Sunday, January 18, 2009

“Runners High”…. Can we feel it?

I have always heard people talk about this term “Runners High”. Reading though the Internet I figured out this is something that is not generally accepted to exist by general community. I do not exactly know what it feels like to be on a High when running. But I guess I will write down something that I felt during my longer distance running. I cannot exactly call myself a long distance runner, as I have just done some 10k runs.

When I initially started running in the beginning I wasn’t at the best of my shape for that. I usually get tired real fast and had to stop after just running a small distance. After few weeks I figured out that if I can overcome the initial resistance offered by the body (which begs you to stop after some distance), I actually continued to run a much longer distance then I thought I could. If feels like the mind has overcome the body – “Not sure if this is what we call a runners high”.

There was one day when I was feeling tremendously depressed with something. And I just felt like running (I remembered the elated feeling I have during running). I actually went out running at 8:00 pm in the night to a nearby park. And to my relief I actually started feeling much better mentally. May be I was feeling the “Runners High”.

I was watching the news in the morning today. It was showing peoples running for Mumbai Marathon. A nice feeling ran through my body, with some occasional goose bumps. May be I felt good just looking and peoples running, and relating myself to the good feeling.

Whenever I go home to Assam to visit my family, I make it a point to go out in the morning and go for a small run (however small it may be). It makes me feel good for the whole day.

I don’t quite know if the “Runners High” exist, but I do know that running makes me feel good (though tired) and it definitely is a mood enhancer.

Some of this further reading will be of help to you. Go through the links below.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Planning for a trekking? What should you be carrying?

Ever wondered before your first trekking expedition what to carry in your rucksack. With every grams of additional weight in your back adding to your pain while walking uphill, knowing what to carry what not will make your life a lot easier.

I am not a very avid trekker, but I do have done some trekking. I will try to pen down some of my experiences here of things to carry and what is a waste which might be a starting point for an armature trekker. I would still advice you to talk to few experienced people to get more insights. This will not be sufficient for trekking to the Himalayas though J

The kind of things that you carry depends on what kind of trekking you are planning to have. Does it include overnight camping and campfire, what time of the year, how is the landscape of your trekking spot.

Lets start with few must haves:

-          Water: Basic thumb-rule, carry as much you can. Every liter of water adds an additional kg of weight to your luggage. So it is always good to check if there are any sources of water available in the trekking route (and what are their locations). Is the water potable? In one of our trek (to Kumar Parvata), we had prior knowledge of water spots and we saved lot of pain by carrying limited water. Walking without water is not advisable (you keep sweating) and with overnight camps, you have additional needs (cooking, washing, bio-needs). An average human needs 2 liters of water per day, so carry accordingly and share the load. You will soon figure out that water makes almost 1/4th of your weight at rucksack.

-          Rucksack: Its good to have a good backpack. A rucksack (can be rented out from some adventure shops) is a good thing to carry. A balanced load at your back can make your life really comfortable.

-          Medical kit: Carry your medication. Basic must haves: Pain balm or spray, Band-aid, Cotton, Antiseptic. A cramp bandage comes in handy. A sunscreen.

-          Eatables: Carry some energy bar (low volume and weight), fruits, and biscuits. Anything you are comfortable eating is fine. For night stay things like ready-to-eat (MTR) and Maggi is comfortable to cook.

-          Shoes: Wear shoes for the trek. This is basic I know, but a bad pair of shoe will make your life horrible. If a shoe does not fit well or cuts, don’t ever think of wearing it. Have some good grip.

-          Dress: Comfortable clothes. Warm ones for night stay (hill tops are colder then the valleys). It is not really important to carry additional pair of clothes and the space can be used effectively otherwise. An additional pair is advised for wet trek (water bodies on the way, rainy days).

-          Camera: I don’t think you want to miss your moments. Carry spare batteries.

-          Light source: A torch is a must if you expect an overnight stay. LED ones are small and bright.

 Luxury takes, or things to carry depending on the type of trekking: 

-          Tent and sleeping bag: If you are planning for an overnight stay, it’s a must. Camping location should be at a place where there is not much wind (there are instances of tent being carried away by wind, with peoples inside).

-          Small tool: A Swiss knife would be a good enough tool. A dense jungle might require a bigger knife.

-          Cooking tools: For overnight stay, you need to have food. Take one utensil for cooking. Paper/plastic plates/glass/spoons is a good carry. You typically get firewood at trekking spots, but carry some kerosene/petrol, matchbox/lighter and newspapers for assisting in starting the fire. Block the fire from wind.

-          Guide: There are some treks that are not advisable without a guide. Check for guides in local peoples. Some blog posts by previous visitors might be of help.

 Some dos/don’ts before, during and after the trek: 

-          Tune yourself for the trek. Go for some brisk walks/jogging in the morning at least a week before the trek. If you are an active person it will be okay, else you will end up in severe cramps. You will not only spoil yours but also others trek.

-          Make a to do list a day before the trek (things you need to do or carry for the trek, like tents, food etc). You won’t end up forgetting things at the last moment.

-          Always try to start your trek early in the morning. Its comparatively colder and your body can be active.

-          During trek keep yourself constantly hydrated. You also reduce the weights you carry by drinking your water.

-          Start your camping at least 2 hrs before sunset if possible. You can also collect firewood’s at this time. Things become doubly difficult after dark (though with sufficient torch lights supporting you, its okay).

-          Give yourself time to enjoy the sunset and sunrise. Waking up early one day does not do any harm J

-          Check for animals in camping locations.

-          NEVER put up your camp in very windy place, or very close to end of cliffs. Being safe is more important than being adventurous.

-          Keep viewing distance between team members. Important specially in dense jungle treks.

-          Walking up is safer then coming down. Watch for loose rocks. Have good shoes.

-          Know your limits before trying extreme stunts.

-          BE SAFE.

 There must be some things that I might have missed. I will try to add them up at a later date in a different post. The one thing to remember is its always fun to trek with zero weight at your back. So carry the limited necessities.

 Happy trekking and HAVE FUN…

Monday, January 5, 2009

Trip to Kalavaarahalli betta (Skandagiri)

I have been there before, and I knew this was good. So when my friend called me up for a trek and night camping at “Kalavaarahalli betta”, I said YES without hesitation.

Kalavaarahalli betta OR Skandagiri is a place ~ 70 kms from Bangalore near a small town called Chikkaballapura. Trekkers mainly trek here overnight to view the splendid sunrise in the morning.

There are two routes to reach this place. One is to take a turn towards Nandi Hills and go further to Kalawara Village crossing Muddenahalli. This is shorter route than the one from Chikaballapur. Second one is to go to Chikkaballapura and then to Kalawara Village. From Kalawara Village ask for Omkara Jyoti Ashrama / Papagni Mutt. There is a shiva temple and vehicles can be parked there. This is at the base of the Hills.

We were 4 of them: Me, Pankaj Jaiswal (Jassi), Jyoti Prakash Deka (Deka) and Sikha (Deka’s wife). We planned to trek to the peak in the evening (and possibly see the sunset) and camp there for the night. See the sunrise the next morning and then trek back. We decided to go on our bikes. The plan was finalized with all the logistical details and each one of them was assigned their part of the preparation work.

We started from Bangalore on 3rd of January in the afternoon @ 3:00 pm. We all got together at the outer ring road flyover, which turns towards Hebbal from K.R.Puram. After we redistributed our weights, we started our journey towards Chikkaballapura. The roads until BIAL was really good. We had to take a left turn in Chikkaballapura town (near a temple) that lead us to the Papagni Mutt. Bought some water on the way. We finally reached the base @ 5:15 pm.

After quickly freshening ourselves, we started on our trek towards the Kalavaarahalli betta peak. The bikes were parked in the base (its quite safe). There are guides easily available (if u need one), but we didn’t take any. The loads in our backpack had become quite heavy with the tents, sleeping bags, water and food in it. With none of us in our best of physique, we got tired soon and had to take frequent breaks on the way. The trek path is well marked and frequently visited. We finally reached the peak at ~ 7:30 pm after almost two hours of trekking. We missed the sunset by quite some time.

Now its time for some surprise for me. I saw vendors at the peak selling tea and snacks (which was missing the last time I came here). There were even campsites and firewoods on sale. We were pleasantly surprised (and also annoyed at the exorbitant pricing). We took some bread omelet and went to a campsite the vendor showed. It was a nice cozy place, a bit protected from the heavy winds that were beating the peak at that time. Temperature started dropping fast and we quickly had our tents erected. With enough of woods available, we started a campfire and made some lemonade. People were hungry and all gulped the Biryani’s we packed from Hyderabad House in Bangalore. The campfire continued afterwards with occasional lemonades and baby corn barbecue along with roasted potatoes. Believe me that was fun. As the wind started getting stronger, we decided to take shelter into our tents. We had a tough sleep at night with the gust of wind constantly beating the tents to wake us up throughout the night.

Woke up early in the morning (5:00 am) and re-lit our campfire. Had a quick session of lemonade and some cup-noodles. It was still quite dark. After the sky got brighter at 6:30 am, we moved towards the viewpoints for seeing the sunrise. It was extremely misty and foggy and the visibility level was very low. We quickly lost our hopes of seeing a sunrise. The chilly wind was really hard to bear. But to our surprise, the sun smiled at a height above the clouds and the fogs cleared. We quickly got it captured in our camera.

It was time to get back. We packed our bags and the tents. Collected the garbage we created to be thrown at a common place for disposal. Cleared the bills with the vendor from which we took the snacks and firewood.

We started our trek back to the base. Captured some pictures on our way back. After reaching the base we redistributed our weights on our backpack. It was time to drive back to Bangalore.

On our way back had a stopover for lunch at Green Park restaurant. Food was average. Finally reached Bangalore @ ~ 2:30 pm.

The whole trip was an wonderful experience, much better then the first trip I had because of the wonderful overnight camping and the campfire.

Important information:

Location: Kalavaarahalli betta (Skandagiri), ~70+ kms from Bangalore

Routes: There are two routes to reach this place. One is take a turn towards Nandi Hills and go further to KalawaraVillage crossing Muddenahalli. This is shorter route than the one from Chikaballapur. Second one is to go to Chikkaballapura and then to kalawaraVillage. From KalawaraVillage ask for Omkara Jyoti Ashrama / Papagni Mutt. There is a shiva temple and vehicles can be parked there. This is at the base of the Hills.

Others: You get some tea and bread omelet at the peak, but mostly carry your stuff. Medical care will be possible at the Chikkaballapura town only.

Friday, January 2, 2009

Assam Blasts (Not a beginning I expected for the year 2009)

GUWAHATI: Terror struck on the first day of 2009 in Assam where three serial blasts in as many hours triggered by suspected Ulfa militants left five people dead and more than 60 injured in Guwahati.

The explosions took place a few hours before P Chidambaram flew in for his maiden visit as home minister to review the law and order situation. He was escorted to the Raj Bhawan from the airport under heavy security, past one of the blast sites.

Terrorists appeared to mock a heavy security bandobast put in place for the New Year in the wake of the 26/11 Mumbai carnage and for the home minister's visit. Assam chief minister Tarun Gogoi admitted as much. 

``There were security lapses. Our police force needs to be modernized and trained to deal with such terror attacks,'' he said, echoing something that's become obvious since the Mumbai attack.