Saturday, February 11, 2012

New York (8-9-10 July 2011)

Visiting big city like Mumbai, New York is itself big experience. Sheer number of people dwelling in tiny area makes wonder how people can live in a such small area. When I went to Portsmouth for shorted duration I planned well in advance to visit world capital called New York. As visiting big city was major attraction, so was meeting family member was other attraction.

My paternal aunt was visiting her daughter in New Jersey. She stayed mostly in my native place -- Patan and was wondering how she is doing completely new country. Anybody from native place almost instantly connects you to root of the family and I was no exception. Some discussion about past always makes every one happier and I was not an exception. So after Friday work I set to my journey to New Jersey around 4:00 PM. Although I was experience driver since it was my major trip after long time, I was little apprehensive as well as little worried about heavy traffic in   New York.

I was expecting I will reach my sister's place by 9:00. It was around 300 miles journey and considering 60 miles per hour journey I should be there by 9.00. But because of weekend travellers, rain and picturesque section of my drive, while driving I started feeling I won't reach by 9.00.  My route was I-495 S, I-84 W and some how reaching  22 Dayton Drive,  Edison, NJ, 08820.

Passing through state of Connecticut was rich experience.. Mist over Connecticut river, lakes, continuous forested area, passing through Hartford -- capital of Connecticut was most pleasing experience.

After one brief stop for food, fuelling I reached White planes close to 8 O' Clock. I was technically in New York and thought I will reach Edison by any way by 1 hour. But I was wrong, my sister told me exit on 111 on I-95 and that's where I got lost and next couple of hours I was just driving madly all over new jersey. She intended to say New Jersey turn pike way exit but both of us missed that.

When I see last Edison board vanishing I realize I am heading wrong direction and reached next place New Brunswick. I decided to go back on the same route till I get back to Edison. O the way I can see major night life in action -- mostly black american heading for party. I was not sure about what kind of area I was but dare to ask couple of guys about direction to Edison. Looking back around mid night asking people for direction was stupid. But good thing I was doing I usually asked couples only, hoping because of female companions guys will not be violent.

By the time I reached sister's place all kids were fast a sleep and it was 1.30. I was in search for house for more than 2 hours, I felt stupid but immediately refreshed by fresh dinner given by my sister and atya. Egg curry and chapati tested same way I used to eat at my native place. I didn't feel exhausted after eating home made food.
Next two days were fun just because of being with family. Saturday went to see New Jersey Safari, also visited few more relatives in Parsippany- Morristown. By the time I decided to go back to Portsmouth I met around 14 relatives, I wonder how that has happened since few years back I was knowing all my relatives are in Maharashtra. How globalization has slowly crept into family.

This was good family visit but I missed visiting New York city because of crazy driving so finally told sister some how arrange trip for city. So one the day of leaving, sister arranged quick train tour to New York for photography. She took me I think to  Port Imperial station where view is supposed to be best of New York. We hurriedly finished photo session and moved back since I have to travel back to Portsmouth.

While going back once I decided to go by I-95 all the way to my place considering headache of worrying about exist and entry. During stay I drove through many bridges especially Washington Bridge at night, Delaware bridge. Spectacular display of hudson river from NJTP. I love Nw York bridges and it's construction. Shear magnitude of these bridges is very huge and I think their architectures are spectacular. While going I decided to go again through Washington bridge to just get idea about various level bridge has. While going I didn't realize how I crossed that levels.
But while going traffic was horrible and number of time you pay tolls, you just wonder if that was worth a ride. But you get nice view of Manhattan and passing of swampy area.

Once I crossed Connecticut then only traffic was little bit better. Passing through  Rhodes Island , Massachusetts was fast. Especially liked crossing  capital Providence. Name of all these places just reminds me Kennedy and his legacy and its impact on american history.

By the time I reached Portsmouth I felt I grew older because of vast experience I got in this trip.

White Mountain

Roaming alone is boring but it gives you ample time to plan and execute trip. Travelling with many people, you hardly able to concentrate on trip aspect and spends most of the time other than trip like stop over for food, relaxation etc. I was glad it got skipped when I visited white mountain while my brief stay at Portsmouth, NH.

At Portsmouth colleague told me about this beautiful mountain range in NH. He specifically mentioned  fastest wind speed is recorded at top of mountains.  I right away decided I have to go there  because of my age old connection with Sahyadri Ranges.

On beautiful Saturday morning I  started to white mountains, plan was very simple, just drive north on 16 N for 100 miles and you are on top of white mountains-- Mount Washington. I like simple travel, person like me who is direction bind and get easily lost this was perfect destination. So driving on 16 N for a 2 and 1/2 hr  was not an issue. 

When you travel in USA you just get awed by the natural resources country has, especially lakes and river. At each lake and river you want to stop absorb blue colour which nature has to offer. Watching various boats anchored and people spending their weekend at the shore or inside lake. Although I don't like modern equipments in water especially motor boats because of it's noise and pollution cause by it.

I hardly realized how two hours of journey passed because of lakes,  mountain ranges and keeping eye on Harley Davidson bike gangs. While driving you have to careful about two wheelers and these guys will just come in 10-12 numbers and you re sure you have to drive quietly on free way. Also at rest area I noticed most of them coming from Canada-- especially from Quebec and mostly talking in French.

After quick bite of apple, oranges I decided to drive to top of mountain since there was no time for me to walk all the way to top and car was rental so I don't have to worry about car as well. Travelling to summit is not a free ride, I have to spend $45 to drive on auto road to Mount Washington. Along with ticket I got CD about information about White Mountain. I was wondering how Americans can sell anything and road was private property.

Considering ghat section in India, initial drive was not that  difficult but later part was tough especially for car as well as for me since I wanted to enjoy abundant beauty,  height was providing but keeping eye on road was also important. It was about 12 KM drive to top and 6145 feet from bottom to top.

While driving and listening to CD came to know about environmental details as well as auto race which is on this road. I think they should just keep natural environment and abolish this polluting races. On top of mountain there is observatory and it was build in 1932 and it has recorded highest wind speed observed by man 231 miles per hour on April 1934. 

The weather of Mount Washington is notoriously erratic. This is partly due to the convergence of several storm tracks, mainly from the South Atlantic, Gulf region and Pacific Northwest. The vertical rise of the Presidential Range, combined with its north-south orientation, makes it a significant barrier to westerly winds. Low-pressure systems are more favorable to develop along the coastline in the winter months due to the relative temperature differences between the Northeast and the Atlantic Ocean. With these factors combined, winds exceeding hurricane force occuring many times.

Although considering alpine climate I never thought weather can be such harsh over here and I heard stories of few died while trekking to this place. Can't imagine in USA where all latest emergency services available.

On top we noticed very old hotel "Tip Top House" and it was build in 1853.  Rebuilt of wood with 91-rooms in 1872-1873. The Tip-Top House survived the 1908 fire; today it is a state historic site. There was another hotel built in 1852 - Summit Hotel anchored by four chains on roof top but it was destroyed in 1908 fire. Along with Mount Washington Auto Road—there is  Mount Washington Cog Railway (1869).

Ethan Allen Crawford built a house on the summit in 1821, which lasted until a storm in 1826.

On top I enjoyed most of this man made things but watching mountain range which covers 25% state of New Hampshire was just unimaginable. Where you see just range of mountains in blue! No sign of man made concrete buildings and cleaned housing dwelling. It was most unusual USA for me, almost covering 1080 km square! Watching various shades of blue was treat for eyes.

While walking around found Appalachian trail. This was the trail I thought of crossing at least once in life time when I visited smoky mountains 10 years back. But fate and circumstances never allowed me to go to that region. I was not in mood of walking but at least thought of walking until hut specifically build for mountaineering enthusiastic. So hear I go without any planning/water for hiking trip of 5 miles to Lakes of the Clouds Hut. It is part of hut system, Apalanche Mountain club has built along the Appalachian trail which is 3515 km long. It is located near two lakes called "blue pond". I had terrific journey going there watching various mountaineers climbing with heavy load of food to hut or other way round. I met group of New Zealand trekkers as well.  Walking just for 2 hrs made me very thirsty and hungry, I had something to eat at mount Washington and I decided to go back since while going I wanted to cover complete white mountain national park and also two lakes on the way back. So I hurried back. While going I did take my souvenir -- small rock from mount Washington. I wonder how many millions- billions years might have gone to form those little rocks. Anyway those are going to trip with me to Australia for sure.

While coming back I visited lush green national park, numerous small lakes and finally Winnipesaukee. Enormous size of lake just amazed me. I also visited small town of New England and wonder how typical England culture survived in  this ever melting pot called America. If you check little history about initial american settler you get the answer.


Sunday, January 1, 2012


I have seen many amazing birds in my life, starting with fascinating bird-- Peacock. It took me many years to spot this national bird. But searching this bird in rural maharashtra was fun. Getting up early walking on edges of farms on early morning is great fun. After watching and photographing him, I thought that I have seen best of bird  what nature has to offer.
Slowly and steadily realized that it is not true, there are so many varieties and spectacular birds are present and I hardly had gone to these places. Somehow able to see some kingfisher and various sparrows in India. US didn't offer much other than various types of ducks. Later saw some fancy birds in zoo like flamingoes, pelicans, parrots with various colours. But all these birds were colourful but their voices resembles nothing but noise.
And one day I saw LYREBIRD.. It is beautiful but you can't compare with Peacock. Although male has beautiful tale but what I liked most about this bird is it's mimicking voice. It has such mimicking ability that it can mimic-- train, sound of hammer, car engine!