BTWD May 11, 2017

If you didn’t already know…BTWD means ‘Bike To Work Day’. Yup, that thing is back and it is kind of a big deal. If not for nothing, then some still end up doing it for bragging rights. And it’s fun, and good for the environment. So that is a double ++ there.

Since that time I crashed last year haven’t biked to work again. Not that I was scared (a little maybe), but it is just a lot of work. Especially when you are directionally dyslexic. Today’s ride was fun though. 10 miles not counting the distance I biked in opposite trails, beautiful weather and lots of people to keep you company. A good samaritan did help me find the right way towards the end…by then I was lost 3 times already :D. The entire ride took me an hour and 15 minutes and the path was mostly flat. There was cool breeze throughout and bay area is beautiful. You can’t really complain about the panoramic views here.

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They always run out of coffee by the time I get to work, but not today. Muhaha! There is coffee, good coffee and then Red Triangle’s coffee. They serve delicious cappuccinos…so good you rarely feel guilty even after your immediate seconds. Well I guess biking pays. Until next time then!

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Pulse it!

I had worked out with heart rate monitors before…you know the fitbit kind. And almost always half way through the session they kind of get useless. Once the wrist gets sweaty enough the tracking rarely works. Since I am not much of a step counter, I eventually graduated to using a tracker to tracking just my sleep.

Now that the context’s been set…its pretty hard to fall back in routine when you have a break. Especially for a lazy ass like me and I only got back recently from a long vacation. Anyways on Thursday last coach Pete messages about a cross fit session tailored around using a heart rate monitor with a chest strap. I have heard of them before…they are known to be much more sweat resistant and accurate than the fitbit sensors. While that sounded promising the biggest hurdle was he wanted to do it early morning. Pulling in the last reserves of the will power I made it in time. The session was broken down into three segments… green, red and blue. Goal of the green was to hit 75% max heart rate, red was to get the heart rate in the 80-90% range and blues aim was to get the heart rate in the 95-100% range. While green lasted 12 mins, red lasted 8 and blue was for 6 mins. Every time your heart rate goes beyond the set rate zone you get to take a short break to get it back down to the green zone and then you get started again. Rinse, repeat!

While it was pretty simple to understand the session itself turned out to be pretty intense. By the time I was done I was dizzy. Thankfully waking up early has its perks…time for breakfast. After devouring eggs over easy with sautéed veggies, I was able to spot ‘RED TRIANGLE’ coffee. It’s been over two months since I had their cappuccino. It is ridiculously delicious if you haven’t tried it before. Tears in my eyes!!

boxing                                                           That’s the t-shirt our coach was wearing

My Friday endorphins didn’t end there. After the last week’s night out on the town it was too soon for me to be anywhere near a a happy hour. So when Zack asked me to join him for boxing I tagged along. This is not my first time, but I almost how punching stuff can be tremendously fun. Amazing way to blow some steam off and also learn how to throw a punch or a hook. What was hilarious was the coach had this t-shirt which said ‘Boxing…it’s cheaper than therapy’. That was so wise! I guess I now see why Harvey Specter loves wearing the gloves.

IMG_20170408_172909_704                                                           After throwing punches for an hour

By all means this was a fun but exhausting day, and to top it off I had a GHEE DOSA for dinner. ‘Nuff said! 😀

Jewels of the sea

Okay, I get it; that is definitely a cheesy title but read on… maybe you’ll agree with me and honestly I couldn’t find a cooler name.

We reached to Port Blair around 12 pm after a short 2 and a half hour flight. Not having to travel for days, now that is jolly convenient. The place itself was no Hyderabad. It was sunnier and humid, but not as bad as Chennai or Kerala so we had that going for us. Most of the vacations we go on are rarely meticulously planned. This was no different. While we had a rough idea of what we wanted to do in the islands (apart from sipping pina coladas, lying on cabanas looking over the beach) we were yet to figure out the details. This generally is not a problem once you know when you are coming and going, but within 30 mins of us landing there it dawned on us that we might have been stranded quite literally on an island.

img_20170225_071410Islands in the distance from Port Blair

scare; Havelock island is the main attraction point and we had to get there from Port Blair. We knew there are ferries shuttling people across the ocean but what we were not aware of was that getting a seat on a ferry was as hard as getting a first day ticket to a popular movie in Hyderabad. Our original plan was to take the 2 pm ferry to Havelock, stay there for a day, then take a ferry to Neil Island and then a day later take a ferry back to Port Blair. Well as it turned out both the government and the private ferries were full capacity for the next 2 days. Fortunately for us Rohit already made friends with a local police officer who gave us tips on what we could do next. Thus started our run and we spent the next hour and a half auto-ing (traveling in an auto :P) between the Government’s and two private firms ferry offices each located in a different locality, trying to grab any last minute cancellations. We kept tailoring our plans dynamically based on what ferry was available. Now amidst all the running, no internet connectivity, hungry tummy growls and a strong desire to not miss our return flight we managed to flush out the inter island transportation details. Classic window scheduling problem, albeit a little scary but a lot more fun. Through this run we did end up making a few friends, and one of them helped us find a hotel for our unplanned stay in Port Blair. And before you ask going to Andaman and Nicobar with Reliance Jio as your data backup plan is a bad bad idea.

img_20170223_102650We were greeted with this view when we landed in Havelock

havelock; We took a morning ferry to get to this island. En route you can see the light house on the 20 rupee note

note1The famous light house

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The first thing we did after getting here was Scuba Diving. I jumped off a plane before (tandem) and there wasn’t any training as such required. But for diving under the water they showed us how to breathe using the equipment, how to clear water of our masks and how to efficiently pop the various, and there were a bunch of hand signals involved; nothing very creative. We went under water for about 10-12 meters; the water felt cooler, there were a lot more fish, very colorful ones and huge corals. We keep moving underwater following fish, taking pictures and probably the whole experience lasted ~30 minutes. Time did pass pretty quickly though. It was not exactly how they showed in Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara, but this was definitely fun.

 

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Peace
img_20170223_1353552After our dive. Done deal 😀

From there we got our lunch and crashed over the resort cabanas over looking the beach. It was beautiful, the view. The breeze so refreshing. It was so easy to slip into sleep.

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View from our resort. And there were cabanas 😀

radhanagar; This was our next stop. Often hailed in online forums as the most beautiful beach in all the islands this was 11 km of ghat road away from our resort. Our little nap on the cabanas made us miss the last public bus to the beach. Bummer! Right when we were about to walk back to our room to think about the next course of action, we saw a small van pull in front of the resort. A bunch of uncles and aunties immediately started walking to it and amidst the chatter we heard they where going to Radhanagar beach. We started a conversation with a couple of them, and soon we were in van on our way to the beach. It was a cozy van and the group was a fun bunch.

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Radhanagar beach before the sunset

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It was getting dark but the waves were still calm

White sandy beach, ultra clean, and not a single pebble. Walking barefoot on the beach felt like walking on a really good memory foam matters; honestly the beach was much better. And we got to watch the entire sunset. Lush green terrain, white sandy beaches, cool breeze, dark blue ocean, warm water and a naval vessel of the Indian Army in the distance… the view felt right out of a high budget movie. It was beautiful. Probably the most beautiful beach I had been to. The fun aunties/uncles from Pune were also sweet enough to give us a ride back!

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With the super cool aunties and uncles from Pune 🙂

!pina coladas; On the first day while we were auto-ing around in Port Blair to book ferry tickets we ran into this couple from Germany who were in the same boat (pun intended :P). Well long story short we ran into them again in Radhanagar beach and decided to catch up over a drink later in the night. There are a lot of bars on these islands; mostly shady though. It took us some effort, but finally we were able to find a decent pub with live music. That was fun. But there were no pina coladas; heartbreak! The conversation was fun though.

Sam was backpacking in India 8 years ago when he met a writer who told him how beautiful the islands where; 8 years later he and his girl friend Melanie saved up enough money and decided to visit the islands for peace, quite and reflection, so here they were. They told us about Bavaria, their hometown which is super against alcohol (sounded like Gujarat on steroids), why Germans roll their own cigarettes, the kind of music they like and Octoberfest. We told them why many girls they see on the island have orange designs (mehendi) on their hands, Indian Weddings, Bollywood music and food. We walked around the island till midnight when we found a small shack that cooked us food. They were fun people to hangout with. And hopefully they are having a good time here. Good luck Melanie and Sam.

img_20170223_223144_1with Melanie and Sam; we were helping them figure out the Indian menu

elephant; This is how I remember it and the memory is mostly hazy, so take my word for it. Probably in the final year of my undergrad, I was taking an afternoon nap in my room, when I woke up suddenly. It must be summer as the the fan was off and I was sweating; no electricity. The first thought that came to my head was – I never saw anyone eating a banana unhappy. The second thought that came to me was – I never saw anyone riding a jet ski in a movie unhappy. I went back to sleep again. Since then the belief was rooted strongly and I have had hundreds and hundreds of bananas. I was also on a Snow Ski, but never on a Jet Ski though. And one of the things the islands offered was water sports and the place was Elephant beach. Apparently it got its name because of swimming elephants, but we never spotted one. That would have been super cool though.

img_20170224_090409Jet Skiiii….

The way to get this small island was on a speed boat. It was a 20 min ride, and quite a bumpy one. Turns out on a small boat in the ocean every tiny wave is a speed breaker. It was kind of exciting though. After the jet ski we went on a banana ride. It was hilarious. They take you a little deep into the water and then overturn the float. The water was much cooler. And no you don’t drown even if you can’t swim. They give you water vests. The first time the float was overturned it was unexpected and fun. The second time we were overturned we swam back to the shore. Told you the water was perfect for swimming.

cellular jail; As kids whenever we caused a lot of trouble our uncle came up to us cousins and said “allari aapaka pothe andaman jail ki pampistharu” (if you don’t stop the noise you’ll be sent to the andaman prison) and I distinctly remember, it calmed us down, well most of the time. In our defense as kids we saw a lot of movies around the Indian Freedom Struggle and the scenes involving this prison were the most gruesome.

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On our last day on the islands we got to see this prison. It’s a national monument now and has been well maintained, so it doesn’t look as scary as I imagined it to be. You get to read a lot of stories in the attached museums over there. If you are into understanding our past and the freedom moment, the experience can be very engaging.

img_20170225_092939One of the 600 odd cells in the prison

Once you get to the top of the prison you have a beautiful panoramic view of the ocean. It was sunny, breezy and calming.

beaches; I have been to beaches in the east coast, west coast, chennai, kerala and Goa and I have never seen water so clear. Its probably due to the white sandy beach terrain, and not taking any credit away the beaches here, there are very well maintained. When you look at the water you can clearly see two distinct colors. The water was light greenish blue closer to the beach and as you look farther into the ocean, the water turns dark blue. And the waters was so warm. Swimming over here is a lot of fun. And the only way it could have gotten better was if the water wasn’t salty. But I guess that’s not an option :P.

img_20170223_171723By the time the sun set, everything turned golden

sunset; Watching sunsets over large water bodies in close proximity to the nature are always reflective, soothing. It was no different here. On our way back from Havelock Island to Port Blair we got on a ferry with a large deck. The ride was for a little over 2 hours, and I stood there through the entire ride back, looking into the horizon… I saw the sun set over lush green forests in the horizon, the terrain of the mountains looked like a lady sleeping in the distance, ocean winds rushing through the face, the rhythmic sounds of the waves settling the thoughts, shade of the sun slowly changed from mild orange to blood red color turning the light blue sky into something dark and ominous while the deep blue ocean shined like rich red wine. The most beautiful sunset experience of my life.

img_20170224_173929The most beautiful sunset that I had seen and experienced

night skies; No tall buildings, no sky rises and no light pollution… the skies lit up with stars in the night on these islands. When you look up it looks like a head full of hair. Beautiful sight to watch. If you are into star gazing you might love it. And there aren’t really a lot of mosquitos too.

img_20170223_200750He was strumming DDLG songs on that instrument and he was very good

coconuts; While we are getting used to drinking coconut water from tetra packs, the experience is so much better when you drink it right out of a coconut. Having seen only malnourished coconuts in Hyderabad, it was refreshing to see coconuts the size of basket balls. And man those where tasty!

img_20170223_164937Look at the sizes on that coconuts!

food; You have options, lots of them but the food is not half as yummy as what you get in Hyderabad. Well to be fair it’s an island. I did hear the sea food was done well. Nevertheless our first stop after getting back home was to go get kebab’s and Paradise Biryani. So there you go :D.

It was a pleasant 4 day vacation, but we need more days to take in the full experience and check out all the other jewels. Hopefully we’ll get to visit this natural wonder again sometime soon.

[update] facebook newsfeed; Guys just putting it out there… in a couple of hours this place does feel like your facebook newsfeed… married couples everywhere. You have been warned! 😛

An year in search of endorphins

This was quite an eventful year. Want a recap? Here you go…


Many of us visit crazy town at some point, and so have I. Getting out of it happens with time and it was no different with me. As the year went by it got even more crazier and by the time it was March shit hits the fan. I spilled over everything, and I was everywhere and nowhere. It looked dire as I couldn’t find my smile. April is when I decided to do something about it. While I had been active before in some form, mostly hiking or some kind of light workouts, I wanted to get into something that would completely exhaust me. I started with cross fit and the idea was simple; the harder I work, the more endorphins I get. And endorphins == happiness. Around this time was when I got introduced to climbing. It was engaging physically and mentally. I got completely hooked.

Beginning of May was when I started noticing changes. I went from not being able to do a pull up, to actually be able to do one. While this might be extremely common, the feeling I got when I was finally able to pull myself up was insane. It was amazing. And I wanted more of it.

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after ‘Monster Mash’

Slowly I started doing more things. After climbing, it was yoga. I tried meditation, but my head was still too chaotic. But for some unknown reason I found yoga to be more relaxing and calming. So I kept at it. And then it was basket ball and dancing. And before you realize it was August. I’d say that’s when I hit my peak. I was able to do a single hand pull up (chin up?).


And then work happened. I stopped everything and as I tried to get back a few weeks later, a climbing injury pushed me to biking. While it was fun, it was short lived due to an accident. While I was trying to figure out what I could do with an injured wrist, a friend introduced me to lifting. I figured as long as I focused on right form, the wrist shouldn’t matter. One of my resolutions as I started the year was to be able to bench press my body weight. Least did I realize that I am too heavy. Nevertheless this was an opportunity to gain some progress, so I was in. I focused on only three things – squats, bench press and deadlifts. Once you get the hang of it, lifting is super fun. So much so that I would’ve forgotten about climbing and yoga if I didn’t completely suck at it. Unfortunately I had to stop this after a few weeks as my wrist started hurting again and the doctor asked me to not strain it for sometime. While I could handle my body weight with squats, the other two core movements are still a distant dream. So more to look forward to.


After this I tried running for like 2 days. I have never really been a runner, so ‘i’t went nowhere 😀 and the last couple of months has mostly been about eating. As I look back on this year it was pretty evident that whatever I did was to keep myself busy. From climbing, to yoga, basket ball, dancing, improv, lifting or biking in all of these things while I did care about progress, the goal was to exhaust myself physically and mentally by the end of the day. And doing these things helped me, to not ponder the past; to just be in the moment; because I wanted some endorphins and mainly because I wanted to come home and pass out. And over the these holidays I realized something important. I think I am okay not being exhausted anymore. Sitting at home, chilling and not doing anything. That stuff is not so bad.

A few more hours before the year ends and I want to say it out loud before that…Thank you :)! To family and friends and a few nice strangers. If you are reading this, you know who you are. For being there; for all the smiles and moments and for your strength. Thank you :). And here’s hoping to a new year with lots of happy stories. Cheers!

Awesome Mix: Vol 2

Disney’s Marvel has turned into a billion dollar movie making machine, churning one blockbuster after the other. After the amazing Doctor Strange, the next movie we have in store – Guardians of the Galaxy, Vol 2. James Gunn’s guardians are back again, and this time they seem to be having more fun than ever before. Did you see the trailer? The regular gang is back with one notable change, this time we are being given Baby Groot. It for sure is going to melt some hearts.

Now just lets wait for Awesome Mix, Vol 2.

 

The one with THE BOSS

It was Wednesday; Sally really wanted to go climbing. I tried to resist as I was feeling very lazy and my wrist hasn’t fully recovered, but the force is strong with her. So we did end up going.

She finished her climb, and it was my turn. I was going around the gym looking for an easy 5.10a when I saw a familiar face. On taking a closer look, that did seem like a face I see every week. At work we see it every Thursday during TGIF. It was Larry Page’, for real. In the climbing gym. It was super exciting to see him up so close. He was not climbing though. Someone who was with him was climbing, while a staff member was belaying her. He was watching her climb. At one point Sally tricked me into climbing a 5.10b when we ended up on a trail right next to them. Half way through the climb I got really scared thinking what if the rope breaks and I fall on him. Talk about irrational fears and stuff. And yeah nothing like that happened. Phew!

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Sonoma Canopy

We’ve done this before, an year ago I think. I tried to remember where but it was not coming back to me. I am talking about Zip lining. One of the zip lines we did was clearly overlooking the beach. I remember it being beautiful and it was an adrenaline rush. But for some reason I am blanking out on where we did it. Nevertheless I don’t want to go digging into the past pictures to figure it out; it’s a scary preposition. Nvm, Kiran just helped me out. It was in Catalina Islands.

Well the reason why it is relevant now is a bunch of us went to Sonoma Canopy yesterday to Zip Line through the Redwoods. The place is beautiful with tall red woods expanding everywhere till your eyes can see. And we had a Master of Puns as one of our tour guides. It was hilarious. We got to do 7 zip lines, walk through 2 tree bridges, a tree staircase and end our session jumping off a rappel. Healthy red woods trees, even the tall ones, flow with the wind. So on some of the zip lines we could actually feel the platform moving. That was pretty cool. While it was no adrenaline rush this time, the entire experience was pretty chill and calming. Being in middle of nature does that to you, I guess. This was Sally’s idea. It was her birthday and she wanted to spend it close to the nature. Pretty cool if you’d ask me. Thanks Sally and Happy Birthday :).

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They asked us to act scared

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That was the tree stair case

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This time they asked us to pose 😀

After we Zip Lined we went to a French Restaurant for lunch. It was a bougie (I learnt this word last week :D. More on that later.) place with yummy bruschetta’s. Their Tiramisu was the best I ever had (I haven’t had many. More of a cheesecake person). After an impromptu Tiramisu birthday cake and a happy birthday song later, a few of us went to the Russian River Brewing Co in Santa Rosa. I never saw a line so big outside a beer place; it took us about ~45 mins before we got in. A friend was telling me that one of their beers (Pliny the Younger) was rated as the 2nd best beer in the world. Woah! That beer is sold only for a week once an year and unfortunately this was not that week. We did have Pliny the Elder though. It was pretty good, and along with it, we had a bunch of other beers too.

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Beer Platter 😀

After we got back we watched an episode of Black Mirror. This show is thoroughly fucked up and does the same to you. Its tripping. Luckily for us we were in the city; I could go out later with a few other friends to dance it off. Phew!

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Pretty neat setup right? Beats watching on a TV.