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Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Lost in a Thailand Forest for 3 Days: The Adventures of Neeraj Narayanan

But how can you expect me to just stay in this #$#$@ forest”, I raged.

He walked over to the jeep and the next moment he had driven off, leaving me alone in the middle of the jungle. In the background stood five wild elephants. I was stranded and there wasn’t a human around, for miles.

I seem to have a knack of getting into ridiculous situations...

It all started when I signed up for a three day jungle tour in the forested highlands of North Thailand. It was still just day eight of my South East Asia solo trip and I was now in Chiang Mai – a pretty town where you do nothing much besides walking along the canals, drinking at the pub, riding a bike to the nearby town of Pai and doing nothing there as well.

I, of course, was raring for some adventure and thought I had found a bit of that in my three day jungle itinerary. It did look promising. Hiking to a waterfalls, and then rafting - on day one. Trekking deeper into the forest on day two and staying overnight in a tribal village. And rock climbing on day three before returning to Chiang Mai in the evening.

Earlier that fateful morning, I bounded to the jeep waiting outside my hostel. Besides me, there were six others. In the three hours that it took to leave the town and reach the forest, we were laughing, talking and had bonded a lot.

The sun was beating down on us, when we began the trek. We were all in our vests and shorts and walked under the trees as much as possible. A shallow stream kept us company as we hiked to the waterfall. 

The water was deliciously cold and we played about for a while.

It was when we were headed to the rafting point when I first got to know that I was the only one in the group who had signed up for a three day tour. Everyone else was part of the one day jungle tour. Puzzled, I asked the driver what I was supposed to do when the rest would leave.

We are going to leave you at a deserted elephant camp”, he informed me and chuckled. I laughed with him and reminded myself that Thai guides had a good sense of humour. If only I knew then that he was speaking the truth.

We divided ourselves into two teams and jumped into the rafts. The water was extremely shallow but we had a fun time, flicking water on the other boats and singing songs.
We then headed back to our jeep and half an hour later, we were at a deserted camp. In this non touristy season, there were no workers at the camp. I could see a couple of makeshift huts and the driver asked me to alight from the vehicle.

When he told me that I was to stay there while the rest returned to the city, I exploded.

Nobody else signed up today for the three day jungle tour, so you will have to stay here by yourself tonight.”

What if no one comes to pick me up tomorrow?”

Even if no one comes tomorrow, at the end of these three days you will be picked up. Don’t worry, a villager will come and make lunch and dinner for you every day.”
You think I care about someone cooking food in this jungle. How can the agency just leave me here, I don’t get it.”

He looked equally helpless. When he insisted that he was just the driver and was only following instructions, I did not even know how to react.

Somebody will come to pick you up tomorrow”, he insisted.

 I wonder what made me stop protesting. Maybe I wanted to believe him. My silence emboldened him to turn and make for the jeep. My friends just stared at me from the back of the vehicle. The next moment he had driven off, leaving me alone in the middle of the jungle. In the background stood five wild elephants, in a stable of sorts. I was stranded and there wasn’t a human around, for miles.

It was five thirty pm. I was still seething but decided to explore my neighbourhood. In half an hour, it became dark. So I walked across to my hut. Inside, there was a mattress, a mosquito net, and a single bulb. No fan. No window. I flopped on the mattress and stared at the ceiling. What I had imagined as an ideal day just hours before, was now turning out to be quite a disaster. I raised my head when I heard a sound from the stream.

A man was bent over the water, at the banks. I hurried to him and tried talking. His English was very basic and he told me he would be cooking for me. He caught a few fish and disappeared into a makeshift kitchen. Soon he came back with a large bowl of rice, a bowl of fried fish and some vegetable. Before I could even raise my head and thank him, he vanished into the jungle. I have a feeling he wanted to get to his village before it became even darker. One doesn’t know what animals lurk in these jungles.
I have had all kinds of food across the world, and I have always been very non fussy about what I eat. But what he cooked was very inedible. 

After finishing whatever I could, I returned to my hut. Of course there was no phone network or internet. There was nothing to do, so I took out my iPad and started writing about the emotions that were running inside me. From time to time, I thought I could hear something, and whenever I did, I shut off the light and listened intently.  My fear had now given way to excitement though. I was still a little unnerved but a part of me told me this was a great adventure and I could feel a familiar excitement run inside.

From time to time, the elephants trumpeted. Maybe they were dreaming. Somewhere around three or four am, I dozed off too.

I woke up the next morning,on hearing some human voices. I rushed outside to see my cook and three other men. “Mahouts, sir” he told me in his funny accent. “From Burma.”
Excellent. I did not know any Thai in the first place. And the three men who now grace my abode turn out to be Burmese and don’t know a single word of English. 

As usual, my cook disappeared like clockwork the moment he had made a meal for me. He had earlier told me that the mahouts came daily for two hours to feed the elephants and bathe them. In high season, they would take tourists on the back of these elephants to the river and the fields.

I followed the mahouts to the elephants’ stable. Though I did not understand a word of what they said to each other, I really wanted to learn how to deal with elephants. They noticed my eagerness and laughed. One by one, they clambered onto the backs of the elephants, not from some high perch, but by clambering up the trunk. The youngest guy then signaled me to climb onto the fourth elephant’s back. I tried and slipped and fell on my bum. I was also worried that my antics might irritate the elephant. She was a venerable old lady and I was not sure if she would take kindly to be mounted without first being properly courted.

What’s her name?” I barked.
Lhoti”, the youngest man replied.

I looked at Lhoti, the beautiful animal, and held her trunk and cooed to her. There was so much in her eyes. Slowly, she sat down and I clambered on top. The mahouts cheered as she stood again, with the Indian boy on top.

Slowly in line, we lumbered towards the river. For those who do not know, an elephant’s skin is not soft at all. It is in fact extremely tough and coarse. And the tiny hair that sprout from its skin are extremely porky. They almost feel like thorns.

The river was down a three metre slope and as Lhoti descended awkwardly, I slipped down her head. My cries did not seem to have any impact on her and I went almost halfway down her trunk before I somehow managed to stop my slide.

The stream was not more than twenty feet in width. On both banks were bamboo trees and the elephants went straight for them. It is during those moments I realized how insignificant my weight was to an adult elephant. As Lhoti splashed her way to the bamboo trees, and tore down the branches, I had to crouch, almost lie flat on her to avoid being hit by the bamboo.

And so we continued, from one bamboo tree to another, the elephants enjoying their time, me swerving and diving and lying flat and almost falling off, and the mahouts laughing at my expense.

When they had their fill, the elephants went to the middle of the stream. The mahouts slid down and started throwing water on their backs. This was the part I was waiting for and I too splashed water on my lady. She eyed me for a bit, and then suddenly out of nowhere, filled her trunk with water and sprayed me. I looked at her in shock, and I can swear there was a twinkle in her eye.

The mahouts had scrubbing brushes with them and they rubbed it on the elephants’ backs with gusto. The elephants seemed to love it. I scrubbed Lhoti with my hands, and every time I heard one of the men shout something in Burmese, I would repeat the same to Lhoti. Whenever she got bored, she would spray me and though I wanted to whack her for doing so, common sense told me not to be over friendly.

Later the mahouts led them back through the fields to the stable, and left. I wondered how far their village was, and if they would take me with them. But I chose to stay put in my hut. I knew they would return the next day.

The three days in that jungle in the highlands of Chiang Mai passed just like that. In the mornings, the mahouts would come and we would take the elephants to the river. They would feed and bathe there. Later, when the Burmese men left, I would sit a little away from the elephants’ stable and write for a bit. Towards five pm, the Thai man would come and cook for me. And every day I learned a little bit more about what Lhoti liked. Or did not.

On the third day, a jeep did come to my camp. It had a new group of tourists and they all came to ride the elephants. It made me a little angry to see the mahouts put howdahs on the elephants and the tourists sit on the howdahs, but I kept quiet. Lhoti, however, rode without a howdah. She had me on top, you know.

I returned to Chiang Mai that evening. I had earlier wanted to go and scream at the guys in the travel agency, but I did not. To be honest, the experience at the camp, alone in the middle of a jungle, with those elephants, felt like the most special experience of my life.

It still is.

Hopefully, Lhoti will still be there when I return. And maybe she will not have forgotten me.

Monday, April 20, 2015

This Guy and his Mad Brand

Travel pages and blogs usually have certain words in their names. Either they will be Nomadic in their names, or they will be Wandering. They often have Itchy Feet or Dirty Shoes. They will be Gypsies, Adventure Junkies and Travellers.

So when I was lying on my back and staring at the ceiling for hours, thinking of a name (well most of the time I was just dozing away to glory), I knew that none of these clichéd words would be part of my page’s name. Heh, I can’t imagine taking myself so seriously.

And that is why, when I thought of the name “This Guy’s On His Own Trip”, I chuckled. Also because my cousin’s dog had just licked my ear but let’s just assume that I chuckled because it was a sparkling discovery. The name, not the dog discovering my ear.

One of the first banners that was designed for the page was by using a picture where I was looking down a cliff road in Bhutan. Antara, best friend and designer for everything done for my brand, came up with a stellar “jigsaw puzzle” concept. I like to think of it as This Guy’s looking on from a mountain at the future. He has quit his job, he is travelling, he has no idea what the future holds (that’s why the jigsaw isn’t complete). Everything is out there though and it is possible to piece together what you want from life.

Today, the name makes even more sense than that day. Back then it was just a page, and I had not thought of organizing trips. But six months after that naming ceremony, I actually started leading my own trips and showing people the world my style.

A man must have a business card, eh! For some unknown, strange reason Antara refused to put any of “World Saver”, “Magician”, “Adventurer by day, Zorro by night” as my job title. It would have been so cool to flip out a card and pass it over the table to the General Manager of Pepsi or some similar corporate and watch his face as he read “World Saver” on my card. But Antara denied the world such joys. Go throw paint on her!

We finally agreed on “Adventurer”.  The logo is of a guy with a backpack. Recently in Paro, a tripper Anbu, who’s claim to fame is (no, coming on my trip isn’t the thing he lists as his greatest accomplishment in life, sadly) telling businesses how to brand themselves, suggested that I could have a Bandana for my logo.

In 2035, when it will become mandatory for every human being to wear a bandana to school, college and office, you will know who started this beautiful fashion trend. This Guy.

It surprises me to see the clichéd, conditioned manner in which people work or do things. In the travel industry, all itineraries look just the same, all the banners look just the same. A package to Thailand will in all probability have an image of a long tail boat in Phuket; a package to Vietnam will have a person in the traditional Vietnamese hat rowing a boat in the Mekong Delta, a France package will have the Eiffel Tower standing tall.

Aww le travel companies, at least try and think a little?

It is not just in the banners. The text describing the itinerary is as entertaining as watching a full length golf game on television. They are all taking people, in their text, from one sightseeing point to another.

But we can’t just take people from one place to another, eh! How boring is that! The romance lies in the journey, my friend. And so, in the itineraries and in the real world, Captain Nero will herd his troops, err trippers and they shall all sit in a private mini bus that vrooms along mountain roads. When we see a waterfall, hark we will but of course jump down and play in it. Because cockiness is the new sexy, we won’t shy from writing in our itineraries that the guide will pull you into the water. Because cockiness will continue to be sexy, in the itinerary we will also put up photographs of  people being picked up bodily.

When I was going to do my first group trip, Antara and I were discussing T shirts for the brand. Just having a logo and the brand name wouldn't cut it. Oh dear, I just realized going minimalist is not my thing.

 I wanted to have this guy think he is all cool because he is going to different corners in the world. But he is to fall into predicaments that completely take away his coolness.  For instance, one idea was to show a series of tall Himalayan peaks and this guy standing at the top of one. He looks bemused though, because although he was supposed to be climbing Everest, the poor blighter has gone up another mountain by mistake. A small board on another peak yonder screams “Mount Everest”. Another idea was to show this guy in a scuba gear in the depths of the ocean but with a slight "uh oh" expression on his face, as a shark looks at him with a raised eyebrow.

We finally printed a t shirt, dedicating it to the Pamplona Bull Run, where all my adventures had officially started in June 2013. On the tee, we put this massive ferocious bull chasing down this terrified guy running for his life. Think we should have added some biceps to him though. And maybe a dimple. And made him look a little less idiotic.

I guess I want to work the way I want to lead life. Tell stories, do things differently, inspire people to see the world, care for the environment, be seen as an object of affection, trust, be irreverent, joke and laugh. Make fun of people and myself. Not take life or myself too seriously.

This Guy’s On His Own Trip, after all.

As said C.Joybell.C, “I have come to accept the feeling of not knowing where I am going. And I have trained myself to love it. Because it is only when we are suspended in mid-air with no landing in sight, that we force our wings to unravel and alas begin our flight. And as we fly, we still may not know where we are going to. But the miracle is in the unfolding of the wings. You may not know where you're going, but you know that so long as you spread your wings, the winds will carry you.”

If only all of us were judged by the amount we could make others laugh or smile.

Leaving with you a few banners of the latest trips.


Now Read:

1) Confessions of a Travel Guide
2) How I Met a Bear and Got Chased By It In Croatia
3) Nero Goes Deep Sea Soloing

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Confessions of a Travel Guide

Often I get people asking me if they can join me in what I am doing, if I need someone to lead trips along with me.

Often I wonder, if I have to scale and get bigger, I might need to hire a few people to lead parallel trips. Someone to lead a trip to Bhutan when I am doing Ladakh, someone to do Vietnam if I am doing Europe.

But there is so much that goes into being a good trip leader that no job CV will ever cover. What you see on Facebook, the pictures, they hardly tell the complete story. And this post is just about that, about the kind of person that would make for a worthy trip leader. Not just about him knowing which hotels to book, and what all to show people in that city or country, but a lot more than that.

1)      A good trip leader needs to be a people’s person:  If you aren’t, this job is not for you at all. In every trip of mine, there are 12-16 people and it is but obvious that they will have different personalities. There will always be some people who are extroverts and will mingle immediately and be absolutely comfortable. And there will always be people who are quieter, who will take their time to open up. It is important that a trip leader recognize different personalities, and ideally should not take more than a day to do so. Being perceptive is the key here.

It is important to identify the ones who are more reserved. He will know soon if they are comfortable in their silences, or if they find it hard to be part of conversations with strangers. And subtly he will, in his own way, tease them, or bring them to notice, and include them in conversations with the group, especially if they have come all by themselves for the trip and not with their friends. Making everyone comfortable is the first priority once a trip starts.

2)      Forging friendships: They say “don’t mix business with pleasure”. Well, I never much cared for management maxims. Making friends is what I have done and what I will do, in life, in trips, everywhere. But then on the trips there will always be people you find easier to become friends with than with some others. It is basic human nature. But as a trip leader it becomes my responsibility to talk to everyone, and to create situations in which everyone finds new friends. 

When you are with friends, they will help you out unconditionally. I feel I am extremely lucky that I have had so many people help me out in everything. In our last trip to Bhutan, this guy Sagoo would be the first to climb onto the bus’ roof and pass down the luggage. Then I remember way back on my first trip, everyone was at a Karaoke bar and having fun and realizing they did not serve any food, I stepped out at ten in the night to find a restaurant that had not shut. Varun and Antara,  followed me even without me asking and together we roamed around for twenty minutes before finding one place that was open and sitting there together for half an hour while the food was being made and later packed. They needn’t have sat there with me, and could have gone and had their fun at the bar but they did because we are friends.

3)      A trip leader needs to be a little mad, he should be a character. The group must look up to him for inspiration. We live in a world which has conditioned us so much, especially here in India. We have always learned to play it safe. I find it amazing that a lot of people will just look at a waterfall and not bound towards it the moment they see it. I find it perplexing that if you see a steep hillock, your not thinking of finding  a way to get on top of that bloody rock. If people ask me why must we get wet in a waterfall or risk banging our knee while climbing, my answer always is “Because when else will you do it” . We can’t always be playing safe, for crying out loud.

The world loves characters. And if you are a trip leader running up a mountain or stopping the bus and jumping out because you saw a river or a yak or a meadow you wanted to run in, chances are your group will follow you – to laugh at you, or to run with you, to liberate themselves or to just be part of that entire infectiousness.

And that, my friend, is how your trip is separated from most others.

4)      You must know how much to lead, and how much to let go:  Everyone else, besides you is on holiday. But they will want to do their own thing and it is right for them to want to do so. You need to know when to lead from the front, and when from the back, and most importantly when to just give everyone their space.  You can’t let things go haywire; if there is a schedule for a day, you need to make sure people get ready in time in the morning. But if you are at a place and see people enjoying and wanting to spend more time there, you need to be flexible enough and let them enjoy that space. 

I have often had people ask if it will be a problem if can just go sit on a hill a little far away, by themselves. Especially women. In the unequal world we stay in, I guess they feel the need for liberation a lot more than us men. I could never say no to someone wanting to sit on a hill by themselves and just stare at the valley. They shall find their way, and they shall find their way back, and we can wait.

5)      Sensitivity will always take you far in life. If not in life, well in the hearts of some at least.

It does not matter if you are just nice to the people who paid to come on your trips. It also matters how you are with everyone you met in that place. Can you, after a whole day’s excursion, when you are sitting at the back of the bus, realize something and walk to the front and wipe the front window screen when there is rain or will you let the driver do it all by himself?  Can you help your man to unload the luggage from the bus’ roof or does it not matter?  Can we rub a dog’s back, tell people lightly to not litter, put your arm around the driver and treat him like a friend, in the same breath?

We needn’t. We will still get paid for the trip. But you win far more in connecting your soul to someone else’s – be it an animal’s or a man’s. Money will take you places, but your soul will tell the world who you are.

And no MBA college will teach you that.

Or so said This Guy On His Own Trip. 

Sunday, March 8, 2015

Five Reasons You Should Go To Kashmir With This Guy's On His Own Trip

Kashmir is the fourth group tour I am doing in 2015, and it comes quickly on the heels of an Agra-Rajasthan trip I am doing for a group of Europeans in the first week of April.

By the time we leave on April 11 for Srinagar, I'd have already taken 125 people on 10 trips across Bhutan, Ladakh, Sikkim, Meghalaya, Bali, Vietnam and Cambodia.

What haven't we done in the last ten months! In Bali, we climbed an active volcano. In Vietnam, one of the days we stayed on a luxury cruise in Halong Bay. In Sikkim, we sat in front of India's second highest lake, the Tibet border just a stone throw away. In Ladakh, we played and pelted each other with snow. And in Rajasthan, we saw culture and a thousand colours - in houses, in clothes and in food.

I guess what will still remain most strongly imprinted in my mind are the people who came along, their laughter and chatter, the conversations around the bonfires, the sitting together in one room every night, everyone running and huddling when a picture was being taken, everyone going silent when they were overwhelmed by nature. The hills, the mountains and the rivers have so many stories of our trips. 

After all, this is not a regular travel agency organized trip. 

And now, we are going to Kashmir, which along with the Andamans is my favourite place in India. But how does one even start describing Kashmir! It is but one of those few, rare places that can inspire a poet as much an adventurer,

But still, let me try give you five reasons why you should come on this sojourn with This Guy's On His Own Trip.

1) We are going to ride the world's highest cable car

Gulmarg, literally meaning 'the meadow of flowers', is spectacularly scenic. But that is not enough. We are going to take the world's highest gondola all the way up Apharwat Peak. The 4000 metre high mountain is very close to the India Pakistan Line of Control. At the top, the snow is fresh, soft and spotlessly white and lets see who makes the best snowman, eh!

More than 700 out of 925 reviews on Tripadvisor rate this as "excellent" or "very good". Read about it here.

2) The scenery enroute to the various towns will make your heart sing

But you will want to always have the window seat. And as our mini bus moves along merrily from Srinagar to Sonamarg to Pahalgam to Gulmarg, every day we shall pass by green meadows and tall mountains, lazy horses grazing in the pastures, apple orchards, Chinar trees with massive trunks, flowers growing wildly, and icy streams. Often we shall stop, wherever we feel like, to run to the streams, to stop by a dhaba and have hot chai and pakoras, to steal a few apples. But what is a man who never knew how to love nature.

3) We are going to the stunningly pretty Betaab Valley

Named such after some scenes from the movie 'Betaab' were shot there, this valley (about 15 kms from Pahalgam) is gorgeous with its manicured lawns, a crystal clear stream and the towering mountains in the background. It is easy to mistake this place for a Swiss alpine village. Besides Betaab Valley, during our time at Pahalgam, we shall also be visiting Chandanwadi - a beautiful mountain which has come into prominence for being the last motorable point for trekkers going to Amarnath,

4) Living in a Houseboat on the Dal Lake

One night in Srinagar, we will stay in a pretty houseboat on the famous Dal Lake. We shall also ride a shikara around this huge lake and do feel free to do a Shammi Kapoor if you spot your Kashmir Ki Kali. If that reference is too ancient for you, go ahead and be an Anushka Sharma of the Dal. I for one shall not complain.

Just don't fall into the water. 

5) The USP of the trip lies in the way we go about it and the people that come for it

A number of people who haven't been on one of these trips before feel that maybe group trips aren't their cup of tea. That they aren't sure about what kind of people come for the trips. And that is where communication plays such an important role. Earlier I used to think I was extremely lucky that I was always getting people who were enthusiastic, who were non fussy, who were not looking to just do point to point sightseeing, but were looking for a lot more and who could hold their own end in a conversation. Most of them aren't hardcore adventurers but people who are ready to be enchanted by nature, by new cultures and by the thought of chasing butterflies.

But over time I realized that it is not just luck, I think it is the kind of communication about the trip event on Facebook and the blog that attracts people with a certain bent of mind. And I am glad to have that set travelling with me. 

What we don't know is that people often find it easier to open up with strangers than with close ones back home. A number of people who came as strangers to each other end up becoming good friends and it makes me grin to see them planning their own trips together.

Unlike other travel agencies, these trips don't have people from a lot of different age groups. Though there is no fixed rule, almost eighty to ninety percent of the people coming have been between 26-35.

I am a solo traveller myself, so rigid plans and itineraries don't do much for me. We stop where we want, we spend more time in the places that we like, and the idea is to absorb moments in these places instead of trying to cover every single point.

Heh, ten trips, 125 people later, I am yet to meet someone who did not feel sad the day they were leaving back. 

Want to Join Us?

Trip details link: Here

Trip Dates: April 11-17
Fly in and out of: Srinagar
Trip cost: Rs 23,000 for 7 nights per person (not counting flight tickets)
Group Size: 10-14 people
Seats booked already: 6

If you want to join us or receive the trip itinerary, please contact me: narayanan,

Now Read:

1) Nero's 2014 group trip to Bali
2) Nero goes to Spain
3) Nero Backpacks through South East Asia

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Wonders of the World: Christmas Island!

Photo posts have never really been my thing,but then we must always try and remain flexible.

The story is from the fascinating Christmas Islands - a tropical island lying about 36 kms south of Indonesia (Java). Two thirds of this Island is national park, and the majestic rainforests, the bountiful marine life, the stunning seascapes, and the presence of  large number of endangered species of animals on this island makes this Australian territory a haven for nature lovers.

Again, birdwatchers would love this island as this is one of the world's most magnificent sea bird breeding sites. Around 80,000 birds nest on this 135 square kilometre area island every year, and you see and hear birds just about any time of the day. The evergreen forests here are the world's last nesting habit for the endangered seabird Abbot's Booby, besides also being home to the Emerald Dove, Imperial Pigeon and Glossy Swiftlet all of which are endemic to the island.

But Christmas Island is most famous for something else - the unique red crabs and their spectacular annual migration from rainforest to the sea. And it is that picture story, moi shall be sharing with you.

Tens of millions of red crabs live on Christmas Island and are the region's keystone species. Every year when the wet season starts (between October and November) the adult crabs embark on a remarkable migration from forest to the sea, to breed.

This natural 'travel' attracts both national and international visitors. During the peak season, it is possible to walk among thousands and thousands of crabs as they journey to the coast.

Every year, many crabs also get killed (mostly accidentally) while crossing over roads, human habitats etc. As a result, the island has come up with a series of plans that would help the crabs cross safely, and constant efforts are being made to improve the same.

The picture (above) is of an underground crossing built for the red crabs to pass through.

The picture (below) is a "pavement" built only for the red crabs' migration.

There are signboards placed all over the island, to ward off, warn, inform and sensitize people about this species.

It is wonderful to see, how the people care about other species on their land, and are willing and enthusiastic about going to difficult lengths to protect the species.

This is a wonderful picture of two girls on their bicycles, stopping, pedalling, stopping again, because they want to make sure they don't hurt the crabs.

Once the crabs have reached the coast, they start breeding. If you are lucky enough, you might even see some of the female crabs releasing the eggs.

Some of the best spots to see the breeding is near the blowholes, along the southern coast of the island. The Blowholes are holes in the ground where air and seawater are blown out due to waves crashing into caves in the the bottom of the cliffs. Depending on wave conditions, the water and trapped air in the caves are forced out from the holes formed at the top of the cliff caves, leading to spectacular plumes of water thrown up into the air. It is another attraction that Christmas Island is quite popular for.

So that's it for today. If you can, do visit Christmas Island some day for its magnificent migration, the teeming wildlife, the beautiful sea and marine life. If you do go there, make sure that you do not hurt the crabs at all.

Getting here: You can fly into Christmas Island via Perth, Australia. There are 4 flights every week from Perth to this Island (Virgin Airlines).

Leaving you with one of my favourite pictures of the island.

You can also read:

1) The Day I Ran With The Bulls
2) How I Met A Bear And Got Chased By It In Croatia
3) Nero goes deep sea soloing: Scariest Adventure Of My Life

Monday, February 2, 2015

Vitaliy Raskalov: World's Most Adventurous Photographer: (This Guy's On His Own Trip Series)

Top post on, the community of Indian Bloggers

It’s a blisteringly cold day in Moscow. The five men have been standing behind the building for two hours now. From time to time, one man steps up to click a picture. Decembers are cold in Russia and not many people are on the streets. Nobody notices this group. The building, Mercury City, is an imposing structure. It must be, for once its construction is complete, it shall be known as the tallest building in Europe.

Later, they are deep in discussion. It will be tough to enter the building. It has a multi-level security system. There are cameras and motion detectors on every floor and security guards man the building twenty four hours.

The biggest hurdle is to avoid being seen by the construction workers.”

The workers here are as good as any security team. If they catch anyone entering the premises illegally, they will beat them to pulp.

The group has been watching the building for weeks, mapping the cameras’ blind spots, working out the guards’ walking paths.

The still unfinished Mercury City office is about 1100 feet high but that’s not all that Vitaliy Raskalov and his group are aiming to ascend. What they want to scale is the wobbling apex of the building’s spire - the top of a construction crane rising high from the roof, 1214 feet from the earth. It is called Skywalking – the pursuit of scaling high structures without any proper safety equipment.

So far does the crane jut into the atmosphere, that halfway up, it’s shrouded in the clouds and covered with ice. At this height, the winds are powerful enough to blow a man away.

The next day, the group is ready to conquer Europe’s tallest building. They will enter at 1130 am, during the guards’ switch over. They have exactly five minutes to steal themselves in, before a new set of workers come in.

They enter as construction workers, hide and steal their way up. By the time they reach the base of the crane, two men decide to pull out of the last climb and instead base jump off the building. Vitaliy, Alexander and a third accomplice keep climbing. The ice on the crane stings their hands, the wind bites into their faces and tries its hardest to dislodge them and throw them to certain death.
These adventurers’ objective is not just to scale the building without using safety equipment. They are also to click photographs from such terrifying angles that would send shivers down the spines of anyone looking at these snaps. Or make us marvel.

They reach the summit. From the top, all that Vitaliy can see below are clouds and the ice caked crane. The wind is whistling in his ear, and he can’t make sense of his friends screaming. He grips on to the crane tightly with one hand and pumps the other fist.

This isn’t the first or the last building that Vitaliy Raskalov and Alexander Remnev will scale in this outrageous manner. These two fellows have already clicked photographs standing on a precarious plank on the top of the Russian Academy of Sciences; and scaled a turret on top of the Kiev railway station, again to capture mind-blowing panoramic shots. The police caught them earlier for climbing the 1,000-foot-high Russky Island Bridge.

Skywalking has become a fad, a rage in Russia and more and more young men and women are trying this extremely dangerous sport, pushing themselves to scale terrifyingly high and steep buildings, without much advance thought to the possible consequences.

The question is, should such a sport exist? Should we celebrate the achievements of a Vitaliy and an Alexander, men who take fantastic photographs from unbelievable angles but put their lives in danger to do so. Should we celebrate these brave men knowing that doing so might make them mini celebrities and an example for others to follow. To risk their lives. Even if only one person dies trying to do what Vitaliy has done, could his or her family ever recover from such a loss.

Alternatively, should we condemn Vitaliy for breaking the law and rules, for being a misfit, for putting others’ life at stake besides his own.

It is difficult to take a side. Hard to criticize him when what he does is so aesthetically pleasing. Make no mistake, the world will always love a misfit, love the reckless, love one who will not care for his life to pursue something that is beautiful. So what should we do?

The point is, that the world needs a Vitaliy Raskalov, and an Alexander Remenov. The world needs mavericks as much as it needs sensible and practical men. It needs an adventurer as much as it needs a engineer. It needs a Michael Angelo as much as it needs an Einstein, a Sherlock as much as a Madam Curie. We do need a Don Quixote in pursuit of his ladylove Dulcinea. The world needs its Robin Hood.

With his photographs, Vitaliy brings sport and art together. He might be breaking laws, but he is also a genius. He might be causing a lot of people unrest, but he is doing what very few men or women have the courage to attempt. This man has the power to make us gasp, overwhelmingly so, and that quality is rare.

We live in a relatively boring age. The age of discovery and exploration have long left us. Scott, Shackleton, Hillary, those courageous men who stepped into the unknown, travelled over sea for months at a stretch, trudged on ice through storms, risked their lives, and helped mankind chart new borders in science and geography have now become chapters of history.

We live in a century where we spend more time on a computer than being out there.  Vitaliy goes beyond all that and more.

This Guy's Definitely On His Own Trip.

A few months back, Vitaliy Raskalov and Alexander Remenov waited for visiting hours to be over before climbing the Great Pyramids of Giza and after a short spell of taking in the magnificent surroundings, they took some spectacular photographs. Of course we should be furious, for it is a world heritage monument, possibly the most famous in the world, and it deserves a little more respect.

Tutankhamen might not mind it too much though.  Enjoy the images.