Sunday, August 30, 2009

Allies in Wonderland - Part IV (The one from Chicago Airport)

After a busy and tired, day1, we exited the park discussing religion and science. After a quick dinner, we reached our motel which was very close to the west entrance of the park. We enquired the landlord regarding the best time and place to see wild animals. He suggested that we start early in the morning to be able to see some wolves at least, if not bears. We planned to start at 7 in the morning.

Those of you who are familiar with our group, especially the ones who invited us for food, would have guessed what time we started next day. 8am. The sun for some reason, was very excited and was shining bright that day. So, the opportunity of seeing wild life ruled out, we took a very good breakfast (which we still refer as Nagma breakfast, because the girl who served resembled actress Nagma) and geared into the park for our second day in wonderland.

The first major attraction for the day was 'Mammoth hot springs', but we decided stop on the way for anything other than Geysers. After we crossed Norris point, we found a vast grassland. There was a snow capped mountain at the horizon. The morning was very serene and the scenery was picture perfect. We took many snaps and experimented some poses. One of them was the 'Khalbali' shot - like the one in Rang De Basanti. Seshu clicked at the right moment and the result is what you see below. (The elaboration is because this one is my favorite shot of the trip).

We drove through many hair-pin bends. We stopped in between for the occassional small water falls, streams and valleys.

We reached hot springs...if that place were to be discovered on the day we went, they would have probably named it 'Hot Summers'. The Mammoth Hot Springs is made of what they call 'Terraces'. The rocks ooze out hot water in the terraces which flow down and in combination with clacium carbonate, algae and bacteria taint the rocks with different shades. The place should have been more beautiful in the past because some of the springs have not been active recently. I will let the photos speak for the beauty of the hot springs.

The scorching sun was testing our perseverance. We got some really great pictures. Then, we stopped for lunch - a good one. Next destination was Tower Falls. We had to trek a bit here again. The steep path took us closer to the yellowstone river bed. But, this path was still under construction and did not take us close enough. I am sure, we would have had some great photos, had we gone closer to the banks.

Next, we discussed the possibility of visiting Tatton park. Considering the geography, we decided to drop it from the plans and instead, try our luck at Lamar Valley (wild life). On the way to Lamar valley, we found a guy with sophisticated cameras, watching something keenly. We learnt that there was a Coyote on the hills. I thought Coyote must be a variety of tree, because my eyes showed me only trees. Srikk, used his public relations skill and managed to get us all preview of the coyote through that sophisticated camera. Srikk, Siva and Seshu said they saw it and I believe them :)

Then we ventured further into the valley. It was a sunny evening and the valley was green. The only animals we could see were yaks and one deer.

After whiling away some time there, we returned towards the exit gate. We still had some time left before the last show in the Yellowstone iMax theatre. Siva suggested that we go to the 'Artist point', which we decided to skip the previous day. We followed the signs and reached the artist point. It is called so because, some artist had painted a view of the lower falls from this point and that is what increased the popularity of this place, prompting the Government to make it a national park. So, what is so special about that point...? We had the same question, until witnessing the below:)

With full satisfaction, we drove towards the exit. We made it for the imax last show on time. When we came out, the sky was full of colors. It was independence day in US and there were fireworks to celebrate that. It gave a finishing touch to a well-planned, full value trip. We went to bed, hoping to get up early and start towards Salt Lake city.

When we went for the trip, I was thinking that would be my last long weekend in US....but then within the next 2 weeks, I came to know that I had to be in US for another long weekend. After discussing many options, we decided to go to Las Vegas and SFO. Hopefully, Jai or Seshu will write about that trip :)

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Allies in Wonderland - Part III

We were at one of the many Geyser Basins in Yellowstone National Park (YSNP). There was steam coming out of the soil in whichever direction we turned our neck. That, with the smell of Sulphur made us feel as if we had entered the chemistry lab of the earth. As we were wondering about the marvels that this wonderful world keeps amusing us with, Seshu indicated that such Geysers are present in Tamilnadu too and he said Kalki has written about them. This is what we notoriously know as 'Kollivaai pisasu' :). We let some of the steam precipitate into our cameras and camcorders. We were wondering what would happen to these hot geysers on a rainy day. Our cloud of thoughts must have hit the clouds hovering above started to drizzle. By that time, we had already walked some distance away from the basin.

Back to the car and Jai drove towards our first scheduled destination for the day - "Old Faithful". This is a natural fountain that faithfully pumps out water to an average height of 140 feet at predictable intervals and is a major attraction. We added ourselves to the crowd that had already gathered around the geyser. It was giving signs of an erruption as the sky started to drizzle. After teasing a couple of times the faithful started pumping out water to about 40 feet height and long enough for a few snaps and a good 5 minute video. The sky's counteract was no match. The fountain weakened finally and went into hibernation.

There were geyser's all around the place. This is called the Upper Geyser Basin. The land here is (in YSNP) highly sensitive and hence we were asked to use the designated pathways. As we walked past geyser after geyser - small, big, eye shaped, bee hive shaped, blue colored, green colored - we began to get bored. There was a small path that lead to the "Solitary Geyser". After hiking a 3 mile distance, it wasnt 'solitary' anymore. We were giving it company. A notice there said, this was an ordinary geyser and started errupting when they tried to drill pipes into it to supply water to the nearby areas. "Dont mess with me" was the message from mother nature, as the geyser started errupting every 7 minutes after that - even after the pipes were removed. We were about to leave when she made her "Dont mess with me" statement one more time with a 2 feet erruption. 'Point noted' - we said to ourselves and left her back to her loneliness.

The chemical equations within our body, lead us towards the sign 'Food'. We had a good lunch at the designated food place in that area (vegetarians do have a few good options). Now we had to choose between checking in at the motel or continue our exploration. Much to the disappointment of Seshu, we decided to stink through the rest of the afternoon and continue with Siva's schedule. Next destination was west thumb basin. Having had enough of the H2O + H2SO4, we decided to skip it and asked the GPS to direct us to Yellowstone lake.
(Anti-clockwise: Jai, Srikk, Siva, Me)
"Here I am. This is me. There's nowhere else on earth I'd rather be.
It's a new world. It's a new start. It's alive with the beating of young hearts.
It's a new day. It's a new plan. I've been waiting for you"
....Bryan Adams was singing through the stereo as we let our senses dissolve into the beauty of the eco-system. It looked as if the sun would rest soon. We wanted to cover the Grand Canyon (the one in YSNP) that day. We were beginning to doubt if we could achieve that. As if to cheer us up, the sun came out shining. We felt as if somone ported us to a totally different latitude. To our right was the vast lake and bordering it were snow covered mountains. It was a stunning sight. But we coudnt get a good camera view of it.

We kept that road for another day and accelerated towards the yellowstone lake visitors centre. We had no information to be collected there....we just had to respond to Nature Inc's call.
The urea mixed geyser from within our body was no match to the sulphur version...but nothing can give a better feeling :). When we were back to the car, waiting for Seshu, there was a hail storm. The small ice pellets dropping from the sky was new to the Chennai folks (I had experienced it in Trichy before!). Inspite of its intensity, Jai, Seshu, Siva and Srikkanth ventured out of the car to have a feel of it. The hail stopped shortly. We reached the board that read 'Yellowstone River'. Took some 'we were here' snaps.

(Me, Siva, Seshu, Jai)
We consulted the maps, Siva's schedule, our watches, the sunlight. We decided to push Tatton park to the next day. Had yet another tensed discussion over which was north and which was south. Then rolled the wheels towards our next major destination - the canyon. We knew the canyon had different views, but had not done the homework properly. So, we did not know which one to visit first. Since we hit the road to upper falls first, we pulled over there. The upper falls is yet another place where water proves the worth of perseverance. The massive gallons of water, through years of negotiation, cut through massive rocks forming a canyon and then fall with a heavy noise, force and magnitude to form the upper falls. The green tint and sharp turn just before falling were yet another treat to the sight which our cameras could not capture at all in whatever angle we tried. Seshu even climbed about 8 feet of a cliff to get a good shot. The water in its different forms and rich content had painted the canyon walls with orange, yellow, brown and green shades. We said a thousand 'Wow!!' and moved towards the car half-heartedly.

We referred the maps again to find the direction to the lower falls. After having seen the upper falls, the lower falls was just an academic interest to us. We reached the parking space for lower falls. The sign board there said we had to hike about 3/4 miles and a few feet down. The path seemed steep. There were kids who were climbing up the steep path after visiting the brink of the lower falls. They were our inspiration and we began to carry our not-so-young bodies towards the brink. It was tiring....very tiring....until we saw the best scenery of our life so far. Suddenly we forgot all the tiredness and hopped around to take pictures. We were standing at the point where the lower falls dropped a good 350 feet and the stream rushed through the Canyon. Grand it was!! As a kid, we all would have drawn a river flowing in between two mountains. May be we all got a copy of that picture installed in our brain from here. We had begun to forget the amusement we had at the geysers, at the old faithful and the just visited upper falls. The sight here topped it all. After treating our senses to the sound, scene and harmony the brain enjoyed at the spot, we began to climb the altitude back.

(Above: Seshu and the canyon in background)
We decided to go to Lamar Valley next to watch the wild life....and drove in that direction. The route was through a hilly area with practically no protection on the steeper side of the road. We were tired, it was getting late and weren't sure if it will be safe to ride through a hilly road. So, we decided to get back to the town and check in at the motel. On our way back we got to see some deers, bisons and elks. But they were not in a group. Mostly alone or just a couple.

We spiralled through a hilly path getting a glimpse of the snow capped mountains again and of some lean stream of water. We were immersed in thoughts of what a day it had been. Sunny, drizzling, hail storms, geysers, snow caps, fountains, waterfalls, canyons, rivers, lakes and wildlife with a GMC, GPS, iPod, iPhone, Canon, HP and Nokias.....whoo.

When we were in the final roads to the exit, Srikkanth threw the question - "what is the difference between faith, belief and hope". The discussion slowly and inevitably turned towards GOD. Srikkanth, Seshu - two orthodox guys - pitched against me and Jai - who have different kinds of belief or as others would say 'non-belief'. Siva had a head ache and even otherwise he generally stays away from the thick of discussions like this. As we exited the park, our points and counter points still continued....while the water bodies, animals, trees and the hot lava underneath were doing what they have been doing for millions of years. They didnt have a need to understand science or god to stay in harmony with the laws of nature. Absolutely contrary to man!!
(The best part is yet to come - watch out for Day2)

Sunday, August 16, 2009

வ(வா)சிக்காமல் விட்ட பக்கங்கள்

அந்தக் காலாண்டிற்கும்
'சிறந்த பணியாளர்' விருது வாங்கி வந்த இரவில்,
அறையில் இரைந்து கிடந்தன
காது மடிக்கப்பட்ட பல புத்தகங்கள்.