Monday, December 31, 2007

Happy New Year

Sunday, December 23, 2007


A couple of climbing acquaintances filled me in on the quite astonishing variety of ways of croaking in the Himalaya. Falling off the mountain seemed the least of my worries. Strokes, heart attacks, pulmonary oedema, cerebral oedema, frostbite, exposure, pneumonia, stone fall, avalanche, crevasse, mountain torrents and runaway yaks - each with a name and an instance of someone who had been killed that way ... Life was too pleasant and interesting to lose, yet to turn down an experience like this...

-- An excerpt from Andrew Greig's article in Summit Fever

Parque La Estanzuela

Away from the bustle of city life, but yet close to city, lies the natural park which bears the name "Parque Natural La Estanzuela". From Monterrey turn your vehicle towards Eugenio Garza Sada, which leads to Carretera Nacional. Watch out for HEB on the left, take the exit to Valle Alto close to HEB and keep driving straight for 3 more minutes and then you see the entrance of Parque Estanzuela on to your left.

The painful part of the entrance (not for those driving SUVs) is the 3Km stretch of cobblestoned road leading to the parking and ticket counter. I had to drive my Jetta at 10Kmph in second gear to stop the suspension from getting conked off. The ticket costs peanuts, 5 pesos (about Rs.20) per person and alcohol is prohibited. A 2Km parallel pavement follows the entrance with a creek in between them canopied by greenwoods and containing sojourn of butterflies. For the interested few, this place has been listed by Naba (North American Butterfly Association) for the plethora of butterflies it houses. The last stretch of the pavement is quite steep after which you find a place to rest. The pavement ends at that point and all you have is trekking pass through the woods and occasionally along the magnificent green, pristine travertine pools formed by sweet sounding streams. The water is crystal clear, ice cold and tastes fresh. Taking a dip is a good idea, though requires to push yourself a lot for the first dip. The trek is an easy one though we couldn't goto the end point. We hiked till the waterfall point and returned. On our way back, we satiated our aquatic pleasures in one such travertine pool by taking a hallowed dip. The trek took us about 4 hours with long breaks for photography, the results of which are below:

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Why no Hindi?

English, French, Chinese, Korean, Spanish, German, Italian and Japanese wishes from Google, but was it difficult for them to add a "Hindi" one? When they can have development centers in India and a great percentage of Indians search through Google, isn't it unfair on their part not to include wishes in Indian national language?

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The "Lifeguard"

People are interesting. Every time you meet a new person, you have absolutely no idea about them and you are left with two choices, either dig in to know more or ignore. Many a times you may want to ignore people at the very first encounter, but sometimes you just cannot, because they don't ignore you either. Here is one such encounter which happened at one of the Pie de la Cuesta beaches in Acapulco.

In the torrid noonday sun we walked in Pie de la Cuesta musing about which beach side restaurant to settle down. We saw one crowded by Gringos which was, obviously, not our choice, we chose the one next to that. It was an empty restaurant and the menu looked perfect for backpackers like us and the hostess offered us the table of our choice. The chairs and tables were made of wood, painted blue and green alternating stripes. Though they looked nice, it wasn't all that comfortable for the a relaxed beach side evening, we still opted for it. The beach was rough, roaring and churning up the gigantic waves, but the sight of the "Lifeguard" made us decide to get into beach.

As we were comforting ourselves in the shade and planning to order something for munching, we were disturbed by a low frequency, manly voice. A blond old man as skinny as a skeleton with sunken skin, wearing a faint smile on the face with prominent lines of old age, dressed only with a loose red shorts was welcoming us. "Bienvenidos!!!", he said, "Hablar Ingles?".
As I nodded my head indicating yes, he continued with his slow English, "Welcome to Pie de le Cuesta beaches. I'm Fernando, the life guard. These beaches are very open and rough, but if you know how to swim it's not so dangerous. I'll be watching you, don't get scared to enter beaches, don't go too much off the shore. I'm here to help you , if you need anything you can call me. I'm collecting some money, it would be great if you can..., no obligations, give me if you feel like. I shall be giving a show on how to enter the beach, you can watch us and shoot photos or videos if you want."
I paid 10, he was not satisfied. He moved his pale, skinny hand towards others and they paid 10 each.
He said, "Thank you very much, enjoy your time here, I'll be around. Call me if you need my help."

Our stomachs were crying out of hunger but we decided against eating something heavy, we ordered corn chips with avocados topped with grated cheese. The food was devoured in no time and we were off to satiate our water lust. The sea was, as stated earlier, rough. Very rough indeed. The fierce waves were twice as high as me and they roared when they hit the beach. I saw the life guard entering the beach with some weird gestures, pretty much similar to Surya Namaskara, one of the yoga gestures. I entered the beach, it was cold, I hesitated to go further but with a little self-pushing I went ahead, clearing the obstacles of the tall waves, I was swimming in the abyss. I saw the lifeguard swimming there and he shouted "Everything OK?" and shouted back that I was fine, showing him a upped thumb.

Once I was ashore relaxing, he came to me and asked "Do you smoke?"
"Not really" I responded.
"I've can get some nice marijuana and cocaine, I'm going to get them for me, if you want some, I can get it. It's original Acapulco stuff, marijuana costs 250 pesos a bag and cocaine costs 300 pesos a gram. Do you need some?", he asked. I was shocked at his audacity in approaching us with such awful proposition.
"No even if I were to smoke, I've got swimming marathon tomorrow and I wouldn't", I said.
"Don't worry, I don't think they'll have any drug test and it may help you to win", he shot back.
"No! I won't" I replied.
"You don't have to smoke it today then, have it and smoke it after your marathon", he suggested.
"I'm flying back to Monterrey and I'll be caught, no need", rejected I.
"But it's good Acapulco stuff", he tried.
"No, gracias" I told and tried to end the conversation.

I started contemplating how on earth could he be a life guard with all this. How could he approach strangers with such deals? A lean old man, the age at which he is supposed to be having a peaceful, spiritual life, he was doing ugly deals.

I met him later when I was photographing and he came to me and told me about him (in Spanish). "I'm from Mexico city and life over there is very mechanical and tensed up. That's the reason I came here to Acapulco, I'm leading a very 'spiritual' (I was thinking Yeah!!! Right!!!) life here, I feel I'm close to God. I'm very poor and it would be great if you can give me some money." I told him that I haven't got much money and didn't give any. Probably had he not made the drug proposition I might have gave him something, but now no. If he deals drugs so boldly, I reasoned, his plight should not be all that bad. He then said "OK no problem, have a nice time and left" and bid farewell to him.

Friday, December 21, 2007

10000 Strong

My hit counter finally crossed 10000!!!
Cheers to all the Gentlemen, hugs and kisses to all Ladies who made this possible.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Me Vale Madre

Got this interesting Tequila shot from Acapulco. It gives the five states of Tequila
2 shots: Am Happy (Soy Feliz)
3 : Am Rich (Soy Rico)
4 : Am handsome (Soy Guapo)
5 : Am invisible (Soy Invisible)
6 : I don't give a @#$% (Me Vale Madre)

Friday, December 14, 2007

Amazing Acapulco

Panoramic view of beach at Pie de la Cuesta

Acapulco, once the gem of Mexican crown, has now been tragically overshadowed by Cancun and Los Cabos. Located in the state of Guerrero (read Gerrero) in south-western Mexico, Acapulco has still preserved it's Mexican chastity unlike the aforementioned cities, which are plagued by "Americanization". The magnificent Acapulco bay, spine-chilling La Quebrada divers, splendid sunsets of Pacific and warm hearted Mexicans are main attractions of Acapulco.
Getting there
Getting to Acapulco does not require too much cerebral powers to be spent. Most of Mexican airlines like Aviacsa, AeroMexico, Vivaaerobus have flights to Acapulco and there are many buses plying from Mexico city which is just a few hours away. Airport is located much farther from the city, don't forget to start early when returning. The gigantic airport taxis, almost as big as Indian hearse vans, charge 80-100 pesos for downtown Acapulco.

Acapulco satiates people of all kinds, hostels for backpackers, medium priced hotel for the middle class and exorbitantly priced resorts for rich and the famous. Prices of the hostel is around 150 pesos with breakfast included. K3 hostel Acapulco, located opposite to Condesa beach has proximity to many places and an ideal place for people of my type.

Getting around
Among Cancun, Los Cabos and Acapulco, the last one wins hands-down when it comes to public transportation. The buses are frequent, cheap, jazzy and kick-ass. You realize that you've boarded into a moving discotheque, especially during night. They are equipped with sundries ranging from stuffed dolls, bikinis, flashy neon lights, loudest speakers pumping out reggaetone and funky looking drivers. Trust me buses give an out of the world experience in Acapulco given the fact you pay 4.5 pesos fixed. There are taxis (mostly good old beatles) which costs as much as bus if in group of 4 or 5, though fares needs to be haggled. Pie de la Cuesta has a cheaper, smaller and faster means of travel, the ultra-mini buses which costs 4 pesos and have an option of standing on the rear fender if you feel too hot inside. It reminded me of "matadors" in India, which were pretty much similar to what I'm speaking here.

Places around
Pie de la Cuesta, located about an hour away from Acapulco downtown has some beautiful but very rough beaches. The spinal road of the town separates the beach from the lagoon. "Playa Luces", the beach of lights, is one of the nicer and more isolated beach but mind you, it's very open (unlike a bay) and rough. There are no lifguards, waves are gigantic and pummels the coast hard, hence heed the advice, "Don't Enter". There are many beach side restaurants on the way, get down at any of them for a byte or two and in that area, you can find a lifeguard and beaches are "slightly" friendly.

Acapulco bay, has ample touristy beaches, Caleta, Icacos, Condesa, Hornos to name a few. None of them are as fierce as the ones in Pie de la Cuesta. Caleta beach has boat services to Isla Roqueta, an island wearing verdant green forests. Hornos is closer to downtown Acapulco, stones throw away from the main road "Costera".

Puerto Marques is worth visiting, atleast for the vantage points enroute, if not for the beach. It's located much farther from the downtown and have to change buses to reach the beach, where you cannot even witness the sunset. However it has many water sports, many vendors sell some nice and cheap food and stuff. The route to this beach encircles a mountain, don't forget to be in one of those tall vantage points for sunset, perfect for photographers. The magnificent panorama has an island in the Pacific with sail boats decorating the waves...very poetic, very romantic.

, is the town square with huge green banyan trees forming canopy as well as home to innumerable pigeons. It's house to retired grannies and grandpas, romancing couples, crying kids and peddlers. It has many restaurants and juice houses around making it a perfect place for lunch or dinner though a bit noisy, crowded place. It also has a cathedral if in case you get religious.

La Quebrada
, renowned diving cliff is a must visit, 10 min walk from
Zócalo. Though I missed the show due to wrong information in the internet, it's a place which would make you go numb in your mind. The brave cliff divers toss themselves into the sea from a treacherous rock, 45 meters high. The interesting point about this place is that the rocks are not of vertical fall, they are greatly projected which makes the diving extremely challenging, it also requires the divers to calculate the waves, for they jump into the bay which ain't that deep!!! The show timings are 12:45PM, 7:30PM, 8:30PM, 9:30PM and 10:30PM, costs 35 pesos.

Again here Acapulco has a blatant victory in comparison to its other cousins. There are too many cheap street food places which serves quick and tasty Mexican food. The city is awake always, the day starts late and hence you get breakfast even at 12 in the noon. Don't forget to taste Pollo poi-poi at Orientalex, it's chopped chicken seasoned with onions, tomatoes and spices, eaten with tortillas and salsa. Vegetariano is a vegetarian alternative. "El Nopal" restaurant at Zocalo serves delicious enchiladas, chicken tacos and fish for ground low prices. Slightly expensive but choice of many vegetarians is "100% Natural" chains of restaurants, which are plenty. Veggies start mouthwatering at the sight of menu containing many agricultural products, a rare thing in Mexico. I've heard, but didn't get a chance to visit, that a restaurant called "Amigo Miguel" is good one too, especially for sea food.

Acapulco people are friendly and warm, I asked one of the road sweepers where to take bus to Pie de la Cuesta. She guided me to board at the corner, which I couldn't comprehend and I started crossing the road. She noticed that, she put her broom stick down, followed me, cried out for me and guided me to exact location of the bus. I was indeed touched by her warmth which lacked in those Americanized places. To experience beach with a touch of Mexico, Acapulco is where gotta go.


Thursday, December 13, 2007

Maratón Guadalupano

Date: Saturday 8th December, 2007.
Place: Playa Caleta, Acapulco, Guerrero, Mexico.
Event: 49th Maratón Guadalupano, 1Km.

It was about 10:45 in the morning, sun was shining bright, we alighted the bus at Playa Caleta (playa: beach) stop on Costera street in Acapulco. There was an ocean of people on the beach, most of them in swimming costumes, some wearing the event T-shirt, there were stalls selling swimming costumes, announcement stalls, blue colored beach umbrellas had crowded the place. It was the first day of the 49th Maratón Guadalupano, the beach swimming marathon. On first day it 1 km swimming event from Isla Roqueta (isla: island) to Playa Caleta. Interested few can click on the map.

I reached the announcement stall and asked the person where was my team "Ciudad Deportiva, Monterrey". He shouted in the mike stating that a person is looking for Ciudad Deportiva and he asked me to wait. I waited for 10 minutes, no one from my team appeared. I asked him to announce once again and he did so, but to my dismay no one appeared. I then started searching my team by myself, in the stall I saw few familiar faces whom I had met in the Monterrey airport. I asked them what was I supposed to do and he guided me rightly. I went to a stall, an official one with authorities of the event. I handed over my bank voucher, he checked my name and came back with the chip and the T-shirt.

Deepa helped me to find my team and I was glad to meet my team members Wendy, Saloman and Saul there. Saloman helped me to get the number inscribed on my body, it was 61, and Saul smeared vaseline on my back for protecting against water insects. It was almost 11:30 and my event was at 12. We reached the embankment and boarded the boat, it sailed us to Isla Roqueta.

We did a few calisthenics, few stretches and assembled in the beach. The mike pumped out brief instructions regarding the red guide buoys and immediately followed a loud horn. Like a herd of zebras in water chased by tiger, we were chaotically alternating between wading and swimming, hitting the neighbouring swimmer, shoving ourselves without being able to see anything. It was highly a helter-skelter of first order, but within few meters of swimming we were separated a bit and as we progressed we became more orderly and calm.

I swam with all the might I had, but as expected, it was a lot more difficult to swim in the sea than in the pool. First of all the salt water gives a nasty taste, secondly the currents and the waves make it a lot more resistive and hard and finally it's not as pleasant as swimming in the blue waters of the pool, it's kinda filthy water where in you see just darkness underneath. The other hard part is to maintain the direction, you cant just put your head down and keep swimming like you do in the pool, every now and then you need to raise your head up, watch out for the buoys and be sure that you're not off the track and swim ahead. Add to this is the current which slowly and constantly, without your cognizance, tries to take you off the track. It took about 19m26s for me to reach Playa Caleta. I had to run a few steps to the point where the chip is read, after I finished. I was tired, though it was not a great timing. My shoulder muscles were exhausted. I was given a finisher's medal. I guess that was the very first medal I had ever won in my life. I felt great.

Our team members congratulated me, I responded back. We got photographed (thanks Ajit and Lokesh), got massaged and dispersed.

Date: Sunday 9th December, 2007.
Place: Playa Caleta, Acapulco, Guerrero, Mexico.
Event: 49th Maratón Guadalupano, 4.2Km

At 7 in the morning I was in Playa Caleta with Jasmine. There were not many people at that time, but in no time the place got crowded. It was a lot tougher marathon: 4.2Km swimming in the choppy Pacific was something which I was not confident, given the fact that I was tired and couldn't catch a good sleep due to nervousness. I was consoled by the sight of rescue boats which were waiting for the event to start. My team members started pouring in and like the previous day, we stretched, applied vaseline and raised each other's spirits. At about 7:45, we hit the beach and got ourselves wet, the water was slightly chill. I was sort of tensed, sort of relaxed. The crowd was applauding for a feel of elation and exhilaration. No directions were given unlike yesterday, out of the blue the horn was blown.

Just like the previous day, the beginning was chaotic, wading and swimming alternatively, hitting neighbours, shoving in every small gap of water, gasping and trying to forge ahead. We were supposed to encircle a hill which, I guess, spanned about 2Km. The sun was shining bright, rescue boats on either sides, I could see plethora of colorful heads floating in the vast sea. Most part I swam free style, but when I got tired or my muscles got sore, I switched between back stroke and breast stroke. But after sometime, sun became so harsh that I could not do back stroke. I could sense some insect bites every now and then, despite smearing vaseline profusely, it gave an acute bearable itch. It was a mixed feeling, a feeling of despair to see swimmers far ahead of me and a feeling of satisfaction to see others a lot behind me. By the time I rounded the mountain bend, the panoramic vista of Acapulco, with building and mountains and vehicles, was visible. It was a nice sight, but a far fetched one, I still had more than 2Km to swim.

The beach got expanded and the rougher waves made it slightly more tough to swim. I swam without checking direction for about quite sometime and I raise my head, the sight was despairing, not that I lost my way, but the buildings never got closer. I swam for some more time but no luck, the buildings seemed never to come closer. My shoulders started paining, every stroke of hand started becoming heavier and heavier, I stared using legs more than hands. I started seeing very few people around, about 5-6 in front of me scattered, I didn't bother about turning back and seeing the others. The buildings seemed to be much closer now, and rescue boats were still beside us. I thought I was bit off the track, but soon I realized I was doing good. The waters started getting more choppier, I saw few rocks underneath but shore was still far. I swam breast stroke for about 3 minutes, which gave some energy for continuing with free style but on the flip side, it made me lose some time. But right from beginning I had in mind not to give so much importance to time, since I was not very confident of finishing, my aim was to finish...just bloody finish!

I was almost there, the sand bed started appearing, I still kept swimming until the water was knee deep. I then landed my feet. I started running to the finish line which was few feet away from the water. The guy there was screaming "Felicidades" (congrats) and someone gave me a packet of water which was much needed. It was the longest time in my life that my feet didn't touch the ground. It was 1h44m10s when I reached the finish line. Again not a great feat worth bragging, but the experience was truly exciting, demanding and tiring. There were not any medals left, they noted my number and told me that I'll receive it from my team later.

I met my team members and we mutually congratulated. People of much older age than me had finished before me which was truly motivating.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Sobre mis Viajes

Yo soy Indu y viajar es uno de mis pasatiempos favorito. Yo quiero ser un viajero profesional y fotografo en el futuro. Mi empresa me da muchas oportunidades de viajar a diferentes lugares del mundo.

En la India yo viajé a lugares muy intresantes con una gran variedad de naturaleza, playas, montañas y lugares historicos. Las montañas del Himalayas son muy famosas, hermosas y grandes. Las montañas estan en el estado de Jammu Kashmir en el norte de la India. El clima en las montañas es muy frio.
Goa es un estado en el suroeste de la India y tiene muchas playas. Goas es muy famouso porque en el pasado las Portugueses conquistaron este lugar.

Al segundo pais que he viajado es China. China tiene muchos lugares para conocer, pero muchos lugares son muy comerciales, regularmente hay mucha gente ahi. A mi me gusto mucho Xinjiang, un estado en el poniente de la China. Xinjiang tiene muchas comunidades de Mongolia, Rusia, Kazakshstan y China. Hay un desierto muy grande, muchas montañas, praderas muy verdes y rios azules.

Mexico es me tercer pais al que viajo. Cancun es muy famoso por el azul profundo de las Playas y las piramides mayas. Los Cabos es un lugar en donde los crepusculos son muy bonitos y tambien los aridos desiertos. Este lugar es un paraiso para tomar fotos. Acapulco tiene una bahia muy bonita y "La Quebrada", un pequeña montaña de donde los clavadistas se lazan a la bahia.

Muchas gracias.

Thank you

P.S. Sorry for the bad image quality, had to shoot this with my mobile camera. This was the notice for all the passengers alighting the flight, walking towards the terminal.