bhargavkesavan

Travelogue, Nostalgic memories and more…


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Adventure Zipline at Shenandoah State Park


Zipline is one of the adventure sport that I was planning to do from past two years. Finally the time came to make it happen! My wife Anu and I went to Virginia to meet our friend Praveen; who gave an idea to do Zipline when we planned to visit Richmond.

We booked a master suite for our stay through Airbnb near Praveen’s house. We like to have breakfast from Market Cafe in Richmond everytime we visit; Anu & I like the Pongal in Market Cafe. You should really try it if you happen to visit Richmond, VA anytime. The two varieties of chutneys are too good & the sambhar as well!

You may remember about my Luray Caverns trip during spring 2015, I wanted to take my wife there and after having breakfast we started to Luray Caverns which was the first place to visit for the day & the next was Zipline.

I’d looked for coupons in groupon and compared few zipline providers and decided to go with Virginia Canopy as they were ready to provide for the same rate in groupon. We got the 3’o clock batch for the activity. We then had a tight schedule to visit Luray Caverns and then to travel to Shenandoah State Park where Virginia Canopy is located.

The drive from Richmond to Luray Caverns was too good! Anu said that the route resembled the drive from Coimbatore to Ooty. Yes, It was like that but the difference is that the roads here were very broad and the curves were not risky to drive. Since the weather was almost like early summer in Hosur, We could see lot of bikers and cyclists through out the way.

We have to leave the caverns atleast by 2:15 so that we can reach Shenandoah State Park by 2:40 PM which is 17 Miles away from the caverns. As we reached Luray Caverns time was 1:10 PM but there was a huge line since it was Easter weekend. It would definitely take an hour to just enter the caves to get ticket & we would miss the reservation for Zipline for sure. Since it was heavily crowded and there was no space for parking, we parked our car in the lawn as directed by the staffs.

We then wandered the place for a while and took photos at the pond and took photos at the Love sign they’ve at the entrance. It was 2’o clock already & we’d decided to start to Zipline.

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Check my 500px & Flickr for more pics.

Virginia will remind you about your childhood days if you were ever grown up in village. Such a green and calm place throughout! It was drizzling as we entered Shenandoah State Park! The smell of soil welcomed us with smile! I felt I was at home when 🙂

Staff at the park entrance was very kind to explain me the route to reach the Zipline tours building. We reached the Zipline parking precisely at 2:40 PM.  As we entered the office we were given the forms to sign the disclaimer, for sure the papers may have said that they’re not responsible for any injury etc… when have we every read anything before signing? We signed it anyways!

Exactly at 3 o clock we were called at the backyard where they had all the zipline gears arranged for us. There were 9 people in our batch, Scott & Jennifer from Philadelphia and a family of four & three of us. The staffs helped us in wearing the zipline gears and even the helmet. As we are done with the setup we now got ready to board the UTV for the ride to woods.

Five of us were in a UTV and rest were in other vehicle, their staffs took us on the UTV trail ride. We enjoyed the off road up hill ride in the woods. After 10 minutes we got down somewhere in the forest and waited for the other set of people to arrive. After the remaining people arrived, we walked a few meters in the woods to the training spot.

Lion and Chris were with us since the training till end of the activity. They both were very kind and friendly. They both gave the basic training on how to move forward, how to slow down and if we at some point slow down how to get back in the rope. Like the ok sign in scuba diving, there was a sign to slow down. They made sure every one of us are comfortable with this and made us do all the basic training in the steel rope tied between two tall trees for this training purpose. After the training is over, we now marched towards the main activity tree (activity spot) 😀

The first zipline was 20 ft height and it was a short distance, it was very much sufficient height and distance to make us get use to the sport. haha that first feel was fantastic and very nice 😀 After the first line I felt like achieved something! We loved it so much! They ensured our safety and constantly communicated in their walkie talkie, Lion first went to the other end, Chris sent each of us one by one and came to other end as last person.

The next zipline was 40 ft height and the length was more than the first one. It was very fun standing in mid top of the tree and looking at the forest like how we see in discovery channel. Anu and I loved it so much! After the second zipline got over, we all got ready for the third ride which was 90 feet height form the forest level and the distance was approximately 400 meters. It was really fun! Looking at the mountain ahead of us and moving in 40 miles per hour speed in between the trees were amazing!

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IMG_9832As we finished the 3rd line and was waiting to go for next line, we were able to see some deer wandering in their home. Since it’s deer and not bear it ran away fast 😀 We then took the 4th line which was not very length, but height was almost same. It’s at this point their photographer Treesha took snaps of us when we were in motion in the zipline. As we reached down we took group photos and My wife and I looked at each other and we looked at Praveen discussed among us saying that’s it, activity completed. Since we were told it’s a three hours activity and it was just less than an hour and half, we thought they gave a false promise, but wait… The fun part & adventure were still pending.

We drank some water from the can they’d kept near the tree which was very clean & they were making fun statements that the water was not from Michigan flint water; which is a serious issue here due to lead poisoning (similar to how we discuss about Kaveri water when we go to KA).

We then took a short nature walk and Lion explained about some rare and poisonous plant in a fun way and kept all of us engaged and interested in the activity. We thought the activity is completed when we saw the UTV near us, but we were asked to climb the next tree (using the wooden steps they had attached to the tree!) it was a big relax when we saw the rope again and was excited more now! 🙂 After the 5th line, which was a short length, there was a Air Stair Bridge which we had to walk to pass on to the other end of tree, it was fun. Lion escorted four of us facing us and walked backwards, while we walked slowly following him. Anu dropped her bracelet while walking in the bridge, since I was walking behind her, I was able to take it as I passed it.

Then we crossed the sixth line each by shouting like different animals 😀 which was fun! Anu, Praveen what did you shout like? Comment below. I shouted like ape inspired by Ceaser (Don’t ask me who or what is Ceaser!). Then passed 7th line and now there was a Sky Bridge, which was easy to walk but Lion gave a open hand challenge, which means we should cross the bridge without using hand to balance.

And now the finalllllllll zipline! A lengthy one… It took 30 seconds to zip from one end to other end! As we reached this end I was joking to Anu saying we have to jump down from the tree and she was scared as well, but after everyone finished the zipline and assembled in the last tree, it was real! We really had to jump down from the 1,035″ tree! Not literally jump but we’d to rappel down from the tree! It was the adventurous part of the zipline but their staffs made it feel very easy! First Praveen went down then me and then Anu. It was very nice experience!

We took a short walk from the tree and in five minutes we’d arrived to the office where we started. We arrived to the place where we put on the gears & their staffs helped us to remove it all. They were very nice people. And the best part was, we were all issued a certificate for doing the Zipline! 🙂

They could have made a last zipline to end after the river which would have fulfilled the adventure sport absolutely thrilled! Of course, I left a feedback about it.  Definitely a fun day I’d with Anu. It’s a very nice place to do Zipline and enjoy the nature at the Shenandoah State Park where the Shenandoah River passes just opposite to the Zipline office.

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Taken at Shenandoah State Park River.

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Manhattanhenge, New York’s Stonehenge


I have seen photos of Manhattanhange (without knowing the name then!) several years ago. I was not aware of such event until last year when I discovered something like this happens twice a year. One in May & another during July. The dates are May 29 & July 12, also a day before the above dates as well.

When I was reading newspaper last year (2015) I saw the Sunset photo and the news referred it as Manhattanhenge, I then googled about it & got to know I’d just missed it by two days or so. The disappointment level will be very high when you realize you could have witnessed something that happens in the very street you walk every single day & it’s historic which happens just twice a year.

Immediately I checked the dates for 2016  Manhattanhenge, it was May 28, 29 & July 11, 12. After a year, on May 29th I’d visited New York to see this, unfortunately everyone was disappointed as it was cloudy! The crowd waited until the sunset but it happened behind the clouds! May be the sun was shy to look everyone as hundreds of people were looking at it at the same time after an year!

The last time of the year to witness this came! I totally forgot about it on 11th, on 12th I remembered it after I boarded bus to New Jersey! I couldn’t stop bus as they won’t stop it once it’s started from departure until the first stop arrives. I waited until the first stop & crossed the road & waited for the next bus to New York.

Arrived at Times Square at 7:50, the streets were already crowded. Both sides of road were crowded and none crossed the road for the walk sign! Some taxi’s lowered the window and asked what are people looking at? Some people got down from Taxis after knowing about it. Cops were on the fly & ensured people are not blocking the traffic, as center of the road is best spot to see.

Everyday there is sunrise and sunset, but how many days are we looking at it? When was the last time you saw the sunrise & sunset by standing in a position just to look at it? But there is a point here, it’s not just a sunset, it’s a sunset that aligns in center of the street. Just like the Stonehenge in England which was constructed somewhere around 3000 BC to 2000 BC.

At 8:10, like the curtain opens before play, Sun came out with glittering rays from behind the building it was hiding. It was so beautiful to see the Golden sun surrounded with reddish ring and orange and golden glittering rays! At this evening, Nature was the celebrity! People shouted out of happiness and I kept smiling 🙂 It was the moment everyone was so happy and some even clapped for the nature 🙂 I asked someone to take a picture of me instead of just taking a selfie, what’s the use of having hundreds of people when we don’t talk to them.

People kept looking at the spot for a while even after the sun was set. More than hundreds including may not get another chance to see it next year or in future! Next time when you’re in New York City around May or July, do not miss this! It’s for this 10 minutes I waited an year! 

Checkout the video below!

 


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Cherry Blossom – Washington, D.C.


Ever since I heard this term ‘Cherry blossom’, I was wondering what it is and why is it so famous. My friend Ananth had just told me that we’re going to Washington, D.C. and I never asked a question what’s the plan there as my goal is to just go out somewhere. Just when I was about to start from office I got a call at my desk and picked it out of courtesy and that made me work for half an hour more 😀 and I came to know that the person who was working with me had also planned for Cherry blossom festival.

Cherry blossom is when the tree blossoms with its flowers all at same day. It usually happens at the first week of spring season. I had then checked in Google images to see what and how does this looks. (Wait! Don’t rush to google images now:D You will see the pics later in this post). My friend Vignesh said in our whatsapp group that these trees were givento united states by Japan in 1912 and it is planted in a place called Tidal Basin in Washington, D.C.

I’d started from office at 5:45 PM and rushed to NY Penn station to catch a train to Edison. On my way to train and while traveling in train I could hear washington, cherry blossom, weekend plan etc… from several people. I had assumed that whole New York, New Jersey and other states near by D.C. is going to be in D.C. that weekend.

Ananth came to Edison station to pick me and we went to a Subzi Mandi (Indian dept store) to buy frozen chappathis for dinner and some snacks for the weekend trip. I’d bought an additional Burborn biscuit as an evening snacks until I reach home, but I was not allowed to have it in car as he’d just washed car to resale it 😦 I thought to myself yes, I can control my hunger for few more mins as there are lot many people in the world who doesn’t even have food to eat.

However I’d finished the biscuit packet as soon as I reached home 😛 Spent some time talking to my friend and watched a Tamil movie Rajathanthiram at night, it was good. I’d asked about the time we’d to start from home and slept nicely. Everyone got ready and we’d waited for Ananth’s friend to come as he had rented a car for our trip. In U.S, people generally rent cars for long trip. We can add drivers to the rented car, meaning, whoever has planned to drive car during the trip has to include their name to the record with their valid license as proof.

We’d started from home at 11:00 AM, Ananth’s friend Varadan drove the car. We headed to car rental office at Philadelphia which is on our way to D.C. as we were not able to add drivers online. As my friends were waiting in a small queue to add their names to the trip, I’d used the rest room in the rental car office. The reason I’d mentioned about the rest room is that in U.S rest room in almost all places will be maintained very neatly. Doesn’t make me hold my breath until I come out of the restroom like how I do in India. It must be followed like this in India at-least in private places.

After adding the drivers to the rental car, we’d started form there at 12’o clock. Oh! Wait… this is what I said when we started, but it was 1’o clock 😀 as we didn’t had aux cable and since the car system couldn’t read my HDD, I’d lent movie DVDs from Redbox machine. Redbox is a ATM kind of machine that will usually be placed in places like walmart and other stores. We stopped car at ‘Seven Eleven’ shop and I’d rented Horrible Bosses 2 and The Avengers and bought an aux cable to play songs from mobile.

Ok, now all set for D.C. Ananth started driving from Philly to D.C. As we hit the highway, we could see a lot and lot of cars heading towards D.C, Ganesh checked parking in D.C. online and parking were full. Yeah, we can book parking online in U.S. I’m not sure if this is available in India. After 2.5 hours we then entered D.C. and then on it was slow moving traffic.

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Finally we’d reached our destination at 16:10 and those beautiful trees were seen everywhere. As soon as we got down from the car we started moving towards the trees and looked at the beautiful flowers. Trees full of white flowers. After looking at google images I was hoping for pink flowers but it was all white flowers. We slowly walked and started taking pics and spent an hour near Washington Channel.

The spot was very scenic. Water channel at one side and green grass and trees full of white flowers are other side. Wow! It was beautiful place. Some localities were walking/jogging with their dogs and tourists like us were having good time. We realized that was not the main place for the cherry blossom and started walking other side of the Channel. As we started walking I realized that we’re nearing the main place. Because I was able to see more people as we kept moving.

As I crossed the road near a lake, yes I’d confirmed to myself that it is the main place for this cherry blossom. We could see only peoples head. It was like Marina Beach, Chennai during Kaanum Pongal day. So many people… wow!!! I could see lot of Indians and Japanese. I heard more Tamil, Hindi and Telugu in the crowd. As we reached the lake we thought to have food and then enjoy the spot as we didn’t had lunch except for Ananth who had Dosai in car that was prepared by Varada and his wife. We then walked few meters and there were many carts. Most of the carts ran out of veggie food, what will I do now? I thought to myself. There was a cart that had falafel sandwich which was only option for Veggies like me. Sandwich here is not like how it is in India, it was like a roti and falafel is similar to masal vadai. Imagine how will you find it to have a food like this (masal vadai rolled in roti without any gravy) when you are hungry. But I didn’t feel bad then because I got at-least that to eat.

While waiting for food to arrive in the cart, when I’d asked water to my friend someone extended his hand turned a water bottle leftt and right which looked like a school kid saying ‘tata’ ‘bye bye’ to his parents. Just grabbed the bottle and drank the water. When I spoke with that person I came to know that he too is from India – Tamil nadu – and Cognizant 🙂 Talked to him about whereabouts and project he works on and said bye when our food arrived.

Sat down on the grass and had food with friends, now I made 4 more friends who were just Ananth’s friends before the trip. A trip is not just a trip always, it’s a good time to make new friends, After having food we spent sometime near the World War II memorial and then then moved near the lake and spent good time watching the scenery, taking pics. As the weather turned chill gradually when it started dark at the late evening, we moved ahead in search of rest room and Dhileep who had visited this place before said it’s in Jefferson Memorial. I don’t know why others visits this memorial, I’d visited that place at that evening for rest room 😀 😀

Passed a thousands of people in the lake walk way and reached the memorial and we ran left and right to search the rest room but it wasn’t there. OMG! Dhileep still believed it was there when he visited the previous time but now? After a few mins search we got to know that it’s in ground floor of the memorial and finally used it. It was the first worst rest room in U.S I’d visited till now. But for the busiest day that was exceptional.

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Night view of lake and WWII Memorial poorly captured in my mobile 😀

We then spent sometime in the stairs of the memorial and enjoyed the night view of the lake and place. We then headed to our car with little doubt whether our car will be toed or it’ll still be there as we’d parked in a ‘tennis court members only‘ parking 😀 and it was there 🙂 We then headed to the hotel in Virginia which Ganesh had booked for our night stay. As it was time for dinner and as we started from the place, I sat at front and Dhileep drove the car. I was saying route from Google maps, we’d decided to get food from Chipotle which is a Mexican restaurant in the U.S which has rice. So we stopped at Chipotle for dinner, got take away (parcel) and headed to our night stay, Quality Inn.

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(Day 2 to be continued as next post…)


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A trip to Muthyala Madugu


Lakshmi Narayanan, a friend of mine introduced me to his friends Jagadeesh & Prabhakar in our usual meeting spot, Hosur Railway Station. Yes, It’s a wonderful place to meet up friends during weekend. A serene environment at evening as well during other time of the day as well. As less as 25 trains a day helps in keeping our station environment neat. It might sound unusual for those who are brought up in Cities, can railway station be a meeting spot?. Unlike other places, our railway station is a bridge for many people to meet up their friends.

A serene environment at evening as well during other time of the day as well. As less as 25 trains a day helps in keeping our station environment neat.

After I met my friend’s friends, We decided to go out the next day for a trip & was into discussion about the place. It was few minutes the discussion Prabhuram joined us in the spot. We’ve come up with two places Yoga Narasimmar temple in Denkanikkottai Muthyala Madugu in  Anekal. The prior was pointed out by Prabhuram & Lakshmi Narayanan the later.

It was already 21:45 and we chose Muthyala Madugu. Lakshmi Narayanan said We’ll start at 10:00 next morning, I paused him & told My wake up bell rings at 10:00! Then 11:30 was fixed to start and we left home.

We’ve come up with two places Yoga Narasimmar temple in Denkanikkottai Muthyala Madugu in  Anekal.

Exactly at 11:30 Prabhuram called me and said it’s 11:30 and all are waiting. It was a surprise for me! How can my  friends be ready On time! I hurried my mom for Breakfast (c) Lunch & started eating, couldn’t eat fast as I will not miss to taste my mom’s preparation, that too Vengaaya Saambaar with Vendaikkai vathakkal. Finished eating & was delayed 30 minutes to reach Lakshmi Narayanan’s house.

I was third to be there and two are yet to come! That was a fun call on 11:30..! After Prabhakar & Jagadeesh reached all of us started at 12:15  & filled air & petrol for some amount.

Climate was pleasing. Went on few kilometers and saw some banners with Illaya Thalabathi on the way which was diverting riders attention from road. Yes, Illaya Thalabathi was on his way to Hosur for his fan’s marriage. After crossing Dinnur stopped for some photos and took Anekal road. It’s a very good road, with trees on both sides of the road. You would have seen that kind of road 10 years back. Now not even in Thanjavur & Mannargudi you can find this kind of road.

Prabhakar asked me How many kilometers more to reach? When I told him Not more than 20 kms da we saw the Milestone showing Anekal 9 kms. After we reached Anekal it was further 5 kms for the destination. Stopped by a Bakery, bought some snacks & moved further. Asked localities  way to Muthyala Madugu, meanwhile other 2 scooters were 1 km ahead of us.

After knowing the proper route, chased other bike & scooter with a decent speed & told them the route is other side & made a U turn. Then after we took the proper road to the falls, again other 3 went ahead and missed few snaps on the way! Falls is now 3 kms ahead. Meanwhile when myself & prabhuram was taking snaps, 3 bikes on that muddy road went on like a World’s fastest bike! We started to move on further & saw our friends in the check post bought the tokens already for us & saw a cop removing keys from a bike while 2 guys were requesting him to give their keys back. Yes! That was the World’s fastest bike that I saw few minutes back.

Before even I locked my scooter, few monkeys were ready to take our snacks. Before even Monkey started to Screech, I made Monkey like hoots and dragged the snacks carry bag. With 4 others surrounding the snacks bag, we moved on further. There were several steps down to see the falls, not more than 50 – 70 steps. We were in a wonder if we are in proper place! We couldn’t hear any water sound.

Before even Monkey started to Screech, I made Monkey like hoots and dragged the snacks carry bag.

Finally reached down & to all our surprise we saw Muthyala Madugu with not more than a 100 liters water! It was a wonderful place with full of trees and rocks. It would have been still better if there was water in the falls. Moved down further and found a place for us to sit. Finished our snacks. Enjoyed the place & environment. Spent few hours and started back, took a different route to go on.

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After few kilometers stopped by a place. It was an Ashram. The entrance gate was locked. It was all covered by many trees, when we were in some discussion suddenly we heard some dogs barking, to all our surprise two well grown dogs chained each other was running as fast as possible and we didn’t had an idea on what to do, all of us started running in same direction and as it was a open place there was no place for us to hide. But to surprise us more, dogs ran ahead of us! Yes, they were escaping from it’s master! We came to know this when a old man came near the gate asking for us if we saw his dogs coming out.

After laughing out at what was happened it was already 16:30 & we left the place and moved towards Hosur. Yes, It was a memorable trip to Muthyala Madugu!


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Skandhagiri – Unforgettable Trip!


On a cold night, at 23:50 in Bangalore; a group of eight friends planned for a trekking.  Everyone was uncertain whether 15 minutes after will we all be out for trek!

As we knew it wouldn’t be a great success and as expected only 3 were able to make it as the rest were enemy for the climate.

We 3 started @ 00:10 in 2 bikes. Yamana RX for Vikky, Me & Libin on Passion with all the passion to reach our destination to start trekking.

Stopped twice for tea/’dhum/sutta’ break before we crossed the city limit.

When the speedometer showed 90 kmph it was merely a  hairbreadth ‘scape from a highway robbery gang!

Without even turning back, our bikes fled away from the Highway to an artery. For about 35 mins the bike went on in the same road without knowing whether we’re on the right path!

First stranger at around 01:40, with a great hope that he can help, I asked Skandhagiri ge yava route hogathe? (Which route leads to Skandhagiri), before I could finish the question he said Gotthilla (Dont know!), which we never expected from the localite!

Another 20 mins ride on the same road, looking at a mountain at a distant, was confused by another mountain at the other side!! Now on a conclusion either of this is going to be our destination, we headed towards…

There was a santro loaded with 4 bouncers holding some paper, stopped bike at a decent distance, I walked towards and about to speak, before which a guy asked me in english, Do you know the way to skandhagiri? I laughed and called my friends out there… Without a clue why I’m laughing, Why calling my friends… all of them looked puzzeled!

After knowing we too are looking for the same sacred place ‘for trekkers’ he showed up the map which he had… (Thinking without the map we’ve reached upto there! We just took a look at that, without understanding what the places are… returned it to’em.)

Then a localite in a Splendor approached us knowing we are looking for something… He asked us to follow him… without even thinking who he might be and is he really going to show the way, we followed him.

On the way following him, many thrilling old movie scenes were on mind about where are we going, whence the route we’re going to reach and Et Cetera.

Finally to the goodness he showed a route & appended some left and right to that. Thank god! We’re back ontrack on our own!

Yes! There is the hill that we were looking for!
It was at 02:25, experienced the actual darkness!
Just when the head lights are off, I couldn’t see either Vikky now Libin!
We were together just with our voice…

Puzzeled where to start, heard few other voices…

…kannada…

Do you need guide? We can take you up there in two and half hours… Without any idea we said not required! Headed up few steps away… The road was so smooth that could even skit us while walking… realising that we’re walking on Vaikol (Straw, an agricultural by-product), understood that we walking nearby fields.

Again some villagers, who calls themselves the guide to skanthagiri enquired do we need a guide till the top. It was a mutual decesion that we asked them to show the path where to start from, for which we’d to pay INR200. Agreed upon, he asked us to follow him, for which we just turned right and walked few steps… He paused by, said this is the way to start from!

It was unthinkable to reach th etop without a torch… And we knew it’s going to be a challenge as it was tough when we walked on the road without a torch!

And the replacement for the torch was vikky’s Nokia’s camera flash! Luckily the battery was more than 80% and we could manage for another 2.30 hours, post which we got the sunrise.

On our way up there, some more people started following us thinking we knew the route!

Without knowing we are at the brim we blindly moved ahead hoping we would reach the top to witness the eternal sunrise first handedly. Rested on a huge rock on the way up there.

Finally after four and half hours continues effort we are at the top now! Enjoyed the sunrise! Discussing among ourself that we never seen a sunrise when at home as our early morning was when the shadow doesn’t fall on anyside! Started taking snaps and some Et Cetras are on now!

On the way down we saw & wondered the hurdels we passed through easily at the early hours without knowing they are hurdles! Now wondered on each place where we rested and struggled to climb up.

After 2 hours we are on the road again! Now the natural scenary of the village were on our Cam!

On the way home, we not only took away the adventurous memory! But some management tasks that we learned too!

The required tools (skills) to achieve a task (destination) you should carry all along the (through out the project) map (application document) to the destination and you should get help from skilled associated from other project (the guy on Splendor, who showed us the path to Skandhagiri) though they might not complete your task, but can help on routing you to the proper way.

And the trainings required to keep you armed throughout the project (torch to be carried, to ignore the hassle) when the hurdels are not know/not seen as hurdles, that can be passed easily (realised that we were on brim of the hill at the sunlight when we came down!)

Every moment has something to teach us! And this trekking taught me some management basics!

Good Luck!