Vacation Time : Day 5 – Into Canyon Land

Initial weather report was that there may be rain during our stay in Page. Therefore we did not book tours in advance for Antelope canyons. However there was no indication of rain in the morning, so after checkout we tried our luck with local tour companies in town but every tour was sold out. Undettered we drove to the entrance of lower Antelope Canyon but no luck. It was suggested there by one of the tour operator to check with slot canyon X tour operator some seven miles down the road. There we struck gold. After we booked our tickets, at thirty minutes past noon we were transported by vans over gravel roads covered with red colored sands. At the entrance the people were grouped with about twenty each to one guide. It was about a mile and half hike round trip over sand and stone. It was an incredible experience.

After the slot canyon X tour we had lunch at a Mexican restaurant and drove to near by Glen Canyon Dam and Lake Powel lookout.

It was now time to say good bye to Page and move to Bryce Canyon. By the time we left Lake Powel look out, sun had already set.

After about two and half hours drive from Page arrived Bryce Canyon at about eight thirty pm to a bone chilling cold of 13F (-10C) and with wind chill it was 0F.

Tomorrow Bryce Canyon.

Vacation Time : Day 4

Christmas Greetings to you all from Page, Arizona.

After a day well spent in Grand Canyon and rewarded by a fantastic sunrise, the day culminated with a sunset view of Horseshoe Bend in Page, AZ Drive from Grand Canyon to Page offered some out of the world vista. A few snow flurries greeted us during the drive.

Internet access been spotty, so I shall post more details afterwards.

Horseshoe Bend, Page, Arizona. Photo taken by my son on December 25, 2018

Vacation Time

Out in vacation till the end of the year. I had high hopes of writing a travel diary and sharing with my blogily. But the travel gods had other plans. They wanted to spare a few readers I had the misery of going through the dreadful prose I write. So here enters technology. Slow internet speed makes it a struggle to download and attach photos with my post and upload it to WordPress in the little time that I have for myself during the vacation duties. It becomes quite frustrating at times. So my dear readers, I will try to post when I can.

Happy Holidays to you all. Have a wonderful Xmas with your family and a great 2019.

Before I let you go will like to share a little tidbit about our travel yesterday. For our travel we had booked a Dodge Durango. Unfortunately when we went to pick up the car what we got was a Infinity QX 60 with only 39 miles on the odometer which was great. What was not great that the cargo space in the Infinity was much smaller compared to the Durango. We had to repack all our luggage resulting in a late night the day before the trip. That escalated to a late morning start and encountering heavy holiday traffic and a trip that was supposed to be about nine hours drive ended up being a fourteen hour drive. In the very beginning of the trip, a portion of the highway that would normally be a forty minute drive ended up being a two and quarter hours drive forcing us to stop at the first available rest camp to answer nature’s call speeded up by cups of early morning coffe. It was restful to say the least and scenery was terrific.

San Luis Reservoir, Dec 22, 2018

Around 5 PM we stopped near the intersection of Highway 99 and Highway 58, still about four hours drive from Las Vegas as per map. After feeing up gas and some coffee and drinks for ourselves we started with high hopes of arriving Vegas by about 9 PM, still decent time. But horrendous traffic both at highway 58 and Interstate 15 kept on pushing back the arrival time. After about three hours of driving and Vegas still about three hours ahead it became apparent that we will need to stop somewhere. By that time the river of red lights from 5mph cars in front of us was becoming quite monotonous. Only saving grace was the beautiful full moon over the Mojave desert. But that also became an issue as it became quite apparent that relieving oneself by the road size will result in good exposure. Few brave souls however had done just that braving the bright full moon. By the time we got to the first rest camp on I 15, parking lots were nearly full. The line from the rest rooms (not sure why it is called rest room though ) were snaking out to the parking lot. One young guy in front of me in the line was shivering like crazy, dancing an odd dance move stanging on one leg and then the other. The poor soul was trying to control coming out on the open. A few good hearted people advised him to go find the nearest dark corner but he ignored. Actually he had number two coming. Thank God that he did not go out in the line but it was a terrible sight to behold.

Without much further ado and no more near calamities, we arrived Vegas by about 11:30 PM and got to our rooms past midnight. To hell with sight seeing plans for Sunday, it was off to bed we go (of course after a little late night sojourn, what would be a trip to Vegas without that).

Vegas at last, Dec 23, 2018

A Hectic Trip to Sunny (?) San Diego

Just came back from a hectic, seventy five hours road trip of about twelve hundred miles (that’s approximately 2000 KM for the rest of the world in SI system). I was not driving for seventy five hours though it felt like that at near midnight of Sunday when at last I fell asleep on my own bed at home.  San Diego was supposed to be sunny but did not see the sun for the two days we were there.  However I was thankful for sun’s decision to hide behind the clouds as that made it easier for the walk during the college tour of University of California San Diego.  On our return trip we stopped for lunch at Santa Barbara and was delightfully surprised to see that the road in front of the restaurant was holding a classic car show.  It was a thrill to see the ageless beauties, some dating back to nineteen thirty two.  As we did not have much time for sightseeing in San Diego, this unplanned bonus offering was much appreciated.  I wish I would have known about this before so that I could have planned my time accordingly.  Sharing some photos below from the trip.

Flight over Balboa

Flights from nearby San Diego Airport, after take-off, flies over Balboa Park, a 1200 acre urban park that is home to several museums and famous San Diego zoo.

El Pardo Avenue

The El Prado complex hosts many museums including Air and Space museum, Museum of Man, San Diego Museum of Art, Natural History Museum, Cabrillo Bridge, San Diego Natural History Museum and Alcazar Gardens. Above is a photo of El Prado road leading to the complex and below is the entrance leading to the complex from El Prado.

Museum entrance_2

Below are the skyline of San Diego as viewed from Cabrillo Bridge on El Prado over Cabrillo Canyon through which now passes state highway CA 163 ( photo below) leading to San Diego downtown.

Alcazar Garden in El Pardo complex.  The place was swarming with too many elegantly dressed people and professional photographers on that beautiful Saturday afternoon.  There were a few weddings and I think few high school proms going on there and I had to be careful not to disturb anyone.

And to cap the trip, below are a few photos from the classic car show at Santa Barbara on Sunday. The cars shown below are from nineteen thirty two to nineteen sixty five as much as I can remember.

After that hectic trip and continuous eating out, it was good to be home for a home cooked meal of quinoa pilaf, mashed sweet potato and yam, mango guacamole, sauteed salmon and carrot greens with roasted almond and garlic, cooked by yours truly.

Home cooked meal_2

Of April Fools Day, Good Friday and Easter

Yesterday was April Fools Day as well as Easter.  I was thinking of posting this yesterday but then one thing rolled into another and before I knew it it was past midnight. So here it is.

Thirty five years ago, it was another April Fools Day.  I will always remember that day.  That was the day my elder brother, my sister-in-law and my younger brother were going to see my future wife.  Ours was an arranged marriage and I had not met her till that time.  It was early morning, around 9:00 AM when my family members were about to go to my bride to be house when my younger brother said, “Hope this not turn out to be an April Fool joke.”  My elder brother stopped in his track, looked towards me and said, ” Well, it is also Good Friday and the good will surely overcome the bad.” We are not Christians and Good Friday did not carry much importance to us in India except that it was a holiday.  To make a long story short, it definitely did not turn out to be an April Fool’s joke. In another month and eight days, it will be our thirty fifth anniversary and I must have been blessed by someone high up on that Good Friday.

Move forward thirty five years and to April Fools Day and Easter.  Leader of our hiking group had sent a message for a hike up Mount Umunhum, a 3486 feet peak in Santa Clara county, California.  The trail leading up to the summit was opened to the public in September of 2017.  We had been to the grand opening and was fortunate to be part of a group to hike down.  There are three parking lots for this trail, one at the entrance to the park at bottom, one somewhat in the middle and one near the summit.  Hiking up from the bottom lot is nearly a day long affair.  The trail that was opened last year starts from the parking lot in the middle (Bald Mountain) and goes up about 3.7 miles to the top parking lot.  There is another trail leading up to the summit and an alternate path is to climb up 159 steps and walk a small distance.  Bald Mountain parking lot is quite small and fills up very quickly on weekends and holidays.  On my last three attempts, I was not able to find a parking and was forced to drive to the top parking lot.  So I had never completed the round trip of the trail as it is harder to hike down and then hike up and had returned from about half way down the trail.  This time I was determined to complete the round trip so I told my group to be at the parking lot as early as possible.  I was at the bottom parking lot before 7:30 AM and was greeted by the wonderful sight of the moon setting on the western sky over the mountain.

Moonset over Mt UmMount Umunhum with old radar station on the left and the setting moon on the right.

I had to wait for about fifteen minutes before my friends arrived.  I left my car in the bottom parking lot and four of us drove up to the Bald Mountain parking lot.

mount umearly morning
Mount Umunhum in early morning light

Being early had its reward as there were still few parking spaces available.  We parked our car and started our hike.  The trail is a designer trail with very decent grading and switch backs with lots of shade.  Trail is about 3.7 miles long from the Bald Mountain parking lot to the parking lot at the summit.  It was a perfect hiking weather, sunny but cool with a light breeze.  We had a very pleasant hike, wandering around from time to time, exploring.  Completed our hike of nine miles with an elevation gain of about 1300 feet in three hours and forty five minutes with many stops along the way to enjoy the vistas.  So another happy April Fools Day and the blessings of Easter.  I am sure I won’t be here for next thirty five years to tell another April Fool story.  But as long as I live, I will remember these two April Fools Day.  They were perfect.

View of the valley from Guadalupe River Watershed Vista Point on the left and Doppler weather radar on Mount Umunhum on the right

Trip to India – Dec 2017: A Mini Travelogue : Tuesday Photo Challenge – Place

During my trip to India in December of 2017, I had a plan to post a travel diary of my journey.  However someone up there had a different plan.  During my transit at Seoul, South Korea, on my way to India, I lost my notebook computer and that was the end of the story.  I had taken lots of photographs during the trip but never got back to write a travelogue.  Sheer laziness on my part.  Hope to share some of those today with you as an opportunity presented itself.
Frank’s Tuesday Photo Challenge prompt for today was “Place”.  I decided to take this opportunity to write a mini travelogue while adhering to Franks prompt.

Bagala Devi Temple ( Nilachal Hill), Kamakhya, Guwahati, Assam- December 16, 2017
Kamakhya Temple, one of the most prominent Shakti Pitha of the fifty one Pithas of Hinduism, is situated in Nilachal Hill, about 7KM from Guwahati.  Though Kamakhya is the main temple, there are numerous other temples on the hill, specially ten temples dedicated to ten Mahavidyas (ten forms of Goddess Durga). The temple to Devi Bagalamukhi is one of them.

BagalaDevitemple, Nilachal Hills, Kamalhya_R1.jpg

Banaras and Sarnath, December 18 – December 19, 2018
Banaras (Varanasi) or Kashi is one of the holiest place for Hindus and the abode of Lord Shiva.  It is also the city of my alma mater, Banaras Hindu University or in short BHU.  My family had never been to Banaras.  After 2000 AD, this was the first time the family would be together in India.  So we made it a point to make a trip to Banaras

SunriseoverGanges_R1Sunrise over River Ganga (Ganges) – December 18, 2017
BoatsRiverGanges-R1
Boats on River Ganga, morning of December 18, 2017
Dasaashwamedh Ghat_R1
Dashashwamedh Ghat, December 19, 2017
GangArti_R1
Ganga Arti (offering puja to Ganga Mata, Mother Ganga) Evening of December 18, 2017, Dashashwamedh Ghat (taken from the roof of the guest house we stayed). This is not to be missed while in Banaras.
IITBHU_R1
Indian Institute of Technology, Banaras Hindu University (my alma mater), December 18, 2017.  This visit was nostalgic, to say the least.
Buddha Temple, Sarnath_R1
Maha Bodhi Temple, Sarnath, December 19, 2017.   Sarnath is less than 15 KM drive from Banaras. Lord Buddha gave his first sermon here after attaining enlightenment in Bodhgaya.
SarnathStupa_R1
Dhamek Stupa, Sarnath, December 19, 2017. Site of Lord Buddha’s earliest sermons.
SarnathArcheologicalSite_R1
Archaeological excavation in Sarnath by ASI , December 19, 2017.

Kaziranga National Park(KNP), Assam, December 21 – December 23, 2018.  Home of one horned rhinoceros.

Dipholu RiverKNP_R1
Dipholu River (KNP), December 22, 2017, morning.
RhinoKNP_2
The gentle giant (one horned rhino) grazing peacefully at KNP’s Kohora range, December 22, 2017 afternoon.  Its population is being decimated by well armed poachers with AK47s and other automated weapons because of its horn. The horn is in high demand in oriental medicines due to its perceived aphrodisiac power. I wrote one of my earliest poems, ” I can’t speak out for myself, will You ( shortlink: https://wp.me/p73yZZ-7J)” about poaching of rhino. It is a subject that is very near and dear to my heart.
SunsetatKazirangaNP_R1
Sunset at Kaziranga National Park, Dec 22, 2017.  No one is allowed inside the park after sunset except guards and rangers. Poachers, of course, do not wait for permission.

Majuli (Largest inhabited river island in the world), Assam, December 23 – December 25, 2017.
We crossed over river Brahmaputra from Neemati Ghat to Majuli on December 23, 2017.  The ferry trip took around one hour due to the sandbanks in the middle of the river.  We had rented a ferry to take our cars ( five cars in our family group) over.  We stayed for two nights at DekaSang Resort on the bank of river Luit ( original channel of river Brahmaputra).  Majuli is the seat of neo-vaishnavite monasteries (Satra).  Originally there were about sixty five monasteries. Now  only thirty two of them are still there as many had to move to the main land due to constant erosion of the island during the flood season.  We visited four satras on December 24, Auniati ( the largest satra in Majuli), Dakhinpat, Kamalabari and Samaguri.
CrossingRiverBrahmaputra from NimatighattoMajuli_R1
Crossing river Brahmaputra on ferry, December 23, 2017 to Majuli
DekaChang Resort, Majuli_R1
At DekaSang Resort, Majuli, morning of December 24, 2017
AuniatisatraMajuli_R1
Auniati Satra, Majuli, December 24, 2017
DakhinpatSatraMajuli_R1
Dakhinpat Satra, Majuli, December 24, 2017
MasksatSamaguriSatra, majuli_R1
Samaguri Satra, Majuli, December 24, 2017.  The culture of mask making is practiced in Samaguri Satra for centuries and is being kept alive under the able teaching of Shri Hem Chandra Goswami..  These masks are used during religious performance and traditional dramas(Ankiya Naats  and Bhaonas).
RiverLuitMajuli_R1
River Luit, in front of DekaSang, Majuli, morning of December 25, 2017
SunsetinMajuli_R1
Sunset in Majuli, December 23, 2017

Chandubi Lake, December 28, 2017, Dist. Kamrup, Assam.
Chandubi Lake, at a distance of 65 KM from the city of Guwahati ( my home town) is a natural lake formed due to a massive earthquake in 1897.  Situated at the foothills of Garo Hills, it is a very scenic and tranquil place.  We( my family of five and my brother’s family of four) drove from our home to the Inspection Bungalow by the side of the lake and after some refreshment there crossed over to the other side of the lake in a country boat.  There are a few jungle resorts on the other side managed by the local tribal villagers. We had arranged to have our lunch there( that nearly became a dinner due to our late arrival). The home cooked meal was well worth it.  Did some hiking but generally just relaxed and detoxified ourselves.
ChanddubiLake-R1
Chandubi Lake
Crossing the lake by countryboat_R1
Crossing Chandubi Lake by country boat
Enjoyingafternoonsun_R1
Enjoying afternoon sun. It was very mild weather for late December.
Swing_R1
Enjoying a swing ride
DinnerTimeatChanddubi_R1
Lunch(dinner) time. Dining room in the foreground.
EveningatChanddubi_R1
Evening was fast approaching and boats were ready to ferry us across.  Time to bid adieu to Chandubi.

Silently Flows the River Luit

 

The WordPress Weekly Photo Challenge provides the theme of Silence.

Fog rising quietly from River Luit on the morning of December 25, 2017
Fog rising on river Luit_1

It was Christmas Day morning at the largest inhabited river island in the world, Majuli. Majuli is home to the Vaishnavite monasteries ( Satras – 32 of them). Walking by the banks of River Luit, I was greeted with a thick blanket of fog silently rising from the river.  It was a scene to behold on the cold winter’s morning. The silence was as thick as the fog. I stood mesmerized by the river bank as the fog slowly dispersed with the rising sun.

RiverLuit_1

The cold, quiet morning, the freshness, and the silently flowing river, it was just enchanting.


Photos taken by the author during his trip to Majuli, a river island on Brahmaputra River, Assam, India, Dec 23-Dec 25, 2017

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