I finally got some much deserved, and much needed time off from my hectic, do good existence. Two weeks off!-here’s how it was spent, and with whom…
Even techies need a vacation, right? I rarely get time off, and even your beloved agent is susceptible to stress. It’s been a long time since I went on holiday, and my diligence and hard work this past year was rewarded with a whole two weeks off! Two weeks to recharge my batteries, two weeks of de-stressing and rejuvenation, all for the humble goal of serving you, my beloved reader, a little better. Sadly I couldn’t afford a trip abroad having spent all my spare cash on gadgets (what else?), and exotic locations and fast cars are more 007 dominion, but as 001 I have my standards too! I wanted something outdoors, something away from the hustle and bustle of urbanisation. I was thinking calm peaceful waters, greenery, wildlife, a little adventure, and mostly isolation. Kerala and its beautiful backwaters I have seen before, and having become accustomed to the warm and cosy environs of Mumbai, the cold (brrr!) north was out. After a bit of googling, and searching through each state’s official tourism Web site, I finally decided on the so-called heart of India—Madhya Pradesh (MP). I googled quite a bit on the local people, places of interest, climatic conditions (my proposed visit is around the beginning of April). So two days into my holiday and I was all set.
I decided to visit the capital city Bhopal first—it’s supposed to be the city of lakes as well as being steeped in history. I booked my ticket online courtesy my account at www.makemytrip.com, and 3,500 bucks off my credit card later I was on my way. As exciting as a holiday is, especially when you’re taking one after more than a year, I took my time making a list of the stuff that I would need for the trip, and took a printout of the same, which was pasted atop my fridge for reference.
I needed something to enable productivity on the go, and I was torn between notebook and PDA. I finally decided to take my notebook instead of my PDA as typing on a small, uncomfortable Bluetooth keyboard has never been my cup of tea. So it was my shiny new Dell XPS 1330 a gift from my US-based uncle that got the nod ahead of my PDA. With a 13.3 inch screen, a Core 2 Duo T8100 processor, 2 GB of RAM, a 160 GB hard drive and a GeForce 8400GS graphics solution the XPS 1330 is compact enough to be lugged around in my backpack, and powerful enough to process just about anything. I installed a spare copy of PhotoShop CS2 (holidays mean great photographs right?), and ensured that I had Office 2003 installed for any correspondence that might need tackling. Also on board was a Reliance Data card. Coupled with my laptop this would ensure that I could receive official mails, and be in touch with the guys at office as long as I was within Reliance’s network area, which according to online reports is pretty decent in MP. I would rely on my data card and laptop duo to book a return ticket to Mumbai as I wasn’t sure of my exact itinerary. Other than that I wanted to maintain a journal of activities, and the sights and sounds and other interesting facts, and my laptop would allow me to easily do this. My next craving would be music, and I included my iPod Touch 16 GB along with around 45 MP3 albums. The Touch is a brilliant PMP, with superb quality music, and great video and photo viewing thanks to its 3.5-inch screen. Also available (though not of much use in this case) is wireless connectivity. The best part of the Touch has got to be its great interface, which one never tires of. I also packed my Audio Technica ATH A900 headphones (procured from http://tinyurl. com/34wktn). Although circumaural and large, these babies deliver pounding, liquid bass, and blissfully clear highs, with a strong, emphasised mid range, just what the doctor ordered for an unashamed audiophile. My next travel companion would be a Nokia N95 8GB. I’m a great believer of converged devices and the convergence is this cell phones middle name. With Quad band GSM, an ARM 11 processor, 8 GB of internal flash memory, a 5.0 megapixel camera, 2.8 inch 16.7 million colour screen, inbuilt GPS (Global Positioning System), and a 1200 mAh battery juicing everything this baby is one helluva cell phone for the intrepid road warrior. I downloaded Nokia maps for India, and to my delight the highways of MP and the larger cities are basically represented in the software. I dropped in a 4 GB SanDisk USB drive and my trusty TechCom memory card reader into my laptop case’s side pocket, after all if portable storage isn’t meant for a holiday then what is?
My trusty Cruzer for my PC, and my Extreme SD
cards for my Camera-all my Flash memory
Next I packed my Nikon D40x camera which is a compact digital SLR. With a 10.1 megapixel rating, an ISO range of 100 to 1600, a very intuitive menu on its 2.5 inch LCD and a large viewfinder that gives 95 per cent coverage the D40x is a very good entry level DSLR and one which has given me some terrific results despite my amateurish (at best) photography talent. With the DSLR went a couple of multi purpose lenses an 18-55mm—useful for regular shooting, and an 18-200mm (borrowed from a friend), which would come in handy for a little more distance shooting. I also packed a couple of 2 GB SanDisk Extreme 3 SD cards.
I never step out without the Suunto X9i- even
though it belongs to my editor!
I threw in a couple of tubes of mosquito repellent, and bought myself a nice pair of hiking boots courtesy the nearest shoe showroom, and I was ready. My afternoon flight happened to be an hour late, and I spent the extra time surfing via GPRS on my N95 8GB while grooving to some heavy metal on my iPod Touch. The plane ride itself was uneventful, and I caught a taxi at Bhopal’s Raja Bhoj airport and checked in to a nearby hotel for the evening. Incidentally Bhopal is a hilly region with an average elevation of around 500 metres as the readout on the Suunto X9i wrist watch showed. This watch was on loan from my editor and incorporates GPS, altimeter, barometer, digital compass and thermometer and is the ultimate watch for the outdoors.
My N95 8GB is my Ultimate Converged Device
Here’s a link from where he ordered it—http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/ B000EOMVZ4. Evening temperatures were around 26 degrees (Suunto X9i again)—not bad. Around 8.30 pm, and a good bath and shave later I was in the market place checking out the local flavours. Dinner was a cheap affair—a deliciously spicy plate of chicken biryani. I spent an hour loafing around, and checked my mail a little later on my laptop. I’m happy to report Reliance’s network is good in this part of the country, and the speed was decent for a dialup connection.
My Audio Technica ATH A900—expensive,
and maybe a little bulky, but worth
After breakfast at 10:00 am the next morning, I was on my way to the Bhoj Wetlands and what is called the Upper Lake. A really beautiful spot this, plenty of greenery and the birdlife on the lake was really something special. I thanked the 11.1x zoom lens on my D40x and got a couple of excellent shots of a flock of cranes fishing near the shore. I also enjoyed a leisurely boat ride on the lake. I got a couple of good shots of a large flock of geese that seemed to think swimming alongside our slow moving boat was fun. At this point the X9i on my wrist was reading 35 degrees, hot! After an early dinner I spent a couple of hours online, replying to a couple of mails and chatting up a couple of buddies via Yahoo Messenger. All the while charging my iPod Touch via USB for a little late night audiophile action…It was all so relaxing—a comfortable bed, a great view of peaceful, scenic old Bhopal, and my A900 / iPod Touch combo belting out some serious audiophile sound.
The Dell XPS M1330 is exactly what the doctor ordered—the keyboard is large enough for my fingers, and I don’t have to lug a 15.4-inch behemoth around!
The next morning I checked out, and got aboard a rickety state transport bus to Jabalpur, my real destination which I was exactly 312 kilometres away from. Six bone jarring, back breaking hours of travel, only relieved by some scenic ghats ended at 4.30 pm, in Madan Mahal, Jabalpur. By now I had a backache, and checked in to a nearby hotel, and immediately got online after a hot bath. To my irritation Reliance had some issues with reception in the area—so my XPS 1330 was basically useless for browsing. Luckily Airtel offers very good service in this part of the country, and I was able to get decent speeds, a couple of quick replies later my aching back was ready to call it a night. This is where my W-1205 portable back massager earns its bucks-bought while on an official trip to Taiwan this little relief package for your entire lumbar region sports six motors, eight magnets and infra red heat therapy. Very suitable for sore backs like mine, after 45 minutes I finally feel like a biped again.
The next day was spent at the beautiful Marble Rocks of Jabalpur which are 200 feet high canyons of marble, through which weaves the Narmada River. I got some beautiful photos of Dhua Dhaar which the famous waterfall that gets its name from the droplets of water that spray due to the velocity of the river’s flow. I even bought a couple of marble mementos. A boat ride on the Narmada followed by lunch that consisted of delicious dal, rice, poories and three vegetables well-cooked saw me content, and slightly lethargic (What? I’m on holiday, remember?). The next day I made a few phone calls and set up for a taxi to Kanha Kisli, a well known wildlife reserve, resplendent with greenery and wildlife, including tiger, leopard and cheetal (spotted deer). The trip itself was fun, village roads, a lot of greenery and water bodies, and a small but scenic ghat section. I took a lot of photos all along the way including a few clicks of a family of monkeys that were sunning themselves along the road. Everything seems so green here, unfortunately after dark the mosquitoes become a problem—thanks to the repellent I brought along I was immune.
I\'m zooming away thanks to the lens on my Nikon D4Ox
Kanha wildlife reserve proved to be the kind of holiday escapade I was looking for. I booked a small cottage, and immediately settled in. Thankfully two plug points meant all my gadgetry was in good charge. A couple of days of small treks skirting the reserve, (for safety reasons nobody is allowed on foot into the wildlife reserve), a lot of rest, and updating my log, and my photograph collection with various interesting titbits, and I was ready for a foray into the park.
We set off early morning, and though I couldn’t leave the vehicle I could get a lot of shots out of the window. There is always an armed person onboard each vehicle and this I got a nice photo of the guy with his rifle, proudly twirling his moustache. The winding road into the park was in permanent leaf shadow, giving the illusion of semi-darkness. About four kilometres into the park we chanced upon a bunch of grazing spotted deer, I got a few good shots, and quickly made a voice note on my cell phone. By now we were out of cell phone coverage area, and WiFi is non existent in the region anyways. I felt different somehow, to be just a couple of hours of flight away from Mumbai, but yet so disconnected, so isolated from civilisation, if you’ll pardon the dramatic way of putting it. My Suunto X9i showed the temperature at 33 degrees, and we were at an altitude of 320 metres. I was longing for a photo of some of the big cats, but the guide told me that winter (November to February) is the best time to come across the beasts and when it heats up they prefer dense foliage-only coming out at night for a drink of water or a hunt. Twice we came across families of monkeys, and the occasional birdcall was the only disturbance from the otherwise silent jungle. We had a quick meal on the go (vehicles aren’t allowed to stop) and another three hours later we were back this time by another route. My last evening was spent in front of a campfire, with one of the drivers, and a couple of security staff. Dinner consisted of chicken curry, puffy omelettes, and parathas, after which we talked well into the night. The following day I joined another group of tourists for another incursion into the park after which I left Kanha and boarded one of the many tourist buses back to Jabalpur. From there I would catch a bus to Nagpur, and then a flight back to Mumbai.
One week later…
It’s been my second day at work now, and I don’t know why I wasn’t surprised when our editor came up and asked me for an account of my travails over a can of Diet Coke after work. I was surprised when he informed me that my diary was to become the subject matter of this article. He wanted to visualise it as the week spent by a geek away from traditional, Digit-style technology.
Well, I’ve given him what he wants. His X9i now tells me that its time to phone up a friend and fix dinner plans. But first let me do a little browsing on my laptop after I get home. For now, I’m going to relax to some music on my iPod Touch. So was I without technology? Was I Disconnected? Hah!