Friday, June 17, 2011

Knocked the bastard off again ! (via snow chute)

22 miles RT, (12 miles backpacking + 10 miles day hike)
Elevation Gain: 6500+ ft
Trailhead: 8300 ft
Summit : 14500 ft.

Bill, Sarah, Arun & I did a 2-day backpacking trip to Mt Whitney. We camped @ Trail Camp (Elev. 12,000 ft) on Saturday night and day-hiked to the summit via the snow chute on Sunday morning. The chute was precarious and some sections were over 70 degrees in slope, requiring crampons & ice-axes. Bill, Arun & I summited, while Sarah almost made it, but had to turn back to Trail Crest, a mile away from the summit, due to AMS. Glad she got better later.

This was my second ascent, the last being in sep 2009 as a day hike. It was a fantastic experience, my first experimenting with winter skills, crampons, ice-axes and glissading. As always, Whitney did not disappoint !

As of 2 PM, I think only 10 people summited, I saw 2-3 people who had come up the MR to the summit and another group of 6 who summited after 3 PM (probably less than 20 people summited on June 12 - seems quite low).

Weather forecasts indicated a temperature of 32 F at the summit, however, it was blazing hot at 60+ F.

There are sections in the chute that are actually 60-70 degrees in slope.

Couple of observations:
- Best time to climb up the chute is early in the morning, when the snow is still hard and frozen.
- The main trail is hard to locate in some sections after Mirror Lake.
- There is a snow slope that leads from Trail Camp, all the way to Lone Pine Lake, and this is the quickest and perhaps the easiest way to descend. (We got to LP lake from Trail camp in an hour, with our backpacks).
- There is a lot of snow from Lone Pine Lake, this is one looooong winter.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Sophistication via Android

I've been an avid hiker for a long time, but all the while this far, I've been keeping track of my pace, distance covered and elevation gained etc through plain old trail signs and a clock on my iPhone.

It is only after I switched to an Android phone (Xperia X10a), which I then de-branded and rooted, have I gotten hooked to smartphones. I downloaded "Backcountry Navigator", from Marketplace, couple of days back. This is a GPS app for Android and I fell in love with it soon after I installed it.

I used it on a recent hike up Mission Peak, a regional preserve in Fremont, CA. This was my third ascent and my first solo ascent. Here are some statistics from the hike, gathered through Backcountry Navigator.

I bettered my previous ascent by 15 minutes and descent by 20 minutes. My average uphill speed was 3.1 mph and downhill speed was around 4.8 mph, for an overall average of around 3.8-4 mph, with a 2600+ ft elevation gain. Looks like my workouts are showing some results.

Thursday, September 09, 2010

Knocked the (little) Bastard Off ! *

It was an adventure with as many twists and turns as there were switchbacks on the trail to the summit. I just got back after a long overnight drive , after summiting Mt Whitney.

At about 14,500 feet, Mt Whitney is the highest point in the contiguous states of the USA (the lower-48 states). The Mt Whitney Trail starts at 8300 feet from Whitney Portal and is 11 miles long to the summit, making it a 22 mile round-trip hike, with over 6500 feet in elevation gain. Every year thousands of people apply for the "Mt Whitney Lottery", as the permits are few and the seekers many. This year a friend of mine had applied for the lottery, but we didn't make it. But thankfully, I re-applied for the "left-over slots" and I was granted 4 permits for 07 Sep, for a day hike !

The permits are usually open from early April to late October and the demand is higher for multi-night trips. The reason being - Acclimatization. For the uninformed, at such altitudes, many can experience Acute Mountain Sickness (AMS) and it is important hence, to acclimate before venturing out on such hikes. But since I was only granted permits for a day-hike, it was going to be a challenge even before it started.

I had everything (well almost) planned out well in advance. Had explained to my hiking buddies the risks involved, the trail conditions, the gear list and the plan. I had booked campsites at Lone Pine campground, which was about 6 miles from the trail head. It is a 7 hour long drive to the town of Lone Pine, via US 395, through Tioga Pass Rd (Yosemite) from the San Francisco Bay Area. The Tioga Pass Rd rises up to an elevation of 10,000 ft towards the end, at the ranger station, before merging on to US 395 (elevation ~ 7000 ft) and since my old car had some difficulty in climbing up this road the last time we were here, I decided to go in my friend's much newer car. But seems like I was mistaken and here is where we had the first "twist" in the story !

It was all hunky-dory until we crossed the ranger station on Tioga Pass Rd, on Sunday evening. We had decided to spend about an hour by the Tioga Lake (elevation 9000+ ft) to acclimatize a little, and we did, but when I got back to the car and tried to start it, it wouldn't. It indicated that the battery was low. As always, AT&T is the least reliable of any cellphone carriers, and we had no signal on our iPhones. We could have walked to the ranger station about 2 miles up the road and used the call phone there, but much to my annoyance, my friend neither had his insurance papers nor was he sure if he had road-side assistance coverage. While we were evaluating our options, he asked an old lady in a van near by, if she had any jump-start cables and if she could help us. Thanks to that good old lady (there are many such Samaritans here in the US) she helped us jump-start our car. We were still wondering how could the battery have drained out all of a sudden. My friend declared it could have "just happened" and was confident that it would recharge itself as we drive.

We took off from there and got to the Mobil station at the end of Tioga Pass Rd and decided to fill our tank, but before I could warn my friend, he switched off the engine and lo! It wouldn't start again! This time the owner of the gas station was our good Samaritan. He biked for couple of minutes and brought his truck and the jump start cables. By then I had googled for AAA towing service nearby and learned that there was one in the town of Lee Vinning, which was about a mile away. The good Samaritan also informed us that there was a station mechanic in Lee Vinning who could replace car batteries. So we drove to Lee Vinning and explained the problem to the mechanic. He immediately suggested that we replace the battery. My clueless friend also thought that was the best thing to do. But then as the mechanic was pouring through his battery catalog, we learned that the car's battery was replaced only about 2 years back and technically it should last for 84 months (from its specs). When we told him about this, the guy said he wouldn't know (wtf ?!). He then examined the circuitry and declared that it wasn't the battery, but the alternator that was at fault, which was why the battery wasn't charging. He told us that he could order a replacement, but that won't happen till Tuesday as Monday was labour day. He also discouraged us from driving out of Lee Vinning at night (lights would consume the remaining battery) and suggested we find a place to stay in that town for the night. He also told us it was unlikely that we'd find any mechanic shop nearby who'd be open on Labour Day.

By now, we had also found out that all the motels (which is like 4) in Lee Vinning were full. Luckily there was an RV park nearby where I could call and book 2 tent sites (thankfully we had tents with us). We pitched out tents and then started evaluating our options.

1) Call up a friend and ask him pick us up. Leave the car @ Lee Vinning, to be fixed by the mechanic on Tuesday. Skip Mt Whitney.
2) Charge the car's battery, carry a spare (with tools) and take a chance driving back to San Francisco in the morning. Skip Mt Whitney.
3) Get an iPhone charger (we were running out of charge), use the wireless in the RV Park to search for mechanic shops in nearby towns, who were open on Labour Day and who could replace/fix an Alternator and if by some miracle that could happen, try to continue with the Whitney plan.

Evidently, the chances of continuing with the Mt Whitney plan was very bleak. We got a charger from a nearby gas station and incidentally while asking the shopkeeper for suggestions, we stumbled on this AAA tow-truck driver who informed us that his store in Reno, NV was open on Labour Day and they could replace an alternator. This raised our hopes and we thought perhaps Whitney was a possibility, albeit a distant one. Our plan was to go charge our battery the next morning from the local mechanic and try and make it to Reno, which was about 132 miles away, before the battery drained out.

Next morning, I had called up the Interagency Visitor Center of Inyo National Forest and informed them that there were only 3 in our group (there by releasing the 4th permit for someone else, if they were waiting) and that I'd like a night-drop-box pick up of the permits, as we were running late. The mechanic charged our battery for about an hour and we were all set to drive to Reno (and barely make it before the auto service shop there closed at 2 pm) when we discovered the car wouldn't start again. This made the mechanic examine the situation further and conclude that it was the battery that was fault and he suspected that it had short-circuited, thereby not allowing itself to get charged again. He replaced the battery and confirmed that everything was fine now (the alternator was all fine) and we should be good to go. This brought back a smile on our faces (although I still wasn't sure if his diagnosis was right, but hell, the car seemed fine and we were going to give Whitney a shot again!).

We reached Lone Pine, I went and collected our permits and poop-bags (you are supposed to poop in a bag and pack it out , should you have to answer nature's call in the Mt Whitney Trail :-D ), we devoured some burritos for lunch and head to the Lone Pine Campground (elevation: 5700 ft). I was afraid they'd have canceled my reservation as we didn't show up the previous day. Thankfully, our campsite was still good and we went and pitched our tents. It was very hot and the terrain around us was plain desert. We were told that there were rattle snakes all around (hunting for mice/chipmunks
). We stashed our food in bear-proof lockers and then decided to drive to Whitney Portal campground (elevation: 8300 ft), which was where the Mt Whitney Trail started. Our original plan (before running into car troubles) was to hike up to Lone Pine Lake on the Mt Whitney Trail (elevation: 10,300 ft) and spend couple of hours there to acclimate. But now we had but 2 hours in all. We hiked up the trail for about 45 minutes, spent couple of minutes sitting there and we returned. We had decided to get up early next morning (Tuesday) around 1 am, and start the hike by 2 am. According to some estimates on other hiking blogs, a fast hike up to the summit would take 5 hrs, a moderate would take 8 and a slow hike would take 11. So we thought we should be able to get back by 2 pm (grossly underestimated).

Things went like clockwork that night, we dozed off for a while, woke up at 1 am, packed out tents, had some bread and fruits for a quick breakfast and drove to the trail head. It was 3 am by the time we started our hike. We had already concluded that we cudn't stay as a single group and yet complete the hike by 2 pm like we had initially thought, based on our "acclimatization" hike the previous day. My friend V (whose car we had drove in) was pretty slow and inexperienced. My other friend VK and I had given clear instructions to V on what should be done and we discussed general protocols and precautions for everyone. There were about a dozen people assembling near the trail head by then, all ready to start the hike.

We started precisely at 3 and soon VK and I were ahead of the rest of the gang. We overtook several other hikers along the way and reach Lone Pine Lake (2.8 miles from Trail Head, 10,300 ft) in 70 minutes. That was a good pace. However, as we began to gain elevation, I began to slow down. I had to take pictures, I could only sleep for 2 hours the previous night and I had annoying bouts of head-aches (mild AMS symptom) and all of this was contributing to my slowing down. About over an hour later, I reached Trail Camp (which is where the multi-night hikers camp before ascending to the summit the next day). This place was like a Wind Tunnel. Although weather forecasts indicated it was going to be a bright and sunny day, there were fast chill gusts and winds blowing through this region. I had to put on my gloves and Balaclava by now. The next 2 mile stretch was agonizingly slow, by some counts, there are a total of 99 switchbacks from this point, to the summit.

By this time, couple of other hikers, many whom I had overtaken in my first 3 miles, were going past me. The trick to climbing up the trail at such altitude is to take small and slow steps, while maintaining a steady heart-beat. It was something I could never do. I have never been the one who climbs a flight of stairs patiently, I had to always run. This inability was crippling me. For every 20-30 feet I ascended rapidly, I had to catch my breath, it was worse at times that I had to sit on a rock to get enough oxygen, before ascending again. The annoying headache had to be contained through 2 doses of Ibuprofen. By this time VK had gained couple of hundred feet more than I had and he was beginning to disappear from my line of sight. It was day break by then and I could see the brilliant golden orange rays of the sun, bouncing off the rocky walls of the Sierras. It was beautiful and I clicked several shots.

After couple of more agonizing hours of dragging my feet along, I reached Trail Crest (elevation:13700 ft). I was delighted. For it was only 700 more feet to climb, over 2 miles (or so I thought!). Turns out that the trail descends about 400 feet from Trail Crest to the John Muir Trail Junction. 400 feet at this altitude, without proper acclimatization seemed like climbing a vertical mile! The last 1.9 mile stretch to the summit was the most strenuous of all. There was a blast of chilly wind between the "Needles" next to Mt Whitney, but the views from there were beautiful. By now I had learned the art of taking slow and small steps and getting into a rhythm. I took over 2 hours to cross this stretch and get to the summit. It was 11 am, sharp, when I reached the summit. It had taken me 8 long hours to summit. I saw VK there, who was shivering in cold. He didn't bring his jacket or gloves or a beanie! It seems he had reached the summit an hour before I did (around 10 am) and he was trying to get warm in the stone hut on top. I suggested he descend immediately before he froze and sent him off.

I had some other hikers shoot some pictures of me> I ate some trail nuts and an apple for lunch and began my descent at 11:40 am. While Sheldon Cooper's "Gravity Thou Art a Heartless Bitch" is right for the most part, there can be no better friend than Gravity during the descent! All you need is strong knees and a great sense of balance (part of which perhaps I inherited and part of which I nurtured as a kid), and you can literally run down the trail. Unlike many other trails, the Mt Whitney trail is built on solid rocks. It has a lot of big and small boulders all along the trail making it ideal for downhill-parkouring :-). I was galloping down the trail. I cleared the switchback section alone in 20 minutes and got to the trail camp in 1.5 hours, overtaking many of the other hikers who had summited much before I did. Towards the end of the trail camp, I overtook VK, who was filling up his Camelbak with water from a stream. In 3 hours, I had reached Lone Pine Lake. The lake was beautiful and it was hard to believe I had passed through somethings so beautiful without realizing it, earlier in the morning.

It was just another 2.8 miles to trail-head and I figured I could cover that in 30 minutes, but by then my stomach was showing signs of being upset (thanks to all the water I drank from the taps and streams) and I didn't want to inaugurate my poop-bag :-). So I slowed down to a brisk walk. I reached the trail-head at 3:40 pm, 12 hours and 40 minutes after we had started the hike. I examined my feet for any blisters, but thanks to the Vaseline that I had applied on them, and to the liner I had underneath my hiking socks, my feet were okay. I rested on the rocky walls next to the trail-head for an hour when finally VK came down at about 4:45 pm. We then got into the car and took a nap, hoping for V to show up by about 6:30 pm. But there was no sign of him. It was dark already and we were worried. We thought of inquiring at the Whitney Portal Store for some Park Ranger's number but the store had closed at 8. There was no signal on our cellphones again ! It was 8:30 pm already and we were wondering what should we do if he doesn't show up. We got to the trail-head and wanted to inquire with the other hikers who were descending, if they'd seen V. But there weren't any hikers descending at that time. V was perhaps the last man on the trail. Finally, at about 8:45 pm, we spotted a bright LED light somewhere up the trail. We were sure it was a hiker descending and were about to approach him to inquire about V. But thankfully, behind that hiker, was V, he had finally made it back, after 17.6 hours!

The original plan was to drive back to SF, but it was too late now and given the condition in which we were, we thought it might be a better idea to check-in into a motel somewhere near Lee Vinning for the night and drive back home in the morning. But when we got to Lee Vinning at 11 pm, we still saw the same old "No Vacancy" boards in the 4 motels (seriously, you guys are completely booked even on a Tuesday night ?!). As a last resort we decided to drive back to SF instead of looking around for other motels in nearby towns. V and I took turns to drive from time to time. We even stopped at the Yosemite entrance center and took an hours nap. I drove for the most part back home as I had managed to take a quick nap after my hike. V was in no shape to drive, he was pretty confused and I'd say even non-compos-mentis! After several agonizing hours of "Driving-under-the-influence-of-Redbull", we reached SF at 8:30 am. I had to take the day off from work, to catch some sleep.

* - The words uttered by Sir Edmund Hillary to his friend, after he summited Mt Everest.
I am not Edmund Hillary and Mt Whitney is not Mt Everest, but hey, it is 0.5 time Mt Everest :-D
(14,500 ft Mt Whitney, Vs 29000 ft, Mt Everest :-D ).

Sunday, May 02, 2010

Man Vs Wild, Adventure

I set out on a 23 mile hike with a 7000 ft elevation gain, with the s.o.c (mostly strangers) last morning. The plan was to start at Morgan Territory Regional Preserve, make our way into the Mt Diablo State Park, Ascend both the peaks of Mt Diablo and take a shuttle to get back to our parking lot in Morgan Park's staging area. In my last couple of 15+ miles hikes, I've always had trouble with my hiking shoes. My feet are the weakest link in my body, with these crappy shoes. Either my toes begin to hurt by constantly impinging on the front part of my shoe (while descending steep slopes), or the soles develop blisters (thanks to the crappy insoles). A great pair of hiking socks mitigates the problem to an extent, but in the end the crappy shoes always win.

We started around 10:30 am (quite a late start) and were averaging 2-2.5 miles/hour as we took frequent breaks to discuss about the geology, the plant and wildlife around us. After covering about 6 miles and ascending 2000 ft, we decided to take a lunch break. Around this time my plantar-facia began to develop some internal inflammation and was sending me a signal that I shouldn't put much weight on my right heel. I thought it should get better along the way and kept moving with the group. By the time we had descended 2000 ft and reached the foothill of Mt Diablo, my heel was in very bad shape. I could barely walk on my right foot. We had covered about 12 miles now and it was already 4 PM. I continued with the group for another 15 minutes by dragging myself behind them. During our next stop at a trail junction, I informed the hike leader Val (who btw, is a 68 yr old female, a former ultra marathoner, mountain biker, trail runner.... very impressive background) that my feet were giving way and I couldn't keep up with them. Val showed me some directions on her map and suggested I hike back for 3.5 miles and reach the Morgan Territory Rd, from where I should be able to hitchhike a ride to the parking lot where I had left my car. I didn't have a map of my own and the park was pretty deserted. Seemed like around that time of the evening, we were the only hikers in a 9 sq mile area.

I figured that this might be easier on my heels and chose to find my way back. Val gave me couple of Ibuprofen tablets and I gulped them down. Ibuprofen is a wonder-drug. Couple of months back when I had gone skiing with KD and SP to Tahoe, I had a bad fall that injured my left knee (LCL strain/tear). I was limping and in couple of hours the knee began to swell. Although I had initially refused to take Ibuprofen when SP insisted, I had to when the pain became unbearable. Thanks to Ibuprofen, I was able to climb up the stairs to my apartment and send-off KD and SP. This time was no different, Ibuprofen was my savior.

It was quite an adventure tracing my way back to the parking lot. Soon after I left the group, I hit Curry Canyon Rd, however, I went in the opposite direction (west) towards Curry Point. I walked for a mile and all the while I kept thinking the route looked unfamiliar. Then I found the sun to be right ahead of me and then what Ejaz said struck me ("keep traveling east"). Realizing I had made a stupid mistake, I retraced my steps and hiked for about 2.5 miles to get to the park boundary of Mt Diablo State Park. From there it was another 2-2.5 miles on Curry Canyon Rd to get to Morgan Territory Rd.

By now my right foot seemed to have gotten alright (thanks to the Ibuprofen dose!) and I didn't see why I should take a ride as I had no reason now to complain. It was around 6 PM and fortunately my iPhone had 3G coverage. I found out that I had about 6 miles to go along Morgan Territory Rd to reach the staging area. I kept walking and from time to time I jogged. A handful of motor vehicles passed by, probably around 5 in all but I chose not to hitchhike. I figured that I should be able to get to the staging area by 7:30 PM, but it turned out that my GPS wasn't accurate enough (frickin Google maps ><, this wasn't the first time!). It was 7:30 and I still couldn't see the staging area in sight. I decided I would hitchhike on any vehicle that passed by after 7:30 as I wasn't too sure how far away I was from the staging area, and it was getting dark. Unfortunately not even one vehicle passed by after 7 PM.

It was almost dark, the road was long, narrow and winding. There were flies and mosquitoes all over the place (I was walking on the road through a dense forest). At times the thought crossed my mind as to what would I do when it gets pitch dark and not one vehicle should pass by. I had about a 500 ml of water left, I had my rain jacket, perhaps I could find some spot beside the road to rest. I was thinking about Snakes, Coyotes and Giant Mosquitoes. How was I going to deal with them all without fire or a flashlight? But it wasn't time for that yet. My feet were now sore and I had developed multiple blisters, but I had to keep pushing myself.

I kept walking, jogging, walking and I was totally frustrated. Then I saw the board "Morgan Territory Regional Preserve" and I was so relieved! It was 8:10 PM when I got into my car, by then there were only 2 other cars left in the parking lot. In the end it was 12 (when I left the group) + 4.5 (via Curry Canyon Rd to Morgan Territory Rd, including my screw-ups) + 7.2 (from Curry Canyon Rd and Morgan Territory Rd junction to the Staging Area) = 23.7 miles hike for me. I would have gained 3000 ft + in elevation. I drove for an hour and reached home around 9:30 PM and crashed in my bed

It was a nice experience. Unfortunately my shoes and feet weren't on my side today. The last time I was in a similar situation was 6 years back, when I had gone to meet my senior in IIM-B. I was stranded in Bannerghetta Rd, in pitch dark at 10:30 PM at night. My herniated disc on the lumbar spine made it nearly impossible to walk for more than 100m without taking a break. But hey, I lived to tell the tale :-p!

Sunday, January 03, 2010

>> The Redwoods <<

What a way to begin the New Year! I drove to the Redwood National and State Parks in northern California. What a trip it was ! The Avenue of the Giants in Humboldt Redwood State park, Jedediah Redwood State Park and Del Norte Redwood State Park in Crescent City followed by the Lady Bird Johnson Redwood State Park and Prairie Creek Redwood State park.

Pictures won't do justice. Here are some pictures nevertheless.



Neither can words do justice, but this one gets close to ....

"The Redwoods"

Here, sown by the Creator's hand,
In serried ranks, the Redwoods stand;
No other clime is honored so,
No other lands their glory know.

The greatest of Earth's living forms,
Tall conquerors that laugh at storms;
Their challenge still unanswered rings,
Through fifty centuries of kings.

The nations that with them were young,
Rich empires, with their forts far-flung,
Lie buried now - their splendor gone;
But these proud monarchs still live on.

So shall they live, when ends our day,
When our crude citadels decay;
For brief the years allotted man,
But infinite perennials' span.

This is their temple, vaulted high,
And here we pause with reverent eye,
With silent tongue and awe-struck soul;
For here we sense life's proper goal;

To be like these, straight, true and fine,
To make our world, like theirs, a shrine;
Sink down, oh traveler, on your knees,
God stands before you in these trees.”

(By Joseph B. Strauss, Chief Engineer of the Golden Gate Bridge)

Saturday, December 02, 2006

A Cycle down the memory lane

It been over 12 years since I left KV MEG (1994 VI Std)
I decided to to go back and have a look at the place where I had spent most of my childhood...a good 8 years. I chose to go on my bike (cycle).

KV MEG is no longer the place it used to be.
Somehow the whole area appears to have 'shrunk' in size, perhaps because i have doubled in size and weight. It is a lot less greener than it used to be.

If i remember correctly back then KV MEG was recognized as the KV with highest number of trees in Bangalore. It's all gone now.

The HUGE COMPOUND walls, over which as a Kid I used to run on are now shorter and have a metal fence! Kids can no longer have an escapade up on these walls.

The banyan trees in the ground appear to have been chopped down! I could not locate them. There is no sign of the jackfruit tree on the park either.

The area on either sides of the entrance to the staff quarters now has a stupid car park. I remember in those days, once in a while there used to NCC camps organised in KV MEG, and the junta used to make rope-bridges from the huge tree in front of the staff quarters to a tripod on the opposite side made of casurina. When the camp was over, this bridge was 'OUR PROPERTY' for atleast 2 days! We all used to become mowglies and Tarzans then. But now sadly there is a stupid car park out there.

I tried going around the school campus only to find buildings all over!!!
There appears to be no free land left! To the left of the assembly hall (when you face it) and behind the principal's room there used to be a large area of marshland, it was submerged mostly during the rainy season and had elephant grass much taller than me during the summers. There were 3 huge mango trees out there, where we kids from the staff quarters used to experiment our skills in hurtling projectiles to bring down mangoes.

This was also the place where most of the kites used to get entangled in the trees around it. We were warned by our teachers back then, that this place was infested with a variety of snakes and we should keep off!

Sadly, there is now a concrete jungle in its place, I could not recognise what those buildings were, but they appeared to be an extension of the staff quarters.

The entrance to KV MEG from NAGA Theatre has been sealed, it is no longer open for even cyclists!!
NAGA THEATRE is no more, I mean the building is still out there, but it is goinna be brought down sooner, I read in the papers recently that a shopping mall was goinna come up in its place.

I tried to take a look at our beautiful school stadium, it still appears to be in its pristine state, but from the distance I could see that the ASH TRACK IS GONE!!!! Godamn fellas have layed a TAR ROAD around the track I believe, thats what it appeared to me.

SONA RUPA (if anyone remembers this name), is GONE! This was the kiosk from where we used to buy our rubber balls and bubble gums!

Atleast ulsoor lake looks cleaner (although there isn't as much water as there used to be back then) thanks to the cleaning and renovation efforts by Bangalore Mahanagarapalika! Lake junction, the super market right on the end of the road that hits ulsoors lake from our school is still out there but is now called Lake Side Super Market.

The place where I spent around 8 months of my kindergarten 'Merry Land' (next to the Lake Side Hospital) is now a HIGH SCHOOL!!Back then there were hardly 3-4 classes of kindergarten out there, now the same area of land is a school for a whole 10 grades!!

There is dirt all over.Pollution appears to have increased exponentially! There is a very prominent layer of gray dirt on all buildings and trees.

I saw two kids come out into the balcony of the staff quarters which was once my home.It was covered in the shade of a gargantuan tree back then, but now that tree has been felled! Seeing those kids brought back vivid memories of my childhood escapades with other kids in the staff quarters, our attempts to build tree houses, to create our own gardens or make 'Cork Ball' out of the fruit of the gargantuan trees whose leaves used to fold up after twilight. As I watched them, I could only feel sorry for the kids of today out there who can perhaps never have the same time we had back then.I left the place with a heavy heart.

Within minutes I was on my way to MG Road on my bike.I took a turn and entered the lane directly opposite to Lavanya theatre hoping to see if there was even any ruins of the shops I had known on that lane, when I was a kid. I tried looking for the barber shop where Dad, Bro and I used to visit on a sunday of every second month. It was a routine, I was always the one to have my hair cut first, followed by my brother, and then dad. Knowing my impatience to wait, dad would instruct my brother to take me home after his turn was done. On the way back we used to unfailingly buy a "Double YUM" - a popular bubble gum and chew it for hours the whole day.

There was no sign of that barber shop. I tried looking for the taylor shop where my dad used to regularly have his clothes stitched - 'Petkar Sons', there was no signs of that either!

But I was happy to find the garage which appeared to have not changed at all in these many years. ...I remember I had once found a big magnet in front of the garage, and ever since then I used to watch out for black metal objects whenever I used to pass by the Garage.

Lavanya theatre appears to have been renovated and it is still making good profit i believe.
It was screening Dhoom-2, people were waiting to watch the 6:15 PM show, I also thought for a second if I should park my bike and get a ticket, but then decided to go on, I hadn't come this far to watch a silly movie.

I cycled towards the 'exhibition grounds', but that place appears to have been converted into a cricket-coaching field. There was no signs of the GIANT WHEELS and the 'TORA TORA' on which I was crazy about riding on. There used to be a decrepit old theatre called 'Shree' which was almost abandoned even back then. In that place there now stands a huge shopping complex, the name 'Shree' however has not been wiped out.

Few metres from there, I saw 'Manjushree Hospitals', it used to be a nursing home back then, where my mom was admitted for a day after she had met with a serious accident. The Post office in front of the hospital reminded me of that unknown postman who had lifted my mom who was lying in a pool of blood, knocked unconcious by the collision of her head with the metre of the auto in which she and her neighbour were travelling, and had admitted her in the hospital. The auto had collided with an electric post to avoid a head on collision with a friggin lorry.

Few seconds later I hit the perpendicular road to MG Road. I tried searching for 'Raja Cycle Works', the cycle shop from where I had bought my first bike 'Hero Ranger - Junior'. There was no signs of any such shop having existed there. Within minutes I was on MG Road, never before had i ridden my bike on this road. It was a smooth ride, I went upto Symphony theatre to check out if they had changed the screening of 'Casino Royale', they hadn't, so I turned my bike back and rode towards home.

After a good 10 minutes in the horrible traffic I stopped by HP Labs to have my favourite MASALA POORI. It took me only a quarter of an hour to get back to my office from there.

It was an enjoyable 2 hour, 20 Km long cycling trip down the memory lane.
I am thinking of making many more such trips within bangalore on my bike in the coming weeks.

Juggernaut will be back.