Catalina island sojourn

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14-May-2016 : Every six months we have office event, where we either go on outing or to eat out. This time around there were grand plans to go to Catalina island for a day long trip.  Catalina island is in Pacific ocean and is around 32 miles from the Newport Coast. There are many cruises which do these trips and they leave from either Newport beach or Long beach. As Newport beach was close to us, we were to assemble there and take the ferry. We had to board 8:00 am cruise and we left home at around 7:00 am. We had done the carpool and we reached there around 7:30 am and parked at the private lot. The parking is quite costly, but there is a discount with Catalina ferry ticket. I think it cost us around $15 for the day. The pier from where the ferry goes is close by and on reaching there we found a huge line. After looking for them, we finally found our group and waited in line.

Once boarded we were off to the island. This was my first experience of going to an island. The Cruise was quite big, it had 2 decks. We went to the upper deck for great views. It was very windy and chilly, but we still spent the whole journey there only. As the ship pulls out, you start leaving behind the mainland and on one hand you can see the fading coastline with its buildings and on other you can see only the large blue ocean all around. The journey takes around an hour and you do enjoy every bit of it. As you get deeper into the ocean, you are greeted by the whales and you can see so many of them, seeing to join you. Soon you start approaching the island and you start seeing large hills adorned with dense forest, surrounded by clear blue water. Its a sight which held’s your breath. As you get closer, you see some settlements and the pier and beach on the front.

The island is quite big and only limited section is accessible for outsiders. We off boarded and took up some benches on the coast line. Event organizers had brought in Sandwiches and soft drinks and we had those for lunch. The weather was quite nice, it was bit cold, but skies were clear. Once lunch done, the group split into 2. Some people had opted for parasailing (including me) and some for the golf cart tours. So we moved to the waiting area and after 15- 20 mins of wait, were informed that we are ready to board. So we go into this small boat, there were around 10 people from our group and 3-4 others.

The boat took us into the ocean for a mile or so and then prepared for parasailing. So they have this parachute, which is attached to the rope, which in turn is attached to the boat. 2 people take the turn. First they get you in the safety jacket and then they tie the parachute hose around your waist. You then sit on the boats hood and as the parachute fills with air it stars lifting up and they would release the attached string slowly as you go up. They release you up for a good distance and then the boat goes around, giving you great views of the surroundings. I have done this before, but it was on the beach sand, tied to the jeep, not in the middle for water. This was more fun and it was so peaceful at the top. You can literally go into meditation mode, so serene it is up here. We also spotted some dolphins and you get good view of the island and the ocean. All it lasts is 5 mins and then they start unwinding the string, till you land on the boat. Just before you get on boat, they would lower you so you touch the water :), I would like to do it again 🙂

So we were back to the pier and it was around 1:00 pm now. We still had a lot of time in our hand, as we were to pick the 4:30 pm ferry back to mainland. Also at this time our group dispersed, some went to restaurant, the golf cart group was no where to be seen, so it was me and one of my colleague. So we were thinking what to do, I wanted to do kayaking, but my colleague wanted to go biking. We might have spent 30 – 45 mins haggling over it. Now there was no point of doing Kayaking alone, so I also went along and we rented bikes for couple of hours and it was $10 per bike.

The bikes were OK, but I had hard time riding them. I don’t know when was the last time I had rode a bike, at least a decade earlier if not more 🙂 . Steep slopes didn’t help either, but we still went around the small town for some time. We rode through lanes and by lanes of town and it was really nice. The other guy was doing great, but I sure was struggling. So finally I protested and we turned around and decided to go the other direction, on the road which was running parallel to the coast. It was one of the most memorable moment in my life, when I rode the bike along the coast, blue pristine water on my left and high hills on right. I could have gone for ever. It was awesome. Would love to do it every morning!

On the way we saw couple of our colleagues doing the scuba diving and we pulled on the side to have look. There were some nice vista points and perfect weather aided it further. We then decided to go back and search for the cart crew. After looking for some time, we found them near the town, who were into I don’t know which lap count:). We gave back the bikes (1 hour earlier) and hoped onto the golf cart. You can go around the marked road which might be around 3-4 miles and loop back to town. It goes uphill, through zigzag ghat and then downhill to descend on the town. It had some nice views especially when you reach on top of the hill and get unrestricted view of ocean. Really serene away from any hustle and bustle. So we had best of all, parasailing as well as cart and then dropped back the cart.

Slowly all had started to assemble and in half and hour or so almost all were in except there are always some out-liars 😉 We lined up for the cruise which had already docked in and once boarded were off to our homes. On the ride back also we took the upper deck. The weather was bit warm than morning, but we had drizzles along the way and it was quite nice. We were quite tired, especially after the bike ride and so cool breeze and rain was welcome! After a while we could see the coastline and we started approaching it quickly. I really like the coast contours you get to see so far from the ocean, where the land and water forms different shapes. You could see and recognize many places like Huntington, Laguna, Newport etc .Under the evening sun, it was quite a sight and we reached the deck around 6:00 pm.We bid our good byes and got the car from the lot and headed home. I reached mine at around 7:00 pm and that concluded one of the best trips I have been to. Would definitely take G and Ar some day.

PS: From the time I got to the island, I saw many vehicles there and was wondering how they get these here. On dong some inquiry, came to know that there is a long wait (which goes on for years) to get the permit to get the car here on a ferry. Now that is something !

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1st Cycle!

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My girl is growing up and she wants a Cycle now 🙂  Ar had been talking about getting the Cycle for some time and G also have backed her. But I wanted to wait a bit and there were reasons for that. One was that we were planning a trip to India in the near future and so my thought was it would be better to buy it once we are back. Another reason was to time it with an event which makes it special and memorable. Ar’s 4th B’day was in Feb, that was within few months and so that seemed a good time to get the Cycle. So after some convincing, I was able to get G and Ar on board.

So we were back to US in Feb, which was few days after Ar’s B’day. As we got over jet lag, we decided to scout for the Cycle, which is called Bike here. I didn’t expect that it would be a project in itself ;). 1st you have to determine what wheel size to go for, then what kind of side wheels you want, do you want hand brakes? and we have not even started talking about the style and the color .. We did some analysis on online stores and on the weekends we looked around stores. The more we looked, more confused we were. Though Ar had no confusion in her mind, she would do with any 🙂

Finally, seeing that it has been dragging a bit, we decided to go ahead and book. So I went to Walmart’s online store and bought the one we had seen and liked in one of our visits to there store. It was 18″, pink color (Ar’s Fav) with hand brakes (most bikes here don’t have hand brake, rolling the peddles backwards is its substitute :)) and ground level side wheels. We also booked the princess helmet for her. So the next day we decided to go and pick it from the store after office.

Ar was super excited and she couldn’t conceal it, even a bit ;). We drove to the Walmart which was bit far from our home, but that was the only one having store delivery for that bike. At the pick up point, when the lady brought in the bike, it seemed different. After giving a careful look, we knew it didn’t match with the picture we had seen on the online store. This one had black tires, I think green or some color and looked old. We told her so and refused the Order. Once the formalities of cancellation was done, we were thinking of leaving, but then decided to have a look around the store. Ar was still cool though!

We went straight to the bike section and found the one we had looked online. There was even a surprise as some good deal was going on and it was marked at $29 which was full $20 lower than the one we had booked online. So we grabbed it before others could lay an eye on it, but we were still suspicious due to price. So we had it completely checked out and it looked fine. We also got the price confirmed, which matched the display. Ar took ride around the store and she was comfortable riding it. There were couple of other families around us, who were eyeing the Cycle and Ar was bravely holding on to it :).

Without wasting more time,  we decided to finalize it. We got the air filled in the tires and also bought a unique bell (mickey mouse one, with a rolling disc ), which was for only a dollar. We checked out the bike at the counter and Ar was not willing to stay even a bit away from it. We clicked some pics of her with her first Cycle, had Orange juice and headed towards car.

Somehow we were able to fit the bike in the car and headed home. After reaching home, we did pooja, assembled the bells etc and it was ready, except we had to still wait for the helmet to arrive which was scheduled to be delivered in next couple of days. The bike went into the patio and that brought close an eventful day.

I don’t know if Ar really had a sound sleep that night, but as soon as she was up in the morning she rushed to the patio to check on the Cycle. She couldn’t keep her eyes and mind from it. Finally helmet arrived on Thursday and Ar had her first ride. She was fairly comfortable with peddles and turning the handle etc as she has a tricycle earlier, which she was quite fond of riding. Only part where she used to get anxious was brakes and so she didn’t enjoy going downhill (that’s the real fun part really and it took some time for her to start liking that). Another thing which used to make her anxious was someone coming her way like people and especially dogs. After seeing a dog approaching , she used to stop peddling and wait till it had passed 🙂

She first started riding in the Apartment complex, then on the service lane and then she started riding outside the complex. She obviously had her share of falls, yeah you don’t learn to ride without falling, but the real test would come when the side wheels are taken off. One interesting way the Cycle’s here are different is that the side wheels touch the ground, so technically you are ridding a quadracycle, not like the ones we have seen where the side wheels are above the ground level, so they come into play only if you loose balance and would help you not fall off. One thing we are observing since some days while we got out in our car is she tries to compare me driving the car and she ridding her bike. So she is like, why are you not applying brakes on slopes or why you turned so suddenly and why my car does not fall 😉

This even has brought back my own memories of my first Cycle when I was almost twice Ar’s age and we were in Bhopal . I remember I was in 3rd standard and Baba and Aai had promised me they would gift me a Cycle if I am among the top 3 in my class in the exams. I don’t know if that motivated me enough, anyways I studied hard but when we went to my school to collect my Finals marks sheet, I was bit sad to know I came 4th in the class. I was like Gayi Cycle.

But Baba still got me a blue Ranger Cycle. I was very happy and we started the lessons immediately. Many falls and bruises later, I could ride well :). Our colony was nice place to ride Cycle, it had hills, plain roads, twists and turns, some real steep slopes, woods. We really had a great time riding cycle with friends. We used to play many games which sound quite stupid now, one of which was called cutting. The premise was 2 teams were created and the goal was that one team has to move inside the designated boundary and the goal of the opposite team was to get that team players across it by hook or crook 😉 (mostly the later ;)) and if in given time you could hold out you win and if the opposite team got all your players across the boundary they win. This became even more interesting during monsoons 🙂

Really good old days!

End of trip, back to Pune

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14-Feb-2017 : Woke up around 8:00 am. Today was a slow day. Had a nice cup of tea on the terrace. Weather was nice and today was the last day of the trip. We cleaned up the home, put things in order and were ready to leave. We were not going to come back to Satara home back and so bid a long goodbye to it. After the car was loaded with all our stuff, we first headed towards Ajinkyatara fort. We always make a point to visit this place, which holds such is place of pride and for us lot of memories from childhood.

It is close from our place and road goes all the way up the top. It took us around 20 mins to reach there. The road is small and uneven, but has some nice forest cover, earlier we had even spotted peacocks here. We parked near the fort gate and spent some time there. This is the 4th and final capital of Maratha empire. You can see the whole city from here and we could even spot our home from here.

We didn’t want to leave the place, but reluctantly had to move on. There are many historical places on the top like remains of palace, Mangalai mandir and the famous Ajinkya Tara sign board in marathi which is visible even from NH4. You also get good views of Yavteshwar, Sajjangadh and other hills around. We used to trek this often with my cousins when we used to visit Satara in vacation. One of my favorite places!

We were already hungry and we had planned for breakfast at Supnekar’s. So we headed stright to this eat out which is located just adjacaent to Rajwada. We had dahi misal and tea and was nice as always. Again this is our fav place to go when in city.  Before heading to our native village which is 12 km from the city, we had one more engagement.

One of our firends inlaws lives here and so they had invivted us and so we decided to drop by for some time. We were thinking out spending 15- 20 mins, but they insisted we have the snacks if we were not going to have the lunch at their place. That and the coffee and chat made the time fly and it was already 12:00 pm ! So bit goodbye and rushed toward our car, where our parents were waiting for us. They informed us the visit to native place has to be cancelled wdue to some of our acquaintance not available and which made us bit sad

So we decided to have lunch and head for home. We went to Prakruti which is a health resort cum restaurant. They have some unique combo of ayurvedic/natural cuisine, which they serve. Another of our favs and we visit often. Unfortunately for I and G we were so full with B’fast and food we had at our friend’s in-laws that we decided to skip it and instead had buttermilk. Baba, aai had thalpit and R , some Chinese! Ar had idli. While we were waiting for the Order to arrive, Ar wanted to play on slides and swings. She was having a good time, but fell down from slide and was quite angry at me, like I was the culprit for that :(.  Finally the food arrived and we left our tummy full (I and G’s was already so)

We were on our way to Pune, through Pune – Satara super highway, one of my fav and I was also excited to see the progress of the expansion (it’s now converted into 10 lanes and most junctions being replaced by flyovers. I have driven on this road so many times and wanted to do now so. Lets see when it happens next. The expansion has further cut the time it takes to travel between these 2 cities and we were on the Pune side in no time. On the way we stopped by one of our other favs Kailas bhel. I and G had bhel and tea. Others had only tea. We also took some parcels with us. This place has been our stop over point while coming back from Satara for many years now( The old place was just a short distance northwards from the current location, where they moved as the old place was taken up during highway expansion)

It seems we covered almost everything in this small trip and we were back home by 5:30 pm. What a trip it was, we created some new memories and relived some old. Spent some nice and fun time with family. We went from beaches to historic places to hills and mountains to our fav eat outs. So much fun. When is the next being planned ??? 🙂

PS: We started with may be 4-5 bags/carry bags and when we were back it might have been at least 20+. We even joked about it. Lesson for next time, CARRY ONE BIG BAG !!!

Satara via Pratapgadh -> Mahabaleshwar (part 2)

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13-Feb-2017 : We reached our Satara home at around 3:00 pm. We were fairly tired and took some rest. G and baba got down to dusting and bit home cleaning as it gets quite messy as we visit only once in a while. Ar also put her best by washing the terrace. With it cleaned up it became more habitual. We had garma garam chai to refresh and then I decided to checkout the terrace as I wanted to get a good view of Ajinkyatara and Yeveteshwar. Now till few years back we got the best view just from our balcony, but now many new tall constructions are coming all around and it has blocked the view partially. Who knows in some years, we wont get the view at all, which would be quite sad 😦

I also got everyone on the terrace and we clicked some nice pics, with Ajinkyatara in the background. Then we left the home around 5:30 pm. Our first stop was obviously Supnekar snacks center for some mast snacks, pattice being favorite of all. It is located in center of the city, on the ground overlooking the Rajwada. Its a mini chaupatty and Supnekar  and few others bring in there food trucks in the evening after 5:30 pm everyday (I believe Supnekar  being the first) and serve hot, yummy snacks. It brought back all the old childhood memories, when we used to be in Satara for summer vacation and this joint was on our radar every other evening (On others we used to churn on the bhel at Garden with a train which is opposite to this place).Sadly there was some function on that ground and so chaupatty was closed :(. Great start to Satara trip :(.

With heavy heart we went to the next option we had which was the Ajinkya hotel, which is located at the fork from where the old city starts. Its a nice place and we had been coming here since last few years. We had dosa, uttapa etc and tea. Next stop was to visit few of our relatives in the city. It was back to back, quite hectic, but was nice to see them after a long time and we had some good time with them. Before we realized it was almost 9:00 pm and we were really tired.

Normally we get a parcel from Supnekar for dinner, which serve home made food. But baba suggested we try a new place which he has been visiting since last few visits. It was close to Supnekar’s and was ok place. We had the rice plate which was ok, not as good as we expected. From there we went straight to home. As we were climbing the stairs we realized we had not got the water and so I decided to go and get it. It was around 10:15 pm and most of the city was asleep by now it seemed. Most of the shops were obviously closed, luckily I found one open near Gol Maruti chowk and got the mineral water there.

We all were quite tired, we had been on the move since last 3- 3.5 days. But we were bit sad as the trip was coming to end, tomorrow being the last day. We spent some time chatting on the terrace, it was so quite all around. We then called it a day and picked the bed.

PS: Though we missed Supnekar’s truck, we still had the Supnekar’s famous pattice. Don’t ask how, it was in our destiny 🙂