Sundarban, Sikkim & Lava trip: Details

Sikkim – Sundarban – Lava trip was a crazy solo trip where I was constantly on the road spending crazy hours in shared jeeps mostly.

Usually, I prefer to spend more time in a single place than keep hopping. But this time, I decided to hop every day, esp because I was solo and didn’t want to feel the lack of company. In the end, it turned out to be yet another good trip. The places were good enough company for me… perhaps except Gangtok!

A few friends asked me about the trip expenses and if I would be providing a break-up like I did for Borneo.

So, here it is along with a few other stats.

1. Itinerary

12 days from 4 May to 16 May. 12N 12 D to be precise.

Day zero: Home – Airport – Kolkata. Stay in the airport (yeah, quite used to sleeping on chairs ūüėČ )

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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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Birds of Nilgiris: Nilgiri Laughing Thrush

Nilgiri laughing thrush

The Nilgiris Laughing Thrush (also called Black chinned Laughing Thrush) is an endangered endemic bird found only in and around Nilgiris.

A noisy bird with a distinctive laughing call and striking features (black chin, sharp black beak, white brows, reddish brown feathers, etc), though relatively easier to hear (provided you are at the very few spots it is found at), is pretty tough to spot. It keeps mostly to thickets.. foraging for insects, fruits and nectar, esp at lower levels.¬† And it moves alone most of the time, though other NLT’s might be foraging in the vicinity. Continue reading

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
– 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

2009 – a fantastic year comes to a close!

Another year comes to a close! First, let me wish you all a fantastic New Year ahead! May all your wishes and dreams turn true!!!

To me, 2009 turned out to be one of my best years so far! Many firsts, many challenges overcome and goals reached, an addition of a cutie-pie in my family (baby girl) and much more!

The most important thing was the birth of my daughter! She was born on 21-Nov-2009. She has changed me forever. My world is now filled with fairy tales! Here is a pic of her.

Financially too, the year has been great. I reached my personal networth goal for 2009 in July itself, aided hugely by the stock market surge. I managed to better my own goal by 33%… inspite of more than expected spending. My yearly savings figure for 2009 stood at 51.6%.

If you kept adding to your folio during the downturn without listening to naysayers, you made a killing. The Nifty in 1 year went from 2959 to 5201, a rise of almost 76%. If you picked your stocks well, you even made 3-5 baggers. My biggest gainers were Yes bank, BEL, LMW, GDL, etc all of which had a high weightage in my folio in addition to Nifty bees and Junior nifty bees. Ever since the Nifty hit P/E of 18+, I had been a seller. In Sept, Nifty P/E hit 22 and I sold almost 40% of my index holdings. However, I am holding onto my individual picks except Yes bank which I had sold during the year.

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