Bay Area Trip – Day 3

19-Mar-2016: Today was going to be a slow day. Woke up late and did the daily chores. Then had a hearty breakfast. First time had the oats upma, which was surprisingly nice. Yash was going back today as she had some pre planned work. We were asking her to wait a day and leave with us tomorrow as we would have dropped her to the university campus on our way home, but she wanted to leave early. So P went to drop her to their friend’s place who were car pooling and meanwhile we just passed time watching some TV.

As we had more time to kill, we decided to go around the community. It’s difficult to describe but bay area has it charm and its so closely associated with the industry we are part of and in a way you relate to this area more due to the stories and books we have heard and read about on the legends of the computer industry who grew up and went on to do fascinating things used to/do stay here. The community was bit old but nice and first time we saw small kids playing outside with so many of their friends which is not a common site in US.

When P was back we had our lunch and decided to head out. There were no specific plans, we were first going to visit a temple in the afternoon and then go to bay shore area in the evening. The temple was Shiva temple situated in an area called Livermore and was located on the East shore,  we being at South shore of bay area. So we had a nice drive around the shoreline. The shoreline itself is average as at many places it is more of a creek, but we got a good opportunity to see the Silicon valley. Campus after campus passed us by of the famous IT companies, whose products we had grown up using and admiring. I had been in this area before, but today got the opportunity to see it with lot of time in our hand.

So the place we were going was around 1.5 hrs drive away. After skirting the shoreline , we took an exit to I -580. The drive from here to the temple is pure bliss. The whole country side is dotted with beautiful rolling hills, some lush green, and CA currently passing through a long phase of drought, it was not in full bloom. We could imagine how it would be during spring and all, but it is one of the best places I have ever been too.  There were some nice farms on the way and some hills had solitary house on the top. A picturesque view. We reached the temple and took darshan. Then on the way we stopped at a lake, which was quite nice, surrounded by a nice little garden. We had some snacks, went round the lake and also spotted many ducks in it. Ar had nice time running behind some who used to once in often come in the park area. What a nice place, I would love to come here for walk everyday.

From there we headed back. One stopover which I had in my mind was Google campus. I had been here, but wanted G and Ar to see it. P who had been leaving here since long time had never been here which we couldn’t believe. So we arrived at their Mountain view office, parked and went inside. At the gate itself you are greeted by the Android mascot. Then as you venture in you see the famous Google building, their visit area and canteen. They also have a cycle stand, with good options and you can pick your choice and go around the campus. So we picked one, I and G got on one after ages and we had nice time riding it. Ar was given the ride by P and she had a good one. The time was running so slow and we could have been there for a long long time :).

After a while we decided to head to the shoreline. The traffic had started building now and at some places it was bumper to bumper. The shoreline is place where the freshwater lake meets the shore and there is a nice park maintained around it which is close to the Googles office. We strolled a while in the park and along the shore. Ar was more interested in playing in sand. This was quite a busy place, with many families on stroll or playing etc. Then we all sat on the bench along the shore and saw the sun going down the horizon.  Today was the laid-back day of the whole trip and we still enjoyed it a lot. We headed home from there and were bit disappointed as a wonderful trip was coming to an end. We had our dinner at P’s home only and then saw TV for some time, chatted a while and went to bed. Tomorrow was again going to be a hectic and eventful day.

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Bay Area Trip – Day 2

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18-Mar-2016: We woke early today. Many of the houses here are old with wooden structure and so they make lot of noise even when some one walks toe tipped on the floor 🙂 We were woken by such a screeching sounds. Today we were on our own for most of the day as the other guys were going to office. They made oats upma for breakfast and then left for the office. We also got ready and left the house at 10:00 am. We were planning to see some silicon valley companies and go for SFO sightseeing. So first we went to Facebook headquarters. We thought they would have visitors area, but were told that only the traffic island with the big like sign is accessible for visitors. So we liked the real Like sign ! and moved on.

Our next stop was San Francisco city. The route is you take I-280 up north and then head towards I-101, which eventually crosses the bay through the iconic Golden gate bridge. The weather was nice and clear though bit cold. We faced some traffic on I-280. To get onto I-101 we took the wrong exit and had to do lot of roundabout in one area. Somehow we got on the right track. On the way, you cruise along the San Francisco bay with nice views. As we entered the city limits the road narrowed and there was some traffic. In some time there it was in front of us the Golden Gate bridge. Now, I have been here, but not when I was behind the wheels. So it was a nice and memorable experience to drive on this iconic structure. This area is always windy and air chilly. On the other side of the bridge is the Golden Gate Park, with a vista point. We parked there and had a good look of the GG with the sun sparkled golden water in the background.

We were still deliberating on the best way to see SFO city. I was not much enthused to go into the city and park there as I knew from earlier experience the roads and traffic of the city. Not only many of the roads are narrow, but as the city is situated on a hill, its a roller coaster ride :). Some of the roads have gradient of 70º. Right then we spotted a tourist bus which was parked on the vista point. We could not see any sales counter for it on the pavement, but decided to check with the bus driver, if there are any city tours which we can catch from where we were. He said no tours start from here and he is in the middle of his tour, but if you guys want, you can hop on my bus and I will charge you less. After some bargaining, we agreed upon a price and we hopped on our lucky break.

The bus was open air double decker bus and we were lucky to find a place on the top deck. The bus went through the hill loop and tunnel on its way to cross over the Golden gate. The air was very chilly and we were rethinking our decision to sit on the top deck :). The Golden Gate bridge, the harbor and the experience of crossing it is surreal. We were now in the city and the bus guide was showing us some important landmarks like the Alcatraz island (yeah, The Rock movie one !) etc. Then the bus was back at its starting point which is at the fisherman’s wharf. The driver asked us to un-board and be back in an 1 hour when he would be back from his next tour, so that he can show us the remaining spots and drop us back to vista point. We pushed our luck and asked about his last tour which we can take, allowing us more time to explore the city. He reluctantly agreed, to pick us on his last tour, but instructed us to only board his bus.

Now there are many places to explore, but we didn’t had much time as we had some other things lined up back at our place. One thing we did not wanted to miss was the cable train ride. This is an iconic ride which one has to do. I had done this before and G and Ar were also excited to go for it. So we first inquired about it and learnt that there was some time for next ride, so we decided to have some lunch. Unfortunately we could not find any good veg options around, so ended up having some stuff we had carried with us.

Then we decided to head towards the starting station of the cable train, which was couple of blocks away. We got the tickets, but there was a long queue to board it and we were worried we may miss this as we had a hard stop at 3:00 pm, when we had to board our last bus back to our parking spot. This cable train is mechanical and runs completely on leavers. The junction is also quite unique, in which the arriving car has to be manually reversed for the next journey. Finally our wait was over and luckily we got into it, but we had to stand, which was sad as we did not get a clear view. But the ride was fun nevertheless, the train shares the track with road traffic and due to its mechanical levers and the SFO roads which have huge slops and sharp turns its like a roller coaster ride. We got off before our stop as we were not sure if we would be back in time and went to the other side to catch the return train. Few trains passed us but they were all full and they didn’t stop. We had to take a cab back to our bus stop as it was getting very late. So we could not enjoy the cable train completely.

So we were back in time to catch the bus back to parking. We saw few places en-route and after crossing the Golden gate bridge were back to vista point. Thanks to this tour driver we could explore the city a bit and we were back on our way to I-101 again crossing the bridge,  which Ar had started liking and even remembers it now also. The traffic was building up and by the time we hit I-280, the Friday silicon valley traffic made our progress really slow. We reached Sunnyvale around 5:00 pm and were quite hungry, so we decided to have some pizza. We were thinking of Pizza Hut or Dominoes, but couldn’t find any in the locality and so had to settle for some local pizza chain. We ordered a veg pizza and some sides and the food was average at the best. Just then we got the call that our friends have arrived back home and so headed there. After having tea and freshening up we were on the move again.

Tai and Yash had come early. After they refreshed we went for the drive. We went over San Hose downtown which was nice. We then went to Santana Row, which is one of the upmarket areas there. We parked and had a stroll in the area. The area has a nice vibe to it and we soaked it in. We went to Tesla showroom and had a look into their latest models and even sat in one, which was my first time. What a car , what an engineering!  There are many community activity areas there and one of them has a big chess board and has kind of life size pieces. Ar went straight for the king ;).

Then we drove back to Sunnyvale and had dinner at a south Indian place. The place had nice ambiance and we had dosa and idli vada which was quite nice. We spent time chatting as we were meeting after a long time. It was almost 9:30 pm and were quite tired. After reaching home we retired to bed immediately.

Bay Area Trip – Day 1

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17-Mar-2016: Few of our friends call Bay area their home and we had wanted to visit them and also G and Ar had not been to that area. So this had been in planning for some time, but it kept getting moved forward, one due to we not having the car and also it being a long trip we were not ready yet. This trip got finalized in Feb and we decided to go in March We were thinking of taking couple of days off before the weekend and make it a 4 days trip. The distance from our place to it is around 400 miles and it takes around 7:00 hours to reach if you go non stop 🙂 . We started planning the itinerary as the day approached. The plan was as below:

  • Day 1: Head towards Bay area, via Pacific Coast Highway (PCH) and enjoy the scenic route. Reach our friends place.
  • Day 2: Do a SFO sightseeing and spend some time with friends.
  • Day 3: Do some local sightseeing, like silicon valley etc, mainly a relax day.
  • Day 4: Before heading back visit one more of our friend and be home by evening.

We packed our stuff, we ended up carrying lot of luggage ;), mainly food stuff, clothes , gifts etc. I had loaded the car tank preceding night as we were to start early. Woke up at 5:00 am. We had planned to leave by 6:30 am as we wanted to cross LA before peak time traffic. Though as always we got delayed and could start only around 7:30 am. We were cruising along I-5 and traffic was light, but as we entered 101, the traffic slowed us down. It took us more than a quarter hour to cross LA. We took diversion at CA-58 to head towards Moro bay where we got on to the Pacific coast highway (PCH), which was going to accompany us for next 200+ miles. This route is one of the most beautiful and scenic route in the world. The whole road passes right next to the Pacific coast on one side and cliffs on other. There are many beautiful beaches, vista points and arched bridges on the way.

We were making nice progress as traffic was light. We took a stop at San Simon which is a nice town and has great beach front. We had our lunch their which we had brought with us (parathas etc). It was such a nice experience to have it alongside the San Simon coastline. We would have liked to explore this town more as we have heard it has some nice old European architecture style buildings. For some other time ! We also fueled up here and moved ahead. It is important to keep refueling on PCH at regular intervals as you might not spot any gas station for a long stretch.

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Our next stop was going to be Big Sur. This is a resort town on the way and its very scenic. The main attraction is the cove and waterfall descending into it. We parked on PCH and then you have to descend and you get to a bridge. From here you get view of pristine blue waters and the water falling from cliff into the cove. I have not seen such a sight. Its mesmerizing. We spent some good amount of time there and did not want to leave. Just a short distance from here is Bixby creek bridge, which you might have seen on numerous postcards. There are couple of vista points before the bridge, from where you can see the arched bridge on the cliff flanked by Pacific coastline with blue waters. We then crossed the bridge and took break on the vista point on other side of the bridge. You get a different view of the bridge from here which is equally jaw dropping. Big Sur is a destination in itself and you can spend few days here to explore it, which we did not had unfortunately 😦 . We wanted to see one more point (a beach), which is quite popular but couldn’t find the spot and as we were getting late so we continued further.

Around 30 miles from Big Sur is the famous 17 mile drive. This is a private drive and there is $10 fee. Its a small peninsula and you go round the loop which is around 17 mile and so the name. At the beginning there is forested area and the jungle is heavily wooded. We took couple of breaks there, it was cool and peaceful. From here you drive down and you start feeling the ocean breeze. There are many scenic spots here like the iconic Lone Cyprus tree which is timeless, then there is Pebble beach and many golf coarse on the coast line. We took a break at the Pebble beach and had some snacks on the benches overlooking it. It gave us  much needed break. It was around 5:30 pm and I had been driving for close to 10 hours. Ar was started getting bit restive, with her constant question being “Are we there yet?”. We then completed the loop which was quite scenic and then headed out.

There is an exit for Sunnyvale before you enter Santa Cruz. This is the point you leave the coast behind. It was a mesmerizing PCH ride, which we would remember for ever. Yeah, its just like as they show in movies 🙂 . We stopped at a gas station to fill the tank and then we headed for our destination. We reached out friends home at Cupertino by 8:00 pm. We were quite tired, but had completed the 1st leg. We had driven for almost 12.5 hours and covered a distance of over 400 miles. We parked our vehicle, pulled out all our stuff and headed to their home. After freshening up and some chit chat had dinner and then it was time to go to bed.

PS:  I had done the PCH ride before, but it was as a passenger and I always wanted to drive myself on this stretch. I cant explain enough in words how scenic and wonderful this route is..

Seal & Sunset beach Weekend Getaway

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10-Jun-2017:  Today was more beaches day! We couldn’t see the sunset yesterday and so decided to go to some beach to catch one today. The plan was to go late in second half and come back after the sunset. G wanted to start late in the evening something like 6-6:30 pm and before that have the weekly grocery run. But I was getting bored and wanted to leave early. Finally we dropped the grocery plans and decided to head straight to the beach. We decided to cover 2 of the beaches on our to do list. One was the Seal beach which is close to Long beach and bit south from there the Sunset beach. We planned to go to Seal first and then come catch the sunset on its namesake beach.

We left around 4:00 pm. This time around we didn’t miss to get the snacks with us. The route is go to Pacific Coast Highway and head north and Seal beach is located around 9-10 miles from Huntington beach. The route is our favorite and we were enjoying the drive. It was bit hot though but skies were clear, a good news for seeing the sunset. We reached there around 5:30 pm. There is a big parking lot there and the parking charges are $3:00 for 2 hours.

The beach was ok not great. The Seal is for the namesake, we could not spot any Seals 😉 There are only limited amenities, like only one shower/restroom and a small children’s play area. Also the coasts view is not as scenic as you can see long beach port and rigs in the ocean. Ar though played a lot in the water and she was not ready to leave. We spent lot of time in water. The water was warm with nice swirl of waves hitting now and then. Ar also played with her sand toys and created a small castle. We then decided to take a beach walk and enjoy the moment. There is a nice pier where we strolled a bit and then decided to head to the other beach as it was almost 7:20 pm.

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The Sunset beach is 3 miles down south from here and its quite long beach. There are houses lining the beach front and there is ample parking on the road side. So we pulled just before 19th street and beach is just few yards away from there. Ar was not too eager to go as she was feeling bit cold as well. But after some time she was fine. We put down the blanket on the sands and relaxed. We were hungry by now and had some snacks.

Ar was playing in the sand and I just put on the cap on my face and took a quick nap. G also took some rest. It was close to 8:00 pm now and sun was about to set. I wont say this is the best sunset point ever, but it was nice and we had good time seeing the sun set We also shot lot of video footage for our vlogs. It was getting quite cold now as the sun had gone below the horizon. We left the place around 8:30 pm.

It had been a bit tiring weekend, but we had nice time covering 3 beaches and the PCH drive. On the way back the traffic was thin and we reached home around 9:30 pm. On the way we picked up bread and G prepared some nice hot sandwiches and we called it a day.

Dana Point Sunset

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10-Jun-2017: It’s summer time! Not my favorite month though, but G’s fav and Ar’s also , kinda. One thing we like about summer months is that the day is longer and so you have lot of time at your hands. So Ar’s school break has also started and we have planned some beach gateways with family in the vacation time. We plan to cover at least but not restricted to 12 beaches, that would be 1 beach a week for the vacation duration.

This Saturday we woke late and were behind everything, but after a late lunch decided to head out. We did not have a specific plan, though we were thinking about seeing sunset at Dana Point. It was 4:00 pm when we left and as we hit the Pacific Coast Highway, we changed plans and decided to go the other direction i.e. up north and stop at a point where our journey takes us. The weather was good, bit cloudy, we had out sun roof open and were cruising along the PCH.

We passed through Laguna, Corona del mar, Newport beaches and decided to halt at Huntington pier. It was around 5:30 pm now and I pulled up in the parking lot, but when I saw $15 rate, pulled out immediately. For the whole day its fine, but for 1-2 hours we were going to spend there it was not worth it. So we decided to head back to our original destination: Dana point. Ar was bit tired by now and she was anxious when we are going to reach the beach. The traffic surprisingly was thin that day and beaches were also quite empty, may be it being cloudy today. Seeing parking spots easily available at Laguna beach tempted us to stop there, but then we decided to stick to our plans. We took the Golden Lantern exit and were at Dana Point by 6:15 pm. There is enough parking space here and its free.

Dana Point is actually a harbor and you would spot many boats and yachts here. The water on the harbor side is calm and serene and on the other side rash and noisy 🙂 On the extreme right side beyond the harbor is Pacific Coast and located there is the Sun Set point, flanked by the hill’s cliff. There are some nice benches to sit and relax and during low tides you can go down the stairs to the waters. This is the place which was my first outing when I came to US. Nice place and nice old memories.

Instead of benches, we decided to sit on the rocks closer to the water. The sound of waves hitting the rocks is so soothing. We knew we will not be able to catch the sunset as it was cloudy near the horizon. We spent good 2 hours there and were lost in time. Ar also had lot of fun. As sun approached the horizon the sky turns into a painting canvas. It was also getting quite cold now and the tide was also rising, some waves were splashing water on us. It was time to leave. We picked the car and headed home and were back by 8:30 pm. We were back late than we had planned and as Ar wanted pizza for dinner, we had that from Dominoes and called it a day.

PS: Couple of things that didn’t go as per plan: One was snacks which I had packed, was left at home only (no surprises here 😉 ) and so we didn’t had anything to eat on the beach and second being the main reason for the outing to see the sunset remained unfulfilled, so we decided to go again tomorrow at some other place to catch the sun going beyond the horizon.

Quick gateaway to 1000 steps beach, CA

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27-May-2017:  This was Memorial Day long weekend and I had came early home. Ar was playing and G was watching TV. I freshen up and had nice cup of tea and was thinking what to do for the rest of the evening. G suggested we should go out some place. The weather was great, cloudy but not too windy or cold, but just being home from work I was not too enthusiastic to head out, but G and Ar were already getting ready to head out 😀. So I got down to find a nice close by place to go.

G was thinking of going to a park , but I and Ar were for beach. We didn’t want to go to regular beaches so I was looking for different options and found a secret beach, tucked between Monarch and Laguna beach. It’s called 1000 steps beach and looked nice in pics. I may have passed through Pacific coast highway innumerable times but had not seen any trace of this one. Indeed it was a secret beach 😀. So we were even more excited!

We quickly got ready avoiding packing usual stuff to munch on where most of the time goes. It was already 6:00 pm and we wanted to spend sometime there in day light and also as it gets dark it would be cold there. The beach is on PCH, just before Laguna beach just opposite 9th street. We were there in 15 mins and found a street parking just before 8th. As we crossed the signal to the coast side we saw a small entrance, with beach’s name. Its so indiscreet, that’s why we never realized there’s a beach here.

More than the beach, G was thinking more about the 1000 steps in its name😀. As we entered the entrance gate we could see scores of steep steps winding down and we couldn’t even see the ground. We were for some hike here! G started counting the steps as I and Ar also started descending. The steps are steep but on the way down you make quick progress and in some time we could see the sand down below. We were on the beach in 5 mins and G was sad that she lost the count in between, but we were certain the steps are no way close to 1000 in number, so that was comfort thinking we had to climb them on our way back.

The beach was quite nice and was pretty big. There are private residences along the cliff end of the beach. On our right at far distance we could see the Laguna beach and on left at the very end we could see a cave. In front of us there were some rocky patches which were slightly at an height and the waves were skidding it from both sides then curling in before receding giving that patch a feel of an island when the waves came in. We spent long time on the rock and it was great just being there. We got some really nice snaps there. Ar was initially hesitant but once she was on the rock she was quite enjoying it.

We then had nice a stroll down the beach. Ar had some nice time playing in sand. The beach has limited facilities like restroom and shower and the no of people there were less. Nice place to spend some quite evening. As the sun headed towards the horizon, cool breeze had started blowing. Evening Colors were mixing with clouds creating a unforgettable portrait in the sky. The time it seemed had still stood.

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We would have liked to stay till sunset, but Ar wanted to head back. As we headed back we could see our island being swallowed by waves! After washing of the sand, we gazed upwards towards the long staircase staring us down, but as all ways were up for the challenge! After initial enthusiasm weared out, the climb was slow, but Ar went all the way to the top nonstop. She won the flag post hands down. The climb was nice exercise for legs. Though there was some disagreement on steps count, I and G agreed that roughly there were around 220-230 steps, though Ar was confident the count was no more than 56😀.

We headed straight to the car. We Re-hydrated, Glucosed, Hopped in the car, I took the U turn, sliding open the sun roof, cool air breezing in, Sun setting behind us, we were headed HOME!

PS: So 1000 steps turned out more of a gimmick, it still is a steep hike, though beach is really nice and we would go back!

Hurda Party At Rajewadi

Feb 2010 : Since some time we were thinking of going for some trek, but it was not happening. Ram suggested to come visit his village and we can also have Hurda party as well on his farm. Also per him we can trek one of the hills near his house which has a great views of many backwaters and surroundings from the top. So this seemed to be a good option and we finalized on a date and left the planning to Ram to do our kahtirdari 🙂

We decided to book a vehicle (Ram wanted to go on the bike) and spend some time at his village and come back in half day. We started early on that day though we had breakfast at home only to keep the trip short. Rajewadi is his village, which is off Pune – Satara super highway on the other side of Neera river. Its around 50 km from Pune city and takes around 1 hour to reach. We reached there by 9:00 am. This area is an upcoming industrial area and we saw many factories along internal road leading to his village. The village is small, but beautiful, flanked by hills on one side and Neera river on other.

We then went to his home and got introduced to his family. They served us tea and after small conversation, we decided to head to the fields. The day was quite hot. His farm was nearby to his house and along with other crops had the jowary planted. We picked few of the kanis from his fields but they were small and bit raw. Instead we observed that the next field had big kanis and looked fresh. So we tore down many from that field 🙂 . Grass is greener on the other side, hence proved! 😉 We took all of it to Ram’s field for roasting. We found a small canopy and started working on lighting the fire. As simple as it may look, getting a fire going can be tricky task. It took us some time to get it going and after some trail and error we were finally start roasting the hurdas.

We had brought salt and chilli powder from Ram’s place with us in puddis. Ram was roasting it one after other and once couple were done which didn’t come out that well, once the makeshift stove was hot the next batch started coming out well. The Hurda was quite good and we enjoyed the party. We then rested under the shade for some time, we would have liked to stay there whole afternoon. The winter sun was up and it was pleasant weather to just lay down. Then we decided to go for the next item of itinerary was trek the hill which was just across the fields. The hill was looking quite tall and the slopes quite imposing.

Ashk was not much in favor of trek , but as others persisted and also Ram was the one who was our host and organizer of this event, we decided to go. Though the hill was looking quite close by, from the field where we stood, it took us some 20-25 mins walk to reach the base. From there we started the real trek. Surprising it was difficult! One reason was there were not many marked trails and the gravel on the surface was quite loose and slippery. We are slipping once a while and it was making the progress slow. Also there was hardly any vegetation at the base and on the slopes for shade, though at the top there was some tree cover.

We reached the top in around 30 minutes. The top was a narrow ridge connecting the one end of hill to other. We started walking on the ridge, which was quite an adventure 🙂 After 10 -12 mins walk, where we were walking in the single file, so narrow was the ridge and there was valley on each side, we reached the final ascent. We were slipping a bit once a while and it was bit risky having valley on both sides. After covering this section, we started the accent and it was getting difficult now. The gravel here was more slippery and we had hard time getting on top. But the view from top was worth the effort and we could see far off amongst cool breeze. From here there was again small hike to the topmost point from where you can see many backwaters, but by then everyone in the group had given up. Also the section was bit dangerous and we decided to head back. Ram was unhappy that we didn’t go to the point where he wanted to take us.

The descent was even more difficult with slippery gravel. Most of the section we descended sitting down, just sliding over the surface. This where I strained my knee’s ligament, which still hurts :(. We reached the bottom in 20 mins and headed to Ram place. They had prepared lunch for us. We all sat down and had a nice home made lunch. We took some rest and then headed back to Pune. We were back home around 6:30 pm.

It was indeed very memorable experience and would definitely want to have another Hurda party some day!