11 am – One hour into our flight, Australia all around; sky, land, air, Australian clouds drifting by, sure they are foreign, ruffled refurbished refugee clouds. This sky again – millions of years in the making, I have seen it before, multiple times. Machine learning sky, reformatting to my projections; first saw this space 1980. I went to an astrological conference in Sydney flying through Yankee sky: Baltimore, Dallas, Los Angeles, Auckland, no longer Yankee space; then Australia, bloody Australia…thirty-8 years later leaving again. Lost the times I have been in these skies, leaving; between 25 – 30 times. Probably many more. I even wrote two books; Leaving Australia 1 (Leaving Australia ‘Again’: Before the After) and 2 (Leaving Australia, ‘Again’: Book 2 ‘After’), published them on Amazon- sold one a few years ago; girl from my past took issue with my description of her and our early 1970s foray into youth and the streets of New Orleans. Another complained about us in Baltimore at the end of the 1970s I changed their names, everyone else in my books are now dead except for one son and an ex-wife I have had no contact with for fifteen-years so I no longer get notifications from people and my depiction of them.
I got off task here… so good to be in flight again. Three months in Australia is quickly over. Our India three months was fantastic, and we are already planning the next exploration of the sub-continent, but that trip is three months behind us. Now a three months European run: UK, The Netherlands for three weeks Berlin a month and Northern Spain a month. It has been a year since this area. We did Denmark for six weeks and the Baltic last year at this time. I turned 70 in St. Petersburg, Russia with the evening out-to-sea; a metaphor for my life. This week I will be 71, half in London and half in The Netherlands.
Australia was a good stay; family, creative stuff, mowed the lawn, tried to declutter the shed; decades of boxes of memories. I did throw away a few papers. When we get back I will attempt another declutter. We’ll be planning for 2019 and the USA for three months and Pakistan-India later in the year. And there will be the lawn to mow, family to attend to so the decluttering may have to wait until 2020, though I won’t mention that to Narda, she has brought up ‘the shed’ for several years. She even escorted me to a ‘declutter’ class (twice) when we were in upstate New York around 2003 or 4. I found them quite interesting and dragged a container of stuff to China for our three-years there, added more and now it is all in our shed. Not just my stuff but my dead family’s stuff: father, brother, son, mother as well as some dead-friends’ things. A shed filled with dead people’s belongings- but they give me comfort. And yes, Narda has past stuff there too.
So here we are, in the clouds again. Getting away from our stuff. Narda is a master packer. We each have one bag less than twenty-Kilos and a seven kilogram carry on bag. Half my weight is computer, phones (Android and iPhone; need options), hard drives, camera, lenses, tripod…. Narda is looking forward to the time I can travel with just a phone (or two) using it for video, photos, computer and my endless hours using Adobe. I am still tethered to my computer for editing/creative madness and I like my Nikon and 300mm lens. Phones are not quite there. And books. Narda changed to Kindle fifteen or so years ago. My last old thing, I would rather read a book. Narda reads books too but still all those cheap e-books… for example, I have 8 e-books I have published, all very cheap, they don’t sell. I was almost finished with my thick and too heavy to bring Henry James’ ‘New York Stories’, all written in the 1880 – 1890 era. I have been reading literature from last century the past couple of years. Though for this trip I moved forward and brought a book on the poetry of the 1950s. Eye rolling from the passenger next to me I brought along on this trip.
Our first stop is Kuala Lumpur, we are on Malaysia Airlines. Instead of trying the whole thing, Australia to Europe in one go, we are breaking this up into two trips. I turn 71 in a few days so we’re taking it slower. And this is my start; just wrote this on my phone while listening to music from the 1950s and 1960s. On some level I suppose I am progressing.
Finally, something to write about. We had a typical ordinary flight. With Malaysia airlines picking seats it is an add-on, as most airlines are now. However, booking 72 hours before the flight brings up the seat chart. We chose the front row with a window and isle on the two-seat side row plan. We realized our error within minutes but were unable to change. We were told to change we’d provoke a fee, but if we waited until 48 hours before departure we could change seats. Our obvious error was we were next to the front row of crazed babies and their wailing. With 48 hours to go the plane looked empty. No one is leaving Adelaide. Really, why would they? (CNN reports that Adelaide is the number ten most livable city in the world for 2018). Low and behold when we got to loading up time there was not a spare seat. Wow a brain-drain on Adelaide, everyone is bailing. TIP 1, choose seats 72 hours early. Sure enough there was a baby screaming the whole eight hours in the front row. With my noise cancelling headset filtering the best music of the 1950s and 1960s I was fine a few rows back but Narda seemed spooked.
Narda, the wise, has us overnight in Kuala Lumpur, central, they spell it Sentral. The last time we were in KL we took a taxi into downtown, well actually to the India area and stayed several days. It took so long, we were stuck in traffic all the way. This time, older, somewhat wiser, we took the KLIA Ekspres train to Sentral; 28 minutes, air conditioned, worth the 200 ringgets ($50 USD for two, round trip). TIP 2 take the bloody KL express airport to Sentral.
The downside with an overnight is the immigration line. In KL it is always bad – quite chaotic, taking more than an hour to get through. After eight-hours sitting it is too long to stand, going back it will be after a thirteen-hour flight.
TIP 3 We almost stuffed up this one; we could have had our luggage go on tomorrow’s flight and not be incumbent on it following us everywhere, but we didn’t. If the continued flight is within twenty-four hours they will take care of it. We got to Sentral and saw that with our KL Express return we could give our luggage to the airline and they would take it to the airport and have it arrive with us tomorrow. I believe it is only with Malaysian planes. So we got rid of our crap for awhile. It was just a ten-minute stroll to our room and the first thing we saw was an ad for a massage; 50 local thingies ($12 USD) for an hour so we grabbed a bite to eat and rocked up for our hour of rubbing by the seeing-impaired folks. Narda was happy with her hour, even proclaiming it was the best massage she ever had. Me, good grief, writing this on our flight KL to London a day later I am still sore. OK so he couldn’t see me but when I said ouch several times he should have gotten the clue I was not whistling Dixie. We used to get massages often in China and they would be either too hard or great.
TIP next Get the right person for your massage.
We upgraded a bit, taking Economy Plus which gave much more leg room. TIP, upgrade to Business – you can plug your computer in for more entertainment/creativity.
Twelve hour flight to London; five hours to go, I have used up my computer battery doing my Photoshop-textual wonders (https://plus.google.com/collection/E_6JaB), finally found something to view on the airline movie channels, ‘Jailhouse Rock’, 1957, Elvis first film. So different than what’s on offer now. I followed that with 1955 James Dean ‘Rebel Without a Cause’. Life is good. I am UpToDate. Another Tip: don’t rely on a battery hungry 15-inch-plus16 GB RAM computer, doing several Adobe programs, to be satisfying for long.
We arrived in London, a bit worse for wear at 4 pm, immigration was much quicker than KL. We bought an Oyster Card – putting 25£ on each, which turned out to be enough for three days of travel around London. The underground took us close to an hour to get to Narda’s family members where we were to stay for the next couple of nights. They have a spectacular view over the Thames, near the new US Embassy and a short walk to Parliament, Palace of Westminster, Buckingham Palace, some note worthy bridges the London Eye; all of which we saw in a couple of days.
As usual, in any city we go to, we took random bus rides and walked heaps. We need to travel just to get off our butts and grab some exercise. Buses are only 1.50£ (less than a couple of USD bucks). Our big day out was a rainy day so sitting looking out the window from upstairs in a big red bus is a great way to see London from a non-tourist view. When we got hungry we got off, went to a pub, The Joiner’s Arms, Camberwell. A most friendly girl served us well, and yes this is a tip-free space. For my birthday, 10th of August, we took a random bus on a most perfect weather day and got off when we were hungry in burb called Clapham and again had a great pub meal.
We ate at pubs – always the best places. Having been on a low-carb diet for the past four-months or since India, I enjoyed the rising of my blood sugars with the local foods; the plan is to get back to serious carbs-counting mode when in The Netherlands where we will have our own kitchen and to continue throughout our three-months in Europe. We booked the Eurostar for our three-hour journey to Rotterdam. The Netherlands will be the next write-up – next week or next month. Cheers. In the meantime my daily scribbles are at https://neuage.org/2018 and my photo-digital-textual thingies are up in several places such as twitter (https://twitter.com/neuage) and google-plus above.
TIP, read my (our) blogs – and yes, I will post Narda’s writing and observations and photos in the future too. This one was my exhaling.
For some reason, forget why now, we decided we had enough train journeys in India, so we booked round-trip flights between Delhi and Amritsar. The cost was $71.50 round trip for each of us, the train would have taken us six-hours, the plane less that an hour. Getting to the airport was easy, only a 20-minute taxi but getting from the airport, amongst other problems, to our Airbnb cost us 700 rupees ($10.70 USD – cheap for trips into NYC from JFK but here expensive for here). Air India was a good flight, Delhi airport was grand, there are multiple signs declaring it is the number one airport in the world. My only complaint was that there was only 45-minutes of free internet – come on Delhi, we are supposed to be at the airport three hours early then have 45-minutes of internet usage. What am I supposed to do, talk to my wife for three-hours? We had a good meal at an Irish Pub, I gave my low-carb diet a break, having the mac and cheese with fries special. Narda had something that did not look like the vegetarian-only food we had agreed on for our time in India. Nevertheless, we seemed happy and found our waiting area – twenty-minute walk from where we had eaten. Still looking for my free internet time we sat down only to be called over a loudspeaker to report to some uniformed dude who informed us we needed to go with him right away to the baggage area. By now we had 55-minutes before the flight left and 25-minutes before boarding. Fortunately, after much insistence, more on ‘her’ part, we got a cart to drive us to the baggage area. There was one of our suitcases sitting lonely as could be and we were demanded to open it. Something about a cigarette lighter was in the checked luggage; a big no no apparently. Narda found the offending device, which we used to light incense, nothing more, making us ideal Indian tourists, one would think. After a sort of scolding we were told the suitcase easily would make our flight. We found and demanded a cart to go back; Narda was sitting in the driver’s seat ready to drive it herself which made folks nervous and compliant to our request. We got on the plane as the last ones to get on and we were assured our luggage would happily accompany us to Amritsar.
We got to Amritsar and our suitcase with the once offending article was nowhere in sight. We rounded up several airport employees (we had about five) with each having a few sentences of English at their disposal and began our flight plight. Well won’t you know it? There was a state-wide strike. No internet was one of the casualties.
“Hundreds of protesters on Monday blocked a main bridge in the center of Amritsar, in the northwest Indian state of Punjab, as thousands more joined a nationwide strike called by several organisations representing the low-caste Dalits, or "untouchables"… The state of Punjab reportedly blocked mobile internet services and suspended bus routes during the strike…. Dalit activists say the Supreme Court's Mar. 20 ruling, which removed certain provisions protecting members of India's lowest castes from harassment, will lead to an increase in violence against the Dalits.” https://www.efe.com/efe/english/portada/protesters-block-amritsar-road-as-part-of-nationwide-dalit-strike/50000260-3570599
We soon realized our largest error. All my medication (heart, diabetes, etc. Hey, I am 70, give me a break) were in the suitcase. Usually it is in carryon but as we would be in Amritsar before six pm we thought in check-in would be fine. I did one of my Leo-generated panic moves, showed my defibrillator-pacemaker implant, proclaimed my heart pills were in the bag and that we had been told for sure our suitcase was on the flight. I said I may have to see a doctor or go to hospital to get pills to keep my heart going and on and on. They were able to string enough sentences together, and a few looked quite worried. They rang the baggage department back in Delhi and we were told our suitcase would be on the first flight at six AM tomorrow and they would deliver it to us at our new digs.
Actually, Terrell’s performance was impressive. A monumental hissy-fit which completely changed everything. We no longer had to fill in many forms and email them hither and thither. Phone calls were immediately made on our behalf. I was a proud wife.
The next upsetting thing was there was only one person outside the airport when we finally got out, who claimed he was a taxi driver. We had been told about 300 rupees were enough, but this dude wanted 800. Narda explained to him that he was a dishonest man, and after much to and fro and head bobbing (on his part) he dropped his stupid price to 700. Looking around and seeing no other transport, knowing there was a strike, realising our phone could not ring our host, we got in and scurried off into the night.
Unpacking my bag, I found my pills for the evening; OK so my performance was not needed, I don’t see anyone signing me up for a Bollywood role, so I am left to my own devices for entertainment.
Our flat looks fine, two-bedrooms, two-bathrooms, small kitchen, a large alter with a colourful strobe light and statues and pictures of dead people with long white hair and long flowing white beards and a tv that we could plug our HDMI cable in to continue with our various series that we have been relaxing in the evening with: ‘The Last Ship’ and the Netflix doco about the Rajneesh, also known as Osho, Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh, Acharya Rajneesh, or simply Bhagwan trip – spoken of in our Pune blog.
We got in touch with our host with a list of complaints: air-conditioner was spitting water all over the bedroom, the beds were too hard, no frying pan, internet was not working and a few other things. We were a bit grouchy from our air-India experience and were ready to move out then and there. The next morning a dude showed up, got everything fixed, even got soft mattress toppings and a frying pan (he brought all this on his motor scooter). The internet was fixed (though slow for our liking but we don’t like to complain) and we appeared happy. In fact, we were.
As we come toward the end of our India three-month visit we wished we had taken a train one more time instead of flying.
Our suitcase arrived the next afternoon. The driver wanted a tip, so we gave him a hundred rupees after explaining to him Air-India should be giving him a tip, but it merged with foreign-thoughts, dissipating into the air, as he did not understand me. I didn’t turn around to see if he was as happy with his tip as I was.
See our video of a walk-about of our colony – and the other end of the bus line…
Walking around our area we found a street dental clinic –
A dude who sharpened knives and did lots of other things all through bicycle power
A happy family of pigs And a good bus. The bus story is that a previous government began building a bus thoroughfare along G.T. Road that currently goes from the railway station to India Gate. We were surprised at how few people took that bus – we did a few random bus rides and only once of four rides did we see anyone else on it. Asking several people, we were informed that the previous government started a very expensive bus project, apparently from three different people, it was all quite corrupt. The next government in their bid to stop corruption stopped the bus project, leaving more than one-hundred buses parked for the past few years to get rusty. Currently these yellow buses go back and forth every fifteen minutes. Each bus had a driver, conductor and usually two or three other ‘official’ looking people on board for the few passengers. At each bus stop there are a couple of workers, one who wants to look on the computer and print out a ticket for us to hand to the conductor on the bus and another person, seemingly, just hanging about. Often the buses are empty going each way.
At this bus stop a couple of hardworking employees asked to have a selfie with Narda.
Along the bus route is Khalsa College, (the premier-most institute of higher learning, was established by the leaders of the Singh Sabha Movement in 1892. They were inspired by the lofty ideals of the great Gurus… http://khalsacollege.edu.in/) We found a few good eateries across the street at Gate 3 of the College. It is only a ten-minute walk from our home and we set out almost everyday to visit the college but usually ended up taking a random bus ride and never made it to this beautiful place.
At the opposite end to the Delhi Gate end, is full-on Amritsar, near the train station. I got a groovy pair of high-end shorts for 100 rupees (a buck fifty in USD) there and Narda did a ‘WhatsApp’ interview with Brendan’s third-grade class in Phnom Penh standing on this corner…The Golden Temple
I was asked so many times to pose with the locals for a selfie. It is the weirdest thing. Sometimes (mainly men) won’t even ask, they will just come up next to me and shove that phone in front of me for selfie with the 2 of us. My white hair maybe? But this has been all through our trip. Often folks will go up to Terrell and admire his beard or ask to shake his hand. Not many tourists around I guess; in fact we have not seen many for quite some time. The Golden Temple is the go-to default for all folks to Amritsar and who live in Amritsar. All one-million plus tourists; so, it seemed
It is quite the site sight. Lines were long, chanting was loud; no doubt we were all blessed. It was not because we wanted a free-feed; the idea that everyone was in a line with clanging plates going toward an area that we have read can feed 50,000 hungry souls was too much to resist. After too much pushing and shoving and general waiting in line we turned in our empty plates and hit the road. We had to leave our shoes behind at the start of our inward journey of discovery (how metaphysical it all sounds) and I had to cover my head with something different than a silly hat (with a camel – reading ‘desert’, on it, left over from Jaisalmer) and fortunately Narda had just bought a scarf for 30 rupees (about 50-cents USD) for herself that I could use to cover my head and the entrance guard accepted my spiritually significantly successful sexy attire. Shoes are put into a free storage area and we are given a thing with a number on it to collect our foot ware when we had had a gutful of chanting and crowds; a very workable system. I did like this dude’s hat and thought perhaps I should write my poems http://neuage.org/2018/ on my hat too…
This was a highlight in our trip. We bought a tour to the border where there is a guard changing ceremony we can watch. What we arrived at was amazing. There were about 50,000 people. It had the atmosphere of a grand final at the MCG (I think; never actually been). We were there about 2 hours before it started but the whole thing was a carnival, with flag waving, chanting for the team, dancing the conga, bright colours. On the other side of the gate was a smaller crowd of Pakistanis, trying to match us. The loud speakers on each side were playing at full volume; completely different stuff, each side trying to “out-volume” the other. I had a nice chat with one of the guards, who tried to order me back to my seat, away from the Paki side. I said to him that really, folks should go through that bloody gate and shake hands. I shook his hand and said they are your brothers. Surprisingly he agreed. Then the real show began. On each side high-stepping, macho chest thumping, marching back and forth to the roar of the crowds. Quite an experience, and we recommend it if you head that way. On weekends the crowd swells to 100,000, we were told by our driver.
It is my dream to teach a choir of children, 50 Indian and 50 Pakistani, who can perform at this border ceremony with the gates open, showing that music is the way to unification.
Our video – a real treat (did I really say that?) is at
When we got to the parking area – about 45-minutes from home to the border; I got hustled into purchasing a cap with India on it and having my hand painted in India flag colours. OK, it was all for less than two-bucks USD, but still, once again I got hustled. Narda declined, she is not taking sides. With India beating Australia in cricket once again (did I get that correct?) I should cheer on Australia, even though I don’t follow cricket and after twenty-two years living in Australia, I have no idea what the rules are except that after three or four days sometimes it is a tie. What a stupid game. Watch our video for a real-closeup of this event – the ‘changing of the guard’. What a lot of whooping and hollering. We sat at the top of the stadium, mainly to get out of the sun as it was covered there. I used my zoom lens for most of the video and photos but still would have liked to have been closer.
The Museum of Partition and the War Memorial Museum (over at the end of the yellow bus run; more about that later) both informed us why Pakistan and India have issues. Of course, it was all from India’s side and sounded like propaganda. It is always “who to believe” in these situations. I think the main beef now is that Pakistan wants Kashmir and India basically says, ‘go get stuffed’. It is quite terrible what happened with the partition, how both countries suffered so much and still do. The War Memorial Museum took us back to the Sikhism start and all that befell them along the way. I have lots of pamphlets to be informed of what they are up to: ‘Notes towards Definition of Sikhism’, ‘A Brief Introduction to The Sikh Faith’, ‘The Golden Temple’, and ‘Guru Granth Sahib “The Scripture of Sikhism”’. All this stuff to read while we wait for our plane back to Delhi at the Amritsar Airport; and our plane is already delayed by an hour so if I ever stop writing I will have more time to read. Bottom line from all I have read and museums and speaking to folks is that the Sikhs believe all religions are under the same god – which is cool and groovy, but why then is there so much division in this part of the world? Apparently, the Sikhs stronghold is in Lahore, Pakistan, and their second place of coolness is here in Amritsar. I have lots to learn. And they never cut their hair. I haven’t for more than two-years, so I am on the way, except, I am not going to cover it under one of those turbans. I have been asking Indians about partition and whether they would want to reunite with Pakistan. I think back in the day (1947) Kashmir should have gone to Pakistan with its Muslim majority. But now, according to some locals, Kashmiris want to stay on the Indian side because of the hardline extremism on the other side. One guy in the museum explained that Bangladesh, formerly East Pakistan fought for independence from West Pakistan because they were much more moderate in their views. Clearly, I need to read more on this. It’s a sad but fascinating history.
In our last night in Amritsar we experienced some “weather”. Loud noises (things falling off the roof?) woke us about midnight and Terrell was sure there was someone trying to get in. It turned out to be quite a storm. Strong winds and continuous lightening flashes, with no audible thunder meant that the storm’s centre was a good distance away. We lost power until about 8am the next morning when a kindly neighbour cranked up a big ole generator; noisy as can be, but it powered us up nicely. So we watched the Al Jazeera news with breakfast. Presently power was restored and we finished our packing and headed out for the airport. We paid the taxi driver 550Rs despite our host warning us “ not to go over 350Rs.” The guy even asked for a tip on top of it. What do you do. I said, “sorry mate you’ve already got your tip” and he smiled and shook my hand??? The difference is $3. We must remind ourselves to keep things in perspective.
Part history, part propaganda, part tourist show… what is it? We enjoyed this place and found it by mistake – at the end of one of our random bus rides, at India Gate. A lot of sections tracing the poor plight of the Sikhs to a few wars between Pakistan and India, with India always being in the right to the today’s glorious, proud, just and powerful India military. As there were ‘no photography’ signs everywhere, and army clad folks wandering around I was unable to focus the camera long enough to get good photos; but here is an example – excuse the poor quality but I was trying to do the right thing and not take photos but I was unable to completely refrain… Most of the displays were pretty gory and one would easily feel sorry for what befell these ‘brave’ folks as they trudged through history with so many out to get them. Of course, at the end of the day was the important signing of stuff between Pakistan and India with Narda negotiating the terms; We went to the film place – a large cinema like room with 72seats; moving seats. There was a movie in some foreign language, but we could tell there was a lot involved with war like situations and bombings and planes, tanks, guns and general confusion. Every time a gun or missile fired the seats would rock forward then backward; sometimes something would hit our legs or poke us in the back. They called it 7D, not sure what that meant but we loved it. After the war antics there was a longish movie of a roller-coaster. That was quite cool. Every time we went down the slope, the chair would roll forward (we really did put our seat-belts on) and up the bloody hill our seats would tilt back; then as went around corners the seat would shake. It was like being in a computer game. The only suggestion to make us old people really go nuts is to make it three-D and give us 3d glasses, so we could really trip out.
First of its kind in India, the Punjab State War Heroes' Memorial and Museum at Amritsar is now fully operational and draws large number of visitors daily. Built at the cost of Rs 130 crore (20 million USD), the memorial-museum was inaugurated in October 2016. The memorial-museum showcases the splendid gallantry deeds of the brave hearts of Punjab. It immortalizes the deeds of brave soldiers and to inspire and infuse the spirit of patriotism in the youth. The hallmark of the magnificent campus is a 45-metre high stainless steel sword on the central edifice. It represents strength and courage of the people of Punjab while defending the nation in the hour of need. This iconic structure stands atop a circular platform surrounded by water body. Names of nearly 3500 martyrs are inscribed on the memorial built at an elevation of 4 metres.
We were there on a Saturday, at 10:30 am; the only ones there. By mid-day there were a couple of dozen others in the whole place. Not sure about the large number of visitors daily.
A side-note; one of the more difficult parts of ‘doing India’ is that cars rarely have seatbelts in the backseat. With the dangerous driving; weaving, quick stops, speeding up, passing on the wrong side of the road, darting in front of a truck… having seatbelts on would make us a tad bit less nervous. Today we see on the news that a bus went off a cliff near where we were living in Shimla for a week killing thirty or so, 27 being children between 4 and 10 years old on the school bus. Shocking.
We enjoyed our week in Amritsar and would suggest it as a great place to stay. The train station is near the Golden Temple and Old Town. The airport is a little further out, but we needed a break from trains and it was a good choice.
Many people along the way ask us to take their photo – this is typical Many did not ask for their photos to be taken but I still would point and try to get an agreement – this is one is of a chap going past our home in Model Colony.
This is our fourth stay in Delhi. This time at an Airbnb. 8A/24G, WEA, Karol Bagh, New Delhi-110005 to be exact if you want to stay at this place. A good stay; two-bathrooms, nicely laid out; it reminds us a bit of a NYC apartment, perhaps in Brooklyn.
We are just chilling, buying last minute stuff for our home and some little gifts for the kids.
Four days in Delhi then after three-months back to Australia in preparation for our next excursion; September, Berlin for a month home-exchange (they already stayed at our house while we were laying about in India), a month in Spain as a house-exchange, and a month we will make up as we go, somewhere in Europe. We have four-plus months in Adelaide to get all healthy and strong for our next trip.
Some last photos of our trip – Delhi April 10 – 13th. They really sum up all four trips to Delhi: Narda having selfies with locals, amazing traffic, wonderful and modern metro, and rickshaws. India for three-months: a retrospective look, and some ideas for others
Having been in India before (we were in Goa in 2009) I knew somewhat what to expect. I still felt overwhelmed at times by the number of people and by the poverty. It is impossible to help everyone out and it does affect us to have beggars, especially small children, say they are starving, to see crippled people asking for money, to hear every tuk tuk driver/taxi driver tell a story of how difficult their existence is. How to be caring and sympathise in each situation is a challenge. Train stations are probably the most difficult; people living in the station, some places with a hundred beggars. At the same time, we have a budget which of course is impossible to explain to a beggar. “Sorry mate, I have only sixty-dollars a day to spend on accommodation and food and souvenirs and museums and trains and airplanes, so I can’t give you fifty-cents for a meal today, sorry mate”. In fact, we had a thirty-five dollar a day budget for food and etc (not accommodation) and we managed to stay below our budget for three-months. Accommodation we managed to average $32/day for three-months and that is with mostly Airbnb and three-star hotels. Trains were cheap, and we only went first class or second class AC. If we could do the same on Amtrak in the States or in Europe that would be beaut. Even internal flights were inexpensive. The round-trip Delhi – Amritsar was $75 each. That would be equal to flying Adelaide to Melbourne, usually more than twice that.
Yesterday we decided to bite the bullet and buy some curtains for our lounge at home. It was a crazily busy day in the shopping area of Karol Bagh. I have not seen it so crowded. A virtual parking lot, with cars jammed up to each other; actually touching, and yet motor cycles and auto-rickshaws were weaving though. The pedestrians (not us) seemed completely oblivious of this chaos; and strolled on the road, looking relaxed and unhurried. We darted around cars in a panic, stepping in all sorts of soft squishy things that you don’t want to know about. It was quite exhausting, so we stopped at an ice-cream vendor and sat for a bit on the steps of a department store, eating our drumsticks.
We finally found a curtain shop. It was nice; a friendly vendor with lots to choose from; and his grumpy wife. I found something that I thought might do (won’t really know until we get home) and had it made up to fit. Total costs, for a very large window at home: $92USD. Would have cost at least 4 times that back home. We returned the next day to pay; the connection for credit card payments was down, so 3 ATMs later, we managed to extract some cash. All good. A helpful lad from the store, with no English, led us to the ATMs. He would keep looking back to see if we were still following, and smile at us as we dodged and wove amongst the cars. His technique: just ignore the cars. I have no idea what he told the shop owner on our return, but I feel that there was some laughter at our expense!
And that is it…thanks for sharing this trip with us
Our next trip begins in September with a month in Berlin, a month in Spain and a month we are still planning. 2019 we will be in the States and in Pakistan. and maybe at your door.
In our time back in Australia we will do some caravan trips around Australia and may post some blogs along the way here.
I post my daily thoughts at http://neuage.org/2018/
I long had dreams of going to Shimla, based mainly on watching the TV series “Indian Summers”. The setting is a beautiful green valley, with lovely gardens and walking trails. Shimla is NOTHING like that! It is a vertical city, perched on the steepest, largest mountain sides I have ever seen. Each building is above or below the next. A difficult city to get around.
We arrived on the narrow-gauge railway, built a hundred years ago by the meticulous Brits, to give their ex-pat citizens a place to cool down in the summer. The trip takes 6 or 7 hours about 22 Kms.
The train to here was amazing; see our clip of the Himalayan Queen here
The trains are old and restored, listed as World Heritage. You go over 800 bridges, through 103 tunnels and ascend to 7,500 ft, and there you are; Shimla.
We are staying in a small village, perched on a narrow ridge on the top of a mighty big mountain.
You look behind houses on one side of the road, and there is an almighty drop, then cross the road to the other side, and another similar drop. Blimey. Today we decided to head to downtown Shimla, where some lovely historical buildings can be seen along the “Mall”.
So we took the local bus. It is only a short distance, but takes an hour, with crazy turns; the fast-moving bus driving precariously close to the edge of a cliff.
I had to move to the other side of the bus and look away. The return trip was worse, with way too many people squished in, and us trying to stand. Each time when we thought, “no way, no more people, I can’t breathe”, another 5-people got on. The passengers were very good natured, no one got upset at having an elbow in their face, or their nose in someone’s armpit. Everything in Shimla is like that; that’s what I meant by difficult. It’s all a matter of perspective. We have a lot to learn.
See our one-minute video of our bus ride @
It is SPECTACULAR. The views are mind blowing. The Himalayas just keep on going, as you look towards the horizon, and the mountains get bigger and bigger. So here we are; the agony and the ecstasy.
We have a nice Airbnb, which is gorgeous inside, lots of space and friendly hosts living upstairs. However it can only be reached by going very slowly down a long set of outdoor steps, VERY steep and scary, especially with luggage. We are starting to get used it to it…a bit.
Our village, called Kasumpti, is becoming familiar. We have the older guy who sells us large bottles of water (you can only buy smaller ones from the other little stores), and eggs at 5 Rs (8c) each, sometimes a bottle of soda water and Cadburys chocolate. The village is just a strip along the mountain. There are often lots of people congregating in a central area, called the bazaar, who are waiting for buses. There is also a wine shop; first we’ve seen in India. I asked about the price of a bottle of Kingfisher. It was marked 85 Rs but he insisted that we should pay 180 Rs, so no-sale for me. Other store owners just charge the price on the item. Oh well.
Yesterday began another hospital day. I had squirties again, and a tummy ache, so I thought, better get onto this early. Our host very kindly offered to walk us to the local hospital. He has never driven a car! I guess this makes sense in this part of the world. The traffic is chaotic; with the road circling those mountains, always with 1000 ft drop on one side and steep mountain on the other. There is NO wiggle room. He told us that several times a year a bus rolls off the road into the gully. Everyone is always killed. I’m surprised that it is not more often. Anyway, you can’t drive up or down the mountain. There are steps which join the road loops around it. So, it’s mainly walking for most people. It’s much further to take the circling roads. We finally arrived at the hospital and I was waved ahead of a longish queue. I walked to the front, apologising to the folks, who simply smiled and pointed the way forward. The lady at the desk, a very efficient woman, who had it all ‘in hand’, said she was surprised that I was ‘a senior’. She then became my new best friend. I got the paperwork done and we (the three of us) sat down to wait. It wasn’t too long before we got to see a doctor in another building, who sent me off to have some tests.
We walked back home. Our host had been with us for some hours, a kind man. Today we returned and I had my very first Indian ultra-sound. Kinda cool. The radiologist himself was operating the thing….a wand? He dictated to his assistant the whole time and told me what he saw. ‘probably not appendix’ I have a really sore spot on the right side, which is some sort of infection, ‘needing further investigation’ when we return. Oh well.
The hospital ‘ground floor’ is actually the 7th story. So you can enter from here. Then you go down to the 4th floor (where the ultra-sound room is) and step out the back. When you look down it’s the roof of another 6 or 7 story building. The building seems to be anchored somehow to the mountain side.
The other day we took a walk in the other direction, following a very narrow path cut into the mountain side; the same deal. A massive drop to one side, and the steep side on the other. It’s so steep that you can hold you hand up to it to steady yourself. I keep my eyes on the path. I can only look around when I stop. It truly freaks me out. As we progressed, the path got narrower and I had to stop and head back. Terrell was completely comfortable with it, but not me. On the way back, we were greeted by a man sitting outside his house, which basically sticks out over the valley. We had a friendly chat, and he asked us in for a cup of tea. It was really nice. The couple are both retired, speak English well, and it was interesting. One of their grown-up kid’s lives in Chicago, the same as the son of our host. The house is heritage listed, 100 years old. He told us that the forest is also protected, 100-year-old pine trees filled with black faced little monkeys. It really is very beautiful.After our month in Kerala (see our Kerala blog) we stopped in Delhi for a couple of days. As usual we stayed in the Paharganj area in the Main Bazar. We have posted enough clips of that bustling area in previous blogs. We stayed at Hotel Hari Piorko with a fish tank in our room.
Our first room didn’t meet our requirements; i.e. the TV didn’t work, the bed was too hard, we couldn’t plug our computer into the powerpoint… so we got them to change our room – something which happens surprisingly often. We enjoyed our stay; the next room was good. I did worry about one of the fish in the tank – it looked depressed, didn’t swim around with the others, and kept to herself. Narda said it was a ‘bottom-feeder’ and that was perhaps its normal behaviour. It did move about a bit but she did not respond to my tapping on the glass. Maybe I should reassess my communicative style with females.
The rooftop restaurant was good both for the view and food. We had an Ayurveda massage and I got some Ayurveda crap for my hair; allegedly makes it grow thicker, longer, healthier, and perhaps will awaken my brain-cells clustered at the foot of my hair follicles.
Kalka is a town in the Panchkula district of Haryana.
We arrived on the train from Delhi at 11 pm, staying at the $16 USD/night, Kalka Hotel Dharam Villa, which was a good hotel. They made us a great omelette breakfast the next morning. The room was clean and the shower sort of OK. I think it was our cheapest place in three months of travel. We paid $22 USD for it on the way back a week later due to it being high season for tourism.
We grabbed a smoothie on our way to the train station in the morning,
Got a tuk tuk to the train station and got on the toy train.
On the way to the train I saw a very distressed horse with a sore foot. I spoke at great length with him and Narda and I went out to find an apple for him, but as we do, we got side-tracked and when we went back the horse had disappeared. He was obviously in pain. Someone had put on a plastic bag and tape, but the poor thing was not happy.Solan
The trip from Kalka to Shimla is about six-hours. We went for four hours, stopping at Solan.
Solan is our first venture into the state of Himachal Pradesh (listen), literally “snow-laden province” which is situated in the Western Himalayas with such groovy borders as Tibet and Kashmir. See the map that I borrowed from Wikipedia.
Folks have been enjoying the cold and heights for heaps of time, for example, the Indus valley civilisation flourished here between 2250 and 1750 BCE – so after more than four-thousand years one would think this is one of the more advanced areas of civilisation in the world. This is what we are in a quest to find. Is there an advanced civilisation in the world or are we all just muddled bystanders to the winds of fate? We Westerners like to think we are the top of the pile but watching the news I think we are the bottom-feeders. To read more about Himachal Pradesh check out Wikipedia’s article at https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Himachal_Pradesh.
Folks have been enjoying the cold and heights for heaps of time, for example, the Indus valley civilisation flourished here between 2250 and 1750 BCE – so after more than four-thousand years one would think this is one of the more advanced areas of civilisation in the world. This is what we are in a quest to find. Is there an advanced civilisation in the world or are we all just muddled bystanders to the winds of fate? We Westerners like to think we are the top of the pile but watching the news I think we are the bottom-feeders. To read more about Himachal Pradesh https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Himachal_Pradesh Wikipedia’s article.
We stopped at Solan at a height of 5,000 feet (1,600 metres) so I could climatize to higher altitudes before hitting the 8,000-foot mark in Shimla. Years ago, in Quito, Equator, at ten-thousand feet we had to get off the mountain due to my not being able to breath. Of course, even in small towns Narda finds things we ‘need’. Solan is a city that reminds me of a medieval European city with narrow streets and oldness, a bit more mildew and more trash about the place with a few cows standing in the middle of the street looking overwhelmingly content and people speaking Asian, Solan is tops for us. One night, two days is not enough to hang out here. In the evening from about 6 – 10 the main street is blocked from traffic so the locals all go out for a stroll; so cool. We stayed at the Mayur Hotel Bar And Restaurant, http://www.mayurhotelsolan.com/ an adequate space at $26 USD/night. There were no fish tanks in the room but good just the same.
India is known for its sweets – and once again I gave my sugar-free diet a rest… as well as Narda did so likewise,Narda has posted about the toy train to Shimla. The only downside was that there was a narrow path to the train station, so we were unable to get a tuk tuk from the town of Solan to it. The night before we really struggled to get up the hill with all our crap, plus it was raining so we were on the bit of a self-pity side of life when we finally did get to our hotel.
Coming back was fine with it being down a steep hill to the station. There are more than one-hundred tunnels between Kalka and Shimla – this one is next to where we were sitting at the station. People pass through them, I suppose as a shortcut, which explains why the train sounds its horn when it gets to each tunnel. For those of our multitude of readers (I think we have four or five family members who feel obliged to skim through these long winded things) who are familiar with the children stories about Flat Stanley http://www.flatstanleybooks.com/ I am sure one could think of that being the result of folks who do not obey the train whistle warnings.
The train made several stops and we all piled off. At one of the stops, children lined up to have their photo taken with Narda. Not sure why she is always so popular (more than me – but I am not complaining – just wondering what I can do to get as much attention) – this has happened for many years in many countries. A selfie with Narda is just so cool for folks. I know I do it too. The carriages are smaller than regular Indian trains as they are on narrow gauge tracks. There are toilets in the front and back of each carriage. The distance from Kalka to Shimla by rail is 97 kilometers with several bends, 102 tunnels, 988 bridges and 917 sharp curves. It takes more than six-hours to make the trip up.Last year, the train had met with an accident near Dharampur while it was travelling at a speed of 28 km/hour. The driver was dismissed for speeding. The one we were on went considerably slower, making leaning out the window to take photos and video easy, though Narda gets nervous as I go out the window or door to get footage. Our favourite sign along the way at one of the stations on the way up to Shimla. Now, a week after Shimla, in Amritsar, the centre of Sikhism (that story is next) we are learning this is the crux of what the Sikhs have to say.
Shimla ( listen), also known as Simla, is the capital and the largest city of the northern Indian state of Himachal Pradesh. The climatic conditions attracted the British to establish the city in the dense forests of the Himalayas as the summer capital, from the 1940s. The main shopping area is Mall Road in the centre of the city. It is closed to traffic except for emergency vehicles, making walking rather pleasant. There are many monkeys around the place – I liked this bold one.
And of course, Narda got more folks rushing up to her to get a selfie – no one asked me.We had a nice Airbnb, Narda wrote about this above. We were on the edge of a forest area and often monkeys would be everywhere. The photo below is moneys at our house – one was licking the wall. Narda captured one of their capers this morning; I had put out a bag of trash, hearing lots of noise, a monkey was taking a few prized possessions out of the bag – we didn’t record much, so it does not show that there were six or seven soon after at our door. They are very bold and used to humans. Narda’s sister, Caroline, was bit by one a couple of years ago in Indonesia and had to have shots.
See the short clip of our monkey-thief
Narda has written about our stay in Shimla. I will just add that it is one of our memorable places we have visited. We would not do it again as it was a bit difficult for us. The narrow roads, steep drops, climb down and up to where we lived, and our flat; two-bedrooms, two bathrooms, large lounge area, lots of English news stations and easy to plug in our HDMI cable to watch our latest series of our computer, ‘The Last Ship’, and the Netflix documentary on the Rajneeshees, ‘Wild Wild Country’ – we were just in Pune for a week, even stayed at an AirBnB run by a couple of their devotees and last year we were in Oregon, their US Centre – so we are quite interested in their stuff. Of course, you can reread the ‘Pune’ blog about this. And the other difficult part for us, the elders, was that there was no heat. It would be five-degrees Celsius (41 Fahrenheit), cold for us, warm for our New York family and friends, in the morning. There was no shower, as we have done in other places, we used the bucket provided and got enough warm water to dump over our shivering bodies. During the day it was warmer, outside, but for a week, we never got warmed up in the house. We wold wrap up in blankets in front of the TV. The other minor complaint we have had before is that beds are incredibly hard. Luckily there were enough quilts to pile under our sheets to make it bearable.
These houses are built not only on mountainsides but in areas that are not accessible by vehicles, every brick, window, roof tile, everything is carried in. We have seen men with washing machines on their backs, 50-kilo bags of cement mix, and so much more. When we left our flat we were unable to carry our suitcases up the hill and paid a man to carry them; he took two suitcases and a bag of our not-needed crap (hey family we bought you each something) all together on his back.
We took the railcar – a single carriage train back down the hill. 8,000-foot drop in four hours. As it left Shimla at 5 pm we only had an hour of daylight. After dark I spent a few hours catching up on our writing and video editing, all the things I seldom have time to do as we keep adding more experiences to our trip. There was only one stop along the way and we all ran to the toilet and grabbed a bite to eat then we were on our way. We stayed at the same hotel in Kalka that we stayed at coming up.
See our clip of the Shimla to Kalka Rail Motor Car – about two-minutes
We only had a few seconds to see the sunset as the mountains covered the setting sun most of the way. This was not touched in Photoshop. Do the Shimla trip once in your life.
Kerala is a state on India’s tropical Malabar Coast. Did you know: Kerala has the highest life expectancy at birth (74.9) during 2010-14 among all Indian states. wikipedia.org
Narda writing Terrell writing
20 – February
Our hostess is an Indian Jessica. Softly spoken, sweet, helpful and intelligent, with long dark hair and a gentle friendly face. So, we’re good. This place is a large, very clean 2 bed-roomed flat. The showers are hard-core India, buckets with scoopers, but you get the technique after a while and the water is hot. We have internet most of the time, have hooked the telly up to the computer via HDMI, and happily watch Peaky Blinders every evening.
Today another bus ride. We found our way to the big bus depot near the railway station and got into a bus. The seats looked comfortable and there was plenty of room. Problem was, it didn’t seem to be going anywhere in a hurry. A few folks started to get off, so we followed them onto a second bus. This one was going somewhere. The conductor asked us where we wanted to go, and we said “just to end”. He looked very puzzled. So we said we didn’t really mind we just wanted to see things. By this time a few other passengers were watching with interest. One had a little English. Terrell then offered that perhaps we should see some waterfalls and a kangaroo. Small smiles starting appearing on the passenger’s faces. The guy with a little English took the matter on his own hands and spoke very rapidly in Hindi (smiles got larger). He probably said something like “just sell them your most expensive ticket, these guys have no idea what they want”. Anyway, it worked out. We paid 38 Rs (about 50c) and off we went. Well, it was a pretty hot day, but an interesting ride. When we saw a town after about 45 minutes, we got off and walked to a sweet shop, bought some fudge (can’t beat it!) and caught another bus back home. The driver of this one was a maniac, running red lights only to pull up sharp to pick up old ladies. It was the fast ride home and we collapsed into our cool house, and had cold showers.
This place has been fun. Totally not touristy; no one tries to pressure sell anything, which is a welcome change. We almost feel local. We have our milk and yogurt guy nearby to whom we can almost say “the usual”. And we have two favourite restaurants, one has occasional air-conditioning and the other has clean red chairs. So you have to weigh it up. We take turns. They both sell really good fruit juices and shakes. Terrell likes pomegranate. My favourite is grape juice, but not fermented….this seems to be a completely alcohol free zone. I have not had a drink for a month. Actually the only time I had a Kingfisher beer (largish bottle) I threw up violently the next day…and have had on-and-off funny tummy ever since. I don’t think it was the alcohol, but I have this association stuck in my head! Right now I’m on my 4th course of antibiotics after a second hospital visit. Feeling good now.
Right now we’re watching “Peaky Blinders” season 4. Highly recommended. I think it’s on Netflix. And we’re reading two books by Yuval Harari, “Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind”, and “Homo Deus: A Brief History of Tomorrow”. (thanks Sacha and Georgia). Read them if you can. We are fascinated, such an interesting take on everything.
We like staying at Airbnbs; close as we can get to living at home somewhere else. Firstly, we unpack everything – set up our little home, buy some groceries, try to find some English channels on the telly and feature our nest the best we can. We start looking at Google Maps to see our surroundings then go out and explore. We met our ‘neighbour’ a girl from the State of Washington in the USA, here on a Fulbright scholarship for some medical thing.
After discovering there was quite a close beach we grabbed an Uber there for the usual less than a buck-fifty (USD) to Valiathura Beach. It looked amazing until we were on the actual beach where we discovered human poo all over – perhaps there is no loo for the fishermen than inhabit this area. The pier is quite amazing, but it was closed to the likes of us as it was under repair. We did see folks fishing off of the end of it but a local guard type of dude said we could not go out on it.
As often is the view in this area there were the many fishing boats waiting for something – perhaps for fish to jump out of the water. When we were there, in the mid-afternoon, the locals were huddled under tents, which if we were wise we would have been too instead of walking in the mid-day sun. We took a tuk tuk along the beach in hopes of finding some groovy beach-side restaurant but ended up in a small shop feeling lost in the middle of nowhere and took another tuk tuk back home.
Another day we went to the local zoo; The Thiruvananthapuram Zoo; entrance fee of 30 rupees (45 cents USD). I thought it looked a lot like the Honolulu Zoo. We have only been to one other zoo in the past twenty-years, La Aurora Zoo, Guatemala City about ten-years ago. The Thiruvananthapuram Zoo is one of the oldest of its kind in India, being put together in the 1830s or so. If you are widely interested in knowing more check out their webpage. We spent most of the afternoon there – see our clip, on YouTube for footage of this nice park. We also went to the Napier Museum but found it rather boring though inexpensive (10 rupees – 15-cents USD).
We walked the few blocks to the main temple attraction but did not go inside as one needed to be of the local religion of the temple to peer within…the fact that we are both quite enlightened did not seem to pave the way to their celestial consciousness.
We grabbed a bus over at North Gate to, Kovalam, the most popular place in Trivandrum and no doubt the main reason folks go there.
We were there at the end of the tourist season with only a few bikini-clad folks left on the beach. Not that I took photos, just of Narda with her umbrella. It used to be a nude beach, I think the only one in India, but then they banned nakedness as perhaps not having clothes on is unnatural for hunters and gathers that we homo sapiens are. After all we were born with clothes on and we should keep them on. At the southern end of Lighthouse Beach is a striped lighthouse with a viewing platform which was closed, we discovered after walking to the end of the beach and up the hill to it. Always a fun thing to do on a hot day. We didn’t make it to the palm-backed beaches of Hawa Beach and Samudra Beach but chose to get the next bus back to the city which thankfully was an air-conditioned bus. It was double the price setting us back 40 rupees (sixty-two cents, USD for the two of us for the hour ride) but well worth it.Overall, we liked Trivandrum and would suggest it as a place to be for a week or so. The zoo stands out as the best but just taking random buses and smiling at the locals is quite a cool thing to do. And there are lots of temples; we were actually in the temple area of Trivandrum.
There is a wall to go through, separating the highly-evolved temple consciousness dwellers/visitors with the rest of the dregs of humanity. Surprisingly we were allowed through. I was happy to see only vegetarian restaurants within, so us evolved animal-loving folks can feel good all the time about ourselves.The only time we went to the other side of besides the beaches was to go to a restaurant suggested to us. It was the most expensive one we have been to in India, Villa Maya Heritage Restaurant, about $12 per meal which is more than three times what we normally pay. Looking at their website; http://www.villamaya.in/ we learned, weeks later, that TripAdvisor rated it as the third best restaurant in India and in the top 15 in all of Asia. Perhaps we should not have complained that at $12 a meal it was expensive. Maybe we are rated amongst the top dozen or so most clueless tourists. Nevertheless, the food was tops and so was the place and service.
We usually go to Vrindavan Restaurant, a block away, for lunch they have such yummy dishes as Tomato Uttapam which is basically a pancake with tomatoes or whatever shoved in / veg fried rice, pomegranate juice and pineapple juice all for 226 rupees ($3.48 USD) breakfast is 126 rupees ($1.94 USD); of course, that is for the two of us.
Narda became ill, again, (no photos of the event) so we went off to the hospital and got more medication. It was her fourth dose of antibiotics and hopefully this time will be the last. It was our third hospital in India so far; less than two years ago after her motorcycle accident in Cambodia when we went to a few hospitals between Cambodia, Thailand, and finally Australia. We are making the rounds of Asian hospitals. Tomorrow we start heading north again; 5 days in a beach town called Varkala, highly recommended by Bren, and then 2 weeks in an Airbnb in Kochi. So we’ll keep you posted.
27 February ~ 3rd March
A very spectacular place, huge cliffs and wild beaches.
I say wild, because more than once I was smashed face first into the sand by a monster wave. Still the water was warm so we ventured in a few times. Our ‘resort’ was south of Varkala, a little remote but very pretty. We upgraded to a balcony room upstairs with a gorgeous 4 poster bed surrounded by swishy mosquito nests and white curtains. With an archetype view of a palm fringed beach, we were happy. Mind you if you looked straight down, there was a busy little fishing village with lots of red fishing nets being rolled, not much evidence of fish being caught, but what do I know. This was actually pretty interesting for us to watch; and everyone with friendly smiles. By and by we discovered the main part of the action, North Cliff. This is a wonderful narrow road along the top of the cliff, lined with restaurants, shops and guesthouses; everything your heart would ever want. We some great meals here, enjoyed the specie sunsets, and took (Terrell 🙂 many photos. Can see why Brendan has spent so much time there.
See our video
We took an Uber to Varkala for 900 rupees (less than $14 USD) for the two-hour ride. Our driver was on his first run with Uber and was quite happy that we gave him a 100-rupee tip at the end. He was young and wild (aren’t they all?). I had looked up the death rate on roads in India a few days earlier which was an error in judgement. Narrow roads with speed, what could be more thrilling? Often, we would go through a built-up area with signs of 40 Ks for the speed, but not us, we flew through doing 60-70, passing motorcycles, tuk tuks, trucks, even buses. What is nerve-racking about some Indian drivers is they believe in karma, ‘if we die, it was meant to be’. Our driver may not have had a death wish, we never asked.
We arrived in Varkala noonish – walked to Varkala Beach and to the closest town and wandered until we had no idea where we were. Of course, that is nothing unique. We grabbed a tuk tuk home and had dinner at our local restaurant here at the Guru Ayurveda Retreat Centre. It sounds much grander than it is. There is a small building with a sign advertising rubs and stuff, though we did not see any activity.
On the rooftop of our building there was a ‘yogi-centre’ though I saw no activity for the week we were there. The internet was slow as it is in most places in India. Slow meaning a five-minute video I would leave overnight and if lucky it would appear on Facebook and YouTube by the next morning.
Our room was good though, large, balcony, great sunsets, OK bed – not awful but for India not too hard, OK shower, if used between 7 – 10 am for warm water.
(A note from Wikipedia “Varkala is the only place in southern Kerala where cliffs are found adjacent to the Arabian Sea. These Cenozoic sedimentary formation cliffs are a unique geological feature on the otherwise flat Kerala coast, and is known among geologists as Varkala Formation and a geological monument as declared by the Geological Survey of India. In 2015, Ministry of Mines, Government of India and Geological Survey Varkala of India (GSI) have declared Varkala Cliff as a geo-heritage site.”)
If we stayed here again we would stay on the Varkala Cliff which is where the restaurants and most of the hotels are. We found a good hippie-type coffee shop, Coffee Temple, though the Mexican food we ate was not very Mexican. India has the best food, when it is Indian dishes, but going for anything Italian (mac and cheese), Mexican, etc. forget it. Perhaps Chinese food is good as every place offers it but we have never tried any. Be sure to say, ‘not too spicy’, otherwise you will have a mouth on-fire. A week where we were was too long, as we had to do long walks on the beach everyday (rough life we live) to get to the cliff about forty-five minutes away.
The water was warm, and we would have a bit of a swim most mornings or evenings or whenever we could get our lazy asses into the sea. There is a meditation/yoga/Ayurveda place at every turn. We got some creams and lotions but did not participate with the massages – they are the same prices as Australia.
03 – 05 March
Alappuzha (or Alleppey) is a city on the Laccadive Sea in the southern Indian state of Kerala. It’s best known for houseboat cruises along the rustic Kerala backwaters.A nice train ride to Alleppey. We sat with a young couple, a Brit and a Colombian, who somehow made their way into second class aircon, because the other carriage “was full”. We had a great conversation with them, lovely kids on a 7-9 month trip though India, S.E. Asia, ending in the Philippines or “whenever our money runs out”. When we arrived we had lunch with them at a VERY dodgy little place. I think the bill was under $2. The next train station meal was our cheapest ever, 2 coffees, idly, and banana fritters; all for 66 cents. But that was Kochi, more later.
The accommodation was crap. Fantastic view, but nasty hot little room. No shower and hot as hell. Oh well. We took a lovely boat ride through the backwaters which are amazingly beautiful. Left at 6.30 am, just getting light, so the intensely heavy traffic of large houseboats had not yet started. This was a difficult stop, mainly I think because of the heat. The temperature is only about 34, but lots of humidity with it; we’re not used to it.
Narda held an eagle on our breakfast stop – they said the bird had lived there for the past sixteen-years.Our morning boat ride, leaving at six-thirty am was peaceful as the many boats had yet to hit the road. There was just the two of us and the driver. We could have laid down – but we would have fallen to sleep so we sat up – see our groovy boat below.We paid 400 rupees ($6.15 USD) per hour and did four hours. In 2016, Centre for Science and Environment rated Alappuzha as the top cleanest town in India. Everything is by its own standards. Not quite the same as tidy-towns in Australia. There are still enormous amounts of trash along the road, in the river. Everywhere. Perhaps compared to other towns it was clean.The view from our porch at Malayalam Ayurvedic Lake Resort (http://malayalamholidays.com/) was amazing, the room was awful – small – dirty – no air conditioning – shower barely spits out water, and the manager was not friendly. There is no ‘amazing breakfast’ as stated on their homepage. They order out from a nearby restaurant. Not sure why it is referred to as a resort. And as was the case back in Varkala, the Ayurvedic trip was highly advertised but we did not see any sign of activity. The hotel or ‘resort’ next door had signs all over advertising the same thing but again no one around doing such activity. The view below is a couple of minutes from our ‘home’. Sitting on our porch we watched houseboat after houseboat go by – see our video clip, a lot was shot from our porch.
We saw this boat on one of our travels – a couple of kids had taken a lot of plastic bottles (and there are a lot in the water) and made a raft out of them. Unfortunately, I did not have my zoom lens on at the time.We met some folks from Belgium and Narda spoke Dutch with them and we went off looking for a place to eat. The nearest restaurant was on an island and we found a row boat ferry to go across on. On the way back Narda paddled us across with the owner – see the end of our video. Luckily there were no houseboats in our area at the time. https://youtu.be/E_bsE2HDYIc
It was a bit of a walk from where Malayalam Ayurvedic Lake Resort was to the main road – along a dirt track, along a canal, up the road and a fifteen-minute ride into town where we found some restaurants from ‘Lonely Planet’ that were at best adequate.
Two days was enough for us in this place and we were happy getting the train out of there to Kochi.
05 – 19 March
Staying for two-weeks at D’Homz Suites, YS Lane 2, Yuvajana Samajam Road, Kadavanthra P.O., Kochi, Kerala 682020, India. Hosted by Arun at +91 93 876 62 000 Highly recommended – http://dhomz.business.site/
Off again, this time an uneventful train ride. Despite the beauty, we were happy to be on our way. We are now residing in a beautiful little modern apartment. Fully airconditioned, washing machine, the whole thing. And a real SOFT bed!!!!! It is so nice. We’re here for 2 weeks, an Airbnb, time to get sorted, get clean, get rested, Terrell to get his blood sugar back down. He’s even joined the local gym. We just may never leave. So if we don’t turn up in April, this is where you will find us.
The Airbnb stays are the best. You really get a local home. In Pune, it was REALLY local; kinda scary entrance, lots’ of black mould, but it turned out to be a cosy little flat, Indian style. The Trivandrum flat was an apartment at the back of a family’s house. The daughter took good care of us; checking that we were happy at least once a day. We became a little known to some of the store holders nearby, which is also nice. Kochi tops it though. We have everything here. TV works with Netflix, aircon, a very soft bed, a nice little space in a block of flats with a doorman. The thing that makes the Airbnbs different from hotels (and we have stayed in many on this trip) is that they are in non-touristy areas. So, no hustle, no sales pitch, everyone just going about their lives. And we can get all the mod cons easily; western meals when we feel like it. Though today we discovered Curd Waadah. Not sure about the spelling, and it was not on the menu. Two balls of ricey stuff, in a bowl of raita, with some spicy crunchy bits. We’ve already had it twice. It costs about 75c. Yum.
Yesterday I spent half the day sitting in a dentist’s chair, having my front teeth fixed. Looks pretty good even if I say so myself. The day before we saw “The Shape of Water” in first class chairs. Very enjoyable. The mall, called Lulu, was very modern and new, full of the same useless shops you see in these malls everywhere (Marks and Spencer, The Body Shop, Apple, Tommy Hilfiger) but to its credit it had a large supermarket in the basement and a half decent food court.
Kerala is a curious mix of Christians and Communists. Currently the communists are in power; they support the trade unions support free education, medical etc. They are freely elected, displaying their red hammer and sickle flags everywhere. The association we make with the Soviet Union is a bit unsettling for us, but in Kerala, folks are happy. Then there are the Christians. There are so many beautiful churches, obviously well supported financially. Our local church is Catholic, St Joseph’s. Our dentist (more about him later) belongs to the Syrian Christian Church which is the biggest I think. Apparently it was started 500 plus years ago by Syrian missionaries, but has no links with modern Syria. I guess communism, in its purist form, has a lot in common with Christianity. Anyway, every morning there were church bells (the first at 5.30am!) getting folks there for the first mass at 6.30. The church was packed. Several hundred folks there every morning, sometimes more than once a day. I did enjoy hearing the mass hymn singing in the cool (ish) morning air.
Last night we walked in an area very nearby, with lots of new high-rise apartment, all the occupants taking walks in the cool of the evening. The walkways were well marked, even with a bike lake; almost felt like Holland, but way too hot. It was a surprising little area, very liveable I think.
Kochi is the old city and the new Kochi is Ernakulam, about 7Km from Kochi. We took a ferry from there to Fort Kochi and to Vypeen see our groovy video at https://youtu.be/cjj53vrp9FY
and our talking to fishermen at Port Cochin with their Chinese nets (“shore operated lift nets”), The unofficial emblems of Kerala’s backwaters see video at https://youtu.be/OwTxHu-wKhs
We saw hand washing clothes in dhobi khana, run by Tamils – see the description from Wikipedia below
Veli Street in Fort Kochi – Dhobi Khana – The first sight that greets you inside the gate is an array of men and women ironing clothes with these songs providing a musical background. Most of them are old and grey haired. Pass through into the next portion of the three-acre compound of the Khana, and you see 40 wash pens lined up in a row. Although a huge washing machine stands in the first wash pen, no one seems to use it. This is what might possibly be the only Dhobi Khana (community laundry space) in Kerala, existing in the city successfully for many decades, thanks to a fair number of Kochi citizens who prefer their clothes washed by hand. The origins of the dhobi khana lie in the colonial period, when British officers brought many Tamil villagers to Kochi to work as washermen. This Tamil community was first organised together in the 1920s, and came to be known as the Vannar community and has retained its cohesive identity over the years. At present, there are about 40 families in the community who use this Khana. Each cubicle with wash pens and water tanks is allotted to one family. 75-year-old Murugappan, who started doing this job when he was 15 years old, says that they still rely on traditional, elaborate procedures for washing clothes.
“First we soak the clothes in water mixed with detergent for some time. Harder clothes are washed by beating them on the stones. To remove stains easily, a pinch of chlorine is also used. After that the clothes are rinsed twice in fresh water,” he says. “For starching cotton clothes,” he adds, “we still use the traditional method of dipping them in rice water. No modern day starches can give so much crispiness as rice water does.” “Then, women from the family hang these washed and starched clothes in the sun. We dry the clothes for almost 5 hours,” he says. Interestingly, no one here ever uses clips to keep clothes from falling off the line; instead they all use a technique of tucking clothes b etween the ropes in such a way that they are never disturbed by the wind. We use charcoal irons for ironing the clothes. Some of these irons were brought from Sri Lanka decades ago,” Murugappan explains. Murugappan says that this process has remained unchanged for at least the last 40 years. “Then, women from the family hang these washed and starched clothes in the sun. We dry the clothes for almost 5 hours,” he says. Interestingly, no one here ever uses clips to keep clothes from falling off the line; instead they all use a technique of tucking clothes between the ropes in such a way that they are never disturbed by the wind. We use charcoal irons for ironing the clothes. Some of these irons were brought from Sri Lanka decades ago,” Murugappan explains. Murugappan says that this process has remained unchanged for at least the last 40 years. https://www.thenewsminute.com/article/kochis-historic-dhobi-khana-run-tamils-may-soon-be-hung-out-dry-44636
Our area is Panampilly Nagar, an upmarket residential area just 1 km east of M.G road, the epicentre of Kochi city. Many areas in India end with the word Nagar which means town, city, or suburb. We have found several good eating places such as Gusto Foods Donut Factory, across the road from us is ‘The Best Bakery’, around the corner is ‘Choice Bakery’ and anyone who has eaten Indian sweets would know how good they are. Even a diabetic needs to have a ‘sample’ now and then.
We found our closest shop ‘The Food Mart’ with the basics we need, St. Joseph Road. Past the church that wakes us each morning at 5:30 with bells ringing then soon after singing. Across from the Food Mart was my daily spiritual centre, the local gym. Not fancy, but with all the necessary equipment to make me look fit if I would spend more than half an hour and do so every day for the year. This cycle is for two-weeks. I missed two days, one because when I was mixing boiling soup in the blender the top flew off and gave me large burns on my arm and stomach – quite painful for a few days, and the other when we went to the countryside with Narda’s dentist for the day. Fitness centres are an important part of my life because they represent continuity in my life. I started them in Baltimore (Towson actually) in the mid-1970s and my travels are a record of gyms I have been to. My favourite was last year’s in Ringkøbing, Denmark. Every morning Narda and I would ride our bikes to the fitness centre overlooking the fjord. I have had membership or went to gyms in China (at Dalian International School – almost every day for three years), lots of years in NYC, upstate New York, Adelaide, Hawaii, and so many places in between. Forty-years of doing the same thing – machines have not changed that much, just fancier. I still listen to Mississippi Blues, Dylan, Janis Joplin. It is like I started in the 1970s and never left. Everywhere around me is an extension of then – after all I am seventy and should embrace the 70s and of course the sixties. The world around us changes and we have those scattered experiences called life, but we pretty much stay the same. The gym gives me a place to momentarily stay the same as I was long ago. It is a nice place. Narda and I go twice a week to one in Adelaide, but it is this thing for old people – we stretch then do machines and weights then more stretches – really geared toward old people but I like it. Daily I do my weights in my shed, so my escape is listening to music and weights. Narda’s escape is travel and books – I escape with her too. Maybe on my tombstone I will put ‘escaped’.
The largest shopping centre we have found here is LuLu Mall where we have seen films twice. Yesterday we saw ‘The Black Panther’. Both times we got the first-class seats in which we stretched out and we stood for the National Anthem at the start of the films. Food is ordered and delivered at intermission, which is often abruptly in the middle of a scene – then lights go on and food ordered and delivered all for fifteen-minutes or so. There is a good food cart at the LuLu Mall as well as the Hypermarket. In the photo below the top images are for one theatre -where we paid the extra buck for a reclining seat, the other is where all the seats are luxury and we are standing for the national anthem at the start of the flick. Come on Australia, lift your game, we want luxury seats for five bucks, and of course, meals for three to four dollars for the two of us, and add the Uber for 100 rupees ($1.50 USD or about $1.75 Aussie dollar) for a half hour ride. OK airport runs are more here. We had to cough up almost ten-bucks USD for the hour ride to the Kochi Airport but in their defense that was double the price as Uber seems not to be allowed at the airport to collect people and we paid for their return. From JFK to our home in NYC it used to be about $75 then they want a tip on top and that was a shorter ride.Everywhere in India, every shopping centre, airport, train-station, hotels… they have airport-type of security and I must show my defibrillator/pacemaker implant each time and get searched individually – always a nonsense. Aside of that we have enjoyed the air-conditioning and cleanness of large shopping centres and while seeing how out of place they seem to be with so much poverty around them. It is so in your face here – homelessness is bad anywhere but here there is so much of it, and such difficult living conditions compared to the west. Following futurists such as Ray Kurzweil and Harari and the folks at Google/Apple/Microsoft/Facebook and their mates is wonderful but they have not lived in India, some have not visited here – that the world will be oh so much more modern in twenty-years; I don’t think so… getting people basics would be good without all the technological marvels constantly predicted.
Yesterday we were sitting on the steps of a light-rail station trying to determine where to go or what to do on a hot muggy day, a man walked up to me, handed me a drawing of me, then walked away. Narda says it looks like me, I am not so sure – too old looking.Narda wanted to go for a walk this morning. I usually go to the gym but thought, ‘OK a short walk then the gym’. We left before eight am and got back after twelve. Typical of us. No one would want to travel with us, we are too indecisive and changeable. I thoughtfully brought our camera thinking I would get a snapshot of a train track nearby that I wanted for a poem I had written recently. We walked along a canal, wandered down a street that was a dead-end but had a good conversation with a couple of locals who lived there. We said we were looking to go for a walk along the river, sea, lake, lagoon, whatever there was that appeared as a body of water on our phone-map of the area. As usual they asked where we were from and after a bit of chatter sent us back the way we came from and suggested we go left. We saw a sign for the local yacht-club, asked if we could have a coffee but as we were not members we went without but found a bridge
up the river that looked interesting and headed off in its direction. We found a narrow footpath along it and after crossing had conversation with some more locals who said further ahead we could find a backwater boat tour place. We walked for another hour or so, had a tea, walked some more and came across the Kundannoor Bridge in Nettoor, on Panangad Island which is a part of the Maradu Municipality. The Varapuzha bridge on NH 17 is a cantilever bridge spanning the Periyar river between Varapuzha and Cheranallur. It was the longest bridge in kerala Kochin backwaters… oops looked it up in Wikipedia and just kept going.
We found a boat operator. The owner said 3500 rupees ($54 USD) we said, ‘no way’ and after some haggling he came down to 2500, again we said ‘no’. Then there was 2000, and finally the absolute final offer of 1500 rupees. We walked away, sat down, talked some more, I said I only had two five-hundreds on me (we didn’t include Narda’s holdings) and after a bit of time we all agreed on 1000 ($15.40 USD). Which was still high for us as we had paid 400 rupees per hour in Alleppey a couple of weeks ago. I read some reviews, and the main complaint was how expensive it was. One person said they had managed to negotiate down to 1500 rupees – sucked in mate, we outdid everyone.
The boat trip was spent on Vembanad, the second largest lagoon in India. We love boat trips, and this was up there with the finest of them. The driver spoke good English, said he was a school teacher, geography. He liked his cricket and knew Adelaide as a crew ground place. We went past a couple of famous cricket player’s homes including one who is referred to as the ‘god of cricket’, Sachin Tendulkar.
Cochin is believed to be one of the finest natural harbors in the world. It is an exquisite combination of modern and traditional of intense nostalgia and high revelry. It is one of the most visited backwater destinations. It has been voted as the top ten beautiful places to visit in a lifetime.
We saw Chinese Fishing Nets on Fort Kochi Island and another island and here there are again. The Chinese fishing nets found at Kochi are unique to the area and make for a very popular tourist attraction. This is the only location in the entire world outside China where such fishing nets can be seen in use. 10 meters in height, the entire structure is a fixed land installation which is used for unique and unusual method of fishing. Set up on the bamboo teaks are held horizontally with the help of huge mechanisms which are lowered into the sea. These nets are made-up of teak wood and bamboo poles and each net is handled by four men. If you missed our video above here it is again https://youtu.be/QM
There are several ways to explore Kochi: tuk tuks, Uber, buses, the metro – we did them all. The metro is being built, one route is complete (the others in years to come – there is construction – i.e. holes in the middle of streets and concrete towers everywhere) – we took it from Maharaja’s College, which for now is the end or beginning station, depending where one is, to Aluva, which is a city in its own right. we spent an afternoon wandering this busy area negotiating a sandwich in a restaurant – negotiating in the sense that we had to have several translators help us define what we wanted and still we got something completely different than we had expected. We sugared up our disappointment at a cake shop next door where I gave my body a break from its normal boring no-sugar routine. The complete trip taking about 45 minutes set us back 50 rupees (about 75 cents USD or a buck in Aussie currency). There are guards everywhere and signs not to take photos but we did manage this one above.
Another attraction of Kochi, Jew town is the center of city’s spice trade and is also a busy port area. Located in the Mattancherry area, it is quite popular for housing shops, selling (possibly) antiques. The streets are lined with colonial-styled buildings giving it an old-world feel. Actually, the Jew town is a street between the Jewish Synagogue and Mattancherry Palace. We drove through the area and went to a large herb barn or whatever they call them.
Where we live at D’Homz Suites is really good: air-conditioning (in both the lounge and the bedroom), balcony, kitchen with everything we needed to make meals, good shower, large TV with HDMI input so we could watch our Netflix series, elevator, washing machine… the streets were difficult as most are in India. We are constantly in fear of our lives (really). However, a few blocks away there was a walking street that went for several blocks so that became part of our daily walk.For a week our weather map said it would rain and storm but not until our last night did it rain since being in India. A monsoon-type of rain, worthy of sitting on the porch and watching.
Kochi was great. We are now on a train from Delhi to Shimla in the Himalayas. Our next stories will be our time in the Himalayas.
I also do this blog at our India site which is located at http://neuage.org/india and is often more up to date than this as we are too busy exploring where we are or reading. Currently Narda is reading, “Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind” and I am reading “Homo Deus A Brief History of Tomorrow” both by Yuval Noah Harari. I have already read the book Narda is reading. We love these books and recommend them to everyone. Any time left, which is little I post my photo textual work at https://plus.google.com/u/0/collection/E_6JaB
I post my daily thoughts at http://neuage.org/2018/
Pune: wow, so much to say. We went there to meet up with Sidhee and her little sister Gargee. This was a highlight for us. In our first meeting, Sidhee arranged for us to meet a group of her uni friends. They are all studying Computer Engineering. The conversations were so interesting, ranging from their roles in the new India, to Trump and our anger about how he is dividing and destroying America. We moved on to a restaurant with Sidhee and Ash; the other two had to get home with a one-hour commute, and uni tomorrow. They do Saturday morning classes as well. Aussie students take note!!! More wonderful conversations with these interesting kids.
The second event was dinner at the Hande household. All intelligent women. Gargee, now in grade 7 sang “The hills are alive” from the Sound of Music in her beautiful voice. Confidently maintaining total eye contract with me. I told her that she would be my next “Maria” for sure. It was a very moving experience for me. Mrs Hande, a research scientist, now working in management in the insurance industry (based in Australia) was also so interesting to talk with. She starts her shift early, getting up at 3am to match the Australian time zones. With her mother, she cooked us a delicious meal. We also received beautiful India shawls as gifts. The third event was a group with Sidhee and her friends from the university magazine, interviewing Terrell. 4 hours and 2 pizzas later, I think they had some great material. Then there was the Sikh Uber driver who had lived in Australia. He was quite OK with Lahore. This is the question that gets asked, by me, as a somewhat anxious mother and a son heading off there. And we also saw a movie in a luxury theatre, called “The 15.17 train”. About a train shooting on the way to Paris, which was interestingly, acted by the actual people involved in it.
Pune 13 – 20th February
Not exactly sure when we decided to add Pune to our three-month travel of India. Sidhee was a computer student of mine in Dalian a very years earlier, she is one of the few people out of more than seven-billion people on earth who liked some of my textual-photo-art I have been posting for years and making eBooks of, so of course, she was at the top of my list of people to visit. My artist sister has liked some of my stuff too, (thinks sis) and that is for the world. Enough of me (as some would say). Visiting Sidhee and her family was a stop that we are glad we made. As Narda spoke of above, she had her sister in chorus and we had met their parents at the Chinese school. I had been communicating with Sidhee for at least six-months prior to leaving Adelaide for suggestions for our India trip.
Pune is not a tourist city, for example, our fridge at home is covered with magnets from places we have visited (the front and the sides – we may need a new fridge soon for more magnets) but in a week I did not find one. Perhaps the first place ever not to find one. Not being a tourist city gives a great chance to be local. However, saying all that…there is one tourist type that comes here. The 1970s ashram loving group that followed Rajneesh, an Indian spiritual guru, considered as a Godman; the Orange People, were a world-wide hippie-seeing phenomenon. Rajneesh later changed his name to Osho which is how he is referred to now. The Osho Centre is in Pune, near where we stayed. There was a rather large group of his followers in Adelaide. From 1981 – 1987 I was a tofu maker (really – see http://tofu.neuage.us/) and they were one of my customers. They did not have a very favourable reputation in Adelaide. In Oregon they had an even worse reputation. Wikipedia goes on to say “Rajneeshpuram was an intentional community in Wasco County, Oregon, briefly incorporated as a city in the 1980s, which was populated with followers of the spiritual teacher Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh, later known as Osho.” https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rajneeshpuram He did have 93 Rolls Royces (here is an image of them); which he said allowed him to “ride in a tranquillity that compares with the peace by Buddha,” he was escorted out of the country at some point – interesting reading.
We are staying at Laxmi Sweet Homes.
This property also has one of the best-rated locations in Pune! Guests are happier about it compared to other properties in the area. Couples particularly like the location — they rated it 9.0 for a two-person trip. This property is also rated for the best value in Pune! Guests are getting more for their money when compared to other properties in this city.
Nevertheless, Rajneesh is popular where we were staying. The people in charge of our airbnb let us know that they were his disciples. One of them liked to give long winded discourses about their hero. We brought up the scandals and Rolls Royces but our man-on-the-ground, in his purple robe defended the dude and said his many books he wrote are the thing to run one’s life by. We did not go to the ashram itself as not only is it expensive, but you have to pay for an HIV test on the way in because of their ‘touch therapy’ and etc. they are known for. There was a large poster of Rajneesh on the wall next to our bed that we put behind a chair, as well as posters, cards of Rajneesh’s sayings around the flat. I never did get a fridge magnet. Bottom line, Rajneesh is still going strong even though the body of Rajneesh has left (which is how they say it). Our host said there was a big party as they cremated remains where tossed into the Mutha River across the street from us.On our second day we crossed the bridge, got on a random bus and said we wanted to go to a shopping centre. The conductor found a seat for Narda, on a crowded bus, and after twenty-minutes or more stopped in the middle of the street in front of a large western style shopping centre, Phoenix Market City, we were nervous about getting off in traffic but realised there was no other way to get across the street. Narda found several women at a stall and managed a bit of discourse with a couple of them.We were in hope of finding an English film but there was none available, so we just enjoyed the luxury of air-conditioning in a large modern mall that had more people working in shops than there were customers in the whole place. Not knowing which bus to take home we got a tuk tuk, auto-rickshaw, home.
As Narda said above we had a few times with Sidhee including a lengthy interview with me about technology and life in general. As one who is not a stranger to talking, especially about myself, I thoroughly enjoyed our visits. Sidhee will be one of the folks at the centre and head of technology. She is studying computing and is taking an interest at university in bio-tech which is our future. I totally expect here to come up with nanobots that will make my brain better, perhaps helping me to download my brain, well, parts of it, so I can re-upload an enhanced version of it. Considering I am now seventy, I am putting a bit of pressure on Sidhee and her generation to get on with it. She wrote an article for her school’s magazine P.I.N.G titled ‘RNA nanodevices, programming living cells’, so she is well on her way. https://issuu.com/p.i.n.g./docs/ping13.1_digital_ pages 29 – 30. Sidhee’s mum made a tasty dinner and the family gave us a lot of information about India and politics. I do not recall it all, hoping it will be part of my ‘enhanced-brain-of-the-future’ that Sidhee will construct, soon.
We had our interview lunch at the Yogi Restaurant, a short walking distance from our flat. It is expensive and caters to ‘our type’ with pizza and the like. Another day we took another random bus, telling the driver we would go to the end of the line, which was a dirt road with the usual mixture of farm animals, people and vehicles.
Not being intimidated by not having a clue where we are we proceeded forward. A few blocks later we were in an upcoming new housing residential real estate projects in Keshav Nagar. Dozens of twenty or so floor apartment buildings. I forgot to take a photo so just picture a lot of very modern buildings amongst old market stalls, dirt roads and farm animals. It reminded us of when we lived in Dalian, China, where there were so many new apartment blocks tossed about the landscape. Wondering what they looked like we went into an office and said we were interested in viewing an apartment. When asked where we lived we said Koregaon Park (which is the trendy area filled with Ayurveda centres and ashrams) and the agent I suppose thought we were local enough and she showed us through. The apartment was quite large with ten-foot ceilings, a couple of balconies, and of course I asked if there was a gym/fitness centre, so we were showed that and the swimming pool. The three-bedroom apartment was twenty-five thousand rupees ($383 USD) per month rental and the two-bedroom was 19,000 ($291USD). I was interested in the three-bedroom apartment and being so cheap, outside of living on a dirt road with farm animals and our having no intentions of living in Pune, at least at present, I thought we had landed a great deal. We took her card and got a tuk tuk to a nearby shopping centre for lunch.
The below shot is not of the apartment we looked at, it is a building I liked in another section of Pune.Another day; they tend to blend on holiday, we took Uber to the old section wandered around, took some more random buses, found the Bund Garden cinema to watch “The 15:17 to Paris”. The theatre was ultra-luxurious with five rows 8 seats per row, totally reclining seats like a flatbed on a plane. Large and comfortable – 350 rupees ($5.37) for the two of us.
Next stop Trivandrum
I also do this blog at our India site which is located at http://neuage.org/india and is often more up to date than this as we are too busy exploring where we are or reading. Currently Narda is reading, “Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind” and I am reading “Homo Deus A Brief History of Tomorrow” both by Yuval Noah Harari. I have already read the book Narda is reading. We love these books and recommend them to everyone. Any time left, which is little I post my photo textual work at https://plus.google.com/u/0/collection/E_6JaB
I post my daily thoughts at http://neuage.org/2018/
Mumbai 08 – 13 February 2018Narda writing in italics Terrell – whatever is left Hopefully you caught the one before – The fantastic Blue City of Jodhpur https://neuage.me/2018/02/23/jodhpur/
Things that are surprising. Toilet paper and tissues are cheaper in Australia. Indian food is so good. It’s better than in Australia. Lots better, consistently. That might sound weird but our experience in northern China was that we preferred Australian Chinese food to the local slimy version. (though not always)
Surprisingly, I slept like a baby in the rocking AC1 berth which we had to ourselves. These trains are actually pretty good for insomnia. Not sure why, the bed was hard, but you sleep without really trying, no pills involved.
Yesterday we took some random bus rides. These are always surprising. Our first one took us deep into a military zone, navy we think. It was a nice road, lots of trees but some very definite signs that said “if you enter this area you may be shot”. When we asked if we might be an exception, we got pointed to the bus stop with a head waggle and a smile. Maybe they would not have shot us after all.
Then there are the people you meet on these buses. Two English speaking Indian ladies “took us on” as their project. First, they instructed us to sit on their side of the bus. We, asserting our independence, sat on the other side, only to find that this was the sunny side; which did kinda matter. They asked us if we were here “for the festival”. We responded with blank looks. Then they really got bossy and told us all about the art, dance, theatre, and food there was to benefit from this festival. We were a little focused on simply getting back to the hotel for a nap so some of their enthusiasm was lost on us. But tomorrow we will endeavour to find the festival. Actually, we saw it. The bus was stuck in an hour long traffic jam very close to home, and there was lots of colourful stuff going on there….must have been it. Kala Ghoda Arts Festival –
Mumbai is different from Rajasthan. More New Yorkish in an Indian sort of way. Busy, buzzy, people on a mission, hotel staff unfriendly (or at least disinterested) and smelly. There is also a resemblance to St Kilda, or perhaps Miami with the Art Deco style beach side buildings. Nice. The shore is pretty, with a skyline of modern high-rise. Our room is enormous. Nothing New Yorkish about that! I think they ran out of our budget class and put us in a 4 person giant room which spans the width of the building. It has a grand dining table in the middle and 2 sets of twin beds at either end. An exterior toilet/shower, but one just for us. The beds are hard. All 1920s style, furniture, lots of wardrobes and mothball filled storage cabinets, even the switch board has really old style switches. Cool. Plus, a giant porch. There is a lift which you have 2 open grated doors you have to close….you can see all the floors as you go up and down, and the level of the lift does not quite match the level of the floor.
Photo below is the best we have – it is like one of those images of BigFoot that were circulated in the 1970s to prove that Bigfoot indeed did exist somewhere in the forests of Oregon – this photo proves a 70-year-old person went into a lift built a hundred years ago. Unfortunately, we have no proof of this person exiting this lift. There is a one-minute clip here: (note the last line in the clip: ‘it was last inspected in 1929’.)
There’s a place nearby called Café Leopold’s. Readers of Shantaram will recognise it. In 2008 it was attacked by Pakistani terrorists, who sprayed it with bullets killing about 10 people in this café alone. The bullet holes still exist in the mirror. The biggest loss of life of at other targets in Mumbai, the large hotels the Taj Mahal and the Oberoi Trident, and other targets were The Rail Terminus, and the Cama Hospital. In all 164 people dies, and a further 308 injured.
08 – 13 February Thursday
Mumbai – the 4th most populous city in the world and one of the populous urban regions in the world, Mumbai has a metro population of about 20.7 million in 2016.
The train was good, sort of. We took the Surya Nagri Express, leaving Jodhpur at 6:45 pm (Wednesday) and arriving 11:45 today (Thursday) in Mumbai. Good, we had a two-bed berth, with room to spread out -as I do with gadgets and unrelated stuff. The not-so-good, the bed was so hard, add the bumpy train ride and I got little sleep, the toilets as always were close to unusable. However, we had our privacy, it was quiet, we got to where we were going.
I am constantly amazed at the difference in the standard of living between the West and India (and most Asian countries) and know it is just my thinking that makes the separation. Happiness is much more of a criterion than preconceived notions of structures and possessions. From the train window going through towns and cities we see the same as one would see in an Australian environment; people laughing, enjoying tea, kids playing cricket, and of course television satellite dishes serving up the best of India – most likely a foot-stomping Bollywood delight. We might complain the houses are not what we have in Australia, there is more trash about, but I would say the women are better dressed in India; even in a slum situation, they are colourful – men? Well we all are dags at the end of the day and are comfortable slopping about in what we have. Arriving in Mumbai, we had booked an Uber on our you-beaut-Uber app; upon exiting there were so many tuk tuks, taxis, trucks, people pushing and shoving and grabbing, that we gave up looking for our Uber. The app said one-minute away, but one-minute is very complicated at the Mumbai Train Station. The first taxi person quoted 680 rupees for the drive, the Uber app was 280, another driver we got down to 500 and went with him. We gave him 600 ($9.34 USD) at the end for the hour and a half journey through crowded streets, over India’s super bridge, Bandra–Worli Sea Link, that was completed a few years ago and is unique – look it up, I did.
We are at the Bentley’s Hotel, http://bentleyshotel.com/, a budget hotel, but highly rated in various places. Our room is huge, especially compared to where we have been lately. It is the size of two, perhaps even three, rooms, with a balcony, ten-foot ceilings, and finally, fast internet, like about 24 Mbps. The last place we stayed at we got to about a half Mbps (Megabits per second), never made it to one, and the place before, about one-fourth that, meaning I could not plaster the internet with my videos. The balcony is large and a great place to read, write poems, novels, film scripts, blogs, and to paint, draw, plot new travels, and to observe the state of mildew on Mumbai’s building. (BTW, we did not do all those activities) We took a shower, nap, and were out into the local traffic by five pm. We are a couple of blocks from the sea, ‘The Gate of India’ is a five-minute walk; The Gateway of India is an arch monument built during the 20th century in Bombay, India. The monument was erected to commemorate the landing of King George V and Queen Mary at Apollo Bunder on their visit to India in 1911. and the hotel that got shot up in 2011, The Taj Mahal Palace Hotel, where John Lennon and Oko have stayed as well as Obamas and many other celebrities is nearby. We walked through the hotel but gave the overprice menu a miss. The restaurant was filled with rich looking men all dressed in white – Arabs, probably shahs of some sort, not at all friendly looking.
At a local pharmacy we got mustard oil which my yoga-nutritionist person in Jodhpur recommended. I got a Muslim woman to smile, not often a fellow from New York gets a local Muslim to smile – maybe she was being polite. I said I needed the mustard oil to make me look young. Difficult to illustrate the moment but I enjoyed it. A clash of culture but we are in fact all mates.
We did one of our famous (to us) random buses day, walked for hours in full sun along the shore, took another random bus, got quite loss, but somehow ended up on another bus that got us near our home. We had a couple of good meals at Cafe-Mondegar a block away from the Leopold Cafe (1871 start).
A little-known fact is that Cafe Mondegar is the first restaurant in Mumbai to house a jukebox. It was started in 1932 by Iranian Zoroastrians as an Irani café but now is a hipster’s hangout (proof being that Narda and I ate there, twice). The jukebox is not from the Zoroastrians but was installed in ‘the mid nineteenth century’ a more exact date is not given but apparently the place was modernized and made groovy in the 1980s and 1990s. There are great cartoons on the walls and ceiling – from a famous Indian artist, Mario Miranda, who made the murals for the café. I had a vegetarian burger (not on my low-carb list but worth the diet break – actually, most of my meals are a break in my low-carb diet, that I will amend back in Australia after this three-month of feasting on Indian food. Narda had pizza. She has ordered pizza a few times, loving each one. Though we never ate an Indian Domino’s pizza. Elephanta Island
We took an hour boat ride to Elephanta Island, a Unesco World Heritage Site. The ride through the harbour is well worth it. I got carried away with filters for my camera, nevertheless, a great ride. I wore my new hat that I bought for a hundred rupees ($1.50) on the island so I could look more local. However, no one had a similar hat, so I am not sure whether I looked native or as someone tossed off the last boat to the island. I am also happy about my prescription sunglasses. I rarely wore sunglasses in the past but when I purchased my new glasses back in Adelaide (seemed like so long ago we were there) they had a two-for-one deal so now I have trifocal sunglasses and if could read the signs I would be perhaps in the correct place; if only I could interpret the language I would often realize I am entering a restricted zone, or perhaps I am the restricted zone.
The tourist thing to do is go to the caves with their shrines and temples but we were content with walking around the island and never made it into the caves. Part of the reason is the cost; like about $15 USD for foreigners and less than a buck for locals. Fact is, we are locals wherever we are, but try and translate that to someone at the booth. For our slideshow (three-minutes) of Elephanta Island see…
As so often is the case, we are stopped by folks who enjoy taking a selfie with us. Here is Narda with her new friends, each one took a selfie at some point with her. I was not asked to appear in photos; so typical, Narda the popular. Of course, in India, everyone is often taking a selfie. Phones are sold for them – large billboards advertise certain phones as great for selfies. Nothing about using the bloody things to ring someone we love, just about taking a photo of ourselves to share with our millions of Facebook followers…Mumbai was a wonderful visit. A week is not enough. We only saw one small part and did not do much tourist stuff. We just live locally and enjoy the local Indian restaurants with a few stops at hip eating places and a few times to McDonalds to get good (over-priced) coffee and their great vegetarian burgers. I also do this blog at our India site which is located at http://neuage.org/india and is often more up to date than this as we are too busy exploring where we are or reading. Currently Narda is reading, “Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind” and I am reading “Homo Deus A Brief History of Tomorrow” both by Yuval Noah Harari. I have already read the book Narda is reading. We love these books and recommend them to everyone. Any time left, which is little I post my photo textual work at https://plus.google.com/u/0/collection/E_6JaB
I post my daily thoughts at http://neuage.org/2018/
We arrived via Indian Railroad from Jaisalmer last night about 11 pm but after getting settled; including having toast with peanut butter and jam (if I were ever caught by a hostile regime and I said I was not an American, and they put out peanut butter and jelly (jam) I would be caught out as I dove for it), and hot chocolate, it was suddenly one am Monday. Super Bowl Monday, in some other world. The game between Philadelphia and New England starts at five am here. We did get to sleep but an hour later the dogs started barking. We get this everywhere; they sleep during the day and bark at night. I have made it a mission to wake every dog I come across during the day – telling them to ‘wake up and sleep at night’. So far in four weeks in India it has made no difference.
Jodhpur is wonderful. So blue. Jodhpur, 2nd largest city of Rajasthan is known as ‘suncity’ & ‘bluecity’. Blue because most of the houses are painted blue. Those who live in the States would think there is a lot of oops paint around the place. Oops paint is when people don’t like their colour mix and Home Depot, Lowes, etc. sell it for cheap. We know because we often painted our houses in the States with oops paint. We could not find any definitive reasons why so many houses are painted blue in Jodhpur. The most told reason is that the colour is associated closely with the Brahmins, India’s priestly caste, and the blue houses of the old city belong to families of that caste. Who knows? I still believe it is a simple case of oops paint – some company hundreds of years ago made too much blue paint, and no one would purchase it. The reason is, in summers, blue paint keeps the house cool from inside against the scorching heat. Though there are no historical mentions to the reason why the colour is blue. There are many reasons as defined by the ancestors and tour guides. Also, with them are some associated scientific and psychological reasons. (these from various sources both online and from asking locals)
I saw a poster advertising the services of a local yogi guru type of person: nutrition, yoga, meditation, astrology and the usual stuff associated with this type of caper.
He gave me a four hour consultation for a diabetic diet for 500 rupees ($7.50 USD) – we put his notes at http://www.neuage.org/food2 with a list of foods to avoid, to eat in morning, evening, winter, summer, and on and on. Not that it is sustainable but some of it makes sense. He also ‘subscribed’ a couple of Ayurveda things that are allegedly good for diabetes and he said I should stop taking some of the meds my doctor prescribed back in Australia. I did write my doctor a rather light-hearted note about these, though I did not mention the stopping of anything (which I did not do). Here is our correspondence…
ME: I should have run this past you – but I am adding an Ayurveda pill to my diet for ten days (some nutritionist yogi guru suggestion): Vasant Kusumakar Ras – one pill each morning for ten-days – he said I should stop one dose of Metformin but I’m not stopping anything until I get back and we have a look) and a nail size dose of Shilajeet Powder: not asking for medical advice until I see you – but just saying – in case you hear I have turned into some famous mystic – naked in a cave in the Himalayas – and you will know why
Doctor: it would be cold
ME: my Ayurveda medical BS will help me rise above the cold
Doctor: I am sure you are aware that your new pill contains, among many other things, lead and mercury. Fortunately, kidney dialysis is widely available in Australia.
Needless to say, I didn’t take anything more of the Ayurveda stuff. However, the next day, I did a yogi class with him for an hour and a half for 500 rupees. The concept was that I would learn several exercises that would be good for various parts of my body. Unfortunately, I was unable to do 74% of the positions. At times he seemed annoyed with my progress. I would point out that I was seventy and not very limber, but that did not seem to matter. At the end of our stay he met us at the train station and told us many wonderful things I could take and do to become a body perfect performing seventy-year old. He even sat in our carriage until it was almost leaving.
And… being told by our Ayurveda dude that mustard oil as a massage was the thing to do and specifically it is good for hair. Well that got me. Better for hair is my weak point, perhaps I can grow thick healthy hair to my knees sooner and with less grey hair. Seventeen days later (today is 22/02/ and I am still working on the Jodhpur file), we have missed only one day of using mustard oil since getting this groovy information. We do a daily massage (no details provided). It is all good. Cheers!
Jodhpur started as a city around the 4th century AD (1459). The Mehrangarh (Mehran Fort), dominates the old city and is visible from lots of places. See our slideshow that shows this grand city at
It is one of the largest forts in India, built around 1460. Our (my) yoga guru said he met Mick Jagger (Rock legend Mick Jagger in Jodhpur- http://www.dnaindia.com/entertainment/report-rock-legend-mick-jagger-in-jodhpur-1130239) at the fort several years earlier. Not that I did not believe him so I looked up the event and sure enough Mick was there at the time my yogi person said he met him.
We spent the day walking around the fort. From our hotel it is five minutes to the fort up very winding narrow streets. Unbelievably motor scooters, tuk tuks, cows and people get past each other. There is a lot of climbing and from the direction we went there was no entrance fees.
The museum at the top charges about 700 rupees each, plus a hundred to take your own photos, and fifty to take an elevator to the top. As we went past our budget with sightseeing in Jaisalmer we didn’t cough up the $24 USD to tour the museum.
As we do in all cities we managed to get lost, though never far from the fort. We saw several signs for Shahi Heritage, as a place to eat, and had a tasty lunch of tomato soup and pizza. I have gone off my low-carb diet I have been on for years to keep my blood-sugars low. Surprisingly, my blood sugars have been about 6.3 in the morning, in Adelaide they were in the mid-7s. not sure why my blood sugars are better here. It could because we walk so much every day, also, I eat less, as the food is a bit spicy, and I can only eat so much at a time. This was another old Haveli (350 years old). Don’t expect Australian or US standards, but funky is good. Having handy wipes is good to use frequently and drinking only bottled water and eating boiled or well-cooked food is best.
We travel a lot and have never been thingy about any nationality. However, saying that, there are a lot of French people everywhere we go, maybe the cold months are sending them here, but we have found them very unfriendly, almost to the person. They will seemingly go out of their way to ignore us or not respond. It is not a language barrier, we smile and say a greeting, but no response. The only French people who have spoken with us was a black couple or are currently living in India. Not sure why this is. We have not come across any Australians, a few from the states, we heard a German tour group today, and lots of French, and a few British.
What has been interesting, at least for me, is that I get a lot of compliments for my moustache. People will ask to get a selfie with me, or just come out and say, ‘I like your moustache’. No one says that in Australia. My wife has never even said that. We watched (young) people using zip lines over the battlements and lakes of Mehrangarh Fort. It is rated the No.1 activity in Jodhpur by Tripadvisor. I made a short 20 second clip of a rider at
Narda was having some stomach problems, probably left over from Delhi (belly) a couple of weeks earlier so we went to the local hospital. We took a tuk tuk which we are told are referred to as auto-rickshaws, and as soon as we stepped out of our chariot we were quickly escorted through the hospital and to the emergency room. Narda believes they do that with everyone, I thought it was rather quick and I saw many people laying around on the floor in the lobby and along the corridors of the hospital. She got to see one of the head doctors, who BTW, had the same surname as the hospital and a fellow told me in fact it was his family’s hospital. Being used to western hospitals we declined the invitation to spend the night and to have blood tests and whatever else was on offer. Narda was prescribed several pills (which were also on the Australian Travel Doctors list) and we got out as soon as possible. The cost for an emergency visit with a head doctor set us back 500 rupees ($7.50 USD) which we will not claim on our $200 deductable travel insurance. The medications were around 400 rupees for a couple of weeks supplies of four different drugs, each of which even on Medicare in Australia cost much more.
On the way home in the evening we came across a wedding celebration. It is amazing how what would be a one-way street in most cities a parade can go forth with traffic going both ways; traffic including horses, cows, camels, tuk tuks, cars, lots of people, and in the midst a marching band. See our clip at –
Below is the preparation we saw earlier in the day of some camels to haul folks through crowded streets. The groom gets to ride on a white horse. Narda and I had our wedding at the end of a jetty in South Australia and had a mob of family and friends, twenty-years ago, and we cooked them breakfast. Perhaps I can convince her into doing it again like they do it here; with me on a white horse, she can ride a camel and we can have a band.A shot of a typical health and safety issue; a motor scooter with four tanks of flammable liquid weaving in and out of rush-hour traffic (24/7)
Not all horses are in parades, here by the clock-tower (some famous landmark) they line up to take folks to destinations we could not imagine. The death of a motor scooter is always sad.Everywhere we go they love Narda and want to have a selfie with her. Squirrels look the same as New York squirrels, but they are much more aggressive. We sat down for coffee and Narda had a donut and a couple jumped on the table and went for her prized possession – first donut in India. They do not scare easily and keep returning, we gave this, acting cute to get brekky squirrel something and of course every squirrel in Jodhpur came running over. On our last day we visited the Rao Jodha Desert Rock Garden. ‘The visitors centre is housed in a 17th century gateway into Jodhpur city, known as SInghoria Pol.’ Inside the garden we had a great view of the city wall which dominants the landscaper of Jodhpur, we saw volcanic rock, birds (we don’t know one from another, but they are there), Devkund Lake and other stuff. We were unable to find any reptiles as they advertised (lizards, skinks, and geckos). From their brochure:
‘About a third of the Thar Desert is rocky, which is a much more harsh, unforgiving habitat than sandy desert…’
And that was our week in Jodhpur.
Next stop is Mumbai, overnight train (17 hours)…
We left Jaipur at midnight to Jaisalmer taking a 2nd class sleeper. First class was filled when we booked three months earlier. Narda took the upper bunk and seemed to sleep more than me. A woman in the bunk across from me snored louder than anyone I have ever heard before keeping me awake for most of the night. Somewhere in the night she was replaced by two women covered head to toe in black with no face showing sitting on the bunk opposite and looking at me. That kept me awake most of the rest of the night. We got to Jaisalmer around noon and took a tuk tuk to Hotel Helsinki.
Jaisalmer is a former medieval trading center in the western Indian state of Rajasthan, in the heart of the Thar Desert. Dominating the skyline is Jaisalmer Fort, a sprawling hilltop citadel buttressed by 99 bastions. Behind its massive walls stand the ornate Maharaja’s Palace and intricately carved Jain temples.
Helsinki House (http://www.helsinkihouse.in/) is built as a Haveli, (rooms surround a central courtyard) and for a budget hotel is very comfortable, meaning the beds were soft, the shower had hot water, and the room was large. View below is walking outside our room into the centre of the haveli.They advertise as being at the edge of the Gadisar Lake, however, we found the lake a bit of a trek away. This is because of a long-term drought. The photo of the walled city is at the top of this blog, from their rooftop. We ate most of our meals here and they were affordable and tasty. Affordable meaning a complete feed for two with drinks (not beer) for about 600 rupees which is about $9 USD. Breakfast was included. The people running it are really helpful, friendly and with the line ‘this is your home we are just here to make it good’, and they did. The one who built it lives in Melbourne now and his brother is running the place. Getting there is not worth the ride, walk those last few blocks. The single lane road is so rough that body parts begin to fall off by the time one gets to the hotel.
In one ride Narda held onto the driver’s child as we roared around the old city streets:Our first trek was to the fort which is viewable from our hotel. It looks like a gigantic sandcastle. It is one of the few ‘living forts’ in the world, if not the only one; filled with temples, shops, and thousands of people living within the walls. Built in 1156 AD, the streets and houses are a journey into the past with the present everywhere (people with cell phones and free WIFI throughout the city and satellite television dishes sticking out of five-hundred-year-old homes). See our slideshow for a bunch of groovy pics showing this wonderful place at
On our second day we hired a tour guide. Going into the walled city there are dozens of men offering their services as guides. We were hounded by them yesterday and today when someone said for two-hundred rupees ($3 USD) they would spend a few hours showing us around and explaining stuff. I recorded some of what he said (see clip above) though at the end of the day the only thing I remember was him telling us how the fort was not attacked because the enemy’s elephants and camels could not make it up the steep stone climb into the city; the fort-folks “poured oil over the long ascending road” – what a good idea. The image of elephants, camels, and horses sliding down the mountain on oil stayed with me for days. I think I even had a dream about it. Very Freudian.We did a tour of temples in the walled city, such as the main Jain Temple with such incredible carvings, Paraswanath Temple, built in the 1100s. Narda bought some clothing, pants I think, I got a fridge magnet and toilet paper. For anyone who has never travelled to Asia before (any country) carry toilet paper with you as they never provide it. There are those water spray thingies like they have in Europe, details not included, but still toilet paper for those of you like me is a necessity. We bought hats for the high tourist price of 150 rupees each (almost $2) for our camel ride. In this city of narrow winding roads cows, tuk tuks, people, goats, pigs, dogs, and cats vie for navigational prominence. Here is a short clip of our tour of the fort etc.
Jaisalmer is a very hustling town. At every step someone or their child is trying to sell something or ask for money. I was hoping this dude would give me some groovy mantra or tell me I had the most magnificent aura ever but instead he put his hand out for money then was disappointed with the amount we gave. Even the animals, as in every city, go for handouts, with cows nuzzling up to you if food is in your hand, the same with goats, dogs, and some places monkeys.
Camels I freaked out about the idea of riding camels in the hot blazing sun. It was not the ride, but the sun that scared me. Terrell REALLY had his heart set on it. He is usually very laid back about everything (with the exception of all things computer related), but the camels had captured his imagination. So here we were. I bought a white scarf and a hat to hold it in place, Arabian style.
Our camels were one-humped boys, called dromedaries. They have nice big eyes, and lovely long lashes. My camel, named Rocket (a little alarming) stood over 7’ at the top of the hump, putting my head 9 to 10 feet up! They also have soft mushy feet divided into 2 toes. The feet splay out to the size of a large dinner place I recon, protecting them from sinking sand. They walk with a gentle roll, like being on the ocean. It was surprisingly pleasant. Mind you, getting on and off…you have to lean forwards, then lean right back. All good.
We got picked up at the hotel. The driver stopped at a few villages on the way, the first one was full of kids, the second one was ruins from 350 years ago, abandoned because of a mixed marriage. A boy falls in love with a girl from the wrong caste, and all hell breaks loose. That’s the short version.
Actually, speaking of caste, the system is still alive and well in India. Our tuk tuk driver Shambu, a lovely guy, told us about his upcoming arranged (by his brother) marriage. She was from the shoe-maker caste, as he was, and so he told us that this makes life so much easier, especially when there are children. They would meet at MacDonalds to get to know each other better. He just completed building his one roomed house, and now he is ready to receive his bride. Bless them!!
I am surprised everyday in India. It is such a fascinating country. And the food……don’t get me started…..is fabulous; you don’t need to go to a fancy restaurant. The dodgiest looking little places serve the most wonderful food. Though last night I nearly had to call the fire brigade when I bit into a serve of Momos..HOT dumplings. The waiter came rushing to me with a spoon full of sugar…bless him…it helped. Back to the camels. We rode for some 2 hours, then sat in the sand and waited while the camel guys cooked us a meal over a fire. From scratch, kneading the dough; the whole thing! The ride home in the 4Wheel drive was the scariest thing. He had to ‘gun it’ to get past the sandy area, otherwise we kept getting bogged. That was definitely a ‘white knuckle’ ride. I recommend camel riding; another surprise.
Our video, not to be missed, of camels’ adventures with us
I loved the camel ride and could have gone for longer. Narda’s camel seemed friendlier, I know this because mine spit at me when Itried to pet him, and Narda’s didn’t. While our guide(s) cooked, our rides were tied to bags of something to keep them from wandering off; not sure how many or who belonged to us but there were at least five blocks around the campfire cooking, frying, laughing, a couple holding hands. We were told that the camels had to be tied up as they were males and females were in a wanting mood, and if let loose, our camels ‘would go off and party and not return for days’. The idea of camels humping one another (get the humping joke?) whilst we sat in our meditative moods on their humps did not seem so picturesque. Until sunset we sat on our own little sand dune with no one else in sight. After dark we wandered toward the fire and got our meal which was very good, though, as one would expect, there was some sand in it. Most people we met at our hotel did this for days. Narda’s son, Brendan and a gal, did an overnighter but we were not quite up to it and got back about ten pm.
Below some happy city residents of Jaisalmer that Narda caught smiling at us. We have four sources of photos: our Nikon with wide angle, regular and zoom lenses, Narda’s Samsung phone, and tablet, and my iPhone. From our room we would watch incredible sunrises every morning – see the clip below…
For a great way to end the day there is always tea at the Tibet Café inside the walls. Then we took an overnight, eighteen-hour, train to Jodhpur, the incredible Blue City, in an AC1 carriage – we had our own room. That will be the post next.
I also do this blog at our India site which is located at http://neuage.org/india and is often more up to date than this as we are too busy exploring where we are or reading. Currently Narda is reading, “Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind” and I am reading “Homo Deus A Brief History of Tomorrow” both by Yuval Noah Harari. I have already read the book Narda is reading. We love these books and recommend them to everyone. Any time left, which is little I post my photo textual work at https://plus.google.com/u/0/collection/E_6JaB
I post my daily thoughts at http://neuage.org/2018/
Jaipur in the state of Rajasthan
25 January, Thursday
Narda slept most of the way from Agra to Jaipur. We had first class sleepers which were comfortable. I sat up the whole way (six hours) and played with some Photoshop stuff.
We got to Jaipur after eleven pm and took the first tuk tuk driver we spoke with. For 100 rupees he got us to our hotel and along the way he told us that he had fallen on hard times and he would give us a tour for the day for 500 rupees (less than $8 USD). He did not have a card or website (very few do) but he gave us his brother’s phone number if we were so inclined. I did write it down, but we never got in touch again. The reason being that every time we walked out of our hotel, restaurant, shop, there would be dozens of tuk tuk drivers offering their services. When we said we were just going for a walk people would walk alongside us offering tours, guides, rides, marijuana, hash, even opium, along with carpets, and textiles to view and purchase.
The Anaraag Villa (http://www.anuraagvilla.com/) was quite a change from our place in Agra. Both were around $20 USD but this place was heaps better with a garden that filled with peacocks in the morning and evening (I counted twelve once). And the food was excellent for the whole week.
We spent most days wandering around our neighbourhood, a couple of times we took a random bus ride into town and one day we had a tuk tuk drive us around.
The famous places are the forts, which we went past but not inside, and the Pink City. I bought a new suitcase as the wheel fell off the one I have used for the past couple of years, Narda got dresses and scarves and generally we just chilled.
We walked for a couple of hours in the Pink City (the paint was produced from a calcium oxide compound), where, once, long ago, everything was pink, though now it is all a bit of a mildewed brown. At a restaurant we met a couple of fellas from Albany, New York, which is where I am from, I grew up twenty miles away in Clifton Park, New York, though I left there in 1965. Narda and I taught in Albany, New York 2002 – 2007 so I did have another run at that town. We saw them again several days later in Jaisalmer and had a chatty evening with them. We are on one of the tourist treks between cities that people go to one after another, but it is still interesting to see people from one’s obscure hometown.
Below is the Hawa Mahal (palace of winds) which is really just a front – there is no building in back. The Mahal was constructed by Maharaja Sawai Pratap Singh in 1799. Word on the street is that the Mahal was constructed to enable the Royal women of Rajput family to view the happenings in the city.
Getting around Jaipur tuk tuks
Amer Fort…It was constructed by Raja Mansingh in the year 1592.The red sandstone and marble stone construction reflect a blend of Hindu-Muslim architecture. We didn’t go inside but we got a lot of photos of the outside.The Anaraag Villa has been a real treat. The building is beautiful, 3 stories with lovely wall and ceiling frescos and marble floors. In the back a shady garden, peacocks grazing and tables and chairs where you can eat and relax. Only issue is the flute player who comes during breakfast times, playing his wooden flute to a mechanical drone. It was truly horrible. He played scales over and over again, never changing key. ….for 1 ½ hours. It drove me crazy. I actually asked for him to stop while we had our breakfast and to the credit of the staff here, they accommodated Miss Grumpy!
Jaipur has been nice. The air is much cleaner, the weather fantastic. We have slept well and done some explorations of the Pink city, a section of town with craftsmen and even visited a guru, who told us a whole lot of crap.
Yesterday we decided to go real local and took the bus across town to the World Trade Park. Enjoyed a movie “The Post”…loved it. Took our first Uber home. A nice easy ride.
World Trade Park is an amazing modern plaza for this part of the world. We have not seen anything like this yet. We saw a movie here and ate in there tripped out dinning area. The Uber ride we took cost 200 rupees ($3 USD) for a 45 minute drive.
Elephants take cargo and tourists up the mountain. Elephants take cargo and tourists up the mountain. We went up with a tuk tuk. The driver asked for 200 rupees for three hours of showing us around, we gave him 300 ($4.50 USD). We went to the various carpet shops, dress and scarf shops and worse of all an idiot guru. Our tuk tuk driver told us how he had been ill for years – some stomach thing – and he went to this famous guru who reads auras and the dude sold him some gem and then he was well. The ‘guru’ had a jewellery shop and we were parked in front of a glass case filled with silver and ‘amulets’ and the good ‘guru’ said a lot of stupid things to both of us and we left. (For example, he said I had dementia in my aura – which I ‘decided myself’ to quickly forget; of course, if I purchased some stone – it would help). We were extra upset to discover our poor tuk tuk driver who told us he had a crippled daughter plus two other children at home, his wife had died, and his elderly mother was home looking after the children. This ‘guru’ who had read his aura had sold him an amulet for 3000 rupees to heal him. The tuk tuk driver is lucky to get a couple of hundred rupees in a day. India is filled with sad stories. Everyone we meet has a list of dead people, troubled home situations and just difficult lives. People plead with us to show us things; to hire them for a couple of hours. There are so many more tuk tuk drivers than passengers. We hear stories of drivers getting no passengers for days. This is their livelihood. Then so called ‘gurus’ hustle illiterate people for all they can get from them.
Situated in the middle of Mansagar Lake is the groovy Jal Mahal. It was built by Maharaja Jai Singh II in the 18th century, as a hunting lodge and summer retreat. Not visible is the high level of pollution in the lake with lots of rubbish – I enhanced the colours a bit on my photo to give more blue and less grey and less yuck in the lake.In the evening, as we do at home (wherever that may be at any given time) we watch TV series. We have yet to figure out how to watch television, though we have tried in several cities, so we watch our Netflix series on our laptop. Currently we are finishing up the “The Good Fight” season one; which is an extension of “The Good Wife” that we loved except for the series ending, which sucked.
Narda was back to her Delhi Belly ways so we went to the local chemist and got a repeat of the pills we paid about $35 a piece for in Australia for $1.50 USD for a pack of ten. We didn’t need a script, like going to the chemist in China, if you know the name of the drug, they will sell it, no questions asked.
And there is always someone to ask for directions, even if everyone points a different direction.
I post my daily thoughts at http://neuage.org/2018/
Wednesday 24/01/2018 Agra
We were up at five am after not sleeping well all night from waking up constantly to be sure we were awake at five am. We had our phone alarms on (my wake-up ring tone is a Dylan song ‘She belongs to me’ and Narda is enough to drown out a freight train) plus the hotel was to bang on our door but we were up before then. Still we worry.
We got a tuk tuk to the train station that even at 6:30 am was crowded with zillions of people all over.
We had a nice chat with a couple of police people while we waited. They helped us get on to the correct carriage, which in our case was first class seats for the two plus hours. See below.
The train seats were comfortable – not Amtrak comfortable but Indian good. Our first train on this three-month trip. We got breakfast served (cornflakes, milk, coffee, and a hot meal of eggs and something which we declined as we had breakfast at the train station. An uneventful couple of hours with some reading done. Shambhu, our tuk tuk driver for the next three days greeted us with our names on a sign and we settled into Hotel Sheela near the Taj Mahal and after eating at the hotel we slept. The hotel is quite basic, we had booked the basic room for $23 USD for two nights, but apparently it was too basic for us uptown folks (no hot showers, and small) so for $53 USD we got a hot shower and a larger room for two nights. We thought the beds in India were going to be too hard, so we brought a couple of blow-up mattress and a pump which puts our luggage over weight for internal flights. The beds so far are good, thick foam, after two stays we gave them away to Shambhu.
With Delhi we were tossing out blogs a day, videos, photos galore, now we are too busy to do any such thing. Or we were, I am writing this on the night train to Jaipur, with Narda, and everyone else in our carriage asleep. When we get there I will be stuffed, but then I should sleep, Narda will be reading her Kindle for the rest of the night. The last couple of days have tested every fibre of this seventy-year old and I am sure Narda-the-younger feels exhausted also. Of course, she has been asleep for the past three hours on the berth above me. And this morning I woke her at eight am, so we could get out the door; such is the life of an old person.
We did the Taj Mahal thing Wednesday morning, a very foggy morning – barely saw it. An hour later when sun decided to shine and chase away the fog we got a couple of photos. It is somewhat impressive, the fact that it has lasted so long is a testament to something.
I have always liked cows, from living on a dairy farm in Australia to not eating them since my parents may have slipped something onto my plate in the early 1950s and throughout the early 1960s that may have had cow chunks in it, cows have been an interesting topic of observation for me. My email image of the past ten years has been with me walking alongside a cow in Goa. In Delhi, Agra, and now Jaipur I have had many photo ops with cows. So many in fact that Narda has put me on a cow-band. I will include a couple here just to remind myself of these days.
Shambhu was recommended to us by Narda’s work colleague, Brother Rob. He has been using his services and those of his family for a period of about 30 years as he made frequent trips back to India. This family of tuk tuk drivers has become very special to Rob, and he has many great stories to tell.
We visited Shambhu’s village. One of our favourite visits, ‘the real India’ he said. The video below is a bit blurry, something I blame on very poor internet for uploading but it does give an idea of this village. Shambhu is getting married in a month and he explained the process to us. His brother arranged a girl from the same class; in his case the ‘shoemaker class’. They meet at McDonalds. He asked if she like him and with an affirmative she asked if he like her, and thus began their romance. They met one-another’s families and when we met Shambhu he was in the process of building his new home; an add-on room to his brother’s home. There will be no floors, outside of what the earth provides, he has the bricks and has started digging out the sandy soil for a foundation. They have a well for water for their area, provided by Brother Robert, who brings students from his school in Australia. It will cost some 50,000 rupees to build his new home; about $776 USD. Shambhu is working hard with this tuk tuk business to raise the money. If he can not build his house in the next two months he will lose his bride as her father wants her provided for. She is 19, he is 25. He is also raising funds for the marriage. I forget how much it is but it is supposed to be a three day affair with a horse and bands and lots of celebration. Travel gives us such a different view of life-styles. Narda and I met on the internet, from the day we physically met at the end of 2000 until now we have rarely been apart. My marriage proposal was one night when, in the middle of the night, not even knowing whether Narda was awake or not, I said, ‘let’s do this thing’. That was it. I could not even use the word marriage for a long time. We did the deed with family present at the end of a pier, and I called it ‘JettyDay’. At the time I didn’t have a car, I was a single-parent, a few bucks in my pocket, and I didn’t even give her a ring. What a contrast to an Indian hitch.
The class thing takes awhile to get one’s mind around, but we have heard people mention it wherever we go. People will tell us on first meeting, ‘I am of the Brahmin Class’ which I believe is a priest class and they feel they are at the top of the heap. It seems strange to identify with birth as the totality of one’s place in life. Of course, it is easy for me as a white male from a western culture (with my duel citizenship of USA and Australia) to say one can achieve whatever they wish. I sure have. I realise I need to get over myself and understand how society has limited people by race, gender, place of birth, belief systems. I always thought by now, 2018, the world would be more homogenous. Maybe religion would be replaced by doctrines of love without doctrines. We would treat each other equally. I think it is getting worse. America First as well as anyone else who proclaims themselves first is putting us back into the class systems. Everyone is to get in the back of the line. I must be careful when I think a tuk tuk driver is over-charging me 150 instead of 100 rupees ($2.33 instead of $1.55 USD). A cup of coffee in most shops in Australia is about $4 (204 rupees), a beer in a pub starts at $8 (408 rupees). Our daily budget for food in India is $20 USD (sorry about switching between USD and Australian Dollar) for the two of us which is about one meal if we are doing it on the cheap in Australia. We feel good about ourselves giving a beggar a twenty rupee note until we realise we just gave away 30-cents. India is tough on a western consciousness.
Narda even played a bit of cricket with the children.
Shambhu and his sisters made us a meal. We were concerned about getting to the train on time. He kept saying we would be there on time, and he did do it. Was I feeling uneasy being waited and eating a meal surrounded by about twenty children. I said feed them first and we were told there was plenty for them. What I saw didn’t seem like it. The meal was cooked in their kitchen, a small open fire on the ground with a few vegetables. Letting go is such a difficult thing. Perhaps this is what I will learn in three months of being in India.
We were told that the school situation was good for people with money, they could send their children to a private school. Public school was a different story. Teachers are paid a salary. They do not show up, except a couple of times a year when there is an inspection. When we were there on what should have been a school day, children were all over the place. We went up to the roof and 360 degrees around us there were children on the rooftops waving to us. We did not share a language but they were smiling and we all laughed together. Narda taught them a song – see the clip below.
Village visit =
Shambhu took us to the local market with everyone smiling and saying it was OK for me to take their photo. We didn’t buy anything, no one seemed to worry. Around historic sites it is a different story with so many people asking for money, selling tours, trinkets, pity. What would I do in their situation? I have had my hardships, tragedies, failures, and success in life but nothing compares to the stories we get and the situations we see. I feel I get beggar fatigue. But I feel somewhat good about animal life in India. I am sure I will go on about this too many times. Unlike cultures of animal-eaters (goody-two-shoes vegetarian for decades me gets a bit judgemental in this space) the animals in India receive more respect. Cows are holy. They wander everywhere. Nutritionally their life is crap as they forge for themselves among the garbage, but they get to live their lives, hangout with each other. The calf is not separated from the mother at birth so we can steal the milk, pigs and chickens are not forced to live in such totally unnatural conditions where they can barely move, let alone socialize, so we can slaughter them to get fat on.
We had no intentions on purchasing a carpet – what would we do with an expensive new rug in our home that we are trying to get rid of stuff from? We watched how rugs were handwoven, months of works, and such an array of amazing colours. Then we thought of our home back in Adelaide. A bit dated, needing new style, something different than our Chinese collections of things dotted around, then we remembered how we have no second thought of replacing a camera or computer for a thousand dollars every few years; phones, television, constant car/caravan servicing, etc. A handwoven carpet should last for a long time. We were told it also would help several families.
This is the carpet we bought. We will now need to redecorate our lounge; oh wait, the house, the next day we bought three more: two for our bedroom and one for the hall. We need new curtains, we will paint the lounge when we get home, maybe even some new furniture. It is amazing what one can do a month after saying no more spending on the house.
the two for our bedroom: handwoven months of work,
Carpet – here is a video we took of them making a carpet:
We went to a music store where we were given a sitar concert and Narda was taught how to play a sitar in a few lessons. Of course, they wanted us to buy one but we didn’t.
We went to a marble shop and saw how marble pieces were inserted into tables and things. Tuk tuk drivers get a small commission for taking tourists to places like this. There is no pressure to buy anything; we did go nuts at the carpet place, but other places we just look and make it clear for the start we are not buying. They are happy to show their wares and the tuk tuk driver gets something and we learn from everyone we meet and there is always my ever-present camera taking photos or video. I made a rather uninteresting video which can be seen here Marble factory
Agra Fort video
Agra Fort is in the city of Agra. It was the main residence of the emperors of the Mughal Dynasty till 1638, when the capital was shifted from Agra to Delhi. Compared to the Red Fort in Delhi it is much more spectualar. The fort in Delhi was going through a reconstruction cycle but even without that the Agra one is bigger and better. It was India Tourism Day so we got to have our photo taken with some foreigners. Narda got them all to do a round of “Aussie Aussie Aussie” and them to say “oi oi oi”. I did not get my camera up in time to record it so just imagine it.
Video Clips are HERE
Travels through India with Terrell Neuage and Narda Biemond. Return to India 2018
Narda writes in italics Terrell not
I’m writing waiting for brekkie at the Diamond Restaurant. It’s “roll out of bed and there you are” …..almost. Yesterday we went for a ride on the wild side. Bought a 3 day tourist card for the metro. The Delhi metro is really modern, fast and efficient. Women get offered seats, they line up separately for the extensive (just like the airport) security check. And the line is much much shorter. Less women travelling…it looks like it in the metro. There is even a special area on the platform marked “Women only”.
Our first stop was Connaught Place, a large roundabout with high end restaurants, shops and hotels. We bought a high end coffee were a little unimpressed and then tried to find the Red Fort by metro. We were unsuccessful and walked for quite a while through some pretty dodgy areas. There was a bunch of public hospitals in this area. Then we decided to do some random rides and got off at a station north of Vishwadidyalaya 😏😀. There the housing was quite different, three story buildings surrounding a park. A nice place to live and quite a contrast.
Think we slept about five, maybe six hours last night. ‘We’ll come and take a nap’, we promised ourselves when we began to rattle around our room at six am. It is now seven pm and naps never came our way today, nevertheless, we felt good and spent the day getting lost and enjoying it all. At our new found great breakfast place we spent a couple of hours on our computers/smart devices while sipping chia and eating a wonderful breakfast; eight am until past ten. Much more pleasant than our room to write and to connect with the great world out there; not that the twenty-five million (give or take a couple of dozen) people in our immediate vicinity are not enough to connect with; we do connect with them though in a bumping into a crowded type of way. Back in our room we managed to fiddle and fart around for a couple of hours with several serious attempts at trying to get out the door. Perhaps we are just old, maybe too thingy about what we want to wear (after all we have about two changes of clothes as we packed very little, other than all that we thought we would need: mosquito net, blowup mattresses because we thought the beds would be too hard (not so, so far), mesh to lock around our bags on trains, camera gear, one fifteen inch computer – must get that size and weight down, extra shoes, books, some stuff to give away, and not much to wear. Of course, that opens the door, if not the overfilled full of crap we may never use suitcases, for Narda’s new Indian clothing. Not to worry, finally out the door, tried to follow our GPS but ended up taking a tuk tuk to Connaught Place, not sure why, I think someone recommended it to us. Ended up in a rather longish conversation about Muslims with a Muslim man, the second in two days. Both from Kashmir and both with houseboats to rent. I think we may go there for a week and stay on a houseboat at the end of our trip in mid-April.
Had coffee at some alleged trendy Starbucks-like place, not a nice place, people too precious, all thinking they were trendy, we much prefer our area, which is just happy people getting through their life. We bought a three-day visitor metro pass for about eight bucks and rode around. One place we got off there was lots of college students protesting with signs and banners and surrounded by police with their guns. We finally found a sign in English, seems there were protesting about wanting another bus to come to their schools.
I think there were more police than students. After all, kids wanting another bus can get quite unruly.
We got back on the train not out of fear of police and college students but because there was a long line waiting to get onto the metro. They have airport security things to go through here (they have it our hotel too) and I show my special card as I unbutton my shirt, to show my defibrillator /pace maker, then I get to go around and get checked individually. Hey, I have been lifting weights and going to they gym for many years, maybe a bit of a vain Leo, but at 70 I can show off a bit.
That’s it. On and off at a few more shops; a great lunch; absolutely love Indian food. We try different things each time. we are looking at taking a cooking class later this week; so come to our home when we get back and we will cook great stuff for you too.
The Cow Thing
Narda, the wise, asked an intriguing question yesterday which got me to thinking about it sometime around two am when the world around us was asleep.
If I had to be a cow, would I rather be a cow in Australia living with clean air and green grass and roaming about a groovy open paddock or a cow in Delhi with the air not so good and playing bumper tag with the traffic and eating garbage?
After deep reflection using these thoughts I think I sided with the cows of India. Here is why;
The cows of Australia with their clean air, water, wide open terrain get to produce their grass-fed butter and lots of milk for humans but at what cost? Life is short and swift for an Australian cow. Luxury living, then it is off to the slaughter house for wayward cows to feed the meat eaters who enjoy chunks of karma in their stew. A cow lives only a couple of years – a cow giving birth has it worse with their calf being taken away soon after birth, so we can have their milk.
Cows in India have freedom. They may push a rider off her motor scooter and tourists get stepped on, but they do what they wish. I have seen cows in the middle of a busy street contently looking about for quite sometime as everyone finds a way past them. I have seen cows laying in the middle of the road having a bit of a rest with no one stressed. Can you imagine that in NYC? Some irate driver would shoot the cow in a road-rage moment.
There seems to be a lot of food around the place and once they find their way through Delhi perhaps they will make it to the Ganges for a bit of a bath later in life. I am sure some enlightened person would tell us how Australian cows are reincarnated souls who had worked hard in past lives but had done something not too correct, so they get luxury then death whereas Indian cows are reincarnated souls working off stuff. As I am not believing in reincarnation at the current time I don’t really have an opinion. Below is an enlightened cow giving me a bit of an eye.
our video for the chai maker https://youtu.be/OOX-W7nfU1Q
Starting to figure this place out. The metro is a big bonus and on our 5th day we found a stop much closer.
Our area seems to be a neighbourhood of Kashmeri Muslims. At have met 4 in a short space of time, in completely separate incidents, all have a houseboat on the lake in Kashmir which we may rent (we will be taken care of by their family).
It’s so interesting to hear a different take on everything, from moderate Muslims, which they all are, to the conflict over the border with India, which in their view is India being inflexible.
So off we go to Kashmir in April, in search of truth , beauty, and a cooler climate.
And Lahore is safe. The last fellow was very definite. His brother lives there and “the people are very friendly”.
Tried being tourist for the day, day; oh wait, we are always tourists – even back in Adelaide. As usual, we managed to have difficulty getting around on the metro and at some point we got near to where we thought we should be. Many people descended on us to sell tours and offer great discounts on rides and who knows what else. This morning one bloke, after not being able to sell me a tour, offered some ‘very good weed’ and a police car was sitting right next to us; gave that one a miss. Once you get in a tuk tuk, whether it is a motorbike or rickshaw type they just go on and on about offering to show side streets and special markets. The first rickshaw said only 20 rupees to the Red Fort “too far to walk – very dangerous, pick pockets, and criminals everywhere” then he said only $30 (I think he meant USD and not the Australian dollar) he would give us this wonderful tour. The more we said no the more he went on. After a few blocks we just got out and gave him 20 rupees and wished him well.
I am aware of all the dangers. Of course, that does not protect me from them. I do have the latest Nikon and zoom lens and our phones and whatnots that we cart around, and I don’t hesitate taking photos, asking first if I can take someone’s picture, but what is the point of having a camera and hiding it in fear of someone grabbing it? The Red Fort is amazing from the outside. There was the always present security with machine gun totting military types and the airport electronic scanners that I can’t go through. When I showed my pacemaker/ defibrillator they send me around for personal searching – a tour guide led us through and around security. Sure enough, on the way out an hour later he was there and said, ‘hi, Mr Pacemaker’ and we had a difficult time trying to get away from him with his tour selling ways.
Inside the fort several ‘guides’ offered their ‘excellent’ services and that we should not go through the place without them, but we declined and wandered about happily on our own. The place is under re-construction with lots of repairs going on, so we did not get inside some of the buildings and the water did not flow through all the little canals and fountains but a well worth visit.
Narda made some new friends:
To get away from ‘Mr Pacemaker, the expert tour guide’ we got the next rickshaw in line to the Spice Market. Of course, he tried to sell us ‘must see’ tours all the way and we parted ways on good terms after giving him 100 rupees ($1.55 USD) instead of the 70 we originally agreed on. We do this often wherever we are; if the price is fair, and they get us to where we are going in one piece we tend to add to the fare. If they start off with some ridiculous price to begin with we go elsewhere. Tourists pay a lot more than locals as it should be. The Spice Market is very loud, congested, and smells nice but a short visit was enough for the likes of us.
We took some more metros, went to some shopping area as Narda wanted to get some local garb. Holy cow, one forgets what it is like shopping with a woman until it actually is in front of them. In Adelaide, Narda says she needs to shop, great, I spend quality time in front of the computer with my best mate, Adobe. In foreign places I just find some place to sit and look foreign. I do get caught up with my Facebook friends, world news, sports, weather, write a few blogs, take pictures, videos, say no to someone at the average of every 56 seconds and at the end of it Narda hasn’t found anything she wants. We have three months here so I am sure the correct clothing will manifest on some cosmic level and say ‘take me’.
Fact check: In Adelaide when I say I need to shop, I dash off to Aldis and spend as little time as possible on it, while his highness spends hours reading labels at Coles. That’s what really happens!
As we keep saying, the food here is absolutely amazing. On Sunday we will take a cooking class with our first person to interest us into going to Kashmir. He has his office out of our local favourite restaurant (Diamond Restaurant) and has named his travel business after the music group The Doors (I saw Jim Morison in 1969 and where he is buried in Paris in the 1980s) https://www.facebook.com/touradvisorindia/. He rents house boats on a lake in Kashmir and it all looks very tempting. We have met three more Muslim men each who has a houseboat for rent in Kashmir. Maybe this is the area where they all live. Something to think about! Everything else is all planned.
Saturday 20/01/2018 Delhi
Saturday morning we were up early, a bit before six, and off to our neighbourhood chai street vendor. For our first three days we struggled to get to the nearest metro, which we would take a tuk tuk through unbelievable heavy traffic for twenty minutes to because that was our first instructions how to get to it. The night before in some dark alley somewhere in Delhi in one of our totally lost moments we hailed a tuk tuk and it took them about 45 minutes to find their way to the alley we live in. I am sure we should have some natural alert instinct of any possible dangers, especially with cameras and other things worth more than a couple of rupees we cart about to record our moments but we don’t. So we were happy to be informed that there is a metro stop five minutes away from where we live. The रामकृष्ण आश्रम मार्ग stop (OK, the Ramakrishna Ashram Marg stop). I was a tad bit interested in the Rama Krishna Ashram which is near us, maybe we will get to it tomorrow, due to the popularity of the Krishna movement at the end of the 1960s in California. It was the hippie thing to be involved with though at that time I got involved with a different cult for a decade but I was aware of its hold on others. Those of you who are young enough to have experienced the 1960s would have seen this sect at airports and malls (even in Adelaide) around the world with devotees or pretend to be devotees chanting stuff, burning incense and handing out flowers. (The Vedanta Society of Southern California, with its headquarters in Hollywood, was founded in 1930 by Swami Prabhavananda). Incidentally, the New York Times (International Edition, which we collected in KL on the way to here) had a cover story about when the Beatles went to the TM ashram in Rishikesh and how it is being renovated. Not sure if we will get there. But back to our local subway stop. Groovy. Not far away. It is on the Blue line which we took for one stop to Rajiv Chowk, where we caught a train on the yellow line to the INA stop as we wanted to check out a hotel we had booked for when we came back through here in April. We immediately did not like the area, nothing beats our area with the narrow streets, startled looking cows, people trying to sell us tours, shops, chai carts, and the bustle of this older area. However, Narda did find a dress she liked and bought it so that was a fortunate stop in one of our worlds. Back on the yellow line we thought going to the end of the line would be good. Huda City Centre was sort of pronounceable which made it a logical destination. However, after a series of stops the train started going back and never made it to Huda. Wanting to persevere to our desired stop we crossed the track to continue our journey. It was then I spotted two signs of interest; this was of course, at the Saket stop, one sign advertised Garden of Five Senses and another a cinema. I told Narda that I wanted to go to the Garden of Five Senses, but feeling a ‘rolling of the eyes’ coming on I said and there is a cinema at this stop too and she was quite interested. Another extremely busy hustling part of Delhi where we got swarmed by tuk tuk drivers we just kept walking to who knows where? Realising our utter lostness, and seeing a park with a sign for the Garden of Five Senses we asked someone about the cinema and of course the garden. The person told us that the Garden of Five Senses was not worth the bother, pleasing all five senses of Narda, and that yes there was a cinema.
The only English movie playing was ‘The Darkest Hour’ which we have seen good reviews for and we paid the extra 25 rupees for the ‘premier’ seating (total 400 rupees for the two of us or six buck USD) believing we would get good seats. However, the seats were average and close together with little leg room, but we were in a balcony, so I suppose that was the extra we paid for. Movies in India begin with standing for the national anthem. The movie was good, however, there were several anti-smoking commercials at the start and throughout the whole movie in rather large letters at the bottom of the movie was a line about not smoking. The ironic thing was that Winston Churchill and lots of other people in the movie smoked the whole time. Half way through the movie there was an intermission that lasted about half an hour filled with ads, most of which were impossible to know what was being advertised.
And that pretty much was our day. we never made it to Huda City or the Garden of delights but getting back to our area around nine pm we had another great meal and that is it.
If you want a clear concise reading, read what is written in italics – which is from Narda’s blogs; if you want to sludge through my verbiage then read the rest too.
Day One 05 August Copenhagen
I have always been restless. We have always been restless. I can speak for Narda too. After twelve years living away from Australia and traveling a lot during that period we could have easily settled once back in Adelaide. Our first year back, 2015, we tried to nest, working on our new house in a trendy eco-friendly village but after having renovating three houses in the States each a hundred years old we realised new was not us and so we moved to Vista, half an hour further out from downtown, into an older place. We spent months gutting and re-doing our house and creating a home. We still were focused on going elsewhere. We got a caravan and did some exploring but that was not enough. Early 2016 we were back doing international stuff; Cambodia and Thailand, and by the end we were on a four-month trip, November 2016 – April 2017: the States, Holland, Cambodia. We got back to Adelaide and a few weeks later went out with the caravan and planning next trips. Now we are on this one past the mid-point of 2017 doing a cruise around the Baltic then six weeks in Ringkøbing, Denmark where we will live like a local though we no doubt will do trips within trips as we explore this part of our life. For me, this part of our life is me becoming a seventy-year-old. It seems just a few years ago I was wandering the States from age 16 – to my mid-thirties when I became an Australian-bound single parent and except for a few trips back to New York with my children in tow I did little travel. Then I met Narda and we have just been going, except for 2015, and going.
So, we got to Copenhagen in an alternative state. Not the type of alternative state that I existed in while traveling on many different levels back in the late 1960s and early 1970s but in the alternative state to being awake and feeling alive. After a few hours in Dubai wandering like zombies through the airport after little sleep on the fifteen-hour flight. The flight from Dubai to Copenhagen was better, we were on one of those new double decker setups and got a seat in the first row. It was originally for business class but now that the whole plane is economy there is no business section but the seats are more spread out and more comfortable. Our wonderful host, Erik and Bi Bi, met us at the airport, they had a sign with an Australian and a Denmark flag on it, but we were easily spotted and they got us to their flat in downtown Copenhagen which is our home at the start of our trip and for four days at the end. After our cruise, we have their home in Ringkøbing for six weeks and they have our home in Adelaide during that time.
Arrived in Dubai at 5.15am. Slept a few hours, maybe 4 or 5, which helped to break up the trip. The next plane we boarded was amazing. A double decker Airbus. We had 2 seats together on the upper level, seats 34a and B. They were really roomy and so we slept a bit more. The transit stop in Dubai was pretty difficult. We were really wiped out, and the airport was so crowed; we could hardly find seats anywhere.
We got into Copenhagen at 1pm and were met by Erik and his daughter Bibi. They were great. First we took the metro with them to their apartment, where we left our stuff. They showed us the iconic harbour of Copenhagen and we had a nice chat, walk and some drinks.
They left and we set out for dinner. We found a nice place nearby, near the sea, and waited for 45 minutes for a bowl of soup. The soup, when it finally came was yummy, but we were so tired by then, it was difficult. Still we hit the bed and slept. Both had a good night.
Leaving our stuff in our new flat Eric and Bi Bi gave us a tour of Copenhagen and then we found our way back via the metro to our flat by ourselves, becoming lost only a couple of times.
Amazing to us we were still upright at nine pm, having gone for a couple of days with a few hours of uncomfortable sleep somewhere between Adelaide and Copenhagen. That was our extended Friday which had more than thirty hours in it; such is international travel.
I often take photos of airlines I have never heard of and the first plane at Copenhagen Airport we saw was WOW airline, https://wowair.com/, Air Iceland – sounds like our kind of airline
We were up at 5:30. We have lost the ability to sleep. We dragged ourselves, muttering incoherently, to the nearest metro station and off at another station where we wandered aimlessly for way too long in search of Bus # 25 to get our sorry asses to the cruise port. We walked and walked, dragging all our crap with us. No one seemed to know where Bus # 25 did its thing. We even stopped a city bus and asked the driver who did not know. Of course, because we are now on our boat it is obvious we found someone to guide us to Bus #25. Not having done this cruise capper before we were amazed by the size of this boat, which we have been told not to call a boat because it is a ship. People are so thingy about stuff, aren’t they?
Seeing the ship for the first time was so amazing. Getting on was more amazing. In the Copenhagen Harbour, I took a zillion plus photos and images – see our video clip about this cruise – video here – https://youtu.be/ZdShBQ21o20
Check in time we were told was between noon and three with departure at five. We were checked in by 11:30 in our acting like little children just shaking with excitement. Our room was not ready so we ate and ate and then ate some more. Holy guacamole! I, we, have never seen such a large spread of so much good food. Like a city block worth of food. This was the Garden Buffet Café or some such name. Exercise is good. We walk around the buffet. We did go to the gym too and stretched and lifted a bit then went and ate some more. There were hundreds of dishes to choose from – and we did; except for meat stuff I tried it all, Narda tried the meats and reported back, yum.
We went to a life-boat/what happens if we sink, type of drill at six pm. There were lots of announcements in lots of languages and when the alarms sounded we slowly made our way to where our section of 3500+ passengers were lounging about. People were not too serious, of course the crew were – and they were a bit annoyed at us for not paying attention. Several children, and being school holidays – the place had an infestation of them, were chatting and laughing and rolling about as children do; but our mindful Narda went over to them and in her best school-teacher fashion brought them to heel. A couple gave her a bit of a stink eye but at the end she went over to them and thanked them for behaving. Once a teacher – is there a continuation of that line?
We attended the evening’s orientation which highlighted various performances for the next nine days. We figured maybe we would see one, two at the most. By the end of the trip we had seen them all. Then we went back to the buffet and ate heaps more and managed to get back our room about ten-pm. We love our room with a balcony, sofa, desk, bathroom and of course a comfy bed.
Woke up early, but feeling pretty good. We managed to put together a breakfast, continental style, a couple of rolls, some yogurt, and a glass of Berocca. Then we headed for the local grocery and marvelled at the stuff….all good. Our credit card was not accepted, luckily we had some Euros which they took.
Then off to the cruise terminal. Again our credit card was declined; annoying. Still we got ourselves from the metro, then onto bus number 25, and arrived at the port. Beautiful ship. The Norwegian Getaway. Fantastic. We have spent a lot of time today at the buffet, the food is amazing. And our room is lovely too. I think we won’t want to leave here!!!!! Bloody nice life!
OK, talk about a weird day. We woke at 5.30, at least Terrell woke and woke me up. Daylight of course, as we are in the higher latitudes. So we are sitting on the balcony taking photos (he is) of dark seas, misty horizons and the occasional ferry. The we had breakfast number 1. Bacon and eggs for me. Then back to the cabin for a shower, watched our ship come into Rostock, Germany.
It was very interesting watching the manoeuvres of two other cruise ships who came after us. They had to go right into the port to find room to make a 360 turn, and then head back to park. They all seem to be equipped with side parking thrusts. (been handy in a car).
Then back to the Garden Buffet for breakfast number 2. This time some bread and cheese and salmon mousse. It’s exhausting, all this eating, so we went back to the cabin for a nap. I slept 3 hours. Bit jet lagged I guess. Another meal and now I’m writing this.
I think I can become addicted to cruising. Wasn’t sure, but now I am. It’s a lovely life. Last night we watched the ‘Duelling pianos” Two guys singing all the songs everyone knows. Really well done. Both guys played really well and one especially had an amazing voice. The average age of the audience was about 72+ but an enthusiastic group.
We were up early, probably about 5:30 am and went on to the balcony. It was a bright sunny day already. Our room has blackout curtains making sleep easy unless one is too excited to sleep. We were soon at the buffet; our go to place for incredible comfort. Then back to our room for a lay down so we could wake up in real time. Today is a ‘sea day’ meaning there is no port stop from when we left Copenhagen last night until we get to our next port, Germany, tomorrow.
So here I am writing in our dark cabin. The curtains are closed blocking out all light because Narda is asleep. She has been asleep since 9:30 this morning and it is now 12:15. I slept from 9:30 until 10:30 then I was anxious to play in Photoshop with photos we took last night. Our sleep patterns are all over the shop. Three days ago was the flight from Adelaide to Dubai. Twelve hours with Dubai arrival being at 5 am. Wow were we feeling under slept. Hey folks, I am old, I need blocks of comfortable sleep. Not to worry soon we were on a double decker plane to Copenhagen. More leg room and just a great new plane with Emirates. The flight was only six-hours. There was confusion due to the fact I was not getting my vegetarian meals. We ordered it months ago. We have not had this happen since we left Australia in 2002 to take on the States. And I did not have this happen for the decades before. Of course, I let everyone know this and the wonderful cabin crew rushed around trying to please me. Of course, this is natural; I am a Leo, I was adopted; Narda suggested I could take it easy on one of my attention-seeking behavours but that is just nonsense. I was well served and I was assured this would not happen again as they put in for our return flights to Australia in a couple of months that I was this old, needy, special, dude. What I liked especially was their music selection which was good as we did not find any movies worth watching. They had all these albums of the 1960s and early 1970s. I fell to sleep at some point listening to Janis Joplin and got caught up with all the Dylan albums I had not heard for weeks. My friend Daniel complained once late 1970s that I was stuck in the 1960s and it was time for me to progress. I still don’t know what he meant.
Having a long morning nap and a second or was it a third? breakfast, extended our day. Like having two days in one.
We spent the rest of the day wandering around the ship. We even played a game of shuffle board; Narda had never heard of it and I played once at some Bible Camp my parents would send me, kicking and screaming, to each summer when I was staggering through adolescents in the Catskills. It was an exciting game and after many attempts we each got a thingy on a seven so we decided never to play again as we had tied. There is so much to do. I did go swimming for a few minutes. The pool was good. I wanted to sit in the spa but they had a sign warning people with cardiac trips (like an implanted defibrillator/pacemaker), diabetes, and a couple of other things I share with the infirmed – Narda was strongly opposed to me going in, so I didn’t. I thought of sneaking out and going in but our overpriced insurance would not cover me if I had ‘an incident’. Stuff them all I still enjoy myself. We both went to the fitness area and tossed about some weights. I went most days but my sidekick went just this first day. There is a large casino area which we gave a miss to. It seems such a waste of time to give more money to this company, sitting in front of a pokie like an idiot waiting for a possible coin to fall when some several childish characters line up on the machine. But people do. And they have the roulette tables with more people doing that instead of eating at the buffet or looking at the world outside passing by.
By four pm we thought we should go for a walk. Not having any idea what the procedure was and not signing up for any tours today we found our way to gangplank shuffled off and to our delight discovered there was nothing to it. We could just walk out into the street. Because we had already gone through customs in Denmark, only Russia required us to go through passport control of the several cities we would stop at. I bought a fridge magnet and we walked around the town.
As there was a safety drill at six pm, and we had already suffered through one, we walked for a couple of hours before hunger got the best of us and we were back in the buffet line.
In the evening; already forgot what we did for the afternoon, this is what we call retirement, we gave the buffet a miss with the thought that eating in a restaurant environment would give us a more adventurous feeling to ourselves. The buffet is our comfort zone and they say to challenge yourself by doing something different. We went to the Tropicana where there was a Jamaica like trio of dudes doing the golden oldies routine with a few recent songs such as ‘YMCA’ tossed in. White tablecloth, waiters, the whole shebang. I got some veggie pasta thingy and Narda lasagne with dead cow. The food was not as good as the buffet and I am not used to having someone fuss over us, obviously for tips, but it is a complimentary restaurant for our cruise so outside of 18% on Narda’s overprice glass of wine it was a cheap date. What amused me was seeing a lot of children; like about 5 – 11 years old, dancing to the ‘YMCA’ song and singing along and doing the hand motions. I wondered if they knew it was a song about men picking up men in Greenwich Village, NYC, at the Y (Young Men’s Christian Association) for sex. If I see them again I suppose it is my duty to inform them so.
I also am amused at the buffet counter(s) watching children choose what to eat. I find it amazing that the common fare for adolescents, with hundreds of things to choose from is hotdog and chips. No matter the nationality. I watched in parental horror a Japanese, maybe 18 years old, alternating between a mouth full of ice cream and chips. He had an ice cream cone in one hand and every other bite was a handful of chips. Another favourite was watching a nine or so year old in front of a large cake with a lot of icing, he had already had a slice of pizza on his plate. He would set down his pizza, look around, look at the cake, then pick up his plate of pizza. Finally, he quickly ate his slice of pizza then took a rather enormous slice of cake. We figured his mother probably said he had to eat his meal before dessert. The child was already considerably over weight. No doubt someone looking at his would remark that we spend a lot of time cruising the food – and rapidly going back for more. In our defense I will say, we take small amounts each time. For me this is all quite a challenge. For two years I have been on a strict diet of low carb crap to curtail my diabetes so I can carry less medication with me as it takes up too much room in our suitcase. Then add the vegetarian caper (fifty or so years of) and I have a rather bland diet. Can you believe I even brought enough dry kale and protein powder for two months? And I brought a container of my special low-carb cookies and bread I made a few weeks ago. I need to eat some of it or I will have to give the bread and cookies the toss in a few days or they will have some white and green growth on them. (I did finally give them a toss – not over board but in the trash as they did turn green and white) Bottom line, I have ‘sampled’ the mac and cheese (in the past my favourite food in the world), the corn and cheese thingy, one slice of German fudge cake, and a few things I have stayed clear of for years; more than once. Today or early tomorrow, perhaps soon after, I will work back toward the low carb diet. Narda is fine. She will eat anything if it is dead. She can have the wine and beer too. I don’t even drink alcohol but that is due to a shot liver from too many years of too much good time and not enough constraint time.
There are ‘professional photographers’ roaming all over. Always wanting to take people’s photos in front of a green screen – hey I do that at home, and I have a new camera (Nikon D7500) so I am not interested but they sure ask a lot. [The camera was from Narda for my birthday, oh so was the cruise – can’t wait to see what she will get me if get to 71]. However, we found machine that took a photo for free and we could Facebook or email it so this was the result. This is a real money making boat – but we managed not to spend any more than what we have for whatever free money we got for signing on to this cruise. We didn’t even have to pay the 18% tip. We had $350 to spend and we spent it on Narda’s daily wine at $10 a shot, some laundry as Narda was tired of doing ‘the smalls’ in the toilet basin; something about it not being classy. What? Saving money is classy to me. Then there was my birthday meal in a ‘specialty restaurant’, a couple of not-included for free Broadway performances and I got a fridge magnet. The only other expense was Narda’s new watch – well that put us way over budget, but hey, we are on holiday. She is very happy with her new watch so be sure to notice it when you see her.
We have been doing the free shows but are signing up for some comedy wine show where they provide wine – how embarrassing I will ask for soda water at a wine show. One free show we watched was ‘duelling pianos’. They were quite good and people put in requests. I asked for ‘She belongs to me’ by Dylan, never did hear the song. They seemed to like songs by Elton John and the like.
We set sail at ten pm. Heaps of people lined the shore waving and yelling so lots of people, including Narda, yelled and waved back. I am not sure whether the town was happy to see us leave or wanted everyone to return and spend money. I had bought a fridge magnet so no doubt that is what everyone on shore was so excited about.
Today we are at sea all day. This morning we took a walk around the ship for some ‘exercise’. Met some girls our age, one of them was our neighbour. They are very interested in a house exchange. Who knows! Last night we took a walk around Warnemunde. Lovely little town, the port of Berlin.
We did our walk like we do back at home though there were no kangaroos along the way but walking around the boat is good fun. Of course, we made a few detours to the Garden Café Buffet before getting to the jogging track which with eight laps the sign says equals a mile. OK we made it to five and tomorrow we plan to walk before eating.
Lunch was some to-do at a Spanish Restaurant Buffet – which was kind of alright but not as good as our blocks of regular food buffet. Now I am at the main outdoor entertainment area where there was a soul-rock band and now some loud mouth DJ doing dance contests or some crazy thing with folks. I found a sheltered place to write, play in Photoshop, and Narda is in the midst of people cheering and stuff. She said it was a ‘hairy-leg for dudes contest’. See photo below.
It is a lively area with the swimming pool, main stage, and today being a sea day; we left last night at ten and get to Tallinn tomorrow morning, everyone is just everywhere. We spoke to our boat-neighbour who we ran into on our walk this morning about house exchanges. They are from England and I think one of them has a house in Spain so we are hoping we can get some more home exchanges on this trip. We have one for Berlin next September and need a couple more of a month each to make flying to this area worthwhile. This is what retirement is about; forgetting what happened the day before and planning for the next trip. Saying that I remember what we did yesterday afternoon, we went into Warnemünde for a wander. A nice seaside town. A lot of people had gone for a tour to Berlin and other German like towns but we wanted to immerse ourselves into the cruise experience, sleep and eat, and we did not think we could just walk off the boat whenever we wanted to. But by five pm we were a tad bit bored and wanted to go out. It was all very easy, just showed our room card and went for a couple of hours walk. There were two other large ships behind us and hoped the people aboard were not envious of our larger and newer vessel.
Not sure what we were going to do; book a tour, take a hop-on-hop-off bus, or walk to town. After another lengthy lots of food brekkie – though I kind of did a diet compliant almost with egg over avocado over toast with a lot of hollandaise sauce – I didn’t eat the high carb toast – and fruit and some muesli. We made the decision to walk into town which we were told was only about twenty-minutes. Narda had a bit of a sore foot so we did toy with the hop-on-hop-off bus parked at the end of the pier but we didn’t. Then right away we saw the bike-rental shop and we were home and hosed. The bikes were great and not expensive; we paid nine euros each at the end for four hours.
Today a wonderful day in Tallinn. We rent a couple of great bikes, and headed off on our own.
All the cruise people went to the old town, but we decided to check out a residential area to the right of the old part. We found a great little local coffee shop and sat outside drinking coffee (2 cups for EU3) The we worked our way back to the Old Town, which is surrounded by a very old thick wall.
It’s just a beautiful cobbled city. We stepped into a lovely little chapel, and then rode on to the market square. There was a funny incident there. We saw a few young lads looking for customers on the rickshaws. Then suddenly they high tailed it, at a dangerous speed out of the market square. We tut tutted them ‘how dangerous’, and the girls standing in front of one of the restaurants said they are running away from the police. And sure enough, a couple of cops in a car came cruising through the square. They didn’t see any problems and continued on their way. A few minutes later the boys reappeared and continued their soliciting. It happened twice. So funny.
We got a map and were off, riding past all the people lined up at the buses for their tours so they could obediently follow the guide with their umbrella or sign in the air. Some were walking into town, others were lined up at the hop-on-hop-off bus. We proudly rode past them all. We decided not to go to the old town right away but went off into the burbs to live like a local. Stopping at a local wonderful café for coffee for only a euro and a half we enjoyed the beginning of a wonderful day we would be having. There was barely a cloud in the sky at about 19 degrees centigrade. The only thing that separated us from the locals was we had no idea what they were saying in their Estonia-speak and we were drawing lines on our tourist map of all the places we would go. We did not look at the map again for the day so that was a bit of waste though fun planning. Tallinn is quite flat so riding around is easy. People seemed friendly or amused by us – difficult to tell whether people are smiling because they think we are cool or because we are some daft tourists. Nevertheless, we managed to negotiate the place and not get run over. We found our way into the walled town and like all European cities it was old and cool. Built in the 1200s.
According to Wikipedia (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tallinn), Tallinn was first mentioned in 1219, received city rights in 1248, but the earliest human settlements date back 5,000 years. The initial claim over the land was laid by the Danes in 1219. Tallinn’s Old Town is one of the best preserved medieval cities in Europe.
After taking lots of photos and looking inside (free) churches which we were figured were as trendy as the expensive tourist ones we found a fantastic café. The tofu stack in the front is mine the smoking gelato marzipan apple crumble Tallinn style is Narda’s. https://revalcafe.ee/ Reval Café.
Later we stopped at a really lovely café for ‘lunch’. Mine was apple pie and cream, (I did order what Terrell described, but this is what I got)…… but on a plate of dry ice. Smoking everywhere.
After dinner we saw a great show “Burn the floor”. A troupe of 12 dancers, a singer and to drummers with a Latin style dance routine. High energy and really skilled. Great fun.
We got back to the boat at 3:30 pm, found the food buffet place; hard to miss, it covers a large area of the fifteenth floor, and lucky us we are on the fourteenth floor so it is not much of a journey to the food trough. We have decided to do all the shows, most of which are free, and tonight’s was ‘Burn the Floor’. It was a full Broadway dance musical. Amazing to us. The only down side was we were told not to take pics. OK I snuck in a few. There were sixteen or so dancers. Really amazing. We read their profiles after the show and everyone was some variation of a national or world champion dancer at some point. I believe they were in their twenties. How else could they have so much constant energy and be so athletic? And their skimpy outfits. Wow, where we ever like that? Back to the gym for me. Actually, I have been the gym a couple of days so far, but my body is not quite on par with twenty-year-old professional dancers. Tomorrow I will be 70, I suppose that is an excuse. That and the buffet line and other restaurants dotted around the place. See our video of the tour for their performance on the last night of the tour – toward the end of our video if you get weary watching.
My big goal for today was not to eat mac and cheese and not to take any more sunset pictures. I managed not to eat any mac and cheese so that was a proud moment in my low-carb struggle on a ship with so much wonderful food. I caved when it came to the sunset pictures and though I limited myself to only a few dozen I knew I was on my way to a reduction of my sunset picture obsession(s).
All those times I thought I won’t make it to 70. I used to believe I would never get to thirty. I was pushing the boundaries of what my body could ingest back in the 1970s and I thought well if I make it to 30 that would be an achievement. Yesterday I had a moment in the afternoon while eating when I felt faint and I thought I was going to have a heart problem and we returned to our room. Narda was taking my pulse and saying we should go down to the emergency room but after half an hour I seemed to start feeling whatever feeling normal for an old person is.
I was up at 6 something this morning, Narda was trying the sleeping in routine but my phone alarm went off with Dylan’s ‘Tangled Up in Blue‘, at seven so we dragged our sorry asses down to brekky and off the boat by 7:30. Low and behold there was a glitch in the Russian Immigration computer system, who would believe that? Oops, no photos; that is just so unfair, me, a Yank, first time in Russia and they’re trying to say not to take pics. Well stuff them, I took heaps. Videos too. Sorry – couldn’t resist embedding us into the door. The rest is real news though and an actual photo taken in a restricted zone – whoopee.
And it took us two hours to get through to our waiting tour guide who told us she had been waiting, and that all the rest were already on the bus. She was the archetype Russian keeping us in line all day. She reminded us a few times that the most important rule was to follow the rules. We were marched through Catherine’s shack,
some palace park fountain thingy,
rushed through lunch and I have already forgotten the day, except for the metro ride which was the only non-tourist, live-like-a-local thing we did. There is a good segment of this on our video at https://youtu.be/ZdShBQ21o20
Narda tried to stage a coup – by getting several passengers together to say we wanted a longer lunch period but at the end of the day we got rushed through everything.
Today, St Petersburg. We left early, got stuck in a passport queue for an hour and a half (some computer malfunction!) and embarked on a fairly intense sightseeing tour of the tourist attractions of St Petersburg. First the Palace of Catherine. Lot of rooms with gold gilt, and mirrors and art.
Many tourists there, so there was quite a bit of waiting in lines, but definitely worth a look. After that we went to Peterhof, and ornate garden with fountains, canals and lovely gardens. We had lunch at this bus place, bought a couple of salads ($5 ea) and a beer ($3). No too bad. Later in the day we rode the Metro. Beautiful subway station, lots of decoration and art. Enjoyed this very much.
Tonight we had a shower, ate a nice buffet meal, and now we’re just chillin. It’s 8pm, and I’m ready for bed. Finished “Mosquito Coast’ by Paul Theroux, last night. Hard act to follow!
We were happy to be back in the buffet. After dinner, we roamed about. This ship is so large. There is a library though usually full, lots of areas to hangout in, plus the whole upper deck, half of which is for children so we avoid that area. We did not engage in any of the many activities such as ‘movie scores music trivia’, ‘country line dancing’, ‘Latin Rhythms with their DJ’, the video concerts shown on their big screen, and many other game, dances, music stuff. It is fun just to wander about and soak up the atmosphere. Being an American ship (the Norwegian part seems to be the company or driver, not sure how that works out) it was more American than European I think though of course there were people from everywhere. This was the first time this ship had done the Baltic area, usually hanging out in Florida. The entertainment was predominantly American. We loved to sit on our balcony and watch the evening sea.
Wow! Woke up this morning in Russia, day 2. That was the backdrop. 70-years old today. So what? Heaps of people, and some animals do that. But in my little self-centred world, what a thing. The 60’s was my favourite decade – the 1960s. Amazed I survived that, never thought I would make it to 20, then 30, surely not to 40. My son, Leigh only got to 20 before ending his. Perhaps my own 60s was my best. Who knows? Bottom line; I made it thus far. Still got most of my hair and only a bit has turned grey. I have shit wrong with me but that is normal, I think (heart disease, liver disease, diabetes, stuff like that), but damn don’t I feel great. Maybe not drinking any alcohol since 2005, no drugs since the 1970s, no cigarettes, going to the gym for decades, walking heaps, getting rid of the hep C virus – thanks to the wonders of new drugs, my stents (5), implant, low carb diet for past two years (well we strayed from that on this cruise a bit), no sugar (strayed a bit from that one too), good thoughts and all, and of course the one that makes me glow and still young(ish), Narda. Have I found a way to slow down the aging progress or will it hit me next week?
When we got back after our run amok through Russia there was a birthday cupcake and a card for me. How cool is that? They were not sure what language I spoke so they listed heaps. Lucky gibberish was not on the list.
Today, we did the St. Petersburg Day Two tour crawl. Back to that in a moment because we were talking about me. I am a Leo. I was adopted. I had a bit of a rough trot for the first couple of decades, and later as a single parent but that is all so far behind – though I retained the attention behaviour one does being a Leo and being adopted. The dozen people on our tour wished me happy stuff, even sang to me in Russian, Spanish, and Chinese. And Narda’s grandchildren, age 3 and 5 sang to me on Facebook. In the evening we went out to dinner on the boat to an Italian restaurant. It was our first pay-to-eat dinner. There are several white-table-cloth waiter serviced complimentary places and of course the buffet that is so superb but we actually booked the Italian one and it cost us some sixty bucks but hey, it was my birthday. I had a card in our room signed by the captain – I believe it was a true signature and not a printed one; a birthday cupcake in my room and at dinner we were given a birthday cake and the wine too. Of course, I didn’t drink the wine but Narda did. Drinks are expensive. A beer or a small glass with a bit of wine in it is ten dollars. So we saved about twenty bucks because we didn’t pay for the dessert either. I did eat quite a big chunk and I am sure my body will forgive me in a few days. The Indian waiter offered to sing me happy birthday but I said we were OK. In the evening we saw some singer from the UK, Rob Acre-something. I guess for those into that kind of singing it was OK. He was good – did Stevie Wonder songs and rambled on about his own self a bit, kind of boring.
I made a little clip (two minutes) of the Russian tour guide singing happy birthday to me in Russian, The New Jersey family in Spanish, and a Chinese family in whatever they sing in and Narda’s grandchildren sent me a clip on Facebook which was the best of all. https://yo utu.be/odkR5yaIGBM My son, Sacha, said he made a clip too – but I haven’t seen it yet. Hey Sacha where is it?
St. Petersburg – I will grab Narda’s notes, as they will be better than mine. I was too busy turning seventy and being in awe of the fact I got this far in life.
Today Terrell turns 70!!!
Second day of our tour in St Petersburg. We started the day with a canal tour for an hour.
We booked a nice meal at the Italian Restaurant in the ship. They brought us a small cake, a card form the captain, and then another cake at the end of the meal, and a free glass of wine. All very pleasant. A nice waiter from Mumbai! Then strolled on to the centre area, and watched the small band play rock and roll; we even did a little dancing!
We took a boat road during the day – there is more in the video – I forgot to put it above for today but here is a photo of that boat ride,
By this time, the Russian guide was getting pretty irritating. She talked nonstop about the 18th century history of the czars, interacted very little with us, threatened that we would lose our lunch break if we strayed from the group or caused it to run late in any way. The afternoon at the Hermitage Museum was exhausting, though incredibly beautiful.
On the trip we met a nice couple from Jersey. The guy, Alfredo, would be independent and got lost, or ran late a number of times. The Russian guide was very frustrated with him. I told her that she would always remember this tour group as the “Where is Alfredo” tour. She actually laughed.
Two hours trailing this woman was too much. Actually had to wear these head pieces, she had a microphone, so she could call us back to heal anytime. Blimey! The Church of the Saviour on Spilled Blood is another amazing church, full of spectacular walls and art work.
My impressions, to be brief; would love to have spent more time here. Would have loved to have gotten away from our guide – she made me a bit funny in the head. If someone was into history and religion and art the tour would have been good. I had no idea what she was on about most of the time. She took for granted we knew stuff like she would say, ‘as you would remember about Catherine…. As you would recall about St. Paul…. As I told you earlier about Alexander… Really, she thought we knew shit. None of us did. We all just wanted to take photos and wander around and see how ordinary people lived. The palaces and cathedrals were amazing but we didn’t need to know every grubby detail about every painting, every Russian hero. She surely did not speak well of Germans – I suppose because they dropped a few bombs here and there. She was a real commie, often injecting in her own world view and telling us how much better Russia was before it fell to pieces. Narda asked her some questions about life before the fall of the Soviet Union and she said life was easier then; they all had free education and medical, that now there is much more distance between the rich and the poor. Interesting.
And we walked and walked. Way too often, she would say, ‘you have three minutes to take pictures then we have to go, we are behind schedule’. The Jersey family really annoyed her because they would wander off and we would spend time looking for them. I have taken so many photos and so has Narda. We will try to make albums of specifics as they are worth looking at. St. Petersburg looks like a really cool place and one to be left alone in though I believe there are a lot of steps to go through to do that.
Today we are in Helsinki.
An anti-tour day! Set out with no plans. The best way. After waiting for a little time at the tram stop, we changed our minds and walked into town. We hung about at a pleasant flea market, had a coffee and then continued our walk. Bought some floor and 96c beer at the Aldi down the road, and caught the tram back to the harbour.
Upon our return we tried to take a nap, but I finished up reading for a while. Terrell went off to the gym and a swim, and then we headed to our dinner show, which was a dinner and a show, “Cirque Dreams and Steam”. The dinner was great, really good food. We sat at a table with an English couple who lived ½ year in Spain, and a young German couple. The show was great too, speccie circus stuff with unusual costuming.
This cruising suits us. It is just so relaxing and fun. We do whatever we feel like, when we feel like it. Fantastic.
As Narda mentioned above we went to see “Cirque Dreams and Steam”. A fantastic show. There is some of this performance in our video of this cruise. https://goo.gl/5V1q9i. We were told not to take videos so I took 8 pictures per second which the Nikon D7500 we bought for this trip does. I recorded some of their music too but no one saw that so don’t tell on me.
Here are a few images of hundreds:
Here we are in Stockholm. The approach to the city is a long sail though many islands.
We arrived in Stockholm about an hour late, so tours were thrown in a bit of a tizzy. We were held in the theatre for a time, so that they could dismiss us in an orderly fashion. After waiting too long we gave up and went outside, and hopped straight onto the Hop on Hop off bus. It took us to the old town first where we got off and walked down a lovely narrow street, full of tourists.
We enjoyed a coffee and learned our first Swedish word “tuk” which means thankyou. Don’t know about the spelling J The we walked to a nice market area where there was a Korean Festival. Back on the Hop on Hop off bus, where despite assurances to the contrary, our round the city loop took 2 ½ hours! Making us latish…to get back on board. Panic. We got off the bus thinking a quicker way was in the other direction, but it was not so. Finally we boarded the green line hop on Hop off bus, the conductor was an Aussie who kindly told us “we’ll get you there”. It turned out that this double decker bus, a two story one, was making the run to the ship, with us and 3 young girls as a mercy dash. The driver, a Swede, was so sweet, and reassured us that we were going straight there, no stops. He exceeded the speed limits and actually ran a red light. We have him our remaining Kroners in gratitude. A nail biting ride. We will not do this again.
So back on board, all relaxed again, we ate a decent meal and I slept for an hour and a bit. The evening show was amazing, the best yet! It was the story, with lots of great live music, of the owner of Sun records, who is credited to be the ‘father of rock and roll’ and in the 50’s hosted Elvis Presley, Johnny Cash, some other guys and Jerry Lee Lewis. They were actually in his studio recording all together. Great story and such great playing/music.
We were up and on the balcony taking photos – well I was, at six am. Then breakfast while watching the many islands going into Stockholm. We were herded into the large Gateway Theatre to find out when our hop-on-hop off bus would deliver us to a day of excitement and wonderment. OK we got into port an hour later than planned, then we had to wait for buses. The theatre was full and no one wanted to wait. Narda thought she had insider information as someone told her that the first rows would go to the first buses – I thought we should sit in the last rows as they were closest to the door. Much to our low-waiting skills they chose the back rows first to go to the hop-on-hop-off bus. After a long wait we stood up and went outside. The announcer in the front who was trying to keep us all in control said we should stay inside until our row was called as it was running outside. We were soon off the boat and the rain was actually a few drops. Lucky we did as the hop-on-hop-off bus was there and by the time it filled there was a huge line waiting for another one to arrive. As Narda often points out we should never follow the crowd and once again we were on our way looking at those who were not.
The bus, we were told, would take an hour and a half to make the run through Stockholm, which would get us back before noon, long before the four-pm departure of little boat. We got off in the old town quarters and walked a few blocks of tourist infested streets, settling in for coffee in a groovy, narrow, street. After walking a bit more we thought it was time to get back on a bus and be early back on the boat. After more than an hour, and feeling quite lost, we asked which way to get back the quickest and the non-English speaking driver indicated we should stay on the bus and in 45-minutes we would be to our home, this would get us there at about one pm – cutting our time a bit short. After more than an hour we felt we were going the wrong direction and asking one of the people collecting money on the bus how to get back quicker she said we should get off and go to another stop and get the bus. We even followed her off the bus and rushed to the stop she pointed out. We asked again at the bus stop and were told we were at the wrong stop. It was now after two and we were to be on the boat by three for a four-pm departure. Someone told us it would take two hours – which means our home would be sailing the high seas before we got there. The traffic was intense as any downtown in a major city would be in the afternoon. We tried to get a taxi and there were none. Being in a full-on panic mode we started jogging back to where we got off the bus. When we saw a hop-on-hop-off bus that was red, the same colour as ours; there are two companies in Stockholm doing this and we were told one was ours and the other a different company that we could not ride with, we ran the last two blocks – even crossing a busy road, not at a pedestrian crossing. There were only four people on the bus and we saw it was the wrong bus company but in one of those divine-heroic moments someone said we could get on that bus and it would take us to our dock. We think he sounded Australian – he told the driver in Danish to take us. By now it was 2:40, we were in the centre of town, the dock we wanted seemed forever away, and we were both sweating and quite upset. If you do not return in time for a departure cruise ships leave and it is the passenger’s responsibility to find their way to the next port, which for us was Copenhagen, meaning we would miss out on a whole day at sea. When the bus was on the way Narda went to the driver to confirm we were headed to our dock and he said not to worry we would get there in time. The four girls on the bus were also going to the same boat – OK, ship, and told us that they too were in a panic and that they tried to get onto the hop-on-hop-off bus earlier but it was full and they saw this one and could get on. To end this story, which writing this now a couple of days later, I still feel surges of panic about, the bus did not stop for anyone and drove us straight to the ship which we got to at three, we realised we had until 3:30 but still, when being stuck in the centre of a major city in a traffic jam and being told it would take two hours to get to where we needed to be in one hour is not a good feeling. By the time we got aboard, and sitting in the Garden Café, with plates full of carbs we were still a bit shaky but happy as the ship began to sail out of Stockholm Harbour with us once again stuffing our faces with food. We have not much to say that would be good about the red hop-on-hop-off bus; their WIFI did not work, they got us lost – but the green hop-on-hop-off bus saved our sorry asses for sure – and they had WIFI, which meant I could separate myself from our panic and post photos of us on several social places, giving our family and friends (all five of them) the sense that life was going great for us. The driver even had to call ahead and say we were going into the other buses spaces so to deliver us. If we had not been given this bus ride we would have to had stay in Stockholm, which most people would think was fine, and fly to Copenhagen. OK so no one would feel sorry for us. But we did.
What a great evening. Sailing – sitting on our balcony; the ability to change clothes, which we would have not had if the ship had sailed without us and with all our possessions – and of course having my laptop, the ability to sooth my shredded nerves with Photoshop, and being full and prepared to attend the evening’s performance we were signed up for; ‘The Million Dollar Quartet’. ‘Million Dollar Quartet’ is a recording of an impromptu jam session involving Elvis Presley, Jerry Lee Lewis, Carl Perkins, and Johnny Cash made on December 4, 1956, at the Sun Record Studios in Memphis, Tennessee. The person playing Jerry Lee Lewis was great and hilarious as well as musically amazing, as were the other three musicians. See https://youtu.be/vKpg3PkGlZs for the original video of this moment in history.
Our last day of the course was at sea, from Stockholm to Copenhagen. We got caught up with some computer stuff, I read for a while. At 12.30 we saw “Wine lovers, the musical” where we had a nice lunch and 6 glasses of wine to taste. It was nice. I sat next to a single girl from Atlanta named Megan. In the afternoon I packed the 2 main suitcases. Dinner at the Garden Café, then watched the Finale show in the main theatre, which was great.
And there I am at a wine lovers bash and I don’t drink wine. Also, the appetizer and the main course are parts of animal carcasses. I wanted to say I am on a low-carb diet, no sugar, and could you please be sure my food is organic, but I didn’t; don’t want to sound strange. I did say no wine for me and no meat and no sugar. I am sure there was some eye-rolling going on but I didn’t look. It was a bit of a funny and an entertaining show.
Ringkøbing is a town in Ringkøbing-Skjern municipality in Region Midtjylland on the west coast of the Jutland peninsula in west Denmark. It has a population of 9,717.
August 14, Monday
We left the ship at 8.30, it was all really efficient and orderly. Picked up our suitcase, and were then met by Erik and Bente, who generously drove us around Copenhagen. We saw the Royal Palace and some other beautiful buildings, which we will return to at the end of the trip. Had a coffee with them at the beach, then started our long drive to Ringkobing. It was actually quite easy. A great car, a Citroen van, easy to drive, and the roads are pretty much all freeways. We arrived there at about 3pm.
More stuff: http://neuage.org/e-books/new_for_2017addphotos.htm And my textual imagery is at several sites as I do them: https://www.flickr.com/photos/neuage/ ~ https://youpic.com/photographer/neuage/ ~ https://twitter.com/neuage ~ https://plus.google.com/u/0/collection/E_6JaB and of course on my twitter page: https://twitter.com/neuage And other stuff I do (such as video stories for children and maybe grownups) is at http://neuage.org As every breath is a creative moment, the possible start of a new universe, I only reproduce a few – the rest of my creative breathing time is filled with travel, study (always learning something), Narda, and sleep.