Monday, August 10, 2009

Gomukh-Tapovan Trek 2008: Anniversary time: Part 2

Uttarkashi - Gangotri and Gangotri stay: Day 1

One cannot sleep peacefully at a place which is right next to a bus-stand. There were loud honks right from 4:30AM which forced us to be awake quite early and watch TV before getting ready by 7:00AM. Mr. Balbahadur and his team were already on the job of packing our luggage for the trek on top of the jeep. The jeep driver told us that the landslides may not have cleared yet and in such a case, he will drop us at Bhatwari (28kms from Uttarkashi) which was en-route and that he will charge Rs. 1200.00 up to that place, if we intended to stay back there and wait for the road to get cleared. The other option he gave was to trek from Bhatwari towards Gangotri for around 14-15 kms and cross to the other side of the landslide area and take a vehicle to Gangotri from there. We were hoping that the road was clear so that we don’t end up doing a trek right from Bhatwari. We started for Gangotri around 7:30AM. The route to Gangotri passes through Bhatwari, Maneri, Loharinag, Bhaironghati and Harsil which we understood were small and extremely beautiful places. The distance to Gangotri was around 100kms with an approximate travel time of 6 hours if we go non-stop. The moment you cross the Asi Ganga bridge, which is the border of Uttarkashi town, one can feel the change in the air and it is a new feeling altogether. Anybody can experience the difference - deep valleys with mountains on either side, a cool and soothing breeze, the serpentine roads and the Bhagirathi flowing alongside the road. I realised that I was slowly getting seduced by the mighty charm of the Himalayas. The roads were narrow but good up to Bhatwari (it took us almost an hour to reach there), where we stopped for tea and enquire about the condition of the road further ahead. Bhatwari was also a pretty beautiful place and it was in a valley with steep hills on either sides. Meanwhile, we got the information that the road was clear ahead with some doubts along a small section. That erased our worries partially. After a 30 minute break, we started our jeep ride again. Within a few kilometers of crossing Bhatwari, the roads suddenly turned from good to bad and within another few kms from bad to worse. The road was very narrow and it was filled with water and mud. The wheels were all slipping in the mud and it seemed as if the jeep would topple over any time. That’s where the experience of the driver matters the most and we could see that our driver was highly skilled at maneuvering the road conditions. He exactly knew where the ditch was below the mud and the approximate depth too. He was smart as well. He would wait for the vehicles coming from the opposite side to pass first and analyze the depth on the road. The speed of our vehicle reduced to around 10kms/hour and the roller-coaster ride continued for another 25-30 kms or in fact more than that. Landslides are very common on this stretch of road and the Border Roads Organization had a tough task in clearing the rubble and maintaining the road. On two occasions, we saw vehicles which had fallen on the side of the road. None of the drivers in the vehicles were willing to drive along that side of the road which was on the slope going into the flowing Bhagirathi. The driver also mentioned that there were cases when landslides fell on top of the vehicles when it was crossing that stretch. Oops, all these talks were dangerous to listen, but fortunately for us, we crossed that stretch and hit the good road. The temperatures began to become cooler and it was awesome views all around. Some of the road curves were very dangerous and there were quite a few occasions when our jeep driver could not hear or sight anything and we had close shaves. En route, one passes through a place called Gangnani which is known for its hot springs. Hot springs are abound in the entire Himalayan region, but we did not want to stop at Gangnani as the urgency to reach Gangotri was stronger, maybe next time we will have a bath there. Very soon, we reached a place called Loharinag where NTPC has been constructing a thermal power plant since several years and they have dug a few big tunnels out there. The stretch of road and the surroundings there was a total mess. The road was muddy pool and the use of big mechanical systems was creating lot of noise which was destroying the peace and serenity of the mountains. There was a sort of traffic management at this stretch and it took us sometime before we crossed a bridge to leave this place behind. Now the Bhagirathi was flowing on our left. The roads are slowly getting steeper with sharp bends and the beauty of the Himalayas was the surroundings was getting better and better. In no time, we reached Harsil and I can bet you will love this place. Bhagirathi was very wide at this place with white and glowing sandy beaches. I just can’t describe in writing the magnificent views of the valley and the flowing Bhagirathi at Harsil. Our guide told us that there are quite a few treks which can be done through Harsil. We could realize that Harsil can be an excellent place for camping and stay too. GMVN (Garhwal Mandal Vikas Nigam) has accommodation facilities at Harsil which one can book in advance and can stay. Gangotri is around 28 kms from Harsil and after crossing another small village called Bhaironghati, we reached Gangotri around 2:30PM. The road straightway ends at the bus-stand and the place had several informative signboards for the pilgrims and travelers apart from many small restaurants. Quickly, we paid off the jeep guy, thanked him and with our entire luggage, we landed at Hotel Mandakini which was at a short walk from the Gangotri bus stand.

We were supposed to stay for a night in Gangotri just to get acclimatized (that’s supposedly the right word to use) to the climate here and Mr. Balbahadur had identified Hotel Mandakini as an affordable and good place to stay. True to his word, this hotel was located at a height and one can have a good view of the entire Gangotri area. We had a quick shower and then ventured outside to see around Gangotri. We went back to the bus stand where there was a map of Gangotri and decided to go to Pandav goofa and the nearby areas. We walked around the Gangadevi temple area, and then crossed the bridge to go to the other side where the short walk to Pandav goofa starts. Gangotri is slowly getting commercialized as seen from the mobile phone towers around the place and the numerous shops around. Bhagirathi water was not clean here too and the water was very cold and turbulent. The view from the bridge towards the Gomukh and Bhagirathi peak side was absolutely fantastic. On the way to Pandav goofa, we crossed Surya kund and Gauri kund where it seems if you take a deep, all your sins will be washed away. But, what intrigued me was that how can one go into the kund area since Bhagirathi flows at very high speeds at those places. Maybe I can imagine that if someone is able to withstand those high speeds, your soul gets washed of all your sins due to the speed of the eternally pure water. The walk to the goofa was pleasant with lots of pine, chir and deodar trees around. The goofa was not a very big goofa as such, but there was enough space inside for a small temple setting and we saw a sadhu in “nidra” (sleep) mode. We walked around the place for some more time in the calm atmosphere and went back to our hotel. We then went to the forest entry check post with our guide to confirm whether we can enter the Gomukh region the next day and we were given permission. So, we were all set. That evening, our guides cooked the first meal for our trek. It was plain chapatti with dal and sabji. I don’t know whether its because of the colder climate, but we hogged the food like mad. Gangotri was beautiful at night too. There were several ashrams on the banks of the Bhagirathi and all these were well lit. In fact, if somebody is associated with any ashram, they can stay at those places also at much cheaper cost. Off to sleep now.

Gangotri – Chirbasa trek: Day 2 daytime

We had very good rest during the night and we were prepared for the trek by 7:00AM the next day morning. After having a quick tea and breakfast we started moving towards the forest entry gate. We were also loaded with rucksacks containing our own stuff, but these were just incomparable to the huge loads our guides were carrying. They were carrying foodstuffs for 5 people for 4 days apart from all the kitchen items including stove and utensils and kerosene. After going through the check post with the necessary payment of fees, we headed towards Chirbasa, our first halt point for the night. The trail is along the side of mountains, so, we were basically at a height. You have two points of halt between Gangotri and Gomukh – Chirbasa and Bhojbasa which are basically based on the names of trees – “Chir” is “Pine” and “Bhoj” means “Birch”. Chirbasa was around 10 kms from Gangotri and Bhojbasa another 3-4 kms from Chirbasa. The total distance to Gomukh was 18 kms from Gangotri. This trek route has been frequented by pilgrims mainly during the peak season of April/May/June and so the trek route is, I would say, to some extent maintained well. The beauty of this trek route is that you get charged up as you keep going along. You have the river Bhagirathi flowing on your right side and on the left side, you have the steep mountains with clouds hovering on their peaks. In the initial stretch, it was greenery all around with the Bhagirathi flowing down in the valley, but slowly the vista changed to tall mountains on either side and the Bhagirathi valley in between. Can you imagine such a sight ever in your dreams? The trek path ahead of us was not very clear for at least 3-4 kms after we crossed the check post due to think fog and clouds. But, slowly, the clouds started to clear off and the view in front of our eyes was mesmerizing. At a long distance, we could see a couple of ice laden peaks and our guides mentioned that those were the Bhagirathi peaks and that if the weather is clear and the sun is shining, we can see the peaks much more clearly. The snow peaks with a background of blue sky created a beautiful panoramic painting for the eyes to savor. Another good thing about this trek is that although you keep going up from Gangotri which is at a height of 3050 meters to a height of around 4100 meters (Gomukh), you don’t feel it. The trail had no major uphill climbs to mention. That is probably the reason why one can see several middle-aged people doing this trek, but the main purpose is for pilgrimage only for these folks. At many places, there were streams flowing into the Bhagirathi from the mountains on our left side. A few of the streams had lot of water and they were flowing right through the trek route and at such places, there were arrangements to cross the stream over a log. Except for this little challenge, we found that the trek was cool, a very smooth walk I would say, which gives you the opportunity to enjoy the natural beauty of the surroundings in its true spirit. There was a bit of caution from our guides on a regular basis and that was to keep looking out for loose rocks sliding down the mountains on our left. It seems there were many instances in the past where huge rocks would slide down the mountains, especially during rainy season and this was a risk for life. The sun was coming out in full glow with the passage of time and it was becoming marginally hot. Even though there were no climbs, you need a bit of stamina to keep walking with 20kgs at your back and we were taking rest once in a while. I really appreciate the stamina of our guides who were carrying around 30-35 kgs of luggage each and they were several times fitter than us. Well, this was their job and they are used to it, still, it is tough if we consider such a job on regular basis. But, I feel that they love doing their work and make the trek entertaining and sometimes scary with their numerous stories from earlier experiences. Their experience speaks and Balbahadur had lost one of his fingers too due to frostbite in one of his earlier treks to Kalindikhal, which was also on the same route ahead of Tapovan and Nandanvan. On the way, we encountered several trekkers (probably they belonged to one particular group) coming down from the opposite direction. The team was a huge group of Korean trekkers (maybe numbering about 50). The surprising thing was that almost 60% of this Korean group was either on horse back or on “palanquins”. They were in no position to walk. It seems they had tried to go over to Tapovan from Gomukh and many of them got injured in the process.

We didn’t realize that we were actually the only ones who were trekking towards Gomukh at that point of time. After a while, we saw that there were two more persons coming behind us, but they were quite far off and didn’t look like trekkers. They must have been walking real fast since we didn’t see them when we started. They reached us within a few minutes and we all had a break together. They were forest officials who had started on a hunt to locate trekkers (Japanese group) who did not return on the due date which was 2 days before. We were told that the forest department has become very strict with respect to trekking in the Gomukh area and further up towards Tapovan and Kalindikhal. Our guides further added that a few years back, the route used to be lined with several makeshift shops (selling water, tea and eatables) during the peak pilgrimage season and also during the entire trekking season, but now the forest department has totally barred people from putting up shops. They had implemented several new rules for trekking and they don’t give permissions to trek up to Tapovan just like that and if somebody violates the permissions, they are fined heavily. It seems only 150 persons are allowed to trek inside the national park on a given day, so one has to take permission well in advance for the trek. Also, earlier horses were allowed till Gomukh, but they have stopped that too and they allow horses only till Bhojbasa. That means if you break your bones ahead of Gomukh, you have no choice but to come down to Bhojbasa somehow if you need a horse! On one hand, I feel the implementation of these rules is good because the damage to environment is reduced significantly, but on the other hand, trekking should not be totally banned and the forest department should ensure that the rules are strictly followed. The conservation of Gangotri and Gomukh has become a top priority for climate experts.

..... to be continued

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Gomukh-Tapovan Trek 2008: Anniversary time: Part 1

[Aug. 6-11, 2008]

I have been delaying writing this trek report for a long time. This is anniversary time for my first trek in the Himalayas, so I thought it would be a nice idea to finish writing my experience. The report is not fully written yet and it is coming in parts. I have been going through a marathon session of writing this experience since last week in whatever spare time I could get, and amazingly enough, I still remember a majority of the events which occurred during the trek and the entire trip in general. This, I believe, is the charm which the Himalayas bestows upon you if you happen to wander in her enchanting surroundings. The problem of writing is that I have to actually write two trek reports (we did two different treks) and one trip report for my first Himalayan adventure, but I will complete it for sure.

HAPPY HIMALAYA ANNIVERSARY to Pradipta and myself for the first Himalayan trek up in Northern India. And I am for sure will be venturing the Himalayas once every year at the least

Disclaimer: The story is long and probably boring too, so if you intend to read, read it at leisure.


Place: Gomukh and Tapovan

Famous for: The source of the mighty Ganga and a nature's delight - dream of a lifetime. A place where you can attain the peace you have been always searching for.

The route: Delhi - Haridwar - Uttarkashi - Gangotri - Gomukh - Tapovan

No. of days (ex-Delhi): 8 days approx. (if everything goes as per schedule), better to keep 10 days in hand.

How to reach Gangotri (ex Delhi):

Delhi to Haridwar: There are several buses and trains connecting Delhi with Haridwar. I would recommend travel by train since it would be very comfortable. A few of the trains are Mussorie Express (4041), Dehradun Express (9019), Haridwar Mail (9105), Utkal Express (8477). The best options are the Mussorie Express or the Dehradun Express since these trains reach Haridwar early in the morning latest by 6:00AM.

Haridwar to Uttarkashi: Buses and shared or reserved taxis are available at Haridwar for travel to Uttarkashi. Buses are the best option for the budget trekkers. One has the option of taking either the state-owned Uttarakhand road transport buses or the private buses operated by GMOU (Garhwal Mandal Operator's Union). I would recommend taking the GMOU buses as they are faster. The first GMOU bus to Uttarkashi probably leaves at 5:00AM and to be able to catch that, you have to come by Dehradun express from Delhi which reaches Haridwar around 3:30AM. Else, if you come by the Mussorie express, you can take the next bus which is at 7:00AM. The 7:00AM bus reaches Uttarkashi around 15:00 hrs.

Uttarkashi to Gangotri: Buses and shared jeeps are available for the travel.

Places to stay: One has to necessarily stay at Uttarkashi and Gangotri if public transport is used. There are several hotels in Uttarkashi right next to the bus-stand which are cheap and OK for a night's stay. At Gangotri, we stayed at Mandakini hotel and it is located on the way to the trek and also at a height. This hotel is also nice for staying.

Best time for the trek: Depends on the weather Gods. Gangotri opens on Akshaya Tritiya which falls sometimes in April and then closes on Deepawali night. So, essentially, the trekking period is from May-September every year. We went in August and the weather was not very good although we were lucky to see a few peaks. I believe May 2nd week and September would be an ideal time for the trek.

Best place to tent during the trek: Chirbasa and Gomukh (avoid the place where everybody tents and find a secluded place before reaching the general tent area)

Total Budget: We spent approx. 10000.00 INR per head for two of us (ex. Bangalore) and traveling by sleeper class on train. This was our first trek there, so we did not have the right idea where to cut costs, but the trek can be done within 8000.00 INR(depends on the number of people and can be even less).

Some important tips:

1. Ensure that you have the permission to trek in the region much before the actual trip. The forest dept. prefers the persons going for the trek to be present when seeking the permission and if you are lucky, you can get it within a day. But, it would not be a good idea to reach there, get the permission and then do the trek.

2. Arrange for guides and porters for the trip from Uttarkashi itself since food and other necessary items are easily available. There are local folks available whose rates are much cheaper than if you go through an agency. One can call up some of the hotels in Uttarkashi and then find out the availability of guides too. Alternately, one can get it touch with GMVN (Garhwal Mandal Vikas Nigam - for a package trip.

3. If you are getting your own tents and sleeping bags, ensure that they are the ones which can be used at high altitudes. My suggestion would be to just carry your clothes and other necessary accessories in a rucksack and then get the tents, sleeping bags etc. through your guide or the travel agency on rent. They can easily arrange it. Good materials are available at NIM (Nehru Institute of Mountaineering) in Uttarkashi.

4. Check for the weather conditions before the trip. The road to Gangotri gets closed many times due to landslides and if that happens, your entire trek may get canceled as sometimes, the clearing of the road takes time. Maybe, you need the blessing of mother Ganga to accomplish the trek.

5. Wear sturdy shoes for the trek - we wore the Woodlands ones and they were good. But one has to get used to the shoes for atleast a month before using it during the trek, else you can have problems of soreness like I had.

6. Carry rain gear, a good jacket (sometimes not required, but good to carry), a good powerful torch light, good socks (couple of pairs), monkey cap, knife and more importantly a box of medicines containing electral, first-aid kit and pain reliever sprays. Also, toffees for the trek.

We had just finished our bath in the hotel at Uttarkashi when there was a knock on the door of our hotel room. The time was around 15:00 hrs on Tuesday, 5th Aug. 08. It was Mr. Balbahadur and his team of another two people, our guides for the next 12 days of trek - first to Gomukh/Tapovan and then to Dodital. He told that he had brought us the permit from the department to trek up to Gomukh and Tapovan. Myself and Pradipta were overjoyed since that was one of the hurdles for us as we were told that without permission, we are not allowed to trek. But, the moment we saw the piece of paper from the Forest department, we got a shock. First, both our names were wrong on the paper. My name was written as Santanu Ghosh (instead of Santanu Singha) and for unfortunate Pradipta, they wrote it as Mrs. Pradipta Ghosh (gender change) as if we were here for a honeymoon trip. Further, we found out that they had given us permission to trek up to Gomukh only and that too for only 2 days and the date of entry they had mentioned was on the 8th of Aug. That was just impossible as we did not want to waste one additional day in Uttarkashi. There was an exchange of words and Balbahadur promised us that there won’t be any trouble whatsoever and we can start for Gangotri the next day, i.e. 6th Aug. OK, with everything temporarily settled, we all sat down and gave the details of what we would like to have for breakfast, lunch and dinner during the entire trek. Our guides wanted to buy all the necessary stuff for the trek and pack the stuff before we start for Gangotri the next day. In the meanwhile we went to the Nehru Institute of Mountaineering (NIM - to pick up the tents, sleeping bags and other accessories. NIM is a very beautiful place located on the top of a small hill and it was around one and a half kms from the Uttarkashi bus stand. By evening, all the arrangements were in place except for the transport. We were informed that the bus services were temporarily suspended on the Uttarkashi to Gangotri road due to landslides. There was no way out to reach Gangotri other than hiring a jeep. Hiring a jeep was expensive - Rs. 2000.00 for the 100km distance from Uttarkashi to Gangotri - it seems the risk factor was very high. It was not in our budget, but we were forced to go for it. Now that everything was settled, it was time for a walk towards the Ganges, have dinner and take rest. Uttarkashi is a small but beautiful place and being on the banks of the Ganges makes it even more important. The thrill was about to begin the next day and we were fully charged for the first trip to the mighty Himalayas.

This trek was planned in advance. I was in the final stages of my PhD thesis submission, the dates of which were not finalised, but the dates for the trip were already decided. It was either I submit the thesis and go for the trip or ditch the submission, go for the trip and then come back and submit. It was a lot of pressure on me to submit the thesis and then go since I will be at a peace of mind then. Additionally, I would be saving some money in terms of the tuition fees at the Institute if I submit latest by July 31. As usual, I like doing things at the last moment and this was one of those situations. And as always, I hit the deadline dot at the dead time. July 31st was a thursday and I submitted my thesis in the department at 5:15PM, just 15 minutes before the office was to close. There were all those heavenly obstacles which tried to stop me from submitting, but I could beat them. Take this for example - I was at the Xerox centre to collect my bound thesis at 4:00PM and it was bright sunny weather. Suddenly, a heavy downpour started and I did not have an umbrella. I waited and waited for the rains to stop, but to no avail and it was 5:00PM already. I had no choice but to request the shop owner to pack my theses with polythene and then I enjoyed the rain all the way to my department office which was almost a km from the xerox centre. I was dripping wet when I shook hands with the office staff for meeting the deadline. That was it, with the major job over, the focus shifted to the logistics for the trek. Our train to Delhi was on saturday, the 2nd Aug and we collected the required accessories for the trek the whole of friday. We were on the train at the dot of time and our trip begineth here – Himalaya Chalo. The train journey was interesting too and there were quite a few excitements like holding the train at a particular station for solving some problem in the train toilet, but I leave those stories behind. The train was slightly late when it reached Hazrat Nizamuddin railway station in the morning of 4th Aug and our connecting train to Haridwar was at 14:30hrs. We had time to freshen up at a small hotel near the railway station and meet up and have lunch with a friend who works in Delhi. We were back at the railway station well in time and the journey to Haridwar started. The train was dirty and I don’t think we used the toilet even for once during the 6 hrs of journey to Haridwar. We reached Haridwar by 21:00hrs and our bus to Uttarkashi was sometimes next morning. We took up a room at a hotel in Haridwar and then enquired about the travel to Uttarkashi. There are few possible modes of travel to Uttarkashi – one is to catch a bus either from the UP state transport bus stand or the GMOU (Garhwal Mandal Operator’s Union) bus stand or hire a Tata Sumo or share a Tata Sumo with other passengers. The frequency of buses and Sumos direct from Haridwar to Uttarkashi are not too many, but one can travel up to Rishikesh (25kms, around 45 minutes of travel time) from where there are frequent buses and Sumo connections to Uttarkashi. For us, we decided to catch the GMOU bus direct to Uttarkashi at 7:00AM the next day morning since they are smaller buses and supposed to be faster than the UP road transport buses. We were slightly tired of train travel and it was difficult to wake up in the morning the next day. We reached the GMOU bus stand (around 500 meters from Haridwar railway station and one can ask the directions which is very easy to locate) at 6:30AM and took our seat in the bus.

The bus started right on time and the initial journey to Rishikesh was on normal plain roads with lot of potholes. Rishikesh to Gangotri is around 150kms and as the bus started moving beyond Rishikesh, we slowly started gaining altitude and habitation began to reduce. The surroundings slowly began to clear up, the atmosphere was cool and we could see small hills at a distance. On the way, we were supposed to cross some small places like Narendranagar, Chamba, Tehri, Chham and Dharasu. It is at Dharasu that the road bifurcates – one goes to Uttarkashi and the other goes towards Yamunotri. As the bus climbed further, the roads started to be very curvy with steep turns apart from becoming narrower. We found Chamba and Tehri as very beautiful places. We had always heard of Tehri dam and the related issues but this was the first time we got a chance to see this place (from the bus, though). Tehri is an awesome place and the backwaters of the dam looked green from the bus. There was lot of water and the surrounding hills were all covered with clouds at the top and the views were was just amazing. All along the road, Bhagirathi was giving us company and it was flowing in the opposite direction. The river looked very muddy too with lot of silt flowing and also turbulent at few of the places. Time just flew by when we realized that we were in Uttarkashi. We got down from the bus and then called up our guide Mr. Balbahadur. He came to meet us at the bus stand within a short while and we decided to take the room at one of the hotels nearest to the bus stand. The bus ride of course was tiring, but the excitement of trekking to Gomukh was enough to kill everything else. ............. to be continued

Monday, August 3, 2009

Västerås tales - Midnight Cup 2009 cricket tournament

This weekend was dedicated to cricket. Starting Friday, 31st July to Sunday, 2nd August, Guttsta Wicked Cricket Club (GWCC) organized their annual Midnight Cup 2009 tri-team cricket tournament. All the matches were held at the club's home ground located at Kolsva. The 3 teams this year were the Mighty Wanderers Cricket Club (from UK), G20 Jubilee XI (consisting of non-regular players associated with Guttsta and other clubs) and the home team (GWCC). I was part of the GWCC team. All the clubs had a good mix of both regular "hardcore" cricketers, old-timers who used to play cricket and still want to play for the love of the game and few novices who want to know what the heck is this game about. The important point to mind here is that the motive for these matches are not only for the sake of playing, but this is for the love of the game and also to popularize and promote the game amongst the people of Sweden. And I can tell you after this tournament experience that "All those who play baseball can turn out to be a cricketer par excellence."

Friday, 31st July

I was there at the ground along with my friend from Västerås by 10:30AM on friday. It was bit cloudy with predictions of rain, but the enthusiasm of cricketers was enough to beat such hurdles. The first thing surprising which was I saw on the ground when I reached was the presence of TV cameramen. Hmm, thats interesting, there's some coverage for our matches. I realized that this tournament has attracted the local TV channels to see whats there in "cricket"? The first match was between Jubilee XI and Mighty Wanderers. Before the start of the match, there was the initial round of introductions and photo sessions. Myself and Naveen are the umpires for the match. The pitch had good grass on it and it was moist due to overnight rain. The match turned out to be a low scoring game with occasional interruptions due to rain. Mighty Wanderers batted first and could score only 73 runs and they were all out in 29 overs. Jubilee XI batted comfortably, but not without any hiccups and they were able to pull off a good win. I have seen that many of my Swedish friends usually keep cursing the weather a lot. And today also it was the same case. It had become very cold by the time the match ended. Now, it was time for the most fantastic innings - the barbecue grill... Can you imagine having a barbecue after a cricket match? This was the best part and all the players had a nice time around. Cricket is of course one thing, but the most important factor was the teams coming together and playing in a land where cricket is an entirely new game - 22 players on the ground wasting the whole day either standing and/or running.

Saturday, 1st August

It was raining in Västerås when we left for Kolsva. I was thinking whether we can have the match at all today. But when we reached the ground around 10:15AM, it was bright and sunny at this place. I could see now how the weather can be so different in Sweden within 50-60kms. The match was between Jubilee XI and GWCC. Our captain won the toss and elected to field. Our opponents could pile up a total of 113 in their allotted quota of 35 overs. The pitch was difficult to play on. The ball keeps low occasionally and it was difficult to hit. We had our strategy in place for chasing this total and we romped home very cofortably by the 28th over. I scored 39 runs. The pitch was as usual the slower side and it was just not possible for me to play the power shot - somehow was able to push along with singles and twos.

Sunday, 2nd August

Now, today is the crunch match between Mighty Wanderers and GWCC. Two teams have already won one match and so Mighty is going to be serious on the ground. The weather looked very good for a cricket match. All strategies were in place and we planned to bat if we win the toss. Unfortunately, we lost the toss and we fielded. Mighty Wanderers started off well watching every ball and scoring off the loose deliveries. They lost only one wicket till the drinks break and the score was around 3 runs an over up to that point. Just after the drinks break, Mighty players started to loosen up and began to accelerate the run-rate. The ball was coming right on to the bat at a decent height and Jan (one of the batsman) was able to connect a few clean hits to the fence. At the end of the innings, they piled up a good total of 162 on the board and Jan was unlucky to be run-out on 99 off the last ball of the innings. Now, it was a tough task for us as 162 is not going to be an easy chase especially for a 2nd innings score since the pitch would have become very slow. We began our batting cautiously with me and Naveen opening the innings. We negotiated the good spells of their new ball bowlers and scored at a healthy rate of 3.5 runs per over till the 12th over when Naveen got out LBW trying to sweep a ball from the middle stump. That was the start of our slide. I stayed at the wicket for another 5 overs and threw my wicket away due to lack of concentration. I had scored 31 runs. The required run-rate began climbing up slowly as the slow pitch made it very difficult for our batsmen to score runs. Our team started losing wickets on a regular basis too. There was bit of a scare for the opponents when Amit came into bat and hit 3 consecutive sixes of one of their spinners which changed the equation a little bit. But, the momentum was already lost by then and we were all out in the 34th over of the innings losing the match by 37 runs. Now that each of the teams had one win each, the NRR calculations started and Mighty Wanderers turned out to be the winners of the Midnight Cup 2009. The whole tournament was really fantastic in the sense that except for minor weather related problems on the first day, the remaining two matches were held without any trouble whatsoever. The fun quotient was at the maximum.

This was my first tournament outing in Swedish cricket. I love the ground. You can't have a ground with such a surrounding anywhere in the world. This is the perfect place to have a wonderful game of cricket... Only green forests till your eyes can see... The surroundings refresh you, rejuvenates you... More than playing the game in its full spirit, it is the enthusiasm of the players and the team spirit and camaraderie which mattered a lot. Our team had members from several nationalities, but the interactions and togetherness between the players were at its best. When we say that a team sport gets people together, it really does. The bottom line was that everybody had lot of fun with Beer, Barbecue, Cricket (BBC) :)

As already mentioned, the event was covered on TV and also on print. There were visitors too on the ground who came to watch the matches after seeing the report on the TV and also the schedule on the newspaper. For those who are interested, here are two links where the event was shown in the form of short clips in two different TV channels... In both the clips, the umpire on the ground is none other than Yours Truly, but only the back is seen... Thats the end of the commentary... I could not take many photographs as I was on the centre of the ground most of the time, still there are a few here... I am waiting now for the next round of friendly matches coming up in another 2 weeks time from now... Till then, you all have a great time ahead... Hej da..