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Winter at the Outer Banks – 1

21 January 2012 1 comment

The last post was in the summer and I am neglecting this haunt for the same reasons – laziness, writers’ block, etc. What better way than to restart it with another travel post 🙂 This new year’s day found me driving down I-95 from NYC to our new city – Richmond in Virginia. So far the winter in the US has not been so harsh. That prompted me to plan a beach trip in our long weekend of Jan-16. My family is still in India and I wanted a break from the relocation hassles of the past 2 weeks. My friend suggested the Pearl of the Outer Banks Ocracoke. OBX or Outer Banks of North Carolina is the popular beach destination for the capital beltway folks (all those in Washington DC).

We did not really mind that the weather forecast was real low and the beach might not be a great idea in the low 40s/high 30s. We just wanted to use our last long weekend for a while. In the last 2 days, we rent a car and book stay at the Seaside Inn of Hatteras (the tip of the little island), primarily for their good deals. After reading up a few pages on the OBX site, I figure out 3 days will not be enough to do all their attractions. We go to the rental place early on the Saturday and we get a free upgrade to a 4 Wheel Drive, which proves very useful later incidentally. We hit the I-64 east to Norfolk beach and have a leisurely drive until the car sounds an alarm for low fuel. We refuel somewhere before Hampton – it had been a typical VA drive (large roads, plenty of green, 70mph limits, aircraft traffic enforcement warning signs) and go through a tunnel to get scenic views off Chesapeake bay. Also we bye-pass the typical route (Chesapeake Expressway) to a scenic drive on NC-17. Luckily we get some fast food before we enter this stretch. This looks like the farm stretch – there were hardly any cars – big large flat fields. We are finally out of the city and its strip malls. Slowly we enter NC and inch towards the coast. We cross the magnificent Wright Memorial Bridge and stop at the visitor center for a quick break, just as we enter the Croatan Highway. We later realize that this is not the beach drive. NC-12 goes close to the beach, with awesome beach houses / vacation homes on both sides.

Our only attraction of the day is the Wright Brothers memorial, the site of the First Flight (the slogan of North Carolina) at Kitty Hawk. We walk up the memorial and the field where the memories are preserved. One profound plaque catches our eyes – 100 years ago, the great Orville Wright said, “Isn’t it astounding that these secrets have been preserved for all of those years just so we can discover them?” A NPS guide explains the hard work that went behind the First Flight in a dramatic way. This gives us a great opportunity to ponder over the ubiquity of flight and how challenging it was just 100 years back 🙂 The rest of the 50+ mile drive is slow along NC-12 amidst the myriad vacation homes. The Oregon Inlet bridge is amazing and offers wonderful views of the ocean and the sound. We stop for a while and take a lot of pictures with my friend’s advanced camera. It soon gets dark and we pick some rations for the next day or two. We reach the charming Seaside Inn pretty late at 6.30pm and are pleasantly surprised by the quaint historic rooms and the affable hosts.

We dine at the only open Breakwater restaurant – our first disappointment of the day. We were hoping to have great seafood, but hardly anything was open when we went in spite of it being a long weekend. This proves to be our story of the next day as well. The evening had become so cold so we don’t venture to the beach. Just some late night chat about our lives! We get ready early and have our complimentary continental breakfast – hot muffins, fruits, etc. I walk to the Ocean through one of the beach accesses. I peek into one of the vacation homes – they are mostly similar – 3 or 4 storeys, with plenty of ventilation and a pool. It is hard for me to think why they need a pool when the biggest pool is just across. Well, that’s the way of the rich, I suspect and America is such a wasteful nation 😦 Also, I have seen better beaches in Cape Cod ( my first national seashore). We make our way to the Hatteras ferry point, where we just miss the free hourly ferry to Ocracoke. So we drive for the first time on the Cape Hatteras National Seashore with the 4WD. It is slightly tricky to maneuver the sands and it feels as if the sands control the ride, but we enjoy it very much. It is a short ride to the farther end of the ocean on the island, but we need to be back for our Ocracoke ferry at 10am.

We have high hopes for our time on the Ocracoke island. After all, it is the end of the OBX and there are a lot of tales about the lighthouses and pirates. We are also craving for Thai food. Another guest at the hotel had recommended a Thai eatery. We drive about 15  miles from the ferry landing to the Ocracoke village. Funnily there was almost nothing open as it is a Sunday. Every place is deserted. We visit the hyped Ocracoke lighthouse, our only attraction in the island. We are famished and discover quickly unfortunately that no restaurant is open except for one. We grab some bites there and decide to do one more 4WD in the island before heading back. That is a long stretch with mostly us out on the ocean. We struggle at one exit and fear we might be stranded without fuel. Luckily, the next exit is simple and we board the Hatteras ferry back at 1pm after stopping briefly to view the wild ponies on the island. Our search for a good eatery continues in Hatteras and we find nothing. We see the other attraction Cape Hatteras lighthouse and grab some burgers at Hatterasman close to the inn. Again, it is the only open place. We concede defeat in our quest for good seafood and call it a day. We rest by the fireplace for a long time, reading a book about Hatteras, which talks about BlackBeard, the pirate, who was killed in Ocracoke. We exchange stories  with the host of the inn Chris before we retire to our room.

Categories: Friends, Richmond, Travel

I got a book

26 October 2007 2 comments

Well. Long long ago, I asked for a book from other friends and booklovers who also read this blog. Archu immediately shot off a mail, promising me one. When I got the book yesterday from Amazon, I was pleasantly thrilled.  The book is the Kite Runner and I’m already hooked up. I cannot thank her enough for this wonderful surprise, which also made my month 🙂

Categories: Books, Friends

Books for friends

16 September 2007 5 comments

The next BAFAB (Buy A Friend A Book) week this year (tip: LifeHack) is from Oct 1 to Oct 7. Its simple theme is to surprise a friend with a good book for no reason. I’ve not been able to visit any library here so far. I’m actually dying to see one after hearing glowing tales from fellow book lovers. So who will surprise me this time? Archu, Jax or SK? Yes, I can send you my address here 🙂

Categories: Books, Friends

My favourite card game…

12 July 2007 1 comment

… is literature, (excellent description here). My schoolmate Hem taught me after his first year at PSG and we got addicted. Ever since in all our vacation breaks, we used to gather at different homes and play this for long stretches of time. It is such a simple and skillful game. In our 10day long NSS camp at a small village on the outskirts of Chennai, we spent all our nights playing this. Some of my Guindy classmates also got addicted to this neat game. On every long trip, a pack of cards is quite handy to play this. Be it my last place of work or my last place of study, this game has got its own fans. Once when we played it on the BOM-IND train, it turned to be a boy-vs-girl messy affair. It calls for fair play though the cheats do all their tricks and make it more lively 🙂  It always reminds me of the good times I have enjoyed with it. Friends, travel and fun, this game is all that and more. When am I going to play it next? Are you game?

Categories: Friends, Me, Travel

Backpacking buddies – 2

10 January 2007 1 comment

Continuing from here, in Nelson I caught up with Jess again and exchanged email ids. We exchanged a few emails when she described her trip to the glaciers in Franz Josef and her Queenstown (I should write a separate post about it) adventures. But then, after two mails, none of us bothered to continue the conversation. But yes, she’s the girl I will remember best in the 3 months. The next morning I spoke to Scott a Kiwi sheep marketer from Dunedin. In his free time, he works as an evangelist. He was in Nelson, cheering for his kid who plays hockey. He explained the need for everyone to become a true Christian. He tells me India is suffering because there are so many non-Christians and that he would like to work there to change it all. When I counter that a lot of white folks believe less in religion and more reason, he says that that’s because they don’t know the truth. I firmly believe that if we be nice to people and not do harm as much as possible, there is no need for religion.

After Nelson, my next trip was across the Tasman Sea. The Aussies are not as friendly as the Kiwis. But friendly travellers are welcome everywhere. Madhan has got such a warm face that he can start talking to anyone anywhere. In the Indooroopilly shopping centre where we went on the first evening, he spoke to a couple of Tamils who had hopped over from Auckland just like me. I learn a lot from him about hospitality and camaraderie.

Though I spoke to a few people during the course of my 36hour whistle stop in Sydney, the one person who left a lasting impression on me met me at the Central railway station. I was awaiting my CityRail to the domestic airport. Let me call him John. I had confirmed with him that the platform I stood on was the line to the airport. He looked drunk. His first lines were “So you Indians are getting all the jobs and sending us all out?” I dismissed him as one of those outsourcing critics and told myself to be careful of him. But he continued and told me he had an Indian wife! He had fought for the Aussie military and was generally dismissive of politics, but he was a hard-core Indophile at heart. He repeatedly told me to work for the betterment of the Indian majority and not be swayed by money. We sat next to each other on the train. He described his experience in Afghanistan and wished me heartily.

I had a late flight from Sydney to Brisbane and Madhan and Sudar were busy preparing their stall at the Brisbane Multicultural Festival, which is a fascinating experience by itself. There was no public transport at 9.30pm from the airport and so I had to take my only taxi of the trip. It was all Madhan’s money, but still I would never take a taxi in a foreign country when there is public transport. For no reason, I am apprehensive of taxi drivers. I managed to break ice with the Somalian taxi driver. My little bit of geography about the capital Mogadishu got me talking more nicely with him. He knew about Hyderabad more than any other place in India. He was telling me how Somalia has been ravaged by war and there are a few Indians in his country too. I asked him if he’ll go back there. Not when there’s so much war there, he replied. He also told me Somalia has got a little bit of history being so close to Ethiopia and the drive by the sea is so beautiful. Unfortunately, he didn’t have a Somalian coin.

The multicultural festival is where I met an Indonesian student. He was a finance student who planned to do his MBA. He was like a typical Indian graduate student overseas, using his dad’s money and education loans to study abroad, hoping to make enough money in a few years to break even and return to his home country to be respected and make it to the higher society class. He helped me use my camera better. We promised to exchange emails, but never did.

In Fiji, I met an Austrian girl who was out exploring the world on her round trip and a German guy out to get his diving licenses in the most beautiful reefs of the world (it works out to be cheaper too). But the Fijian captain of the SeaSpray (my sailing boat) insisted on converting me and we had a prolonged conversation about faith and the only God. My thin knowledge on Hinduism did not help me much and I hardly could talk anything. I should have had better ammunition to counter these pastors or priests!

One more post on this and I would be done, I hope!

Categories: Friends, Travel

Backpacking buddies – 1

4 January 2007 3 comments

I love backpacking. To be honest, I did not know much after backpacking as long as I was in India. My 3day solo Goa trip in May 2004 could be called my first attempt at backpacking. But the world is so different. Travel seems to mean backpacking for most of the guys I met in NZ. Is it the costs or the convenience? India certainly has a long way to offer in terms of backpacking infrastructure. There is no question about the fantastic facilities that other countries have, especially NZ. The huge bags that guys bring in preparation reminds me that backpacking is THE way of travel. Of course, I get to meet several interesting personalities. These passing acquaintances seem perfect illustrations of the temporal nature of life. Here I try and remember some of them.

In my first trip, I was so reserved. I am the only brown guy on the bus and every one seems to have a partner or content being alone. It takes me a day to get used to the new environment. On the second night in Taupo, I met a Dutch man Grenardo (or some such name). He happens to have worked in Vietnam for a long time. The LP guide book is a bible to him, just like to so many people. I had the internet and I never really used any book. That is the advantage of travelling in a developed nation. My numismatic interests come into play and he gives me a Vietnamese coin to kick off the process. That’s all I remember about him. An interesting German I met on my Auckland orientation tour collected signatures from all the guys he met for his sister back home. What a memorable way to start her birthday!

On the second day in Taupo, I met two Americans of Danish origin from California. The girl Daphne had a nice webpage on philosophy and the guy was into IT hardware on his own. They almost dragged me to the local pub and the movie house for the night, but I had to politely decline their invites. They were the 1st guys to talk to me for a longer length of time. That was my first multi-sex dorm too. But I delay to email them, though I visit her webpage which I unfortunately do not remember now.

On my next trip north of Auckland, I meet two amazing people. The first is Jess, a cute English lawyer who also had learnt history. Making people feel nicer comes easily to her, I think. She chats with almost every one in the tour. There is a quiet Austrian doctor, who also happens to be friendly. It takes time to follow her heavy German accent. I book myself on my first barbecue for the night. I neither liked the steak nor the other food. But I stayed late talking with, rather listening to Jess, the Austrian and an English couple. This is where I get to know of gap years and round-the-world trips, which so fascinate me. I should hope to do it at some stage in my life.

The next day we travel to the northern tip of NZ Cape Reinga. Jess is remarkable company for today too. The surprise is I meet a fellow Indian Naveen. He has been in North Carolina for a longer part of his life. He is a Mallu doctor, who’s doing his gap year (he calls it a working holiday) in Wellington. He offers me stay at his home when I will go south the following week, which I accept graciously. Jess takes notes painstakingly. Naveen and I cook up a story in good spirit that Jess is a British spy 🙂

On my first South Island trip, I meet a Kannada family at Picton just as I board the TranzCoastal to Christchurch. The father happens to be a professor from IIMK on exchange to NZ. How coincidental that across the seas, we happen to travel on the same day and end up meeting each other! The whole train trip, I did not for once sit in my assigned seat and spent talking to his kids (in Class 8 and Class 3). They tell me they have an awesome time studying in NZ as the load is so light. Just like me! So if you’ve the dough, study in NZ. As for jobs, you can always come back to India or go to America. 😉

My next interesting person is an Aussie lady doctor, Sheryl from Adelaide. She is on her way to a conference in Auckland and she has a 3day break in one of the off-beat stops, Punakaiki. Both of us are on the same bus to Nelson. I see her meticulously noting down details of her trip so she can later email it to her friends. I appreciate her. It takes me quite an effort to start the conversation, but any connection with letters and words boosts my attempts greatly. I recommend her blogger and wordpress so that she can save on email. Being a doctor, she questions me on how it means to be in India, with such a large divide between the rich and the poor. This is one major question most Indians will conveniently ignore. She also tells me about her bad experience with an Indian junior, who could not somehow accept the idea of a female boss. I tell her times are changing in India and one visit here could change her perspective.

My post is already getting bigger. So I will continue on another one…

Categories: Friends, Travel

When the time comes

31 December 2006 3 comments

you get new clothes
you make new plans
you take new resolutions
you get new stuff
you take new friends
you make new relationships

Let me wish all my old friends all these and more in the new year. Have a fabulous fun-filled 2007, folks!

PS: I couldn’t have got any worser, hehe.

Categories: Friends