June 28, 2009

klimpark in the amsterdamse bos

barun (my brother-in-law, "prasanta dutt") called me around noon, saying that he had managed to get 2pm reservations at the klimpark that had recently opened in the amsterdamse bos. i got ready quickly and bicycled down through the mild drizzle. the klimpark is a series of eight tree routes where you swing, slide, slither, and scream from tree to tree, across cable-connected pathways running high above land and water. it is one of two in the netherlands (there are several also in germany and france).

Arush, Arohan, Barun and Amit geared up with seat harnesses and carabineri.

on the whole, it's sort of a evolved, closer-to-nature version of the roller-coaster amusement park. the equipment is designed by using modern mountaineering gear, and is completely safe after a relatively quick training.

Arohan negotiating a pendulum segment on the course. The course is designed not only to be adventurous, but also with a pleasant sense of aesthetics.

Arush on one of the segments in route 5

barun negotiating a relatively easy stretch on route 5

more relaxed as the end is near

Arohan took this picture of me while we were waiting for a thunderstorm and lightning warning. for some time it looked as if the park might get closed for the day but it opened up again. I am holding one of the two hooks at least one of which you must at all times keep hooked on a cable. The other one has rollers on which you whiz across sky-cables from one tree to another.

A sweating but relieved Arohan near the end of the "sandal" segment on route 8. This segment had floating sandal-like footholds that kept slipping off. While not dangerous, we found it among the most challenging parts...

amit at the end of one of the bungee segment on route 8. here you jump off a platform at the end of a 3m bungee cable that rolls you across a chasm to another tree, while you are bungeeing up and down. At the end is you slam onto this net which i can be seen climbing.

Arohan is relieved that the course is coming to an end (almost)!

what i like about this entire exercise is that while it is completely safe, it isn't the wear helmets and body-cage type of security you find in some lawsuit-crazy american places. in europe, if you get hurt because of your own stupidity, the courts don't let you sue the owners as readily as in the us, so school kids here learn trapeze and unicycle and other circus tricks much more readily...

Ahhhh!! (arohan, barun and arush)

June 19, 2009

hermitage opening: ballet, concert, fireworks and the queen

there wasn't much news about the concert at the opening of the hermitage but wouter and i met up at 7 pm on the blauwbrug. a huge line of suited vips were waiting for security, and wouter pointed out the ex-prime minister Wim Kok, and several other ministers and bank presidents.

crowds jammed up for half a kilometer on the west bank of the amstel

the river had been sealed off between the blauwbrug and the magere brugge. at the mouth of kaizersgracht a huge barge was parked, presumably to prevent any watercraft from ramming through. i had never seen so many policemen in amsterdam. we joked that today would be a good day for thieves in the rest of the city...

the public part of the program started at quarter to ten, when there was still some daylight to go. there had been a few drops of rain earlier, fortunately now it was cloudy but dry.

the vips sat on the riverbank opposite (if you click on the picture and enlarge it, you can make out queen beatrix - she's the only light dress in the front row).

the houseboats had the best view of course - some of them were festooned with yellow tape saying Politkovskaya- protesting russia's failure to arrest either the killer or the men behind the assassination of this fiery russian journalist. people on the riverbank houses had called friends over for wine and snacks and a party spirit was everywhere ...

the program started with a military band, and then there was a ballet (pas-de-deux), which could be seen quite well thanks to a large screen.

some years ago when these screens started i used to think - well - might as well watch it on TV... but there is much to be said about the conviviality of a large crowd sharing the event. the night sky and the reflection on the water added their own rhythm to the dancer's steps.

after this there was a concert, mussorgski's "pictures at an exhibition".

some of us had been perched precariously on the bridge railings over herengracht, cracking jokes about the purity of the water below us (yes, that's how these pictures came about!).

in the end, wouter decamped to another party, and ruth, anne-marie, janka and i walked down to cafe schiller in rembrandtplein where i was introduced to hoegaarden grand cru beer - an excellent brew - sweetish, fruitish, gentle, yet pulling a punch of 8.7%.

well, three beers later, now it's nearly 4 am as i type this...

June 15, 2009

the utrechtse heuvelrug

despite the drizzle since morning, 19 brave souls and dog were found when noses were counted at the Driebergen-zeist station for this Netherlands Adventurers group hike.

onion smiles

rightaway we plunged into the woods, braving occasional droplets, along a partially cemented track. The woods - mostly elms and pines and oaks - seemed quite old but apparently it wasn's really virgin forest; the land had been part of several family estates, before becoming a national park in 2003.

our intrepid teamleader Carly (with umbrella). she worked hard to make sure we didn't take too many wrong turns

it seems the entire area had been deforested around the 15th c. to make grazing land for cattle and esp. sheep (whose sh.t - ahem - manure was much in demand). In the 17th c. some of it became a tobacco farm. In the 19th c., demand for timber resulted in reforestation. Today there are 27 estates within the national park.

at one point we crossed a cement embankment - apparently it had been a railway platform once upon a time, when a resident family installed a private railroad for their personal pleasure.

by far the most energetic member of the group was paul and baida's beagle Balu, who kept straining at her leash throughout the trip

Our first break was at a large stretch of sand which was a bit of a surprise this far from the sea.

as we walked, we talked. there were a good number of academics and intellectual interests in the group. as we were walking i got to discuss resonance in computer networks with christian from delft; impending trips to darjeeling and nepal with "in a jiffy" alex; brain transplants and immigration with baida; kayaking and bicycling and statistical information retrieval with eugen; infant cognition and attention with dorothy; the falling markets for corporate insurance with paul...

we stopped at the small village of austerlitz where we ate our snacks and most people had coffee but i managed to expand on my inventory of ales tasted with the belgian "la chouffe".

the woods looked darker and deeper in the moist sunlight

nearing maarn, we crossed a small round structure with classical columns. a woman standing outside turned out to be the maarn-based artist mijpe, she said she'd lived six years in bhutan, and we fell talking. the romantic structure in the middle of lush greenery was her studio - how fortunate! it was called Koepel van Stoop, and had been a tea house (the columns were from the demolished Koopmans exchange building in Amsterdam).

while talking to mijpe about her art and the ownership of the parklands and history, the group had long vanished from sight.

fortunately, I was able to catch up soon enough...

our third break of the trip; at a bluebell patch near the manor.

at one point while we were taking a break near a paddock, a horse came by and checked us out, much to balu's delight.

it took us another hour or so to get to maarn. after five hours of walking through the mud, we didn't find the prospect of maarn's single chinese restaurant too alluring. we got onto the train and dispersed like woodland seeds...


a marker along the path

eugen near the manor

what eugen was shooting above
bluebell flowers

raindrops on petals ...