Rowing at Town Lake, Austin

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Town Lake (also called Lady Bird Lake) in Austin is one of the Top 10 rowing water bodies in US. I was lucky that my first rowing experience is in this Lake. Wait a second – is it rowing or canoeing? Well, frankly it doesn’t really matter to me and shouldn’t matter to you either if you’re an amateur. There’s a 10 miles long hiking and biking trail along the Lake as well and thus, is a perfect place to spend a couple of hours a week while you’re at Austin.

The boat/canoe rentals were on the other side of the Lake, so had to cross this bridge. Here’s its sepia look:

Bridge over Lake Austin

Bridge over Lake Austin

The mild vibrations while standing on the bridge reminded me of LakshmanJhula in Rishikesh, though the vibrations are ‘visible’ in the latter’s case. It was enjoyable, not terrifying. The cool breeze, mild sun overhead, the view of lake on either side of the bridge and the sight of Austin Downtown building on the third side is a pleasant experience.

 

Lake Austin in an Overcast

Lake Austin in an Overcast

We were 4 guys – so rented two double boats. Rent was 15 USD per boat per hour. Being a first timer, I was off to a slow start and so even my not-so-amateurish partner couldn’t move ahead. The vessel moved absolutely in direction that we didn’t want it to go. As minutes passed, my rowing skills improved. We figured out that the best strategy to move fast and straight was – the rower in the back provides direction to the boat while the rower in the front ‘rows’; and after some time, vice versa.

 

Rowers

Rowers

Ducks, and birds of other categories as well, were having a good time – swimming, playing, surfing, flying low and eating insects/fish. In some areas, people were feeding the birds too.

 

Duck Tales

Duck Tales

The sight on both sides of the Lake was majestic, though the ‘point-and-shoot’ camera couldn’t do justice to the sight due to overcast sky. Several houses, surrounded by trees, lines the Lake periphery. Imagine sitting on your backyard listening to your iPod and gazing at the Lake from atop – priceless!

 

Woods Beside the Lake

Woods Beside the Lake

General Information: If you are new (or coming) to Austin and want to plan a visit to Town Lake for rowing,  canoeing, hiking, biking etc the following links will help you:

Note: All the pictures in this post are taken by Sankar Tejaswi (my co-passenger in the boat) and have been retouched by me using picnik.

Kite Festival 2009, Zilker Park, Austin

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The word ‘Kite’ brings several images with separate connotations to my mind.

Courtesy Wikipedia

Courtesy Wikipedia

Kite Runner – ‘Kite’ reminds me of the book ‘The Kite Runner‘ by Khaled Hosseini (also adapted into a film of the same name). It is a story of a boy born into a rich family in Afghanistan in 70s who now lives in USA. He let a terrible thing happen to his best friends during childhood. Several years later, he gets a chance to redeem himself and in the process, visits war-ravaged Afghanistan. Kite Running forms an integral part of the story and several pages of the story are woven around Kite festival, children and adults flying kites, kite flying competition and running for the kites that befall during the competition. The protagonist gets a second chance, but the story almost makes you wonder, will Afghanistan get another chance.

Courtesy Wikipedia

Courtesy Wikipedia

Makar Sankranti – ‘Kite’ also reminds me of the festival of Makar Sankranti in India. The festival signifies the beginning of the harvest season in India and is called by various names in different parts of the country – Makara Sankranthi, Pongal, Tilgul, Yellu-Bella, Lohri, Maghi, Uttarayan etc. During pre teens, I used to stand on rooftops with a couple of friends (in fact every male tween in the neighborhood) and practice flying kites just as the New Year arrived. On weekdays, we used to practice after coming back from school – 3:30 to 5pm. And on the weekends, the entire day, probably just after ‘Shri Krishna’ on TV. Flying a kite was particularly difficult on cloudy days – January being the coldest time of the year no sun overhead meant a temperature of 12/13 degrees.

A day before Makar Sankranti, which is usually around 14th January, we used to buy several kites, long threads and ‘Manjha’ (pronounced Mun-jhaa and means glass lining some part of the thread) materials. Manjha is an art and is necessary for executing the kite cutting techniques – pull and release. Don’t know whether the art (of buying, sharpening the thread and flying kites) has changed these days – I know kites are even available online these days, but buying kites from the shops is an experience to cherish. Note to self: Write a full post on ‘Kite Flying in India‘ soon.

This time around, I was fortunate enough to witness Austin Kite Festival (I missed Mardi Gras!).

Zilker Kite Festival

Zilker Kite Festival

Austinites celebrate Kite Festival on the first Sunday of March every year at Zilker Park, thus called Zilker Kite Festival. Well, it’s a coincidence that Austin Kite Festival started on the same year as Oscars, in 1929. It is organized by The Exchange Club, which is an ‘all-volunteer, national service organization for men and women who want to serve their community, develop leadership skills and enjoy new friendships’. It seemed that the festival is immensely popular among Austin families – and also among tourists since it is open to all and free.

People: Several hundreds of people – families, singles, couples, young and old, gathered in an open ground. Kites of plenty of shapes, sizes and colors could be seen on the sky. It was an amazing sight to see kids not even 10 years of age flying huge kites. A few guys looked pro – their sleek kites were flying the highest. What amazed me was that no one tried to cut the flying kite of others. The Kite competition was a test of high-fly skill rather than a combat. And this was such a huge difference from the way kite flying is done in India. Even a no gooder like me could fly even lame kites pretty high and cut the thread of another high flier. Sigh!

An army of Kites

An army of Kites

Everyone wasn’t flying kites though. Those who weren’t, engaged in a variety of activities. Some watched other fly kites. Some others were busy in wall climbing, rotating rings around their waists (don’t know the term for this) or getting tattoo/mehndi/henna applied on their bodies – some on palm, others on the pelvic or tailbone area. Few spread out sheets on the ground and were eating or just lying around. Others were busy checking out different food stalls. I checked out a chicken kebab from a Turkish stall – kebabilicious. And it was delicious.

If you happen to be around Austin at this time of the year, do visit Zilker Park on the first Sunday of March for the Kite Festival. And a must see is the mass kite ascension at 3pm.

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