* 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

GPX File

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* first solo trek (day 1)

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


Prologue

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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* sir, please read my email

Posted on June 5th, 2017 by Alex. Filed under Funny Emails.


Date: 07 September 2016 10:10 PM
Subject: ECE-270 LCD Assignment – Retract (Please Read The Mail Content)

Sir,
I have some issue which i like to discuss with you.

Writing in the subject line “Please Read The Mail Content” makes me read the mail definitely. In addition does every word in the subject line have to start with a capital letter or was it converted from “PLEASE READ THE MAIL CONTENT”?
In the end I was happy that there was an issue to discuss and hence this was the reason to write an email in the first place. And I thought that usually emails do not have any valuable content at all and so far I ignored all of those useless and annoying messages. 🙂

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* deadline is approaching

Posted on May 29th, 2017 by Alex. Filed under Funny Emails.


In the course “Introduction to Engineering Design” (IED), taught at IIIT-D, the students have to find a problem in society which they want to solve using technology. Two months into the course a deadline was set, till when the student groups had to select their idea and write a short proposal. This is the mail from a first year BTech student, received a few hours before the deadline:

Subject: Project Submission
Date: 28/02/2014

Respected Sir,

As you are well aware, tonight is the deadline for the project idea submission in IED. Please suggest an idea ASAP, but dont make it too difficult.

Regards,
███████████

Well, of course I am aware of the deadline, since I put it there. But definitely, I will ignore your impolite email, sit down and do your work and that too ASAP. Your wish is my command and I do apologize for even demanding that you work for your own education. Any inconvenience is deeply regretted, sir!

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* another degree? no problem

Posted on May 22nd, 2017 by Alex. Filed under Funny Emails.


Subject: Re: Resources and support for PhD scholars
Date: 03/03/2017 05:15 PM

Dear Researchers,

We are providing Assistance in ALL Stages of your Research, from Topic Selection to Thesis Submission in various fields of Science and Engineering. We are proud to say that Sea Sense Softwares (here was a link leading to their nonworking website including tracking link) is private limited which provide guidance for the PhD scholars too.

  • Providing complete solutions for the Research Scholars in many advanced domains

Topic consultation : Assist to select the Domain, Area, and Topic and problem formation.

Help with Synopsis : Helps in framing the Research proposal or synopsis.

Thesis Assistance : In drafting, reviewing and rewriting the chapters, Modifications can be done as per requirement.

Implementation      :   In NS2, Matlab, Omnet++, OPnet, Hadoop, Java,  NS3 and Cloudism.

Research Design    :     Designing models or frameworks.

Journal Papers       :     Taylor and Francis, Springer, IEEE, Elsevier, Conference Papers, international journals and Scopus indexed.

Assurance

Research Team of Sea Sense can provide you ASSURANCE for Scopus / SCI Journals Publications with High Impact Factor (E.g.: IEEE, Elsevier journals, Springer)

Note :

Please share your contact and overview of your research, for technical discussion with our technical experts.

We are sure to complete a research paper work in 45 working days

We are ready to provide complete or partial research support.

—- Thanks & Regards,

    Antony (BDM)

I must have been stupid in the last few years. I really do like the Assurance. I mean for that amount of money, I expect first class service (Rs.65000 = US$1000 = €920 at the moment).

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* how to start a lab, fun research & missing motivation

Posted on May 16th, 2017 by Alex. Filed under Funny Emails.


Subject: How to start working on NoC
Date: Friday 13 January 2017 04:15 PM

Dear Prof. Alexander,

Greetings! I am new in NoC field and I have a few knowledge on FPGA..
So please guide me to start working on NoC. Please suggest me how can
i start my lab.

████████ ███████████ (in capitals)

Greetings! Well apart from my advice not to start working in the field of NoC, this email is particularly curious. Recently I am able to observe more often that students as well as researchers start working in a field because it is “fun”. However the problem with doing so is a missing motivation. Let’s say, the person figures out something that is interesting and wants to publish the results. In the paper it is necessary to mention the motivation as to why somebody is doing the work that he/she is doing. Writing in the paper “It is fun and that’s why I do it.” is quite insufficient.

During poster presentation as well as interviews many times the presenters and candidates are caught off track, just by asking the question: Why are you doing this?

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* i could not do it, so you do it

Posted on May 8th, 2017 by Alex. Filed under Funny Emails.


On 26/10/2016 a course was introduced to the BTech students currently enrolled in their first year. They had to form teams of four each and think about a problem in their environment solvable by technology. This idea needed to be submitted by the end of 2016. After 2.5 months, this email crept into my inbox:

Subject: IED lab group divisions.
Date: 01/09/2017 12:02 PM

I don’t seem to have been allotted a group for IED labs. Will you please look into the matter and resolve it?

Aye aye sir. Let me find you a group and a problem that you want to work on.

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* i am late, but the course is canceled?

Posted on May 1st, 2017 by Alex. Filed under Funny Emails.


In the summer break, IIIT-D offers a refresher course to prepare freshly enrolled MTech students for the upcoming program. In the winter break, a refresher course is offered to the BTech students in their third year to repeat the fundamentals often expected by recruiters during the upcoming placement sessions. While a 2 days course requires around a week of preparation starting from making slides, thinking about useful and fun exercises, room allotment, etc. it is always disappointing to see that all the preparations are for nothing, since students do not show up, probably thinking they already know it all.

In December such a refresher course was offered to BTech students. It started in the morning at 10:00am with theoretical lectures followed up in the afternoon with hands-on exercises. However till 10:30am and out of a batch strength of 250 BTech students, only 2 showed up resulting in the cancellation of the course. Later in the afternoon I received this email:

Subject: FPFA refresher
Date: 29/12/2016 12:31 PM

Dear sir
Has refresher FPGA lab been cancelled?
No one has come in L32 yet.

Thanks

Enjoy the placement sessions, when they ask you about FPGAs…

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