Monday 27 February 2017

Travel diaries : Kudremukh trek

I can't believe it has been 3 months since this trek, and being the master procrastinator that I am (read A procrastinator's mind to know why), I am finally considering writing about it today.

Well as I already mentioned, three months ago, on the 25th of November, I set out for a trek to Kudremukh. As was the case with my last trek to Tadiyandamol (Travel diaries : Tadiyandamol trek, Coorg), I was with the Bangalore mountaineering club again. Their bus reached the Lifestyle signal at around 10:15 PM, and we were off. The number of participants were considerably more this time around (around 25 I think, as compared to around 13 to Tadiyandamol), and hence, we were 2 mini buses full.

We reached Balagel at around 6:45 AM. From this point onwards, jeeps took us to the Mullodi village through a raw trail, which is the starting point for the trek. 

It was actually quite cold, and my pullover wasn't proving to be enough. Fighting cold and the bumpy ride, we reached Satish's guest house in Mullodi in about half an hour. 

This is where we would spend the night after the trek, so we dumped our luggage in a couple of rooms, freshened up a little, changed into lighter clothes, and sorted out only the bare necessities to carry with us to the peak (stuff like ample water, flashlight, rain coat, lunch provided by BMC, and my camera). The temperature was still below our comfort zone, and the water very chilled. But some hot tea and idlis helped a great deal. By 9 O'clock, all of us were ready. We gathered at the frontyard or a brief intro amongst ourselves and a few instructions by the trek leaders, and we were off!

The initial 3-4 kms was just like walking on flat land. We passed through patches of forests and waterfalls. After about an hour's trek though, the vegetation almost disappears, and we were under the open sky, with only calf length grass at best. Meanwhile the sun was beating down on us harder every passing minute, and there were no traces of the cold morning air whatsoever. The landscape was beautiful though, and that kept me going all through out.

The path gets gradually steeper from here. Even though it is moderately steep, the harsh sun was draining us quite fast. Thankfully, patches of forest cover with waterfalls, even though quite sparse now, keep appearing as if by magic, and the cold water feels like an elixir, rejuvenating us from time to time.

A couple of hours into the trek, the vegetation thins further, and there are hardly any trees from here on.

Even though the landscape is barren, the view is stunning from any point in the trek. A few of my companions were obviously tiring, and honestly even I was. But at every point, I would push myself to go a little further, telling myself that the higher I reach, the better the views I'll be able to capture. So I soldiered on.

The most exhausting was probably the last 20 minutes of the trek. From this point, we could see the peak, tantalisingly close, yet ominous, as something in us made us realise at that point, how tired we were. I knew that if I sat down then, it would take me ten times the effort to carry myself through to the end. So I didn't stop, and kept going, and sat down only when I reached the top, 3 and a half hours after starting from the base point.  

As I was there before the others, I clicked a few photos from the peak, and it was beautiful. Add to it, the feeling of conquering the peak, and it all felt surreal.

Well, there I am posing at the top!

About a dozen others reached soon enough, and we had lunch sitting at the top. The other dozen or so were far behind, so we had a lot of time to kill. There was no respite from the 1:30 PM sun, but I decided to just lay down for a bit no matter what. 

The descent was pretty smooth too. We stopped a bit for water wherever we would find a source, but kept marching on. Just before reaching the homestay, we found a stream, where we relaxed for about half an hour. By the time we reached the base point, it was almost 5 PM. Tea and snacks were ready for us, and we gobbled up everything we could lay our hands on. We freshened up one by one and soon it was dark.

Dinner was served a couple of hours later, and the food was pretty good. A campfire was also set up, and we warmed ourselves sitting close to it (ya, it was that cold again!).

A few tents were set up for us to sleep, but thinking it might be cold outside, I decided to sleep in the homestay's attic, without a sleeping bag. BAD DECISION! It was really cold at night. The people sleeping in the tents spent the night comfortably.

The next morning, we woke up at around 5 AM and freshened up before there would be a rush to us the bathroom. Plan successful this time! Then we made a trip to a nearby waterfall about 5 minutes walk away. The water was too cold in the morning, so I decided to utilise the trip to click photographs instead. I did not have a tripod then, so I clicked a few hand held long exposure shots. They came out pretty good, but I do wish I had a tripod.

Soon it was time to leave. The jeeps again dropped us to Balegal. By around noon, we made our way back to Bangalore. We had self sponsored lunch on the way, and reached Bangalore by around 8 PM.

This trek was a great experience for me as it further enhanced my love for treks. The sheer, raw beauty of nature is so invigorating to the soul, that I now I feel compelled to go for more and more treks. A couple of weeks later, I went for another trek to Top station, Munnar. A post about that will come up shortly.

Tuesday 21 February 2017

Why Federer being the GOAT will always be debatable

(image courtesy :

Since Roger Federer's victory over Rafael Nadal in the Australian Open final last month, people have run riot with the idea that the debate over who the 'greatest of all time' is, is dead and buried. Yes, Federer now holds 18 grand slam titles, 4 ahead of Nadal and Sampras. And the fact that he clinched the last one beating his arch-rival Rafa, at the age of 35, that too on his comeback after being on the sidelines for 6 months due to injury, makes it even sweeter. It seems like a fairy-tale ending for the great Roger Federer.

I just think that the story is far from over.

I know that there are a million reasons why Roger Federer can be called the GOAT. He is far ahead of his closest (active) rivals, Nadal and Djokovic, in terms of grand slam titles. He has reigned 302 weeks at number 1 in the rankings, the most by any player, and again, far ahead of Djokovic (223 weeks) and Nadal (141 weeks). As impressive as his dominance, is also his consistency, with 'freakish' records such as 10 consecutive grand slam finals, 23 consecutive semi finals, and 36 consecutive quarter finals. He has 5 or more slams in three majors, the only player to ever do that (of course Serena has done it, and she is clearly the GOAT on the women's side). He has 89 singles career titles, second only to Jimmy Connors (109; Djokovic has 67, Nadal has 69). These are just few of an ocean of records he has accomplished over the course of his career, and he looks good enough to add more to his legacy.

But why I refuse to make a statement on the GOAT debate is because even Nadal's and Djokovic's career are far from over. I remember critics and pundits writing off Federer still being a dominant force after he lost the Wimbledon final to Nadal in 2008. He came back to win Wimbledon and French Open the following year to shut them up. They again wrote him off in 2010 when he only managed to win the Australian Open out of the 4 grand slams (which was rock bottom for Federer standards back then). This to and fro continues to this day, and he continues to prove them wrong every single time. That is why I feel that people shouldn't write off Nadal and Djokovic as of now. Many people believe that their bodies will give in because of the physical nature of their game. I don't buy that argument, because they are great champions, and champions always find a way to overcome even the greatest of odds. What if Nadal wins the Roland Garros this year, and maybe the US Open after that.. and the 2018 Roland Garros, taking his tally to 17 slams (and say, Federer doesn't win any slams during this period). Would people still say that Federer is the greatest ever without a shred of doubt? What if Djokovic overcomes Nadal to win this year's French, defeats Federer in Wimbledon to win there, and downs Murray or Wawrinka to win the US Open too. With 15 grand slams and a winning head to head against Nadal and Federer, would he still be considered to be far behind Federer even then? And this can all happen in a year's time. Who knows how long they are going to play.. And with how much dominance. Only time can tell, and that is why I refuse to commit myself looking at just the current scenario.

Another reason why I feel that this issue will always be debatable is because no matter how many statistics you throw in to the mix, it can never have a definite outcome. Why? Because there is no hard and fast rule on what a 'greatest of all time' must achieve.. It is more subjective than we think. The number of criteria are innumerable. A player is judged by how great he/she is by the tally of grand slam titles, consistency over different surfaces, consistency and longevity of his/her career, the level of dominance while playing at one's peak, career win losses, head to head against closest rivals, performance at the Olympics, World tour finals, Davis Cup and the list just keeps on going on and on. But when it comes to declaring a winner for the GOAT debate, the priority given to each and every criteria varies from person to person. While Federer has been able to tick more boxes than most, his only major blemish has been his lopsided head to head against Rafael Nadal. Some of us will argue that that rules him out of the GOAT debate right away, because if you cannot be the greatest in your own generation, how can you be called the greatest of all time? Others will call him the greatest without thinking twice, because for them, his long list of accomplishments overshadow his losing record against Nadal. And either argument cannot be discounted, because it is more an opinion than a tangible conclusion.

I can be called guilty for taking the mid ground on this one, but I see no other logical way to see this. No doubt I am a huge Federer fan (my blog URL is magical'fed', that's how crazy I am about him), but I like Djokovic and Nadal too, their admirable mental strength and the will to win, an inspiration for all. GOAT or not, it does not matter so much to me. I will always root for Roger in every match he plays, not to make sure that he cements his place in the GOAT race, but because I love watching him play the graceful, aesthetic brand of tennis that only he can. The way he glides around the court is a delight to the eyes, and the fact that he is still doing that at the age of 35 is mind boggling in itself. GOAT or not, I will celebrate whatever he achieves from here on, because he has been an idol, an inspiration for me for years now, and will continue to be forever. GOAT or not, I will cherish each and every point he plays, because years on from this day, I will proudly tell the younglings that I was there when the legendary Federer won 18 grand slams.