Posts Tagged ‘Adventure’

The Seven Essentials To Hitchhiking

The love for the great outdoors drives the sense of adventure to perpetually unfathomable heights. One can gaze as far as the eye can behold, and yet gape at the astounding infinity that lies even further.  And somewhere within this wilderness, lies the path – the path that nudges you ever onward: to places unknown, to places mysterious, to places frenetic.

But, this sense of adventure can very soon come full circle. Have you ever found yourself stranded in this very open wilderness somewhere along this serpentine or sometimes very linear path. A trajectory that shoots you off into the very infinities of well, nothing. Hopelessness, desperation- you name it , it comes down as a very mighty blow knocking the winds out off your sails. But hey, God was never that bad. He did find out a miracle drug of sorts. A drug  that even science failed to ponder upon. All lonely travellers, do pay very careful attention as I introduce before you something very brilliant!

What could this be? Pfizer, Novartis and Ranbaxy may be eavesdropping here. But, like I said, this is no ordinary drug. Its the greatest gift God could have sent to stranded travellers around the world. And behold, i present before you the art of Hitchhiking.

Going to college these days is a very tedious task. Nothing short of a trek to some venerated temple high up in the mountains. A burden passing through a highway, civilization and places devoid of it. But there is always that wonderful soul, always eager to share his empty pillion seat. That welcoming smile across that beaming face works wonders, some Miracle Drug that even U2 could never conjure up!!

So, the question stills lingers, how does one hitch a ride. Well here are seven handy essentials if ever you needed one.

1) The Thumbs Up: If Akshay Kumar can , so can you. Get that thumb up high with your fist closed. The thumb must always point towards the direction of our

destination. I know I really sounds stupid, but, if you cant get this right, you’re doomed for the great walk.

2) The Roadie Quotient: Act all ragged, lost and forlorn. If required, tear off some shreds from your clothing( Sufficient not to reveal unnecessary details).   A rucksack on your back wound immensely assist.Baggy clothes, T-shirts(those from the hippie-era) encourage the ‘roadie’ appeal.

3) The Location: The traveller must understand that he’s never going to get any lifts, if he’s  eagerly waiting for one at the Interstate bus terminus or the curb near Mc’Donalds. The location must be desolate, desolate enough for even God to get the anxiety bites. Serene, yet remote; a car passing by every second hour, devoid of telephonic interferences- that’s how remote it should be.

4) The Predator And The Prey : “Tiger tiger burning bright, Into the forests of the night…”, a poem that I recall from school days defines how the blood thirsty and savage the traveller must become. No, I desist from asking you to transform into some carnivore, but the attitude must be so. Any vehicle is good enough. A ride is a ride none theless. But if one were to opt for the glamour quotient, one would nonetheless stop expensive bikes and SUV’s, giving the mopeds, tractors and other means of transport a miss.

5) Assets And Liabilities: No I’m not referring to tax returns here. You need the right gear to get this art straight. Caps, goggles, a rucksack, good shoes and some money(if the time arrived when you actually had to spend on public transport rather than get a free ride).

6) Nourishment: To add to point 5, one really needs to store essential things in his rucksack for survival. Make sure you’ve got lots of nourishment.It may be hours before you really get a ride.The sweat may flow through those furrowed creases across your forehead. The stomach may start grumbling. Your inner senses may get the better of you. Get some food before its too late.

7) Patience: I thought just one word would be sufficient to summarize this vital ingredient to hitch-hiking.

S0 budding hitchhikers across the world- if ever you doth set foot on that metalled road, make sure you have these essentials in the back of your mind. Because, without them and I do guarantee, you’ll be nowhere and will be singing “Country road, take me home…” all through the night.


Towards Uttarkashi

What is that impetus that drives man towards the conquest for Mokhsha or Nirvana? What is that insatiable feeling that urges him along that solitary road, that path which gradually narrows up to a trickle as he nears his destination? Infatuation or Disenchantment – its left for the reader to brood upon.

A very scattered plan set up the tempo for this pundit’s next travelling foray. The destination this time- Uttarkashi. An unlikely location for the ubiquitous Indian “tourist”- all too accustomed with the grandeur and splendours of mahals, waterfalls, minars, forts , crowded beaches, hill-stations and the like. The plan was scattered and patched up the night before, with the route still remaining undecided.

Cometh the hour and cometh the man. We made very early headway at seven in the morning, avoiding the traffic and being witness to some majestic scenery. The sunlight was slowly permeating its way through the alpine forests and the heavy mist that lay within – creating spectacular rays of light past the highway. The Mussourie road was climbing ever faster, the serpentine road slowly ascending ambitious heights- towards zentiths where very few had ever been!!

We stopped at Maggi Point for breakfast en-route, the name of the location being synonymous with the merchandise sold. Sitting on an armchair, having a bowl of hot steaming maggi in the cold morning and gazing down at the Dehradun valley was nothing short of a brilliant start!!

The hysteria reached greater levels as the ascent gathered steam towards its very climax. The air grew chillier- the sun shone brighter. The “Stunner” was now screeching, begging for repose. A few moments later found us 2000 metres above sea-level at the Queen of the hills – Mussourie. We decided upon taking a not oft taken route to Uttarkashi. A local had advised us against the route citing its remoteness. But, who cared. We had the whole day before us. A small road winded past the western end of the picturesque town past a few hotels. We went past some horse-riders who apparently were from the defence. We flew past their disgruntled neighs and meandered down the road mostly past whistling pines. An hour later we found ourselves near Kempty falls.

Further on, the asphalt trickled down to meagre rocky mix. Heavy trucks laden with who knew what went past us sending shockwaves down our spines. Aditya had a hard time, we being nearly hit a couple of times. A tributary of the Yamuna accompanied us along our left within the deep chasm as we approached Nainbagh.

Our initial plan was following NH-123 towards Barkot and beyond. Our steely resolve, however, went for a toss. We were convincingly won over by this gentleman who advised us to follow a road was a good 40 kms shorter. The economics behind his idea won us over: his wit and guile simply “mindblasting”, as Russel Peters, the stand-upcomedian would remark.

So saying adieu to the quaint town of Nainbagh, we headed beyond past vales, trees, boys on horses, boys with dogs, small children with who knew what!! The shortcut made numerous ascents and descents. The gravel was not a big hit with our back though. Civilization was getting thinner with every passing second.  Even the all too familiar telephone towers were missing. An hour later we collided back with NH-123 after having supposedly “missed” 40 kms and the town of  Barkot.

The next ascent brought us to the top of yet another Shivalik hill and the next forestry division and the district of Uttarkshi. The roads were definitey of those of the pre-independence era. The asphalt was missing in all the wrong places. To be very honest- everywhere. The dirt road glided down the valley past massive pine vales under the blanket of the azure skies. Rhodenderons shaded our way throughout. We hadn’t encountered a human soul in over 3 hours now!!

Then at last, out of the blue – an Accent emerged. It was one of the best sights that we had seen the entire day. Proof that civilization hath still not been lost in these remote parts.An hour and a few kilometres later, we stopped at a village for samosas. As we trooped down to the village in our gear, the local lads and lasses giggled in awe – as though Martians had landed in their mist. The adverse yet scenic road brought us to the peak of yet “another” hill-top. The first view of the Bhagirathi was nothing short of spectacular. One could clearly see a small air-strip in the background as well.

We drifted down to the valley floor on neutral gear and found ourselves at Dharasu Power station a good twenty minutes later. Dharasu is actually the junction point for the Yamunotri and Gangotri. A solid one hour drive along the battered Bhagirathi brought us to our destination Uttarkashi.

Uttarkashi is a quaint little town that lies at the very periphery of civilization. A petrol pump, a suspension bridge, a few hotels, numerous temples, a  single market with a sleazy theatre is what constitutes this town. To be honest – I was rather disappointed. After 203 kms and this was it? A quick bite followed by trip across the river, we found ourselves at Joshiyara, apparently the “twin town” to Uttarkashi. 2 kms upwards lay the sprawling campus of the
Nehru institute of Mountaineering. It was eestablished by the first Prime Minister of India – Pt. Jawaharlal Nehru. The fresh air up amidst the pines emancipated our emaciated minds from the fatigue. A little museum is housed within the sprawling campus containing rare artefacts, tools and informative displays on mountaineering. The museum is however opened “ONLY” on request.

We were recommended by the curator of the museum, to a short trek to a place called Nachiketa  Tal –  which was a good hour away from Joshiyara. The late afternoon skies brought along with it chilly winds. The dark side of the valley compelled us into a warmer attire. We reached Chowranghi Khal at hlaf past four in the evening. Having parked the “Stunner” (that had alreadly had got its wind knocked out of its sails) at a teal stall, we briskly started with the 3km trek. As we found out, the “3 km” part was a major understatement. The ascent was ridiculously steep as Aditya found out the hard way. But his steely resolve was commendable. He was with a passive pundit after all!!

The trek had a few flight of stairs, a couple of resting points and scitillating vistas of the surrounding countryside. The Nachiketa Tal lay quietly nestled within the hills, perched on a narrow ravine, camouflaged all around by sprawling pines and scrubs. There was a Shiv temple at one end. The entry to the tal was guarded my this mysterious looking Godman who was very vociferous when it came to taking his pictures. He shooed us off , which we exceedingly obliged. Scary!!

The run down the hill was a bit of a breeze really. We finished it off by another 20 minutes. We left the tea-stalled owners with bewildered looks with our bounties of ‘miraculous and godsent’ stamina!! The sunset had loomed into the horzion as we drove back towards Uttarkashi. In the darkness, we had an encounter with a furry kind; a small fox jumped out of the jungle, followed us for a moment and scampered back into the darkness. At about seven, the shimmering lights of the temple town welcomed us  back. We took a moment to listen to the sounds of the evening arati that resonated around the valley.

Daybreak at Uttarkashi was one of the most spectacular things you’d eve see. An apparent ray of light apparently touched the Bhagirathi as the Sun moved over  one wall of the valley. The day begun with a quick visit to the Uttarkashi Vishwanath Temple, famed for its large tilted shivlinga. We followed National Highway 108 from Dharasu. The road was very well metalled and a joy to drive on. The Bhagirathi forever guided us on our left. On the way we encounteredhamlets like Kandi-Saur, Chiniyali Saur and the like. We encountered a rather peculiar flat hill en route. Apparently, the Bhagirathi turned static, its color turning to turquoise from the muddy brown. It was clearly apparent what damage dam-building had done to the enitre valley. The entire eco-system had been ripped to shreds, the rivers at times being choked to microrivers.

The near level road suddenly took a route up for the skies about 2 hours from the start. The road clung on the hills like a child to her mother.The air was icy cold, the shadowy regions chilly. the road meandered endlessly, never ceasing to test our tempers. Massive pinecones lay strewn all over the road. Chamba lay perched on a hill a good 2000 meters above sea level. The expansive views of the Himalayas from these roads are a sight for  sore eyes and for shutterbugs alike. You can get a glimpse of the mountains until somewhere near Mussourie. The famed Nanda Devi, The Bandar Poonch range could be clearly visible. The shoddy Chamba -Dhanaulti-Muusourie road was again a departure from the brilliant road that we had enjoyed throughout the day. From the heights of Mussourie, it was again a quick plunge down the much familiar Dehradun road, and thus marked the end of yet another memorable trip.

Below are some of the pictures. Do click on them for larger views.

Early morning on the Mussourie Road.

View of a hill, somewhere towards Dharasu

The treacherous Road!!

A view of the Bhagirathi valley.

Uttarkashi in the distance

Nehru Institute of Mountaineering, Uttarkashi

A view of the trek path to Nachiketa Tal

Another view

At Nachiketa Tal

Sunset up in the mountains

The Uttarkashi Vishwanath Temple

Sunrays kissing the Ghats at Uttarkashi

A view of the NH-108 towards Chamba(seen on the top)

A Reality Check

It seems like ages ago now, but looking back I still remember how we used to rack our brains in front of our television sets, discussing possible answers and playing the game along with the contestants on the show. It was the time when Quiz shows like Bournvita Quiz Contest, Kaun Banega Crorepati etc. ruled the primetime show slots on television networks. Derek O’ Brien was a household name and everyone would back their school team to land a spot on the show. But then TV channels apparently felt that these shows weren’t attracting “enough” audiences and TRP’s weren’t high enough, I guess, because of the lack of controversies, cheating, use of expletives, and skin showing. Hence came upon us a new era of  Reality Shows, which aimed at the larger pool of audiences and with the help of whom the TRP’s skyrocketed to heights channels never dreamed of.

Shows like Fear Factor, Iss Jungle Se Mujhe Bachaao, Sach Ka Saamna, Big Boss, Bingo, Swayamvars etc. are now the rage. While one involves performing daring stunts and eating protein rich insects, the other is about a bunch of  out-of-work celebrities all huddled up in a house while the audience spies on them through strategically placed cameras. Frankly, the audience’s intellect is taking a huge beating through these shows. Children now want to do the stunts depicted at home while the adults vote for their least favourite celeb to be kicked out of the show. Many dance shows and singing competitions have also cropped up in the name of reality shows. While they may be a useful platform for people to showcase their talents, one cannot ignore the fact that these shows are causing premature mental depression in children who cannot deal with the emotional pressures of being voted out or criticized by the judges. Then there are the so called adventure shows like Roadies. Two bald guys decide whether you’ve got the talent to participate in the show and once you’re selected there starts an unending saga of back-biting, abusing, and plotting against other participants; and yeah there are a few tasks here and there too, just for the sake of it. The worst of the lot though, are the Swayamvar shows. It started with Rakhi Sawant who apparently would marry the winner of the show after she decided which one of the men was the most “suitable” (read: rich) for her. Then it was the turn of Rahul Mahajan to pick from a bevy of girls who lined up for him. Ask the girls and they’d say that they would do anything to win, all because they represent the “Modern Generation” who weren’t held back by silly rules of society. Clearly their culture and family values mean nothing to them and they have probably lost the respect of millions watching the show. Which self respecting man/woman would participate in these shows? It just shows to what extent people would go to be seen on tv.  Granted there are a few shows which actually bother about nurturing talent and bringing it to the notice of the public, but most of the other shows are just a sham aimed at wasting peoples time and money and ultimately only serving the cause of the celebrities who participate in them.

The worst part though is that the general public are actually accepting these shows which only encourages them to continue playing with the audiences. No one seems to be bothered about the slowly falling standards of Indian television, and so long as the people lap up these shows, the channels will only be too happy to keep feeding us with such garbage.

Percy Jackson And The Olympians: The Lowdown On The Latest Fantasy Adventure

Joining the ranks of fantasy adventure movies like The Golden Compass, Harry Potter and The Chronicles of Narnia is the latest: Chris Columbus’s , Percy Jackson and the Olympians: The Lightning Thief. It’s based on the first of the series of 5 books written by author Rick Riordan.

The Movie

Unfortunately for Indian audiences the movie isn’t scheduled to release in India any time soon and since the Pundits have reluctantly agreed not to encourage piracy hence we wont be providing any torrent  links for you here (but we also do believe that our readers are capable enough of searching popular torrent sites themselves!) What we CAN do for you is give you a lowdown on a couple of important characters and other stuff so that you don’t feel lost during the movie (as can happen in any book-adapted movie).

Demi-god: A demi-god or a half-blood as they’re more commonly known, are children of the gods themselves. Yes, apparently gods too sometimes feel the urge to come down to Earth for some frolicking with mortal females. Our lead character Percy Jackson is a half-blood himself, his dad- The lord of the Seas, Poseidon. Half-bloods inherit powers of their parents so Percy can breathe underwater, can talk to horses (creations of his father) and can cause seas to rise by his will.

Satyr: Satyrs are protectors of Half-bloods, they seek out potential half-bloods from human schools and lead them to their home at Camp Half-blood. Satyrs have an acute sense of smell and can recognize danger from quite a distance away. They look like normal humans but below the waist they have the body of a goat with hooves, fur etc.

Gods: Immortal, Cool and Greek. The Gods and Goddesses from Greek Mythology are all real here. Apollo, the Haiku writing, Maserati driving, God of the Sun; Aphrodite, the beautiful, enchanting, Goddess of Love; Ares, the ever deceptive, Harley riding, God of War. Other gods include Dionysis (Mr.D as he’s known, and more commonly called ” The Wine dude”), Artemis, Hephaestus, Hermes etc. The all important gods, though, are collectively known as the Big Three. Zeus, the Lord of the Sky, Poseidon, the Lord of the Seas and Hades, the Lord of the Underworld.

Olympus:  Known as the Home of the Gods, it’s where the big three are most likely to be found and where the annual meeting of the gods takes place every summer solstice. Its location apparently changes as the power in the world shifts. Currently above the Empire State Building, although noone knows how!

The Lightning Bolt:  The object of intense interest in the first book is also the most powerful weapon ever created. Wielded by the King of the Gods, Zeus, it can cause unimaginable destruction if in the wrong hands.

Kronos: The evil Titan lord who was blown to bits and cast into the depths of Tartarus by his own sons i.e the gods Zeus, Poseidon and Hades. Even though hardly alive, the deceitful Titan continues to act but through the actions of Half-bloods, guiding them through dreams so that one day he may rise again.

Monsters: Every Half-blood’s nightmare, Monsters can smell the scent of Half-bloods and are driven to them by nature. These include Minotaurs, Furies, Nemean Lions etc. They can never be killed but instead turn to dust and reappear unharmed, years or sometimes decades later too.

Anaklusmos (a.k.a Riptide): Percy Jackson’s ubercool sword which can kill Monsters but cannot harm mortal humans. Made of celestial bronze and disguised to look like an ordinary pen, it can magically return to Percy if he ever loses it.

Medusa: Played by Uma Thurman, she’s the famed monster seductress whose look can turn anyone to stone. Punished by the Goddess Athena to have serpents instead of hair, she’s the basic definition of the word Evil. Sneak A Peek!

A fun adventure movie with a few twists and quite a bit of comedy too. As if Uma Thurman as Medusa wasn’t enough, its also got Peirce Brosnan as the Centaur Chiron. The Pundits believe that this is one not to be missed.