Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Into the tranquil Islands

Far beyond the wave…
to an absolute serenity…
Wild and the weathered…
And dreams come true!
I wasn’t reading the Alchemist book, but it reminded me of the book again and again. I wasn’t going through the same dreams anymore but it reminded me of the same dream again. I wasn’t sure of witnessing what I encountered which took my breath away for a few seconds. I could smell the wonderful perfume out of the odomos mosquito repellent cream rubbed onto my hands and shoulders. I could forget all the ant bites and feel good for its nice small red kisses created on my body. And I was shell shocked that I was not dreaming, rather I was seeing and witnessing what I had dreamt off or I could encounter the beauty beyond my dreams and thoughts. The moment that took my breath away was when I saw the ‘Orange Moon’ setting into the Arabian Sea at 3 am in the morning on November 1st, 2009 at the Thonse Par Island.
It was our much awaited ‘State level Island Expedition 2009’ organized by the Youth Hostels Association of India (YHAI). After a successful pilot camp in the year 2008, YHAI had announced this Island expedition for this year as well. As soon as we got the information from Sujay on the expedition we registered for the event. Sandy had booked the bus tickets for both leg journeys. We were supposed to report at the camp site Barkur which is 23 kms from Udupi on 30th October at 9.30 Am. So we had to start from Bengaluru on 29th October evening. Our team size from Bengaluru was 13 in total. But since TS was in Bellary, he planned to travel from there directly. So 12 of us, Sandy, Sunil, Sujay, Ashwin, Sudhi, Harish, Raghu, Harish D, Kowshik, Lakshmi, Thileepan and I boarded the Sugama travels from our respective pick up points. I met Sudhi, Ashwin and Harish for the first time and I was looking forward for a good time with them. To our bad luck and wrong assumption, we got to know that the bus may reach Udupi only at 8.30 Am in the morning if the road is good. So we were really not sure if we would make it to the camp site on time.
Well, the journey in Sugama travels was not as good as the name of the bus was. Our adventure started as soon as we started our bus journey. Because of some terrible noise from the window, Sujay, Sudhi, Ashwin and Hari had to take the back seats. And at 2 Am, there was a horrible incident of a woman being molested by the bus cleaner. Shame on the bus service and their staff. Read Sudhi’s writing for more details on this. And to our bad luck, at 3 Pm, our bus encountered with some technical problem and we all had to get down and move to some other bus. Fortunately, within 5 minutes we got in to the second bus which had only 10 seats. But unfortunately, Kowshik, Lakshmi, Sunil and Raghu could not make it to the second bus. They did not get into the bus because the bus was full. So our team was divided mid way. Eight of us, settled ourselves in the fairly good seats but with full of bed bugs. None of us got good sleep, but by then, we encountered the second twist of the day. We had crossed the Dharmasthala junction and adding to our bad luck, even the second bus (so called IDEAL travels) encountered a breakdown in its gear box. All our excitement of reaching the campsite on time got washed away. We were very sure of not making it on time. We called Kowshik and team and updated them that we would wait for them in Mangalore as we were not sure of reaching the campsite on time. We got in to the third bus and luckily we reached Mangalore without any problems. All along the way, Sujay was claiming that he was responsible for all the breakdowns. He and his team say that if Sujay is with us, we will encounter such problems every time. We had some good fun during our bus ride with all our poor jokes.

So we reached Mangalore at 9.30 Am and we called TS who had already reached the campsite. He checked with Mr. Adiga, the camp coordinator whether we can join them or not for the day. We got to know from TS that there is no possibility of we joining them and we were asked to join them only in the evening at the next campsite. We were all very disappointed of not making to the campsite on time and we would miss 1st days event. But we did not give up. I called Mr. Adiga directly and asked him on the possibility; he was kind enough to tell us that we can join them at 12 near the BenneKaduru where the motor boats will depart to the Islands. We promised him that we would reach there by 12 Pm and booked two cars (Ambassadors) and left from Mangalore. We updated Kowshik on our plans and came to know that they were still on their way to Mangalore in a government bus. Since it would be difficult for them to join us, they had decided to relax and join us in the evening at the first day’s camping site Padukere.
While we were on the move, I got a message from TS saying “Please make it early, they won’t wait”. I looked at my watch; it was already 11:45; we were still 20 km away from the place we had to reach. I called up Mr.Adiga again and requested him to wait for us. He was kind enough to say “not to worry, we are waiting for you to come here”. Both our car drivers were really good and consistently moving fast. They did not even bother at the dirty road which had turned like a mountain biking terrain. As the saying goes, ‘every beginning will have a happy ending’, we reached the BenneKaduru temple at 12:05 and we were happy to see the crowd assembled and waiting just for us. We were welcomed by Mr.Adiga and we also apologized for being late explaining our travel adventure. Finally, like politicians or the heroic characters, eight of us, arrived late and walked into the motorboats to our respective teams.
Beyond the waves!

And our journey started! It was good to see more than 80 participants from across South India participating in event. We were divided into 6 groups of 15 members each. We were given pack lunch for the afternoon and all they had made transport arrangements for our rucksacks to be shifted to the Padukere campsite. So, only we, our lenses, food and the boat were going to see the Islands.
We were sailing on the amazing back waters of Sita River. Blue waters, coconut trees, fisherman on their fishing boats holding their fishing nets to catch their breads, sun observing us sailing from an inch above the coconut trees, Far seen Islands welcoming us to embrace its beauty, made me relaxed, forget the stressful past and attain the sub-conscious state as I sailed along the waters. We reached the first Island that welcomed us with its absolutely peaceful nature and fresh air. We walked around the place for some time and had a good discussion with Mr. Adiga and other senior members as well. There were quite a few senior citizens who were trying their best to look as younger as ever. From the initial discussions with Mr. Adiga itself, I could make out how humble and down to earth person he is. It is a very rare chance that one could get to meet such people. I was also lucky for meeting him.

We got into our respective boats and started sailing again. The next journey was to one more island where we were supposed to have our lunch. It was a very big island compared to the first one and also there was a drinking water facility. So it was the right place to have lunch. As soon as we reached, we had our lunch; since we all were hungry; we ate like we had not seen the food for years. We walked around the Island and took some good shots. Best part of the island was our photography session. I was always looking forward to learn some good photography from Sujay and others. It was a right occasion for me to explore some good clicks.

Sailing from the second Island to the next destination was real fun. It was already 3 Pm and we were looking forward to meet Kowz, Lax, Sunil and Raghu who would reach Padukere camp. But our sailing did not end so soon. It was a long ride from the second island to the next stop. At a few places, we had to get down from the boat and push it to get it on to the water because of the high sand level. It was a real good experience and all the folks enjoyed it. After the wonderful boat ride, we all had to get down for the next 2 hours walk on the paddy fields.
Paddy fields were just splendid. We could get to encounter some of the best attractive views of the paddy fields and people working hard on the fields. We were under the piercing sun, blue sky, wet ground and almost brownish paddy crops. So it was a lovely sight to our lenses and my shooter could not stop capturing the best moments. While I was trying a shot, all our folks moved ahead and I was stuck between the folks from Andhra Pradesh. Thinking that I do not understand Telugu, one guy made a statement in Telugu which meant “why do people take clicks without people in it”. I just smiled and continued with my clicks. I guess he got to know that I understood his saying.

After walking, cat walking, slow walking, limping and almost sleep walking, we finally reached a place where we could see our rucksacks. Wow! We reached… was our reaction and we went and picked up our sacks and started moving towards the campsite. I received a call from Sunil that they have also reached the site. We had to cross the coconut farm and a 30 ft bituminous pavement to see the spectacular campsite. Cool blue tents, the Arabian Sea, and the red hot sun all set to set were seen. We were welcomed by the Kokam drink and smiles of Kowshik, Lakshmi, Sunil and Raghu. We described them about our 1st day’s experience and also convinced them that they did not miss much except for the motor boat ride. And as usual, like in our Sarpass trek, Sandy chose our tent and we dumped all our sacks inside and went to the beach.
It was like a virgin beach for us!
Imagine yourself walking on a virgin beach which was unexplored by anyone so far. It was almost a similar experience for us to see the Padukere Beach. There were absolutely zero other public except for YHAI participants. We had reached there on time to the sunset. All our cameras were sounding clicks, fricks and blicks! Literally it was like we created the sunset. After the sunset, we were asked to assemble, all of us with tired faces, reluctantly assembled to listen to the speeches. But the session was really good.

Mr. Adiga briefed us about the plans, dos and don’ts, and schedule of events again and he thanked all the people who made the event possible. To entertain us, there were a few cultural events as well. We thoroughly enjoyed the cultural events and even before we finished with the events, our mind had already entered the kitchen and started smelling good food. It was a wonderful dinner to end all the events of the day. One very good thing about YHAI is that they give very good healthy food. After dinner, we went to the beach, walked on the sand, involved ourselves into some deep thoughts; and my mind could not come out of some of the past conversations; with all these, I also managed to get some good clicks of the moon light view of the beach. Since it was very hot and we were almost sinking in sweat inside the tent, we decided to sleep outside. My eyes could not stop watching the splendid moon until the moon was captured into my dreams.
The beach walk!
Since it was raining in the early morning, we had to run into our tents. We woke up at around 6 am to see the red sunrise in the morning, and we were scheduled to be ready by 7:30 Am. We were asked to play the big cats’ role on the beach considering not spoiling the beautiful beach with our early morning nature calls. We were big enough to play the big cats’ role and we were all done by 7:30. After the delicious breakfast, we had some time to play. So I picked up the Frisbee that I had taken from one of my friend in Bengaluru – Ravee. He is an Ultimate Frisbee Player. So he had given me a very good Frisbee. So, Sujay, Kowshik and I started playing. As we started, many others joined us and we played till the whistle was blown to pack our lunch and get started with the beach walk.

It was a 16 km beach walk planned for the day. So initially we were very excited to walk on the beach. But as we started walking, we could face the difficulty of walking on the beach. Since it was a slope surface, walking in one particular direction will put more pressure to one leg. We were feeling like resting after every 15 minutes of walk. But since we were already very slow in our walk because of our photographic craves, we could not rest much. All we had to do was to catch up with the folks who were very fast in walking. As we walked on the beach, we could encounter some of the best views that we have ever seen. All along the way the only hum that we could hear was of the waves. It was an eye catcher and one would stand still looking at the waves, and dance listening to its songs. I was told that a sea would never keep anything that is dead. Everything that we saw was so lively and the Arabian Sea was full of life. Infact it would bring in life for other non living things as well. The sun, the sea, the beach, the calcium shells, the jelly fishes, coconut trees, sailor boats, fisherman tents, fisherman nets and along with them all eighty of us walking on the beach was an amazing feeling.
After the 16kms of tiresome walk, we reached Malpe beach. We had only stopped at a place for our lunch and to eat ice lolly bars; other than that it was a steady consistent walk. Near to Malpe beach, Sujay and I met with a group of kids who were doing free jumping and our cameras could not stop clicking some of the best shots. After reaching Malpe beach, we were really tired and we could not walk much. Our legs started to pain and we could barely look at where others were. We saw shop selling buttermilk and we gulped 2 packets each and felt better. The only motivation was to walk till the next shop where we could drink buttermilk again.

We finally reached the place from where we could get on to the motor boat that would take us to the Island where we were going to camp for the night. As we reached the place, we were given very good drink made of green gram which is very good for health and some Alu bondas. Since we had some time left before we get onto the motor boat, we spent some good hilarious moments cracking PJs, commenting about people walking around and talking about stories of our earlier camps. It was absolutely rib-tickling fun time.
Thonse Par’ aka ‘Aasare Thota’ aka ‘St.Mary’s Island
We got into the motor boat at around 5 Pm and we started our sailing to one of the most beautiful Islands in the world called as St. Mary’s Island. Since many of them will not prefer calling the island in its name, they call it by two other names Thonse Par and Aasare Thota. While we were on the boat and during the whole journey of 25 minutes to the Island, all we did was to click photographs. People watching us went bonkers looking at the way we were clicking pictures. We could not help because it was almost the sunset time and the Thonse Par Island was looking gorgeous with its welcoming coconut trees. By the time we reached the Island, it was already dark and we were the only ones who were allowed to stay at this Island on a special permission for the camp. So in that way we were very lucky. Thonse Par is one of the most beautiful Islands and it is known for its volcanic rock formation. The rocks in this Island are of hexagonal shape and look very attractive. There are only 2 places in the world to have such rock formation and we are lucky to have one in India. The other is somewhere in Italy.

There was no tent accommodation arrangement and we were supposed to sleep under the direct moon light. Only worry was if it rains in the night for which all of us were excitingly stated ‘that will be just wonderful’. It was a good team spirit showcased during the camp. As usual there was a cultural session and all the participants were getting involved to perform any activity. TS and I also entertained folks with our songs. We dedicated one of our songs to ‘Kannada Rajyothsava’ on Nov 1st. The session was followed by the feedback session where some of us shared our feedback about the camp.
After a good cultural session, delicious dinner, some good moon light clicks and other new photographic experiments, we all were set to sleep. Thanks to Sandy as he had got the odomos mosquito repellent cream so that we could sleep peacefully. But we suffered a lot from ant bites. At about 3 am, I could witness the most amazing moment in my life to see the moon set. Moon was looking like a blown orange ball and was all ready to dive into the sea. I watched the whole activity without a blink and open mouth. I tried clicking a few pictures, but I could not get a good one. But the whole set remained in my eyes and will be there forever.

We got up early morning to perform our nature’s call and we were again warned not to spoil the Island. We did justice to our responsibilities and being eco friendly, we did all it takes to be eco friendly. Since we were not allowed to play in the water in any of the beaches, we were allowed to play in the water and take bath on the last day. So few of our team members went to play in the water and few of us started playing Frisbee again. We played Frisbee for a very long time and most of the other started joining the play. We played until we assembled to celebrate Kannada Rajyothsava and hoist the Karnataka flag. It was a good gather and we collectively sang our state anthem. The message given my Mr.Adiga on the occasion of the day was to be secular and follow the national integration. We were also asked to perform the cleaning activity at the Island and those who were interested started cleaning up the whole Island. We piled up huge amount of garbage and did some justice to the voluntary service. Fortunately, the good news was that from Nov 1st, Thonse Par Island was called as Plastic free zone and the policy was implemented from that day.
We were waiting for the Deputy Commissioner to visit the Island to distribute our certificates, but due to some reason it did not happen. So we got some good time to walk around the beautiful Island and take some good shots. We also enjoyed playing in the sea salt water. We had some real good rib-tickling fun which all of us will never forget. After the good amount of play, we assembled back for a grand heavy lunch and fruit punch. And finally the day was followed with the activity of certificates distribution. We were actually acting as if we came out of the graduation; but, it was fun.
Highly Hilarious!
We had good fun during the trip and some of the great moments are: Jokes cracked over Hairsh's 'Krishna leele'; PJs cracked during the cultural events; Jokes by Mr. Kamath from Mangalore; Sandy's Quick Gun Murugan costumes; Kowshik's funny expressions; Dostana effect on Raghu and Hari that eventually lead scratches on Hari's shoulder and for which the actions demonstrated by Sujay was just awesome; Frisbee play moments; crazy time spent in the water and lastly the sand therapy that turned to a mermaid therapy on TS. These were the best rib-tickling moments.
The only negative takeaway before I start my good takeaways was the irresponsibility shown by some of the participants because of which YHAI had to lose 4 life jackets. Other than that everything else was organized well and for me personally there are many good takeaways.
I got to meet many new friends who are just awesome and down to earth - Ashwin, Sudhi, Harish, Kiran and many others; Got well bonded with all my old friends, I could see the gorgeous moon set; I could walk on the beach for a full day till I got tired; I could listen to the sea and its life; I could embrace the most beautiful moments and got involved in my own thoughts; explored myself and inquired within. And many more…
Thanks to YHAI; the whole bunch of Islands and the whole team!
Visit my Flickr set for some good clicks:


Narasim said...

Great story well told, Srikanth.

How come I get left out of such wonderful adventures. My karma, I guess.

The photographs bring alive your story. The one where seagulls were perched atop columnar rock formation was simply splendid.

I understand that some of you actually did some good work by cleaning up the refuse left behind by visitors. To all those who cleaned up the mess, I salute you.

Good to know that someone is having fun.

SuZ said...

The it was an awesome and different experience. Never before in my life I had been on backwaters and beaches for such amount of time. It was fun and refreshing to meet new people.

Vaishnavi said...

All I can say is that next time you get to know of events by YHAI, please do let me know as well :-) I have attended their camps earlier and think they are really good organisers.

Unknown said...

Well written. I agree it was a great experience for all of us. Lot of good things.. Got to meet great yet simple people who make difference to our society.. wish we have more adventures together in future

Raghu said...

It was good to be a part of the Island expedition programme from YHAI. It was organized really well. Thanks to Mr. Adiga and UDUPI Unit of YHAI.

It was the first time that we spent good amount of time on the beach enjoying the beauty of the nature. We were thrilled to walk on the beach especially in the moon light and early morning which we hadn't done earlier. As this kind of trek was new for us, all were quite happy at the end of the expedition.

she-pu (ಶೇಪು)|Srinivas PS(ಶ್ರೀನಿವಾಸ್ ಪ.ಶೇ) said...

Lovely writeup & Pics, Srikanth!

Came across your blog by accident...
Yep, it was fantastic experience!
Just loved it...thanks to YHAI for superb arrangement!
It was thrilling to witness moon set and sunrise on either side of Thonse par!

Lovely shots in Flickr as well...


Srik said...

Hey Srinivas! I was pleasantly surprised to see your comment this morning. Thank you very much for dropping by and sharing your experience. Good you read your 'Time pass Kadalekayi' blog :)

Samparka said...

Awesome blog sir !! It was one of the best treks ..

my blog said...

Nice write up dude :-) and great pics too :)
It was great expedition, well organized and well executed by YHAI!

Srik said...

Thanks Bhaktaaa... :) nice to see your comment.

Hari said...

It was a great time spent . starting from changing buses,F&F ambassador ride,getting down and pushing our boats in the backwaters,that udupi food ,rajyotsava celebration ,cleaning up Aasare Thota and many more memories to cherish..Thanks to all who made this happen

T S said...

"Good story..and thanks.!
Really it was nice and different experince..

Hope everyone enjoyed the trip.. me too. The photos of Srikanth, sujay and ashwin's are showing the beauty of the islands and the real fun we had in the trip..

Great pictures dude's.. keep it up..!!

It was great learning experience from the team of YHAI Udupi unit. Thanks to Mr.Adiga and his team for giving such a wonderful experience and taking initiation to clean the Asare Thota (St.Maries island)
Happy to meet many good friends in camp this time..

Alegala Naduve Alemaari.. TS

Manjunath Byadigere said...

Nice write up Srik...

Nice thinking that you took a frisbee along for the beach trek..

I'm sure it was a nice workshop for your photography sessions as well.

All the best for your future expeditions and posts...enjoy!

Doc Manjunath

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