Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Sabie and Graskop trip - Part 2 - Caving with candle

The afternoon passed off without any momentous ventures or events. We were all just tired but still excited about what more is to come. Some of us were apprehensive with the water tubing experience though with several cuts across hands and legs. Karthik had a swelling on his leg and thereafter refused to take part in further adventures.

No lunch yet and soon it was time to go for our second venture with Kestelle - Caving with a candle - with 8 of us. It was pouring down and we hadn't got enough dry clothes. So, we just went off with the same wet clothes. To enter the caves, we were taken to Kestelle's office where we wore the ankle boots and our long blue robe tucking into them. Two couples joined us in this adventure at the office.

When we finally reached the cave, it was still pouring badly and we struggled a bit to light our candles. We did not realize how awkward it was to walk with the boots on till we actually started walking towards the cave. All of us managed to reach the cave entrance without our candles getting blown off. Kestelle told us to guard the candles with our palms also helping the eyes from getting blinded by the candle light in that darkness.

A few bats passed me so close that I felt the whiff of air :) Our descent into the cave was through a narrow rock canyon first followed by our first bending & crawling on four limbs. Not everyone liked this and especially Nanthu seemed to dislike all this squeezing through rocks & crawling. It became more apparent when we had our next crawl in the cave, this time completely like a worm slithering through the mud and Nanthu was going mad. He was shouting "I hate caving"!

Whenever we managed to walk though, our guide was charming enough to guide us about the rock formations and types of rocks inside, especially to the German couple in our group :)

Gnana was crawling ahead of us and suddenly at a turn, Kestelle tried to scare us. He did the same to me too once in our subsequent journey when he went ahead of us. Once we reached the deepest part of the cave, we were asked to blow off all our lights. No matter how we tried, we could not see anything even after few more minutes because there was no light, even a minimal one there.

After some more descent and more crawls later, we were near the entrance out. One final dare ensued - to crawl out through the narrowest of the gorges, only the south african & german couple tried it and made it finally to the outside.

Soon, we were out and on our way back to the backpackers. This time, there was more fun in the truck where Alagiri was trying to blow the German lady's candle. Shahjahan was however persistent about holding his mobile light on all through the way. It was still raining heavily when we had started back to Kestelle's office to derobe.

We were all so dirty and wet, but since we did not have any more dry clothes, we chose to head to the Woodsman in our 'adventure' dress itself. Famished is an understatement of our condition then and we gobbled down anything that seemed palatable. The waitress was apparently furious at us for coming in so late to the restaurant (and due to our appearance as well!?) that she refused a finger bowl for Nanda! We were all making fun of him for this snubbing :)

Shaju and Karthik though wisely bought some noodles and bread for the breakfast next morning. We were all to begin the final planned adventure at 7:30 AM next morning - canyoning. But for then, we were extremely tired and went to sleep early. Thankfully, I had kept Shambhavi and breath watching going at the night - otherwise, I don't think I would have made it through the next day at all!

What happened on our Kloofing trip is reading material for another day :)

Friday, March 25, 2011

Sabie & Graskop - Part 1 - Water Tubing

This is the first of a series of blogs I want to write about our recent adventure trip. It is mostly in first person narrative as I have experienced it.

For this trip, I did not do anything initially apart from giving the money to Alagiri. Hats off to Gnana and Alagiri for their entire trip organization. If not for them, it would not have been this great!

9 of us went to Graskop during the last long weekend and we hired 2 cars for our drive. Our stay was to be at Sabie, about 30 to 40 Kms before Graskop as we were to do some adventures in Sabie before heading to Graskop.

We planned for a early morning start at 4 AM on Saturday, but as usual managed to start by 5 AM only. The first seeming setback was when our car boot door got jammed. Luckily from the last Durban experience, we knew the boot space could also be accessed from within the car which did prove handy overall.

Alagiri and I were the only drivers for the two cars and we took our first break after 250 Kms of a scenic drive. The breakfast was a bit disappointing but everyone had a nice time watching the trout in the lake behind our restaurant. The other car had a GPS device whereas we were using Shajahan's AGPS from his mobile. Once we started from the Caltex break point, we took a left turn to Sabie through Lydenburg and Alagiri had sped off towards Nelspruit. So, two different routes for two cars but we knew both routes anyway converge near Sabie and just proceeded in our own ways.

Just after Lydenburg, it got so misty around 10:30 AM in the morning through the sinuous route that visibility was less than even 20 feet! It was absolutely tiring to focus so hard and drive only 40 kms in the next 1 hour. But strangely, everyone enjoyed this drive and we finally managed to reach Sabie at noon time.

I have to tell about Billy bongo Backpackers here where we stayed. It is so overwhelmingly better than the previous backpackers we have seen in our Durban trip - 1000 times better than the one from Durban! A very comfortable stay and I would recommend it on any day to everyone. We settled into our dorm rooms comfortably but still did not have our lunch yet. Kestelle, our adventure trip guide, arrived shortly and we had to start for our first venture (i.e.) water tubing, at 1 PM.

We had no idea what it was about until we underwent the whole thing! Basically, one gets to raft using water tubes (very good ones at that) on a flowing river. Kestelle did give us instructions on how to guide the raft, how to avoid rocks, how to use the trees & rocks in the flow, etc. But am not sure how many of us got the hang of it because it was too much information to digest frankly.

The funny thing was there were at least 5 of us who did not know swimming. Only Prabhu, Nanthu & Gnana knew swimming. Nanda could also manage, but barely. The rest of us were so noobish when it comes to swimming that the very notion of us tubing is laughable. But the brave (and naive) souls we were, we happily posed for some pictures and got onto it! Luckily for us, the river was flowing much faster than usual with more water apparently.

After the first fall into water, I was completely breathless and was probably even shouting for help :) Somehow, got onto the raft again and managed to fall again. This whole falling, rolling in water, bumping into rocks, getting tangled into thorny bushes continued for the next 2 hours. We were progressively getting better and I am sure many of us would probably like the tubing venture next time. But at that moment, I was so scared that I just wanted it to end at some point of time.

During the whole time, we could not help wonder how Kestelle was managing it so effortlessly and in fact, sometimes he was just coolly going upstream to save some of our friends who lagged behind or got tangled between bushes. Thankfully there were no crocodiles in the flowing water and I managed always to be either in the beginning of group tumbling & rolling in water (sometimes under my raft as well) or to be helped by others in our group.

Shaju and Karthik were our tubing heroes because they were mostly only rolling in water and into bushes :) In fact, Karthik was so hurt physically bumping against the rocks and shaken up with the whole thing that he had to drop off at about 3/4th distance. Once Kestelle talked about the final three rapids, even shaju and I wanted to quit - but Kestelle wouldn't let us drop! "Oh heck, I have to undergo this" was the only thing going on in my mind and suddenly there was Bhairavi with an unknown courage flowing in me!

The first rapid was the toughest of all. 3 people went through the first rapid successfully and then I decide to take the plunge. But my first step into the water itself was a setback as the raft toppled. Thankfully, Gnana was there to help me out immediately and I set upon it again. The first 2 twists of the rapid went on OK and on the third twist my raft toppled again flinging me into the water. I watched many others also follow my route - Alagiri lost one of his shoes in that rapid.

The other 2 rapids were relatively smoothly crossed and we reached the final frontier after over 3 hours, dropping anchor near a house on the shore. Karthik was already drying himself when we got our rafts to the shore and we took some snaps with Kestelle near our trailer.

Everyone in the group was drenched to the core and had several cuts on hands / legs. But most of us were extremely happy too that even we could do something like this!! I still remember my desperate attempts to stay afloat & alive, grapple with clutching at bushes and clawing at the river bed to stop rolling in the flowing water :-)

At the end of it all, I can claim to have lost a lot of my fear about drowning in water and am really thankful to Kestelle for forcing me through this. There started our admiration for this extremely fit person not only effortlessly did it all, but also helped us go through it.

More about rest of the trip in subsequent blogs ...

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Spread the Word ... please!

After a long time, again, my blogging silence is broken now. Nope, it is not because I saw an awesome movie or read a wonderful book. I just am letting out a bit of pain.

This is probably the first time am writing something about Him - usually I consider him too great to fit into my silly expressions. What I am today is completely, 100% attributable to Isha and Sadhguru. Life has taken a complete turn towards happiness since 2003 when I attended my first few programs with Isha.

So, quite naturally when I heard a few days ago that Sadhguru himself is conducting an intensive Inner Engineering class in Chennai (March 25th I think), it was pretty exciting to me! I just wished this is a wonderful opportunity for everyone to feel & realize what I have. And when it is from the Man Himself, what a great thing it is!!

But today I had a chat with my wife today and she said something that completely stirred something inside. There are about 15000 slots for this program and still some of them are open. I was shocked to know that ... for me it is unthinkable because anything by Sadhguru would & should get over-filled in a matter of days.

And it seems Sadhguru told something on the lines of 'If I have to go and invite people on streets, I would do it'!

The closest I have known something in my life to God is my Guru and if he had to say something like this, I can just understand what sort of a pain it is, not just for him but for the whole Isha foundation. There were tears welling up in my eyes, after a long time, due to pain. Usually, if it is, it will be out of joy - yes, that is what Isha had given me. But this made me sad indeed.

It is the least responsibility of every living being who has been influenced by Isha, meditator or not, to at least spread the word in whichever way possible and see to it that everyone they know get a chance at experiencing bliss!

Well, my dad and my brother are making it this time. I dearly wish my aunt also attends the program. I will do what I can for making this program a success by spreading the word, after all I am just an extension of Him operating at a different location.

Shambho ...

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