For a person like me (once you get to know me, you will know why I am saying so), TRAVELLING was just a fictional character in my fairy tale book. I always became full of energy once I started dreaming of visiting those wonderful and bounty Himalayas, rafting in a river flowing with velocity of light, ice skiing from hundreds of kilometers height( I think I should rethink on this one), paragliding above Pacific and the list goes to infinity.
But, what I still remember is that fine morning of February, 2007, my name flashing on National Geographic Channel, proclaiming me to be one of those three selected (from many rounds of Quizzing) for representing our country INDIA in National Geographic World Championship 2007 to be held in San Diego, USA. Immediately, apart from all happiness and wishes, what triggered the most in my mind was a thought about "WOOAAAA WHAT A GREAT TRAVELLING" With all the formalities and preparations done, our TEAM INDIA was ready to give a tough fight to the 20 nations of this world coming for the Championship. It was truly a feeling I cant express here in words, when you represent your nation in such a Championship and whole nation look forward for the victory.
Well, enthusiasm was at its zenith. Our itinerary was having many halts: Lucknow - New Delhi - London - Chicago - San Diego. We wish if some more were there. It was never a tiring one for me as I wanted this journey to be everlasting. The big T-Shirts or rather I must say The Jerseys of our nation were making us feel proud. Our journey took its long leap when we reached IGI, New Delhi, waiting for our flight AI xxx. My journey which I always dreamed of had started.
Thinking about the cool air hostesses, witnessing the royal look of wine bottle at a store, gossiping with people around, talking some geography, eating some foolish stuff, looking at The List Of Top 100 wanted Terrorists were all part of our time pass. Finally, our approximately 25 hours long journey began with boarding to Air India flight. Beyond expectations, the air hostess disappointed us by being not beautiful. But still this couldn't lessen our ardour.
People were giggling around in airplane. I got a centre seat instead of window. I was wishing to peep outside the window and look what's down there. Think someone got to know of my will and a young man approached me, asking if we can talk. We were soon into a deep conversation when our screens showed that we were passing above Central Asia. Soon we hung us at an emergency exit and clicked some photographs. Land with different structures and topography were visible to us. We enjoyed the Mediterranean taste, the Paris passion, the Venice scenery, the English Channel and many others all from none other than THE GREAT SKY.
Finally we landed at Heathrow: The Busiest Airport. Our next flight to Chicago was scheduled after 4 hours and it was no time even to visit Heathrow. But still, we managed to have a look at:
The Big Dianasour at the entrance, the humpty-dumpty terminals, and the electric driven cars. Very soon, we were heading towards our final destination: San Diego via Chicago.
Landing at San Diego: the eighth largest city of USA and second of California, we soon realized that we were jet lagged. But our excitement kept us going. NATGEO people had sent a man to drop us to Hotel with a big Hummer. Enjoying the color of the city, we reached our Hotel. And it was a Ohh My God!!ÃƒÂ‚Ã‚Â� kind of a situation when we got to know that it wasn't a hotel. It was one of the California's famous beach resorts:
The Bahia Resort. Located on San Diego's Mission Bay, the charm of Resort took us away. And very soon our next surprise was waiting for us: Our wonderful room with a large packet of some food stuff filled with.
Next day began with a decent breakfast where I had only one thing to eat: Veg Sandwiches (as all else was some hot non-veg stuff) and Cold Drinks. Very soon we led to a gathering where all the countries participants came to meet and greet each other. After this initial welcome party sort of a thing, the most exciting moment was there: Our Field Trip. All bags were packed and loaded on our shoulders. Mines were full of Veg. Sandwiches and Cold Drinks. The deluxe bus, one never seen in India was waiting for the young geographers from all over the world. I was just waiting to experience the panorama. My mind was full of imaginations about the places, museums, churches, bars, pubs as we saw them in picture. I was just waiting some of it to grab my eyes on them.
After a few kilometers (miles I must say as they follow some creepy metric system), we reached our destination. And yes my dear friends, it was none other than the glory of San Diego: The SeaWorld. SeaWorld is one the world's most diversified and rich water parks with lots and lots to discover inside.
There was water around everywhere. Shamu was waiting for us. Now you would go on asking who the hell is Shamu; some belly dancer or what? So, let me tell you. Shamu is a blue whale; yaa you read it right: A WHALE, THE LARGEST MAMMAL ON EARTH. I never thought witnessing whale in my whole life but here was the moment of honor for me. SeaWorld apart from its aquatic sports and water games is famous for its rehabilitation program for the marine creatures. Shamu is the pride of San Diego. We got the show passes for Shamu where she danced to the beats of various famous rock music including We Will We Will Rock You!!! Swirling high like a flying kite, Shamu showcased her various skills. Now, I was feeling hungry and very soon we got some special V.I.P Passes. My head was held high getting a V.I.P Pass. We looked for the venue of the lunch and occupied our reserved table. After ordering our lunch, we were discussing how exciting all this is when we heard some people screaming. And to our surprise, Shamu was right in front of us (even less than 5 meters), staring at us. We were frightened but the beautiful went back spreading water all over us with her large fins. Now, we got to know why we got those special passes. The pride of San Diego was so close to us for a little moment. This lunch was better known as DINE WITH SHAMU. After celebrating in SeaWorld, ride on Roller Coaster, visit to aquatic aquarium; we moved back to our rooms.
Shredding off all the unrest, next morning was waiting for us. The competition had already started from SeaWorld. I was more excited for more places to be discovered. This day we headed towards another very famous tourist spot of California: THE BALBOA PARK. Don't guess it by name. It isn't a small park kinda thing with some swings to play around like we have in India. Infact, it is a whole city in itself. Balboa Park is a 1,200-acre (490 ha) urban cultural park in San Diego, California. In addition to open space areas, natural vegetation green belts, gardens and walking paths, it contains museums, several theaters, and the world-famous San Diego Zoo. There are also many recreational facilities and several gift shops and restaurants. Placed in reserve in 1835, the park's site is one of the oldest in the United States dedicated to public recreational use.
And I was not able to understand where to begin. Holding a map of the park in my hand, we decided to start from the famous San Diego Zoo. Spread across a large area of 100 acres, it is home to around 3700 animals of more than 650 species and subspecies. It is one of those rare zoos in the world to have GIANT PANDAS. Zoo also has a skyfari to witness the whole from above. We enjoyed the ride and witnessed some of the very rare species of animals. Different forest regions are maintained according to the natural habitat of animals to provide them a real environment. Giant Pandas. Pygmy Hippos, takins, kingfishers, pelicans, pancake tortoises and many more are part of this zoo. Next we moved to some museums.
Of all of them I still remember, the San Diego Air and Space Museum the best. It features all the history of developments in America in field of Air and Space. Command Modules of various space missions are featured in this museum. It showcases the technological advancements of U.S Army and Space. Some other noteworthy museums are: San Diego Museum of Art, San Diego Automotive Museum, San Diego Hall of Champions, Centro Cultural de la Raza, and Museum of the Living Artist.
The same night we went on a ride of bay on a special crew. It was overwhelming. Down Town shopping is the most memorable moment for me because that was the place where I could find some stuff to buy in remarkably low prices. I loaded myself with different items having MADE IN USA tag on them. Well China still dominates there also.
Next morning, we were brought to see the real ocean, you guessed it correct: THE PACIFIC OCEAN rising and swelling with all its dignity. The Ocean was pure blue. I had the opportunity to do paragliding over the mighty ocean but Maam didn't allowed. Well, we had already made many friends from other nations especially from US team which had two NRI Indians. We climbed a cliff with them, found rattle snakes and did all the fun. Walking at the beach was a great experience for all of us. Our subsequent days in the city were spent in quizzing Geography and doing a great deal which I really can't finish writing it here. Very soon the days passed and it was the time for a return.
On the last day, we clicked some great photographs with people round the world and exchanged gifts with them. This is the NATGEO tradition. Finally, with all memories in our hearts, we checked out of the Hotel to come back to our country with lots and lots to tell to everyone. You can guess how exciting something could have been when it's still fresh in our minds. This was my lifetime trip as I may not get such an opportunity in future. The holy scenery of the city is still flowing fresh in my blood.