Sunday, November 27, 2016

Backup..

Everyone has a long backup of things planned but get postponed for some or the other reasons. Where to start as the pile gets bigger and bigger and things get further pushed back looking at the backlog. Owing to this tendency writing down some experiences went back of my list. Some writings here some there and countless pages with things done. A world of small big adventures. Everyone has them, these adventures many be tiny for some or too big for others, but they are your own small yet big adventures.

Years have passed and time has flown, many things done and achieved.
(26 half marathons, 4 full marathons, 5k's , 10k's)
Lets start with current.. finished 4th full marathon Nov.2016. The journey which started in 2011 winter with first ever half marathon in Seattle winter. 

Not sure if I could say I would have run half marathons or full marathons growing up. Running or walking these distances was never even on minds. Bombay, full of life, busy routines, school,college, trains, hobby classes, studies there was no time as such devoted for sports. The only thing would be being part of school sports team as it was part of curriculum but did good there, playing on grounds after school hours, during some vacations going on some forts. That's it.  

Long story but its just that one moment when U tell yourself and bingo!! it happens, guess that's how it has been. Everyone has their own trait for this. 

There was local group practicing for the event and they had already started. With the first timers hesitation just went along and could do some runs. Initially it was all body for initial 8 miles but never had any kind of pain just heaviness in legs which is pretty normal after these kind of things. But for later distances (post 8 miles) its more of mind over body. I think peoples minds give up earlier than their physical ability. The body constantly tells mind why should I do it, what is the point, I am paying for my torture, instead of having fun I am running in filthy weather it goes through all kinds of turmoils to bring you down and deter you from doing it.  

Well finished first ever half marathon in winter cold, freezing temps and not sure if have looked back since then, so far have done 26 half marathons. Almost 9 one year and 7 another. The distance of full marathon was far apart, its running two half marathons back to back. It happened !!! 2014 winter first full marathon. Following that trail full marathon and couple road full marathons. And yes somehow unplanned, unknowingly I became a runner!!

At the same time happy to see people drawing inspiration, getting help for their events ,getting motivated to walk at least and glad to be part of it all and help them. Three cheers to them!!! 



Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Japan

Girl with Umbrella :
(Not that it rained all the time but just couple days and liked the phrase, hence the name)
Japan, the first impression of the city was engraved in the memory since childhood after watching TV serial “Oshin”. That cute little girl and the family struggle, villages, people, dressing styles, their houses, hardships, ancient culture everything very different. 

Journey was not bad, direct flight and then took bus from Narita airport to the Hotel in Tokyo. This time didn't take language book although I was travelling alone. One buys the bus ticket inside the airport. The bus boarding was way to systematic and seats were pre-assigned. I was fortunate to get a seat next to local Japanese girl. This was first encounter with someone from Japan. Her name: - Kiko – meaning got from her as ‘joyful girl’ and seriously she was. Upon meeting we just hit it together in no time. She was working as a translator, lived in small apartment in Tokyo, weekend pass time was to visit parks with kids and husband had long work hours. Even met her friend from Thailand. On the way in one and half hour journey she pointed out many famous places, parks and areas. The Country is preparing for the 2020 Olympics and encouraging English speaking for people and constructions for the Olympics. Got a chance to learn some basic Japanese from her.
 
Had really nice time with her and shared some Indian knowledge and USA information. She had been to USA and watched Hindi movies too on regular basis. She told me to taste local fruits as it was season for Pears and Grapes. Besides told me to visit temples what time of the day and see what all spots. When asked about Oshin serial she mentioned there came movie in 2013 about the same TV serial and it was popular TV serial there too. Well, time just flew by and I reached the hotel. It was supposed to drizzle for next day or two. Tomorrow starts the day for exploring Tokyo alone. 

Next morning after breakfast, checked out for map at the information booth, since it was drizzling borrowed an umbrella from the reception and went out to explore the place. The tourist map had all the famous places marked hence decided to follow them. Tokyo, just like Bombay overly crowded and still felt much safe place, the place where U can roam alone pretty late in the night also. Walking through small alleys one can find some Japanese style restaurants, very small cozy, with just bar style table and people eating sushi, ramen noodles. The city has many vending machines, just put coins and get what u want. Seemed like people just don’t want to depend on anyone for anything. After these small alleys decided to explore the tourist spots on map.  Me with my umbrella, small cup of coffee and walking through the streets.

If you have ever noticed, most rather all Japanese men wear suits, they all look the same. While boarding train or anywhere U will see 'I robot' movie style gang of people walking in and out. It’s really a thing to watch entering bullet train, crossing busy streets. If u have travelled in bombay  the trains in Japan are sometimes equally crowded but really clean. Cleanliness was the foremost priority and one could notice that with the set of facilities provided everywhere.

Shibuya station and crossing:
Shibuya, very hustle bustle place. Popular for its famous Shibuya crossing, Hachiko monument( the loyal dog , very touching story), all brand stores especially popular with youngsters, tall buildings, bill boards, video displays, too much crowd and all this just outside Shibuya station. Seems like this place never sleeps. There are special enclosures for smokers everywhere. Many healthy fruit smoothie options, fruits and vegetables are pretty expensive ( they do taste good ), till this time had never heard a melon is for 200$ and it can be given as a corporate gift in fancy wrap, same with grapes. Halloween seemed to be celebrated more here mostly for partying and wearing those special costumes. There are lots of guitar stores and to my surprise karaoke places (tall buildings with many private rooms for singing)
Japanese people greet each other with bending, there are 3 levels: one for just general people, other for higher authorities and one for god. The more superior the level more bending. It turned out to be quite a day walking around, talking to people and getting some general knowledge.Next day happened to explore some far out places near Tokyo Meiji Jingu Shrine, Sensoji Temple, Palace/ gardens, well didn't have time to sit and watch but did manage to get a glimpse of Japanese puppet show Bunraku ( really nice thing to watch).

Kyoto day exploring:-
Kyoto is the ancient capital of Japan in Edo era, with lots of temples, gardens, remaining of the old city. Remarkable was the Sanjusanjen-do ( hall of the lotus king )temple which is a Buddhist temple that hosts 1000 statues with one big statue in the middle, photography inside is prohibited.These are wooden statues covered in gold leaf with some 124 original saved from the fire and remaining re- constructed in 13th century.
Kiyomizudera: It is UNESCO world heritage temple. The famous wooden gallery and premises are just beautiful. People can rent kimono's and dress up in old style and roam around just like ancient times.
There are many Shrines, mostly shrines are dedicated after nature elements 'Heian shrine', it has large premises and ranks top among Shinto shrines.Traditional Japanese wedding ceremonies are held here

For me it was too sudden a trip to Japan with some days to spend alone in the country (it was nice), usually I am against joining on these kind of trips if they are meant for work reasons and from my POV they are not fair for anyone. Further extended trip wasn't normal (if then or else kind), well in 2015 October it was way weirder. To sum it up extension wasn't right :) .

It was kind of late season to climb Mt. Fuji and not much time to do other things, it mostly turned out to be just exploring trip, did do some small things here and there. Even later didn't get chance to climb Sinhgadh or anything, even my other half seemed least interested in doing these kind of things (this year nothing much compared to the last year, not sure why), maybe sometime later. 



Sunday, October 2, 2016

Scaling different heights

There are different kinds of elevations / heights to conquer. Some people can find climbing mountains easier that doing stair climbs in enclosed buildings or walking on tree tops hard or some may find every possible thing associated with elevation equally difficult or easy.
 
Growing up in Bombay, our home was on 4th floor and no lift, so there was no option other than climbing stairs. First reaction after learning about this kind of event was why it is a competitive type event ? Later to discover, for many people its a kind of sport over time to try and beat their earlier record or someone else's record and they really scale these in 4 /5 minutes its amazing. Not a bad thing just for fun and most of the times these events are meant for fundraising for something. 

In USA those walkways are most of the time emergency exits and meant for something special hence they are open only during those cases or for some organized event of stair climbing

Those tall buildings with 60 / 70  floors or more, some thousand plus stairs and everyone lines up to tackle the challenge to climb them. Not easy for those with fear of heights, actually going inside enclosed buildings u can never see anything outside but still people who come with intention to conquer their fears freeze. Have seen that happening many times at many places. Its nice thing to raise funds for good cause if one likes doing it.

After climbing / scaling these kind of enclosed stair climbing events did recently Space needle climb ( later on did some other tower climbs too), its open, means one can see the views around as u climb high up, feel the wind, rain all weather conditions and also the elevators passing by you. Nice experience and happy could scale in not so bad time also a fundraising event for good cause.

Another higher climbing thing is  Canopy walks, they come under adventure sport category, where you just walk on tree tops on rope bridges swinging around. On same lines zip lines, just crossing from one tree to another hanging on some rope crossing over rivers, valleys and what not. Fun things to explore.


Friday, September 16, 2016

60 Miles walk for Susan G. Komen

3 Day 60 miles walk Susan G. Komen for Breast Cancer :- 
Sept. 16-18 / 2016 Seattle


Since long time after seeing the Pink tents lined up in the Marymoor Park wanted to at least know what is it all about, Susan G. Komen 3 day 60 miles walk for Breast Cancer. Finally 2016 Sept- 16/17/18 turned out to be the year where it would happen in Seattle. Apart from challenging myself for the 60 miles being a first time walker wanted to understand and get an understanding.

Cancer is cancer, let it be lung, stomach, throat, breast or any other type there is level of suffering felt by every individual going through it. The one who is directly affected by it. Then there are those immediate surrounding people spouses etc and then those who want to help and support because they believe in finding some solution for it. Everyone has their own reason why they are raising money and doing the walk.

Met many people on the way during the walk some survivors for many years. The very first time everyone who came to know about it was the day I guess everyone would say why me?? some already knew due strong family history that they were susceptible for it and were little more mentally prepared. But still. They went through the treatment, the agony, everything and are still, but they have learned to take care of themselves more, more aware of what products they use, lesser use of chemicals more organic, stay more fit and dedicated to help find cure. It's most important to inspect yourself  and pay attention to slightest doubts you have which found to be the key in early detection and treatment. Fitness is not a craze and in order to be able to do things on your own at any age it's as important as breathing fresh air.

Mostly its a family on broader scale creating support network. No where one would see the disappointment or cribbing, people were full of enthusiasm and motivated. One big family having these big get-togethers. Many of them have been doing these walks over many years and by no means they are simple. It's definitely a testament of your physical ability. But they keep doing it. There are others who keep learning from their experiences.  The close knit circle.

It was a great experience worth cherishing. If you want to support something just do it. Right from raising funds to meeting people, joining them on some walks, getting to know various peoples viewpoints, becoming part of group and knowing some peoples stories, walking with them, challenging myself to do this, all was an amazing experience. Never had even thought 60 miles were possible. But yes, could do it and non-arrogantly happy and proud about it. I am glad I could be part of this and create memories for lifetime!!




Saturday, May 28, 2016

Inca Trek - Part 1


The Inca Trek (Peru: South America)
May 26 - June  2016
5 days, 14000 ft on Ancient trail


Machu Picchu was always a mystery. Growing up had seen pictures, some discovery channel / national geographic films. That's about it. People, the ancient culture, style of living all so different than one has ever experienced. The most amusing part while watching the shows were how can a human perform and build and stay at these elevations. The Classic Inca Trek supposedly done by royalty and now a days by enthusiasts who want to walk in the same footsteps is now a compulsory guided walk with limited permits.

Well the thought of doing it was lingering in minds since long but the habit of always planning things at the last minute and this being permit only trek, missed the opportunity couple times. Hence this time not too long ago but still for our records booked earlier to ensure we have the permits. May and June being popular months with less rain in Andes the crowds are more. Given we live at sea level decided to land in Lima and then to Cuzco which is at 11000ft elevation. Just a day of acclimatization.

Got an opportunity to look around Cuzco the basilica, square, the view from the balcony hotel where we just had snack was great. We could see traditionally dressed ladies roaming around taking pictures with their pet Guanaco and themselves with tourists, no of dogs running around, some people feeling the elevation and taking it slow and taking  a break. From the balcony one could even see the huge statue on the mountain some tree lines and a park up there those were the Sacsayhuaman ruins later to discover, I think that was the highest point in the town from where U get the view of the entire city.The road where one can see Puma on the original Incan wall (a small section of the original wall still remaining) is amazing, an alley with lots of gift shops and enthusiastic vendors. One shop owner lady was so delighted to see people from India that she handed free gifts and started telling how our both cultures are so ancient and showed us the wall with puma and snake on it.  Interesting part was some sports competitions (Tiquando etc later to discover) among Bolivian, Peru, Chile kids were going on in Basilica grounds and had very hilarious symbolic combinations conversation with the Police officers to understand what was going on but at the end we both understood each other. 

On this journey got a chance to visit couple villages, see weaving techniques and how do they use natural dye to color wool of Alpaca, Guanaco, Llama's. The typical dressing style at various places was interesting.  The area felt as if you are really in some ancient times. Roads / alleys were pretty clean. Little rain thunderstorm showed how it would be in real downpour. It was fun having coffee and some local sweet with group members in one of Cuzco coffee shops in the evening.  Hers was first ever trek so she was trying to get some confidence (She did good at the end, it was fun leading and marching entire ladies battalion up the mountain, Just a fun thing, yes our guide was amazing but he had to stay back with much needy individuals.)

 

The Pisac ruins almost at 10,000 ft show the high performance human ability to build crazy things in thin air. The terraces grow different kind of potato on each one as the climate of each terrace is different, the entire sacred valley area, how high it is and the amount of construction and productivity during those times is worth a visit. Here U will discover the famous Peruvian Corn, they just boil it in water but the kernels are so huge and different tasting. There is always lineup of vendors at the entrance with water, some fresh squeeze juices and what not.  There are numerous varieties of potatoes and corns which grow in Peru.

Ollantaytambo at 9500 ft is yet another one of the sacred valley part:  the fort, the storages built in mountains, the village, one gets awestruck to see how from far away mine they must have hauled huge slabs of granite to build sun temple . The square in the town is the hustle bustle area with river flowing in the town. From here one goes to the trek that starts from the gates at km82. Here is where u load up your backpacks, and start walking with the guides for the most amazing trek. Fun begins!!


Friday, May 27, 2016

Inca Trek - Part 2


The classic Inca trek. Walking in the footsteps of royalty. After spending first couple of days getting used to various elevations, visiting Cuzco, Pisac, Ollantaytambo visiting some other places and ruins walking, climbing around finally we arrive at Km 82 to start the much awaited trek.

Many groups were in line waiting at the gate.  

Basic guideline:
 
Day 1: Starting at gated KM 82 one has to show passports and required documents before embarking on the trek with your guides and porters. On day one final camp is at 3100 meter elevation, one has to carry soles for toilets, later on there are different kinds of toilets.
Day 2: This is the day to cross Dead women pass at 4200 meter elevation. On the way Luluchapama has last store where one can buy some snacks, water if needed (extra from what your guide company provided and you were carrying). After the pass one has to traverse no. of steps downhill and finally one sleeps at 3500 meter elevation in Paqaymayu camp.
Day3: This is the day you cross second pass at 3900 meter elevation, longest day. Walk down to sleep at Winaywayna camp.
Day4: Most awaited moment. The gated check point opens at 5.30am to start walking on the final leg of the trail, might call it as trail exit point where the documents get checked. People lineup since very early in order to make it to the sungate to witness sunrise. After witnessing it and taking in surroundings finally at  2430 meters one reaches Machu Picchu and gets chance to explore this amazing place. 
Day5: One can stay an extra day to explore wayna picchu and finally take train or mode of transport pre-decided to take you back to Cuzco at 3399 meters elevation.

There are plenty of ruins and amazing places to explore on the way and each one leaves you awestruck. 

Reading too much into other peoples experiences one kind of looses the charm of the place. Just know the basics before going so you are prepared for weather, clothing, shoes, food etc. and create your own experience on well-travelled path.

Meeting new people and taking them up the mountain could be called as the highlight of this trek. There was group of individuals most of them girls doing it for the first time, it was really nice to lead them up the mountain when our guides were busy attending much needy individuals. We had best time.

Teaching Yoga to loosen up was worth cherishing. Under the starry skies having dinner watching couple shooting stars, trying to photograph starry sky. Sharing personal experiences, getting to know how everyone decided to do it.  Teaching something as well learning something.

Apart from set group of people and some other groups following, there is very less crowd on the trek (one would know what I mean when you reach Machu Picchu), giving you ample time with yourself and scenery. The Llamas, some birds, valleys, Andien mountains, flowers, people but to my surprise somehow not that much wildlife on the trail or surroundings. Its amazing to watch local people walking up to these elevations to host food stalls.  For most part its their daily routine preparing them for elevation.  Cocoa leave chewing was one major part of some peoples diet to avoid altitude sickness. Tried the tea but not my cup of tea, didn't like the taste.

We really had great time and enjoyed this experience very much. The photo journey to this trek can be found here :-  Inca trek photo journey




Wednesday, May 25, 2016

In the Amazon Jungle

AmaruMayu (Mother of Gods River)


As we were visiting Peru for Inca trek and traveling that far out, decided to spend couple days in the Peruvian amazon basin. AmaruMayu in Quechua language ( snake river ) now mother of gods river. It further changes its names as travels from Peru through Bolivia and finally into Amazon river. Wild river with abundance of water and wildlife, the Tambopata National Preserve. Given it was not rainy season still it had plenty water and force. Even though its a subsidiary the river basin was huge with muddy waters. It was bustling with wildlife: crocodiles, egrets, parrots lots other varieties of birds, monkeys, mammals.

Exploring Lake Sandoval:

Doing the boat ride in Lake Sandoval "Indiana Jones style journey" ( I mean that was  the name I gave it to this ride). The boat takes you on AmaruMayu river to the Lake Sandoval entrance trail location. From here it is almost a mile walk in the jungle to reach actual lake. Muddy road otherwise must be really having knee deep water in real rainy season. Lots wildlife around: snakes, monkeys, macaw's, fire ants, termite nests. Watch your steps, watch your footing, look around on trees before you pass them or touch them. I think one has to be vigilant from all possible aspects. This is where you realize how the actual walking experience is vs. seeing it on television someone else do it. Don't get me wrong, its a nice experience.

It is a jungle with lots of huge fig variety trees, attracting monkeys and fruit flies, mosquitoes and many others. After almost a mile walk there is the entrance gate for formalities and then one heads to the boat launch. These are shallow boats almost to the level of water. Don't put your hand or anything in water as there are lots of crocodiles in water, sometimes one can only see an eye popping out next to you. The initial ride is from narrow canals surrounded by tall trees and marsh land. Sometimes one can see sloths, howler monkeys making their march above you on the trees and all of a sudden a great opening into the lake. The lake is surrounded all around by trees. One keeps hearing lots of sounds, birds, monkeys, monkeys hunting, lake has family of otters, crocodiles, variety birds. The bees here are huge, once your boat is in water they keep coming at you and keep circling around, the only thing for any bee is just sit still, one can really feel the humming sound and flutter of their wings.The line of small bats sleeping on trees, turtles getting their eyes cleaned by butterflies, nesting macaw's, family of otters busy doing fishing, all nice to look at.

There are different variety trail or hiking experiences. This is a Jungle walk and Indiana Jones boat ride.

Night walk in amazon jungle:

This has to be guided walk as day signs strictly say stay out and proceed only with guides. Long boots, lots of mosquito repellent ( it doesn't work because even if a small hole size section of your body is not covered in repellent somehow the mosquitoes come to know of it.)  

With torch lights in hand we left. Be vigilant with torch off, get used to the night light (with tall trees surrounding you there is no moon or starry sky to look at). The moment guide sees something or hears something the flash is on it. How active the jungle is at night ( seen that, done that , experienced that but its different everywhere and every time). 

Tarantula's, wolf spiders and all other kind of spiders hanging in front of you, on sides, on leaves,on grounds everywhere. As one walks on the dried leaves you hear crushing sound and sudden movement as something tries to run away from under your feet. Small snakes hunting small frogs and things on grounds, the moment they hear u coming they try to run for the hole. Birds sleeping on trees but they don't even get bothered by flash lights and just stick to the place as if they are not afraid or too sleepy or used to this experience one can not tell for sure. Creepy but nice. The glow in the eyes of animals at night is really different, they shine which you do not notice in daylight.

The not so different story on river banks. Number of stars one can see and sound of crickets. Suddenly crocodile senses your presence and enters water, Capybara hanging out with family by the river side. Just the heavily flowing river water one can sense it, occasional boat, wild sounds or otherwise pin drop silence and darkness.

The Night of  exploring...








Monday, April 18, 2016

Some leg work

20 plus miles leg work, well for first it was remote possibility even thinking about it let alone doing it. There are many, will add eventually but for now some memorable experiences:

Most of the times these being last minute decisions, finding places to live or taking break journey are kind of impossible. I might say do these at your own risk, so far these kind of strenuous things have worked for us (no pains or anything others might experience) as in going, doing it and coming back to routine the next day. Nice experiences.

Grand Canyon: 18, April 2016

Rim to River to Rim
Started around 7.15 in the morning and finished about 3.30 in the afternoon.
Started from South Kaibab Trailhead (7200ft) at south rim went all the way down to the river to Phantom ranch and came back via Bright Angel Trailhead (6840ft). Sudden cold spell of weather with huge wind gusts, hail storm and sunny would be the weather highlights. It is such a nice feeling when unplanned you meet someone on the trail with whom you have done hikes previously. We were really laughing out loud.
This is amazing walk with lots steps, wind, one can trace the path through this photo journey.

  
Havasupai: 16, June 2015

Part of Grand Canyon where local Indian village settlement is and protected, sacred places. Starting at the rim 10 miles walk down the valley to the village, there are campsites and back up.
Place has number of dogs and sometimes one has to be watchful. The waterfalls are amazing places to explore. Walk through the cave in Mooney falls is fun.With majority being girls we had fun. Hike to remember under the starry sky.
Glimpses:

Enchantments:  18, August 2014 

One needs permits for staying overnight otherwise its a 20+ miles day hike. It was all so sudden,couple friends were doing it and we could join. Since we were starting early reached the previous night. Next day morning with headlamps on marched from Colchuck lake to famous Asgard
pass. Rocky, graveled walk by the side of waterfall and finally to the top. Peaks and surroundings are amazing top up, but with not much time in hands started return journey. Many lakes to pass by, boulders, narrow walkways, downhills almost 7000 feet to end with never ending zigzag path. All worth it !! we did it. Started at 5.30am and finished by 7pm.