Archive for the 'General' Category

Jun 15 2009

Zion and Bryce Canyon Weekend

Published by under General,Hiking

I had this trip in mind for a long time now and it was finally time to execute it. I tried to find as many people who would be interested in this 3 day road trip, camping fun but finally Bhanik, Shraddha and Nishant agreed to join me.

 

The plan was to drive to Las Vegas on Thursday, 4th June evening, spend the night in vegas and then head out to zion early Friday morning so that we could spend two days there and then head out to Bryce or do whatever on Sunday.

 

 

I got stuck at work and so did Bhanik. Myself, Shraddha and Nishant left from my place at about 7.30 or so and met up Bhanik at park and ride in Hesperia around 10ish and by the time we got to Vegas it was almost 1am. Ofcourse you don’t sleep that early in vegas :), me and bhanik gambled little bit and then after losing few bucks we both retired to the room at 2.30.

 

We wanted to leave as early as we could so but then by the time we woke up and got ready to leave it was around 8.30 and we reached the beautiful canyon of Zion around 11 and by the time we got settled in it was noon. I had booked Watchman campground for two nights but since i was late in doing so we didn’t get the same campsite for both nights. First was a RV site and the second one was a tent only site.

 

First View of Zion

 

The weather was pleasant, it was overcast and just perfect for hiking. We pitched our tents in the wind and then after having lunch decided to do the Narrows Hike. We weren’t planning to hike the entire way, just go into the narrows as far as we could till 4 pm and then head back.

 

I really like the policy of not allowing any private vehicles along the scenic highway in Zion, you have to take the park shuttles and they run every 6-8 mins. It is a very convenient and environment friendly way of going around in the park. We were going to get down at the last stop of Temple of Sinawava, do the riverside walk hike which leads to the narrows.

 

Our plan wasn’t to head into the narrows all the way, we had a time restriction in place and were going to adhere to that but things turned out to be different. We started hiking the riverside walk and it was nice walking along the properly maintained trail, the canyon was really beautiful too.

 

Riverside Walk Views

 

The water in virgin river was cold, not as quite as the waters in am used to diving in but still it wasn’t exactly tropical. There were lot of folks who were returning almost completely drenched and i did not want to be one of them.

 

Walking in the Virgin River, Narrows Hike

 

We walked along the narrows for about half an hr or so and the views were nice but nothing too breathtaking that i expected. At the point where the river was waist deep we decided to head back, I already knew that narrows would require a special trip to zion and i want to do it as a backpacking trip to enjoy its beauty so i wasn’t keen at getting wet at all. Shraddha and Nishant also didn’t want to get that wet, Bhanik wanted to continue but then he decided not to. So we turned back at this point.

 

We were back at the Temple of Sinawava at about 3 – 3.30 and we had plenty of time on our hands so we decided to get down on every stop on the way back and enjoy zion, take pics and stuff.

 

The Weeping Rock:

This is a short hike with little steepness and gives you nice views of the canyon. Weeping rock gets its name from the water which continuously flows, its not a waterfall just a small continuous droplets. Also this has hanging gardens, because of the continuous water flow and moisture trapped in the rock, it provides a perfect environment for the plants to grow. Its pretty cool.

 

Weeping Rock

 

At this point the weather was improving and the sun was coming out too. It got really nice, our next stop was the trailhead to the emerald pool hikes.

 

Emerald Pool Loop :

 

This is again a well maintained trail and some people just head out to the lower emerald pool and turn but we decided to do the entire loop and see the middle and upper pools as well.

 

The trail to lower emerald pool is a slow gradual ascent along a very well maintained path and we didn’t have any problems whatsoever. This pool was little disappointing because there wasn’t much water in there and it gets its name from the color of water which we didn’t get to see.

 

Lower Emerald Pool.

 

We decided to continue further to the middle and upper pools and along the path we were warned about a snake. I was excited when i got a look at it, I thought it was a rattle snake and was a baby probably few months old. It was just chilling out there and wasn’t on the trail so it was nice.

 

I took some pics of it and left it alone, i was excited that it could have been my first rattlesnake sighting but then at the same time its tail was hidden and there wasn’t any rattle visible which was little disappointing.

 

Rattlesnake?

 

We reached the middle pool and there was barely any water left in there and so we continued onto the upper pool, this was the first time we weren’t walking on a cemented trail and it felt like we were doing some real hiking :). It was little exhausting to get to the upper pool but it was totally worth it.

 

The upper pool was by far the best of three and i would definitely recommend doing it. The views from the pool were really nice and the high walls of the canyon so intimidating, yet very inviting for rock climbing :). We spent about 15 mins at the pool and then headed back.

 

Nice Clear Sky on way back.

 

The sky had cleared up at this point and it was nice and sunny providing us with some really good views of the canyon. We then took the shuttle and got down at the Court of Patriarchs to take pictures of the three peaks, i forgot the names. But the sun was also up out there and blinded by the sun we could hardly see them. Waiting for the sun to go down would mean spending more than half hour at the view point and we were not in a mood to do that.

 

That was our last stop in the canyon and we wanted to get back to our campsite and start drinking 😀  but before that we had to get booze first which was an adventure in itself. We stopped at the visitor information center to see what else we could do and find out more about our plan to head out to Vermillion Cliffs.

 

It wasn’t a good idea for us to spend Sunday driving around and trying to cover as much as we could but so we decided to take it easy and visit few places at our mellow pace and not try to rush into things. So we dropped the vermillion cliffs idea and we were going to do angels landing hike first thing in the morning and then depending on the time left we would go to the tunnel and then probably visit the Pink Corral Sand Dunes park.

 

We headed out to town to find booze and firewood for the night. Firewood was easy to get but the store only had beer and no hard liquor. We asked around and then someone mentioned that Utah was a dry state and only few shops sold hard liquor. Panic button was pressed and we started searching frantically on iPhone n stuff to find info. We were told to try our luck at the other store and as we got there lady luck smiled. It was a gold mine and it took us good 10 mins to decide what to buy.

 

So with a bottle of Orange Rum, Coke and Firewood finally it was time to head back to the campsite, make dinner, light fire and drink some booze :). I had bought the dinner entree from REI and we were going to make Lasagna for dinner. It said for 4 but then it didn’t seem enough for all of us but then we complimented it with muffins.

 

We got the fire going, somewhat and then spend the rest of night drinking. It wasn’t a night of partying just couple of drinks since we had decided to wake up early in the morning for the hike. We called it a night at around 10.30 or so, moon had risen by this time and since it was full moon the entire canyon was lit up by it.

 

I wanted to go for a night hike but i wasn’t sure if it was allowed, so i just went for a small stroll around the campground and enjoyed the moonlight. It was really awesome, too bad i was alone for that stroll 😉

 

Day 2 Angels Landing:

This is a must do hike if you are visiting Zion and it doesn’t disappoint. It comes with a thrill of going along a ridge with few hundred feet drop offs on either side and where a lot of people hang onto the chains for their dear life.

 

We woke up at 7 am and our plan was to get on the trail by 9 atleast so that we can finish the hike in decent amount of time and have time to do other stuff as well. Had our breakfast and then we were at the trail by 9.30ish which was an acceptable time as per the schedule we had set ourselves. We also had to move the campsite, I checked with the ranger and the campsite that we were going to move to was vacated so we decided to check in and move before we headed over for the hike. We carried over our tents to the new site since it wasn’t that far at all, it was easy to do so without packing them up.

 

It is a 5 mile round trip with 1488′ of elevation gain so its a steep one but it happens in stages so its not that bad at all. The first part of hike is a gradual climb and then a series of switchbacks takes you into the canyon where the trail is flat for a section. Then again you gain a lot of elevation till you hit the saddle where the best part of hike begins. You have to walk the last half mile along this narrow ridge where they have placed steel chains.

 

This is where we were headed.

 

Slowly but surely we made up good ground and we got to the saddle within an hour or so, we took breaks along the way, taking pictures and all the good stuff. The sun was out, it was nice and warm and the views started to get better. The best part of this trail so far was the series of switchbacks you had to take to get to the saddle.

 

The Switchbacks during the hike.

 

Now it was time to do the last 0.5 miles along the ridge. We had to wait for people to descent and so it was slow going. Not to mention we had to be careful not to slip and fall into the valley on either side. At some places the trail was only few feet wide but it was on stable rock and there wasn’t any danger of slipping as such. The steel chains definitely helped. It wasn’t as bad as walking on a rope but it wasn’t exactly highway either, we had to be careful of every step and take it slow and easy.

 

The trail along the ridge.

 

We reached the top after almost an hour since we left the saddle and the views were totally worth the effort. Had some sandwiches at the top and we started descending after half an hour. Chipmunks at the top were all over the place and very courageous, i am sure they would eat out of your hand but then its not advisable to do so and i wouldn’t try it for sure.

 

Views from top.

 

On our way down the wind was picking up and the sun was starting to disappear behind the clouds as well. We didn’t take too many breaks on the way down, it was downhill anyway for the most part. We completed the hike in about 5 hours including all the breaks we took. It gave us time to drive to the tunnel and east side entrance of the park and then to the Pink Corral sand dunes park.

 

 

We got back to the visitor center and asked about the chances of rain since it seemed that it could rain anytime. I was told that the chance was 20% so i wasn’t sure if i should put on the rainfly on or not. I decided to be better safe than sorry so i put on the rainfly and as soon as we finished lunch, it started raining.

 

It seemed like a passing shower but i was glad that i put the rainfly on, we also took stuff out of Shradhha and Nishant’s tent because it didn’t seem that it would be able to keep the water out. We started driving towards the famous Zion tunnel and stopped on the way to take some pics.

 

We were going to the Pink corral sand dunes park and decided to take the scenic route to get there. Its a very nice drive and the weather was awesome too. It was overcast with slight drizzle, the wind made it colder but the scenes were really beautiful.

 

Pink Corral Sand Dunes park as the name suggests is a park of sand dunes but the color of the sand was more orangish to me. It was a nice change in the scenery and to see sand dunes in middle of no where was something unique. We played around for sometime in the sand and thought about riding ATV’s out there but then it was overcast and drizzling so none of us were in a mood to do so.

 

Pink Dunes.

 

We headed back to the campsite and stopped along the scenic points. This time around dinner was early since we had to pack up and leave for Bryce as early as we could. The rice pilaf was yummy and so was the cheesecake. I didn’t listen to bhanik about the quantity of water to be added to the blueberry sauce and messed it up but it was all good.

 

We made sure that the bottle of rum was finished, properly recycled too, and so was coke, it was kept cool thanks to the neighboring camper whose cooler we used. It was time to call it a night and when i went to the restrooms, caught sight of deer in the campground which was surprising. No midnight strolls for me tonite, no i wasn’t feeling lonely ;), but had to wake up at 6 to pack up the campsite and then drive out to Bryce Canyon.

 

It rained intermittently at night but it wasn’t that bad just a few showers. I was glad because if water got into the tents then it wouldn’t be fun at all.

 

Bryce Canyon:


We woke up at 6 and after having breakfast were ready to head out to Bryce by 8.30ish, It was going to be about 2 hrs of drive to there and it turned out to be a beautiful one too.

 

We passed through the Red Canyon Park and while getting more information at the visitor center it was clear that this whole area demands a minimum of week long road trip. Sometime in future i had to be back on this beautiful road for sure.

Red Canyon 

 

Bryce Canyon has shuttles but its not as extensive as Zion and you can drive into the park to see all the viewing points. We decided to go to the farthest one and then stop on our way back at every point. Got little annoyed by the slow car in front of us but we made it fine.

 

Rainbow Point, Natural Bridge and all those view points gave us a glimpse of the beautiful Bryce Canyon but it wasn’t until we visited the Inspiration point we saw where the true beauty of Bryce lies. The formation of the rocks and colors is simply awesome, words cannot describe it you have to see it for yourself.

One of the lookout points.

 

Bryce Canyon, its awesome.

 

I wanted to do some hiking here as well and see those amazing formations close up but we didn’t have too much time on our hands. I could see trails all over but most of them were long ones so it would require another visit to do some hiking in Bryce.

 

Amazing formations.

 

We then headed off to the final viewing point on our list and i wanted to just descend on the trail for a few mins so that i could see the rock formations at eye level but then this Navajo Loop was only 1.2 miles so i convinced the gang to do the entire hike. It was weird because it was a impromptu hike we didn’t have water or anything on us, just cameras and we set of.

 

Hiking into Canyon.

Towering Cliffs.

 

It was really awesome to do that hike and it gave us really nice views of the canyon from below as well as at the eye level. Our appetite was going to be increased by the hike for sure, we completed the hike in about 45 mins or so, it was little steep on the way out because we descended into the canyon so had to ascend as well :).

 

For Lunch pizza at one of the local places, Ruby’s Inn was good. It was interesting to see the signs written in one oriental language and two european languages at this restaurant. Finally at around 2 it was time to make the long drive back to LA from what had been an awesome trip.

 

We drove through the beautiful Dixie National Forest which meets the 15 and it was lovely. Navajo Lake had this natural bridge across it which looked only few feet under water and it seemed as if you could walk across it. We also stopped to see the logs being carried by helicopter from one location to another and then at the Zion lookout point where we bid one last adieu to Zion for the time being.

 

Navajo Lake

 

Nice views all along.

 

Final View of Zion.

 

The drive back to LA wasn’t boring as i was trying to have fun with other drivers, didn’t let one good looking chick pass me and then there was this couple making out in the car behind us. The gal was constantly hugging the guy and i brought this to everyone’s attention. I think they saw us looking at them and then they started making out on purpose, it was weird.

 

Reached LA at about 10ish finally, 1200 miles on the road was a very fun experience complete with some of the best scenic views you would come across.

 

 

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Nov 11 2008

My Egypt Trip

Published by under Egypt,General

I will keep on updating this blog as i pursue my adventure through the land of pharoahs, mummies, tombs and as i dive into the depths of the red sea.

 

Pre – Departure

Getting to Cairo

Day 1: Reaching Cairo

Day 2: The Pyramids 

Day 3: Luxor: West Bank

Day 4: Luxor: Hot Air Balloon and Museums  

Day 5: Luxor: Karnak Temple

Day 6: Cairo: Egyptian Museum 

 

 

This year after i got hooked onto scuba diving, I wanted to take dive trip to some exotic location so to say. Hollywood divers they were going to Wakatobi in Indonesia in September and to the Red Sea in November. Both of these trips could be combined with a india vacation for me, provided i got time off work. Mom and Dad were going to be in US till early October so i couldn’t make it for the Wakatobi trip and also since that trip included the airfare it was going to be tricky, the red sea trip didn’t include the airfare. i.e. i had to make my own travel arrangements so it worked out great for me. As soon as i got permission to take 4 weeks off work, it was time for me to start planning this trip out.

 

Making the Grand Plans

 

I was kinda lazy in booking the flights etc since i wanted mom and dad to visit Egypt along with me but they weren’t that keen on it so then as i realized that i was going to be by myself i finally booked my flight in July. It wasn’t going to be a pleasant flying experience as i found out later. I had to fly to New York and then to Cairo, while returning it would be Mumbai – Cairo – New York – Los Angeles phew…. That was the best deal i was getting so i had to go for it. Out of two weeks in Egypt one was definitely going to be spent diving but i wasn’t sure how to spend the other one. I wanted to see the Pyramids of Giza but after that there were too many options for me. After lot of deliberation i decided not to make hectic travel plans by taking a Nile cruise from Aswan to Luxor or vice versa. I was going to spend couple of days in Cairo and then travel to Luxor for couple of days, I wasn’t sure though how many days I would be spending in Luxor and finally as I write this in flight I decided to spend 3 days and 2 nights in Luxor visiting all the temples and the tombs that it has to offer.

 

I bought lonely planet guide to egypt to get more information and also a pocket arabic dictionary. I am not sure how useful the dictionary is going to be. I only booked my hotel in cairo and luxor and rest of the things I was going to take care of once I got there. Also my flight from cairo to sharm el sheikh (henceforth referred to sharm) was booked, I was going to meet with Jeanne (My awesome Scuba Instructor) at the Cairo airport and it turned out that we were on the same flight to sharm. This was the only planning/bookings I had done prior to departure, I knew what places I wanted to visit and what I wanted to do but at the same time I kept my schedule flexible.

 

I had contacted lot of travel agencies trying to figure out the prices and the kind of tours they offered, most of them were the same cruises on nile and all that stuff. Even though I was clear on my dates most of them didn’t bother to read how much time I had and kept sending me all these 10 -15 day itineraries, no thanks. Also when I contacted some of the hotels for bookings information they wouldn’t share any details, it was like you come over here and then we will figure it out. Lonely planet warns of such things and all the scams that can happen while you are in egypt. Lets see how it plays out for me.

 

The Loooooooooong Boring Flight

 

I took my packing as seriously I took my planning :), I filled up my dive bag with all the stuff a week ago and thats how it remained until the night I was about to leave and nothing else was packed. I wasn’t sure if I would carry a suitcase or how I would do it. Cairo Airport apparently doesn’t have baggage holding facility so I decided to carry my backpack instead. I was surprised how much I could stuff into my backpack, most of the old clothes which I wanted to take to india I was able to fit into it and the weight didn’t seem to be an issue. Packing didn’t take me that long probably about two hours max and then it was all about putting in the minor things in place.

 

My shuttle arrived at about 2.55 am and it was on time, but then we had to pick some other guy who never showed up so by the time I reached airport it was about 3.45 am and it was deserted. Apprently all the ticketing windows and kiosks at the airport they open only at 4 am but then the ladies took their own sweet time to adjust all the signs etc so it wasn’t until 4.30 that I could checkin. My dive bag was about 54 lbs and backpack 46 lbs so I was asked to transfer some weight, I simplly took the mask box from dive bag and put it in my carry on backpack. It was still 51 lbs and I requested her to allow me to check in the bag. It wasn’t a big deal.

 

Since it was going to be almost 6 hour flight to NY, my plan was not to sleep at my home and do all the napping in flight, that didn’t work out so well. Passing through the security is always an adventure and this time I was sure that my bags would be checked because I was carrying my dive computer as well as the regulator. As expected my bags were going to be checked but it turned out that they were bothered by a swiss knife I had in my waist pouch, it was an old one which I had bought in Nepal in 95 so I wasn’t complaining too much. The flight was on time and as soon as I sat in my seat (unfortunately it turned out to be center one) I dozed off. I took a brief nap only to wake up to neck pain, it was really uncomfortable and my neck wasn’t happy at all. Also before boarding the flight I saw some actress boarding the flight, it was Diane Keaton. I somehow managed to survive the flight and reached JKF airport in NY. It was supposed to be a 3.5 hrs stop, I had to go to a different terminal and then check in again. The checkin process went smoothly and this time as well going through security was a breeze.

 

I was deliberating if I should eat something or not since my flight was in couple of hours and they would provide me with a meal, it turned out to be a good thing that I has a sandwich because it wasn’t until 7.30 that we were air borne and then after an hr or so dinner was served. The flight as expected was pretty standard, there was no behind the seat entertainment system and it turned out that there weren’t going to be any movies as well. It was going to be 9.5 hours flight and the aircraft wasn’t the biggest one in the fleet. Even though the aircraft was pretty standard and there were no luxories as the such the crew was really helpful.

 

I tried to sleep, roam around (though u can’t do much) and somehow managed to survive the flight, the food was alrite and the morning breakfast was ok too.

 

 

So it all begins……

 

I had asked the hotel to send a cab to pick me up from the airport so i wasn’t that worried about getting to the airport. We landed in Cairo on time and passing through the immigration etc was very easy, a guy with my name on a sign found me. I was worried about my luggage since they were going to transfer it from NY flight but after some waiting the luggage showed up. I picked up all my stuff and got out, surprising i wasn’t haggled at all. I read a lot about all the stuff goes on and the scams people run but not many touts approached me. It took a while for the guy to show up again and then he set me up with a cab driver.

 

Then it all began, I got a good idea of the baksheesh (tips) system that exists in Egypt and I gave that dude couple of bucks. The Taxi driver didn’t know english and I was referring to my arabic dictionary to communicate, it wasn’t easy nor fun. He took me to the city and then he had no clue about the whereabouts of the hotel. I had to pull out the maps and the address and try to figure out where we where and stuff like that. Also I got taste of the general system that exists out here, the driver stopped in middle of intersection to ask a policeman for directions but he still couldn’t figure out the place.

 

We were lost BIG TIME and this dude was shouting at people all over the place to ask for directions, he pulled up in front of a hotel and was like this is a hotel u can stay here, but i was adamant about going to the hotel i had booked. So we continued out quest, We were in the vicinity of the hotel but couldn’t find the place. He then consulted another guy and he didn’t know about it either but this dude was tell to me to go this other hotel which had cheap food etc etc. All this was in Arabic and i was just getting a general idea about the things going on. Finally after one more turn, this guy consulted some other policeman and he knew exactly where the hotel was phewww…. It was walking distance from the place so the cab driver just parked his car in middle of road and then we set off on foot. So after walking for 5 mins or so there it was Windsor Hotel. I was so relieved :)

 

I began to wonder whether it was a scam to get more money out of me or something but it didn’t seem like, if it was a scam it was a very good idea and i didn’t care. So I checked into the hotel at about 2.30 pm and then after a shower was ready to explore my options. But first i had to get some Egyptian currency and also a pre-paid phone card. I expected that the dabba V66 which i had bought as a temp phone would be good enough but apparently it wasn’t. The phone guy was nice enough not to charge me for the SIM card even though he had to open up the seal etc.

 

I was hungry so first i decided to eat something before heading out for a walk, so i went to the bar which the hotel has. I wanted to try out the standard fuul (paste of beans stuffed in bread i think) but they didn’t have it. I ordered a cheese sandwich and gulped it down with a stella :). Then i decided to head out for a walk in the city.

 

Ramses Square

 

Since i had decided to head out to Luxor the next day and spent 3 days there, I thought it was about time i booked my tickets. So i headed out to the Ramses Station which is about 15 mins walk from the hotel. It wasn’t that hard to find as well and while i walking out there, all of sudden a lady walked upto me to ask for directions. Apparently I look a lot like egyptians, only if i knew arabic :).

 

After booking my tickets, I headed back to the hotel and it was about 6 pm when i decided to call it a night. Tomorrow I was going to head out to the Pyramids of Giza, Dashfour, Memphis and Saqqara. I was excited about it.

 

The Pyramids……

 

I was going to take a shared taxi to visit Dashfour, Memphis and Saqqara. Then the cab was going to drop me to Giza pyramids since i had to take the train for Luxor from Giza Station. I was going to see the sound and light show at the pyramids and then take a taxi from the pyramids to the station. This was supposed to be the plan for the day.

 

I woke up at 6 am and then got ready for the day. I was going to travel light and leave most of my stuff behind at the hotel. I had breakfast at the hotel, It was part of the package. Egyptian coffee had a tinge of sweetness to it and i really liked it, the food wasn’t much. When i headed to the front desk i was told that first they had to take permission of the people who rented the taxi, if they would allow me to travel with them or not. If not then they would figure something else for me.

 

I dumped my luggage at the hotel and the couple who had rented the taxi they agreed to let me tag along. Richard and Mary were originally from US but they were currently residing in Hyderabad and their son worked in Los Angeles. It was funny co-incidence. Our driver Hosan was a nice guy and could speak english fairly well, mary and richard had him as driver for their trip to alexandria. All along the way, it was very green and we stopped/slowed down to take pictures.

 

We were first going to head out to Dashfour when they have the Red, Bent and the Black Pyramid. We could see the Bent and Black from a distance and were going to enter the Red Pyramid. My first pyramid and i was going to go inside, yay. I was super excited when we got to the place.

 

Bent Pyramid, as the name suggests its bent so to say. Its angle is different as you view it from different sides and you cannot approach it since its within a shooting range where the egyptian police practice. The picture tells it all about its shape.

Bent Pyramid.

 

Black Pyramid, this is not actually a pyramid but a lump of rock, thts it. We could see it from a distance.

 

Red Pyramid, this pyramid is made up of red limestone and hence the name. It might not appear to be red from the outside but as you enter it, you can see the red limestone which is protected from the elements of the nature. As we approached it, we could see the entrance to the pyramid and it wasn’t crowded at all. Mary decided not to go for it, so it was richard and me going to enter the pyramid. I thought pictures inside the pyramid won’t be allowed but it wasn’t the case. I regret not taking my camera but it was ok, its more of your loss than mine. The images of inside the pyramid are in my head ;). The climb to the entrance is about 15 mins thorough a series of steps and then you have to descend 63m to get to the first chamber.

First View of Red Pyramid

 

Entrance to Red Pyramid

 

I stood at this 4×5 feet narrow descending passage not knowing what to expect when i got down, you have to marvel at the egyptians for building these things. As we reached the bottom, you could feel the air getting stale and really damp. The first chamber is about 12m high with tapered ceilings and then another narrow passage of about 10 ft takes you to a the highest chamber which is 15m high. WOW is the only way you can describe it and it doesn’t end here. You then take a series of steps to a third chamber and the final chamber which is about 12m high.

 

This third chamber is where the sacrophage was supposed to be there but there were just bunch of stones, since the air was really stale we didn’t linger for long and then headed out. I thought about getting my camera and heading into the pyramid again but i was kinda tired by the time i came out and i didn’t feel like it. Also the stream of tourists waiting to enter the pyramid didn’t help either. Richard told me that this was the best pyramid to enter, the giza one doesn’t have a chamber which is equally big. I was really happy that the first pyramid i saw was supposed to be the best from inside. :)

 

We then headed off to Memphis, its a small place and there is not much to see expect for statue of Memphis II and Alabaster Sphinx. Alabaster is a type of rock which is found in egypt and it is fairly transparent. Egyptians used it all the time to make statues as well as a lantern. The significance of this place lies in the fact that this was capital of the new kingdom in Ancient Egypt. We spent about half an hour at Memphis and then headed off to Saqqara, the birth place of Stone buildings. It was at this place for the first time in history of mankind stone was used to make buildings instead of the traditional mud and straw bricks.

 

Sphinx in Memphis

 

Saqqara is the place where the first pyramids were built in Egypt. Imhotep was the Architect who came up with the idea and all the designs. It was his invention and creation that the pyramids as we know today exist. After building a small sample pyramid of Unas, the Step Pyramid was built and it lay the foundations of the big pyramids of Giza. I wasn’t impressed by the fact that the villain in the Mummy and Mummy Returns movies (Brendon Fraser) is called Imhotep as well.  

 

We first visited the Imhotep Museum where there was a Mummy on display, it was very easy to miss. I took some pictures but we are not supposed to use flash because it is not good for preserving the mummy as well as the artifacts. It was really cool museum and Richard told me that it was also well maintained as compared to the Egyptian Museum. Though it was a small museum it was very nice.

 

We then headed out to check the tombs of some of the important people during that period, the first egyptian doctor, imhotep and other noble men have their tombs in Saqqara. Also this is the most recently discovered area so parts of it were closed. No photography is allowed inside the tombs and also they were not allowing the cameras outside. I don’t consider myself a history guy but then as you walk inside these tombs you can’t help but wonder at the detailed carvings and the paintings done by the egyptians. Every minute detail of their life is well portrayed, different species of fishes, animals, how they hunted them, their significance etc. It was mind blowing.

 

Teti Pyramid:  From the outside among all the sand dunes one could hardly figure out that a pyramid existed but this was there and one could go inside as well. I was the only one who decided to go in and the air in this one wasn’t as bad as the red pyramid. The chambers inside were also small and there was one big sacrophage at the bottom. There was another dark chamber which i just poked my head in but didn’t venture into it. 

 

Step Pyramid. After checking out this pyramid we headed out to the step pyramid. As the name suggests, this is built in a series of steps, you are not allowed to enter this pyramid. It had a big court in front of it and the entrance hall was grand as well. We came across some structures created out of bricks which were made from straw and mud. At this location there was a stark contrast between the green and the desert regions of Egypt. It was time for lunch at this time and a pleasant surprise awaited me.

Step Pyramid

 

We were going to have lunch at this place near saqqara and it was a nice location with garden etc, the bread or the rotis were being made outside in a clay oven. I knew from the start it was going to be an interesting experience. We settled in and it was time to order drinks, me being the mango lover ordered mango juice and some vegetable platter. The first sip i took of the Mango juice and i was in heaven………….mmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm simply too good, reminded me of hapoos back home, i finished it immediately and ordered another one, I could have had lunch on just the juice and the bread. I ended up having another glass, i just couldn’t resist :), the other things were grilled veggies for which i could care less. At the end i just had enough space in my tummy to handle turkish coffee, a thick viscous coffee with little sweetness to it. I was way too happy after this meal, too bad a nice nap didn’t await me :)

 

Now the cab driver was going to drop me off at Giza but before he did that we decided to halt at a Egyptian Carpet school, there are tons of them in this region. The guy showed us how they make carperts/rugs etc out of silk and wool. Sometimes they use wool made of camel hair. Those rugs were not only expensive but also simply amazing, the silk from which they were made was heat and fire resistant, that guy at the shop pointed a flame at it and it didn’t feel warm or anything. The best thing about these carpets, some of which took like over 2 yrs to make, was the way they changed colors depending on the light. It was brilliant.

 

I was getting late to get to Giza because the ticket office closes at 4 pm and also they start pushing the tourists out at the same time, traffic wasn’t helping at the same time and it was going to be really close. I was planning on taking a camel ride and i was cautioned to pay only after getting off the camel since the guys out there scammed a lot of people. The camel guys, they take the money from tourists prior to the ride and then refuse to let them down unless they pay them more.  The cab driver told me that he knew some folks for the camel ride and i should be fine that way. Also the shop owners were supposed to be more aggressive out here, instead of just asking if you wanted to buy something they would simply thrust stuff into your hands. I was glad that it was late and also a lot of people think i am an egyptian or more like an egyptian expat.

 

Pyramids of Giza: We reached Giza almost at 4 pm and then immediately i got onto the camel, the price was negotiate quickly. There were two guys going to accompany me, the ticket office got closed but these guys bribed the police officers and they let me into the compound, i breathed a sigh of relief. Even though i couldn’t get closer to the pyramids or the sphinx i got a fairly decent view of them and i was so happy with the earlier events of the day that i didn’t care that much either. I also got some good pics, sorry mike you will still be disappointed. We rode along the sides of the pyramids for an hour or so and then headed back. There was a time where i almost fell of the camel but managed to hold myself. Now my only worry was getting tickets for the Sound and Light show for the pyramids. It was about 5.30 or so by the time the whole camel ride got over and then i had an hour to kill before the sound and light show began. 

 

Camel Ride.

 

Pyramids of Giza

 

I realized that tickets were easy to come by for the show and then i was looking to find a coffee place but there didn’t seem to be one close by so i headed into the fancy egyptian and indian food restaurant. It turned out to be a good find since it was directly in front of the pyramids and from the roof top i could see the pyramids all lit up since the Arabic sound and light show was going on at this point. The authorities were shining bright lights into this place so that one wasn’t able to see the entire show just sitting into this restaurant and others. I killed time at this place by having turkish coffee.

 

It was time for the sound and light show and i was trying to take some good pics rather than pay attention to the narrative. I still paid some attention and found out about the significance and the different statistics of the pyramids which i am sure you could find off wikipedia. It was cool though to see the Sphinx light up and then the laser beams were being used to make shapes etc and explain things. I would recommend that you do this while having dinner or coffee at this restaurant i was at, since you can see the main pyramids light up and also can hear the entire thing :).

 

Sound and Light Show.

 

It was 7.30 when the show got over and I had to be at the Giza train station by 8.30 pm, i knew getting a taxi would be an adventure again since i would be kinda short on time as well as i would have to haggle about the prices. After saying no to couple of drivers this guy agreed at the price which was supposed to be correct and then after a while he realized that i wanted to go to Giza train station and not the metro station which he thought. pfffffff I was glad that time wasn’t wasted and confusion was cleared out early, this guy said that he would ask another driver to drop me off. So after getting in from this cab i immediately got into the other cab, traffic was really bad at the exit. This guy asked me again where i wanted to go and i told him Giza train station but i didn’t think he got it, he asked me about my hotel and i told him that and he was like let me take you to this hotel. I was like no, i have to go to the train station and then i showed him my train ticket. At this point he realized where exactly i intended to go and then he started taking side streets etc to get out of traffic.

 

I got a close up view of the egyptian suburbs and it was interesting and very comparable to some of the Mumbai suburbs. I on purpose told the can driver an early time so he would hurry up and finally after 30 long minutes or so I was at Giza train station. I had no clue from where to board the train and there was a train in front of me but it was the earlier sleeper train to luxor. I confirmed with 3 other people to make sure that this wasn’t the train that i was supposed to be on and after a while i was all calmed and relaxed. Our train arrived at 8.45 and it had an interesting setup. It was a cool setup more like indian trains berth but cut up into half and it also had a wash basin which was nice. I was going to share my cabin (i knew about it) and a british tour guide was going to be my compartment mate.

 

Dinner wasn’t that good at all, they served some veggies to me in white sauce and some bland pasta. I thought it was a poor imitation of alfredo sauce but there is a local white sauce as well, though there was hardly any sauce on the veggies. I gulped it down with assistance from the yogurt. Dessert was nice though something cake like soft made with coconut, i liked it. I was ready to crash since it had been a long day but ended up having a conversation with the next door couple from NY for sometime. They were telling how good it was that Obama got elected since the world had a good perception of him. We could have talked on and on in general but then i had to go to bed so i decided to cut the conversation and then headed off to bed.

 

 

 Temples and Tombs of the Ancient Kings

 

Dave told me that usually the train reaches Luxor by 8ish, I wasn’t too pleased with that because i was planning on taking a tour to the west bank which usually begins early morning. Egypt Railways didn’t displease me and we reached Luxor at about 7 am which was late according to the schedule but it worked out perfect for me. The hotel which i had booked was walking distance from the train station, I had emailed them about the pickup but it was a late email. I didn’t have any problems finding hotel this time :). I wasn’t expecting to get checked into the hotel and the tour was going to be rough without a shower but the guy was really nice and without even me asking for it he asked me to shower quick and get ready for the tour.

 

I checked into my room and it was almost the same size as the windsor one but the vibe was completely different, i really liked it. I got ready quickly for the day ahead, Alladin was going to be our tour guide and i was joined by 4 other people. 3 girls and 1 guy a group of french canadians who spoke in french all the time.

 

Our first stop was Colossi of Memnon, this was supposed to be a temple but all was left of it was these two giant statues thats about it. We spent about 15 mins out here and then headed of to the Temple of Hatshepsut.

 

Lone Statues remain.

 

Temple of Hatshepsut: Hatshepsut was a queen who ruled egypt, we spent about an hour in this temple. Our guide explained some of the carvings on the wall, how the egyptians also worshipped the cow, the sending of first trade missions to land on punt (now syria) by Queen Hatshepsut. It is really well documented in the hieroglyphics and the carvings, he also explained how the names of the people were written in a oval box called as Cartouche. Some of the carvings depicted that how the egyptians were into water sports, a guy is shown carrying a surf board. The attention to detail to every small little thing is simply amazing. It was in this temple that in 97 terrorists attacked tourists and killed 63 of them.

 

The temple among the mountains.

 

Surfer Dude at Hatshepsut

 

Valley of the Kings: We then headed to the valley of the kings where the tombs of the Kings of the New Kingdom were built. There are so many tombs out here and still they are discovering more. Also in the tomb of Tutankhamun, his mummy was on display. I was excited by it and decided to shell out few extra bucks for the same, i was disappointed after checking it out that is a different story. On a single entry ticket you are allowed only to enter 3 tombs and so our guide picked out the best 3 tombs according to him. No cameras are allowed inside the tombs. Also getting in and out of tombs is lot easier than the pyramids because the entrance and the passages are really big, one can easily walk through them.

Tomb of Thutmose III:

This is the farthest tomb in the valley and to gain access to this entrance you first have to climb a series of ladders. Once you are at the entrance then you drop down in a series of passages before arriving at the main chamber where the sacrophage is located. It gets really hot down there, the main chamber doesn’t have carvings only the vast sketches of the book of the dead. It is also constructed in shape of cartouche i.e. oval. It wasn’t possible to linger in this tomb for more than 5 mins because of the intense heat. It was really a spectacular sight nevertheless.

 

Stairway to Tomb Entrance.

 

Tomb of Tausert/Setnakht:

This tomb had interesting carvings in a way that some of the things were carved out of the rock and some of it were carved in. Just like all the other tombs every single aspect was very detailed and colorful. This also had a small chamber showing Anubis, the Jackal God overseeing the mummification process.

Tomb of Seti II:

This was an unfinished tomb but it had better paintings and sculptors. It wasn’t hot inside as compared to the tomb of thutmose. finally it was time to see the tomb of tutakhamun which had its mummy inside on display.

 

Tomb of Tuthakamun:

It was the smallest of all, it only had its main mummy board and mummy on display. When it was discovered all the treasures were buried in a separate room. This guy was only 18 when he died and he ruled for 9 years of it, one could tell from the mummy it was tiny so to say. Apparently when it was discovered it had all of its treasures, the raiders were not able to loot this mummy because it was below the tomb of Ramses II. Most of the treasures of this tomb are on display in Egyptian Museum which i plan to check out later. There were 7 layers of boxes for this small guy. I kinda fell cheated for having to pay extra for this tomb and later when i visited the Mummification museum in Luxor i realized that this was an official scam. oh well.

 

After this we went to visit a local Alabaster carving shop which showed us how cool this stone was. It could be used as a lantern since it was transparent. It was a business gimmick more than anything else since i am sure our guide would get a cut from whatever sales he was able to make. Also our guide showed us silver cartouches which we could get made with our name written in hieroglyphics. I wanted to get a pendant of key of life anyway so i thought it would be cool to have that on the back and with my name in hieroglyphics on the front of this cartouche shaped pendant.

 

Next stop was Temple of Ramses III at Medinat Habu, this was going to be our final destination for the day. It was a very nice temple, mainly depicting the war scenes. The main entrance pylon on the back shows Ramses beheading his enemies and through out the temple scenes like this are depicted. On the south side of the temple on the outside there are older egyptian numbers and the calendar system carved. There was a room dedicated to the storage of the harvest and the carvings in that hall made the whole scene pretty obvious. The main hall isn’t that huge as the temple of Karnak but still it was very nice. It was only going to be an indication of the things to come as i was going to see the sound and light show at Karnak temple tonight.

 

Entrance

 

Beheading of Enemies and Lion biting arm.

 

It was a nice end to the tour of west bank of Luxor and Alladin our guide invited us for lunch at this place near the hotel i was in. He suggested Kushari, a blend of macaroni, noodles, lentils and onions in a tomato sauce. I was initially skeptical about it but then as i dug into it i really enjoyed it. I had mango juice with it which wasn’t as good as the one i had in cairo but it was still alrite. I was ready for a nap now but instead i decided to head to the hotel roof top and smoke some sheesha along with turkish coffee while enjoying the view. I just chilled at the roof till it was time for me to head out to Karnak temple for the sound and light show.

 

Chilling with Sheesha and Turkish Coffee.

 

Karnak Temple: It is about 2-3 kms away from my hotel so i decided to walk it up, egypt is a very safe country as such to walk in night and i didn’t have any issues. I didn’t take the direct route to the temple so had to ask for directions along the way. As i reached Karnak the ticket office was still closed so after a while it opened and i got tickets. It was going to be an interesting experience since you have to walk through the temple as the show progresses. I thought that after watching this show i won’t have to come back to Karnak and see its glory in day light but the charms and the beauty of Karnak was too much for me to resist.

 

Karnak Entrance.

 

The show started at the first pylon which was beautifully lit up and it proceeded to the main court explaining the significance of the entire temple. I was paying attention to this show since i wasn’t expecting a return visit but that changed as soon as we entered the Hypostyle Hall. 134 huge columns representing the papyrus flower cover an area of 5500 Sq meters. It is HUGE and simple wow. As soon as i laid my eyes inside this complex i knew, this definitely warranted a second visit.

 

Simply amazing Hypostyle Hall.

 

The show then took us to the seating area in front of the sacred lake and it continued, i was trying hard to pay attention to it at this time. It was a long hr and half show which was very informative as well but i was really tired at the end of it. As i walked out of the parking lot the horse carriage guys approached me and asked a fairly steep price to get me to the hotel. I was planning on walking anyway but then in middle one of the guys agreed for a low price so i took it. I was planning on having dinner at this restaurant which our guide recommended.

 

As i got into the restaurant the group from the tour earlier was there as well, they asked me to join them but the setup didn’t allow for an extra person so i was on my own. I didn’t find the menu of this restaurant impressive and the food was alrite as well. I wanted to try Mehalabaiyya which is an egyptian dessert but this place didn’t have it, i ordered some other dessert called Baboshka or something like that but i wasn’t impressed by it either. So slightly disappointed i headed back to the hotel. It was going to be another early day tomorrow since i had to wake up at 5 am for the hot air balloon ride.

 

 Hot Air Ballon Ride

I was up at 5 am for the hot air balloon ride and the guide picked me up on time at 5.30. We waited for sometime at the banks of the nile to cross it, they gave us some breakfast as well in the small motorboat which we used to cross the nile. We then headed off to the collosi of memnon and then near the balloon. I was disappointed by the fact that we were going to start the ride south of the valley of kings or for that matter even south of habu temple. Also the sun had already risen so it wasn’t going to be a view of the sunrise when we got up in the air. As the other balloon was landing it was right over the habu temple and it would have been a really nice close up aerial view of the temple for the people in the balloon.

 

I was little disappointed but they also couldn’t help it because the landing and the direction where the balloon goes is all dictated by the wind. The pilot or the captain can only control the height of the balloon the direction in which it goes is all determined by the wind so it was ok. We got into the balloon and the pilot explained to us what position to be in when we land, other than that as long as we didn’t try to jump overboard it was fine. It was a slow rise to about 1600 ft and the view of the mountains, the contrast in different regions i.e. the green egypt and the desert part of it was very interesting. It is surprising how green those parts of egypt are and how nile has been shaping the life of egyptians for centuries. 

 

 

 

The ride lasted for about 45 mins or so and it was a really pleasant relaxing ride, call me crazy but there were certainly times when i wished that i had a chute and could jump off the balloon :). I was back at the hotel at about 8 am and then had the entire day with not much left in luxor to see. I decided to go to the less popular places like the Mummification Museum and the Luxor Museum, they weren’t bad places at all to visit. None of the places allow to take pictures.

 

Mummification Museum: This is a very small museum which shows the process of mummification and also had some cool animal mummies on display. The ancient egyptians were very strong believers in life after death and hence the whole tombs and mummies process. They also mummified a lot of animals, mainly the ones which existed as gods like the jackal god anubis which is incharge of overseeing mummification process or the crocodile god sobek which is the night god. 

 

In this museum there was a mummy of some priest and it was stored in his mummy board which was cool. All the mummies that i have seen so far they were by itself but this one with its casket as such. The animals on display which were mummified were the cats, ibis, a baboon, ram and also part of goat leg which could serve as food for the soul in afterlife. The best of them was a more than 6 ft long crocodile, it was simply amazing how well this croc mummy was preserved. One could easily mistake it for a live croc, it was unbelievable. I was glad that i visited this museum.

 

Luxor Museum: My next stop was the luxor museum which is bigger than the mummification museum, it mainly has all sorts of things on display. Mainly the statues found in the temples of Karnak and Luxor as well as few mummies. Most of the stuff on display was from the new kingdom. Lots of stuff which was used in warfare to defeat the libyans and push them out of the nubian territory. Couple of the statues on display were simply amazing, the fine finish and the all detailing carved in stone really amazes you. 

 

Now the only thing left on my list of things in Luxor was the amazing temple of Karnak which i decided to visit the next day. Luxor temple isn’t that big at all and most of it is visible from outside and from the roof of my hotel so i didn’t see any value in going inside.

 

I decided to have lunch at the hotel restaurant and ordered vegetable tajin, most of the stuff is cooked in these clay pots called Tajin. It was alrite, for some reason after the first day my food experience in egypt just hasn’t been the same. At the end of the meal i ordered some Mahalabeiyya but he said he didn’t have it and suggested Ummm Ali some other dessert, i was like ok fine get me that stuff but then after a while he didn’t have it either but had some hot Mahalabeiyya so i ordered that. It was alrite and the fact that it was warm didn’t help it. I will give that stuff another shot some other time. 

 

Rest of my day was spent on the hotel roof smoking sheesha and having Hibiscus tea, it is something i really like and enjoy. In evening i decided to head out to the banks of nile to take some sunset pics and as i got there people starting bothering me for a felluca ride. I earlier was interested in one of those rides but then later i decided against it. 

 

Nile Sunset

 

This time for dinner i ended up having pizza egyptian style, it was pretty good. They didn’t cut it into slices or anything and the bread was different as well. I liked it and then after a while it was time to call it a day. I was thinking if i should wake up early and get to karnak or just wake up as usual and then head to karnak temple whenever. Being the lazy bum that i am, i decided on the latter. 

 

 Karnak Temple

 

I woke up at 8ish, got ready had bf and then headed out to karnak. I was planning on walking inside the temple and take my time. The lonely planet guide has explained a lot about karnak and also since i paid attention to the sound and light show i was sure that i would be fine in getting to know the facts about the temple. Also the signs inside the temple are somewhat descriptive so it isn’t that bad at all. 

 

Ramses Temple Complex

 

Visiting the temple during day time gives a different perspective altogether and for the sound and light show we were restricted to certain parts of the temple but this wasn’t the case now. I was able to enter the temple built by Ramses and also the small place built by Seti II for the triad of Amun, Mut and Khonsu. The Colossal Hypostyle hall is the next and its nice to sit back and be in complete awe of this gigantic maze of 134 columns some of which are 12m and some 20m with each having a diameter of roughly 3m. 

 

The Great Hypostyle Hall

 

I roamed around in the rest of the complex, the obelisks of Hatshepsut and all the other things. Some of the structures still had paint visible and they have sketches of some coptic saints indicating the diversity of this place. I spend few hours at this temple before heading out, it was really nice. This was just the major part of karnak temple, the other stuff which is part of the temple is not accessible to general public. 

Paint on the Columns.

 

As i headed out of the temple few horse carriage guys approached me but i intended to take the walk back and found this cool place along the bank of the nile where i took the best picture of the entire trip so far. It was a panorama of the nile river with the mountains of the west bank in the background. I loved the picture when i put it all together.  

Awesome it is the west bank of nile.

 

Lunch was a pizza at the restaurant near the hotel and at the end of it i ordered umm ali which i didn’t like. It was kinda bitter, i tried adding sugar to it but that didn’t help either. It is kinda sad that most of the traditional egyptian dishes are made of meat. I had to catch the 9.45 pm train to Cairo, so the rest of the day i just chilled at the hotel rooftop finishing up writing this blog etc. Also the hotel has a pool table so i played few games of pool with the guy who works there and surprising enough i won :)

 

At about 8.30 pm i started to head out towards the train station and there i was kinda confused about where the train would arrive, gladly i wasn’t the only one. I recognized this couple from the hotel who were going to catch the same train so i had company and then on the platform we met two british chicks who looked in their teens but were lot older and one of them was indian. Yes both of them were cute 😉 but i didn’t have more time to interact with them.

 

The train was on time and the guy immediately offered me dinner which was worst that the earlier fare dished out on the train. This time i only had carrots and other vegetable which was boiled and without any sauce. I just ate the bland pasta with assistance of the yogurt, salt and pepper. I wasn’t full at the end of this meal so i decided to head out to the bar for a drink, these trains have a bar at the center, it is kinda neat. So after having one local luxor beer, which wasn’t that bad, it was time for me to hit the bed. I wasn’t sure about my plans for the next day, i was thinking if i should go to egyptian museum directly or first head out to the hotel and then proceed to the museum. I decided to see how i felt in the morning and take it from there.

 

 Egyptian Museum
 

When i woke up in the morning, i felt really fresh so i decided to head out to the egyptian museum directly instead of going to the hotel and then going to museum. Also i wasn’t sure if i would get the same treatment as i got in luxor, i.e. the hotel would allow me to check in early or not. The train arrived at Ramses Station at about 8.15 am so the timing was also good for me to head out to egyptian museum, it opens at 9. 

 

I really enjoy walking through cairo, its fun almost like walking in bombay, i managed to find the museum with little difficulty. Along the way i came across a typical egyptian way of making people buy things, this dude walks upto me and greets me etc and then tells me that he has a perfume shop just close by and i should check it out. I wasn’t keen on it but he kept forcing me into it so i walked into the shop and he showed me couple of perfumes and then insisted that i buy something for as cheap as 50 piastres, i refused and surprisingly enough this dude got really pissed and angry. It was funny how he changed his attitude towards me even though right from the start i made it clear that i didn’t want to enter his den.

 

When i got to the egyptian museum it wasn’t open yet but the crowds were already there, also it being a friday there were lots of locals at this place. They are very strict about cameras at this place and you are required to deposit your camera at the safety box, something i found out only after entering the museum. This is a fairly big museum with lots to see and the it was really crowded as well, to avoid the crowds i proceeded to the first floor where they had all the treasures from the tomb of King Tutakhamun. Also this has a separate area for the royal mummies and to enter it you have to pay extra, i wasn’t keen at all in checking out more mummies, after all they all look the same at the end :).

 

So the first thing i did was check out the treasures from the tomb of Tutakhamun and it was simply unbelievable, the lengths to which the egyptians go to make sure that the soul in afterlife has everything it needs is simply crazy. All the details on the jewelry which adorned the mummy and the the face mask etc was simply astonishing, words are not enough to describe it, you have to see it for yourself and the best part of the tomb was yet to come. 

 

The mummy of the king was buried in 7 layers of boxes and casings, there were 4 huge boxes, the biggest one being atleast 12 ft in height and it contained 3 boxes of shrinking sizes. Finally in the smallest box there were 3 coffins inside one another which had the mummy. All of this was plated in pure gold, it just leaves you wondering, i was in complete awe and amazement. Apart from this grandeur on the outside, the mummy itself was covered in lots of different ornaments and pieces of jewelry each of which is on display in the museum. Not to mention that everything was completely described in hieroglyphics as well. 

 

 

After checking out this whole king tut stuff, i was fairly tired and i just skimmed through the rest of the museum. The rest of the sacrophages, mummy boards of the other kings get boring once you check out the cool gold plated king tut stuff. Though some of the statues on display are really good but then i had spent a lot of time at the luxor museum so it wasn’t anything new for me. It was about noon by the time i got out of this museum. 

 

Since my food experience wasn’t all that good with the local fare, i wanted to find this place mentioned in the lonely planet guide book which was supposed to be one of the best eats in cairo. I walked in the correct direction, over shot the place and then retreated and after half an hour of searching around i managed to find it place but it seems that good local fare isn’t for me because this place was closed and would open in evening, this was according to a guy i asked, though personally i wasn’t completely sure if i had found the right place. I was too frustrated and exhausted at this point so i decided to head out to the hotel and then figure out what my options were for lunch. 

 

On the way back to the hotel i came across this fancy restaurant which i decided to visit once i showered up and got fresh. I checked into the hotel, got my old stuff back and then headed into this restaurant, there was a menu outside which i should have consulted because at this place there wasn’t a single vegetarian dish. The waiter suggested another place in front of it which could dish out some veggie stuff and so i headed out there. There wasn’t a single english speaking guy at this place and it was kinda hard to communicate but i managed to order fuul, tahini and falafel. The stuff was alrite and then i went to the hotel bar for turkish coffee. After having the coffee, idea of a nap was too much for me to resist so i dozed off for few hours.

 

I was contemplating a walk to Al Azhar park and Islamic cairo but decided against it. I might head out there tomorrow morning but as i am writing this blog, for some reason i am really tired from all the walking i have been doing. So i think i will just sleep in tomorrow and then proceed to the airport in afternoon. The start of my journey into the depths of the red sea begins tomorrow and so will a new post on my blog for the same…..

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Aug 29 2008

Ugly nature of Politics

Published by under General

I have never bothered with politics while i was in India, didn’t have any opinion about it and stuff. After i moved here, i thought things would be better out here in terms of politics but i was wrong. By better i mean in terms of scandals, honesty etc.

 

Surprisingly I have followed elections this year very closely, specially the Democratic primary battle between Hillary and Obama. No holds barred, that is the policy when it comes down to politics play to the psyche of the people and win.

 

I just want to list few instances of how politicians backtrack and play to the psyche of general public. Its my personal opinion i could be wrong and few might disagree with me as well.

 

New Hampshire primary, Hillary cried on camera and won it. I personally think it was a very well planned thing and it simply made voters sympathetic towards her specially women. The 3 am ad during Texas primaries was a masterpiece in highlighting Obama’s lack of experience. 

 

I have been a Obama supporter mainly because he is a straightforward guy which he demonstrated during the debates with Hillary. When asked if he would invade Iraq again after pulling out of it just because Al Qaeda had a base, his answer was a firm Yes while Hillary didn’t give a firm answer. During the end of primaries Obama was against the popular move of eliminating the state tax on Gas to lower its price. 

 

Obama, he isn’t all about being honest and straightforward.He has backtracked on some issues as well, he initially said that he would use the public funding system if his republican counterpart agreed to same but he backed out later, I don’t blame him he is raising millions more as compared to Mccain. Its an advantage he doesn’t want to loose as simple as that. Obama was against offshore drilling but then he said after a while that he would reconsider that option. 

 

He made lot of promises rather very grand promises during the Democratic National Convention (DNC) acceptance speech, it would be interesting to see how he keeps those or whether he keeps those if elected. Isn’t that the question we always ask about politicians. 

 

Bill Clinton, I was completely surprised to see how much he praised Obama, during the primaries he didn’t think Obama had enough experience to be a president but at the DNC he was all over Obama. Did he have a divine realization before the DNC that people were having same accusation against him (lack of experience) when he was running for presidency?

 

The best of all is the choice of VP for Mccain, Sarah Palin. She is a mom of 5 and looks gorgeous, i wonder how many men would vote for her only because of that. It is obvious that Mccain camp wants to attract women voters and it was highlighted by the fact that as soon as Sarah got on the stage she appealed to them. It doesn’t matter that she has been a governor only for two years and has lesser experience than Obama, she is going to bring in all those women votes for Mccain. By picking a woman they are playing to the psyche, its an added bonus that she is hot and ultra conservative as well which works for lot of republicans.

 

One of my friends told me, in presidential election you just have to pick the lesser of two evils. I would pick Obama if i could vote in these elections.

 

 

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Aug 18 2008

Living the FOB (Fresh on Board) Student life….

Published by under General

This saturday i took 3 kids shopping to walmart, kids????? by kids i mean new students who have come to USC for their Masters (MS) from India. It reminded me of my MS days as well and the lifestyle back then. This article mainly refers to lifestyle of a typical Indian student who has moved here for his MS.

 

NOTE: Please don’t take this article personally i am not pointing fingers at anyone, it is just a personal opinion and my observations/experiences.

 

I would classify three kinds of lifestyles of a typical desi MS student,

  • Super Stingy (SS)
  • Well Balanced (WB)
  • No Worries (NW)

Above categories would easily describe the way of life of a desi, it can be the way of life not only while being in school but also after graduation. I just want to focus my experiences with student lifestyles while still being in school, mainly during MS. Sometimes its just not possible to change your student lifestyle but a lot of people don’t want to change their thinking/lifestyle even though the circumstances make it possible. Lets take a look at each of the above categories,

 

Super Stingy (SS):

Everything in life is about money, every decision they make in life is about saving money 99% of the times. Saving money is their motto in life. I can understand that USC is an expensive school etc but not everything in life is about money. They would know which place has the cheapest toilet paper or what place serves free food during which time. Being the first in line for free food makes them feel proud and they feel even better if atleast 10 other people take advantage of it because of them.

 

My Personal Experiences:

USC had or still does have an active yahoogroup where free food events are posted so that people canshow up for free food only and don’t care about the event. So this one dude goes for such event which happens to be for LGBT members (Lesbian, Gay, Bi-sexual and Trans Gender), unfortunately for him there is press coverage as well and his picture ends up on the front page of Daily Trojan (USC Campus paper), fun times.

 

Being Indian saving money is a mentality which is in our genes (of course there are exceptions) but this one incident confirmed the hereditary nature of this trait. We (me and my roomies) used to cook almost daily at home, we enjoyed it and cooking turns was fun, so while having a conversation with one of the parents we happened to mention that yes we cook a lot at home and the reply we got back was “So you must be saving a lot of money” grrrrrrrr, come on give us a break. It does help to save money to cook at home but that isn’t the sole reason to do so. Also the manner in which the statement was made was very offending and gave us an idea of the mentality of that person.

 

There have been a quite a few instances where is have seen SS at work but i shall not go further into it, I am sure you get the idea.

 

Well Balanced:

Save money and spend it wisely. People in this category like to visit places, would rent a car and go out have a good time while not making a huge dent in savings and things like that. A better paying on campus job certainly helps to maintain a WB lifestyle. Quality of groceries takes priority over cheaper ones and little things like these matter over money.

 

My Personal Experience:

Our lifestyle, 4 of us bought a car together to roam around and visit few places, the car was an idea which came to us after 9 months since everyone had a good on campus job it was affordable. It wasn’t an expensive car but it did take us around. Groceries would be done from Ralphs and not from Superior or any other place. 

 

No Worries:

Money is not an issue and spending it is even easier, if you run out of it just ask your folks from India to send some more. Very few people fall in this category but there some chosen ones. Eating food outside all the time, not worrying about trying to find on campus jobs and things like that define them.

 

My Personal Experience:

I have seen a people like that who tend not to work on campus or for that matter work less so that they can “concentrate on studies”. Eating outside was a routine for few since they didn’t want to deal with hassle of cleaning the dishes afterwards and things like that.

 

I am sure you can find contradictions to everything i have mentioned above and argue with me on it. There are always circumstances beyond one’s control which forces you to do things as well. I am also not criticizing anyone or maybe just a little for SS but ultimately it is upto that individual to live their life and its their decision not mine.

 

At Walmart I saw someone with a notebook noting down the prices of items he was interested it, I think it was for comparing the prices at different stores and picking up whatever is cheapest from whichever store. I didn’t know how to react, but it was understandable since being a new student you are still converting $ into INR but if after a year in MS or getting a full time job if that person does the same thing then i would certainly feel sorry for that person.

 

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Aug 15 2008

Turning into a NRI (Na Raha Indian)??????

Published by under General

Today is India’s 61st Independence day and i was reminded about it by a friend. It has also been over 5 years now since i moved to USA and i have been to india only once during those 5 years. 

 

Since i moved out here i have realized that the festivals like Diwali, Holi, Navratri etc don’t really mean the same to me as they did when i was back home. Am i being unemotional or its just that living this country doesn’t evoke the same excitement in me about these things anymore. It is really hard to explain but most of the festival days are like any other day to me there is nothing special.

 

Not that i would do something special but in India when i would wake up on independence day, atleast i would realize that is independence day and stuff you know, but here its like any other weekday. Of course you would expect that since its not US independence day but then at the same time if there are any celebrations out there, i just don’t attend them. Maybe there aren’t any parades out here in LA as they happen in NY or New Jersey which makes it different. 

 

Also whenever people celebrate festivals its usually on weekends because no one has time during the weekdays to get everything organized and people won’t simply attend those functions on a weekday. It is a matter of convenience over significance , ofcourse celebrating things on a different day doesn’t lower the significance or maybe it does, I will let you decide that.

 

Personally for me no matter what the enthusiasm or the excitement just isn’t there, call it being unemotional, cold or maybe i am just turning into an NRI…..It is a sad thing but for some reason i just can’t help it.

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Aug 06 2008

Price of Reaching the Summit

Published by under General,Mountaineering

I read about the recent tragedy to strike the mountaineering world on K2, 11 climbers lost their lives and few suffered from injuries. It was a very unfortunate incident and something we can all learn from

 

The climbers had a very excellent window of opportunity to scale K2 and it would be very difficult for any individual to resist the urge to get to the summit no matter what, specially when they had waited a long time for that window to open. When they found out that the fixed ropes were in wrong places and they had to move them. It took them a long time to do so and also some of the climbers returned since they didn’t trust the ropes anymore. The entire climbing party could have returned but they wanted to make full use of that small window of excellent weather. They reached the summit but it was about nightfall, its really hard to believe why would someone want to reach the summit of a mountain regarded as killer peak so late.
 
you can read complete account of the tragedy in this article,

Article which gives account of survivor

http://thelede.blogs.nytimes.com/2008/08/05/tales-of-chaos-and-survival-on-k2/index.html?partner=rssnyt&emc=rss

http://www.belfasttelegraph.co.uk/news/local-national/fears-k2-team-were-consumed-by-summit-fever-13930275.html

 
Many accidents happen because people always try to push themselves without realizing their limits, i am tempted to use the word most instead of many here, this is not limited to mountaineering but to every day life in general. you won’t drive an old badly maintained car at speed of 100 mph on a freeway would you????? Heck, i wouldn’t even go past 75 mph now in my 98 Sentra, give me a 08 BMW and its a different story :D. Its the same concept that can be applied to any adventure sport. Divers shouldn’t dive to depths beyond their limits or Rock climbers shouldn’t lead climbs rated way beyond they normally lead and so on.

 

http://tvnz.co.nz/view/page/536641/1977025, Reinhold Messner mentions how one of his client wanted to go higher on the peak even he wasn’t in any shape to do so. The same problem caused the Everest disaster which Jon krakauer mentions in his book Into This Air. When someone pays 50-60K for an expedition I am sure they want their money’s worth out of it but at what cost?. Losing your feet or fingers to frost bite isn’t worth any amount of money nor is your money going to be of any use to urself when you die. 

 

The mountain is here to stay, another attempt to get to the summit can be made, its definitely not worth something to die for. I have abandoned my summit attempt of Mt Stok Kangri 6155m because i was not in any position to reach the top, if i had continued i would have been at summit at around noon or maybe later, something i wasn’t ready to do. I wanted to reach summit before a certain time and i didn’t so it was time to turn back.  I hope i keep following the same principle on all of my future attempts on any peak.

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Aug 03 2008

Opening popups from text links

Published by under General

I already have a post which shows how to open popups using getURL or navigatetoURL (this is the link) but what if you want to use html text to open a popup in Flash. Firefox blocks those popups and you cannot do anything about it, but there is a solution using javascript.

 

The trick is using javascript in href tag instead of normal http link, for eg, lets say you want to open http://www.nayansavla.com/blog, the normal code for html enabled text box would be,

 

sampleText.htmlText = “<a href=’http://www.nayansavla.com/blog’> My Cool Blog</a>”;

 

The above link might not work in all browsers, the solution to make this link work would be using javascript and External Interface. First we modify the link as shown below,

 

sampleText.htmlText = “<a href=’javascript:openwindow(” + “\”http://www.nayansavla.com/blog\”” +”)’>My Cool Blog</a>”;

 

Also we add few lines of extra code in our Flash file,

import flash.external.ExternalInterface;

ExternalInterface.addCallback("callGetURL",this,callGetURL);

function callGetURL(url:String){

getURL(url,"_blank");
}

 

The basic idea is we will first try to open a window with javascript but then if that fails we will call this function callGetURL using ExternalInterface. The javascript function openwindow looks as shown,

 

function openwindow(pageUrl) {
var winName = Math.round(9999*Math.random()) + new Date().getTime();
var winNew = window.open(pageUrl,winName,"toolbar=1,scrollbars=1,location=1,statusbar=0,menubar=0,resizable=1,width=800,height=700,left=200,top=100");
if(!winNew) {
if(navigator.appName.indexOf("Microsoft") != -1) {
//href is the id of the flash element
window.href.callGetURL(pageUrl);
}else {
//href is the id of the flash element
window.document.href.callGetURL(pageUrl);
}
}
}

So now if your javascript doesn’t open a popup, flash geturl will :D. hope this helps. This doesn’t work with Firefox 3, will have to look more into it. Also on further looking into this, it displays inconsistent behavior in Firefox. :(
 

 

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Jul 15 2008

Silverlight v/s Flash

Published by under General

Being a Flash/Flex developer i am prejudiced towards Flash but Microsoft really amazes me. The websites they develop or endorse are made using Flash and not Silverlight. I would expect Microsoft to go full on with Silverlight or is it because I am using Safari to visit this website. 

So much for a Flash killer, oh wait i forgot Zune is the IPod killer isn’t it???????? What next? are we going to see IPhone killer as well. 

I have to admit i don’t like MS at all, I have been a Mac user for over 3 years now. 

http://www.worldwidetelescope.org/ this is the website i am talking about, I think the MSN video player is made using Flash. 😀

I will be updating this as i feel to rant about MS :)

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Jul 09 2008

Catalina Long Weekend Trip

Published by under Diving,General,Hiking

I was kinda desperate to get out of the city for 4th of july long weekend and was trying different options but nothing worked. Finally due to last minute cancellations a campground at Catalina was available so i booked it. Bhanik, Amrish and Rajesh (henceforth referred to as BAR :) ) decided to join me on this trip. They were made aware that there was a hike of 12 miles involved on the final day. Here is how the trip went by. 

Pre-Trip Preparations. 

I went to REI to pick up some cookware since i didn’t have any for backpacking. I found something useful Kitchen Cupboard (which i didn’t take completely) and Cooking system (which was very useful). I also picked up some food items and desert for our dinner. 

Headed off to USC to Amrish’s place to pick everyone and after making sure they packed properly we went to Paru’s for dinner. Dinner at Paru’s was awesome as usual and then came back to my place after stopping at Ralphs and finally after packing my stuff i dozed off at about 12.30.

 

4th July

We had to take 7 am Catalina Express from San Pedro so had to wake up at 4.30 am to get everyone ready and then drive to the terminal. We made it to the terminal at about 6.45, just in time, we reached Avalon at about 8.15 and immediately stored most of the stuff in locker just outside the dock. We decided to take the shuttle bus to BlackJack campground since BAR wanted to take Introduction to Scuba and i was planning to dive along with them. So we got our campsite details, booked the 4 pm bus to Blackjack junction and since the Scuba was going to be at noon we had some time to kill before that. 

Golf Cart to the rescue, We rented a golf cart to go around Avalon and since i was the only person above 25 i was the lone driver. Amrish and Rajesh wanted to drive it but it was supposed to be $850 ticket and I didn’t want to take that chance. We took the scenic route on the island and stopped for sometime in between to take pictures and stuff, an hour well spent. Since it was almost time for BAR scuba lessons we headed off there and I also decided to rent BCD, Regulator etc so that i could also dive. Yes, I would be diving Solo. I have got my certification at Casino point and also have dove there before so I was completely comfortable diving on my own.

View of Avalon from the cart

View of Avalon from top.

Since i wasn’t sure if i could equalize my Ears, I decided to head out and see what happens. The water wasn’t as cold as i am used to, it was about 64F on the surface. I descended down the buoy and wasn’t sure in what direction i was gonna go but i found myself at the Plague. I was surprised at the marine life, It was different than i have seen here before. Plenty of different fishes and I also saw a Bat Ray zoom by. The Kelp Bass were huge, they seemed to have grown in few months. I ended the dive after consuming 1000 psi of air and didn’t go more then 40 feet deep.

Once comfortable with the fact that i could equalize my ears, I got more confident. This time Bhanik and Amrish got ready to go in the water and I followed them 10 mins after they got in. Bhanik had a leak in his tank and Amrish without the hood was having hard time getting comfortable in water. The instructor had to get him out since he wasn’t completely comfortable. Bhanik did a dive to about 12 ft, I followed him for a while and then decided to head off on my own. My camera stopped working too and that was sad since i saw a lot of critters. I didn’t wander too far from the buoy and just decided to explore the reefs and the kelp. As mentioned earlier the Kelp bass were huge and there was a big lobster hiding in the reef. I was down to 600 psi and i decided to end my dive. Amrish, this time with a hood and Rajesh were getting ready to dive, I thought with little air left i could take a look at them but I had too much water in my BCD and hence i decided to call it a day. Amrish and Rajesh stayed in for a long time and i was getting little worried but it seems they dove to about 30 ft. It was already 2.45 pm by the time the dives ended and we had to take the 4 pm bus so we had to hurry up.

Amrish and Myself decided to go and pick up the stuff from the lockers while Bhanik and Rajesh went to get firewood etc. Initially we planned to have dinner directly but then after the dive everyone was hungry so we decided to get something on the go. I finished my burger in less than 2 mins, was i hungry or what. We had two firewood bundles and it was a 1.5 mile hike from the junction to the campground, it would be suicide carrying them so we decided to return one of them. So at Blackjack junction, I decided to carry that firewood bundle and the 1.5 mile hike to campground was gentle uphill climb. It was a killer, specially after all the diving we did. Bhanik decided to carry the firewood after a while and finally we made it to the campground at about 6pm. The sun was brutal all along the way and i got some burns on my hands. Returning that one bundle of firewood and that burger were the smartest decisions of the day.

View from Blackjack Campground Junction

View from Blackjack Campground Junction

We found out site fairly easily and there was already a tent erect out there, I thought it was the one we had rented. I immediately crashed and took a brief nap for more than an hour and was woken by the chatter of ranger. 

Campsite

Campsite

Gilligan, the ranger. He was cool and very helpful. He gave us the tent and also propane since we had rented a stove but he didn’t have it on him. He left and we started pitching the tent only to discover that it had one of the poles missing and hence we called the ranger. He was back very soon and handed us another tent, apologizing and stuff. The other tent he gave us, its poles were also messed up but then we managed to combine poles from two tents and have a tent pitched up. The ranger was about to leave and while backing up he slammed into the trash can and made a mess of it. He seemed to be amused by it and he had an extra trash can which he kept there.

It was about time to make dinner and get a fire going. We had chana masala for dinner and cheesecake for dessert. It was good even though i messed up making of the cake. It was a long day with two more long ones ahead and we all slept well.

 

5th July: Hike to Little Harbor

 

We had already planned to do 7 mile hike to Little Harbor. I decided to take it easy and not wake up early for the hike. So we all got up at like 9.30, had our breakfast which was coffee and bagel. We started the hike at about 10.30 and it was downhill for the first 3.2 miles till we reached the ranch. The cotton wood trail we took was going to take us all the way to the wrong beach but fortunately for us we met couple of people on the way who told us that we missed the diversion to the ranch. So after correcting ourselves and getting on the right path again we reached beautiful little harbor campground at about 2 pm. Since we didn’t book snorkel rentals in advance, there was nothing to do. No one was interested in Kayaking out there. 

First View of Little Harbor

First View of Little Harbor

Since the hike on the way back was going to be continuos uphill, we decided to take the bus back to Blackjack junction and do the 1.5 mile hike to campground. It was 4 pm bus so we just relaxed at the beach, played some cards and just walked around. We took the 4 pm bus and the hike to Blackjack was lot easier than the previous evening. All of us took showers that evening and it was indeed refreshing. 

Dinner was beans and rice though the pack had some fancy name for it and the dessert was strawberry crumble. I preferred the previous night’s dinner and dessert as well. Since we were planning to get up at 4 am  and leave as early as we could, everyone went to bed early.

 

6th July: The long hike to Two Harbors

 

It is 11.8 miles hike from Blackjack campground to Two harbors and we woke up early at 4.30 am to pack everything and leave as early as we could. Breakfast was again coffee along with Bagels and by the time we left the campsite it was 6 am. We had to pack up the tents and clean up everything so it took us a lot of time. The climate was amazing by the time we got at the Blackjack junction it was foggy and the visibility on the road was about 30 feet. It was really a pleasant walk despite the fact that i had about 25-30 pounds on my back, its not that much but still. As we got closer to the airport, yes there is airport on top of catalina island, we saw a heard of wild buffalos which seemed ready to attack us if we got any closer to their young. 

Heard of Wild Buffalo

Herd of Wild Buffalo

Dew Flower

Advantage of Hiking Early.

We took the airport trail loop, there is a sign which says private road no admittance but the trail goes on that road itself. On this trail there was a split which i was tempted to take but we were supposed be on this trail for 1.6 miles and it didn’t seem that we walked for that long. So we continued on this airport loop trail and met someone on the way who confirmed that we were on the right path. We hit another junction, where one of the signs said cross catalina trail and other was small one with EL 1.5 miles. Emerald Landing (EL) trail was the correct one to take and it would be another 1.5 miles before we hit next junction but how wrong we were….

After walking for about half hour we hit another junction and it was very tempting to take that supposedly short cut trail to the left, we met one more person who told us we would be fine on the left but he didn’t seem that sure. The right path would slowly but surely take us on the right path, how ironic :) but we decided to continue on the left steep trail. We continued on it for another half hour or so and hit a dead end. I could see a trail continuing in my head and went on, others weren’t so sure and they were correct, something which i realized after another half hour. Traversing this sloped hill, we hit a ridge line, i kept on going along that ridge with others complaining to me behind and being afraid that we won’t be able to turn back etc.

My sense of adventure/willingness to experiment/over confidence whatever you want to call it got better of me at that time and i kept on going until we saw ocean and guess what it wasn’t two harbors but it was little harbor. how fascinating, jaana tha japan pahuch gaye chin (wanted to go to japan but reached china), its an old hindi song. 

Steep Hill

It all went wrong at this point. Yes I had carried my Fins and Snorkel gear :)

It wasn’t a pleasant feeling at all and with almost an hour lost turning back didn’t seem an option. We contemplated going to little harbor and then taking shuttle to two harbors but we couldn’t speak to a representative and get confirmed tickets on the bus. Also it seemed that we were about 4-5 miles away from two harbors anyway, our boat left at 2.45 pm and it was about 9 – 9.30 so we had plenty of time as well. We decided to get off this hill and on the road which was visible to us at the bottom and take it from there. With no visible trail to get off this mountain i just took the route which was less steep and seemed easier until we reached a small trail. Even though this wasn’t going to take us exactly where we planned on going it would still lead us to the dirt road connecting little harbor and two harbor. 

Once at the bottom of this hill, we had to cross a muddy marshland where we had to trample some of the plants to avoid getting into the mud. Bhanik managed to get one of his feet into the mud and it was messy. He decided to ditch his socks (no we didn’t throw them there, they were dumped in LA) and wear a plastic bag instead of the sock. Once on the dirt road, I wanted to maintain my rhythm and didn’t take a break along with BAR. I told them to hitch a ride in the first vehicle they could find and make it to two harbors, it was going to be a 4 mile hike in the sun on this dirt road. I kept on going at my pace which wasn’t that much at all, about half an hour into this walk i saw Bhanik get a ride and he stopped to get my backpack. I decided not to hand my pack since i would need water etc on the way but got rid of my tent, event though it didn’t seem that much of difference to me i am sure it helped a lot. Rajesh and Amrish also caught up with me by that time but they again decided to take a break after sometime and i kept on going. It wasn’t exactly a pleasant walk in the park but the ocean views all along the final few miles made it worthwhile. I met up with Bhanik at Two harbors at about 12.15 pm, the ranger had refused to give ride to Amrish or Rajesh but they got ride from USC Wrigley dudes and we all were in Two Harbors by 12.30 pm.

Bhanik wanted to snorkel from the start itself and after the hike, Amrish and Rajesh didn’t want to. I rented a wet suit (i was carrying my fins, mask etc) and Bhanik complete snorkeling gear  and we jumped into the water to snorkel for about an hour. There wasn’t much to see on the beach but then when we went to one side which had some kelp, we saw garibaldis, few more fishes. Also spotted a tiny Spanish Shawl (nudibranch) and a sea slug. It was surprising that i managed to free dive with a 3 mm wet suit and no weights. 

The 2.15 pm boat took a long while to unload and departed late and hence our boat also got delayed. We reached San Pedro and after a short drive, we reached Amrish’s place at about 5.15 pm. That was it, our really long long weekend had ended. It was a very nice one too. 

 

More Pictures

Bhaniks’s Album

Rajesh’s Album

Rest haven’t uploaded their pics, My camera was in water proof case but it stopped working.

www.visitcatalinaisland.com For all information regarding Catalina, ofcourse you can always contact me as well.

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Jun 27 2008

Functionality and Features v/s Performance and Cost

Published by under General

This is a major issue in developing applications, what functionality and features do we require and they come at what expense. I usually like to things simple for the user and that generally means better performance and less cost. Ofcourse there are certain features those need to be implemented irrespective of the cost, performance has to be optimized for them. 

 

Here is an example of when i personally think that a feature is irrelevant, I had to implement a shopping cart in Flex and as soon as a product is added to the shopping cart its saved on the server as well. The idea behind this is that if the user doesn’t buy the product and returns to the site again he still has the product saved in the cart.

It just doesn’t make sense to me, making a server call every time product is added will increase the load tremendously, yes we need to make a server call when the product is removed as well. If the client logs in after a week or so and the product is no longer available, we need to handle it differently, is it worth the effort????? i would say NO. The end user i think doesn’t care if their cart information is saved, if i add something to cart then i will buy it right away. 

It might seem just a server call but on the server there is a call to the database, insertion, deletion etc, all those operations take up precious server time and resources. It doesn’t matter if its a call to webservice or a remote method the basic idea is the same. If the number of users increases then the load on the server will increase like crazy, every tiny bit of operation has to be optimized.

 

I would use a shared object to store the cart information as a compromise but then I am just getting paid to write the code, its not my problem to maintain the servers etc. I have presented my case to them and its their choice. 

 

Another scenario was when we wanted to save users favorites data on the server and were faced with the same problem. It just wouldn’t make sense to update that information every time user will add an item or delete something from favorites, it would literally kill the server. So we decided to store that information in memory on the client side and then send it out every 2 minutes, a reasonable compromise i would say.

 

So next time if you decide to add a feature it would be wise to consider the server performance, most of the times people can get away with it because the number of users are not that much and the server is heavy duty server with lots of RAM and CPU power. Only when the number of users increase exponentially and then people start to realize the importance of taking all these points into consideration. 

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