The Snake Walk

February 12th, 2010

Last Sunday was one of the best Sundays of my life. Through the Chennai Trekking Club with Pramod, Hopeland and our Irula Guide, we walked through farm lands near the Crocodile Park in the hope of finding our crawling friends. Little did we know that it would be an experience of a lifetime … From handling a Rat Snake to hearing a Spectacled Cobra hissing and striking, to a Russell’s Viper showing his deadly fangs and precious drops of venom; everyone was hooked, fascinated and intrigued by these mysterious yet beautiful creatures.

Rat Snake, Cobra, Russell's Viper

Rat Snake, Cobra, Russell's Viper

Btw, if you had liked this post so far and my other travel/trekking escapades such as Ombattu Gudde or The Kodaikanal Trek, you might want to subscribe to my RSS feed to get new posts as and when I write them.

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Kodaikanal is a beautiful place. I had been to Kodai for sight-seeing a decade ago. So, when a trek was announced at a place near Kodai, I jumped at the opportunity. An army of 45 people reached Kodai on a chilly morning. After breakfast and the near endless wait for our guide Kodai Mani, we were off to Kukkal village from where we had to start the trek. On the way to Kodai, Rinkesh couldn’t control his bladder. So, when the bus stopped and he got down, many rushed after him shouting, “Yay! view point” … lol!

A village enroute to Kukkal

A village enroute to Kukkal

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Let me start off with some statistics 😉

No. of days – 3.5 (31-Dec-2009 afternoon to 3-Jan-2010)
No. of bikes – 10
No. of people – Around 20
Total Distance (home to home) – 1004 kms
Top Speed – 110 kmph (I know Wild Kannan wouldn’t agree but this is what my speedo displayed)
Lowest Speed – 35 kmph (lowest speed on top gear)
Best Chunks of Road – Chidambaram to Pichavaram, Vailankanni to Vedaranyam, NH-45
Worst Chunk of Road – Vedaranyam to Mannargudi
Most Challenging Drive – Chidambaram to Karaikal
No. of minor accidents – Ninety eight minus ninety nine plus two (Clue: Its a signed integer).
No. of major accidents – Nine Thousand point five six four seven divided by four hundred and sixty eight point two into zero

The Group :D

The Group 😀

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Oh boy! Oh Boy!! OH BOY!!! I don’t want to say how awesome this trek was. This trek and some of its special moments will remain etched in my memory for years to come. Nagala is full of water all through the year & since monsoon is around its end, the dam near the hills would be brimming. That would present ripe opportunities for swimming & I would be able to put my new skills to test. Hence, when the trek was announced as a first timer’s trek, I gladly signed up and waited with bated breath for the D-day to show up! And show up … it did! After 3 excruciating weeks.

I couldn’t contain my excitement what-so-ever and few days in the middle, I almost fell sick with excitement. I was high. The thought of crystal clear water, those tiny beautiful waterfalls, gurgling stream and varied colour rocks strewn across in the form of jewels … OMG! Every such thought was driving me crazy. Moreover, we were a gang on the treks and this was a pretty easy trail. So just imagine the fun we would be having on the way and back! To add to it, it was Max’s birthday on Sunday, 6th December … Too many things to celebrate for and only 48 hours. Not enough at all.

Picnic Pool Waterfall

Picnic Pool Waterfall

A few of us met at co-organizer Naveen’s home on Friday night for a quick pre-trek planning discussion and party. The night dawned into the day with none of us sleeping. Soon, everyone assembled at Koyembedu and we raced off to our dear home away from home … Nagalapuram. Distributing food and items for the next two days, we started walking towards the forests.

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Update: There seems to be some problem when the API is being accessed from my domain. Kindly try hosting the script in your own domains.

The free SMS web service, that you have come to love and use, has been updated. You can download for the following languages here:

  1. Java
  2. PHP

If you are accessing the service through the URL mentioned here, then be rest assured that it will continue to work. Download the latest versions and enjoy! 🙂

If you are facing any problems, please do let me know in comments and I will try to address them at the earliest.

See! I’m flying. It happens after every trek that I go to; whether small or large. Being in one with nature can rejuvenize you so much that you will be in that state of mind for a few weeks to come 🙂

Ombattu Gudde

View from Ombattu Gudde - Deepadakallu and Jenkallu

Ombattu Gudde or Ombattu Gudda or OG, as its fondly called, is one terrific place that’s about 6 hours from Bangalore. So… on 14th Nov 2009, 36 of us, all pumped up and excited about the next 48 hours decided to explore this place and reach the peak of OG. The peak is at a height of 968m from Mean Sea Level. The trek would put us through too many terrains in quick succession that it’s as if nature was changing boulders like we change t-shirts after a day’s work.

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Save Tada Campaign

November 3rd, 2009

Though, undoubtedly, Tada Falls (or Ubbalamadugu Falls) is one of the most beautiful places near Chennai, its also one of the most abused natural places near here. Until few years ago, when the place was just a plain old forest, it was limited to very few people who dared to explore the place and trek for themselves. But ever since the raping started in the name of Eco-Tourism, the place began to lose its shine and green.

Leaf

Mother Nature could be literally heard screaming for help. She was dying a very excruciating death. Broken booze bottles everywhere and in every crevice possible, combined with tons and tons of plastic, cigarette butts, beedis and what not, the place was bleeding. It was so bad that, during the Tada Fort Exploration couple of months back, we didn’t get any interest to get in the water at all. The general abuse of the place was compounded by the fact that the forest guards and locals take money and allowed liquor and other illicit materials to be carried in to the forest. They get drunk, urinate and puke in the same stream itself, spoiling the water for those downstream. Hell! They even bring live goats from the town in to the forest and kill them to eat fresh meat 🙁 . Who knows what diseases are lurking there?

Save Tada Campaign

Save Tada Campaign

We heard the SOS message loud and clear. The men and women of the soil decided to clean up the mess and teach a lesson to the vandals raping the place.

The Gang

More than 230 people visited Tada Falls much to the chagrin of the guards and forest officials. The group was divided into 20 Garbage Busting gangs. Each gang took over a circle of about 60 yards radius along the stream. Since each team had anywhere between 10-15 people, a designated area would be freed of plastics and bottles in no time. Armed with huge garbage bags and gloves, we started collecting garbage in and around the area. Crores of plastic bottles, broken liquor bottles and other plastic materials were stuck everywhere. We retrieved them using long sticks and filled them up in our bags.

Garbage Busters in action

Garbage Busters in action

Our dear ancestors, the monkeys 😀 , became very curious of the bag’s contents and a group of them would swing down in an instant and make an attempt to get at the bags. We felt sorry that they couldn’t understand how dangerous the contents of the bags were for them.

Highlight: More than 230 people, 2 tonnes of garbage and in less than 4 hours time.

 

Piled up Ex-Garbage

Piled up Ex-Garbage

Then, we started walking downstream and formed a human chain to transfer the garbage bags from one person to another until the base camp was reached. We collected so much garbage that it was enough to fill up a harvest tractor up to its brim, forming a mound of sorts on its top.

Press

The press came and recorded our activities and it got published in various newspapers in and around Chennai & Andhra Pradesh. ETV conducted an interview with Peter Van Geit (co-founder of CTC) which was aptly translated to the news channel by Aditya.  Few reporters from Deccan Chronicle had come to take note of the atrocities happening there and reported them in yesterday’s newspapers, highlighting the fact that CTC was doing its best to save the place.

The Pools !

With the day’s objective accomplished, we did what we do best 😀 – Trek to the nearest pool and chill off. By the time we climbed back to the pool, we realized how clean the place looked devoid of plastics and broken booze bottles. I felt a huge wave of satisfaction envelope me as we made our way to the pool. Jumping and diving ensued. The pool was very beautiful and there was a small and gorgeous waterfall at the end of the pool. It may have been a 30 meter  swim to it. And tell you what, it was amazing feeling to know that I was able to swim that distance on my own 😀 . Brijesh accompanied me during this time by my side just to make sure that I would be able to make it to the end. My joy knew no bounds. I was able to put my new skill to test and succeeded 😉

We had lunch besides this beautiful pool and making sure we never polluted this place, we started off after a good swim and delicious lunch.

They had it !

It was time for the guards to answer us. Through this trek, we were accompanied by Forest Officers who were in charge of maintaining sanity at Tada. They questioned the guards and guides in front of us and gave them sound warnings that if liquor and stuff happens again, their jobs will be at stake. We also informed them that these were the same guards who used to break in to our vehicles and steal valuables. They would extort money from us for taking our bikes and cars and would also harass women and children of the group. We recorded their apology & will play it back to them the next time we visit Tada.

The forest officials at least acted that they were guilty for ravaging this beautiful place. I’m doubtful that their atrocities will stop soon but I can assure you that it was a great beginning.

Tractor

Highlight is the tractor which carried our collected garbage bags for disposal.

Garbage Tractor

Garbage Tractor

It was a very satisfying day. Combined with act of keeping nature intact & with an ultra-easy trek, nothing could beat this weekend. Hoping to do more of this in future. Our future is in safe hands 🙂

The Kids of the Trek

The Kids of the Trek

Photo Albums

Thanks a lot for capturing the moments shutter bugs. Without you, we wouldn’t have a story to tell today.

  1. Gowtham – The Best Album
  2. Karthik Yadav
  3. Samyak
  4. Vinoth
  5. Vijay Krishnan
  6. Raja
  7. Vijendran
  8. Hari Prasad
  9. Anupam
  10. Loganathan
  11. Hari K Balasundaram
  12. Nara

More albums on the way! Until then, catch you soon …

Ever since I discovered Opera Mini, I had installed it on my first mobile (K300i) and now the latest Opera Mini 5 beta is present on my Nokia E51. Few months ago a new browser came up for S60 3rd Edition Mobiles named Skyfire. The main selling point of this browser was almost full support for javascript and Adobe Flash with near desktop experience; which enabled us to watch YouTube videos on the mobile!

I had been using both browsers side by side for a few months now & came to feel that Opera Mini is a lot better for daily use and Skyfire is better for those one off toughie websites that must work with javascript and other stuff enabled.

Here’s an example: Recently, I started accessing my twitter account through Dabr from Opera Mini. The mobile UI rocks and zoom in and zoom out is instant. It happens in the client side. Opera Mini has an intelligent mix of client side and server side operations, whereas, all operations from Skyfire require an active internet connection. At best, internet access from mobiles through GPRS still remains patchy & hence, Skyfire should have that intelligent mix of operations and where possible, operations should be done at the client rather than server.

Opera desktop’s goodness of Speed Dial has arrived on Opera Mini 5. It’s awesome and saves you tons of clickety-clicks, which are irritating on a mobile. The whole menu system has been completely revamped. UI is smooth and fast (which is a downside with Skyfire)!

The best feature of Opera Mini of all is tabbed browsing. That blows away any other mobile browser on the planet. Being fast and loading heavy pages on separate tabs is a pretty awesome thing. By long pressing on a link, you can open them in new tabs inside Opera Mini. Hence, the Dabr + Opera Mini seems to beat any other twitter competition. Saved pages are really saved pages. They can be accessed even when there’s no connectivity.

Recently we had to book tickets to watch a movie at Mayajaal and Skyfire displayed the website amazingly well. Opera Mini suffered there. Similarly, Opera Mini rocks in opening popup windows (when clicked explicitly), whereas Skyfire fails. All in all, if you are going on a long journey with conservative power, Opera Mini is the way to go. Or if you want near desktop experience on your mobile for all websites, then Skyfire is the way to go.

Skyfire Gripes:

  1. No tabbed browsing.
  2. No landscape view of web pages and videos.
  3. Phone heats up after about 15 minutes of usage. Doesn’t ever happen with Opera Mini.
  4. Compared to Opera Mini, it is very heavy on battery.
  5. No option to logout from your Skyfire account. You have to manually delete the “Preferences” file to logout.
  6. The assumption that an active internet connection is always available.
  7. Proxy server support and proxy authentication i.e. HTTP code 407. I have been asking this for so long that I’m beginning to feel that this feature won’t come at all.

Opera Mini Gripes:

  1. No flash support.
  2. Javascript should be supported better.
  3. Zoom in to images is dismal. I hope this issue will be corrected when Opera Mini 5 comes out beta.
  4. This browser also doesn’t have support for proxy servers and proxy authentication.

What are your opinions on these two browsers? What browser are you using on your mobile phone?

School Prank

October 16th, 2009

As I was reading through Rohit‘s post on how he missed school, I recollected one of the pranks that a few of us did back in school.

….

The Maths staff was droning on and on about some crazy analytical geometry stuff that flew over my head. Lunch bell was supposed to ring in 5 minutes and I was looking at my wrist watch every 10 seconds to see if those nerve-wracking 5 minutes were over! Each second passed painfully as a minute. Stomach was rumbling as well & in all restlessness, we came up with a prank to execute it during lunch.

Benches and desks in my school were lengthy. Up to 4 people would be able to sit with their bags on them. Oh! and we would start having those border problems of whose bag can come up to which place on the bench… But that’s for another post.

As soon as the lunch bell rang, we dashed out even before the teacher had left and brought in lunch 🙂 . The teacher was slightly shocked but left the class nevertheless, glaring at us. We devoured our lunch quickly. As per the prank’s plot:

  1. We would punch lot of tiny holes on the bench using our compass and dividers.
  2. We would then pour tiny amounts of water on them and let it soak. When wood gets soaked for sometime, its topmost layer comes off and leaves a black substance.
  3. Students would be called to sit at the place and answer a few questions and then made to go off.

A bubbly girl named M was about to finish her lunch. Did I say we were in white uniform that day? We called M, made her sit on the bench with soaked wood. With a pen and paper, it was like we were conducting an interview… asked her some silly questions and told her to go to the black board and write as, “The interview was good.” which she did. Giggles were starting to spread around soon & few more guys and girls started to appear to “take part” in the interview. One by one, their bums became black and wet with all the water we had poured on the bench and before long, lot of their pants had soiled 😀

The bell rang & as a teacher entered in, she noticed one guy’s pant being soiled. She stared at us & sent us out immediately because we were giggling by that time.

….

Those were fun times man! It was a different kind of fun than we are having now. But fun… it sure is! Share your pranks in the comments 🙂

Last Sunday, we celebrated Ayudha Pooja at our Kalari class. It is during this day that we revere the tools/weapons we use & also pray that they may be used carefully in all scenarios. Shortly after the pooja was over, each of us had to do a sampler performance using the tools that we had kept in pooja. The sampler turned out to be an extempore one. So, we aren’t in the usual practice dress.

Pooja setting with our weapons

Pooja setting with our weapons

Present below are two videos of my master:

  1. Using the Silambam
  2. Vett Aruval fight with a senior student

Silambam

Silambam is an integral part of Kalari. Using just a stick and rapid movements, a defender would be able to ward himself off various attack vectors and give them back a taste of their own medicine. My master performs a basic lesson that is taught to beginners in Silambam.

The first 14 seconds of the video showcases the “Guru Vanakkam” or paying respects to the teacher before starting off. Watch closely. You will be able to hear the Whoooosh sound of the wind. That’s also the speed with which the Silambam is being rotated.

Aruval Fight

Aruval is a sharp instrument that’s used to cut tree branches, tender coconuts and in some cases, heads of humans 😉 . In this video, my master is fighting with a senior student using a sharp aruval. Usually the edges are devoid of their sharpness during practice sessions. But this one was sharp & one has to be very careful when using these weapons. The video below is a 30 second teaser. Fighting with aruvals is taught after about a year and a half of continuous practice.

Hope you enjoyed these videos 🙂 Let me know how you feel in the comments!