Saturday, October 31, 2015

To Khaniwade and Back ; 115 kms on two wheels

I belong to a group of bicycle riding enthusiasts  called  Powai Pedals, and they organize  long and short rides early in the morning.

  BRM stands for Brevet des Randonneurs Mondiaux and Brevets are long distance free paced cycling events, where you ride at your own pace.  These distances range from 200 kms to 1000 kms, and must be ridden within a certain time limit. 

This is not a race, but basically a challenge to self. There are no support vehicles, no ranking, everyone wins.  Participants are called Randonneurs or Cycle tourists, and camaraderie with fellow randonneurs is encouraged and expected.

Saturday , Oct 31 2015,  was a day for a 115 km group ride , starting at 4.10 am . We reported outside  the local police station, a convenient landmark in this area.  

This ride would basically start at Powai (F), proceed via Jogeshwari-Vikhroli Link Rd (JVLR) to the Western Express Highway , and skirt the Sanjay Gandhi National Park (SGNP)(B). (15 kms) We would cross the Vasai Creek and proceed towards Kolhi(C)  in the Nalla Sopara-Vasai area. (35 kms) .

Continuing beyond Sativli, Shirsad, and crossing the Tansa river, we would reach Khaniwade(D) , at a distance of 55 kms .

Turning back, the route would take us via Ghodbunder Rd, making a total of 75 kms.
25 kms later, we would pass the Mastermind Bicycle Studios(E) at Mulund  , completing 100 kms.  15 kms  more , would bring us back to Powai.

Making a cycling total of 115 kms, for a Saturday morning ride.  

Breaking for Breakfast and Chai

I ride a gearless bike out of choice, because I think one must push one's self. On Excessive slopes at the fag end of the trip, one needs to get down and push. 

Departure 4:15 am.  Arrived back home after a en route 45 minute breakfast break at 12 noon .  115 kms in 7 hours after deducting breakfast time.   

16.42 kms per hr.  Can do better. 

But here are the detailed statistics !  

P. S. There is a 200 kms BRM event on 14th November to Charoti. !!

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

The Birthday Party Photos....

This was a half day trip to the Ovalekar Butterfly Garden, at the Owale Village, which lies a bit beyond Thane, on Ghodbunder Road.

This Butterfly park has been  conceptualized, created and managed by Shri Rajendra Ovalekar and his brother, and ranges across a small 2 acre area.  This small area has been thoughtfully populated by various plants, trees and shrubs, which are popular with the butterflies throughout their life stages.

Many years ago, Shri Rajendra Ovalekar went to attend a seminar on Butterflies,  at the Bombay Natural History Society (BNHS) and got interested. He converted his small ancestral property at Owale Village  into a butterfly garden.  With advice from the best experts like Shri Issac Kehimkar of BNHS,  and being in the vicinity of the Sanjay Gandhi National Park, he was able to plant 200 various varieties of trees  that attract butterflies. Some butterflies prefer fruit trees, some prefer flower nectar, some like grass , and some need proper plants to lay their eggs.  

Some butterflies like to hang around rotten fruit and similar organic stuff, and so there are baskets containing such stuff hung across the garden, where one has spotted butterflies.

The speciality of this Butterfly Garden is that the butterflies here are bred in their natural habitat and not in artificial environments, as in most butterfly parks.  You can now spot about 132 species of butterflies here.

Shri Rajendra Ovalekar , gives an introductory lecture to visitors, explaining the life cycle and other details.

This time , there were some small kids who were part of the visitors, and  they were excited to witness the release of several butterflies which had emerged from the cocoons to start a life in the Brave New World .

At  the urging of Shri Rajendra Ovalekar, the kids sang  Happy Birthday for the butterflies as they emerged, and the audience joined in !

I was priviledged to be there and  photograph the  birthday party and the  various natural decorations .  The flowers, the trees, the fruits, the moths and other insects.

(Ovalekar Wadi Butterfly Garden is open only on Sundays between 7 am and noon, and charges an entrance fee of Rs 50 for kids and 100 for adults. )

Introductory briefing given to all visitors to the Ovalekar Butterfly garden.

A few butterflies ready to emerge out of the pupa or chrysalis stage .  The little girls  were told the butterflies were being born, and that singing Happy Birthday was the thing to do.  So this was clicked when the butterflies emerged as the girls and all around them sang "Happy Birthday to you !" .... 

The caterpillar stage in the life cycle of the butterfly, when all that  the caterpillars do is eat and eat, starting with the leaf on which they are.  You can see some yellow spots on the leaves , and these are the eggs laid by the adult butterfly.

Another one having greedily eaten across the leaf.
This one seems to have no leaf to chew on, but seems to be part of some kind of caterpillar fashion show,  Caterpillar India Fashion Week,   where it needs to walk on a ramp, with all kinds of humans trying to click it all.

The pupa or the chrysalis , which is the 3rd life stage of the butterfly. The caterpillar , after the huge eating binge, and shedding of various skins over time, finally wraps itself in a cocoon of sorts and  rests, mobilizing for the great day when it gets born as a butterfly.

The Parantica Aglea or Glassy Tiger Butterfly.  Kind of fly in slow motion. They favour liquids oozing from plant stems and seed pods , which give them alkaloids. These alkaloids give them toxic qualities, which help keep birds away from them. 

 This is the Striped Tiger Butterfly.  It is partial to flowers that generate alkaloids  and likes to hang around and sip the sap. 

 The Delias Eucharis or Common Jezebel. Gaudily patterned in red, yellow, black and white , this is supposed to indicate their unpalatable nature to predators. Now you know from where Hindi films are inspired.

This looks like a dragonfly or damselfly.  But would like someone to identify it. It seems to display what looks like a clown face.  I guess you need a good sense of humor amidst all those butterflies.

The Common Rose or Atrophaneura  Aristolochiae.   Have elongated black fore wings, red spots, white patches, and the head, thorax and abdomen are bright red.

This is clearly a dragonfly/damselfly. But its sheer grace reminds one of Malkhamb movements and gymnastics exercises.  Looks like it is wearing sunglasses. I guess if cricketers can play wearing shades, this is just fine. 

The Plain Tiger Butterfly or Danaus Chrisippus.  These butterflies are so toxic to birds , that any bird having suffered the effects are unlikely to attack similar colored butterflies.  

Above and Below.  The Gaudy Baron Male Butterfly or Euthalia Lubentina .  There are baskets of rotten fruits kept across the garden for these butterflies  They relish fallen, rotting fruits that are rich in alcohol .  Typical.

Some pretty natural floral decorations at the Birthday Party.

A pretty red Hibiscus flower. You can see why it is considered  Ganpati's favourite.
This capture actually reminds one of Ganpati, ears and trunk and all. 

I need identification of this  butterfly.

Cosmos flowers  and buds from the garden

A white Hibiscus with pink striations. Probably attracts the more peaceful butterflies.

The Brown King Crow Butterfly or  Euploea Klugii  . Males are often seen imbibing moisture from the patches of damp ground. The females , on the other hand are seen enjoying nectar on  Lantana and other flowering shrubs.

 This the Red Pierrot or Talicada Nyseus. Typically a forest edge species. Found perching on low growing foliage. They hold their wings half open in hazy sunshine, but hold them completely erect in the hot sun.  That day was 39 degrees, the hottest this year so far.

Somebody needs to identify these beautiful flowers .  If I were a butterfly, I would , of course, know.

I need some one  to help with identifying this one.

This is one of the luckiest fantastic captures  of the amazing butterflies that resemble dead leaves with their wings closed. The butterfly happened to open up when I clicked. This is a very successful camouflage used against the predators. Could be the Orange Oakleaf Butterfly, or Kallima Inachus , which exhibits shades of blue when it opens up its wings.

This butterfly variety seems to be one of those that relish rotten foods. Need identification for this one.

 This looks like Common Five-Ring Butterfly or Ypthima baldusThese butterflies enjoy flying in overcast conditions and light rain. Often seen hanging around leafy trash  and low herbage.  These butterflies are supposed to be nervous in behaviour.  I wonder how they found that out .

This guy probably  stood no chance at getting photographed amidst the beauties in the Ovalekar Butterfly Garden .  But then he does not know me.  I find all insects and their efforts , wonderful , regardless of their color, shape and ability to fly!


Sunday, October 11, 2015

Forte De Bandora and the Sea Link

Sometimes, one ends up trekking and visiting  numerous forts across the state, without visiting one almost in your backyard.

Bandra Fort, or Castella de Aguada  (Portuguese for "Fort of the Waterpoint")  is situated at the waters edge  in Bandra, one of Mumbai's most popular western suburbs. The area is known as Land's End.

The Portuguese, who along with the French , Dutch and English once ruled over parts of India , built this Fort, overlooking the Mahim Bay in 1640; the purpose was to be a place from where a watch could be kept on sea traffic.  It was also a place which had a fresh water source for the Portuguese ships (Aguada = fountain).  During those days, Portuguese were occupying Goa, had their headquarters there, and it was called the Lisbon of the East.

This must have been the smallest Forts I have climbed, with a total elevation of  79 feet. Only. 

Clearly , the Portuguese  thought much about Goa and didn't think much of Bombay.  Read on. 

One of their Princesses, Catherine of Braganza, got married to King Charles II of England,  and the Portuguese gave away seven islets south of Bandra to the English, as, of all things , dowry.   The English, as was their habit regarding various Forts they thought the Marathas would attack ,  even later destroyed parts of this Fort.
  The remaining parts north of Bandra , remained with the Portuguese, till after various wars with Marathas, and the English, the English occupied them  in 1774.

Various causeways, railway viaducts were later built to link the south Mumbai islets and the rest of the land north,  and Bombay became a prominent headquarters of the then British Empire in India.  The English left in 1947.

Mahim and Bandra were connected by a causeway in 1854.  Much more than 150 years after that , the Bandra Worli Sea Link was constructed by the Government and thrown open to the public in March 2010.  No dowries, no wars, just too much traffic flowing to South Mumbai , and too few alternative routes, was the  reason.

There isn't much of a typical Fort ethos left at the Bandra Fort. It is now primarily a place where folks come to sit and enjoy some peace and privacy, given the lopsided people-land-dwelling ratio in Mumbai.

And then there are some like me who come to photograph  Mumbai from there.

My main interest was to photograph the Sea Link, something that was constructed in my lifetime; something I have traversed very few times since I stay very far away from it.  A civil engineering marvel , the first cable stayed bridge to be constructed in the open seas in India, it was constructed by the Hindustan Construction Company.  

This was an evening trip organized by Pixels, the IIT Bombay Photography club.

 Climbed  to the top, where I could click the sea placing my Canon on the parapet. Then thought the camera deserved a selfie.  So here is the  seaview as well as me in a Canon selfie clicked on my LG cell phone. 

 Bandra's specific coastline  at Lands End is more rocks than Sand, making for a lot of places to sit and relax at low tide.  This was me. 

Saturday evening is probably the wrong time to visit the Fort, as everyone probably has the same idea.  And Bandra is well connected, easily accessible with a variety of public transport, unlike far away Forts in mofussil areas.  You can see the top of the Sea Link in the centre of photo. 

 I was readying to click the Sea Link on my DSLR, when I thought I should click the DSLR selfie itself on my phone.   Magically , my pink jacket and top got reflected as well, and I thought I should clarify.  And no the skies did not change color suddenly in the viewfinder screen.

Folks enjoying the breeze on the Fort parapet.

 So many rocks,  the curved expanse at the north end of the Bay, and there are many who come to spend some quiet moments at the lower parts of the Fort and on the rocks.

 A view of the Sea Link from the West . The Sea Link allows traffic to bypass the heavily populated parts of Mumbai like Dadar and Mahim , since it connects Bandra to Worli , which is much closer to South Mumbai.  It is late evening and as you can see, the skies are changing.

Open topped BEST buses  taking tourists around Mumbai,  taking them across the Sea Link.  Mumbai's skyline has changed a lot , and you might think this is some fancy western city or HongKong.  Except, it is probably only in Mumbai, that you can stand leaning against the railing on top of a moving  open bus , with someone  else also wandering around.

 Silhouettes  on the rocks -  1

More silhouettes , and the setting Sun observing Mumbai folks trying to click him.

 The setting Sun, in its brilliant glory, before sinking into the waters...

 The evening look of the Sea Link.  You can see the Cable-stayed main spans. There are concrete-steel precast segment viaducts at either end.  The total length is 5.6 kms,  width is 66 feet , and height is 126 metres. The longest span is 2 x 250 metres. 

The Sea link specially lit up for the night. The Pink is especially so, in support of Breast Cancer, its early detection and treatment, as well as highlighting the fact that people need to be  educated  about it.     A photo of the Sea Link clicked from  moving vehicle on our way back. 

Monday, October 5, 2015

A trek to Chinchoti Waterfalls...

My  first trek amidst one of Mumbai's western , or to be more accurate , northwestern suburbs.

These waterfalls, the Chinchoti Waterfalls lie in the Tungareshwar National Park, which lie to the east of Vasai  , which is an old  northwestern coastal suburb of Mumbai.  About 5 kms from the Mumbai-Palghar stretch of the highway near  Vasai, these falls are about 100 feet high and about 20 feet wide.

Maharashtra has the Sahyadri mountains (Western Ghats) that run north-south parallel to the coast and the Satpura mountains lie north. Several rivers like  Krishna, Bhima, Godavari, Tapi – Purna, and Wardha- Wainganga flow across the land, and some of them empty into the Arabian Sea, and the geography lends itself to the formation of many beautiful waterfalls, like the Chinchoti waterfalls.

For the record, there are 52 wonderful waterfalls in Maharashtra .

I took the early morning western Railway suburban train to Naigaon, a station just before Virar, the furthest point on the western suburban train network, and met up with our team.

The trek would be through the village of Kaman .  We reached Kaman via the shared autos from the Naigaon Station.  A Dhaba Breakfast and an introduction followed.

We would trek through the narrow jungle path via Tungareshwar which is not known to many.  Two separate jungle routes end at two spots near the waterfalls, and so dense is the jungle and so narrow the path, that one may get lost without a reliable guide.

Unusually heavy October  rains in the region meant we would have to be careful with the flow of the waterfall , which is reputed to be dangerously fast in the rains.  The falls are actually a set of 2 falls, one above the other. This is an exciting trek where we hear the waterfall for a long time before we see it, amidst chirping insects in the dense jungle  along our path.

Heavy rain, followed by sunshine, and rain again. We descended from the falls and stopped for a tea break at the village. It was again too hot for tea.

And that's where I had the best sugarcane juice of my life. 2 glasses.

 An early start from home, predictions of rain , and trekking to the falls with friends calls for a hot breakfast  at the village , just before the jungle starts. And because this is Mumbai, hot fresh Vada Pao it is .  

  We proceed towards the falls through various fields. Mainly rice fields.  The base village is Kaman. 

      A few pretty captures en route, while still in the fields. Canna Lilies, often grown in gardens , and commonly used also for worship. 

 She has probably seen too many folks with backpacks traipsing by and is a bit upset at the encroachment of her territory.  Portrait of a village belle :-) .

 A typical walking path through the jungle overgrowth as we move away from the village . 

 One starts meeting streams here and there , indicating that we are on the right track.  It is easy to get lost in these dense woods. One hears the flow of water before one sees the water.
I needed to stop to capture some beauties along the way. Need identification for this flower.   I can see some unopened buds , and then there are these moths and dragonflies  on a nectar visit.

Amazing flower ! Need someone to identify it.  What a construction !  

Very clearly, there is huge insect traffic along the way.  That is why one hears a constant buzz  as one treks through the dense jungle.

A typical path. Makes it necessary to walk in single file. 

This must have been a stream area at one time. 

Yes, we are on the right track. We keep hitting streams as we climb.

And then I find these beauties.  You could almost title this a Jungle Garba . Don't know their name, but surely reminds me of the impending Navratri , Garbas and swirling Ghagras ...

Another beauty of a mushroom. Need an identification.  A top view. 

A side view of the same maybe. Or another one belonging to the same family .

A burst of sunshine  in a dark jungle and a day overcome with monsoon clouds, threatening to burst.

Yes, so much beauty, but the beasts have been busy, marauding it for honey.  The ways of the world. 

You can tell we are at an elevation now  and getting closer to the actual Falls. 

A long shot of the Falls, you can tell from the size of the people gathered on the rock. 

A view of the top of the falls taken from another rock top. .  These falls actually descend in two steps.

The falls descend somewhere on the right as you can see. This large pool of water is fairly deep, like 15 feet in some parts. It is a popular location for those visiting the falls.

Notice how folks are enjoying the water  with life jackets and floating jackets on. This must be a slightly deeper part.

A person who has been a swimmer and coach cannot keep away, and so here I am , mobilizing for a jump. Having kept away safely my camera and other stuff.

Clearly an action photograph. And it was good idea not to dive.

Yes, that's me.  Photo taken from a greater height. The guy in the water looks surprised and has turned to look.
But it was great fun. Would have done it again if the rains had not started.

Another long view of the falls. It had started raining a bit by now as you can see.

Rain brings out the best in everyone, whether it is plants or humans.  It started raining heavily and I tested by cell phone cover by clicking these . One of our team members in the background. 

The monsoon torrents rushing down the rock faces.  The flow of the water downstream from the falls is extremely rapid  when it rains here.

Here is a group pf us , enjoying the rains and the falls.

The raging Chinchoti waterfalls in a heavy monsoon downpour.

You can see the rage of the water more clearly here.  Clearly, it is very dangerous to be anywhere in the pool at this point. Our entire group was well out and away from the pool and on our way down , thanks to timely instructions from the team leaders. Those who did not take heed of warnings from experienced people , saw their cell phones  etc flow away. 

I don't know what this plant is. What berries these are.  But just one of the beauties I captured on our way back to he village and thence to Naigaon, amidst the hide and seek of rains and the Sun.

Like I said,  after imbibing the best sugarcane juice in the world.