Off to Las Velas by Kartik Krishnamoorthy

Velas wow

It all started 2 weeks ago. A friend of mine and me were having a certain fermented grain mash drink and enjoying the best homemade mutter paneer that the world could make, when suddenly my friend remembers something.

Friend: DUDE! There is this awesome trip organized by TreksandTrails to this place called Velas in Ratnagiri, where the annual Turtle fest would be happening! It’s going to be so awesome! The Olive Ridley Turtles get to see land only during this time!! All the eggs laid on the beach are collected and placed in a common hatchery which is barricaded from all sides and is guarded throughout the day. Each morning at 0700 and evening at 1730-1800 the baskets covering the lid are open to check if any turtles have hatched, if they have they are counted and carefully laid in another basket and taken closer to the water. They are then gently placed on the sand and they slowly make their way to the water. Their first baby steps are not only endearing to watch but also important if it is a female, as she records in her memory the site of her birth only to return here after 15 years to lay her eggs!! There’s going to be lots of people in the group! I’m going, are you game?

What I heard: DUDE…. awesome trip…. TreksandTrails……………Lots of people! (The grain mash did have its effect of course)

Having worked in the corporate world and mastered the art of the ultimate survival kit, I realized that the last word was the strategic word I needed to make my move.

Me: RIGHT ON DUDE!! CHEERS! LET’S GO GO GO!!

And thus started the trip to the Turtle festival!

not to be this time either

We now go to Friday evening, when the bus would pick us up from selected places within Mumbai before going to the destination, about 4 hours away from Mumbai. The bus was scheduled to reach Dadar at 11 PM. I had packed up my bag and with full enthu walked the way from my home to the pickup point, where I met up with the Leader of the Group, his wife and their cutest, sweetest little daughter.

Others in the group started coming in a bit later. I took this opportunity to introduce myself to them, you know, to get to lighten up the mood, and to get to know a few of the chicks (yeah all us men are alike! :P)

Me: Hey! I’m Kartik.

She: Hi… I’m xyz… (and goes back to looking at her mobile phone frantically moving those opposable thumbs in a quick typing motion)

Me: ummmmm…… (looking around. Find another guy in the Group)

He: Hey. I’m abc (and goes back to looking at his mobile phone frantically moving those opposable thumbs in a quick typing motion)

Me: (Thinking the world has been taken over by smartphones. There is no need for aliens to come here to take over the world. Smart phones have already done that!)

Meanwhile, I keep getting a whole lot of messages on my smart phone. I look it up to see what all the activity was going on, only to find that the Velas Whatsapp Group was full of activity!

An excerpt from the same is given below

Guy 1: Reaching place in 2 minutes

(after 2 seconds)

Guy 1: Reaching place in 1 minute

Gal 1: Bus has reached Goregaon

(Picture of some mall posted)

Guy 2: GUYS BUS GOING TOO FAST! IM JUST OUT OF MY HOUSE… please don’t mind if I’m late.

xyz: I am here at Dadar now. (AHHA so THAT’s what she was doing!)

Guy 1: Reaching place in 2 seconds

Guy 1: Reached

Guy 1: In bus

Guy 1: Bus started from Goregaon, reaching Bisleri in 5 mins

……

I now understood why everyone around me was so engrossed in their phones, and I went back to listening to the radio. Finally, in sometime the bus came, and we were all in! Only 2 more stops and we were on our way! W00T!

Me, being the smart one, thought “I might as well sit in the back, so that when my friend comes we can sit together and then talk and what not!”. So I ran in first into the bus and went directly to the back and took a seat. Oh, how I would regret having done that.

If you are taking the bus to the place, please take with you some padding for your bum. You would really need it during the bus ride to the place. The route was a rollercoaster of a ride! There were so many bumps and speed breakers that you could not shut your eye for even half a minute before you were thrown to orbit. Add to it the bus going at full speed, and my pathway to the moon was only blocked by the ceiling of the bus.

We reached Velas at 6.30 in the morning, next day. The plan was to go to the rooms given to us, freshen up and then go to the beach for the first attempt at seeing the hatchings. But, as you would know, nothing happens on time over here. If we say 6 AM, we actually mean 6.30-6.45 ish. This meant that we had to get out of the bus, all dreary eyed and walk past some mangroves to the beach to get to the enclosure where the turtles were being hatched.

And I was astounded by the scenery of the beach. The mountains to the north and south, and the rising sun from behind was a magnificient sight to see! The silence and calmness of the sea was a great break from the loudness and the cacaphony of Mumbai. I could have spent all day just lying down and gazing at the scenery ahead of me all day. If only the summers wern’t so hot here!

I suddenly felt an intense need to capture the moment. Capture the essence of what was the Velas beach. Capture what would be a memory to cherish for the rest of my life! Yes, my dear friends, the photographer in me had come out! Only one problem though, I did not have any camera. CRISIS! What do I do?

To know more, you would have to read the next part in this series  !(Wah! I loved the suspense created in this ending! :D)

  1. So where were we… Ah yes! The suspense! What is it that I can do? Can I get my talents out in the open?!

Out comes my friend to the rescue! Fortunately, he happened to bring his dearest 600D camera (Not to be mistaken with the D600 camera. Apparently one’s a Canon and the other a Nikon. Of course, I knew it all along, with my inherent photographer professional skills and all)

Me: My dearest buddy in the whole wide world!!! What’s that you have in your bag?

Friend: It’s called a camera dude.

Me: (Thinking fast before anyone could question my thorough professional skills in this area) … ummmm.. I KNEW THAT! HA! Can this camera take photographs at EXIF: f/5.3 | 1/40s | ISO-800 | 67mm??

Friend: ?!?!

Me: (Thank God for copy paste and Google I can still make myself look like a thorough professional in front of everyone!! I AM SAVED! YAAY!) Dude.. you know nothing. Give me that camera!

And thus I get my hands on a DSLR!!!

Now, it was time for the local team to go to the hatchery and check out the baskets where the eggs were carefully placed to see if any of them had hatched. We happened to get the prime seats to witness this event. All of us photographers sat right at the best locations, took our tripod stands and waited with bated breath!

Would there be turtles to see? Would we be first time lucky? Or would the worlds conspire against us and prevent us from witnessing this great event?

ALAS it was not to be this time. None of the eggs had hatched fully. “You will definitely see something this evening or next morning!!! DEFINITE!” Said the drama inducing, suspense generating organizers of the event.

Having had failure in the first attempt, we moved on to the beach to see the sun rise, the calm ocean and experience the cool breeze. For me, however, being the professional photographer and all, I had the entire stage to myself. I could see a photo in everything, from the raging buffalo to the distant Supramax 50000 DWT ship, everything had a1337 (elite in case you were wondering) photo waiting to be uncovered. And sold at the Jehangir Art Gallery. MASSIVE PROFIT MAKING OPPORTUNITY!

So I got started, and started clicking photos at every moment. People came to me saying “Hey! Looks like you are the thorough professional! Too many photos you have clicked man! Do show them to me! I would like to learn from you!” and I would go “All in due course my friend, it is an art not learnt by all!”

 

To Bankot and the Second time

  1. So we were unlucky first time, and had the rest of the day, till evening to while away before going to the beach for the second attempt. What do we do?

After getting ready and having breakfast, we were off to see the Bankot fort. A bit about the fort first…. Or maybe not, Google uncle will help you out anyways. (This also means I couldn’t get much from Google, hence the need to put it in a very sophisticated manner. HA!)

So we reached the fort at around 12 (which means we were supposed to reach at 11. Leave it to us to reach every place on time!), and went about doing what we did best. Posing in front of the camera when someone was taking a beautiful picture of the scenery, trying to capture the essence of the moment! (OK I’m guessing by now this same theme is running around most of the posts. But then, what else do we do when we go to a fort other than pose for photographs and….. well…. click them!)

Lovely view of the fort

After spending a couple of hours enjoying the sights of the fort and the scenery around it, and posing for photographs, it was time to go back to the village for lunch and our afternoon siesta. The road back is very narrow. So narrow, in fact, that the bus we were in could not take a few turns! Finally, we reached, had lunch and was ready to take a nap.

But NO! HOLD ON A MINUTE! If you just wanted to sleep, you could do that at home too! Why simply travel so long just to have a few hours of shut eye?! BAH! NO WAY IS THAT HAPPENING! So a few of us grouped together, took out a pack of cards, and started deciding what game to play.

Now, if you are in a group, coming up with a game to play with a pack of cards is a herculean task in itself. I’m sure Hercules himself would have said “WTF I can’t do this!” and gone somewhere else where and taken a nap.

“Let’s play rummy! Everyone knows the game, and it’s easy to play. COMEON!”

“NO DUDE! Lame game. This place needs some spice, let’s play DONKEY” (I go “Donkey” and “spice” don’t mix together!)

“Chal hatt! What donkey konkey you are talking about, I know this truly epic game called Mafia! It is the best game ever!”

And thus the game was decided! You would think that now we would go about the business of actually playing the game. BUT NO! We had to decide how to play the game itself! Apparently the game had a lot of twists, and sub twists, and sub sub twists! It would have taken Sherlock a long time to figure out all the puzzle pieces that went on to finalizing the way the game had to be played.

The game brought out the cunningness in everyone. Absurd accusations were flying left, right and center!!

“You are the killer because I can raise my hand and it points to you!”

“WHAT?! Me? No ways man, I am being schemed here, the real murderer is him, because his name starts with an M!!!”

“Somebody has been very quiet this whole time……laughing from within huh?!?! YOU ARE THE KILLER!!”

All this was made even more interesting with the moderator, directing the discussion in such a way that it kept us on our toes the whole time!! We did try with another moderator, but was soon back to the master mayor, willing the city and its residents on a murder mystery to find the ultimate killer!!!!

And just like that, it was evening! THE SECOND COMING! TIME TO FINALLY SEE THOSE TURTLES HATCHING AND GOING TO THE SEA! All of us got ready and rushed to the beach, early enough so that we would get those coveted seats this time too! Unfortunately, the public were WAAAYYYY ahead of us in the game.

So we got those last few places that were remaining. The wait ensued. Where were the organizers? Why were they taking so long? Where were the turtles? Were they hatched? Or were they still inside? Why am I asking so many questions which actually din’t arise at that time? What is 2343 multiplied by 4532? (HA If you guys haven’t read till here, GOTCHA!!!! Otherwise, read on…)

The organizers arrive at the enclosure. Tensions rise.

Organizers: Let’s open Basket No. 1…. (opens basket no.1)

OOOFFFF… AFSOS!! Nothing there

Crowd: BOOOOOOO!!!

Organizers: Let’s now open Basket No. 2!!! (builds the tension by going slowly to the second basket)

OOOFFFFF….. NOT HATCHED YET HERE EITHER!!

Crowd: OH NOOO!!

Organizers: On to Basket No. 3 we go! (Builds the tension… ok you get the drift now)

AAAAAANNNDDD… It’s a negative… NEXT TIME GUYS! (Swiftly goes away from scene)

Crowd: (Doesn’t know what to do, just looks at each other)

So we were unlucky the second time as well. But, as we moved towards the beach, we saw the sunset, and what a sight it was! As usual, for me, it made for some super awesome outstanding clicks that no one else would ever be able to take ever!

So after an evening full of sun set photo shoots, shadow figure shoots, a bit of beach football and 100 m dash running races, it was time to head back to the village for the night.

The night sky at the beach and the village was stunning! Mumbai would never get to see such a flurry of stars shining brightly in the sky! It was well worth just standing and staring at the sky, seeing the massive worlds that lay in front of us, and imagining how small and tiny we were in this entire universe!

After the sky gazing, all of us had dinner, where we photographers had very interesting conversations on how to take the ideal picture, what would be the ISO, exposure and what not needed in order to take pictures of moving objects, still objects, animals, self-portraits and what not. As I was way above all that, I decided to just stay mum and hear the conversation happening. Because, you know, if I did start, all the others would just keep quiet. Or go away. Or both!

Soon it was time for bed. I took my blanket out and slept in a room inside, and my dearest friend soon came and took the remaining bed that was spread in that room. It was lights out at 10.30 PM, as we had a long day ahead the next day!

So would we be third time lucky? How would the next day go? Please stay tuned to this space!

The Final Reckoning!

Right. It’s been twice unlucky, but there has been a lot of fast paced action and a whole lot of photography involved till now. Very nice indeed, but all would come to waste if we did not get to see the things that we came here for. The reason why the trip was called “Trip to Velas for TURTLE Sightings”. Yes, friends, if you did not guess already from my previous posts (here, here and here in order), we were here to witness TURTLES being born and making their way to the sea. TreksandTrails India had brought us here all the way from Mumbai and Pune for us to see this beautiful event happening! I was sure hoping it would not go to waste!

So enough of the intro suspense thriller that the first paragraph brought (or so I hope!). Let’s get down to business.

Time: 5.20 AM

Place: Velas Village (I think that the village is named after the beach, if not then I do know someone who reads this will correct me in my comments, and I get that many more hits on my blog! *WINK*)

The alarm rings. I wake up. AND IT’S FREEEZZZZIIIINNNNGGGGGGGG!!!!!! Early mornings at this place are very VERY cold. So cold that you would get stuck to the bed, and you would not be able to get up. So cold that if you open the tap, the water would not reach the sink, and would freeze midair. So cold that…… OK I’m just over dramatizing the coldness, but you get the picture.

I wake up to see my blanket gone! VANISHED INTO THIN AIR! Was this why I had painstakingly washed and neatly folded my blanket in my bag? So much effort gone to waste. CHA! So I wake up and search around in the darkness, trying to find my blanket. And there it is, neatly covering my dearest best friend who had taken the bed right next to me. I turn around, and see a whole set of blankets lying unused. WHAT THE! HOW CAN HE! OMG! THERE WERE SO MANY BLANKETS THERE AND HE COULDN’T USE ANY ONE OF THEM! After that “WTF” moment, I proceeded to give him one tight slap, and go ahead and have my bath before he could realize what hit him.

By the time everyone got up and got ready, it was time to go to the beach for the final time. THE FINAL RECKONING! Would we be third time lucky? Or would the Gods conspire against us this time, and deny us this beautiful sighting?

The suspense fills the atmosphere around the beach. Tensions rise. You can feel the tension in the air.

Organizers: Let’s open Basket No. 1…. (opens basket no.1)

OOOFFFF… AFSOS!! Nothing there

Crowd: BOOOOOOO!!!

Organizers: Let’s now open Basket No. 2!!! (builds the tension by going slowly to the second basket)

OOOFFFFF…. NOT HATCHED YET HERE EITHER!!

Crowd: OH NOOO!!

Organizers: On to Basket No. 3 we go! (Builds the tension… ok you get the drift now…and if you feel a sense of deja vu, fear not! A copy-paste operation just happened here)
AAAANNNNNNDDDDDD… LO AND BEHOLD! WE GOT A STRIKE! 2 IN FACT!

Crowd: YAAAAYYY YIIPPEEEEE!!

Me : I’m glad we got to see 2 turtles atleast! TRIP NOT A COMPLETE WASTE. I got to see my awesome photographer skills AND see the turtles! I guess TreksandTrails India were right in calling this VELAS BATCH 2 (Get it? Batch 2…2 turtles… No?)!! HIGH FIVES!!

Enclosure

A few of us had a feeling that something would happen this time around (You know; our photographer instinct always kicks in at the right time.) So, us photographers started hatching strategies in order to get the best seats in the house to take the awesomest pictures of the 2 turtles moving to the sea.

Prime Strategist (AKA Me): “OK. So we are expecting it to happen, right? Why simple stand at the enclosure then? Let us go ahead and stand by the beach in the perfect positions now itself! I am sure they will all come here itself and thus we get our prime seats! YIPPEE”

Subordinate Strategist: “Ummmm… All that’s good, but what if they don’t come to where we are and go elsewhere?”

Prime Strategist: “ELEMENTARY WATSON! We will move accordingly!!”

Secondary Strategist: “?!?!?”

Prime Strategist: “LET’S GO GO GO!!!”

So, as soon as we saw the green light, we tried running (of course with the sand it was pretty tough running) towards the sea and took up the best seats in the beach! WE WILL DEFINITELY TAKE SUPER AWESOME PICS NOW! And, of course, witness the event!

Another reaction

So we took our prime locations, and started clicking away! The turtles were so kind to us, they even came all the way towards us just to pose!

OK Im coming towards you for a photograph

And that was that. The grand finale. Done and dusted. Our money’s worth seen. And delivered. We were happy. End of story………….or not!

This was not the end! We still had the rest of the day to go! What did we do in the meanwhile?!

Reaction on seeing the turtles

After seeing the turtles off on their voyage, it was time to head back to the village, freshen up, have breakfast and leave for the temple at Harihareshwar. At breakfast, each one of us was asked to give a feedback video to the resident videographer and professional photographer (RVPP) (well, he did have a lot to learn from me, but I let it go this time…). We were given very strict instructions on how and what to talk in the video.

  1. The video would last only 20 seconds.
  2. You would tell your name, what you do (if you want), and a brief feedback on Treks and Trails and the trip in general.

Sounds easy, doesn’t it? Well, thankfully there were no Gultis (People from Andhra Pradesh) in our trip. Imagine what would have happened then.

RVPP: OK Buddy, your time…. starts… NOW!

Gult: Hello! My name is Venkatesh Rama Lovely Kattamuri Krishna Kumuri Vemuru Lakshmana……

RVPP: …. AAAAANNNNDDD that’s it! Your time is up!

Gult: …Chandrasekhara Rao. WHAT!! I haven’t even finished my name! What about the feedback?!?!?!

RVPP: NEXT!

Gult: 😐 :S 😐

Once the video session was done and we had our food, it was time to head to Harihareshwar! As usual, the roads were narrow and very tricky to drive on, but leave it to the super awesome bus drivers to take us to our destination in no time! We had to ferry through a river to reach our destination.

A bit about Harihareshwar…Harihareshwar is a town in Raigad district, in Maharashtra, India. It is surrounded by four hills named Harihareshwar, Harshinachal, Bramhadri and Pushpadri. Harihareshwar Temple complex has two adjacent temples. The smaller Kalbhairav temple is expected to be visited first, before entering the main Harihareshwar temple housing an ancient Shiva Linga. (That last paragraph means I DID get something from GOOGLE Uncle. Pretty satisfied with my research, I decide to show the fruits of my efforts to all of you!)

After the visit to the temple, it was time for lunch! And we were famished! We were fortunate enough to go to a restaurant that served non-veg too! What’s a trip to the coastline without yummy seafood, right?

The look on their faces

And to add to it, those who finished their lunch late got free ice-cream! I take this opportunity to profusely thank the person who went out of their way to having those ice-creams and the seafood delivered to us to gorge on! Much appreciated indeed!

And that was it! We got into the bus and in no time we were in Mumbai. Along the way, we were whiling our way our time, reminiscing on the trip that was, and finding innovative ways to display movie names like “Astitva” and “Rakhwalla” to the junta who were willing enough to play a game of dumb charades.

And thus ended the trip! All of us were so sad that it got over! I thank TreksandTrails India, and in particular Mr. Ankit Savla, Ms. Bijal Gala Savla and Mr. Hiren Vora for organizing this trip, and for giving me memories that I would cherish for the rest of my life!!

By Kartik Krishnamoorthy

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