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My First Road Trip part 2

The next part of our awesome road trip was about 30 Kms from Pune, a small village known as Saswad, which houses an awesome Fort known as Jadhavgadh. We started our journey early, had breakfast at the Machan and got out buy around 9:30 am. The drive back to Lonavala took about half an hour considering the crazy fog, we also got lost in one of the by lanes, anyways we hit the expressway soon enough and made it to the outskirts of Pune in about an hour and a half. Here it gets tricky passing Pune and onto Saswad took a good 2 hours, crazy traffic and bad road. At a time even google Maps failed and we had to ask a cop for directions (surprisingly he looked and behaved like Manoj Bajpai). After a fairly crazy ride up a fairly broad ghat (Mountain) we reached our destination.

The first thing you notice about the fort is the people, they are all dressed in traditional Maratha outfits. Our welcome was accompanied by a blow of trumpets and a crazy beating of drums by a frenzied security guard, we also got the very firangi “tilak on the forehead” treatment. We quickly finished all the formalities and headed towards our room, please to note had booked a suite which was a surprise for the lovely Mrs. I was surprised by the room – it was big and had a large balcony with a crazy view – do check the image below for the view. We settled in and ordered food, some traditional chicken in coconut gravy with bread, the food was finger licking good. I would strongly recommend that you try the local cuisine in the Hotel; it’s absolutely to die for. After a quick siesta we moved towards the pool, the Mrs quickly jumped in, me on the other hand thought the water was a little too cold for my liking and hence went on to check the Fort.

The Fort is not very large, if you have been to Rajasthan it may almost seem like a Haveli what stands out is how well it has been maintained and how the entire Hotel has been built around it. The lawns surrounding the Fort are massive and make for some great bird and flower photography. I ended up spending quite a lot of my time taking pictures. Late evening we decided to head back to the room – post more chilling time we went for dinner – the dining room is pretty standard looks like something out of a clubhouse, but the waiter suggested that we dine at the balcony. This turned out to be a great suggestion as it was only us and the experience of eating there was amazing. The starter we ordered was something called Jadhavgadh ke Sholay (Fires of Jadhavgadh – loosely translated) a tandoori paneer dish; we ordered it basis the interesting name – not bad it was, for main course we ordered mutton for a change, a dish called Mutton Tambya Cha Rassa – hands down the best mutton dish we have eaten, the mutton was softer than the paneer, we finished the meal with an awesome Kulfi (local hand churned ice-cream).

Day 2 was pretty much filled with photography, swimming, dinning had an absolute blast, before I forget the Breakfast – absolutely amazing and they had a decent spread also; to give you an idea, my breakfast included muffins, breads, juice, cereal, poha, parathas, grilled veggies, juice, eggs to order and milk shake – I could not move for a few hours after that but totally loved it. Moving on, day 3 is when we left for Mumbai, again got out by about 10:00 am the drive this time was surprisingly fast, the roads were empty and we reached the expressway in about 40 minutes. From there on it was a 2 hour drive to Mumbai – we stopped at a Khopoli, did not feel like eating so had ice-cream and then drove on. Took about an hour 15 to get to home once we hit Mumbai, the little Ashoooooo as usual welcomed us (he also makes an appearance on our blog 🙂 All in all, our first roadtrip was kick-ass we had a blast stayed amongst trees and in a Fort, drove across some of the best roads in the country, could not have asked for more during our mini vacation.

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Posted by on September 4, 2012 in Trips & Rides

 

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My First Road Trip

Awesome View!!!

My first Road-trip! This was an idea me and Yooti (my wife) had been playing with for a while. This year we finally decided to put it to the test, our poison a short trip through Lonavala and Pune in Maharastra – the Mrs being an expert on off-beat vacations figured destination 1; a PondProperty called The Machan. This is a secluded property about 20kms away from Lonavala. I, to begin With, was very skeptical about going there (the place does not have TV or connectivity!!!); anyways, after much debate and discussion, finally decided to go there and the rest, as they say, is History.

Sensational!!!

The trip began with a few disasters. I was unwell to begin with; next, we drove to an ATM, tried withdrawing money but the transaction failed, Of course the bank conveniently sent us a text saying money deducted – this took an hour to sort. Then mad rains in Mumbai! We got stuck in a jam at Parel which would just not move; anyways, we weaved through that using the back roads of Wadala and got out of the city – took us an hour but better than what most people managed. By now, memories of a certain Goa trip were coming back in my head, but the awesome drive across the Expressway made me forget them.

Yayyyyyyyyyyy Open Roads

Tree House!!!

We finally reached Lonavala, managed to withdraw money and then go searching for booze, don’t get it…. any shit is expensive in Lonavala. Moving on, Yooti, my expert Navigator, guides me towards The Machan. Note here, the drive is awesome, the roads are not, it’s a single lane road and covered in fog during the monsoons, make sure all the lights in your vehicle are working. After passing Bushy Dam and a lot of naked people, we finally turned onto a dirt road and find destination 1 – The Machan.

Like I mentioned, I was skeptical about this, but as soon as I entered the property, I was absolutely blown away…….. the reception is built on a pond which overlooks the 25 acre area. We checked in and walked towards our tree house with some assistance from the very helpful staff, surprisingly we had to walk into the forest to get to our room.

Brilliant Property

Randomness!!!

Finally we climbed a spiral staircase and reached our Machan; the room was like something out of a Jim Corbett Novel – very rustic and absolutely in sync with the surroundings. We settled in and ordered some food. At this point I must mention if you ever visit this place, do order the spicy chicken chilli, it is the craziest dish ever…. full of masala and crazy hot. Anyways, most of my time at the Machan was spent photographing the brilliant landscape and property, and going on nature trails; a suggestion: travel with an extra pair of shoes, I got mine wet in the waterfall and they just don’t dry here!

Dinners are simple but the setting just takes it to another level…… a man made tent, fireplace and candle lights just hits all the right notes. About the TV bit, I thought I would not survive but I did not miss it much! I would highly recommend this place, it amazing, non commercialized and blissful. Do check some pictures we have put up of our stay around this post. If you have any other questions about the place, do write to us via comments below….from here we now move to our next destination Jadhavgard which we will cover in our next post.

Greenary!!!

 
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Posted by on August 30, 2012 in Trips & Rides

 

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The Greatest Olympian of All time – Usain Bolt

The Olympics have pretty much dominated our lives over the past 15 days, the highlight of the events being Indian athletes performing better than expected and winning medals, and the other the absolute star of the Olympics – the track and field events. Our favourites are the running events 100m, 200m, 400m, 110m hurdles, 4×100 relay and so on.

The love affair with track and field started in the 80’s. This was when Carl Lewis was at his peak and dominated men’s athletics. Lewis was a dominant sprinter and long jumper who topped the world rankings in the 100m, 200m and long jump events frequently from 1981 to the early 1990s, was named Athlete of the Year by Track & Field News in 1982, 1983, and 1984, and set world records in the 100m, 4×100m and 4×200m relays. His world record in the indoor long jump has stood since 1984 and his 65 consecutive victories in the long jump achieved over a span of 10 years is one of the sport’s longest undefeated streaks. We have been blessed to have watched the man perform at the highest level. Watching Carl Lewis run was like poetry in motion, and the ease he ran with is something athletes find hard to emulate even today. On emulating style I think most runners now adopt the aggressive stance and style of Ben Johnson, he was Lewis’s nemesis and in the 1998 Olympics outran and beat Lewis. You had to watch Johnson in action – he was built like the Incredible Hulk and demolished everything and anything that came in his path, a pity that he was also a steroid freak – this resulted in Lewis being awarded the Olympic gold in ’88.

From there on we kept following the running events on and off; I think the peak was when the world championships would happen. Stars like Donavan Bailey, Justin Gatling, Linford Cristie, Maurice Green, Asafa Powel all took centre stage during the ’90’s into 2000 – these were super athletes, not only did they dominate their sport they also had a charisma which had reporters chasing them off the tracks. These men ran under the 10 second mark and put on a show that few others could. Of course, with the fame came issues of using steroids, bans on events, etc. But this never took away from the excitement of watching them on the idiot box; I remember cheering for Donavan Bailey in a particular meet and when he won our living room exploded with excitement. Of course, we have also followed the likes of Sebastian Coe, Sergei Bubka, Florence Griffin Joyner, Edwin Moses, Michael Johnson, etc., but none of them were as explosive as the sprinters. Speaking off Michael Johnson, he matched the sprinters in their flamboyance and also brought a one off style to athletics, he is the only male athlete in history to win both the 200m dash and 400m dash events at the same Olympics, a feat he accomplished at the 1996 Summer Olympics in Atlanta. Johnson is also the only man to successfully defend his Olympic title in the 400m. Aside from his Olympic success, Johnson accumulated eight gold medals at World Championships, and is thus tied with Carl Lewis for the most gold medals won by any runner in history.

Enough about the past moving onto the present. None of the above mentioned athletes come close to the current Track and Field sensation Usain Bolt. He emerged on the scene in 2008 and has taken the athletic world by storm – his 2008 season began with his first performance – a 100m world record of 9.72 s – and culminated in world and Olympic records in both the 100m and 200m events at the 2008 Beijing Summer Olympics. He ran 9.69 s for the 100m and 19.30 s in the 200m, and also set a 4×100m relay record of 37.10 s with the Jamaican team. Bolt’s greatest achievement though, is shattering the World Record in the 100m – the time 9.58. A lot has been written about Bolt and how his casual attitude will eventually get the better of him; this due to the fact that he was miles ahead of the field in the last Olympics and pretty much eased up towards the finish; purists believe he should have put his head down and run all the way, but Bolt chose to enjoy the moment. From then, till now, there have been races he has not won, false started and lost in, he even came 2nd in the Jamican qualifying rounds. Interestingly most critics and haters had written him off basis this year’s Olympics but after watching the race it was very clear there is only one man who can dominate the 100m and his name is Usain Bolt. Bolt had a late start and stayed with the field till about 50m but post that he accelerated. It is impossible for a human being to do what he did and by the end of the last 50m Usain was the winner with the field trailing much like the last Olympics. Next on the horizon the 200m and the relays, I do believe with Powel and Blake at his side, the Jamican team will dominate and it will be an absolute joy to watch one of the greatest sprinters ever to grace the sport…..

Off the track, Usain Bolt is very laid-back and relaxed, like most Jamaicans.  Bolt’s Jamaican track and field idols include Herb McKenley and former Jamaican 100m & 200m world record holder, Don Quarrie. The first sport to interest him was cricket and he said if he was not a sprinter he would be a fast bowler instead. As a child he was a supporter of the Pakistani cricket team and admired the bowling of Waqar Younis. During a charity cricket match, Bolt clean-bowled Chris Gayle. Gayle was complimentary of Bolt’s pace and swing. Bolt also struck a six off Chris Gayle’s bowling. All in all, Usain Bolt is a rockstar he has brought crowds back to the stadium and is 3 races shy of achieving God status in Track and Field Heaven.

Here are the crazy times set by these athletes across the years –

1. Usain Bolt – 9.69, Beijing 2008.

2. Donovan Bailey – 9.84, Atlanta 1996.

3. Ben Johnson – 9.79, Seoul 1988.

4. Justin Gatlin – 9.85, Athens 2004.

5. Maurice Greene – 9.87

6. Linford Christie – 9.96, Barcelona 1992.

7. Carl Lewis – 9.99, Los Angeles 1984.

8. Allan Wells – 10.25, Moscow 1980.

 
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Posted by on August 8, 2012 in Categories

 

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Olympics Fixation

So the fixation with Sports for Mihir & me started courtesy Dad – my Dad loves all kinds of sports and has been watching them since decades. That interest definitely spilled over onto both of his kids :-). Sports – beyond Cricket & Football – like Basketball, Baseball, etc. were watched in the Shah household regularly. Enough of basking in the glory of watching all kinds of sport, coming back to the Olympics…

In 1982 there were the Asiad Games & for the same our family bought our first Color TV – the same was huge thing. Excitment all around considering the same was a 32″ Sony Telivision. At that time, India had only 1 channel the govenment run Doordarshan. The first Olympics we watched was the 1984 LA Olympics. The opening Ceremony, Lighting of the Torch, etc. were activities which were just unbelievable at that time. Also saw multiple different kinds of sports like – Volley Ball, Swimming, Diving, Steaple Chase, Athletics, to name a few. Over the years, till cable TV hit India, Doordarshan carried the Olympics; Cable TV, ESPN, etc. hit India during the early 90’s. The same changed India’s perspective on sports only from a viewership perspective.

Over the years, we saw some great feats in the Olympics and some great Atheletes right from Carl Lewis & his achievments in athletics, Sergie Bubka – the greatest Pole Vaulter of his time, Florence & Griffth Joyner – the sprint queens, Gail Deevers, Greg Lueganiss in diving,  Michael Johnson & his dominance in the 200m & 400m races, 1992 USA Dream Team in Basketball, Tennis Legends – Jenifer Capriati & Andre Aggasi, Michael Phelps probably the greatest Swimmer ever the list is endless. Through all through this there have been a few favorite sports: Athletics, Diving & Gymnastics. (Next Week we will have an article on the legendary Sprinters of our Generation).

This Years Olympics in UK have also been awesome and also the way we have started to see the same in terms of perspective has changed. Initially, it was about Winning & Losing, also about favourites and atheletes you didn’t favor. Now its more about the sport per say and the acheivments, also athletes and how they are able to push themselves which at some level just seems unreal. It’s like they are from a different planet :-). Details of this year’s medal winners is splattered across the web and we clearly didn’t want to cover the same, just wanted to share our experiance of the Olympics as probably the greatest Sporting Spectacle of All Time!!! Also Google changes its Google Doodle everyday with the theme of the Olympics… This is an event you dont want to miss.

 
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Posted by on August 2, 2012 in Bikes & Builders

 

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Fringe Science

Fringe science is scientific inquiry in an established field of study that departs significantly from mainstream or orthodox theories, and is classified in the “fringes” of a credible mainstream academic discipline. Mainstream scientists typically regard fringe concepts as highly speculative or even strongly refuted. So why am I writing about this highly debatable field? One reason is that all popular TV DVDs are out due to rains in Mumbai limiting time on the bike. Next, is to introduce people to some of the crazy TV that we watch. Do expect a lot of series’ to be covered in the next few months.

A couple of months back, Yooti and I had just finished watching Mad Men, the popular television serial, and were debating which sitcom to watch next. After doing some research on IMBD no conclusive decision was reached – anyways we still went to the DVD shop – once there I kept staring at the large collection of popular TV series’ available. This time around I was clearly looking for the sci-fi genre, the sales man recommended Super Natural and Fringe. In the interest of saving some money, I picked up Fringe (only 2 seasons at that time as compared to 6 in Supernatural – it is a separate discussion that I did end up buying Supernatural later). We had lunch and went home after that. Later that night we started watching Fringe, after watching the pilot episode we both arrived at the same conclusion….this is probably one of the best shows we have seen in a while. Here is the trailer introducing Season 1.

Created by J. J. Abrams, Alex Kurtzman and Roberto Orci, the series follows the lives and cases of the Fringe Division, a Task Force supported primarily by the FBI; the team includes Agent Olivia Dunham, Dr. Walter Bishop and Peter Bishop. They are supported by Phillip Broyles and Agent Astrid Farnsworth, who assists Walter. The Fringe Division investigates cases ranging from transhumanist experiments gone wrong to the prospect of a destructive technological of singularity. They are supported by the members of a company called “Massive Dynamics” – Nina Sharp and William Bell. What makes this sitcom different from others like the X-Files is the meticulous characterization of the cast and the storyline; each episode can be watched as a standalone piece of content, but all 24 come together to reveal a plot that just boggles the mind!

Fringe actually has you questioning and debating episodes much after you have finished watching them – Walter Bishop’s character played by John Noble is unforgettable. Referred to as “The Einstien of our generation”  the character is funny, smart, eccentric and definitely the driving force behind each and every episode.  For all of you who don’t know who John Noble is – he played Denethor in The Lord of the Rings – he is also Artistic Director of Stage Company of South Australia 1977–8, head of Drama, Brent St. School of Arts (Sydney) 1997-00, has directed over 80 plays, including ‘Sons of Cain’ on London’s West End (1986), a freelance actor. Semi-regular in TV series ‘All Saints’ and a Voice and Acting Teacher.

Fringe is a DVD turner! Once you start watching it will take every bit of your will power to press the stop button on your player – an absolute must watch for people who enjoy science fiction. I am currently watching season 4 and some of the theories are out of whack! If you are already a fan, there are a bunch of comics published by DC that are prequel to the series and a must read…a word of advice, the series has a way of taking over your life……Finally check the image for the glyph keys as shown in various episodes of the sitcom – let me know if anyone has a solution out there….

For die hard fans, here is the opening sequance with the absolutely haunting theme.

 
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Posted by on June 20, 2012 in Helmets & More

 

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