Tuesday, August 12, 2008

08-08-08 Sihagad is Kinng

Well thats the kind of trek we had on 08-08-08 which was the day this movie was released - Sing is Kinng.

We had been planning a team outing with the pending budget we had for a long time. Nothing really worked out well. Our team size had gone upto 14 by now and something had materalized after some opinion and differences. Yes - It was decided to do a small 1 day outing to Sihagad near pune. There were multiple advantages:

1. We save our weekend and also some dropouts who always have personal plans on weekends.
2. We get to freakout on a working day :)
3. Less travel time from pune yet having all the qualities of a "heavy" outing.
4. This is best time to be atop sihagad and enjoy the mystic nature around.

Well, so the Friday came and all had to wind up work by 12 noon to have a lunch in office and then start. We were originally 16 in total

1. Ajay 2. Chetan
3. Subha 4. Sandeep
5. Raunak 6. Rohit
7. Indrani 8. Pallavi
9. Shashank 10. Shweta
11. Sathya 12. Archis
13. Keshav 14. Vishwajeet
15. Richa 16. Who remains? --- me :)

Out of this big list 6 guys opted our for various reasons. Ajay was scheduled to fly to Switzerland on that day and of course he would prefer that outing vs Sihagad :). Subha - Some relatives were visiting her from Malluland. Pallavi - Some relatives. Sathya - Was not feeling well. Rohit - His cousing was not feeling well. Shashank - Dad was in town for some work and he was needed.

BTW, Chetan's was the only family that day who joined us. So while all were having lunch @ 12 in office, me and Raunak hurried to check the bus and get some chakna - Chips, biscuits, water etc. for munching in the bus. When we returned for lunch, Ajay involved everyone in an interesting discussion on who's gonna be the next CFO's for Kabala Shabbath fund? For those who don't know - CFO (Chief Financial Officer) for managing money for Kabala Shabbat - a Friday ritual which most amdocs offices follow (being Israeli). Finally Keshav and Raunak we selected as the CFOs :).

Its was about 1 pm and the right time for us to start. We did some futile efforts for a last time to convince those who had opted to stay out. Guys you do not know how much fun you missed later :D. In all this, everyone noticed that I was the one in real trekking mode - wearing a 6 pocket and sporting a red jacket.

Those all ready now gathered and we started off. Chetan and family were the last ones to join from Iris apartments. As soon as we left Magarpatta city, Indrani was already in a mood of singing songs for Antakshari. Her wish was immediately granted and she started off. Everyone were immediately engulfed in the atmosphere. Archis and Vishwa mainly enjoyed the scene than troubling their vocal chords. Richa, Chetan & Sandeep churned out some good bollywood numbers following the alphabetic order end to end. Others viz myself, Keshav, Indrani, Shweta and Heena added our (in born indian) singing talent. We did not realise that we were still near swargate after more than an hour - The good old pune traffic probably did not want us to breathe anything other than petrol-diesel carbon fumes!

Finally we were on Sihagad road which was an alien area for most of the Magarpatta guys who work and live out of Magarpatta. I clarified that we are still in Pune - infact near the city centre. In another 25 mins we saw the vast expanse of Khadakwasla damn. None could resist but stop the bus here for a breather. I had to convince some that the daily water we get in Pune city is indeed from this place. No one really paid much attention to this as all were already feeling hungry the moment their eyes were laid on 'bhutta' - kanis - sweet corn. We all eate some yummy bhutta while we clicked snaps near the mighty dam.

Soon we realized its past three pm and we should head towards Sihagad. To everyone's surprise in another 15 mins we were at the base of Sihagad. Our lazy bus driver had been already cribbing that the bus would not go upto the top and you will have to take some cabs from the base. Before our bus could halt, some cab fellows were already in view and shouting "thees rupiya janeka aur pachas rupiya return ka". We settled with a driver who had a "commander jeep" with a seating capacity of probably 8. He assured us that 11 of us can sit "with ease" in it :). PS: The guy in the pic here is Raunak :P

Within minutes we were climbing the slopes of Sihagad. Keshav involved himself in quarrles with the cab driver that they had done "some setting" with the bus drivers so that cabwallas can get business and bus drivers some rest :). Soon he forgot about it when it started looking greener and a bit misty around. We took a halt midway from where we could see the mist/fog clad sihagad standing proud above - kinda silently telling the amazing story of victory of this fort. Here everyone's attention was caught by the cute little "green umbrella" of Muskaan - Chetan's daughter. After some camera clicks, jokes and giggles we started up.

As soon as we reached at the top, Indrani had nothing but praises for opting for Sihagad over other options. Why ? Because the view from there was just amazing! I agree the visibility was, I guess, 100 meters. We could not see the deep valley below due to cloud/fog cover below us -- yes below us :). Still we could judge our position at such a height from sound of the chilly wind around. We started off to explore sihagad.

When we started off none really knew what exactly are we gonna do up here? I was interested in seeing bunglow of Lokmanya Tilak - our freedom fighter. But people did not show interest as near it was the place from where just a week ago someone had fallen prey by slipping foot and ending up in the deep valley below. So I asked a woman who, was selling sweet curd that where can I see the place where Tanaji - the great warrior of Shivaji was buried? She was more interested in selling some curd - "matka dahi" - as it is locally called. I had to assure her that we will buy some soon but not now. She followed us all the way since then. Exploring our way through the mist around we finally reached the samadhi of veer Tanaji.

A bit about Sihagad - This fort was in the ownership of Uday Bhanu in the 1600's. Shivaji, the ruler of Maharashtra (then marathwada) had to conquer all forts around to prove his superiority. He set this task to one of his brave warrior - Tanaji to win Sinhagad. It is said that Tanaji used to eat 80 bhakris (rotis) for breakfast and his chest measured 58 inches - Wow! It was difficult to even get upto the top of sihagad due to the difficult terrain. Tanaji used ghorpads (Comodo dragons) to help his army climb the fort. He died in conquering the fort. On this Shivaji said "Gad ala pan siha gela" - We got the fort but the lion has gone. Hence the name Sihagad - Lionfort.
Near Tanaji's samadhi we met an old man who acted like a guide and started telling us story of Tanaji in marathi. He also sang powada - A song based narration of the stories of Shivaji. Not many understood it except some of us who could understand marathi. Well all done, we now were again feeling a bit hungry. The woman selling curd was still around us and suggested us to halt at a Hut in the way to eat some tasty kanda bhajjis. We all agreed to get the taste of this real USP of Sihagad nowadays. The woman asked us if we now wanted to eat some curd - most of us nodded in negation. She had the perfect marketing skills. She kept a tray with some 5-6 pots of curd and asked us to taste one. Me and Sandeep took the initaiative and soon everyone were enjoying the curd+masala combination. She had to get another tray full with curd pots. We finished all and by then the "kanda bhaji's " had arrived. In no time 3 plates were finished. Another 3 plates also went empty soon. Last we ordered a few more to quench our thirst for the taste :)

Suddenly a thought occured to someone -- don't know whom - probably raunak or Keshav. The idea was to start back around 6 and have dinner (in the plan) and then a movie (not in original plan). Everyone liked it. We did some calls back to office to check if any multiplex would have any tickets of "Sing is Kinng" which was released just the same day. It turned out that all were house full. We again made ourselfves believe that - well a movie will be too tiring the same day.

So we now started back and it was still around 6:15pm. Raunak had another idea that we can try to get tickets at Lakshminarayan thearte near swargate. We said - let's try. On the way back we involved ourselves in another fun game - dumb charades. With this again we did not realized when we were back in the city. We halted near Lakshminarayan theatre. Myself, Raunak and Keshav went out to check if we can get 11 tickets. The show was at 9:30pm and ticket windows open at 8:30. By then it was 7:30pm. The chances of getting the tickets were very slim. We found a guy doing black and he had 10 tickets. We made some rounds and tried to convince the security guard at the gate to get us the tickets. We ended up in buying the 10 tickets from the earlier guy and 1 from the security guard :). Hurrayyyy! We were going for the movie.

Back in the bus the question was - where to have dinner? Original plan to go to sigdi was not possible now. After much brain storming we settled at Shreyas in deccan - Chetan's idea. Its was about 8pm by then and we had just enough time to have food and come back. Not many had tried the tasty maharashtrian food at shreyas. It was a lavish dinner with basundi to end with. When we were back at the cinema hall, the movie had just started. After a bit of jumbling with seat numbers in the tickets we ---- well --- enjoyed the movie. Movies like "Sing is Kinng" are typically called "bina sar pair wali movie" - a movie with no head or tail :). Still the boys enjoyed it -- watching Kartina ;).

After the movie - 12:15pm - all our energy was drained out. All had no words for this outstanding outing where things happened in time and on the go :). Or probably because we needed to head home to grab some sound sleep to recharge our bodies.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Taare Zameen Par -- Maa

I really enjoy going out in the freezing temperatures outside. Yesterday had been to downtown Helsinki with a colleague from Cyprus. The downtown is just one train station away from Pasila (where the hotel is). It took hardly 6-7 minutes to reach the city railway station where all the train tracks end - Like the VT station in Mumbai ..oops I mean CST :). Did nothing much there but roamed some malls and streets. Checkout some snaps on my picasa link. Well, now lets get back to the topic :)

To kill time on the weekend I was browsing some bollywood sites that offer free mp3 downloads of latest movie flicks. The week before when I came here, I had seen some nice promos of Taare Zameen Par - Another one from Aamir Khan after a long time. A catchy guitar tune had caught my attention and was always searching for that promo when it appeared on the music channels. I also tried to make Samruddhi interested in it who used to be busy with her work and did't care much when I increased the volume of the TV :).

That was back in India. Now I searched for songs of this movie and found all of them in a .pk domain hosted site. Downloaded all of 'em and started listening. I really liked 3 tracks from the collection of 8 --

1. Taare Zameen Par
2. Kholo Kholo
3. Maa

All these songs have very nice lyrics. The "Kholo Kholo" song has some great guitar chords and strumming of the fret board. Hats off to SEL (Shankar Ehsaan Loy) - The music directors.

Another song "Maa" (Mother) is a bit emotional. It is about a son talking to her mother. Some really different and outstanding lyrics. Though its a bit sad song, but still it leaves you mesmerized with the memoirs of your childhood with your mom. The lyricist is Prasoon Joshi. This new guy on Bollywood scene has been popular since he wrote lyrics for "Rang De Basanti. In that he had written another song called "Luka Chipi bahut hui" - Dedicated to Mother Land - metaphorically addressed as a Mother (of the countrymen). Looks like Prasoon really loves his mom a lot. He, I think comes as a "A sigh of relief" after all the masala lyrics writers in bollywood who are deteriorating the quality of songs day-by-day. Ofcoures, the stalwarts like Gulzar and Javed Akhtar are here to keep the flag of bollywood song lyrics proudly high.

My mom has been the best ever person in the world to me - And why not ? I guess it will be difficult to find anyone on this earth who diagrees with me :). We all love our mothers, more than anything else in the world. (Samruddhi, my wife, is anyways an inseperable part of my life :)).

Listening to this song almost brought tears to my eyes sitting in this lonely room in a foregign land. I request God that she always remains happy and I give her the best in life which would be hardly anything in front of the mammoth turmoil she went through in life, in our (Me and my siblings) upbringing.

Checkout the lyrics I grabbed from a lyrics site for this song. Simply great!!!

Maa - Taare Zameen Par

Main Kabhi Batlata Nahin
Par Andhere Se Darta Hoon Main Maa
Yun To Main,Dikhlata Nahin
Teri Parwaah Karta Hoon Main Maa
Tujhe Sab Hain Pata, Hain Na Maa
Tujhe Sab Hain Pata,,Meri Maa

Bheed Mein Yun Na Chodo Mujhe
Ghar Laut Ke Bhi Aa Naa Paoon Maa
Bhej Na Itna Door Mujkko Tu
Yaad Bhi Tujhko Aa Naa Paoon Maa
Kya Itna Bura Hoon Main Maa
Kya Itna Bura Meri Maa

Jab Bhi Kabhi Papa Mujhe
Jo Zor Se Jhoola Jhulate Hain Maa
Meri Nazar Dhoondhe Tujhe
Sochu Yahi Tu Aa Ke Thaamegi Maa

Unse Main Yeh Kehta Nahin
Par Main Seham Jaata Hoon Maa
Chehre Pe Aana Deta Nahin
Dil Hi Dil Mein Ghabraata Hoon Maa
Tujhe Sab Hai Pata Hai Naa Maa
Tujhe Sab Hai Pata Meri Maa

Main Kabhi Batlata Nahin
Par Andhere Se Darta Hoon Main Maa
Yun To Main,Dikhlata Nahin
Teri Parwaah Karta Hoon Main Maa
Tujhe Sab Hain Pata, Hain Na Maa
Tujhe Sab Hain Pata, Meri Maa

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Finland : The first impressions

Today morning when I woke up, snowfall was already happening. On TV, the news said that the temperature is 0 degrees but the effective temperature due to wind gusts is -3 degrees in south Finland (Helsinki Area). In north, the normal temperatures were around -5 degrees.

The hotel is in a place called Pasila which is one station away from downtown Helsinki. The train station is 2 mins walk from the hotel :). Office is 4 stations away from Pasila near a station called Malmi. It takes 10mins to reach there. The office Elisa (The biggest telecom major in Finland) is also 2 mins away from Malmi raliway station. So commuting to office is no problem at all.

However walking the 2-3 mins distance from the hotel to the railway station becomes very difficult when the winds are high or if it rains. In that case taking a cab ride is the best. The snowfall today was hardly anything but for me it was fun to walk outside with the shoes slipping over the snow and it gathering all over the jacket :). It was first day to the office and I was on my own. I preferred the train as I can get to see the snow more :).

I have not seen the sun since I came here on saturday. It gets dark at around 3:30pm and back to some light @ 8 am in the morning. The rest of the period is all dark! In the summer I heard there is light from 5am till 12:00 midnight! I would love to see that sometime, if I get a chance.

I am kinda amazed with the infrastructure the government here provides. Every house has a govt. supplied hot water pipe connection and a warm air vent centralized in the country to reach every house, hotel, mall, railway stations!!! If you are in any man-made enclosed area be it a house, public areas malls or almost anywhere, you will never feel the cold outside in the open air. Thats something gr8. I ponder about the situations in northen India where temperatues of 1-2 degrees kills many people every year! What a shame.

The public transport is just amazing.You buy a ticket which can be used for the Trains, Trams or the bus!! All three operate in a very planned and synchronized manner. Wow... we should really learn at least something from this country. I can't imagine how they really developed all this infrastructure in such harsh conditions where 8 Month's are almost below zero degress on the Celsius scale. Burrrrrr!!!!!

What public honesty means can be clearly seen here at any place. There are no vending machines in the office for example. One can just pick a choclate/drink etc. and place the amount mentioned against it in a card board box near by. No one really checks on you, but on the other hand no one really picks up anything without putting 1-2 euros in the box :). The same can be seen elsewhere - Like, the ticket in trains is mandatory (ofcourse) but you can enter a train without it. The last chance to buy it is from the TC who roams around in the train and will give you a ticket only if you request it. Else its understood that you already have a weekly/monthly pass or have bought the ticket on the platform. Cool... but I heard that in case you are caught for some reason (i dono how) the fine is 80 euros :)

People here are very polite and mind their own business. Its safe to roam around though it is dark after 3:30pm. The national language is Finnish which does not sound to English in any respect, though they have almost the same script as English. English is understood and spoken pretty well by a large population of Finnish locals.

I had the opportunity to visit a weekend exhbhition on Sunday which was next to the Hotel in a large enclosed area. It was about sports/health and cosmetics. I had to deposit all my bags, woollen wear, gloves etc. at the entrance, which they neatly put in a locker and gave me a coupon. People were enjoying their time in there where stalls were in plenty. My attention was caught by a european brand of digi watches which could show you anything from pulse rate graph, body temperature, air temperature, air pressure, height (altimeter), direction (compass) + a few more and it also showed time :). Cost 480 euros! Another interesting was a artificial CPR (?) system (CPR - Its the way we save a persion by giving him heart beats and air in case of emergency). One had to blow air in the head and chest shaped structure and can practise CPR on it.

I have not really been to the Helsinki downtown which is just one station away. Plan to do it this weekend (Only if the snowfall is in control!). But I plan to discover more about this "different" country.

More soon ...on Finland.

Saturday, July 7, 2007

VV Cephei A - The super-super monster

This is my last weekend in Israel and looking forward to go home soon. But with nothing to do at the hotel, I got interested in Astronomy which I always liked. A quick search in youtube showed many interesting documentaries some over an hour long on our Universe, Solar system etc.

I had an idea about the HUGEness of our universe. But probably for the first time in my life I actually realised how really really big the universe is and hats off to GOD almighty who made this :)

Checkout the below video sequence as it compares planets one after another
mercury, mars, venus, earth (12756 km in diameter), neptune, saturn, jupiter with the SUN which is 1392500km wide!.

Here we think that Wow our SUN is really huge. Well, now see this ...

Checkout this video which has probably spanish sub-titles i think. The SUN is referred as SOL here. Njoi the nice music too :)

Just see how dwarf the Sun becomes when compared with other stars like Sirius, Pollux and Arcturus. Arcturus (4177500 km wide) seems really really hefty and huge, our Sun is negliggible in front of this monster.

But this is not the end... even bigger monsters come forward... Rigel, Beteigeuze and Antares. Antares is a wooping 1108430000km wide, Arcturus is a small kid in front of this one.

Now is the turn of super-super monsters -- MY Cephei and finally VV Cephei A. Well, this one is 3676200000, approx. 3.5 times bigger than Antares in diameter.

Star "VV Cephei A" is so huge that our Sun is almost a dust particle in front of it :). Checkout the last part of the video which compares VV Cephei A with our little SUN.

This mighty guy is in fact many many times bigger than the distance between Sun and the tiny Pluto who is at the circumference of our Solar system!!!! Around 2600 Suns lined up one after another will make up the diamater of VV Cephei A!... Don't blink! :)

If you compare "VV Cephai A" with our very own Earth, it will be 288194 Earths lined up in a line! thats around 2.9 lakh Earths. :)

And we thought that our Sun and the Solar system is huge :).

I am sure there are even bigger guys who would make VV Cephei A smaller in front of them somewhere deep inside th unknown parts of the Universe :)

How in-significant we humans are in comparison with all these celestial bodies. So forget worrying about your BIG tensions in life and enjoy the little time we have here ;)

Sunday, July 1, 2007

Pray for me brother

A.R.Rahman - This guy makes me feel that the world of music is bigger than VV Cephei A :). Check out one of his recent creations for World Peace!

Njoi the music... ARR Rocks!

Saturday, June 16, 2007

Je-ru-sa-lem ...again

Yesterday was another trip to Jerusalem. My teammates were all visiting Israel for the first time and hence were wanting to go to this magnificent city right from day 1. I had been there twice already. However due to many plans in the air we kept postponing it. Last weekend when we went to Deadsea, we initially had plans of going to Jerusalem. But then we realised that there are quite a few places there in the city which we want to see and the map looked like a maze puzzle to us. Hence we had taken the easier tour of Masada-Deadsea.

Anyways, at that time itself we had called up Benjamin the Taxi guy and told him that we will be going with him the next weekend to Jerusalem. For those of who don't know who Benjamin is, a little about him. Benjamin is a Mumbai born guy who moved to Israel along with his family in 1963. He has spent all his life in Israel and has served even in the army here! He speaks Marathi, Hindi and of course Hebrew. After retirement he bought a Taxi and became a cab driver to keep him busy. But this has helped the Amdocs guys who travel to Israel more, than anyone else. They book him well in advance because any tour with him is very special. The three most cool things are:

  • The Hot desi CHAI which he brings from his home and the Badam drink.
  • The latest bollywood songs in his car.
  • Last but not the least, the interpreter for us between Hebrew and Hindi/Marathi :)
So yesterday morning we were ready sharp at 8:00am (The plan was of 7:30am :)).
After a heavy breakfast at the hotel we started off. Benjamin said that along with Jerusalem we will also cover the Soreq caves. They are on the way to "Beit Shemesh" city from Tel-Aviv. These were discovered in the sixties when a quarry work exploded a bomb and exposed this amazing cave. The amazing thing about this cave is the Stalactites and Stalagmite formations. We saw a video presentation which explained the chemistry behind the formations of these caves. It took them thousands of years to form. The rain water drips in the limestone rocks to dissolve it to form empty cavities in the rocks. Then they reform cool looking structures when the water drops from the ceiling slowly and steadily. The stalactite starts from the roof and the stalagmite from the ground. It takes many-many centuries for them to meet by forming small deposits per water drop. They then convert into huge walls with varying colours and shapes. The caves were hidden from the entire world for so many years until they were discovered in 1968.

We had real fun walking through the trail inside the caves and saw all types of formations with beautiful colours. Hats off to mother nature. No human architecture can be as amazing as this one :).

After a good round of poses and snaps we were out of the caves. Now the plan was to go to Holocaust museum, then munch at the Indian Restaurant which Benjamin knew. This was my third visit to Holocaust museum. Every time I came here I was always devastated and broken down looking at the pain and agony the Jews suffered during the Holocaust. This time my understanding of each video/testimonial. pictures, films etc. was better than I thought earlier. The archives in this museum are so vast that it would take a week to read and understand everything that is in there. We took nearly three hours from 11:30am to 2:30pm watching the saga of 60million Jews killed brutally in various countries. We followed the beginning of 2nd world war which erupted with the Invasion of Poland by Germany. Then many events in which I got lost ..like the Battle of Stalingrad (I remember seeing a movie on this). It was horrifying to listen to actual stories told by survivors who witnessed the killing of their families when they were just small children. A woman telling how her mother hid her behind her legs as the firings made her collapse in the pit behind and she as a little girl was left in the pile of bodies of her own parents! I know this is a bit too much to write here, but imagine the people who experienced it. The last was the model of "Death Factories" setup by the Germans. The gas chambers where they could kill thousands of people at a time by suffocating them. It was very terrible even to see the models and imagine how things would have been! Last we saw the children memorial in memory of 15 million children who were killed in it. Here you feel like walking in a dark space with stars around (these are multiple reflections of the same candle). The Name and country of each child is echoed in the background, one after the other. Well its enough explanation for now though there is much much more to write. Because I know that many of the readers would have already closed this window by now.

We had not realized that all of us were hungry until we came out of the museum. So Benjamin turned our course to Yossi's Indian Restaurant. Yossi is a very common name here. Last week our Aeroplane pilot's name was also Yossi. The restaurant owner Yossi had stayed in India for 37 years and knew many Mallu sentences and words since he lived in Kerla. He spoke some words in Mallu with Deepak who also happens to be from Kerala. Yossi owns a house and a restaurant in Kerala!! He was a cool guy and welcomed us with all dignity and hospitality. Four of us ordered south Indian thali, except Siddhartha who ordered Chicken-Puri which he thought was something different.

After a stuffing dinner and some snaps with Yossi we moved on. It was 4:30pm and we headed towards Bethlehem city in Palestine West Bank where Jesus Christ was born. I had already been there with my wife Samruddhi here last time. We reached near Bethlehem and we started seeing the 30-40m high concrete walls built by Israel to lock the Palestine City behind it. One has to cross the border by showing passports and only tourists are allowed inside the city. Being an Israeli, Benjamin cannot go in there. There is a old church in Bethlehem at the exact spot where Jesus was Born and nothing more interesting. So he suggested that since it was already late we all will go to see the Old City and Wailing Wall which are more interesting. We turned towards the Old city. After parking our car we entered through the Jaffa Gate the walls of the old Jerusalem City. It was fun walking on the Via Dolorosa street where all kinds of Arabian shops you see. 2000 years ago Jesus had dragged his cross on this lane :). It is unbelievable. We went to the Wailing Wall were my friends were astonished to see the religious Jews doing their prayers in their full black outfit and long hat. It was already "Sabbath" and many Jews were flocking here fast via cabs/cars. We then came back to see the Sepulchre Church where Jesus was crucified. Guys were astonished to see the blood marks of Jesus on the remains of the mountain below the church. No one knows if that is real or some fake. But everyone believes in it.

Now Benjamin said that we will go on Mount Olive to see the site of the Al-aqsa mosque and Golden Dome of Rock which is behind the Wailing Wall. After reaching the top of the mountain we started to capture our snaps with the sunset behind the cool looking Jerusalem city. The "Vally of Dead" was clearly visible from here where thousands of Jews and Muslims are buried here over centuries in the hope that their messiah will come and take them away. We saw the city lit up with lights as the dawn came. The atmosphere was very chill and windy. All of us were in a heated discussion about Palestine, Mossad etc etc. with Benjamin telling us many many interesting things about this city. Siddhartha was using his thinking hats and posing some very interesting questions like who is superior : CIA or Mossad? etc Benjamin said that in November-December it snows here for a week or two. We did not believe that though...hope I come here again when it snows :).

From here we started our 60km journey back to TelAviv. It was my another interesting weekend here in Israel.

Saturday, June 9, 2007

Israel : EnGedi - Masada - DeadSea

On 8th June last weekend had been to another trip towards the Dead sea. This time we planned for EnGedi which is a Kibutz (A self sufficient city) with mineral water springs in the desert. Then plan was to visit Masada which is a 2000 year old remains of a Jewish king fort which was conquered by the Romans in 67BC something. After that just spend time on deadsea- just float around in the salty water 1200 feet below sea-level :).

This time we rented a car and Sameer the expert from Cyprus was our driver. The drive from Tel-Aviv was rather interesting. The Ayalon Highway from TelAviv converts into Highway 1 towards Jerusalem. Yes, we had to to pass over Jerusalem and the exits and there were very confusing. I was the map follower and after two mistakes we were right on track passing Jerusalem, Jericho (Palestine owned) over Highway 1 and then onto 90 south. This road runs parallel to the deadsea all the way down till the end. On the other side u see Jordan mountains (only some 3-4 km across) and the radio was catching Jordanian national FM radio channel which played some good English songs, unlike the Hebrew and Arabian channels in rest of Israel.

We arrived at En Gedi around 10:30am...there was nothing much here as far as we imagined. It was a Oasis in the middle of a desert...these people are excited to see vegetation having animals
and bugs like rats n dragon files. All such pictures were displayed around to attract tourist. We were 4 guys and everyone was excited about the Aeroplane ride near masada which takes u close just 15-20 feet over the mountains of Masada and over deadsea.So we decided to skip Engedi and march towards Masada. Just 15km ahead we saw the sign and 2-3 small 4 seater planes lined up. We came to know that only 3 can go in the plane :(. The plane guys offered us 2 rides at some discuont. But a single rides itself was very expensive!! We could not afford two at all. So after a good discussion of sacrifice n all...Siddhartha decided to stay back. He's a gr8 chap. So three of us went to take a wonderful experience to be in a 4 seater plane. We felt like the Aviators and the moment the flight took off a big jerk in the stomach erupted which then surged towards the brain through the spinal cord :). We were already some 500 ft above. The pilot Yossi was a cool guy. He started explaining us that we'r at the lowest point on earth now. We will be flying some 700-800 feet above the deadsea but that will still be 400 ft below the normal sea level!

So the plane took of in a style and when it made a U-turn towards the Masada mountain...Man! that is a kind of experience one should go through. It felt as tough I am gonna have a free fall from over that height! Yossi asked all of us whether we are all ok?? We said "yeah...we indeed are" through the sound proof headset (The noise these planes makes is HUGE! ear pounding decibels). We started to go over the Masada Northern Palace which is a deserted place now. We could see people moving over different places who had come on top by the cable car. Then we went up towards the north over the desert mountains very close to the tops. All this was inside the sea in the pre-historic times and its evident from the sediment layers of rocks u see.
We then turned towards the deadsea which was in parallel to us until now. Going over this sea was amazing...u could see big snow like rocks..but they were actually salt rocks :). Yossi also showed us "craters" along on the deadsea coast which he said are death traps! The coast was earlier seabed and one can easily sink in there if one tries to go as there is still lots of salty-muddy water below and it peeps out through craters. It was cool! Our 25min ride finally ended with pride as I saw the wheels hit "bang" on the ground.

We also decided to take the Cable car trip right upto the Masada Fort on the top. Initially it seemed as boring to see remains of the ancient Jewish-Roman empire, but when we went up we realised how interesting it was. In those time the Jewish King Herod built this place many years before Jesus christ. The Romans laid the siege to conquer it. It was a battle of blood and bath which was played in that era in the midst of the desert. It was amazing and unbelievable to see the huge food storage, water tanks digged in solid rock and water harvesting system which collected fresh water from the little rains on the mountains. The king had a lavish lifestyle with swimming pools, quarters for his commanders n warriors, Church, Torah (Jewish holy book) reading rooms etc etc. Spent around 2 hrs roaming on the fort with the scorching hot sun following us all over ;).

It was a cool experience.

It was 3:30pm by the time we came down from Masada Fort. We then marched towards the deadsea tourist spot where we can safely go in the sea and njoy the unbelievable experience of floating in the heavy salty water. We reached in 30mins and were already dead tired due to walking on the Masad fort. So we took a nap in the car itself for some 45 min. Then went to take a plunge in the deadsea (well actually u cannot dive in there..if ur head goes in the water and it enters ur eyes, nose etc...ur gone for a toss!!). We Were there until 8pm and then started off back to Tel-Aviv.

It was my bro - Rohit's birthday that day. Had tried to call home 2-3 times that day but no one picked up phone. Also I did not had his new mobile numer so could call him directly. Finally after reaching hotel I called a last time and this time my Mom picked up the phone. She told that they were out with my sister Reena and my bhanji and bhanja. Rohit was still not home and was partying out with his friends...it was 11:30pm in Israel which is 2am in India. I got Monya's ( as we call Rohit) mobile number from mom and then tried calling him. But I was getting "out of coverage" signals. So finally called it a day off...as my eye lids were feeling like heavy lead blocks on by eyes :)

It was a real fun filled day!