Category Archives: Uncategorized

When in Bangkok, spend a day learning Muay Thai

If you have every seen a game of Muay Thai (Thai boxing) at a local stadium somewhere in Thailand or even on the web or TV, you know how brutally destructive it can be!

When I visited Thailand recently, I realised that an increasing number of travellers to Bangkok aren’t content with merely watching the sport. Many like me want to get our hands dirty and experience Muay Thai.

And I did. At the Rajadamnern Singha Muay Thai Academy (RSM academy) in Bangkok and what if it was only for a day!

RSM academy is in the Thong Lor area close to the popular Sumkhumvit in Bangkok.
This academy is located on the 3rd floor of a shopping center called ‘SeenSpace’.

It is a large training area (approx 3500 sq ft)  with many instructors around.

So, what was it like when I entered?

The whole area was abuzz with some who looked like freshers (but with a bit more experience than I had), then were the intermediate and in the ring I saw a few who seemed to be training for a while. Let’s call them pros!!

It all began with warm up-like most sports and fitness activities. And the warm up was intense. Was it the Bangkok humidity or a mix of intense cardio and mobility work, I don’t know! But I was sweating.

Now, it was time to gear up.

The gear included first wrapping my fingers with a hand wrap.

I was told that hand wraps ensure that your knuckles and wrists are protected when you punch.

The coach who could only speak  a little bit English, gestured me that I should not  wear gloves without first wrapping hands.

It is believed that punch after punch can really take a toll on your hands.

 

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Preparing for my first ever Muay Thai Session with the coach! Butterflies!

While putting the hand wraps on, I immediately realised that your wraps should be tight enough to stay put. And you should not wrap them so tight that they cut off circulation. It is important that you should be able to move your fingers and thumb comfortably.

And then, I put on the gloves.

How it all started?

After learning basic footwork, punches and elbow attacks, I was invited to enter the ring.

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Inside the ring

 

 

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Learning the Footwork

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Observing the diagonal kick or Tae Chiang as it is called

 

After learning the basic footwork, the first kick  that I learnt was Tae Chiang. It can be done by swinging the leg diagonally upwards to attack against the target.

Tae Chiang was followed by Tae Tad. Tae Tad is in fact the most commonly used kick in Muay Thai also because many think it is easy ( well, I don’t).

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Trying to correct my Tae Tad

The correct movement for Tae Tad is that the defender must bend his legs a little and swing the kick to the area around the knee-joint or the back of the knee joint.

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And post learning a couple of kicks and practising those kicks it was time to learn a few punches.

The straight punch feels like a power punch. In Muay Thai it’s frequently used as knock out punch.

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Packing a punch!

 

Muay Thai’s secret weapon

Then finally, I learnt the secret weapon of Muay Thai-elbow strike.

Elbow strike is in fact a very unique weapon that makes Muay Thai different from most other martial arts. During events and matches, elbow strike has the potential to give very severe injury to the opponent as it is used to attack when opponent is at a closer distance. An elbow strike typically strikes the joints and areas around the neck and the face.

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Attacking the face using elbow strike

 

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Attacking the knee with an elbow strike

After learning a few kicks, punches, strikes and defence  techniques, it was time to apply all that I learnt in a a two-minute fight with the coach.

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Testing my reflexes

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Anyone visiting Thailand must at least take up one session of Muay Thai. It is fun, heart-pumping and also a great calorie burner.

Here is a bit on the fee structure.

If you wish to take a single session it will cost you 550 Baht. And if you are staying a bit longer in Bangkok then you can book 10 sessions which you can in fact use for 3 months at 4,950 Baht.

There is also a Weekly and Monthly Unlimited package through which you can go as many times as you want. Weekly (Unlimited) will set you back by 1,900 Baht and 1 Month (Unlimited) is at 5,400. But then you get to visit as many times as you wish.

The exact address of the place I went to learn was:

Rajadamnern Singha Muay Thai Academy, Seenspace 13 (3rd floor), 251/1 Soi Thonglor 13, Sukhumvit 55, Klongton Nua, Wattana, Bangkok, Thailand, 10110.

And this is how you can contact them +66 2 185 2384 But, apart from Thonglor there are other centres you can visit too. Details of which shall be available on their website. http://rsm-academy.com/

 

 

 

Things to know before you visit Icelandic Thermal Baths and Hot Springs

Last June, I had a chance to visit Iceland. And just like everyone else, I wanted to visit their famous thermal baths.

Bathing in thermal baths or hot springs has long been a part of the Iceland’s tradition and culture.

And many say that these hot springs are infact Iceland’s secret to happiness.

If you are planning to travel to Iceland sometime soon and wish to visit any of their amazing thermal baths then here are a few things you must know before you go.

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Enjoying the Seljalandsfoss Waterfall 

Now, when I speak to those planning a trip to Iceland, so many of them tell me how they must visit the Blue Lagoon. It is a pretty awesome place, yes! But there are a numerous hot springs all across Iceland and each of them has something unique to offer.

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Milky water of Blue Lagoon

Some are very fact, some very busy, some are more relaxed, some come with a package, some with a very high entrance fee, while many are free.

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Went to Nautholsvik geothermal beach which was free to use on my Day 1 in Iceland

Many of these hot springs require a booking before you go and many of the baths don’t;

A few of them are man-made, while some others are completely natural.

From this you would have realised that there is a lot of choice when it comes to thermal baths in Iceland.

But all of them have a common etiquette. Hence it is important to know a few things before you visit any of them.

1. Before you enter, you have to shower nude

Icelanders are very strict about hygiene. Hence, when it comes to bathing in thermal baths, you must shower naked without your bathing suit before entering them.

Mostly these are common showers without a privacy of curtains or cubicles. And of course they are same sex only.

Many a times you will see a few signages around the showers, which advise you to scrub properly  and scrubbing around intimate areas  is needed. Please stick to these rules otherwise you may get a local yelling at you.

And when it comes to showering, let me be clear it requires using shampoo, body wash, conditioner, etc. Many baths provide it close to the shower, but for a free public bath, it is advisable to carry your own.

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Showering is crucial before you enter any thermal bath 

2. Take your shoes off

Yes, you must leave your shoes outside the showering areas. Generally, outside the changing rooms there are dedicated shoe shelves where you can leave your shoes. Or you can even pick up these shoes and bring it to your locker in the changing room.

3. Get a locker

The most important thing that you do after entering the changing room is to get a locker. Don’t worry, at any paid bath or hotspring, a locker is included in the admission fee.  You can store your clothes and belongings there. The key for it is attached to an elastic band which you can put around your wrist or ankle which you can bring to the bath. Many a times the number of the locker is not on the key especially when it is a swipable bracelet. In such a situation it is crucial to remember in which locker you have kept your belongings and you will have to remember the section number too. Many huge baths have a plethora of lockers and you don’t want to be lost inside.

4. Bring your own towel otherwise you will have to rent one

At larger hot springs you can rent towels and slippers but it is the best if your bring your own. You can definitely save some money.

5. Get your slippers

I visited Iceland in June and it was cold!!! The biggest challenge entering a hotspring comes when you have to walk from your changing room to the bath and that too bare feet!! And the same applies when you are going back to the changing room. Hence, it is great to keep your slippers handy.

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Getting into the water from the changing room is a challenge

6. Do not wet your hair

Many say that hot springs have high amount of Silica, hence it’s often advised to avoid wetting your hair as it can become dry and tangled. I have faced this problem when I did dip my hair!

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Yes I did wet my hair and I had to deal with tangled, dry hair for the next couple of days 

6. Choose a quieter time to make the most out of your hotspring experience

Typically, coach tours visit hotsprings daily. But as you’re coming to a thermal bath to relax and rejuvenate, you may want to visit during quieter times  when there is less crowd.

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There was not much crowd when I was at the Secret Lagoon, but almost after one hour, it got really crowded

 

7. Book the transfer in advance

If you are not driving down, then it is best to book your transfer to and from the hotspring in advance along with your ticket to the hotspring to avoid any kind of chaos.

8. Drink lots of water before during and after stepping out

Staying in a hot thermal bath for a very long time can be dehydrating. Hence, keep sipping water before you enter the hotspring. Inside  a large bath such as the Blue Lagoon, you can swipe your bracelet and buy anything to eat and drink. And you can pay for it outside when you are leaving. And after you step out, don’t forget to have fluids on your way back to the hotel.

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Yes, I could buy some red wine too, using my bracelet

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Nothing compares to sipping some wine staring at the 11:30 pm sun!!! Yes, 11:30 pm is when this photo was taken

Final tip

When you enter a hotspring, you will realise that it is a bit hotter at the edge or the periphery of the bath as compared to the area in between. Choose what you like. I loved to stay in hot hot water at the edge in the cold cold Iceland.

Hope you enjoyed reading these tips and with that have a wonderful time in the Icelandic hot springs.

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Indeed, it was warmer at the edges and I spent almost two hours moving from one edge to the other 

 

Running in the rain

Starting June, the most common run related question I get is ‘how to run in the rain?’

Well, all I can say is that you shouldn’t be scared about running in the rain—you just need to be prepared to embrace it. And if you are prepared then running in the rain can be a delightful experience.

I hope some of these tips will help you run in the rain.

Wear Layers

To begin with, a light jacket is helpful if you intend to run in the rain. It gets windy and sometimes a bit cold even when you are running at a place like humid place like Mumbai. This jacket will also act as a great shield against the rain. Pick one with a hood to cover your head.
If you’re going for shorts, it’s a good idea to wear some compression shorts on underneath to prevent chafing.

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It is great to run in layers and a light jacket will help

Wear Bright colours

Pick up all those bright neons when you step out for a run. It gets a bit dark when it rains and wearing bright colours is the best way to stay visible especially if you are running on the road.

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Bring those Neons out

Carry your money in small waterproof purse

In order to avoid your money from getting wet, carry it in a small waterproof case that fits in your shorts’ or tights’ pocket.

Shoes for your run

When it comes to shoes for your run, take a look at the bottom of your go-to running shoes. If they’re smooth on the bottom it is going to be very hard for you to run without slipping. To be able to run in the rain, your shoes should have a good grip and also some grooves on the soles. A great way to measure is that they should be deeper than one millimetre. This really allow water to run through them and also helps the shoe get a better grip on the road.

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Wearing right running shoes is crucial

Wearing thin socks

Now most running shoes feature upper mesh to let your feet breathe. Because of the mesh, your feet are going to get wet for sure when it rains. Though there’s not much you can do about the mesh on your shoes, wearing thin socks, which don’t absorb as much water, will keep soggy feet from weighing you down. Socks will also help avoid blisters and shoe bites on your wet, numb feet.

Keep yourself hydrated

Now, when it is warm you tend to keep on sipping water at regular intervals. But, when it rains do not forget to hydrate yourself. You might not feel thirsty while you are running in the rain, but post the run you will end up feeling tired and dehydrated. To avoid this, keep on sipping water.

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It is extremely important to hydrate yourself well

Watch the road

The last thing that you want on your run is an ankle sprain. Keep a watch on the road for those puddles and open gutters.

Apply Vaseline

Applying Vaseline on your feet and at the periphery of your clothing is the best way to avoid wet clothing related rashes and blisters.

Avoid running on a tiled surface

Running on tiled surface makes you more prone to slipping. Hence it is best to avoid running on tiled surface.

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Tiles can be tricky during rains, be careful otherwise you will slip

There is nothing more beautiful and liberating than running in the rain. You feel child-like joy splashing water as you run while the rain water rushes down your cheeks. I hope with these tips will you will be able to experience this joy.

Running at KLCC Park in Kuala Lumpur

If you are in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia and tired of working out indoor in your hotel gym or running on treadmill and are also concerned about hitting the busy KL streets for your run, then head to KLCC Park.

In the shadow of the Petronas Twin Towers this green space offers plenty of shade, water bodies and about 1-1.3 km loop. And the best part is that it has a synthetic track for runners.

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The KLCC Park is in the shadow of the twin towers

The KLCC park is right at the city centre and easily accessible!

On my recent work trip to Kuala Lumpur, I was staying at the busy Bukit Bintang and this place was both a run and a cab ride away.

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The park was at a short distance from the very busy Bukit Bintang 

I preferred taking a cab in order to avoid all the traffic and the shopping crowd. And it took me less than 10 minutes to reach from Bukit Bintang to KLCC Park.

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It was a nice shaded route to run, even when I started the run a bit late

At any given point in time, whether it is night or day, this park attracts tourists. And to my luck I found a couple of them who could take good pictures!!!!! Yaayyy!!

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It felt amazing to watch and pass the twin towers, on every single loop taken 

Just because it has a synthetic track doesn’t mean it is a flat course. Nope! It gets a bit rolling in between, but not really in a tough way, rather, in a fun manner!

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There is a bit of elevation that you will notice when you run, but in a fun way! 

You can run here in the morning, during the day time and even till late evening. The park opens at around 7 am and is open till 10 pm.

If you come here in the evening, you will be a witness to the synchronised water fountain and light display. And post run you can have some time to chill at the orchestra theatre.

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The synchronised water fountain and light display if you visit KLCC park in the night

 

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Beautiful view of the twin towers from the park in the night 

Just to give you a background, this beautiful park was conceptualised by renowned Brazilian landscape artist, the late Roberto Burle Marx. It is a approximately a 50-acre urban sanctuary in the heart of the city.

About 6 loops and 8km run later, I headed back to the hotel for a quick meal, before getting on with work. A run at this park definitely made me wonder whether we can have a park such as this in my city Mumbai with a longish synthetic track and under the shade of trees!!!

 

 

Koh Talu-an unexpected and a very private affair

On my recent trip to Thailand, I had the opportunity of visiting a very unique island.

It was about 6 hour drive and a boat ride away from Bangkok. This is the private Koh Talu Island that I am speaking about.

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Koh Talu Island

The journey:

We took Bangkok Airways Flight from Mumbai and Landed at Bangkok’s Suvarnabhumi International Airport. From there we took a van to travel further.

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At Suvarnabhumi Airport

After a few stops we went to the famous Hua Hin railway station which is in fact one of the oldest railway stations in Thailand.

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Royal Waiting room at Hua Hin Station

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Waiting for the train at Hua Hin station

After stopping for lunch, we moved to take a short ferry ride

Koh Talu Island Resort is a 20-minute speed boat ride from the coast of Bang Saphan.

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20 min boat ride to Koh Talu Island resort

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Boat ride to the Koh Talu Island 

A very friendly staff greeted us on board. As the ferry moved forward, the island started disclosing itself. And what we saw was delightful indeed.

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Finally, after a long journey we landed on the Koh Talu Island

Located on a private beach, Koh Talu Island Resort offers rooms with private balconies. It features a massage centre, a private beach and beautiful sea facing restaurant where we enjoyed our evening meal.

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Excitement to capture the sunset after landing on this private beach

The rooms were air-conditioned and spacious.

Next day, we woke up to a beautiful sunrise followed by a run that I enjoyed on the beach. Post breakfast, we headed for water activities such as scuba diving and snorkelling.

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Day started with delicious breakfast 

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Morning run on the island

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Off to dive

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Enjoyed a great dive 

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Post the dive, enjoyed some snorkelling 

After hours of diving and snorkelling we were welcomed by a warm buffet lunch.

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This dive was really amazing, saw many many beautiful creatures 

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On the journey back to the hotel for lunch

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Who likes some fresh crabs? 

Post lunch we went for another dive where we understood how the resort is taking efforts to save and restore corals.

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The Island’s Coral Restoration project

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These corals will be carried to the sea bed and restored again

The island also has a turtle nursery to conserve and breed sea-turtles.

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Met some beautiful baby turtles

The highlight of the day was a boat ride by the beautiful sunset. It was almost one hour long and we enjoyed every minute of it.

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Boat ride at sunset 

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A beautiful end to a beautiful day

This was followed by a sumptuous dinner with seafood and some delightful drinks.

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This was some meal and that too by the sea!!!

Koh Talu truly is a hidden gem. And if you want your time away from the hustle and bustle of this tourist magnet Thailand then this is an island to visit.

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How to start running? A few tips for those who want to begin.

runner's sigh

A lot of people often write to me asking how did I begin running. Well, my answer is simple-by substituting a few meters of my morning or evening walk with a slow jog and then getting back to the walk. That’s how I began! You can do the same. Begin with small 1 to 2 km walk-jog-walk routines that you can practice and bring to slightly longer runs over the weekend. And also here are a few easy steps that you can follow.

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Take time out to follow a routine

First, take 30 mins of your time each day and start with run-walk-run, at least 3 times a week. As you get regular after a couple of weeks, try and increase this to about 5 times a week. You can also try one minute of brisk walking, followed by one minute of jogging, and repeat this…

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In images-why should you definitely take a winter break and visit Gulmarg?

I visited beautiful Gulmarg on new year’s eve and stayed there for a couple of days after new year. It was beautiful, peaceful and with very few tourists around. I got a good deal on flights and hotels while I stayed there and got utmost hospitality and attendance of the locals at restaurants, shops and hotels. But the most beautiful part about Gulmarg around that time was what I saw-with snow and without it too. And it was breathtaking. Here are a few moments captured through my mobile phone camera.

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Bukhara in my room at Hotel Nedous. Landed here with high fever and visited the local hospital the next day for a swift recovery. 

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Inside a Gondola, all the way to the top

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View from the top, after a short trek post the Gondola ride

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In the hotel backyard, while taking a short walk

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Most on the tourists explore Gulmarg on a pony like this one. I preferred walking and would end up walking at least 10-12 km each day.  

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Freezing at -3 degrees while I stepped out on the terrace at The Khyber Himalayan Resort & Spa. This is the most sought after hotel to stay in at Gulmarg (slightly over priced) 

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Last sunset of 2016 was beautiful indeed! 

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And the sun finally hides behind the mountains! 

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Frozen river captured on one of the long walks

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First run of 2017 and then some yoga! 

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From scantily snow-clad land to land and rooftops completely hidden under snow! Complete change in scene within 12 hours! 

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And snowfall continues

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View from my hotel room

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roads and trees covered in snow

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Long road trips suddenly become very endearing! 

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Isn’t it gorgeous or what? 

Khardung La Challenge-A little over 72 km and 18000 feet

We all have dreams. But in order to make dreams come into reality, it takes an awful lot of determination, dedication, self-discipline and effort.
-Jesse Owens

Almost evening, dust had settled on my sleeves and my nose skin had started to peel off. I had been on the road for over 12 hours. Sipping some water from the van nearby, I checked my phone. Mother had called twice. I dialled to return the call.

“I am fine, last few left to go,” I assured her even before she asked. “Have you eaten?” she asked. I remembered the warm bowl full of instant Maggie Masala noodles. The bowl sat comfortably in my cold palms. A luxury at South Pulu. It did taste like the best dish in the world back then.  “Yes,” I replied and hung up. I didn’t have to explain my brevity, she knew.

“Running 72 kms over Khar Dung La Pass? Have you lost your mind? People can’t walk there at 18000 feet. And you want to run?” This is how she had reacted when I told her first.

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picture taken while approaching the top

 

Visiting Leh-Ladakh was high on my agenda for many years now. And to me the best way to experience a new place is to run there. What could be better than running the entire stretch on the man made marvel Khar Dung LA-the highest motoring pass in the world.

Getting to Leh was a task in itself as there was a cloud burst in Srinagar around the time when I was flying. Had to rebook my onward flight. I was flying from Mumbai into Leh at 13000 feet which also meant that my acclimatisation would be zero when I reached. I had to fix it quickly.

 

I had booked one hotel for 10 days near the market place in Leh. Having booked the hotel last minute, I was glad that I did managed to get the entire booking at only one place rather than having a divided stay split into many hotels. I was travelling by myself.

As soon as I landed,  my body had started giving into the high altitude. I had a nagging headache and loss of appetite. Altitude had started playing its role.

Getting to the hotel was easy, as there are various cabs available at reasonable rates from the airport.

Reaching the hotel, I unpacked. Running shoes first and running gear arranged neatly in my cupboard. I hadn’t taken any medicine for altitude.

The only agenda on my mind was to acclimatize as quickly as I could and decided to stay as outdoor as possible. Considering it was cold and cloudy outside, it seemed like bit of a challenge. I hadn’t signed up for any treks or activities either. But, I didn’t have to sign up in advance either.

Leh-Ladakh is an outdoor person’s paradise and all I had to do was walk around the market looking for signages that showed single seat available in a van or vehicle to the likes of Pang gong Tso, Stok Angri, Nubra Valley, etc. Cheap and convenient for a solo traveller. I shared rides for many monasteries and trees with strangers and foreign nationals. I made some friends too, whom I could meet  occasionally. I would go climbing to Shanti Stupa and visit Leh Palace with them as most of these places were close to my hotel.  Or we would simply catch up over mint tea!

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Compulsory medical check before the race day

But these were all the side dishes. The main course was to be served over the weekend of my stay in Leh. A 72 km run that started from Khardung village (one of the highest villages in the world). All the participants were transferred to the village in a bus, where we stayed overnight. The stay at a local’s place was comfortable. The run started at 3 am. It was cold and windy.

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Khar Dung Village where we stayed before the race

It was a 72 km run that took the runner all the way down to Leh after crossing the Khardung La Pass. Elevation, snow clad peaks, six layers of clothing, slipping on hard snow; everything added to the drama. Every time I had to go to the toilet I would curse my bladder!

And I was on the final few kilometres of this run when I spoke to my mother. The run took me and showed me so many things within a short span of the daytime. It revealed so much about me. From shivering hands while approaching the Khar Dung La top to almost giving up at one point in time during the race; to confident strides running downhill towards Leh.  And these last few kilometres to spare felt like forever!

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Running Downhill towards Leh

The landscape, I had come here for walks, during my stay at Leh and it did seem close by yet the finish line seemed far away . I was happy that the ultimate test of my endurance was ending soon but I was sad that my beautiful time spent in Leh-Ladakh was coming to a conclusion too. At that point if anyone would have asked me, “Will you do it again?” My response would be, “Never!” But as soon as I crossed the finish line at this public school in Leh, I said to myself “When can I do it again?”

Just keep going like crazy and look back when it’s over. Otherwise you just get confused.
-Cliff Burton

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Panoramic Image of the Village and the place where we stayed

What does it take to climb Mt. Everest?

“It is not the mountain we conquer but ourselves.”

-Edmund Hillary

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Many of us have read about people who have climbed Mt. Everest. But, I don’t know any of them personally. It is something to read about such individuals in newspapers and appreciate and applaud their efforts. But, when one of your friends climbs Mt. Everest it is a different feeling of pride and admiration all together.

Now such an individual is Brij Mohan Sharma or Breeze Sharma as we runners call him. I have known him for many years and have had the privilege to run several ultra-marathons with him almost end-to-end.

And Breeze recently became the first civilian from the Indian Navy to summit Mount Everest.

Breeze tried to climb Everest in 2015, but his attempt came to a halt following an avalanche, in which he was buried under heavy snow. All of us who knew of his expedition, know how much he had invested in this effort, including selling his bike to fund his trip.

But, he did not give up on hope. A year later, in 2016 he participated in what is considered as the toughest Ultramarathon in the world- Badwater 135 miles race and successfully finished it to become the fastest Indian at the world’s toughest foot race. And only two Indians have finished this race so far.

This year, he also broke his own previously-held record of 24-hour Treadmill-Running Asian Record by clocking 202.50 km in the timespan of 24 hours. And that’s not all. He has finished many 135 mile and 100 mile running events-and he makes it look completely effortless.

Having run many marathons with him, I know him as a person with tremendous grit and determination. But Mt. Everest we all know is a different beast all together. Many of us aspire to climb it someday.

Here I had my own set of questions for him on his journey to the peak of the highest mountain in the world:

What made you set your eyes on climbing Mt. Everest?

Since it’s the highest peak in the world, it attracted me right from the beginning of my mountaineering days. This was way back in 1993. Whenever I went climbing other peaks, I felt closer to the almighty. It was a feeling that this is how closer I can get to the God and this is how the world looks from the top.
How did you book the expedition?

I booked the expedition through my Sherpa, Phurba Sherpa from Darjeeling. I did not book it through any company.

Everest is considered as a financially denting, expensive expedition. How did you manage to fund it?

For both the attempts, I paid a sum of Rs. 45 lacs in total, out of which Rs. 21 lac was raised by Indian Navy, Rs.5 lacs given by my batch mates and  the rest I borrowed from friends, relatives and banks.

 

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How did you begin your training?

I prepared with regular gym workouts and long runs. Also, I had an advantage of having a vast experience doing a few summits before. However, unfortunately, I could not find time to scale one 7000 mtr. peak before my departure, which is extremely important.
This was your second attempt, the first expedition got called off due to earthquake and avalanche. What was that feeling like when you had to return?

It was unbearable. I can never forget the feeling when I was leaving the base camp in 2015 after 42 days into the expedition. My team was the last to leave the base camp. We left only when we got the assurance from Nepal Govt. officials that our permit to climb Mt. Everest would be extended. Only then did we leave.

I was disappointed that I could not attempt Mt. Everest back then. But, there was relief that I would get another chance to attempt it. The expedition cost for me in 2015 was Rs. 27 lac. I had borrowed more than Rs.15 lacs, a loan I had to repay when I was back.

I had gone through a life and death situation in 2015. I got trapped in the middle of an avalanche. For 3 days, 3 corpses were kept below my tent and I used to see their faces every day!

While returning this time, I was very well aware that anything could happen to me and I was completely prepared for that.

There were frequent avalanches at the basecamp even this time. Every time I used to hear the sound of an avalanche it would take my mind back to the things that happened back then, the things that I experienced in 2015.

How did you motivate yourself to go back?

It was my dream since last 23 years. This was my second attempt, I had no choice but to summit.

Now, whenever the thought stuck me that I may not return back alive at all, I used to tell myself that one day I have to depart from this world in any case, so let’s leave it on the AKKA (God). If he wants to send me back from here, I will return to Mumbai. Otherwise, I am fine to take my last breath right here.

“The choices we make lead up to actual experiences. It is one thing to decide to climb a mountain. It is quite another to be on top of it.”

-Herbert A. Simon

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What was your learning from the first experience? And how did these learnings help you change your approach this time round?

There are certain mountain manners that you learn. Except those nothing was applied second time.

It is a fresh start every time you attempt to climb.  Every time glacier changes, terrain changes, level of difficulty changes. Mountains never respect experience, every time you climb is a new attempt and a new challenge. Every time, you have to encounter a completely different sort of situation.  So, there was no co-relation between two expeditions.

What was the toughest point as you were climbing?

Around 8600 mtr. there was a wall which was around 60 feet high. It had an elevation of about 80 to 85 degree. Zummering over here was the toughest. After every push, I had to rest for at least 5 minutes. This took a very long time, almost more than two hours.

The saddest moment was around 8400 mt. when we passed the preserved body of a climber known to us. We had met during the 2015 expedition. My mind switched off for few moments there.

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We know you are a fantastic runner with great achievements. Did your running experience help you in your climb?

Running or ultra-running is relatively an easy activity. We run in areas with full oxygen level. We can regulate our speed as per our ease and requirement. Yes, it did help me. But not in a very big way. Maybe up to 10% of the entire effort.

When we run, we lose a lot of calories yes. But one loses more calories by sitting in a tent trying to balance body temperature with the outside temperature.
Also, we wear the lightest gear possible to reduce any kind of weight on us when we are running. At any given point in time a climber has more than 15 kg weight on his body, only the boots weigh around 5kg. There are no aid stations here, like you have when you run. And when you reach 8000 mtr. that is when you need the most energy and the irony is that you cannot eat!

At any given point in time did you feel that you can’t do it? If yes, then how did you motivate yourself to get back on track?

No, I never felt that I cannot do it. I was very sure that I would do it.  With permission of AKKA (God).
How did you feel when you reached the peak? What was the first thought?

It was like meeting the Almighty!  It was so amazing, so beautiful to see the world from the top. First, I thanked the AKKA for his permission to let me  reach his ‘DARBAR’!

What was descending Mt. Everest like?

Descend was the most difficult part. Even after having oxygen supplement, I was feeling breathless many times and used to rest frequently. My Sherpa, Phurba Sherpa was the most experienced person around me. He has summited Mt. Everest 7 times. He used to check my oxygen supply frequently and kept motivating me every second in the process.

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How does your body react to so much altitude? Did you get any hallucinations or hypothermia or loss of appetite?

Yes, my body reacted in a different manner. Up to 8000 mtr. it was normal, at 8000 mtr due to heavy wind of around 90km/hr we had to remain at camp for 28 long hours in tents while we were waiting for weather to clear. We were on oxygen, but I completely lost my appetite and I barely ate. Those hours spent in the death zone were critical including summit attempt. In that period I drank 2 litres of water, some soup, cup noodles and coffee. My Sherpa used to check oxygen supply frequently specially in the night after the summit. But no hallucinations or hypothermia no cold related injuries. I will never forget those 28 hours trapped in the tent.

Will you recommend others to go for Mt. Everest Summit? What are the tips that you will give to those who aspire to climb?

I will never recommend any one to go directly to this expedition unless someone is a mountaineer or has sufficient knowledge and experience in climbing. Even the best climbers fail there. In reality this expedition is toughest thing you will do in your life. There is no retake here. If you commit a mistake, punishment is right there.
I will suggest, first do the Basic and the Advance mountaineering Course. Then gain sufficient knowledge of climbing by summiting peaks of different heights such as 6000 mtr to 7000 mtr. One must know the subjective and objective hazards of climbing. One must know the acclimatisation process as per the height of the peak. One must know the improvised methods of survival.

Sherpa selection is equally important, Sherpa must care of the climber and must have sufficient experience to handle any odd situation. In my case when we stuck in death zone for about 28 hours, oxygen cylinders were limited. Our Sardar Sherpa Mingma Tenjii did not use oxygen for 72 hours to save the oxygen for the members. Also, he purchased more cylinders for the team from the other teams those who were returning from the camp due to heavy wind.

Ok, Bad Water done, Mt. Everest done. What is next on your list?

Ha ha ha….I think I have done everything.

About Mt. Everest, it is really costly to climb. If I get a sponsor, I will definitely go for Everest again from China side.  Also, I would love to climb Kanchenjunga, Lhotse and K2 someday. All are 8000 mtr and above.

As far as running is concerned, I will go for top 10 toughest ultras of the world.

 “To see what others can not…
You must climb the mountain”
― Ron Akers

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17 things I love about travelling solo

runner's sigh

“I wandered everywhere, through cities and countries wide. And everywhere I went, the world was on my side.” –Roman Payne

Have you been to a place where you know absolutely NO ONE. Yes, not a soul and it’s just you with your back-pack?

I have. And it is absolutely thrilling. In fact I must admit that the first time you travel solo, it can be a ‘butterflies in stomach’ kinda experience. Possibly, for many, it could be the first time in your life, ‘you only have yourself to rely on’ kind of experience.

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It all begins with small experiences such as nobody to hold your bag when you go to the loo. And then grander experiences like having no penny beyond the cab fare to the airport left in your pocket, starving till the flight attendant serves you food, being locked out of your hostel and having no where…

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