Wish you a fantastic 2011!

Wish you all a fantastic 2011!

May all your dreams come true! May the travel gods smile upon you! May your bikes take you places! May your cameras click wonderful images! May you live the life you always wanted to! May there be more leaves when you want to travel! ūüôā

May your life be wonderful!!!

2010 through the rear-view mirror:

2010 to me was fantastic in terms of travel and photography!! Initially, I thought I would do a full fledged year review, but thought year reviews are too personal and hence wanted to save you the trouble of reading through yet another boring review.

So, I thought I will just list a few memorable moments of 2010.

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Backpacking in Borneo-11: Epilogue

Okay folks! Time to wind up living in Borneo!

Filipino market

This is mostly a meta-post about previously written posts to give a better perspective of my trip. Also, I will try to cover a couple of things I haven’t spoken about yet.

First, thanks to the people who made this trip possible and a successful one.

  • My wife who was pretty cool about me leaving her and going to an exotic location for 10 days
  • Adarsh for being a wonderful companion and for all the painstaking research on Borneo
  • The kind-hearted taxi driver who helped us at Kota Kinabalu
  • Tong Ali, our amazing and friendly guide at Uncle Tan
  • Lan, Olong and other friendly guys at Uncle Tan
  • Yunus, our soft-spoken and gentle guide for the Mt Kinabalu climb
  • Jenny, the energetic guide at Gunung Mulu

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Backpacking in Borneo-3: Wild Wild South-East!

Turn the boat’s engine off, lets just drift”, I told Tong, our guide from Uncle Tan’s wildlife adventures.

It had started raining dinosaurs and elephants and the other two boats (carrying European travelers mostly) were returning back. Adarsh and I were in no mood to go back, for we were on the beautiful Kinabatangan river, with no one else to share it with for miles…. in heavy rain!!! What more could you ask for?

On the Kinabatangan river

With the engine turned off, the boat took its own course following the current of the river, drifting like a vagabond with much ado about nothing! We floated and drifted for the next 2 hours! Life was never this beautiful!!!

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Backpacking in Borneo-2: A sneak preview

After 10 days in Borneo, the oldest rainforests of the world, am back!

It was an out-of-the-world and overwhelming experience to say the least and I need to take time to allow things to sink-in. I am bewitched by S.E.Asia! Perhaps, this is just the beginning.

(Please visit my flickr stream to see  the large size version)

A climber going down Mt Kinabalu

I intend to blog in detail about the trip (including how we planned, expenses, cheap travel options, etc). For now, this post is just a sneak preview of what we did.

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Backpacking in Borneo-1: Prologue

Its travel time! In less than 12 hours from now!

Backpacking to Borneo this time!

Oldest rain forests on Earth, largest caves in the world, tall peaks such as Mt Kinabalu, amazing flora and fauna… Borneo has it all!

As I had tweeted earlier, my Leh-Ladakh trip went to the dogs courtesy the rain gods and the unfortunate devastation there. I had to quickly make alternative plans. I was thinking of either of these

  • Dharamshala
  • Valley of flowers
  • cycling in Nilgiris in rain (again.. never get tired of it)
  • Some other place in Western ghats

However, Adarsh had other plans. Borneo! Initially I didn’t give it much thought, especially because I wasn’t interested in an expensive trip. But when he said he had applied for a visa, I started thinking about it seriously. The airfare on Air Asia for both domestic and international was surprisingly cheap. The fact that I could do this 10 day trip in less than 40-45K (INR) was another alluring carrot dangling in front of me. I gave in! Tickets were booked!

Borneo is the old name for the island comprising East Malaysia, Indonesia and Brunei. We are visiting only the Malaysian portion of it.

View Larger Map

Here is my 10 day trip itinerary:

  • Aug 27: Bangalore – Kuala Lumpur Air Asia flight
  • Aug 28: KL – Sandakan flight early in the morning (Air Asia)
  • Aug 28, 29, 30: Uncle Tan’s wildlife adventures near the Kinabatangan river (2 nights/3 days)
  • Aug 30:¬† Sandakan ->Kota Kinabalu -> Miri flights. If possible, roam around Kota Kinabalu as the Miri flight is at 9pm. Sleep in Miri for the night
  • Aug 31: Miri to Mulu 9.30am flight¬† (Malaysian Airlines)
  • Aug 31, Sept 1 and 2¬† in Gunung Mulu national park exploring caves and rain forests (2 nights / 3 days)
  • Sept 2: Mulu to Kota Kinabalu flight in the noon (Air Asia). Take a bus from Kota Kinabalu to Mt Kinabalu / Kinabalu park and sleep there for the night
  • Sept 3 & 4: Climb Mt Kinabalu
  • Sept 5: Kota Kinabalu to Kuala Lumpur (Air Asia)
  • Sept 6: KL – Bangalore (Air Asia)

And just in case if you are interested, a total of 8 flights cost me 23.4K INR! Air Asia prices are awesome! I only hope the service is decent too. I hope to keep the expenses below 40k (backpacking, staying in dorms, sleeping for a night in the airport, eating cheap stuff, .. you get the picture), but at the same time, not compromise on things that could make for a good trip.

My backpack is packed. Almost all of it is camera equipment. The clothes don’t weigh as much as my lenses! I am carrying my 70-300, 10-24 and 105 VR micro lenses. Along with the SB600 flash and Gitzo tripod/Arca swiss ball head. Climbing Mt. Kinabalu with all this weight is going to be fun… will come back and tell you if I made it or not :-).

My internet access in the next few days is limited. Whenever possible, I might upload a picture or two and post an article maybe. For now… please allow me to drift into dreamland!

Wish me a good trip!!!

Update: Want to know how my trip went? Read the posts below.

The entire Borneo backpacking series is listed below.

US diaries-7: Epilogue

Am returning to India on July 11th.

Yes, I am excited to be back home and look forward to playing with my kid. But there is a tinge of sadness too. I had a great time here. Easily, it was one of the best trips of my life. I visited a lot of places and made a few friends too. Will miss them all. I will especially miss the wonderful national parks of US and those mammoth landscapes!

This post is a quick reflection on my trip in Twitter style. Few words. A photo or two, thats it.

My 3 favorite photos of the trip:

1. Tule elk shot at Limantour wilderness area

Tule Elk (Cervus elaphus nannodes)

2. Antelope canyon

Antelope Canyon

3. Tufa’s of Monolake

Tufa's @ Monolake after sunset!

Places visited and a one line description of each

  • Point Reyes (Limantour, Drakes beach, Bear Valley, Tomales point, lighthouse, Muddy hollow): An amazing place with a¬†great diversity and a¬†great place for birders.
  • Bryce canyon: Amazing hoodoos that can inspire your soul and a clear night sky that can transcend you to Neverland.
  • Grand canyon south rim: A geologists dream. Huge. Did I just say huge?
  • Antelope canyon:¬†An awesome awesome awesome place to be¬†in¬†when the crowd is less.
  • Monument valley: An interesting place¬†at the right time of the¬†day.
  • Horseshoe bend: Sitting at¬†its edge can pack you off to eternal bliss’dom.
  • Colarado river gorge: Unnoticed beauty with extremely inspiring rock formations.
  • Marin Headlands: A cyclists dream route.
  • Golden gate: Shot to death several years ago by photographers.
  • Yosemite (Toulemne meadows, Le Vining, etc): Wonderful. A big big bang bang wonderful. Did I say wonderful?
  • Monolake and its Tufa’s:¬†A wonderful and ever-ongoing¬†love story¬†between a certain Mr Calcium and one Miss Carbonate.
  • Convict lake: Be there at 5.45 am.
  • Alcatraz prison: I went to the once most dreaded jail in the world and came back! Alive!

Most memorable moments
РCycling in Marin in pitch dark of the night. Taking a detour on Conzelman road and photographing Golden Gate in pitch dark from an isolated area.
– Walking up the Sunset point in Bryce Canyon and being wowed by its beauty.
– First morning in Point Reyes HI hostel. Waking up early and seeing through the large window. Chilly morning. Rain drops. Dreamy mood!
– Driving through Toulemne meadows in Yosemite early in the morning.
– Driving through Point Reyes, esp the Pierce point ranch early in the morning.
– Being so close to a bear in Yosemite.

3 most admired things in US
– Amazon.com
– US national parks
– ownership of assigned tasks

Random thoughts from the trip
– Absolutely love Galen Rowell’s adventure photography and his go-light-on-gear attitude. A huge Galen fan now!
– David duChemin. I knew him before, but got hooked to his photography during this trip.
– Tenting is fun.
– Night photography is way too much fun.
– VR/IS/SR can never kill a tripod.
– US has as many problems as India does.
– US media is worse than Headlines Today in India.
РWe Indians respect white folk more than we do our own folk. The spillover effect of a British raj!
– When you are in trouble, do nothing. Just wait until your head is clear. Most likely, the issue would clear by itself.
РGhana deserved to win the game. Suarez snatched a goal and got away with a penalty. A sure goal != a chance for a goal.

Additions to my equipment during the trip
– Gitzo 3541LS tripod and Arca Swiss Z1 monoball head
– Nikon TC17E II
–¬†Singh Ray¬†3 stop soft GND filter
– B+W Kaesemann polarizer
– Canon S90 pocket camera
– Eureka Nxt 2 man tent

Books purchased
– Mountain light by Galen Rowell
– Picture this: How pictures work by Molly Bang
– Photography and the art of seeing by Freeman Patterson

Birding spots in Nilgiris

Nilgiris! The very name evokes a fantastic feeling in my heart!

Green grass, clean air, fresh green leaves swaying in the wind, giant trees that seem to grow to the sky, amazing landscapes, a stream of water every now and then, curvy roads through the blue mountains, deeply gorged valley on one side and a treat of greenery on the other, ….. I can go on and on. That is Nilgiris. The place where I spent my childhood!

The place is also a birders paradise.

Grey Headed Canary flycatcher 1

Many people have asked me about the various birding spots in Nilgiris. This post is an attempt to answer that question. This will be a growing post. As of now, I have listed a few spots without enough information. I will gather further information and update the post as time goes.

Given below is a list of birding spots in Nilgiris, ones I have visited myself. And I have also listed ones I haven’t visited too. Hopefully by end of this year, that list should move to the visited list. View¬† My favorite locns and routes in Nilgiris in a map.

I have mapped these places on the map above. Do click on it and have a look at the larger format.
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Birding trip: Ragihalli

Last Saturday, Shreeram, Sushant and I had been to Ragihalli on a birding trip. This is a micro report on it.

Pied Bushchat @ Ragihalli

Route taken: Bannerghatta road – take left at the circle before Bannerghatta national park (I think the Veeranjaneya temple is there too just around the circle ) – keep going about 6-8 Km.

We stopped for birding at 3 spots, one being an open land en route, second being the rocks overlooking Jigani (I think) and the last one being an almost dry lake. Having experienced birders like Sushant and Shreeram helped me spot more birds this time. Highlights to me were the spottings of peacocks, barred button quail, juvenile yellow wattled lapwing, rufous treepie, etc. Also, when I was walking near a bush, a hare jumped out of nowhere and ran away just near my legs.. almost giving me a scare!

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Birding in Nilgiris – 2

In an earlier post, I blogged about days 1-3 of my Nilgiris trip. In this post, I will talk about day 4, 5 and 6 of the trip.  All snaps from this trip are uploaded to my my flickr account. If you want information regarding places and routes, please see this post.

Note: This is a lengthy post, but please do not miss the report on day 6 at Kalhatty falls early in the morning. It was the best phase of the trip.

Day 4 report: May 21: Ooty home – Doddabetta – Kotagiri – Longwood shola – Wood house area – cancelled Porthimund dam due to rain – Ooty home

By now, I was so used to the chirps of sparrows that I could hear them inside my head even if I closed my ears tight! They were my close friends. They were always there waiting for me at the window every day in the morning without fail.

House sparrow 2

Having stayed up late into the previous night trying to get more information on where and how I could spot the Nilgiri laughing thrush, I woke up at 7 am instead of the planned 6 am. I had planned to reach Doddabetta before 7 am, which was not to be. I reached there by 8 am with the sole aim of getting a very nice picture of the laughing thrush.

INWer Vijay Cavale had given me a few clear inputs. “Get the ticket –> Go straight to the tea shop and descend down the ladder –> Cross the fence. Try your luck there before crowd arrives. Or try you luck 5 km below (Kotagiri).”

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