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On way to Munsiyari, Uttarakhand Birthi water fall  is one of the most spectacular sight to behold. The water plunging down with great force, the  droplets sprayed around the mouth of fall forming a white smoking screen, the sheer power and rhythm of gushing waters leaves one wonder struck.

Standing there on the road, my eyes roamed from the energetic rumbling fall,  to the silent, graceful mountains standing around it like somber, silent sentinels and finally rested on the azure sky overhead. I felt an irresistible pull towards the waterfall. Oh, how I wish to reach the top , the point from where the water plunges down. But that was not to be, so we chose the another best option available. We started climbing on the rocky, narrow path ascending from the roadside. It was not a smooth path with properly laid stairs  but  we could walk on it conveniently. On one side were multitudes of wild plants and flowers on the rocks and on the other side deep down water ran playfully among rocks and boulders.

We reached a point from where we could go down and reach the boulders resting in the water. We were also able to reach rocks lying low in the waters and could hold the cold water in our hands. It was a bright sunny day and after the climb the cool touch of crystal water felt soothing. In between the rocks the restrained flow of water murmured softly while the roars of tumbling cascades echoed in the surrounding and the symphony created by their duet performance slowly loosened the knots insides one by one.

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The waterfall danced like a dream….

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The journey from top to down can also be beautiful if you learn to take it with grace — message of waterfall.

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On the side of mountains from where the fall was tumbling down we could see two tiny figures- a man and woman cutting grass or plants. It was amazing to see them working on such great height but then for these inhabitants of hills it was perhaps a routine chore.

All the pictures@Sunder Iyer

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Birthi fall is about 37 Kms from Musiyari. On the roadside options for tea, snacks and food are available. Two three small restaurants are there. People who are interested in staying at Birthi to soak in the enchanting beauty of nature can check in the Kumaon  Mandal guest house at Birthi.

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While visiting Munsiyari we came to know about two kunds, Thamri and Mehsar kunds. We didn’t go to Mehsar however trekked to Thamri kund. Trek to Thamri kund starts at Betulidhar, a place about 8to 9 kilometer before Munsiyari. It is also near to the gate from where trek to Khalia top starts. It is said that Khalia top is the best place to enjoy sun set and sunrise. However it is said to be a long , steep trek and then to and fro on the same day is not possible. Mainly groups of bikers mark it as a must to be place in their itinerary to Munsiyari.

So finally we zeroed in on Thamari. The trek is about three to four Kms one way. We started from kumayon mandal guest house after breakfast. A small Hanuman temple is at the base of trek.

We visited Munsiyari in the month of September. Worst of rains had passed but days still tended to be cloudy sometime. That day too clouds were hovering in the horizon but it still was very pleasant.

For me, a walk among the tall trees on the narrow pebbly path on hills  is always a welcome retreat to my own being. While treading slowly, stopping in between to imbibe the gracious silence I feel the calm spreading within. This trek too started like that. The trek was neither too difficult nor too steep hence was enjoyable.

 

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Well, while walking on that path I remembered John Muir,

“And into the forest I go, to lose my mind and find my soul. ”    

John Muir

 

We had company of one local person who on the way told us about importance of certain trees – one that is considered holy tree and its leaves are used to decorate devi- sthanam in homes during certain local festival, two trees that have entwined with each other to become one. He told me that most of the couples definitely get their pic clicked under the benevolent shadow of these trees as a good omen to their companionship. His local touches definitely made the journey more interesting though for most of the part I travelled in my own company.

 

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 The offbeat journeys are must sometimes, just to know where we belong.

 

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I love to lose myself to find my very own me….. Ah! I know I say it repeatedly but then, that’s how I feel.

 

On the way glimpses of snowclad peaks of Panchchuli, the undulating mountain ranges behind the forest looked enchanting. How unapproachable yet how arresting they looked. The cool authority of mountain ranges is always assuring.

 

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I know there is a path which leads to their heart but I love to maintain that distant relationship with them. It keeps the mystery alive and I can still feel them spreading within me.

It is an exhilarating experience to stand there on top after reaching the destination and watching the pond studded like a precious emerald in the green sparkling grass around it. I took my time to start descending up to the waters. A group of sheep had started return journey to their camps after quenching their thirst. It was a happy sight to watch the senior members of the group to trace their steps back to prod the younger and careless ones to move with the group when they stopped in the mid or tried to stray from their usual path.

 

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The kund is surrounded by Alpine and cedar jungles.  Silence there is almost echoing. Rustling of leaves, distant calls of birds- and the jungle hums to its own rhythm.

We went down and saw ruins of a building, a high gate type of structure laden with overgrown vegetation on one side of the kund. Ah! That fading page of history kindles the ambers of imagination.

There are remains of another structure on the bank of the kund. A platform type of structure on which a very small place of worship has been created by local people. We were told that local, religious fair takes place here annually and people visit here to pay their obeisance to Almighty.

 

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You can create me in any form, I am within you.

Yes, there are folklores attached to this kund. One of these is about two birds that flew down to it to guard it from being polluted . It is said that they keep the pond clean. Don’t know about the real reason but despite being surrounded by jungle, vegetations and being visited by cattle, animals and human beings the water of kund was sparkling clean. It has definitely been preserved beautifully.

 

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Though to and fro trek itself does not take much time but then the way to trek, the area around kund has lot to offer and one can spend as much time as one wants. It is a beautiful place to get yourself aligned with the sanctity of nature, the rhythm of silence.

All the pictures by Sunder Iyer.

Since childhood I have memories of many Banyan trees. Among these many are some which are really really big and are known as Akshya vat. Vat is Hindi of Banyan. It is commonly known as Bargad.

The first Banyan tree of importance in my memory is one in Company Bagh of Kanpur. Kanpur is the city of my growing up days and the Company bagh there on the Mall road at that time used to be very different than what it is now. It was very dense and we never used to venture inside it beyond that historic well, which was a memorial to large number of unknown freedom fighters. We used to watch this big Banyan tree from outside the boundary wall . If my memory serves me correctly, even in bright summer days we could see dark room kind of spaces between the pillared stems/ roots of the tree.

The second Big Banyan I saw is the famous Great Banyan Tree in Indian Botanical Garden, Howrah. The botanical garden is also commonly known as Botanical garden of Kolkata or Acharya Jagdish Chandra Bose Indian Botanical Garden. This botanical garden has many attractions but presently we will limit ourselves to the Banyan tree only. This Banyan tree is said to be more than 250 years old. Though no specific date can be successfully attributed to it’s origin but its reference can be found in writings of early nineteenth century. As the tree is in premises of one of the premier institute  where various kinds of botanical researches take place, all the factual information regarding it are available. The great Banyan tree has survived two major cyclones of 1864 and 67.

This single tree in itself is like a small forest. While walking on the wide road towards the tree, from a distance you find it hard to believe that there stands a single tree. It covers an area of about 1.6 hectares.We were told that the main trunk of the tree does not exist now. It was infected with some kind of fungus and to save the tree it was removed . However the giant tree still stand there supported by thousands of  aerial roots turning into subsidiary stems. Proper care is being taken care of  the aerial roots going down properly into the earth so that the huge, magnificent tree can be preserved for posterity.  A brick wall of small height was erected to mark the increasing area gradually being covered by the tree.

 

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The Big Banyan tree in the Botanical Garden At Kolkata– as we saw it from the road leading to it.

 

Few more shots of the trees . It really felt like walking through a forest.

 

And the third Banyan tree which I recently found out still stands in obscurity. Local people are aware of it but it is not being preserved and being taken care of properly by any concerned authority.The huge tree stands surrounded by many mango orchards from all sides. The mango orchards are owned by different individuals. If the tree is given freedom to grow it might cover areas of those orchards. Still local people rever and worship it. As the religious activities are gradually picking up around it, unplanned construction in between its area is increasing which definitely restrict it’s growing with abundance and mar it’s natural beauty too.  Various signs forbidding to put names on its branches have been put there but still almost every stem of the huge magnificent tree bleeds with engraved names.  despite these few saddening facts the Akshya Vat is a magnificent sight to behold.

This Akshay Vat is about 30 kilometers from the city of Lucknow, the capital of Uttar Pradesh, India. The tree is in Manjhi village of Mall Block. The Pujari residing near the tree told us that the tree is said to be about 200 years old. Though there is no authenticated proof of that but believe me the vestibules between the prop roots turned into stems, far and wide stretched arms of the tree and the reigning silence take you to the times bygone.

In the center of the tree is a very thick cluster of many trunks. Many branches are sloping outward in all the directions and are in turn supported by entwined prop roots gradually thickening into new trunks. lovely passages and arched vestibules are formed by tapering branches and multitudes of trunks. Overhead stretches the thick canopy . It is a bright, sunny January day but this part talks in shadowed whispers. Big, thick trunked mango trees standing all around Akshay Vat in meticulously lines somehow reminded me of lines in prayer grounds. A villager  cycled away on the dusty road behind the tree, two boys sauntered in  the mango orchard, a bird called somewhere and the sentient atmosphere seeps deep down me.

The magnificent tree standing rapt in all around quiet, aerial roots hanging and once in a while few of them moving slightly with the wind felt like a wise old sage  with long beard lost in deep meditation. As I moved under it and looked upward , the green overhead canopy of leaves felt like showering blessings, keeping evils away.

 

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A panoramic view of Akshay vat of Manjhi village, Lucknow

 

All pictures@ Sunder Iyer

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This time let us travel back to our childhood. I literally did that while visiting this village in north India. Candy floss, cotton candy, fairy floss, by whatever name you call it, still invokes the feelings of wonder in children. At least it certainly was doing so in that village. Just look at the face of this girl, her expressions says it all. The joy of watching the sugar turning into a fluffy ball, the expectation of a magic to unfold is so apparent.


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My memories from my childhood brings back a bit fading image of a thin man with a box of transparent glass hanging from a wide belt on his shoulder. Ah, those glistening balls of baby pink and lemon yellow. No stick was attached to them and as the man walked on the street the box shook a bit with his movement and so did flicker the shining of the balls. More than the taste, holding that fluffy feather weight ball on palm and watching it sparkling in sunlight transported me to joyland. At that time perhaps the machine of turning sugar into the fluffy ball had not been devised or may be those were the times when everything was not so bare and open hence the feeling of wonder was intact.

I found this candyman with his machine on a hand cart, preparing the floss infront of children.And the best part was that feeling of wonder ,of magic unfolding has not lessened with the time.

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the sugar in the container about to be turned into floss

 

 

 

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And..HOW? is writ large on those innocent faces…

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Uff! wait is too much,

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finally the joy of holding it in hands…

As I grow older I really feel that the joys, that childhood has given me are the best ones.

I will love to end this post by a quote by Elizabeth Lawrence–

“There is a garden in every childhood, an enchanted place where colors are brighter, the air softer, and the morning more fragrant than ever again.”

So relish and enjoy the child within you. A very happy new year to you. This one is my first post of 2019 here.

All pictures by Sunder Iyer

Present day Cantigny Park, Wheaton, Illions was  home of Colonel Robert R. McCornick upto 1955.Colonel left his about 500 acre estate to community.  The estate now popularly known as Catigny park has many wonderful things and activities to offer. Another very important thing which colonel gave to community is Chacago Tribune. He was the owner and publisher of the esteemed news paper.

A big area is covered with beautiful bright gardens. It is not just a pleasing sight to eyes to walk through rainbow lanes of diverse species of flowers and plants but the interested ones can learn a lot about these while visiting there. Crystal clear water bodies in between these grassy , flowery areas add to the beauty of the park.

 

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The flower is
the stem’s cry of beauty
to the universe.
-Vassilis Comporozos

 

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“To see the world in a grain of sand
and heaven in a wildflower,
hold infinity in the palm of your hand
and eternity in an hour.”
-William Blake

I could go on talking about beauty of flowers there for a very long time, such was the wide variety blooming there.

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Here is just a glimpse of rainbow fields….. just to ignite your imagination.

There are tall, elegant trees all around grassy lawns and then there are dense almost forest like areas.

 

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The water body

 

The home of colonel stands in the park and a conducted tour inside the building is carried out. We did not have much spare time in our hands hence we had to forego that tour but we had a talk with guides sitting outside the building. They informed us that it takes almost forty five minutes to an hour to complete the entire tour. I am sure the tour must have been very informative and enlightening . The house was built by colonel’s grandfather Joseph Medill. the estate was earlier known as Red Oak Farm but later on was renamed as Cantigny by Colonel and his wife in memory of the French Village where Colonel served with First Division during World War First.

 

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Just a small portion of Meccornick house

Another very important part of this park is the First Division Museum. The museum takes one to the pages of history of the U.S. army’s 1st Infantry Division. Many stories of soldiers are displayed through sounds and sights. I loved the way families, from very young kids, youngsters to old people were engrossed in front of various big screens eager to learn the journey of their nations through conflicts. I always feel soldiers of every country should be remembered by the countrymen. They definitely are nation’s pride.

 

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Reception area of the museum

Outside the museum is tank park. Many tanks are displayed there.

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No amount of words can capture the beauty of nature, the legacy, the history displayed there. I am pretty sure just a single visit too would prove inadequate to imbibe all the information displayed and churned out there by various means. Cantegny park is a monument of the contribution of a person to the nation and to it’s countrymen.

All the pictures by Sunder Iyer

 

 

 

Our plan to catch hold of rising sun at Michigan lake was finalised during preceding evening. we four got up, freshened up and drove towards lake well before the announced time of sunrise on the day. I have always felt that the magic of watching a rising sun has it’s full impact if you start waiting for it in the darkness. The gaze fixed at east, slow descent of dawn, gradual spreading of light, changing of colours and the anticipation, all these combine together to make the experience sublime and uplifting.

Drive to North Avenue beach was pleasant. It was still dark . The road slipped smoothly under the wheels and the slight nip in the early morning air pepped up our eagerness to witness the majestic show  of sun stepping into the scene.

When we reached the beach, it was still translucent dark and the beach was almost deserted. one or two photographers carrying their kit, tripod walked on that concrete platform on which stood a small light house. This concrete strip runs midst waters. As there was hardly any human presence on the beach, ducks and other birds walked freely on the sand. It appeared they had been fun frolicking there for quite some time as the sand bed was full of their paw marks making it look like a painted carpet.

 

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The out lines of sky scrapers on city side gradually started emerging .  lights twinkled like gems while  the perfect moon with all it’s calm dignity as if stopped there behind the building to say it’s goodbye for the day.

on the other side we were waiting for the magical splendor of nature to unfold.

 

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The stage was getting ready for the  majestic appearance.Small blue waves lapped rhythmically.  It was mesmerizing to watch an unseen brush gradually paint the horizon  with soft silky hues– such lovely shades of pink, blue and yellow. While the light eased its way with gradual progression some feathery blue clouds floated as if in a blissful state. There were number of people on the beach but each one was wrapped in one’s own quietude. Watching the sky , I felt tranquil and serene within.  This always happens while waiting and watching the sun gracing the east sky.  Calm descends  slowly percolating down to the very core of soul.

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And then sun rose it’s head above the waters. It’s arrival coloured the sky pink and orange. The blues and yellows receded back. even the waves started blushing pink. as if all the elements around joined hands to be one with one another. How pacifying the thought was! we could see that lone, tiny boat on the other end of waters slowly inching towards the rising sun. None of us talked about it but all of us waited with batted breath to touch the boat the sun point before the sun rose high above the water rim. We all silently prayed to the boatman to be successful in his attempt. no prayers were not said loudly but the positive vibration of pious thoughts could be smelled in the air.

In the mean time a young couple had arrived and sat on the platform facing east, girl’s head softly anchored on boys shoulder while her traces flew slowly in the morning breeze. What a lovely picture they presented…. secure in each others company waiting for light to illuminate the world. I silently prayed for all their dreams to come true.

 

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And then came a group of youngsters riding on their bicycles. They parked their bicycles on the cemented strip and suddenly the air was filled with their lively chatters  and laughter. Sun too leapt to revel in their enthusiasm. Or was it blessing them to reach higher.

 

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as the cool sky of early morning was flushed with the magnificent hues of orange, crimson, rose and apple, we all there perhaps lived our most enchanting moments of the day  and got ready to walk in the agenda of the day with more calm and confidence.

All the pictures by Sunder Iyer.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Summers are here and people are out in open to have their time out with nature. It is vacation times for students. Time of the year when mostly sky is bright blue with white fluffy clouds floating from this end to that end. Green forests with their comforting shades and soft light welcome one to their depths. Rivers, streams and brooks flow freely gurgling, murmuring. Water falls cascade down full of gaiety.

Every where vehicles with boats, cycles tied on their back can be seen running towards one or another destination.

That day we were near Mohican river in Loudonville area. Banks of Mohican river were buzzing with activities. As our vehicle took a turn from Landoll’s Mohican castle we could see people down there on the banks of stream. Lower boughs of trees from both the sides of stream bowed down trying to tickle the water and the naughty waves with spritely gait moved away filling the surroundings with their twinkling laughter.

 

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We moved further …..

About 32 miles of Mohican river is officially designated as Ohio state scenic river. It winds through Knox, Ashland, Holms and Coshocton counties. Scenic rivers retain most of their natural characteristics and atleast 25 percent of their riparian corridors should run through the forest covers. This area in Loudonville is known as the most popular camping and canoe destination of Ohio.

 

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Walking on clear, cool water was relaxing. At many places small rocks were lodged firmly on water bed. Some rested on them absorbing nature’s sound and scenes while children played and jumped from one to another. Some sat relaxing on the benches on the banks under the shade of tall, majestic trees while others were busy at barbeques. The wooden bridge at a distance joined one bank to another. View of the river from the bridge is beautiful. Absorbing everything heart filled with warmth and peace.

 

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This little girl with her parents was enjoying her water sojourn a lot. Her joy and laughter filled our hearts too with happiness.

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covered wooden bridge on the river

Stopped at  Mohican Little brown inn for some time. A cycle track and biking track runs in front of the inn. The open space in front of motel allows the winds to run freely. Children were cycling in the track. Near it is an Amish furniture shop. It being Sunday, the shop was closed but many furniture pieces were lying there in open. Beautiful pieces with lovely colours and smooth finishing. Amish people are known to adhere to their traditional way of living. Their home-made jam, ham and cheese are said to be delicious. However, we missed having a taste of that as the store was closed.

 

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The log cabin of the motel and the Amish furniture shop .

 

 

 

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Two pieces of the furniture, just a glimpse of craftsmanship.

On the way we stopped at Mohican state park gorge overlook. From the stone deck we had an awesome view of about 330 feet deep valley and hills beyond. In fact at that time of the year those hills beyond look like a dense green impenetrable wall of trees. In the valley down too the trees are so dense that one can see just the simmering green. Except that lone branch hovering on the valley from this side on which a bird sat, I was not able to make out distinct shapes of trees. But the view was overwhelming.

 

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The tree  near the stone stand facing the gorge.

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way to gorge.

We also spent some time near an area designated for RVs carrying the horse carriers along with them. Few recreational vehicles were parked there. Horses were being taken out, massaged and being freshened up. Families were under preparation to settle down. Children were playing around while others were harnessing the horses. Fun and recreation areas were designated. For boating, tubing and kayaking and canoeing near the rivers, for cycling and biking well laid tracks and for gauging the wilderness from horse back another patch .

Saw few Amish families travelling in theirs Bagghis, the traditional horse driven coach. This community tries to avoid the use of engine driven vehicles

 

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Our last destination of the day was Pleasant hill Lake Marina. Pleasant hill has an 850 acre unlimited horse power lake surrounded by 1350 land with lush green fields, forest.

Pleasant hill lake is situated in the heart of Mohican county just outside the village Perrisville, Ohio. Variety of outdoor recreational activities fishing, boating, water skiing.

Pleasant boat marina offers waverunners, ski, pontoon, fishing and paddle boats.

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A view from boat of the lush green area surrounding area of peasant lake….

 

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Fishing in solitude

 

US_227w The dense forests appear to harbour untold secrets, inviting one to go deep to unravel the mystries, the sole contemplator stands lost in his own world and then there are those adventurers running over the length and width of waters as if to be one with nature.

 

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It was amazing to watch those little kids on tube tied to the rushing, speeding boat. What thrill they were feeling… they sat there unperturbed through all jumps and turns of tube…. their hearts were full of trust on their parents and with all their innocence they perhaps thought ..nothing can go wrong… God always is there with such unwavering faith.    I thought so while watching them from our boat.

 

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The River… It’s my world, and I don’t want any other. What it hasn’t got is not worth having, and what it doesn’t know is not worth knowing. Lord! the times we’ve had together!

Kenneth Grahame

 

US_234wI have a very special relationship with river. It flows inside me.

 

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Adventure is worthwhile in itself.

 

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An outing is perfect when you are with your own people, your group.

 

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And the ended with memories to cherish, moments to treasure.

All the pictures by sunder iyer

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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