fountains were the colorful ones , cherry on the cake. As they lighted it I found that these produced a lot of smoke and every time I clicked a pic,I could see more smoke and less of light. Moreover the the pics were very blur, But I kept trying and some of pics looked good in the camera although not as good as I was expecting them to be. Most of the passer by were staring at me as I kept looking for a frame, my camera settings and clicking so many pics(when in reality i was struggling to find the right setting and had no clue what was going on), I was relieved no one asked me to show them the pics there. However it felt good to look and act like a pro, gives you quite a confidence.  I came back home and wanted to see the pictures on a bigger screen, copied them to my laptop and well, here they were. Pretty disappointing but well.

I went back to streets to look for more fireworks but guess due to the rain earlier in the evening or may be because of more awareness, I saw less fireworks this year. It wasn't very good for my photo-shoot attempt (feels good to refer to it as photoshoot!!) but definitely a good news for the environment and I was glad about it.I wasn't done yet, I thought capturing those candles and diyas at home would be an experience and would give me enough opportunity to get acquainted with ISO settings. Now that I had all the time in hand, I kept capturing the diyas in various ISO settings to see the difference.  I realized that the the light source (candles/diyas/tube-lights) shot with low ISO focuses and provides clarity to it , whereas with higher ISO the pictures come out brighter with a lot of noise. 

Here are some of the pictures I felt happy about.

One of the first attempts at capturing diya (ISO 200)

My best click for the night in my opinion (ISO 64)

Puja Thali (ISO 400)

Liked the way i could see the details of the flame in this (ISO 64)

Almost finished candle (ISO 100)

Although I could not capture the  prize winning pics I had decided to when I went out with my camera tonight, I was content with what I learnt. A few hours back I did not know or understand the ISO number I see on the camera , now I do. With that last picture I thought I would call it a day. Kept the camera aside and went out to see the rockets exploding and this time I got a clear shot with the best in the class lens I was using, 'My Eyes'.

  • ISO - Its the sensitivity of the camera to the light. Higher the number , higher the sensitivity and the noise in the pic.
  • Image sensor (the most expensive part of the camera) is controlled with this setting , its is the image sensor that decides how much light to gather.
  • At Higher ISO, a lot of noise (grains) get added to the picture.
  • To capture a source of light, always keep the ISO low. It gives clarity to the source and eliminates the extra lighting effect around it.
  • A tripod is a good idea while shooting fireworks, helps you keep the focus. 


A perfect Homestay in Wayanad

It was a couple of years back when me and three of my close friends decided to take a road trip to Wayanad.  Its been few years and  my memory is a little blur (P.S : I have a pathetic memory) We started early in the morning and drove through the NICE road to reach Mysore. We stopped at Mysore for breakfast and also visited the famous St. Philomena's church there. The church was built in 1933 and it stands at in place of the one that was built in 1843.It was designed by a Frenchman Daly in a Neo Gothic style and well as can you can see, its marvelous.

St. Philomena's church in Mysore

After a brief pit stop, we were on our way to the Wayanad again, it was a beautiful journey as we passed a forest and drove through hair pin bends on the ghat section. There were lush green mountains and one can see the curvy roads as you drive up the mountain, the view was breathtaking.
Ghat Section

On our way through we sighted a herd of elephant and we got out of the car to get a closer look. Although its not always advisable to do that around elephant especially if they have a little one with them but this particular group seemed harmless. In fact they pretty much did not pay us any heed and continued with whatever they were doing. We also spotted some Indian Bisons which are just more muscular and buffed up versions of the buffaloes back in my native :).

Elephants with their little one

We finally reached our homestay and it remained to be the highlight of the trip. It was just a perfect house located amidst the rubber tree plantation with nothing but greenery, fields and mountains around.The house was built in classic Kerala style with slanted tiled roof which added to its elegance. The host family was very friendly and gave us a small tour of the property.
The Homestay

Hut where the lunch and the dinner is served. A perfect place for a chat

Fields, coconut and rubber plantations

All you can see is the fields and trees, no other house in sight

They also had few rabbits and one of them had just given birth to few tiny ones. And it was the first time I saw the tiny rabbit of the size of a mouse. Others held them in their hand whereas I was scared as I am around the new born human babies. They look fragile. I just admired them from a distance while the mamma rabbit eyed my friends, guess she wasn't very happy.

There was also a small tree house but that was under maintenance and we could not stay there. We spent the the evening exploring the property, it felt great. The host also told us stories about wild elephants straying in their fields and destroying the crops. They had a licensed Single barrel rifle for their self defence but hope they never have to use it  We walked through the property, climbed up the tree house just to see how it looks. He also explained the rubber extraction process, they make incisions into the bark and collect the fluid in vessel which is later on processed . He let us hold his rifle but sadly we could not fire any rounds although he had a set-up for target practising. (cant remember why).

The tree house

Rajesh, priya and me, Santa taking the pic

Posing with the empty rifle!
In the evening the host family had set-up a candle lit dinner for us in the hut.. They had prepared so many varieties and it tasted as good as it looked. I totally loved it with the darkness and sound of the wild around us as we enjoyed our dinner in the candle light. I had always dreamt of a place like this of my own , felt like seemed like they were living my dream.

First Photowalk - Learning Photography

When asked to click a  picture, I never had enough patience to wait for everyone to get ready or pose,I would just press the shutter within 2 seconds of getting the camera, I did not care about the light, flash or the angle nor did I understand much of it.Aperture, shutter speed, focal length, exposure used to be foreign words. To put it simply, I have been useless around cameras. Though I thoroughly enjoy looking at some of the great shots taken by others, I somehow could not get myself to try it myself until recently. For some reasons,I had been contemplating buying an SLR (May be cos of number of blogs/photoblogs I have been visiting lately) but then thought to myself that I should learn the basics of photography using my point and shoot before getting a SLR. So while I was talking to a friend yesterday who recently bought an SLR and is trying to learn, we planned to go to KR market and Tippu palace for a Photowalk.

It was a miracle that I got up early without alarms on a Saturday morning and we left home by 7:30, yes A.M. We stopped to have a tea and I noticed a lady selling flowers close to my place and she had really long hair, not finding the right word but it was  noteworthy, very impressive and had an appeal.

Moving on,took us less than half an hour to reach the market, I parked the bike a little away from the market and decided to walk. It was a beautiful morning for a walk.
A Hindu priest walking in the direction of the mosque (Though he wasnt actually going to the mosque but it made a good composition i thought)

Closeup of the mosque
We reached the flower market and there were so many small vendors by the side of the road selling red, yellow and even blue roses, marigold in orange and white and few other flowers I dont know the name for (you know those pretty flowers you find in a bouquet). The place was lively and colorful. We started taking pictures of whatever caught our attention, initially we both were little hesitant clicking people as it was our first time at the street photography but eventually we got a little more comfortable with that as we found out that people are really friendly and do not mind it. I was just trying various aperture settings about which I had read the previous night. After a few failed shots,I captured the flowers with the blur background and I was very thrilled.

My first successful attempt with aperture setting

Another pic of the roses with blur background

We went further and there was a old building with a couple of offices , a homeopathic doctor, post office and even a police station. We walked up the stairs to the first floor to get some better shots and for the first time I realized that it needs a lot of patience to click the right picture. There were dozens of time I looked through the view finder and waited just to get the right shot (what felt right to me) , there were countless time I would miss the shot by less than a second for which Iwas waiting for sometime. It was quite an experience and I was liking it.

A man sleeping in the corridor - Think his looks and the scarf made the right combination

My friend Karmu taking a shot with his DSLR - I liked the door in the back ground

A spice seller lost in his thought - The spices and the bags added colors to the pic
Loved the way she had arranged the vegetables in plates

An old man having a sweet
We decided to go to Tippu's palace next, we asked for direction and found out that it was right across the road. We took the subway and were reaching the fort when my friend realized he left his tripod back at the building. We rushed back and found that the tripod was gone. We were standing there in the corridor thinking what to do about it when a man waved at us with the smile, and we knew what it meant ! The gentleman had kept the tripod safely in his cabin, he had noticed us before while were taking pictures pictures and knew that the tripod belonged to us. We thanked him many times before starting back for the palace. Well the world isn't after all a bad place, thanks to amazing people like him.

We reached Bangalore fort which did not look much, however having spent so many years in Bangalore, I had never come to this fort before. It just had few small dungeons, a small but well maintained lawn and a Ganesha temple.It was a mud fort built by Kempe Gowda in 1537 and was later replaced by stone fort in 1761 by Hyder Ali. Britishers captured it in 1791 but was handed back to Tipu sultan (Hyder Ali's Son)  a year later.  We clicked a few photographs and spent a little time before calling it a day. We actually confused it to be the Tippu's Palace, only after getting home I realized that we had to go a little further for the palace. Well the market is definitely worth visiting again and now we have a reason to go back!

About Bangalore fort

Steps to go up but sadly its gated and public isn't allowed

Some sculptures on the wall - weathered and uncared

Lord Ganesha's Mouse

Experimenting with blur effect -Weeds on the wall of the fort

A bird at fort's lawn

Not a great shot - This is almost all of the fort with a little temple at the entrance and a gate with spikes (not in the pic)

Accidental capture: Was experimenting with  Aperture setting to capture the cloud when the eagle with wings open flew in the frame

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