Thursday, June 18, 2009

Bangalore Traffic – A case study of Chaos!

Beep beep. Trrrrr trrrrr. Screeech. #$*@$#*. All put together make the symphony that is the sound of Bangalore traffic. Riding on the streets of Bangalore on my bicycle or bike has been an intriguing experience. You never know what is going to happen next. Is that bus gonna stop in middle of the road? Is that auto gonna do a U-turn on a busy street? Is that dog or man gonna cross the road without warning? Or are you gonna get spit on by a passenger in the bus? Boy, don’t I sometimes wish I had not five, but ten senses to aid me getting to my destination unscathed.

The undoubted kings of the road are their majesty, the autos! Weaving through the traffic with the manoeuvrability of bees, these guys are intent on practicing Brownian motion. Some of them are so loud; you can’t even hear the gentle throbbing of your own engine or for that matter the much bigger bus in front of you. It is like they are telling you can run, you can hide, but you can’t escape my noise! I wonder if the autos had been more powerful. Imagine the havoc they could have caused. Many thanks to Bajaj for restricting the engine power of autos to just 7 bhp (yeah! I checked!). Or imagine if auto drivers were drunk. Would the autos be a more potent force for causing chaos? Or would the two negative effects cancel out? I hope this experiment is never ever tried out!

But hey auto drivers aren’t the only dudes who spice up Bangalore’s road life. Street rage sometimes leads to use of some really colourful language. Unnecessary honking even on empty roads, high beam headlights on brightly lit roads, etc. turn the streets of Bangalore into an unwanted disco. Then we have dudes who make use of every bhp of power their engine can churn out to reach 0-60 kmph in 5 seconds and then end up using the amazing braking capacity of their disc brakes to come to a grinding halt with 2 seconds at the next signal. It goes like vroooooom and then screeeeech!! This practice is a big waste of fuel. So it’s best to avoid high acceleration and excessive braking for the sake of the environment and your pocket.

Then we have the ‘bike crossing the road’ event. Now whenever a rider joins a main road from a side road on the opposing traffic side, he first goes some distance on the wrong side in the hope of crossing the road somewhere further. What’s the point? Anyways he has to stop and wait for an opening in the traffic flow. So do the nonsensical thing of going wrong side and then stopping? I guess there are some things in life internet can’t explain, for everything else there is Google. Oh and sometimes cars and buses also try this!

Another passing observation on roads that do not have dividers. Whenever for some reason there is no traffic coming from the opposite direction, all the motorists take the liberty of thinking it is a one way street. Now the traffic from the opposite direction may be blocked due to a railway crossing or a lorry taking reverse or something. So at the point of obstruction you see traffic piled up opposite each other on both sides of the road. And when the obstruction is cleared, all hell breaks loose! Smooth flow of traffic is obstructed by the over smart motorists trying to get back on the correct side.

Now for the real baddies of the road. Pedestrians. Their high manoeuvrability makes them very dangerous. Even more than autos. Throw in a cell phone and the pedestrian can give any motorist nightmares. They never use the footpath they are supposed to use. I guess everyone likes life in the fast lane. You encounter these devils more commonly whilst cycling as you use the extreme left of the road infested by these pests then. And the way they cross the road takes the cake. It is best illustrated by a figure. Now from the figure you can see, the shortest distance between two parallel lines, the road edges, is the path perpendicular to it (AB). So obviously the pedestrians, for the greater good of all road users, should cross roads along AB. But no! The shortest distance between two points (A and C) is not AB + BC, but AC of course! So the smart asses on foot cross the diagonal to it, jumping between cars, signalling motorists to slow down, and generally walking nonchalantly across the busiest roads leaving a trail of cursing motorists in their wake!

So that was an in depth analysis of Bangalore’s road users. The way to avoid this hell? Take the bus and have a good laugh at all the others down below you shaking their heads in despair and muttering under and over their breaths. Or learn to take it in your stride see the lighter side of how stupid and inconsiderate people can get.

Friday, June 12, 2009

Netravli Trip – Exploring the verdant Goan hinterland

So then after exploring all the famous places in and around Bangalore, it was time to rediscover the unmatched beauty of Goa. First up was the Netravali wild life sanctuary. As usual I surfed the net for info but couldn’t find anything worthwhile. I sorely miss the loads of info about anything and everything in Bangalore on the internet. I couldn’t get anything useful from the special Goa edition of the Outlook Traveller either.

So we set out from Margao in the morning with some vague info on the route and with the hope that we would meet some friendly locals who would show us the way whenever we felt we were lost. On we went, gliding past green fields and rolling hills. The Goan countryside is really magical in the monsoons. We passed through the towns of Curchorem and Sanguem. We gave lift to a couple of guys and in return got directions to the destination. It was a win win situation to both parties. Finally after riding for 55km we reached Netravalli village. We had a quick snack and collected some supplies for the trek from a small bar, yeah a bar!. If you ever feel that you might be lost and have crossed the border of Goa, just look around. Every village and hamlet in Goa, no matter how remote, has a bar. And Netravali was no different.

We rode on for another 3 km till the road ends at a small hamlet. We asked some locals for directions. After walking through backyards and front yards of small houses, we got a little lost. We came back and found a local who agreed to show us the way till the start of the path. It was fun walking in the forest on a path criss-crossing the stream. After walking for a good half hour the path came to an end abruptly. Soon shoulders and spirits were dropping and there was no waterfall in sight. We decided to walk along the stream.

Then suddenly I saw a speck of white around the bend. Finally we had reached the waterfalls, Savari Falls. It looked quite stunning. Suddenly someone spotted a snake basking in the sun near the edge of the pool. Now this was a wild life sanctuary and the snake had as much right to the stream as any of us. Soon expert comments on snake behaviour were flowing. Whether it was poisonous? Would it enter the water when were bathing, did it have a mate somewhere around? It was decided that one of us keep watch on the snake while the rest of us splashed around the pool. Then we wanted to take some pictures on the rocks near the snake. The snake was in the same position since we first saw it. Was it hibernating? After close examination we saw that its skin was shrivelled and ants were feasting on its body. The snake was dead! To think of all the fear a dead snake managed to instil in us. It was time to head back the way we came.

We wanted to explore the other waterfall. But time was short and we didn’t want to get late to leave for Margao. We decided to visit the other major attraction in the area. The Bubble pond, where bubbles erupt to the surface whenever you clap. But when we were there, bubbles were coming continuously. It is quite a mysterious phenomenon. I had read that such a thing occurs due to release of methane during decay of organic matter at the bottom of the pond. I could not see any decaying matter in this case as the water was crystal clear. And Goa is not known for seismic activity to assume that the gas is coming from the earth’s interior. So, I wonder how those gas bubbles are formed at the bottom of the pond.

That brought an end to our Netravali trip. We reached back to Margao after a serene uninterrupted ride through some lovely rustic scenery. See you at the same place for my next Goan excursion!