Archive for the ‘India’ Category

* visit to spiti valley

Posted on July 19th, 2017 by Alex. Filed under India.

A spontaneous trekking invitation to Spiti Valley seemed to be too good to be true. I repacked my backpack from the last trek and headed to Manju Ka Tilla to take the bus to Manali. Here the first surprise: Instead of a luxurious AC bus, I was greeted by the oldest and crappiest bus available. It seems that due to some political problem, private AC buses were not allowed to enter Delhi. So this crappy bus took me to the border of the state Haryana, where the bus was exchanged. It was a hot, humid and sweaty tour till then. After the bus exchanged, travel became very comfortable and I slept through all the way to Manali.

Bus To Haryana Border

The next day we were picked up by a shared cab and we headed off to Rohtang Pass. It was early in the morning and in addition it was pass-maintenance-day during which the pass is closed for tourists. Now only a few vehicles are allowed to proceed to the pass (without crossing it), due to the pollution turning the snow black, and the trash leaving mass of people. Before crossing the pass, we stopped at Mahri and loaded ourselves with tasty aloo parathas.

Our shared Cab from Manali to Spiti

After crossing the pass the nicely tarred roads so far, became riddled with pot holes and stopped being tarred at all. Hoping and shaking over the ground, our driver turned the cab from the Leh-Manali highway to the lonely road towards Spiti Valley. After shaking through the first 7km, we suddenly found cars, cabs, police vehicles, vegetable trucks, etc. parked at the side of the road. Some landslide must have happened and we left the cab to go ahead and to have a look at the blockage. Around a corner we went and we were greeted by a mighty waterfall which swell overnight and while doing so took the road along with it. The current was so strong that no one dared to cross it. A long wait started. Nobody knew what they are waited for, as if miraculously just by waiting, the problem would solve itself. And it did 🙂 Out of nowhere a JCB turned up and started shuffling around the rocks reducing the current and rebuilding the road.
JCB- Backhoe loader-2

After the JCB left to go ahead and to clear another landslide, the race started, who is the first one, able to cross. Impatience by both sides lead to more obstruction and with no coordination, chaos was ensured. Unfortunately not all drivers especially of small cars with tiny wheels such as Swift, had any experience and hence those cars got regularly stuck. It was one disaster after the other with plenty of flat tires, cries, tears and pushing cars out of the ice cold waterfall. New arrivals from the Spiti Valley site started to complain that they are already waiting for an hour. How ironic it sounds to ears, whose owner was there already since the morning. After 12 hours of waiting the JCB returned and tried to improve its earlier work, but to no avail. We decided to go back to Koskar, stay there over night and try again next day.

The next day

Next day started early and when we reached the waterfall again, we saw that not much had changed overnight, although the water level came down a bit. While we waited for your turn to cross the waterfall, a trekking group consisting of 50 participants, showed up. They just crossed the Hampa Pass and trekked back to the Manali-Leh highway. From the corner of my eye I could see a guy who wore a very peculiar cap and I thought to myself, that I know a guy who has exactly the same cap. But it was him. The trek leader of the Hampa Pass group was my trek leader during Rupin Pass 2 years ago and Dzongri Trek last year. What a coincidence that you meet friends in the middle of nowhere.

Jai Singh and I. We did Rupin Pass and Dzongri Trek together and we coincidentally met again, while we waited to cross the waterfall. Notice his cap and the waterfall in the background.

Then it was our turn to cross the waterfall once and for all. The cab was bumping like a bunny, the springs squeaking and protesting, but in the end, we emerged victorious and crossed the obstacle. The waterfall had been defeated.

We crossed Chhatru and had a tea with Chacha and Chachi in Batal before our journey continued on dirt roads towards Kunzum La (Kunzum Pass).

The roads became a bit better and we made progressed towards our destination fast. In the evening we reached Rangrik where we stayed in the teacher quarters of the local school. It was awesome.

The next day

The next day, we headed out to Hikkim, whose only attraction is the highest post office in the world (altitude: 4440m). If not for the post office, no tourist would ever set foot in that village.

The village of Hikkim

From there we continued to the Kee Monastery and further to Kibbar, where we started our trek in the afternoon.

In Kibbar we met two guides who told us that the camp site, which we selected, is way of the map. So we asked them to take us the the base camp and we set off. It was exhausting. Not the trekking, but the lack of oxygen. The weather was windy, drizzling and cold. A few hours and 6km later we reached the base camp and we met another group here which provided us with hot and sweet tea. Before our guides left to return to Kibbar, they gave us instructions on how to proceed on the next day.

We decided to go to bed early, but the whole night, we found hardly any sleep. The altitude took its toll and even at rest the heart rate never dropped below 110bpm (oxygen levels at around 88%, so still in the green). In the night we had some strong showers and some midnight snacks, while the other trekking group was happily snoring in their tents.

The next day

The weather did not clear overnight. The next morning was gray and drizzling. We decided to proceed to Kanamo Peak, which is a easy to trek peak of an altitude of 5974m. After breakfast we packed the backpacks and left them in the tent, since we wanted to travel lightly. Just a sack with water and snacks came along with us. It was relatively easy to make distance, since no vegetation is blocking the view nor way (unlike the trek before that). We met a exhausting looking trekking group who told us, how horrible it is to go to the peak (no sight, snow, etc). A trek member of theirs suffered and vomited a lot due to the altitude. Later we met their guides breaking camp and who gave us directions, on how to continue (“Go that way, keep left at the big rock and then always straight.”)

Regularly I checked the GPS device and once we crossed the altitude of 5000m, we had a little Snickers party on the way. After roaming around, we found the rock, kept it on our right and started climbing. Unfortunately the weather changed drastically against our favor. The peaks were covered in clouds and it started snowing. The wind rattled through the clothes and the fluffy snowflakes became bullets, flying horizontally to hit hands and faces like tiny needles. At an altitude of 5500m we decided to abort our attempt and return to the base camp as the visibility changed to 0m.

It was raining when we reached our base camp. We took a short nap, waiting for the rain to stop. We broke camp and walked back to Kibbar. Strangely while it was raining at the base camp, after walking for approximately 500m, the soil turned almost dry and the rain stopped suddenly. Weather is a very localized phenomenon in the mountains.

GPX File

The last day

Early in the morning a shared cab picked us up to return us to Manali. Again we reached the waterfall, but this time, there was no vehicle waiting on the other side. We could wait till at some point in time, some miracle happened, or we could walk 8km to the Manali-Leh highway and take a bus from there. Based on our experiences while going to the Spiti Valley, we decided to take things into our own hands and left the shared cab behind. While returning to the highway, we had to cross over 5 landslides, which literally ripped the road apart. That was the reason, why no vehicle was at the waterfall. They could not come through. Happiness spread due to the correct decision to walk.

At the intersection of the Manali-Leh highway, a truck who was suppose to deliver cool drinks to the Dhabas (eateries) on the way to Spiti Valley, took us back to Manali. I sat in the back of the truck. The sun was shining and it was okay till we reached Rothang Pass where the weather became foggy and freezing cold. And that’s where I got sick. 🙂

It was an awesome trek/tour. And if you have not been to Spiti Valley, it is worth all inconveniences. You should go and have a look at it. The Manali-Spiti road is open for a few months only (and it can be closed again midway due to landslides as you could see). But the big advantage is that foreigners do not need any permission to take the route. There is a police checkpoint in Losar and they ask for the passport of the foreigners. But that is all.


* first solo trek (day 3)

Posted on June 11th, 2017 by Alex. Filed under India.

June 6th, 2017

Back to June 5th, 2017

That day the trek started pretty unspectacular. After finishing breakfast, breaking the camp, packing up everything, I decided to return to Rava, Ghera or somewhere between McLeodGanj and Ghera. My hotel room in McLeod Ganj waiting for me to take a proper shower, was booked from tomorrow onwards. In the previous evening I checked the ascends and descends from Deep Goth to Snowline Cafe/Triund, the original plan. Being skeptical and being discouraged by the shepherds, I again altered the route after consulting with my blisters and scratches and decided to camp between Rava and McLeod Ganj near a riverbed. It was the only place where the inclination allowed to sleep comfortably.

From Deep Goth it descended steeply, but trails and later on a proper path (Rava to Bagga) helped in covering a distance that was a tremendous improvement compared to the non-existing trails that I experienced yesterday. The only exciting (and dangerous) situation occurred, when the path slimmed down to a 30cm (1 foot) wide rim being carved into a huge boulder. To the left the boulder reached 10m into the air, to the right a 30m abyss awaited whose ground consists of plain rocks. With my backpack I had more than 30cm width and crossing that obstacle took lots of courage and it kept the adrenaline pumping.

A friend started to give me company at one point in time.

When I came to my chosen place for the night, it was only 3pm in the afternoon. I searched for an appropriate campsite, but due to the boulders, was not able find one. Then I discovered a place of coarse grained sand next to the riverbed. I cleared the larger rocks, and pitched in my tent. Since I did not have sand pegs with me, I reinforced the pegs with heavy stones or used other innovative methods to fix the tent.

I was a few kilometers short of McLeod Ganj and switched on my phone in a doubtful attempt to check, what I missed in the world. Surprisingly I got full coverage and even Internet. I started to send around selfies and told friends and family that I am alright.

Selfie Time!

My brother and a friend mentioned that it might be unwise to camp so close to the riverbed. Although I had the same concerns, I decided that I deserved some luck after the exertion of the last few days and I decided to stay. Another reason was that I was so close to civilization again and therefore finding another campsite might be impossible. I should have listened to them…

After taking rest, cooking some Maggi noodles and soup, having bath in the “bathroom” at the back of the tent, I took rest and occasionally shelter in the tent from the showers. In the far distance, thunder could be heard. During such a shower and while waiting it out in the tent, suddenly the water in the back became very loud. 5 seconds later, my accompanying dog (his name was just dog) jumped out of the tent while water was gushing between the sandy surface and the tent floor turning my tent into a water bed. Immediately I jumped out of the tent and started to remove the content to reduce the tent weight. Fortunately I reinforced the pegs earlier, which gave me the opportunity to remove everything and to take some photos/videos to make sure that those, who warned me not to camp so close to the river, can gloat, which they rightfully earned and I deserved. First I thought that the tent was light enough by now and I just sit it out. However at one point in time, the pegs gave way…

My earlier camping ground was washed away.

The trek became a salvage operation. So I decided to pack up that was left, and to return to McLeod Ganj. The problem was, the flash flood made the place where I was, an island. All crossings were flooded. Finding a place to cross and discovering a connection back to the trail proved to be very challenging. It was around 6:45pm and another 1 hour of daylight was left. Fortunately I had cellphone coverage and could ask my friend to call up the hotel and inquire, if I could check-in tonight or to find me another place to stay. I did not have hopes, because it was holiday season and I expected all hotels to be booked to the brim. But I was lucky as I got a positive response a few minutes later.

At around 9:30pm I reached McLeod Ganj and checked into my hotel. I felt quite embarrassed when one of the hotel boys gave me a piece of soap that he had forgotten to put into the bathroom earlier. My hotel room turned into a place of drying laundry. Due to the flash flood and following rain, the tent, sleeping bag, mattress, etc needed to dry.

That was the end of my adventure. It had its heights and its lows. What I learned: It has its own sweet advantages to take guides as done in commercially organized groups; mountains and lack of trails can be dangerous and annoying; do not overestimate distances, never trust the distance given in the GPS devices; and do not camp next to riverbeds no matter what! 😀

It was a loong day and I cracked the 50000 steps a day threshold.

GPX File

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* first solo trek (day 2)

Posted on June 11th, 2017 by Alex. Filed under India.

June 5th, 2017

Back to June 4th, 2017

Breakfast: Maggi noodles and cheese

Day 2 started early in the morning at around 6:30am after a quite night. Breakfast consisted of 2 packs of Maggi noodles. To increase the calories (and the taste), I added 2 slices of cheese. After breaking camp, it took only around 30 minutes to reach the lake.

The lake is located at an altitude of around 2900m. Between me and the next target (Lam Dal) was Minkiani Pass with more than 4000m. Apart from the pass, the unknown terrain is stony with many boulders and hence difficult. From Kareri Lake the way to the pass looks like a vertical wall, more than a kilometer in height. My heavy backpack, my sore back from yesterdays trip and the fact that I am alone, discouraged me from attempting it. I admit that Minkiani defeated me, but one day I will be back!

So I decided to take the route to the east, camping at Deep Goth in the coming night. The mellows of Kareri Lake are a very beautiful sight. I should have stayed here over night. Rested I ascended through a thick forest of Rhododendrons. Sadly only a few were already in a full bloom.

Bumblebee on approach!

At the top of the mountain saddle, I bid farewell to Kareri Lake and the luxury existence of paths.

From now on I descended through unknown, but green and lush terrain. It was exhausting, no path existed, but as long as it went down, I knew I went into the right direction. Sometimes goats, sheep or cattle formed animal trails, which eased the trek. However those animals although bulky (especially cattle), are damn good climbers. Sometimes the trail ended in the middle of nowhere or at a landslide which needed to be crossed. Sometimes I was beating through the bush, just to figure out that 5 meters above me, was a nice long trail. That was the time, when I learned that looking down a hill, you might see all the comfortable trails. When you are at the bottom, you might have water, but trails are hidden perfectly.

Around noon, suddenly some huts emerged. An old man welcomed me into his hut and offered me fresh buttermilk from the mountain cows. That was the best buttermilk that I ever had. He told me that every day, he produces 2kg of milk out of which he drinks 1kg. Apart from his cattle he is totally alone and will return to Rava only in September. I learned that despite the fact that I do not speak Hindi, I could communicate sufficiently well.

In the late afternoon I reached Bagga. Since I did not go to Lam Dal and hence did not come back via the Gaj Pass, I had to find a shortcut from the trail that leads to Rava to the trail that leads to Deep Goth. The problem was that a deep valley and a river separated those 2 trails. The current was quite strong and it took a long time to find a suitable spot which allowed me to cross it. While standing on a small boulder I faced the problem that I had to jump up onto a larger boulder (around 1m away, height to the chest). With a 20kg backpack an impossibility. So I removed my backpack loosing almost my balance in the process and threw it with all the force that I could muster, onto the big boulder. And then I jumped knowing that if I do not get a grip immediately, I will slip into the high current of the stream. But all went well, just a few added scratches to the already maltreated skin. But that fact was just secondary.

I continued. Clearly the map showed a trail, but since I was looking up the hill from the river, I could not find it. Although Deep Goth was approximately two kilometers away, I had to gain around 400m of altitude through the thick forest without trails. It was a battle between the mountain, low hanging branches, thorny shrubs, stinging nettles and me.

Four hours later, I reached Deep Goth. Scratched and bleeding, tired, wet from sweat and rain and totally exhausted I was welcomed by four shepherds, staying at the top. They invited me into their stone hut and offered me sweet black tea. My concern that there was no water at Deep Goth was calmed, since the shepherds knew the place and showed me everything. Happily I pitched my tent, cooked under their watchful eyes my dinner and offered them, but they politely declined. In the night, a thunderstorm shook through the tent. But nothing else happened.

The statistics of the second day of the trek

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* first solo trek (day 1)

Posted on June 10th, 2017 by Alex. Filed under India.


Since I saw the movie “Jungle 2 Jungle”, I was fascinated by the ability to survive in the wild without the amenities and luxuries that we experience today. Now being in the job, many years later, the fascination was long forgotten. During my studies in Bangalore, I got in touch with the Regional Mountaineering Institutes in McLeod Ganj, Manali and other trekking organizations such as Indiahikes.

However I found that trekking in groups is inflexible and slow. Hence with two friends of the same (or maybe slightly higher) fitness level, I started venturing out, exploring my own routes. First attempt was the Snowline Cafe in December 2015 with broken shoes. In fact the shoes that I wore, were so pathetic that a shoe repairman in the streets of McLeod Ganj sincerely asked me, if I would like to use the service he offered. Then in November again with 2 friends I went to the Indrahar Pass (altitude: 4342m) which we successfully climbed from McLeod Ganj (approx. 2000m) and back within 2 days. These treks taught us, how much food to carry, what works and what not and were very educational.

The fascination of nature and how to survive in it (diverted from the original movie, food was allowed to be carried) was awoken again and longer treks waited for their exploration. Originally I planned the following route:

You are looking at a 55km trek which includes two passes (Minkiani and Gaj Pass, both more than 4000m in altitude). Starting from McLeod Ganj, on the first day the trek route reaches Kareri Lake (2900m). On the second day, the night is to be spent at Lam Dal after crossing the Minkiani Pass at an altitude of 4100m. On the third day Gaj Pass is crossed at 4110m while the selected route ends at Snowline Cafe and from there back to McLeod Ganj on the fourth day. It sounds ambitions, however the trek from McLeod Ganj to Indrahar Pass is 13km long with 2600m ascend and 1010m descend. So it should be doable. So now, the two friends need to have at least 4 days vacation at the same time. Unfortunately that was never the case and the idea was born to do the route alone. And that was when the adventure, the fun and the pain started.

June 3rd, 2017

Everything was packed: a pair of pants and socks, 1 T-shirt, tent, mattress for insulation against cold from the ground, a subzero sleeping bag, cap, jacket, thermals, gloves, knife, flashlight, high calories food for 5 days, pot, stove, matches and petrol. Everything was squeezed into a 40l backpack totaling at 18.5kg. The camera added another 1kg, but that was okay. So, let’s go!

June 4th, 2017

The overnight bus from Delhi to McLeod Ganj was pretty unspectacular. The last bag of chips and watery chai (tea) were the only important interruptions during the night. Early morning at 6:30am I stepped out of the bus in McLeod Ganj, changed into my trekking shoes, tied everything to the backpack (I hate it, if something swings around and is loose) and started.

Shortly after leaving McLeod Ganj. Still I am optimistic.

While passing through Dharamkot, I thought about having bread omelet and tea, but it was too crowded. So I decided to have breakfast later. Passing Dal Lake, through small villages on good, almost road like, paths was pretty unspectacular. I was so excited to make headway, that I missed a junction before reaching Rava adding a kilometer of distance due to the detour, which was perfectly fine, considering the shaded “roads”.

In Rava I met a group of locals doing laundry, which inquisitively asked questions about where I am from and where do I want to go. At least that is what I understood with my broken, almost non-existent, knowledge about Hindi. My replies caused lots of friendly laughter and giggling. After asking for the way to the next destination (Khadbai, pronounced more like Chattbe with a snoring sound at the beginning), I faced the first real challenge. A steep ascend awaited me and every gram in the backpack tried its best to pull me back.

It took quite a long time and efforts to master that climb. In Khadbai I was greeted by Akash, a maybe 13 year old boy, who knew English and who followed me till the end of the village fields. After his curiosity was quenched, he wanted to have sweets, kerosene, petrol, my sun glasses (which I should have given him, since I lost them later that day), one water bottle or Rs.50. Since I did not pack and carry extra items for Akash, I could not give him anything and continued further to Kareri Village.

Excited about making headway fast, I again missed an inconspicuous staircase to my right, my turnoff to the Kareri Lake. There is an alternative route to the lake starting in Nauhli, but it is longer. And since on that day I had to cover already more than 20km (excluding my earlier missed turnoffs), I decided to take the shortcut. The staircase lead to the steepest and longest stairs that I have seen in my life. For hours there was only on direction: up in zigzag fashion. The problem was that the destination did not get closer, so repetitive checks on the GPS device were frustrating, if after hard work, only 100m headway had been made. So I set myself smaller intermediate targets. Half way between the stairs and the point joining the alternative route to the lake, was a temple on the map.

So let me first reach the temple and then we see further, I thought. Water was running low, which was a good thing, reducing the weight of my backpack, and a bad thing, since it was quite hot and sunny and I lost water through sweat by the liter. Thoughts like: The higher I get, the cooler will become the air, eased my body and kept me going. Unfortunately my brain did not want to play that game. It answered: The higher you get, the less oxygen is in the air and hence you will be slower. Have fun!

After hard work, I reached the temple and I was greeted by a group of 30 locals having pooja (a prayer ritual including food and gathering). First it was surreal seeing all the people, taking photos of and selfies with me. They offered me prasad (a sweet), puri (some kind of fried bread) and water, which was all devoured in front of them while they excitingly discussed the news of a sweaty, exhausted foreigner passing through.

After the temple, the trail started to fade away and at one point in time it simple ended, although according to the map, it should have continued. Assuming that the trekker, who put the trail there earlier (I am using OpenStreetMap (OSM) in which everybody can improve the map collaboratively), did not want to fool/annoy me, I thought that it might continue later. Trekking through dense forest was quite slow and difficult. Imagine you go through the thickest bush, everything has thorns poking you and most annoying are low hanging branches: Once you pass them by ducking your head, they will get stuck at the backpack and the mattress on top of it. It feels like as if mom holds you back on your collar while you reach for the cookie jar.

However when I had a break and after my heart rate came down a bit, the thirst has been quenched and I munched away some dry fruits, the surroundings become more prominent with images and sounds:

After some time, the dense forest opened up and the alternative route to the Kareri Lake became visible on the opposite hill. A barking dog greeted me while refilling my empty water bottles at the first river that I found since the steep ascend.

A barking dog indicates that civilization is close by.

Continuing on the alternative trail, signs of civilization and tourism were prominent. Every now and then there was a shop providing trekkers with cold, carbonated and sweet drinks, tasty biscuits and not to forget the standard food: Maggi instant noodles. The prices were doubled, but someone had to carry all that stuff to the remote location, right? Due to my level of exhaustion I stopped at one of the shops and had a full bottle of sweet, full of calories Tropicana Mango juice. Unfortunately the shop keeper told me that it was still at least 2 hours to my destination. I was simply tired and wanted to rest and eat something. Nevertheless I continued. And it went up and up and up. My feet were paining, my legs were cramping, my backpack was heavy and my back and shoulders were protesting.

Just 1km before the lake, I could not continue anymore and I decided to build my camp. It was close to the river and hence running water (something that is not available at the lake). I would not be bothered by parties of tourists at the lake and it was already 6:30pm. Darkness comes early and fast in the mountains and I assumed that I had 1 hour of daylight left. Enough time to cool down, pitch in the tent and cook some dinner.

It was the most exhausting day that I can remember:

I inflated the mattress and cuddled into the sleeping bag and slept like a baby through the night. The only interruption was a curious cow having a look and sniff at the tent. Eyes shut! Good night!

GPX File

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* people generalize!

Posted on January 4th, 2015 by Alex. Filed under India.

People generalize!

Although this statement is a generalization by itself, I would say that for most of us, it is true. How many times did we say “Politicians are corrupt”, if another case of money-in-offshore-accounts incident is driven through the media, indirectly accusing politicians who do their work honestly? Or lamenting about lazy students insulting all those, who are not. It easies the conversation, reduces the use of subjunctives and is accepted and widely understood that exceptions to these generalizations exist. However this is only true, if the conversational partners have knowledge about the generalized topic.

If the topic is unfamiliar, then the generalization might become a true statement. For instance: “While the female of the carnivorous species ‘Pagodroma nivea‘ is taking care of the young and does all the hunting, the males are lazy sitting all day near the cave.” So, is this statement even remotely true or completely false or true for most of the times and hence the generalization is justified/accepted?

While I am sure, that the males of pagodroma nivea do not care at all, what we say about them, a generalization might have an effect on a part of the human population. Recently I traveled for several hours in a plane from New Delhi (India) to Manama (Bahrain), Bahrain to Frankfurt (Germany), Frankfurt to Cancun (Mexico) and back.

The trip took 6 flights in total out of which 2 of them originated or landed in India. Those 2 flights were special due to the behavior that I observed during the flights:

  1. On both journeys as soon as the jolt went through the plane signaling a touch down back on Earth, many flipping sounds could be heard of people unfasten their seatbelts. That made me wonder, where do they want to go? Those people were too impatient to get down from the plane, even before it starts taxiing to its gate.
  2. A large number of passengers (especially on the journey Bahrain to India), had huge suitcases with them as their cabin luggage. It is known that the space in the overhead lockers is limited physically and that it is calculated by the size passengers are allowed to carry. Since luggage pieces must be placed in those lockers, there is a resource conflict. Hence the ground crew checked the luggage before the passengers entered the plane, fishing out those big suitcases and placing them on a trolley readily waiting next to the stair case. That trolley was full to the brim by the end of the boarding process.
  3. Quite some needed repeated reminders to turn of their electronic devices when required. In fact one guy had a loudly phone call during that time. When he was reminded, his reply was “later”.
  4. The polite and calm atmosphere usually emitted by flight attendants, was negligible. For instance the seat belt signes were turned on and the flight attendant went through the aisle shouting “seatbelts, seatbelts, seatbelts”. Never heard that before.
  5. The gate was packed and full of people. Many passengers consumed 3 or 4 seats to take their nap and other passengers had to stand.
  6. I was in the last group boarding the plane (that’s why I know that the luggage trolley was full). The gate area looked like a garbage dump after all the passengers boarded. Many people from India simply do not care what they throw where.

While these observations could have been caused by many factors, I am wondering that one of the factor was that the flight started or ended in India. Assuming that on these flights the majority were Indians, it becomes a very awkward situation. For an outsider who does not know Indians (and who can know everybody?), it is very easy and lazy to say: “Indian passengers are very impatient (seatbelts) and egoistic (not leaving locker room for others, disturbing others). Flying with them is very unpleasant.” Hence a whole population and even those who never lifted off the ground, are collectively judged for something they have no clue about.

My experience is, if an distinctive individual misbehaves, a larger group is condemmed. This opinion spreads and sticks. Primarily not because someone generalized and broadcast his/her opinion. Probably more because of self experience and the attitude to generalize. Not much can change this attitude. Hence people should be more considering, how their behavior affects the opinions of others about themselves. The world would be a better place, if more people live by the golden rule: “One should treat others as one would like others to treat oneself.

Disclaimer: All generalizations in this post are unintentional and I apologize for them.


* the dumping lane for snow

Posted on January 21st, 2013 by Alex. Filed under Cycle Tours.

Finally: Last week it started snowing. By the 15th of January a layer of around 5cm (2 inches) covered the country side. I always looked forward to ride in snow and to slide around. Especially I have not seen any snow in the last years while staying in India. Cycling on snow or ice covered roads is very interesting. Nothing will happen as long as nobody jumps just in front of you and you can go straight all the time.

Grandma's Cycle in the snow

I took my grandma’s cycle into the fields surrounding the village.

The snow came right at a time, when my new job started to which I cycle around 22km (one way) every day. The snow plows with attached salt dispensers were out all night to remove at least a little bit of the cold cotton from the roads for the rush hours every morning. I have to admit that I thought about the danger coming from slippery roads, but not about the one coming from the traffic. Most of the drivers believe that they are running on railway tracks. In addition the snow plow removes the ice and snow from the road and dumps all of it on the right side of the road and sidewalk. Local residents are obligated to keep the side walk clean. In case of an accident, it is their fault and they can be sued otherwise. So they throw the ice and snow back onto the road. After some time the whole dump piles up between the side walk and the road where the cyclists usually go. Since this forces the cyclists to ride closer towards the middle of the road, dangerous situation occur quite often. All concentration is required by the cyclists to observe the road and its condition. They do not even have the time to take a sip from the already frozen water in the bottle.

Ice water in the bottle after the ride

The water is freezing in the bottle.


* bangalore, yelagiri, bangalore

Posted on September 24th, 2012 by Alex. Filed under Cycle Tours.

Abhijit, Mustafa, Nirmal and I started the Yelagiri tour on Friday night at around 11PM. The aim was to beat the heat during the day while riding on the highways. Since it is mostly downhill, Bangalore, Hosur and Krishnagiri were left behind within the first few hours. In between we had the time for a little bit of star gazing till the view was denied by upcoming clouds. In the early morning hours we reached Krishnagiri. Since we also wanted to do a recce for the upcoming 400km Brevet, we headed south till Karimangalam to find a suitable spot for a control. After having breakfast we started back to Krishnagiri. In the meantime the sun came up and gave us a taste what to expect during the day.

In Krishnagiri we took NH-48 towards the east while the sun was preparing to turn the highway into an well preheated oven. The next 45km were hot, bright, and kind of boring. At the turn off towards Yelagiri we found shade and took some rest at a coconut tender supplying us with one of the best coconuts I have had so far. After an hour of dozing in the shade, we turned towards the village roads leading to the base of Yelagiri. These roads are excellent, in a very good condition and covered by trees. At the base of Yelagiri we split. Two of us wanted to have lunch before starting the climb, whereas I still had the experience from one of the last rides in mind. We went to Anchetti and had lunch there. Unfortunately this town is located in a valley and the way back to Bangalore is obstructed with a long climb towards Denkanikottai. Full stomach and climb do not always go hand in hand. So Nirmal and I started towards the challenge of the day: 14km from base to Yelagiri on top. 12km climb from an elevation from around 350 to 1017 meters above mean sea level. Each of the hairpins is marked with a number. In total there are 14 of them and most of them are 50m apart in height and 1km in length. In the beginning this numbering is very demotivating. In addition youngsters coming down on their bikes, teased us and wished us good luck. But during the climb and with it the increasing number of conquered hairpins, the teasing is slowly turned into awe and respect. After around one hour we reached the top and dropped ourselves in the first chairs of a restaurant that we found. After we finished our belated lunch, we went to a ice cream stall and enjoyed several rounds of ice cream. While the second part of the group reached and we took rooms in a nearby hotel. Without the luggage and an hour of daylight left, there is not much that could be done. So we decided to visit the lake.

After the sun set, we took dinner, went back to the rooms, took a bath and called it a day. The idea was to get up early next morning, which obviously was foiled. So we woke up at around 8AM and started our journey back. Yesterdays climb turned into joyful and long descent which was over in a fraction of a few minutes. We again went back through shady village roads until we hit NH-48. Again the sun was merciless and did its best. Here Mustafa had his flat and we stopped Vaniyambadi. Form there we took village roads towards Kuppam. Although the roads were in an excellent condition and the traffic was very less, the sun scorched us. Mostly the only traffic that we encountered were tractors transporting Ganesha idols followed by villagers who dance to the drums played loudly.

From Kuppam we continued towards Bethamangala. After reaching Bethamangala we had some masala cucumber/pine apple and a friendly guy sponsored us even more. Shortly after the refreshment we continued towards Kolar while the sun set. Somewhere in between, in the middle of nowhere and in the pitch black darkness, Abhijit had a flat. A thorn of around 1.5cm in length went vertically through tire and tube. The tube was deflated so fast that the stuck thorn also pierced through the other side of the tube. Around half an hour later everything was fixed and inflated again and we continued to Kolar. Near Kolar we found a bottling plant in which drinking water was processed. With unlimited water supply at hand, we filled our bottles up to the brim.

An uneventful ride back to Bangalore on a highway was ahead of us. We reached Pavillion (an eatery in IISc) after a total of 407km (210.72km Bangalore -> Yelagiri, 196.27km return) at around 1AM on Monday morning where we ordered the first 5 items on the menu card and simply doubled the quantity.

Distance of the tour: around 211km + 196km = 407km total

GPX files



* solar panel for galaxy s (i9000)

Posted on May 13th, 2012 by Alex. Filed under Android, Cycle Tours.

For extended cycle trips I am using my Samsung Galaxy S for GPS tracking. However prolonged trips cause a serious power drain on the battery and an external power source is required. Hence I bought a small solar panel (Specs: Rated peak power (Pmax): 3Wp, rated voltage (Vpm): 8.5V) for Rs.450 (approx USD10) and some electronic components to get a constant voltage of 5V corresponding to the output voltage of a USB port.

While testing under several different conditions, if the phone charges, it turned out that the phone discharges at a fast rate, if the solar panel is covered by shade (even slightly) or the sun does not shine orthogonal onto the panel. The reason is that while charging, the CPU of the phone does not enter a deep sleep state in which it is partly switched off reducing the power consumption. If the panel is partly covered, the CPU draws more power than the panel can provide. In addition, it seems that the minimum frequency is set to 200MHz while charging. Hence the CPU runs constantly at 200MHz even if it does not have anything to do causing the power drain. As soon as the power is disconnected, 100MHz and Deep Sleep are added to the available frequencies (1000MHz, 800MHz, 400MHz, 200Mhz). CPU Spy is a small application allowing to check the history of used frequencies.

I did not find any solution to force the Deep Sleep state while the phone is connected to the solar panel (or any other power source). However a developer called existz published TalonDEV, a kernel that allows the CPU to be clocked at 100MHz even while charging. As a nice side effect after installing the kernel is the reduction of the screen brightness whose setting was too high in the Gingerbread-Samsung edition as compared to Froyo.

After installing the TalonDEV kernel, the charging ratings are much better. I still have to do further tests, but if the solar panel is shaded partly, it still charges the phone, which was not achieved before.

[Update 14/05/2012] After some testing with the TalonDEV kernel, I ran into stability problems. Random screen freezes occurred even with the unclocked and the most current version. In addition the back key stopped working and the gallery could not find any images anymore. So I installed another kernel called Semaphore. However only the Semaphore kernel for Ice Cream Sandwich (ICS) supports the 100MHz frequency while charging.

After some further testing, I figured out that the Semaphore kernel clocks the CPU at 100MHz, if the phone is charging through the wall charger and not via USB. So the statement above is not entirely correct. I do not know about the behavior of the kernel that is shipped originally with DarkyROM, since I did not test it. Comments are welcome.

So the trick is to convince the phone that it gets charged by the wall charger. You can check the state, if it charges via USB or AC in Settings -> About phone -> Status -> Battery status. Digging around in the Internet and the disassembly of an emergency charger running on 2 AA batteries which put the charging state into the AC mode, revealed that the +5V USB line needs to be connected to both data lines (D- and D+) through a 470kOhm resistor. I updated the diagram below accordingly. Now whenever I connect the solar panel, the charging state is in AC mode and the CPU is clock at 100MHz at minimum.

Installation – TalonDEV

This section gives a brief guide, how to install the kernel. My Galaxy S is running on Darky’s ROM v10.4.2 [XWJW1] for quite some time now. I am not describing how I installed that one, since the are plenty of videos and installation guides in the forum which are easy to follow. Through DarkyOTA I installed the XXJVU modem, because I experienced some problems with my provider using the modem firmware of the original DarkyROM.

To install the TalonDEV kernel, download the zip file mentioned in the thread. I took, which over clocks the CPU to 1200MHz (as compared to 1000MHz). If you experience problems regarding stability, I suggest taking instead. I have not tried the BIGMEM version yet, since I am happy with the way it is at the moment.

Copy the zip file to your phone (internal SD Card), reboot into recovery (by installing DarkyROM you already know, how to do that) and install the zip file. After the installation is successful, reboot the phone which will take around 5 minutes. So have patience watching the original Samsung S symbol changing its color.

To further tweak the power consumption, I will start playing around with the voltages supplied to the CPU. The application Control Freak allows it easily through a GUI (There are several apps with the same name in Google Play. They are not the right ones.). I will start the testing as soon as I am convinced that the kernel is stable with the current configuration.

Installation – Semaphore

There is a nice installation guide on how to flash the Semaphore kernel in Linux as well as Windows.

The Circuitry

Thanks for planing of that circuit has to go to Abhijit of CEDT (now DESE) of IISc, who is the brain behind that circuit. I am somewhat illiterated, if it comes to electronics.

To get the maximum power out of the solar panel, I am using an LM1086-5V which constantly gives 5V at its output port. A 7805 will also serve the purpose. However the efficiency of that component is not as high as the LM1086. Although there is an LM1086-ADJ which is able to give a range of different output voltages, it will complicate the whole circuit due to the necessity of additional resistors. One aim was to keep the circuit as simple and small as possible. The less components the circuitry has, the lesser is the probability that something breaks midway through an extended cycle tour. And usually I do not carry soldering irons with me while cycling. 😉

The following diagram gives the required specs of the capacitors smoothening the constantly fluctuating output of the solar panel while riding, and the resistor avoiding spikes, if a device is connected to the USB port. I apologize for the somewhat crude diagram, but as I mentioned, I am not a electronics guy.

Version 1 of the converter. The phone charges in USB mode forcing the CPU to run at 200MHz continously.

Version 2 of the converter. THe phone charges in AC mode allowing the CPU to be clocked at 100MHz at minimum.

The whole circuit is integrated in a somewhat water resistant box which is attached below the panel keeping it away from rain.

[Update 22/07/2012]
For the Samsung Galaxy S III (or SGS3, I9300) the 470kOhm resistor connecting the D+ and D- lines (pin 2 and 3 representing the data lines) to the 5V supply is not required. In fact, the phone does not detect any charging, if the version 2 of the solar charger is used. In this case, some modifications are required: If D+ and D- are shorted the charging is done in AC mode with a higher current of up to 900mA whereas in USB the maximum drawable current is 500mA. If D+ and D- are left open and floating (like in version 1 of the charger), the phone is charged in USB mode. Similar to the S1, the charging mode determines the CPU clocks: While in AC mode the CPU can go into a deep sleep and consume very little power, the minimum frequency in USB mode is 200MHz.


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