Thursday, September 30, 2010

Devil's City

Continuation from Baihaba...

Gasoline for our jeeps, fresh fruits for the journey and a quick lunch of mutton noodles and Nan at Burqin and we were all set for our visit to Devil's city (Mo-gui-cheng in Chinese, 魔鬼城).  The sun was happily reaching his home in the west when we reached Devil’s city. We reached just in-time and my camera did her job. Devil’s city is a vast ocean of soft but tall knolls, made of sticky mud. Its difficult to climb the hillock for the surface is not stable and it disintegrates once you step on it. They were of all sizes and shapes, combined with the shining moon and artistic clouds; it enhanced the beauty of the surrounding landscape. We revisited this place the next morning since we couldn't get enough of it, the morning vista was a beautiful - the tender golden light of the dawn beautifully lit the mounds which cast strong shadows.  Our next destination for the day was Sailimu lake...wait for more.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Common W-E-A-L-T-H Games

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Baihaba - Beautiful Border Town

Continuation from Kanas - The town of Meanders

Kanas brought our trekking to halt, for we hired a couple of Jeep Cherokees that drove us to Baihaba, a town at which China stops and Kazakhstan starts. Baihaba, a town which somewhat resembled Hemu, was one of the prettiest towns I've ever seen. On one side there are a series of white peaks and pinnacles and on the other, brown bald hills of Kazakhstan. It contained only wooden structures; the roads were canopied by yellow birch trees and were adorned by the withered leaves of the same. A horse-wagon drove us, like a tortoise, to Kazakh border and the bogey of bad luck followed us, for we were spotted by the army personnel who confiscated all my friend's identification cards. But we had our share of good luck too; they returned it later without any bickering. Just as in Hemu, I rushed to surrounding hills at wee hours to satisfy my camera's lust and waited for the sun to cheer the morn. She was happy as she saw and recorded the misty Kazak hills and the resplendent vista of Baihaba town.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Kaveri Trail Marathon

Our convoy of two cars started driving towards Mysore by 5 in the evening, with stopovers at Chamundi tatte idli hotel in Bidadi and McDees near Maddur.  Somehow I was highly inclined towards grabbing a beer can or two, but Bharath kept dissuading me from drinking.  It was about 8 by the time we reached Bharath's cousin's house, the most attractive room of which was the bar.  
Me: Maga inta baaar itknodu kudide irad nyaaya na? (Son with such beautiful bar it's unfair not to drink)
Bharath: Sumne irappa Somvaardinda kuddhilla naanu, ivattu chance illa (Shut up pa! Have refrained from drinking since no chance)
Me: Maga kudide vodadu yen dodd vishya le!  Yaaru kuddh vodalla...aaadre naav kuddhu vodana...prove maadana (Son what's great in running without drinking...everybody does that...lets defy that & we'll drink and run.  We shall prove)
Bharath: Lo sumne hoge haaksotivi sisya...beda.  (We'll all get smoked up student...let's not).

After realizing that his cousin had Red Label in store...

Bharath: OK maga...just yerd pegsu, amel niyattagi oota maadi malgana (OK son...just 2 pegs followed by dinner and sleep)
Me: OK le...yerde pegsu, bega malgana (OK le...just 2 pegs, lets crash early)

The above conversation (highly censored and beautified to suit the culture) happened on the eve of the marathon day, finally we slept early at 1:40AM after guzzling down 2 pegs of whiskey twice!

I switched off the annoying alarm that buzzed at 4:30AM and dozed off again, hoping Bharath to do the same.  Unfortunately that didn't happen, we were on road by 5:15AM driving towards Young Island resort, Srirangapattana.  We rushed to the starting point near Ranganatittu Birds Sanctuary and we were disappointed that the marathon was already flagged off even though we reported 10 minutes earlier than the stipulated time of 6:45AM.  The bloke on the podium said, "Half marathon? It's already started guys! It was an open start...sorry 'bout!".  

Pressing the buttons on iPod and stop watch, we started without slightest warm up or stretching.  the trail was, as mentioned in the KTM website, indeed very picturesque with river on one side and paddy/sugarcane fields on the other.  We found bullock carts and tractors and lorries being loaded with fresh sugarcane bundles straight from the field.  The scenery was plush green throughout the trail and this definitely is the most beautiful marathon I've ever run.   The trail was almost plain with just a couple of slight gradients, but was stony at some places.  There were counters every kilometer serving water, Lucozade, oranges, bananas, biscuits and pain relief spray. Kilometers and directions were well marked on the ground. Overall things were very well organized.

I had a good start and did well for the first half, I had clocked 50min at 10th km.  The return run was the most difficult part (for most runners I guess) coz by then the sun was high and strong.  It seemed as though I was running double the distance on the way back due to fatigue and sun, at times I had to walk and stretch  to ease my knee caps, calf muscle and back.  Oranges and Lucozade greatly energized and hydrated me which really helped.  At the 5th KM mark, suddenly there was an upsurge in crowd, the 10km runners also joined us.  Last three kilometers was the toughest, I met Shyam the regular marthoner half kilometer before the finish line and he greatly upped my spirits by actually running with me (though he was not participating in this marathon) and last 70m I sprinted and stepped on the finish line  when my stop watch showed 2h:20m:12s.  I saw Bharath (he had finished it in just over 2 hours), Manoj and Harsha who were clicking photographs.  My ankle, knee caps and calf pained terribly after I finished, we relaxed for a while, had tender coconut and came to parking.

We came back to Young Island resort, we surrendered our timing chips and got the money back.  We also redeemed our food coupons, but it was quite disappointing to eat meals at the breakfast time.  They gave typical meal with chapathis, curries, rice, sambar, rasam, curds etc. and we were having that at 10AM!   They could have given something better than a meal.  Overall it was a great event, a very picturesque trail and a memorable experience.  Thanks to Bharath's cousin for his hospitality and Red Label, thanks to Harsha and Manoj for accompanying us and clicking our photographs.  

As a final note, donating blood 4 days before the marathon, couple of pegs of Red Label and lack of sleep helped me improve my timing by 3 minutes from the previous marathon.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Kanas - The Town Of Meanders

Continuation from Hemu to Kanas trek - Day 2.

The town of Kanas is known for the vivid meanders, it's a delight to every photographer.  We did the local sight seeing in Kanas, visited Wulong bend and Crescent bend - fancy names for the Kanas river meanders that makes the scenery around quite attractive.  Beautiful blues and greens of the meanders among dense yellows and reds of the mountains in the fall, make Kanas very picturesque.   We even visited the Kanas lake, but the cold winds made it unbearable and it was too dull to get a good photograph.  Kanas brought our trekking to halt, for we hired a couple of Jeep Cherokees that drove us to Baihaba, a town at which China stops and Kazakhstan starts...stay tuned for the same.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Hemu to Kanas trek - Day 2

The morning sunshine beautified the entire place and it was the time for clicks - the Kazak family members living there, the herd of camels, the snow around tent, the lake.  Our journey continued towards Kanasi after a sumptuous breakfast of oatmeal and soup. The landscape now was slightly different - bald hills and meadows in the foreground with snow mountains in the horizon. After a small stop for cookies and fruits, which we reckoned to be our lunch, we entered yellow and brown coniferous forest. A big descend led us directly to Kanasi town. A lot of fancy buildings made up this town and unlike Hemu, it was quite a commercialized place. I happened to pass a very attractive and aesthetically built structure with green pointed roof and brown colored walls and was stupefied to know that it was toilet, and it was extremely well maintained; all the toilets in town were in this fashion. A buffet consisting of lamb noodles, mutton capsicum curry, couple of soups and a Nan dish was our dinner. The best part is that the hotel authorities warn you against wasting food - a fine of 50 RMB in case of any wastage. I greatly appreciate and support this idea. Albeit fine is not collected, food wastage is reduced to a considerable extent.

Stay tuned for the lovely meanders of Kanas river and the beautiful Sino-Kazakh border town of Baihaba.