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Saturday, 17 November 2012

On the less beaten road-Occean to Ocean Run Thailand

Some destination keeps calling-i am a believer.And it proved true for this unique trip to Thailand in the year 2010.I was not a blogger then but this event has a deep memory worth sharing here .As title sounds crazy "Ocean to Ocean run" indeed it is 100% true.


11th Dec 2010 was the decision day when organised sunrise to sunset relay race from Pacific to Indian ocean,distance 136.6km,8 runners,2 female rest 6 male.Sounds unbelievable but absolutely not.My reaction was exactly same when i heard it for the first time.I was told 140km :)


The story did not start at decision day but around a month ago so it's some where near Nov(that's why memories tickling me this Nov :) second birthday hihi).I was working as trainee engineer in Malaysia airlines and they had(still have) wonderful team of veteran runners who participate in all possible races around the globe and leave there footprints(that's the perk of working in airline industry,you will get free tickets.So travel expenses will never bother you but i am still one of the unluckiest in aviation whose company does maintain aircraft but does not own airline so no free ticket,no free travel to the world :( ).Next question,what was I that time and answer is- i was a trainee runner (haha)in park nearby my stay to keep me fit and who also participate in all possible 10km and 21km races organised in Kualalumpur and who boasted on herself like being P.T. Usha(if not Usain bolt :)) and always thought she could even go to Olympics and get few gold for India if trained well(See the height and impracticality of my dreams uhh).Malaysia airlines team had best runners already in their basket.In my understanding they were best not because they run well but because they practice really really hard.I will explain what do i mean by saying "really really hard".How i do or i have seen most of the people doing,they run for a race and once they complete it they boast for next one week then they take rest for another one week before coming back to their routine(i have already mentioned including me :( ) but these guys were different,they are right back on the track as they complete their race,every race is preparation for the next bigger one.And the kind of chemistry and team attitude they share i salute.Those runners are from different departments,sitting on high chairs.Someone may be GM-IT,someone Sr HR Manager,some may be a trainee engineer (like me)but when they are in team they are simply runner.
The particular category in Ocean to Ocean relay they were thinking to run,made it mandatory to have two female runners and there was a range of the average age for the team (criteria defined for average age of the team so not all player can be young or Gray to give competition  an edge)which was overshooting for MA team so they were in hunt of a young female runner(to bring mean age for the team within range).One day one of my colleagues in engineering division saw me running for 5km in annual sports day and he inquired me about my practice routine.I had no idea what will be coming next but i explained every figure (inflated :)) about my running routine that i do this that and blah blah.Later on he asked me to come for practice on the hill where MA team practice their drills.So with my sports shoe ON i headed to the called place and as expected, team was already there.People from different division of MA whom i had never seen or met.Most of them were veteran runners.They declared "we are going up-down hill 3 times".I had no idea what's the distance but never had fear also(that's the plus point and actual reason for my achievement what i really care is just run not the distance).That day actually i have realized they don't run but fly without a bit of tiredness.Their sprint,their endurance have marveled me.It was so measured so calculated and perfect.That day i actually realized where excellence lies and where i belong right now(big dash to my hypothetical daydreams).Well i completed the whole loop  without puffing all the surrounding air.They were impressed and i was in the team huhuhuhu(my first big achievement).I  did my practice routine regularly. Even time came when i used to go for running 20km in one shot 3days a week(sound exaggerated but  true).I was getting their emails daily about how important every single member in this relay race is,if one fail to deliver best whole team will collapse.


Just to explain it was a relay race of 136.6 kms covered by 8 runners in 3 dash. Each dash length differs and distance was not equally divided but according to difficulty level .Because some area may have steep climb,some may be valley,some may be inside a city but runners change over point are same for all team.I was the seventh runner for the team(a new bird just came out of cocoon) and got segment of 7km(plain)-5(hill and down)-8.5km(elevated).Team had full faith on me but they were really worried about my last stretch of elevation.They warned me several times "last stretch will be challenging because by evening whole body will give up and only one thing you want- to stop".But i knew myself more than any body there i.e if scenery is beautiful ,what my heart and body demands is more and more of it :)





So after practicing for a month we headed to Thailand via Hatyai.It was a  pleasant luxury bus travel and i was really keen to know how is immigration and other stuff in roadways(so far i had done that in airways only),what and how this no-mans land looks and feels like and a lot new experience.I was the only one in the team holding Indian passport,one more person was holding Australian passport, rest all were Malaysian and they didn't need visa to travel Thailand.I got up at last check point of Malaysia then bus entered into no-mans land,and finally around 6 am in the morning we were at immigration check point of Thailand,It was still dark.First thing i saw was few fat men with thick gold ring on all their fingers and yelling "Indian passport, come this side".I was a bit surprised about whats going on.All my colleagues were in normal immigration line and i was cornered to get my visa done.I was aware that visa-on-arrival is free for Thailand but the crooks sitting in immigration office were demanding for fat cash.I showed all my knowledge about visa procedure and fee structure but they were just demanding without giving any ear to my debate.All my team mates were done with immigration and now waiting for me on the other side and i was still arguing with these non-listeners.But being an Indian this was not the first situation in life time.I remember all arguments of this kind whenever i was caught driving my vehicle without helmet and asked for money by police in my college days(i never paid them, shamelessly saying"student hain sir,paise nahi hai" but definitely learnt to always drive with helmet ON),sometimes boarding train without ticket and hefty amount asked by TT(i have boarded twice WT because Que was too big and i had only two choice 1-leave the train 2- board WT,i had chosen the second and caught both time alas!) and argument goes exactly same way.So my long term practice to deal with such situation paid me good result.I remained adamant at my point and made them stamping on my passport without paying a single penny and created a history in front of my Malaysian colleagues(Malaysian are very simple people i can say that after staying 3 years between them.At least for ordeal like this,they will simply pay thinking it as a rule).So that was my welcome in Thailand and my heart shouted "Hospitality in Thailand,what the F**k".



So by the time i was across boarder my bus had already left me. There were just me and two of my generous colleagues.So we took local transport and made our way to Hatyai(second biggest city in Thailand after Bangkok).I was still fuming with what  had happened in the morning but slowly the magic of Thailand was unveiling.Seeing the simplicity and sweetness of local people around,getting a glimpse of their simple living had started affecting my thoughts but impact of bad ordeal still remained. Hatyai was like typical big town but yes a bit less crowded,so we had good Thai food and with belly fool we headed for Shogkhla from where the Race was going to start next morning at 4am.


Our team sat inside 9 seater resembling Maruti-Omni,well decorated and quite spacious from inside.Our driver did not understand single world of English but he was the same man whom MA team hiring for i don't know how many years(or decade ;)) .Their union was like meeting your long lost brother.I enjoyed watching the chemistry when people don't understand the language but heart speaks so much.What a scene,my heart said.


Our carriage passed city and suburb started so are my wonder.Beautiful clean landscape with people with generous smile.It was hypnotizing me and i was completely carried away with their innocence.





We reached the beach resort(it was best i had stayed till date) exclusively for the runners from entire globe.We collected token,team T-shirt and other stuff.Some welcome song sung by beautiful Thai girls and speech delivered(all in local language what i could not understand a bit).With all formalities done i headed to my room.The ambiance was charged with energy of athletes from all walk.I got first dose of my nervousness.I was seeing them in awe.The place and beach in front was beautiful,i needed immediate escape from the crowd to compose myself for the race.My room-mate warned me " don't go too far"(i appreciated her genuine care particularly when i was like child among group of grown up but i hate babysitters) I convinced her i will be a call away from her on the beaches.She felt relaxed and i started my walk for the beach.It was long big stretch of white sand,perfectly clean,breathtaking and last but not least absolutely lonely,no body at all there.I was completely into my own.Running to the distance i can,going into water and coming back when wave comes.It was pacific ocean so not much activity.I could see the crowd of people in resort from beach but thanking God no one in this crowd is of my kind else i would not have got such peace.After spending couple of hours i got a call for grand dinner(yes dinner at 5:30pm,because carbs has to break down and digest well before start of run at 4am next morning).I am a vegetarian(i was the only exception in that grand dinner which had 300 over dishes but all non veg except of-course rice-dal-salad.I had only 3 things in my plate and became a laughing stock for rest of my colleagues.Nervousness for the run was growing inside me and i was not able to eat the meager food on my plate.Our captain advised to go for early sleep and getup by 3am. I was unable to sleep that night,turning one side to another while my roomy sleeping in all peace.And to my surprise i saw some nightmares also in between that i have twisted my legs and unable to run.Thankfully i did not scream (else our team would have lost another runner in cardiac failure :) and after some more crap-nonsense scary thoughts finally i slept i don't know when.I got up on time (mercy my roomy).Got ready and with my shoe ON i told my heart-"no matter its first time for me but it was first time for rest of others once and they made it so will i".




We loaded our stuff and waited for gun to shot.In this run ritual were different,First runner of every team was holding the baton for the rally and dipped it in the water of pacific ocean.Rest team had to reach the next change over point were he has to pass the baton to second runner.I was seventh runner so had around 2 hours with me.With passing time anxiety was growing but i composed myself.It was pitch dark then so cyclist were escorting runners with fluorescence dress and some light.Whole atmosphere was charged with energy,enthusiasm,fun,emotion and a lot more.At one end there were team of small kids running for same 136.6 km and on the other end there were really old people but determined to do it.I was witnessing best ever race of my life.I just want to tell you it was not just race,it was a lot more.I was among people who cant understand my language but offered me water in those lonely road where their team mates were competing us and so were we doing to others.It was long stretch in each dash and you are all alone with your team waiting around 8 km ahead and no one to see you if you faint.Eventually one of my long lost dreams came true that was "running in lonely road all alone" huhu.I became friend with few runners from different country,we talked a lot in sign language.We shared whatever we had for eating and drinking and got glimpse of the corner of the heart which still exist in completely unalloyed form.So run lasted for the whole day.In my second segment it rained heavily but i kept running my 7km dash under thunderstorm and got drenched completely.Nothing could reduce my enthusiasm and joy of completing it.Yes last segment was tough but i had already made my mind so i battled with it bravely and finally reached Indian ocean and buried our baton there.My team stood in No 5th position while other team of Malaysia Airline was first in their category.So what we had was loads of joy and fulfillment. There was a grand celebration for all participant.We all enjoyed delicious Thai food(my choice still remained limited :(  ) and reached back to Hatyai.

Slept well after day long run and next morning i was set to see around.People with me had there preference in shopping and i had mine.So i convinced them to leave me alone, what they denied but finally I assured them about my safety.Then i started strolling in those unknown roads,visited some beautiful Thai temples,did lots of shopping,went for Thai foot massage(big relief to my tired foot) and a day full of activities.All our team gathered back for evening tea together before saying bye to Thailand.Until this time i could understand why Thailand is known for it's hospitality.Thai people are one of the most generous in the whole world(in my view and of course few exception like some in immigration counter).So after visiting Thailand it topped my list of Hospitality until recently i visited Goa and i can announce proudly, my country out shined Thai and forced me to update my list again.But what the gust of emotion i had felt being there and lessons i had learnt are my asset for lifetime and i still feel Thailand calling me again-so lets hope when i am going to make it again.......................

Thursday, 1 November 2012

Unveiling Goa-Day 2


It was 6:30 am when my eyes opened and what i could hear was mesmerising sound of waves which made me jumped off bed and opened the door.Right in front was wide ocean of blue and except sound of waves there was complete silence.The feeling was exactly like waking from some very beautiful dream and you found yourself right there.After staring at the beauty,seeing sun going higher,the vista kept me hypnotised for a while and then we started for our routine.


9am remained our time to retire from everything and jump right into the ocean which we maintained for all 5 days of our stay.Swimming there was really fun,particularly when waves are continuous and giant.Once you learn to combat with it,that will be all yours.We kept swimming for couple of hours and then realised our hunger and made way to Havana.

It was 11Am we were completely ready for our exploration.First set destination was Agonda Beach.Roughly driving for 20 min we were right in front of a completely lovely beach.There were no one on the full stretch except 3 local kids enjoying the ocean bath.Firstly it was hard to believe the beauty of the place,even more wonder was that nobody was there to enjoy it(some how my heart was dancing in happiness for second reason :)).We kept walking to full stretch, feeling the quietness of the surrounding.After spending quality time there we started our heading for Cola Beach.Just after driving for 10 min there was a sign board showing arrow towards a "Kachcha Rasta" so we turned there and found path was really hilly,up and down and broken and realised it was going towards a jungle.No sign of liveware except chirping of birds,which made us sceptical about rightness of taken path.We made a deal lets go for another 1km and if we don't find anything we will return.So at the end of 1 km we did not find any beach but two Dio standing there.
Optimistically we ventured into steep glide and found a treasure hidden deep inside which took us in awe and made us thank to the Creator for creating such place.It was most........... beautiful beach i had even seen(including in movies and my dreams :)).I really started running like a kid in extreme happiness,which added some wings to fly.I was on the peak of my happiness to find such place.Seeing the terrain i could understand that there are more gigantic rocks than sand below water and its going to be really deep but our courage took us into the blue world.Waves were giant and violent,much more than where we were swimming daily.Current was strong to pull us deep but our enthusiasm kept us afloat.Once we were tired swimming,we found a natural sweet water lake on the other side which looks so inviting for a swimmer like me so in no time i was inside water,refreshing and very welcoming.After swimming we did kayaking and made friend with small Swiss girls Kiara and Sally (those kept swimming underneath our kayak) so we took them to a kayak ride for the lake.


Next target was the fort(Cabo de Rama) where nothing remained except broken walls.We climbed up on the roof and  got view of Arabian see which was breathtaking .


So by now it was nearly 5pm and sun was starting gliding.We started back for Palolem.On the way back, just little off route we found a huge grassland which looked beautiful to get some different landscape but when we reached  the end we could see a very beautiful valley right below which was completely unmanned and unexplored.Again this place took us to surprises,we kept admiring the blue from the top of this valley and suddenly we heard a big doop sound in water and what we saw was unbelievable.It was Dolphin swimming right there below."Oh my God,how many surprises this land has for us" i now sun was setting and we started back............again in night after dinner it was time for beach walk and breathing the beach air that's how my second day ended...........but story continued............