Coonoor-Ooty toy train: the Nilgiri Mountain Railway

A young boy looks out of the train compartment.

A young boy looks out of the train compartment.

The day began well. Blue sky over the Blue Hills (Nilgiris, as they are known). It was hard driving up the 36 hairpin turns from Masinagudi to Ooty (Udaghamandlam to some). The railway station at Ooty was crowded with tourists wanting to ride on the fabled “toy” train between Ooty and Coonoor. The queue snaked outside the station. We decided to drive to Coonoor, and take the train from there at the end of the day.

It was a good decision, because when we arrived at Coonoor station at 4pm, the booking counters had opened, and there was hardly anyone there.

We did an 18 km journey in some 1 hour and 15 minutes through beautiful countryside. In the process, the train moved uphill from 5600 ft (Coonoor) to 7220 ft (Ooty). This is what “slow” movement is all about! This is a great train journey to do when you are not in a hurry to go anywhere in particular.

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Postcard from Bangalore

M G Road. Old Bangalore. (Photo courtesy: Unknown)

M G Road. Old Bangalore. (Photo courtesy: Unknown)

Dear Bengaluru,

My, my, how you have changed! I remember you, young, green, fresh. You had an innocence in your simple ways. I remember your salubrious weather, your unclogged streets, your tall trees and green parks. Quaint alleyways, clean streets, shop-owners who went home at mid-day for siesta. The simple pleasures of life were there for all of us to cherish.

I remember the colorful markets of Malleswaram, shopping for groceries at Nilgiris, seeing James Bond movies from the first row for Rs. 2 as a student. And then there were the occasional noodle soups at Rice Bowl, and spicy Biriyanis at RR. Hungry from lack of real food in our hostel, we devoured Tandoori Naans by the mouthful at New Shanthi Sagar. And, to top it all, there was Vanilla icecream with hot chocolate fudge at the Corner House! Oh, it was heaven.

And friends, I had them all. There was always company for the weekend movies to M. G. Road. Late night rides on Deccan Herald bus, sitting on freshly minted newspaper, coming back to Indian Institute of Science. Parties on everyone’s birthdays, and even when it was not anyone’s birthday in particular. There was music. Late night walks to Yeshwantpur. Chilli Chicken from Ratna Bar, lovingly called Rats. U B Export. Love. Hate. Envy. Sweet Love.

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Video that made my day: Lava Delta Collapse in Hawaii Big Island

Lava deltas are formed when molten lava stream hits the ocean (happens all the time in Hawaii) and creates new “lava-land” as it solidifies. On November 28, 2005, a rather big lava delta in Hawaii Big Island collapsed … I mean, just vanished into the ocean! Now, lava deltas are infamously unstable, and collapse in minor ways every now and then. What makes this collapse special is that fortunately the USGS caught the collapse on video. A 34-acre delta at the East Lae’apuki ocean entry collapsed over a span of five hours, taking an additional ten acres of land with it to its burial place under the ocean waves. The time-lapse video below is amazing. See it for yourself.

We were on Hawaii Big Island a few years back, and have walked the lava benches close enough to the water. In fact, at one place, we looked over a lava ledge to see the ocean directly below.

Now, thinking about it, when I see this video, it sends chills down my spine.

( Author: Amit Basu )

Thoughts from green Taro fields, Hanalei Bay, Kauai

Taro fields. Hanalei, Kauai, Hawaii

Taro fields. Hanalei, Kauai, Hawaii

Hanalei grows on you. A quaint, small town along the north shore of Kauai, it feels like the real Hawaii that Honolulu, in a strange but certain way, does not. Hanalei is a surf and beach town, with it’s share of sun-bronzed bodies, matted hairs, surfboards; gentle rolling waves near the shore, and humongous ones farther out near the edge of the reef; budget Hawaiian ber-b-que and a sprinkling of upscale eateries; enchanting art galleries; vendors selling green coconuts from the back of pickup trucks; families on the beach enjoying a life everyday that the average city-dweller Joe can only dream of.

You get the picture.

We were on our way along the north shore of Kauai. Passed through the fake facades of Princeville, with its designer golf courses, its entry fountain and its manicured lawns; a place as foreign to Hawaii as the people who live there. As you drive past Princeville on Highway 96 and stop at the lookout point, Hanalei unfolds before you. And what a difference! As if you have arrived at the real pyramid after passing through Luxor, Las Vegas. Bye golf courses! Hello Taro fields!

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Napali coast, a garden of Eden

Napali cliffs.  Napali coast. Kauai, Hawaii

Napali cliffs. Napali coast. Kauai, Hawaii

I have seen a bit of the world as it used to be many thousands of years back. It’s called the Napali Coast, and it’s in Kauai. Its about twenty miles of coastline that stands some three thousand feet tall at places, much of it untouched by humans. Jagged peaks stand as sentinels over a wild, churning ocean. Deep green valleys are carved by rainfall, and waterfalls stand a few thousands of feet high. White birds with long tails glide effortlessly over its dense canopy. It’s a place the wanderlust dream is made of. And what beautiful names of valleys that evoke the memories of paradise: Hanakapiaai, Kalalau, Honopu.

See it from a distance. Leave no trace.

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Life is how you see it. A long time ago, when I used to look at life through my eyes wide open, I saw it all at the same time. The order, and the clutter. The good, the bad, and the ugly.

Something changed over the last few years as I have started looking through the constraining frame of a camera viewfinder. The world is suddenly a different place. I am beginning to see things I didn’t know existed. I am able to find beauty in strange things.

There so much to see in this world.

Lets look at it together.

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