Monday, September 14, 2009

A Trip Down Memory Lane

Working for a Consulting firm has it own trials and challenges. You are expected to cope with travel at short notice. Given the time crunch one learns to live with i took a decision to write blogs come what may. This is my attempt to pen down a few memories before they go deeper into the inner recesses of my mind.
The year was 1998 the month was July. I was just back from an iron ore exploration project in Orissa. My boss summoned me to his room one afternoon and i had an uneasy feel about the urgency in his voice as he called me. As i stepped into his room, Mr Damle looked up at me and said 'young man time to visit Raygada. Get your tickets done and travel there for a couple of days. Want you to do a field visit to study the region for bauxite drilling using UDR'.
Now to be fair to my reader the last sentence would pose many a question. Well i'll explain things in a bit more detail..I used to work for an exploration company at that point in time and my job involved working with drill rigs (UDR aka Universal Drill Rigs was one such monster rig).
So what Mr Damle wanted me to do was travel to Raygada to a prospective drill site and study the location from a feasibility perspective. To readers who have never seen a UDR..its a 25 tonne monster truck mounted rig that needs a wide road especially in hilly terrains in the bends.
So i packed my gear and caught a train over the weekend to Vijainagram in Andhra Pradesh. Raygada is a border district of Orissa close to the AP border. So i had a journey by train from Mumbai to Vijainagram and then had to catch a local train to Raygada in Orissa.
I reached Raygada in the wee hours of the morning and not finding anyone awake had to go and shake a autowallah out his slumber. Then i was off to the Utkal Alumina guest house my hosts for the next few days.
Next morning after a rather troubled night's sleep i was off to meet the officials of the Alumina project. It was really amusing to see their expression when they saw a young man of 24 walk into their office clad in a light yellow T shirt and blue jeans clad in field boots and carrying a field cap as well ;)
They were clearly expecting an older experienced person..a few conversations later we started to go through the survey maps of the hilly terrain where the bauxite reserves needed to be probed through exploratory drilling. A detailed plan was laid out for the field visit planned over 2 days. The plan was to visit one of the hill sites in the afternoon and a second site the next day.
The first site was about 70 kms by road from Raygada and took us through villages in the foothills and then a range of hills on both sides of the road. We started our ascent and beyond a certain point in our journey there were very few signs of habitation. We finally reached the lease area marked by a board and there was a noticeable chain in the nature of the hills. They clearly had steep slopes and flat hill tops indicating a bauxite rich terrain. The first hill was a steep climb and the Mahindra 4 wheel drive was really tested in true field conditions. I stopped at places to make a few readings on my brunton compass, made a few dip readings and notes. At places where the bends were really sharp we got down to measure the width of the track. Having worked very closely with the UDR i knew what kind of road would be needed to get this rig up to the hill top.
As we got into the second hill i stopped to take a breathtaking view of the hills around. There were lush green hills and deep valleys. The hills had near flat tops resembling a table like structure when viewed from far. The unexplored India is so breath taking in its raw beauty. I felt a lucky person that day to have seen such a beautiful sight.
We finally reached the hill top and we got to see an amazing view of a flat top hill. It was like the world's largest football field in front of my local guide told me the hill was 9 kms long and 6 kms flat that you could not see where it reminded me of my geography lessons in school where we learnt of the term 'plateau'. I never imagined i would get to see 'one' some day. This was indeed a special day which i have cherished in my memory over the years.
Its an unforgettable trip down 'memory lane'.