Saturday, October 25, 2008

Flight delay confusion

It is the Diwali break and we are at the Pune airport waiting to board our Kingfisher flight departing to Chennai at 3:15 PM. My flight which was scheduled to leave tomorrow got canceled and I had to reschedule it to today, a working day. I took half a day leave from office considering that we had to report 1.5 hours before departure. So here I was at the boarding gate waiting for the call to board the plane. Then comes the announcement of a delay of 1 hour 45 minutes due to the closure of the runway as it was being used by the Indian airforce. The airforce base is very close to the Loheghad airport and the runway is shared for civilian and military use. I found this fishy because such closures are scheduled well in advance and I suspected other reasons for the delay. To kill time, I go get myself a chicken sandwich, at the only counter selling any food, for a whooping Rs.80. A coffee costed Rs.40. Rip offs! Just when I finished my sandwich, I hear another announcement to collect snack boxes for Kingfisher passengers. Jeez, they could have announced earlier! To kill some more time, I go and get their snacks. Eating food to kill time is a dangerous leisure activity. Amateurs, do not even try! Then to my utter surprise, I see Indigo passengers proceeding to board their flight followed by a prompt announcement from Kingfisher. The flight is delayed by another hour and this time because it is stuck in Mumbai due to of ATC (Air Traffic Controller) reasons! I see a sudden rush of passengers towards the Kingfisher counters seeking answers. There are many who need to catch connecting flights from Chennai. The staff were totally in the blue and could not help them. It was almost 6:30 PM and after departures of two latter Kingfisher flights, we got our boarding call. Releived to be in the flight we hear the Captain apologizing for the delay. He attributed the delay to a tire burst on the Pune runway of some prior flight which led to the diversion of this flight to Mumbai. Three different stories and we were glad to be off the plane in Chennai.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Ride to Neelkanteshwar

October is almost like a second summer in Pune. The monsoon has just ended and the temperature hovers around the mid 30s C. I went shopping the previous night looking for a dry fit shirt and pant. I did not find a Nike dry-fit full arm shirt and so settled for a Adidas climacool for Rs. 1500 and a Nike dry-fit track pant for Rs. 1200 from Planet Sports, SGS Mall. I lost the buckle on my helmet and so went hunting for one but to no avail. I went to Prime Sports on MG Road, the shop I purchased my helmet from, and asked them if they had a replacement buckle or strap. The owner was terse in replies and wanted me to just buy a new helmet! I would not have expected them to have spares of products they distribute but at least could have been friendlier or have pointed me to someplace I could get one. I reached home at around 10:30 PM in the night to at least get some sleep but the electricity had just busted. It has become a common problem now in Pune with frequent power cuts at unusual times. I just pray that the nuclear deal starts producing results soon. So instead of sweating it out at home, we decided to celebrate with dessert :) It was not till 2:00 AM before I could sleep! These set of ad hoc events had serious repercussions on my ride.

It is 4:30 in the morning and I was frantically looking for my cycle pump. I had checked on my tires late last night and the tires were almost flat. Not been doing justice to cycling lately! I then remembered that I had given the pump to a friend during a previous ride. I could not get through his number though. It was also getting late. Our group from Magarpatta had to meet the Pune Cycle Pratishthan (PCP) group at Kothrud at 5:40 AM. It was already 5:15 AM and was desperately seeking solutions. Luckily a friend of mine had bought a LA Diesel yesterday. So I borrowed it and along with a couple of riders cycled furiously to catch up with the rest of the folks at Kothrud. The new bike needed adjustments to suit me. I could raise the seat easily but did not have the tools to raise the handle bar. I had to compromise on the seat height and raised it as much as my back would not hurt. My legs were never on full stretch and that was a big drain on my energy. We the latecomers reached Kothrud around 6:15 AM and the group was waiting patiently for us. This is a big lesson learn t for me. I should never have mixed up on priorities and ignored checking my bicycle the day before.

The group ranged from a young 10 year old to the young at heart senior citizens :) The wide variety of bikes around from Doodhwalas (Hero Jet / Atlas) to Trek 6 series were photo moments. There were first timers, regular office commuters, national and local racers and seasoned cross country veterans. I felt wonderful riding with such a group. We cycled from Kothrud to Shivne, crossed Peacock Bay before stopping for a break. The ride was scenic along the Khadakwasala dam's backwaters and the picturesque hills in the backdrop.

Vada pav break

Hill around Khadakwasala

Half laid road before Neelkanteshwar base

The support vehicle brought us vada pav and then we rode on towards Neelkanteshwar base. My mileage clocked around 50 Kms when we reached the base. The climb from the base of Neelkanteshwar was a steep trail filled with mud and stones of all sizes/shapes. The very look of the climb was discouraging but got inspiration from others who took it on. I tried too and was surprised to find how gears can simplify the efforts. Pardon the novice me but this is my first long distance ride on a geared cycle! I went along but it only got tougher with the worsening trail filled haphazardly with huge stones. Half way though, my thigh gave up and cramped when I was negotiating a climb over a rock. I went flat down and was reeling with pain. I remembered to stretch and drink water but the pain fudged my thinking and I stretched the wrong side! Yulas, the group leader, offered me tablets but I am usually averse to medication and so did not take it. I stretched again, this time right! Drank lots of water and rested for a while. I pushed the cycle rest of the way up till the point where the trek starts to reach the temple uphill. We were offered buttermilk and rested for a while.

The trek up went fine. Refreshed ourselves with the cool water in the temple, took some more rest and then climbed back down to where our cycles were parked.

View from Neelkanteshwar

Trek downhill

Now started the downhill ride on the stony trail. The bike and the body took a beating and my hands were all sore and bruised by the time we reached down. A stark reminder to wear gloves next time! We then crossed the backwaters on a boat. This boat ferried people across on a regular basis and had a very unique way of propelling. There is a rope tied between and the boatman pulls the rope and navigates the boat across.

Boat ferrying the cycles

View from the boat on Khadakwasala backwaters

After crossing over we had a pit stop to have lunch. Delicious poha with freshly grated coconut and coriander was served. There was also an abundant supply of bananas. This is where we introduced ourselves and was amazed to know the background of each and everyone in this group. I truly admire the enthusiasm and fitness levels of every individual in the group where age or skill drew no barriers.

We started cycling back towards Donje Phata, which is also the entry point to the famous Sinhagad fort. This route was unfamiliar to me and the very fact that I did not know what was coming drained me completely. I saw uphill climbs after every turn and this went on endlessly. We somehow made it after many puffs and pants. We were offered refreshments there and seeing our state of despair, Yulas was kind enough to offer us a ride on the support vehicle. However we felt that we had to give ourselves one final thrust and complete this. I would not get a good nights sleep otherwise. This is one route we had done many times before. Though circumstances were totally different now, we had to do it. So we rode and rode like zombies forgetting all about every nerve in the body that was complaining. We took a few breaks for water and to stretch. We saw some of the other riders breeze past us. I am in total admiration of their fitness levels. I had a bad experience with the Adidas Climacool Tshirt. I was sweating profusely inside and felt very uncomfortable. The Nike dry-fit pant worked wonders though.

We finally reached home after traveling 40/45 Kms back which gave us a feeling of tremendous satisfaction!

Monday, October 13, 2008

Mumbai Pune private Volvo buses

We had been to Mumbai over the weekend. My car's spare tire needed to be replaced and it was just the two of us traveling, so we decided to use public transport. We had a longer than usual wait at the MSRTC counter Saturday evening because our scheduled bus had a breakdown and we had to wait for the next bus to get ready. The train is a good option but our plan was adhoc and we could not have gotten train tickets. We were against private buses because of prior bad experiences.

So we reached Mumbai after a smooth ride and had a nice time there. Our trip back was a different experience. MSRTC buses ply from Dadar and have their ticketing counters there. Dadar was far and so we decided to give private buses from Chembur a chance.

We did get the tickets and got into a waiting bus fairly quickly but thats all the nicety we experienced. The bus was supposedly a Volvo but it had a suspension poorer than an auto
rickshaw. In spite of us sitting in the middle rows, we had to absorb all the shocks which probably also helped prevent the roof from flying off. The windows had no curtains and it was a night ride through the expressway. So figure the high beams staring at someone who is trying to sleep. The AC was hardly functioning inside the bus sealed like a nuclear reactor. We were gasping trying to breath through the minuscle vents above us that spat molecules of air which was absorbed by everything living and non living. The only positive we took from the ride was that it had less halts and did not even stop midway through the expressway. Unusual for private buses and good for the well prepared but pity others who were counting on the mid ride break to let go. We felt releived reaching Pune but felt heart fully for the others that got into the bus for a further 12 hour ride to Hyderabad!!

Tuesday, October 07, 2008


Last couple of weeks had been hectic with office work and working on the backstage of a play that my company was participating in. The backstage involved a lot of sets and properties managed pretty well by the backstage team. The play turned out well and exceeded our expectations. We expected a few prizes including one for backstage but was not to be to our disappointment. We could not introspect to find out the reason as we heard that the organizers of the event are not very forthcoming on their decisions. Overall left a bad taste on our mouths specially after all the hard work that was put in and watching the mediocre backstage of the other performances that got nominations.

World is not fair, yes, but it is hard to accept it.