I was thinking of doing an untour for a very long time and finally got a chance to do it between January 4 and January 16 2009. This was perhaps the most unorganised trip that I have ever taken. A step ahead of what I did this time could possibly be a group untour where the group decided where to go together. That would be really cool to do. And, cooler still would be if the group is a bunch of strangers! Any takers? This would really amplify the concept of an untour.
Anyway, only two things became certain about four days before the trip. The starting date was to be January 4 and was to be a train to Secunderabad. The last date was to be January 14 and was to be the train back to Mumbai. With these boundaries set, I set out to Secunderabad on January 4. I decided not to push my luck too much and agreed to stay with relatives and friends during the duration of the tour – money saved, parents happy.
The train to Secunderabad took me on a journey via Aurangabad. After Secunderabad, I hung out with Raghunandan in Hyderabad and had a glimpse into his hectic life. It is perhaps the most unorganised life that I have seen anyone lead. I went on a day long Hyderabad tour on a bus, the idea was to have an idea to say something that I did during this trip other than talk about and discuss about space – a sore point with my parents earlier and something I don’t bring up too often now. Anyway, I got a sub-10-degree-celsius-night sky observation junkett thanks to Raghunandan’s friends – Vaibhav and Partha on their cool 8-inch reflector scope. This was perhaps the highlight of the Hyderabad chapter of my trip.
I then moved onto Vellore on a private bus (Kesineni, for the details people). Got down at Vellore in the early morning and moved into a TNSTC bus to Katpadi. From there I took a rickshaw to Vellore Institute of Technology. I spent three days there meeting the teams that work to run the SEDS chapter there(disclosure: I’m the President of SEDS, India), caught the updates on the conference and perhaps for the first time met three members of my Exec Comm face to face. It was a great experience none the less. Here too, thanks to a guy, I found out about a direct bus from Vellore to Trivandrum. We went out and booked a ticket for the 741 kms to Trivandrum.
This part of the journey was largely spoiled by the fact that my stomach was upset with me. For perhaps the first time, I sat with out eating anything solid for about 24 hours. I broke that fast with a good lunch in the afternoon – home cooked food at Varkala. But, I’m getting ahead of myself. I came to Trivandrum Central and saw the famous Baker-style Indian Coffee House. I didn’t take a pic because my stomach was urging me to get home quickly. I took a bus from there to Varkala and covered the 41 kms distance.
A small side adventure on the way back to Mumbai on the large 2048 kms journey back home. I had a small tweetup with @kg86, who’s with the Navy and who rode all the way from his base at Willingdon Island, Cochin to Ernakulam Stn as I passed through. Thank you, man, it was awesome meeting you there.
The most important point of this untour was whether this is possible in India or not. If you’re adventurous enough, anything is possible. I really hope someone tries an all strangers untour of some region of India as suggested in the first paragraph and share their experiences on a blog.