Thursday, September 14, 2006

Fantasies In My Fantastic Life.

Never in my school days I could afford to enjoy an excursion. In 9th class almost all my classmates went for an excursion, except a few like me. Cost 200 rupees. Hard times. I remember saying happy journey to my classmates in the tour bus.

This situation helped me by:
Not letting self-pity hurt me any time.
Making me know my limits and cope with the reality.
Of course, a desire to find myself enjoying this kind of missed things one day.
I believed I will be rewarded if I study well and I was a little lucky too.
Captain Ramanadha Reddy - photo courtesy: Aaraj

I was on a trip to the Washington state (not the city Washington DC) during the first four days of this month.
This tour, for me, is like a violent revenge for school days.
Why not? Definitely it was quite eventful.
A lot of diverse events and unforgettable experiences…

1. Flying [by Continental airlines flight] diagonally across the USA from down south-east (Houston) to the up north-west (Seattle). Mid summer in hot humid Houston to mid summer in super cool breezy Seattle, what a change!! Once again I got a window seat in the flight; third time. What ever it may be, I can still say: Sitting in flight is not at all comfortable (I do not know how it feels in business class).

2. Visiting the manufacturing unit of Boeing 777 aircrafts. This building is said to be the world’s largest building by volume. Its roof spans across 98 acres. They assemble the parts that make an aircraft before they paint and deliver to the customers. The guide said the next one in line is Boeing 787 series, with wings that can swing 34feet up and down like a birds'.

3. Watching Seattle city and its water bodies from the top of the famous spaceneedle photos: Ramu .

4. Ferrying to the Bainbridge Island. Here I was standing at the deck against the wind and watching the sea in amazement. There were people around me. I was almost in meditation. After some time only I remained there, probably because of the cold wind every body else moved back and stood close to each other. When I came back to this world I found myself standing alone and all other people standing at a distance.

5. The drive along the thick forest and lakes.

6. At a beautiful place photo: Aaraj I tasted the seawater for the first time. Though I did not drink the water it caused a stirring sensation in my stomach after some time. I was a little embarrassed when Harsha, Nandeesh, Arun and Aaraj came together with their cameras and asked me to stay there at the water. Click Click Click Clickphotos: Aaraj, Arun, Nandeesh and Harsha respectively.

7. Night halt in the remote Makah village photo: Ramu of less than 12 families; thanks a lot to the couple Aaraj and Smitha for finding a shelter in a such a calm and peaceful place. That night after 12 O clock (Sep-2), it was Aaraj’s birthday. Smitha, Arun and myself had to play hide and seek to get a cake and Roses into the car without letting Aaraj see it from a Wallmart store on the way. I doubt if we executed it properly. Just now asked him [yahoo chat], he said he had no idea of our plan and noticed nothing unusual on the way. We had a party that night in our shelter in Makah.

8. First glance of the cold Pacific Ocean and a rare sunset photo: Aaraj . Rare because the area would generally be foggy, Sun won’t be visible. According to official sources ;) only in mid summer the Sun appears for a few days and we were lucky to be there at the time.

9. The most thrilling moment of life that could have killed all six of us - we lost our way on a mountain cliff.

After watching the sunset we had a nice dinner at 10pm (grilled fresh salmon) and got back into the car. Aaraj had a GPS (global positioning system – communicating with satellite) that really helped us find roads and places in the city. Here as well we followed the GPS. It suggested short route to our Makah village. And we followed it. Highway to gravel-road. Gravel road to dusty road. The road worsened further.

Now we see grass in the middle of the road. Some green grass, some tall dry grass. Trusting the GPS we drove the car (7-seater) anticipating a better road after a two or three miles. But the grass hitting the bottom of the car is clearly audible after some distance. Now we can see small canal like streaks made by rain water flow in the middle of the road. It was a thrilling experience. We hope we are going to join a wonderful road soon.

Moving forward the road (it is no more a road, it was a trail way) was getting dampened. GPS is instructing tirelessly –“After 200 yards turn right and then turn left” etc., and we are moving. The car hit the ground making an absolutely unwanted sound. It did the same sound again after a minute. Every body looked at their mobile phones. No signal. Looking out side... no light. Thick forest. Thicker darkness. Said to have mountain-lions and bears.

Time 12:12am. Car shows the temperature outside 12 degree Celsius. All of us got the doubt: “Can we ever make it to home? Is there is any chance of survival?” I asked for the camera to capture the moment, but it was behind and Nandeesh was not willing to give it to me.

Car is slowly moving forward on the bad way. Hope. Even if we are struck we have plenty of water and a little food. Sufficient gas. Major threat can be from humans. We can be tamed by a single gun there. We came to a decision, to stop the car and make a decision.

Decision is made: “We have pushed the limits already. If we had to hear the engine hitting the ground one more time, we are dead. So try if we can turn the car around. We got down there. We found ourselves on cliff of a mountain, when is very next to the sea shore, and the other side thick forest. The way we are going now is definitely not for this car, it might be for the forest ranger’s vehicle.

We moved further till we find a place to turn the vehicle around. For a while Arun, Harsha, Nandeesh and myself got down and started walking in front of the car to avoid engine hitting the ground.

My thought was this: Car head-lights, four people, car making it's maximum sound possible on the rugged way. This is all new to bears and lions. They do not dare attack us. Even though we will be watchful. If needed we blow horn, make sounds to engage the beasts and we quickly get inside the car.

Came back all the way, jokes started flowing again. Hopes back on. As we saw the gravel road again, we all felt we survived. Reached the main road and reached home by 2am. I slept after reaching the main road. Arun was driving Harsha and Nandeesh were talking to him to keep him alert. They said on the way back to Makah village - 78 miles - they found no vehicle on the road except one guy on his bike.

10. Walking the trails in rain forest photo: Ramu , a place with regular 200 inch per annum rainfall. During Bi.P.C (intermediate). I studied about green plants having no roots photo: Ramu feed on moisture and nutrients in the air. They use the branches and trunks of large trees as their habitat, doing no harm to the host.I could see them all over the rain forest.

11. Came back to Makah village - Makah is a tribe that lives in the area - they have a culture. Got up early to capture the morning in my camera. The morning was pleasantly colorful.

12. First time I had a glance of the glacial hills from a distance - it is mid summer in this place. Wonderful vista photo: Ramu , of cascading blue mountains - the mountain blue slowly fading into white noon-light at the horizon. That was a bright noon not ideal to capture the scenes in camera. This place was on a high altitude; the drive up through the thick green mountain cliffs was a hearty experience. Third day evening out of the rain forest trail, we enjoyed the huge and tall treesAruns camera. photo: Aaraj., blue sky, fresh water streams photo: Ramu - From inside fast moving car - Only bottom-left is blurred , small rivers, canals and the pleasant sunlight contributing to the beauty of the place.

12. As we drove, the place slowly became dark and foggy. Till we saw a sign reading that there is a beach, we did not know we were close to the Pacific ocean.

13. Stopped the car at a place got down to hear the sea roaring. Went down close to the water but the fog was like a drizzle. Fog was so thick that we could not see clearly more than a few meters. This is the common daily situation at that place; the day before we were lucky to see the Sun set.

14. On the way where ever we got the mobile phone signal Aaraj and Smitha were trying to find a place for food and shelter for us. After making a lot of phone calls, we could find a restaurant to take rest for that night.

15. Final day we've been to the active volcano mount St.Helens. A few days back we happened to see a nice program on this mountain in National geographic channel.
Walked a six-mile trail there, in the noon. As we walk by the volcano gave a big puff of smoke photo: Ramu . Arun noticed it and showed it to me. I captured that moment in Harsha's camera. I was thrilled with the thought that there is hardly any chance to get out of there alive if it erupts now. It had erupted in 2004 last time. In 1980 it has erupted for the first time changing the landscape and destroying 1,50,000 acres of forest. The volcanic debris was thrown 15 miles into the air; an information board at the place says this. NGC says the power is equal to 500 Hiroshima atom bombs. Driving to the place we saw a board reading there is a helicopter ride over the volcano.

When I was less than 8 years old, once my father and myself went to Rayachoty - a town 18 km away from my village Veeraballi. People were gathering at govt college grounds (now I know that it is govt college). My father also rushed there. We made way to see a helicopter.It was ready to take off. Once its fans gained speed the area was filled with dust. Rayachoty is The dusty place. My father closed my eyes. After some time I opened my eyes the helicopter was in the air. I could see it in a cucumber size flying away getting small. That was a big wonder to me. I felt great to see it on the land. Then we had a fun time removing the broomstick pricks from our clothes and dust from our hair.

When I was even smaller in Bhattupalli one winter morning I was in the kitchen near charcoal fire next to my mother. It was warm and comfortable there. We heard a sound from outside. I thought it was a tractor sound. The sound grew louder. Gopi and I still believed that it was a tractor. My father announced that its helicopter. The next moment we are out of house to see it fly by at a lower altitude. Cucumber size – it makes a lot of sound. That is a wonder in that village.

"Aaaha, helicopter ride was my childhood fantasy photo: Arun , I should never let this chance go by", I said to myself. Smitha, Aaraj, Harsha and me enjoyed the ride. That was a wonderful experience. I got the video of the place from helicopter - the video is good, ...think I did a good job. Before we entered the helicopter we are told not to extend any object out of the window, but I had to hold my camera a little outside for better view, the wind was so powerful outside, I felt it will take the camera away from my hand. We could see the solidified lava, the lakes formed by the eruption, ash on the water. And my first helicopter ride was the last event before we drove back to Seattle to fly back to Houston.

16. Scenic drives photo: Aaraj through out the thick rain forest, hills and streams; its a dream world.

17. Flying across the USA from Seattle back to Houston, I got a window seat again.

These are the kind of days I've been longing for all my life. Spending the money I earn without any obligations. Of course saving is definitely important. There is a thin line between saving money for future and spending it for the present life. Where to draw that line, is probably a personal decision. These words would make my father worry about my future :)

Some one asked me: Hi Ramu, how is life?
I said: Life is still fantastic man, I need some change.

My favorite quote: Struggle is the glory.

For one of my previous posts I got an anonymous comment: "God bless you!"
I thank my wellwisher. Hmmm.... Ok, god bless me!! :) I suggest him bless everybody. I suggest him to give peace to all the people in the world so that CNN would focus on other developments in the world, not just Afghanisthan, Iraq and USA :) I am bored to see CNN programs on terror hours together.