Scotland

I’ve had the pleasure of traveling through the amazing Scottish highlands over the last 4 days including beautiful Fort William and Edinburgh with my family. During our trip, we came across sunshine, mist, rains..which actually didn’t matter, Scotland felt visually stunning in all weathers, it was super dramatic. Just loved every bit of it, couldn’t get enough.

Here are a few pics from the trip.

Train from Edinburgh to Fort William.
An amazing ride through what has to be one of the most stunning landscapes. This is where our camera clicked most of the snaps 🙂
The light and the elements made it look different within seconds so you start snapping them again and again. This train ride was simply unforgettable.

Fort William –
Fort William and Lochaber are the Outdoor Capital of the UK. This town is also the gateway to Glen Nevis, one of the most picturesque of all glens providing some of the most beautiful scenery on the West Coast of Scotland. We stayed 2 nights in this cozy little town.

Jacobite Steam Train-
The main reason for which we decided to go to Fort William has to be to experience the Harry Potter train ride. We loved every minute of it. The lush green mountains made it all the better, the afternoon drink was good on the train. And a surprise chocolate gift box to my wife made it an even more memorable moment. By the way, this day was a special occasion, my dear wife’s 30th birthday.

IMG_0554

The place you visit at the end of the train ride is Mallaig, which is very quiet. We were fortunate to have a nice weather in Mallaig. There are nice pubs which most people visit which have wood burners, good food, which also serves good pints of beer too.

IMG_6449

 

More Scottish Highlands pics- There is almost no commercialization at ALL! which Enhances the beauty so much more.

 

A fantastic morning at Edinburgh Castle – Fantastic view from the top and from the city down below, the views alone are worth the price of admission. The history and scenery are simply breath-taking.
We enjoyed exploring the castle and seeing the crown jewels housed there. Very historic and interesting visit indeed.

IMG_2689IMG_6623

 

Walking the Royal Mile – Is a walk through history–from the Castle to the Palace, past where the wall of the city was and turning into little alleyways that open up to lots of surprises!
Lots of whiskey shops, restaurants, and pubs along the way. All set in a lively street full of great architecture and atmosphere. Definitely a fun walk.

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Las Vegas n Grand Canyon Experience

We gave ourselves one of the most luxurious travel experience for our Baby moon trip. We flew to LAS VEGAS!!. Vegas trip was CRRAAAAZZZY! Seriously, it was a lot to take in. We had a lot of fun like we flew in a Helicopter, visited Grand Canyon, gambled a lot, broadway shows, roamed around on the strip, visited number of casinos what not! We had a lot of fun, it’s not what we’re used to.. nor would I want to get used to it. 

Las Vegas
Las Vegas

Bally’s Las Vegas-

This is where we stayed in and spent most of our time gambling. The location is just amazing it’s is really in the heart of the strip which is exactly where we wanted to be!. We stayed on the North tower. 

Caesars Forum Shops-

This has got to be my favorite mall on the planet!. The architecture is magnificent and we ended stopping literally ever few steps taking plenty of pictures. We felt like we were in a Roman village while walking around because of the ceilings being painted like the sky and the floors felt like we were walking on cobblestone. We had our lunch at the Cheesecake Factory in the mall and saw the Atlantis show there (in front of the Cheesecake Factory)

ARIA Resort & Casino-

The beautiful ARIA hosted our Cirque de Soleil show Zarkana. We spent sometime window shopping at The Shops at Crystals and we stopped by for dinner at mouth watering Wolfgang Puck Pizzas

Stratosphere-

Going up to the observation deck (108th Floor) was amazing and was one of the highlight of our trip sure. Views of Las Vegas from The observation deck was stunning. My wife dint let me do the thrill rides. It would’ve been awesome had I done that.

Bellagio-

It was great to watch the Fountain show from the street. We strolled around and had a quick bite in one of the Bellagio restaurants. Indoor botanical gardens in Bellagio was way too impressive.

Mirage Volcano-

Watching the water stop running and then the volcano erupt was super cool. Again, we watched the show from the strip.

Zarkana – Cirque de Soleil-

I only got to see one show when I was in Las Vegas. I’m so glad I chose this one! The show itself is fantastic and amazing! An amazing display of skill, strength and artistic creativity. The stunts are beyond belief and the quality of the show was as good as anything I’ve seen.

Helicopter tour to the Grand Canyon-

Excellent experience, all the way through from picking us up from the hotel till the banks of Colorado rivers. We were lucky to have got the front seats in Helicopter. Needless to say the helicopter ride was incredible, beautiful views. We flew over the famous Hoover Dam and Lake Mead. Cracking bit of lunch down at the bottom of the canyon (sandwich, some crisps and a couple of glasses of fizzy champagne) on the banks of the mighty Colorado river. I’ve made a video of our ride ->

The Deuce-

If you can get a seat, this is a nice way to travel up and down the strip. We got a top level window seat and it was like a free sightseeing tour of the strip.

Keep calm and keep tripping-

When I look back at myself over the years, its filled with so many memories, most of them are about of my visits to amazing places. I’ve had a bunch of friends who’ve had similar travel interests which helped me travel places in the past. Post marriage my wife has been an awesome travel partner.

I’ve always had this crave to travel, an extreme desire to travel to remote places, get disconnected from chores, experience solitude, yada yada yada

To me, there are like ‘crave to travel stages’, first up, I start getting kinda travel itch, a small thought that keeps lingering in my mind .
Next stage, I stop concentrating on my work and start reading about places that I could visit.
Then, I just get into the mood of packing my bags and leaving (for good ). there’s no stopping at stage 3 though!

The big news – I’m becoming a father soon, which means I wont be able to take travel breaks for the next couple of years. That’s how the usual story goes.  Well not for me, I have already started planning a trip before my dear wife gets into her 3rd trimester.
Nowadays clichéd as a Baby-moon trip. Well yeah we’ve already started planning a safe fun trip. Giggle giggle

Spiti Valley – The hidden Shangri la of Himalayas

In 2010, a few of my friends went out on a biking trip to Leh & Ladakh, but due to heavy rains in Leh, they ended up visiting Spiti valley. Very recently, I happend to watch some footage of their trip and that’s when I realised I wanted to see Spiti with my own eyes.
By the time we decided (me and my wife) to go on a trip to Spiti, it was just 1 week from the day we actually took off.
We didn’t have enough time to plan an itinerary or book hotel. We just took off. I’d say it’s always fun going on a trip with an unwritten itinerary.

We flew from Bangalore till Chandigarh. This is the second time I visted Chandigarh. I love this small very well planned city.
We should have booked toy train from Chandigarh to Shimla earlier, hard luck! tickets were all sold out.

We had to drive to Shimla instead. We stopped for brunch at one of the hundreds of Pujnabi Dhabas we came across. The parathas we had here were so yummy!

Shimla was, as expected, way too crowded. Traffic jams slowed us down big time!

We reached Kufri at around 4ish in the evening, we were in a dilemma whether to go for a horse back ride or not. Horse back ride would take anywhere around 2-4 hours, we chucked the plan and drove ahead towards Narkanda.
We left the crowd behind in Shimla, and got to see the beauty of the Himalayas onwards. These roads were just heavenly.

Narkanda
On our way to Narkanda

We stayed at a decent hotel in Narkanda. ​Narkanda is a small town, at an altitude of around 2700 meters and hosts a Ski resort. I would definitely reccomend a stay here rather than in Shimla.

Our trip was all about our journey on the unpaved roads, scary bridges, dam construction sites, along the beautiful apple farms, rivers, streams,high altitude mountain passes and low valleys with an unplanned itinerary.

I can try to write about my experience about the journey, but believe me there’s no substitute for being there.

From Narkanda, it took us around 5 hours to reach Sangla Valley. We found this place to be so scenic, we decided to stay here We spent sometime in the evening hiking around. We found peple to be very hospitable people here. We stayed in a Hotel but we could also see a few tents hooked up in Apple farms, we should have rented tents instead but we’d already booked a room (at Cafe 42). I’d also suggest, if possible drive till Rakchamm and stay in Rakcham, which is an hours journey from Sangla towards Chitkul.

Our next destination Chitkul, the last village on the Indo-Tibet border. Okay, rather than explaining about the journey in words, i’l better post more pics.

Chitkul
On our way to Chitkul
After our visit to Chitkul, we by-passed Reckong Peo and drove towards Puh (or Pooh). FYI, there’s a military base in Pooh, which hosts a movie theatre. Most probablt you could watch a Bollywood movie here, if interested.
Pooh
Pooh

Along the Sutluj and Spiti rivers, drive only gets better and better (and deserted roads) onwards. We visited Nako and Tabo monasteries along. Both these monasteries are a ‘must visit’.

Tabo Monastery
Tabo Monastery

We reached Kaza, in the evening. Electricity was out for the last 2 days. A blessing in disguise. If you love stars, you have to watch the Night skies from this place. There’s no way I can describe this place in words.
Look at this – http://spaceexp.tumblr.com/image/107251685431

Kaza
Kaza The Shangri La

Kibber is an hours drive from Kaza and happens to be world’s highest village.

Kibber
Kibber – Highest Village in the world
Key Monastery
Key Monastery

We could’nt go further. Due to a snowfall, Kunzum pass was closed. We had to take a detour back towards Reckong Peo.

Reckong Peo
Down town Reckong Peo

Our drive towards Sangla from Reckong Peo was quite a bit of an adventure, it was almost getting dark and we were in the middle of nowhere. That’s when we got to know the road ahead was closed due to a landslide. There was no turning back, we had to take a detour on a narrow muddy road which took us deep into the woods. It was pitch dark and we kept driving in the night. We reached Sumdo at around 10 PM, some one suggested us we could stay at Tapri Government guest house. By the time we reached Tapri it was midnight. ‘Never again we’l take such a risk’ – we told ourselves

From Tapri, we passed lush green Jalori Pass, towards Kullu. Kullu to Manali along Beas was fun a few years back. But now, I feel it’s a little too commercial and crowded.
We spent a couple of days around Manali, we also made it to Roghtang Pass.

Marhi
Marhi
Around Spiti
Around Spiti

Around Spiti

I got so used to traveling around Spiti that I felt like I could just go on and on. I felt like I should just stay back. This trip, to me, was was such a physical and spiritual gain.

I’d like to end this with a quote that I’d read somewhere-
The best journeys answer questions that in the beginning you didn’t even think to ask

Our travel map –
Chandigarh-Shimla-Narkanda-Solang-Sangla-Chitkul-ReckongPeo-Puh-Tabo-Nako-Kaza-Kibber-Key-Sangla-Jalori-Kullu-Manali-Rohtang-Vasisht. (Kunzum Pass was closed due to heavy snow)

List of Hotels that we stayed in-
Narkanda
Hotel Old Thorns
Price- 700 INR
Address: Behind Narkanda Main Bus stand, there is a board behind temple about the hotel.
Sangla Valley
Cafe42
Price- 1000 INR
https://www.facebook.com/Cafe42Sangla
I suggest if possible stay at Rakchamm.
Hotel Rupin Riverview
Rakcham Sangla, 9816686789, 9418092894
Pooh
Govt Guest house, 5km from highway uphill
Price- 1100 INR
Kaza – Hotel Deyzor
Price- 1500 (We paid 2k for 2 days – off season rates)
Address: Near BSNL Office V.P.O., New Kaza, Himachal Pradesh 172114
Phone:094 18 402660
Tapri – PWD Guest house
Price- 500 INR
Adress: Tapri 1km from highway downhill.
Vasisht-
Price- We paid around 2000 for 2 days
Best place to stay in Manali.
Address: 500 meters from Vashist hot water springs on main road

in the lost city of Machu Picchu

A visit to Machu Picchu has been on my wish list for more than 15 years. To be precise, when I read Tinin – Prisoners of the Sun for the first time, I was a school kid back then, I’d dremt back then to see the Incas, Temple of the Sun, and the Llamas of South America.

It all started when I came across Machu Pichhu travel deal by Gate1 travels on livingsocial.com. Iknew it was a risk to book a trip to Machu Picchu in March (the rainy season), but I booked it anyway.

Andes_Landscapes
Andes Landscapes

Amazing landscapes around the Andes of Peru

Our first few days in Peru was around the Andes, Urubamba and Cuzco. There’s much more to Peru than its ancient Inca artifacts. From the soaring peaks of the Andes and the lush Amazon Rainforests and Spanish colonial cathedrals, Peru has it all, the allure of the ancient and mysteries.

On the big day, we travelled in the luxurious Inca rail till Machu Pichuu. When we reached Machu Picchu it was drizzling and very cloudy in the morning.

Misty_MachuPicchu
Misty MachuPicchu

But the mist on the mountains added drama and mystery to the Inca site. We were lucky enough that the longer we stayed the more the sky started to clear up! And eventually WOW what a view!!!

Machu Picchu
Machu Picchu
Totally awestruck to stand at the top looking over the ruins and the Andes Mountains.
This site certainly is worthy of being one of the seven wonders of the world!!! The magnitude of the accomplishments of the Inca people is simply overwhelming.
Below are a few scenes from Cusco, the historic capital of the Inca Empire in southeastern Peru. Standing at an elevation of about 11,000 feet in the Andes, this is an amazing travel destination as well.
Peru Collage
Peru Collage

Peru Tourist Visa for Indian Citizens in US

Important Update as on June 2017 – Latest news:
Indian citizens with US visa (and few other visas) which has validity for more than 6 months, do not need Peru Visa. Check this press release on Indian embassy website. http://www.indembassy.org.pe/english/media/2017-14-exemp.html

I’d been looking forward to go on a vacation to Machu Picchu since a long time. Ever since I booked my tickets, I’d looked over many articles on Machu Pichu, Inca and other stuff, but overlooked gathering enough information on Peru tourist visa. I ended up sprinting in the last minute to get my Peru Visa.
To start with, it was pretty difficult to understand all the information they’ve put on official Peru Conuslate website, and there is’nt sufficient information on the Internet about Peru visa. I’ve shared my experience here, so that it’l help others-

I reached NYC Peru consulate at 10 am with all my documents. The consulate was almost empty. I submitted the documents at the counter. After a couple of minutes, to my surprise they declined to process my visa. They gave me a letter which said, NYC Peru consulate would process visa only if you are a resident of NY state. Since my residential address was in Pennsylvania, I had to go to New Jersy Paterson consulate to get my visa processed.

I immediately travelled to NJ, and reached the consulate around 1PM. Eventhough the consulate was open will 1:30, they did not process my visa that day. They said it was just too late.

I ended up applying leave the next day to get my Visa done, and had to drive all the way to New Jersy from my home in PA.

Important Information:

  • Every consulate has it’s own jurisdiction for processing visa (http://imgur.com/fTNxacX) Peru consulates have a list which says, if you reside in a certain state, they’l process your visa only at certain consulate locations.
  • Eventhough the consulate is open till (around 1:30 PM), you have to be in the consulate atleast before 10am. (If you reach the consulate by say noon, they wont process visa for you on that day)
  • Consulate is usually open on one Saturday in a month. (Please call and verify)

Documents for a tourist visa :

  • Application Form (Refer below for instructions how to fill one)
  • Valid Passport
  • Round Trip Air Ticket
  • Hotel Reservation, Tourist Package Reservation
  • Bank statements – 3 months
  • If you’re in US on a US-visa, then you need an employment proof letter (Refer below for instructions how to fill one)
  • Proof of residence in USA – State ID card / Bank Statement /
  • Passport photos – 2 Copies
  • Application Fee – 30 USD in cash

Process:

  • Not technologically advanced process though people are very helpful
  • They take a photo on their digicam
  • Wait for 1-3 hours in the consulate
  • You’l be given a 60 day Multiple entry Tourist visa (full-page visa sticker) on your passport

How to fill Application form:

  • You can download the application form from Official Website – http://www.consuladoperu.com/
  • Form is called – FORMULARIO DGC-005 SOLICITUD DE VISA
  • Fill only the General information section according to your passport
  • IMPORTANT– For Permanent address, give your US residence address.

Sample Employment Letter :

To Whomsoever it may concern,
This is to certify that LastName, FirstName with Emp #EmpID is employed with CompanyName on a full time basis since 12/18/2006.
He is deputed to USA effective 06/23/2014, designated as YourProfession in US Work Address. His approximate gross salary is $Salary per year.
LastName, FirstName is currently residing in the following address as per our records: US Residential Address.
This authorized certificate is being issued for the purpose of approving the vacation plans from 03/16/2015 to 03/24/2015.
For CompanyName,
Sincerely,

Twelve and a half flights

I am actually rewriting this entire post.. I had saved this post as a draft on my iPad and it somehow got lost (Thanks to Pundu for that) and sheesh it’s such a pain to rewriting the whole post once again…This post was originally composed by me when I was in JFK airport terminal waiting for my flight back to India. I had to spend almost 5 hours in NY airport and later another 3 hours in Mumbai airport on my way back to Bangalore and this is one the posts that I wrote then..

It’s been almost 3 and a half years since I joined TCS and apparently my very first flight was on the same day I joined TCS. It’s been a very nice journey with lots of air travels n this post is about all of those travels.

1.
To join TCS Initial Learning Program
Bangalore to Trivandrum, on Jet airways
December 16, 2006

2, 3.
Onsite travel to Belgium
Bangalore to Mumbai -> Mumbai to Brussels, on Jet Airways
April 6th April 2008

4, 5.
Holiday tour to Italy
Brussels to Pisa, Rome to Brussels, on Ryan Air
June 4th 2008

6, 7.
Back from Onsite
Brussels to Mumbai -> Mumbai to Bangalore, on Jet Airways
July 4th 2008

8, 9.
Leh Ladakh trip
Bangalore to Delhi and back, on Kingfisher Airways
September 19th 2009

10, 11.
Onsite trip to USA, Centera ATF project
Bangalore to London -> London to Boston, on British Airways
December 12th 2009

11-1/2.
Skydive New England
Maine -> Up in the air and down
July 15th 2010

12-1/2.
Back from Onsite Project, Centera ATF project
Boston to New York, on American Airlines
Aug 20th 2010

It’s twelve and a half flights till now 🙂

—-Continuing from where I left off, and I’l update this every time I make an air travel

14, 15
Back from Onsite Project, Centera ATF project
New York to Mumbai, on Air India
Aug 21st 2010
Mumbai to Bangalore, on Air India
Aug 21st 2010

16.
Rann of Kutch
Bangalore to Ahmadabad, on IndiGo Airlines
25th Feb 2011

17.
Return from Rann of Kutch trip
Ahmadabad to Bangalore, on Indigo Airlines
6th March 2011

18, 19, 20
Onsite trip to USA, Symmetrix QE project
Bangalore to Dubai, on Emirates
Dubai to Washington, on Emirates
Washington to Boston, American Airlines

21, 22, 23
Back from Onsite Project, Symmetrix QE project
Boston to New York, on American Airlines, EY3174
Jan 7th 2012
New York to Abu Dhabi, on Etihad Airways, EY100
Jan 7th 2012
Abu Dhabi to Bangalore, on Etihad Airways, EY286
Jan 8th 2012

24.
First International Wildride Trip
Bangalore to Bangkok, on Thai Airways, TG 326
Jan 22nd 2012

25.
Bangkok to Phuket, on Air Asia
Jan 26th 2012

26.
Phuket to Bangkok, on Air Asia
Jan 29th 2012

27.
Bangkok to Bangalore, on Thai Airways, TG 325
Jan 29th 2012

28, 29.
International Wildride Trip to Nepal
Bangalore to Delhi, on SpiceJet
April 6th 2012
Delhi to Kathmandu, on Spicejet
April 6th 2012

30, 31.
Kathmandu to Delhi, on Spicejet
April 14th 2012
Delhi to Bangalore, on Go Air
April 14th 2012

32, 33, 34.
Onsite trip to USA, Smart builder Automation project
Bangalore to London, on British Airways, BA118
July 1st 2012
London to Chicago, on British Airways, BA297
July 1st 2012
Chicago to Boston, on American Airlines, AA1358
July 2nd 2012

35, 36, 37.
Back from USA, Smart builder Automation project
Boston to NY, on American Airlines, AA 1809
Nov 3rd 2012
NY to Doha, on Qatar Airways, QR 84
Nov 4th 2012
Doha to Bangalore, on Qatar Airways, QR 226
Nov 4th 2012

38, 39.
International trip to Indonesia/ Singapore with Wild ride
Bangalore to Singapore, on Tiger Airways
Nov 24th 2012
Singapore to Surabaya, on Lion Air
Nov 24th 2012

40, 41.
Bali to Singapore, on Lion Air
Nov 30th, 2012
Singapore to Bangalore, on Tiger Airways
Dec 3rd 2012

42, 43.
Honeymoon with Deepthi
Bangalore to Mauritius, on Air Mauritius
April 2nd, 2013
Mauritius to Bangalore, on Air Mauritius
April 8th, 2013

44, 45, 46.
Onsite to US with Deepthi
Bangalore → London, on British Airways, BA118
June 1st, 2013
London → Miami, on British Airways, BA209
June 1st, 2013
Miami → Boston, on American Airlines, AA406
June 1st, 2013

47.
Back from Toronto, Canada
Buffalo, NY  → Boston, MA on JetBlue Airways Flight 516
September 3rd,  2013

48, 49, 50.
From US to Ps marriage / Uttarkhand trip
Boston, Logan → New York, JFK on American Airlines Flight 178
Tue, 26 Nov 2013
New York, JFK → Kuwait City on Kuwait Airways Flight 102
Tue, 26th Nov 2013
Kuwait City → New Delhi, on Kuwait Airways Flight 381
Wed, 27th Nov 2013

51, 52.
Back from Uttarkhand trip
Dehradun → New Delhi, SpiceJet Flight SG 2413
Thu, 05 Dec 2013

New Delhi → Bangalore, SpiceJet Flight SG 209

Thu, 05 Dec 2013

53, 54.
Spiti Valley Tour
Bangalore → New Delhi, JetKonnect Flight 9W-7120 on May 15 2014
New Delhi→ Chandigarh, JetKonnect Flight 9W – 7179 on May 16 2014

55.
Back from Spiti Tour (The scary one !)
New Delhi → Bangalore, Indigo Flight 6E-131 on May 26 2014

56, 57, 58
US Onsite Comcast project
Bangalore → New Delhi, Air India (AI) 404 on 22 June 2014
New Delhi → New York, Air India (AI) 101 on 23 June 2014

New York → Philadelphia, Delta Airlines, DL 2949 on 23 Jun 2014

59,60
Peru, Machu Pichhu tour
New York, JFK → Lima, Peru, LA-531 LAN Airlines on March19 2015
Lima, Peru → Cuzco, Peru, LA-2075 LAN Airlines on March 20 2015

61,62
Back from Machu Pichhu, Peru tour
Cuzco, Peru → Lima, Peru, LA-2066 LAN Airlines March 23 2015
Lima, Peru → New York, LA-530 LAN Airlines March 24 2015

63
My first flying experience as a Pilot, Infinity Flight Group September 19

Trenton, NJ

64
My first flying experience in a Helicopter
Boulder City → Grand Canyon, Pappilon Helicopters on January 9 2016

65, 66
Trip to Las Vegas
Philadelphia → Las Vegas, Spirit Airlines Flight 395 on January 8 2016
Las Vegas → Philadelphia, Spirit Airlines 396 on January 11 2016

67,68
Trip to California
Philadelphia → San Fransisco, United Flight 418 on March 1 2017
San Fransisco → Philadelphia, United Flight 1884 on March 9 2017

69, 70, 71
Travel back to Bangalore
Philadelphia → Chicago, Etihad Airlines EY 3665 on 23rd April 2017
Chicago → Abu Dhabi, Etihad Airlines EY 150 on 24th April 2017
Abu Dhabi → Bangalore, Etihad Airlines EY 236 on 24th April 2017

72, 73
Onsite trip to Norwich
Bangalore → Mumbai, Jet Airways 442 on 22nd July 2017
Mumbai→ London, Jet Airways 120 on 23rd July 2017

74, 75
Trip to Scotland
Norwich → Edinburgh, Logan Airways LM 301 on 22nd September 2017
Edinburgh → Norwich, Logan Airways LM 308 on 25th September 2017

76, 77
Trip to Canada
London → Toronto, Air Transat TS423 on 29th July 2018
Toronto → London, Air Transat TS122 on 9th July 2018

78, 79
Travel back to Bangalore
London Mumbai, Jet Airways 115 on 29th September 2018
Mumbai Bangalore, Jet Airways 481 on 30th September 2018

80, 81, 82
Canada Job hunt
Bangalore to Paris, Air France 8471 on 25th March 2019
Paris to Montreal, Air France 8515 on 25th March 2019
Montreal to Toronto, West Jet 8513 on 26th March 2019

83, 84
Going back after Intelerad Offer
Toronto to Paris, Air France AF0351 on 2nd April 2019
Paris to Bangalore, Air France AF0194 on 3rd April 2019