Holland was a hoot. (previous Europe post) We’ll be back. We said that six times before and sure enough we went back. Seems as if we have a January/February 2020 stay lined up. We did a winter stay two years ago; not sure if it is best for bike riding.
As of 09 May 2017, The Netherlands has a reciprocal health care agreement with Australia. Guaranteeing Medicare – aligning reciprocal health care, which is good (for me) and others in similar situations. Getting old and shoving in implants makes travel insurance very high so thankfully we live in a country with good health care willing to share their good karma with eleven other countries: Belgium, Finland, Italy, Malta, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, the Republic of Ireland, Slovenia, Sweden, and the United Kingdom. So, there is our list in the future of places to age gracefully in. Of course, we go to the States in a couple of months for three-months and my insurance for that little trip costs more than the air fare. Not fair. And I am an American. Go figure.
30 August 2018
We left our Airbnb river tugboat, (see, https://neuage.me/2018/12/08/utrecht/) walking ten-minutes to the number four bus and arriving at Utrecht Centraal an hour earlier than we had planned. As we were taking five trains to Hamburg, saving money instead of one train, the ICE, which was twice as expensive, we got the first train to Amersfoort, had a snack at the train station and got ourselves to Hamburg, changing a few times along the way, by four pm. Narda’s friend Mau met us at the station and took us to our hotel a couple of blocks from the subway and a couple of blocks from her house.
We have stayed at the Centrum Hotel Commerz, Altona a few times. It is inexpensive, near Mau’s and the train station and it has a nice breakfast spread. It reminds me of the Fawlty Towers series, not in how the owners act but in how it looks; small, funky, a fussing-about man and his wife, but they are good.
Narda met Mau at a music summer school in Budapest thirty years earlier and they have been friends ever since. We had breakfast together at the hotel the next morning and spent Saturday wandering around the Altona Park of Hamburg, ending at the Elbe River and taking a bus back. Because we have been to Hamburg several times before, most recently in February 2017, we won’t post much here (see “2 February Thursday DAY 69 of trip” https://neuage.me/2017/02/13/two-ponts-and-a-castle/). Suffice to say, we happily got lost and sometimes found how to get to the next spot following a map. And when we are unable to find where we are headed we tend to explore where we are; which is what travel is really about.
We went with Mau to the train station on Sunday and took the ICE to Berlin. Earlier this year we rode many trains in India, including a seventeen-hour overnighter (https://neuage.org/India/). Long story short; the ICE is nice. Choose the quiet car – silence is golden and all that. Of course, people listen to music, videos, whatever, (on headphones) but they don’t talk on phones or to one another, OK, we did talk a bit, but there were only a few people in our carriage. It is an hour and forty-two minutes (yes, the Germans do on-time well, and so do the Indians, usually).
We also met Mau’s parents at the train when we left. It was fantastic to see them again, a family of wonderful musicians. I have enjoyed meeting them a number of times over the years, once also in Australia when Hanno (Mau’s dad, a great jazz pianist) came to watch a big band gig I was playing 2nd alto in (The Little Big Horns). This visit in Hamburg was the first of three times in this trip seeing my good friend and her 11 year old son. Precious times of reconnecting.
Our Berlin hosts, with who we traded houses, met us at the Berlin station and drove us to our new home. They had already stayed at our home in Adelaide a few months ago when we were away in India. Frank and Wally took us out to an Italian restaurant, showed us around Berlin a bit and left us to our own discoveries back at their home. They have a second home and are staying there for the month of September while we make hay with their home. It is a nice German home, very comfortable and full of art as Frank is an artist. Frank and Wally are living in Frank’s art-studio several blocks away. The next day Narda and I spent the day at home, writing, doing photographic stuff and looking at some of the things we would like to do during our month in Berlin. Narda plans our world-trips and I plan stuff to do when we get to where we are going. Of course we overlap but that is the big picture. I have found us an electronics fair to go to and lots of street art things to see. We will do the tourist stuff too. The idea of home-exchange is to live like a local.
In the afternoon Wally and Frank took us to their daughter’s home. A very large apartment in a building from the 1930s. My impression of Berlin was that it was leveled during WW 2 but there are many buildings from the early 1900s as well as some from the 1800s.
We had some really interesting coversations with our new German friends. They are actively involved with helping a young Syrian refugee find a job, learn the language and get settled. It is great to see this side of the ‘refugee crisis’ in Europe. The daughter and her freind also told us some of their experiencees with Osho as their guru. This resounded with us, as we had spent time in Pune, India quite recently in a town where the movement is alive and well, and you often saw the participants walk around our neighbourhod in their maroon gowns.
Our hosts said the best option for seeing Berlin was to pruchase either a weekly or a monthly transportation pass. We have use of their car but we did not use it preferring to ride bikes, walk, and public transportation; also, parking is difficult in Berlin. We bought a monthly bus/train/boat two zone pass for 59 Euros ($68 USD). The only limitation is we can only use it after 10 am which gives a great reason to sleep in.
Monday – we did our first day out, taking combinations of five buses and subways/elevated trains, getting ourselves to the Brandenburg Gate and to the Jewish Memorial.Brochures tell us that The Brandenburg Gate is an 18th-century neoclassical monument, built on the orders of Prussian king Frederick William II after the successful restoration of order during the early Batavian Revolution.
The separation of Berlin began in 1945 after the collapse of Germany. The country was divided into four zones, where each superpower controlled a zone. In 1946, reparation agreements broke down between the Soviet and Western zones. Response of the West was to merge French, British, and American zones in 1947 (sidebar – I was born in 1947, also Israel became a nation and India [Indian independence act 1947] became separate from Pakistan, four days after I was born, and of course the start of the modern era of UFO sightings, in Michigan, where I was born, began.) My friend in India interviewed me for her university magazine saying I was the man who was as old as India. We may have become side-tracked here. Moving on.
From 1961 to 1989 the Brandenburg Gate came to symbolize divided Germany, as the Berlin Wall shut off access to the gate for both East and West Germans. It served as the backdrop for U.S. Pres. Ronald Reagan’s famous 1987 speech in which he entreated the Soviet leader, “Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall.” (So easy to share our observations of what we saw/learned in Berlin with the wall issues and the wall ‘proposed’ in the States – but we won’t).
The Holocaust Memorial, a block from The Brandenburg Gate, is a moving tribute to the Murdered Jews of Europe. As most museums are closed on Monday, including this, we were amongst a only a few people here. The memorial is made up of two thousand, seven hundred and eleven grey concrete slabs, or stelae. They are identical in their horizontal dimensions (reminiscent of coffins), differing vertically (from eight inches to more than fifteen feet tall), arranged in a precise rectilinear array over 4.7 acres, allowing for long, straight, and narrow alleys between them, along which the ground undulates. There is a heap of information including upsetness about the whole memorial on the internet so there is no point in repeating.
On my birth-day, 10 August, 1947, General Lucius D. Clay reported the release of the last 8 million German prisoners of war and the complete destruction or conversion of all armaments plants in the US-occupied zone. The United States became the first of the four occupying powers to release all its German POWs.
For the whole month in Berlin we rode bikes every day. We have access to a car but never used it. The bus and train system are so good. Most busses are double decker, we would watch for one that had empty seats in the front on top and like any children we would scamper up and settle for our day’s journey which most days was to wherever the bus was going or until something looked interesting.
As the parent of a person who actively (interactively) loved piecing/graffiti/street art I have cast my eye in the direction of urban art over the years (decades). My only real participation was my saying to Sacha that if he got permission to spray paint a fence in our town of Victor Harbor, I would even assist him with his ‘work’. Sure enough, he got the permission from a neighbour and one Sunday the two of us were out doing a fence. 1993. I only was ‘allowed’ to fill in some large areas due to my lack of experience; and well, for being old. After many challenging years of parenting a street artist he did come good and has done wall art for councils in Melbourne. So as the pa of a professional street-artist I looked forward to sharing with Narda this world. ‘Urban Nation: Understand the power of art as a social architect’ https://urban-nation.com/. Where does one start with such an amazing place? It is street art, it is younger people (everyone is younger these days), it is protest, it is amazing, and it is good.
And I was totally hooked. This amazing art, so full of colour, drama, beauty and societal comment was so much fun.
There is a new show of international work every few months. We were fortunate to see two shows and to attend a movie night.
Even the toilets are tagged/pieced more than what would be at the local Ikea,
Wall outside Urban Nation Museum
We took too many photos inside and of street art around Berlin to post here but we did make a slideshow that is worth the visit, https://bit.ly/2AxPl8Q. We went one evening to see the incredible documentary, Happyland, by Australian street and contemporary artist Kaff-eine (http://www.kaff-eine.com/);
“art as shelter. film as connection’. Filmed in Manila’s slum: “We created and installed thirty five large art tarpaulins or ‘art tarps’ which featured Kaff-eine’s portraits of local residents. The art tarps were either used to create or improve shelter, or sold and traded for food and other necessities. The installation process was professionally photographed and captured on film.” “Manila’s slum communities are home to millions of poverty-stricken people. The slum residents who experience the most brutal circumstances are the garbage-picking and charcoal-making communities, whose homes and livelihoods are Manila’s dumpsites. In Kaff-eine’s Phoenix 2015 project, the communities of Baseco and Happyland (from a local word ‘hapilan’ for dumpsite) identified a need for improved housing and shelter. In these wastelands, most residents live in makeshift homes built from scavenged, piecemeal materials and located in areas vulnerable to flooding, typhoons, storm surges and fires.” https://www.cheeseagle.com/happyland/
There is a sample on youtube of the film, well worth seeing if it is in your area https://bit.ly/2HjsUdB. The showings were free. There were only six or seven of us there to watch. Perhaps because it was in English. We got to Urban Nation Museum an hour early because we believed it would be packed. We were surrounded by many empty chairs. Look up Kaff-eine on that internet thingy, she is doing some amazing stuff.
A day of sightseeing got us to the F10 ferry from Wannsee to Kladow.
We did this trip a couple of times. The 20-minute trip is free with the standard A-B ticket (it’s part of Berlin’s official transport network); as we purchased a month pass we are taking several of the ‘free’ ferries. The teen idol, Kleine Cornelia, had her first hit record in 1951, aged eight, with a song written by her father. “Pack die Badehose ein” (Pack your swimsuit”) a cheery tune about a group of children going swimming on a hot summer’s day at Wannsee. The Wannsee Conference; where the implementation of the so-called Final solution to the Jewish question, was held along here, we could see the buildings from our ferry. Don’t think teen idol, Kleine Cornelia was singing about this particular beach. The Wannsee House, site of the conference, is now a Holocaust memorial. Berlin is full of unpleasant history everywhere. There is not much to see in Kladow, another suburb of Berlin, but we did go for walks through the local forest and have lunch in it one day. Another day we took the #218 to the ferry for Peacock Island. The bus ride is rather spectacular as it goes for about half an hour through a dense forest on a one-lane gravel road.
“Peacock Island is a world apart, with the fairy-tale castle and the free-roaming animals. From the ferry dock at the southern end of the island, a narrow path leads past lush roses and dense trees to the castle built in 1794.”
Wow! Great hype. We were pumped. Got to the dock and saw a sign saying the ferry was closed for the day due to a strike or some dumb-ass reason. We were disappointed but not for long. In the distance we saw a large ferry coming our way. We got on without knowing more than that it was headed down the river. It was a ferry to Potsdam.
This was our third trip to Potsdam. On the second one we had taken our bikes and bought the AB pass for them. Potsdam is in zone C. One time, in a month of daily riding, we saw an inspector on the train and of course we didn’t have the zone C bike pass. After close to getting arrested (I may have been a bit rude) we paid the on-the-spot fine and continued our ride. Arguing with a German train inspector is … (use your own adjectives, we did).
Actually I will finish that sentence “arguing with a German train inspector is”… pointless. I left Terrell arguing and went with the other inspector (in case I should try to flee) in search of an ATM. We drew the money out, it took a while, but when we returned, Terrell and the female inspector were in happy conversation talking about their mutual travel experiences. See how travel unites the warring nations. 🙂
The best way to see Potsdam in a day, or afternoon, is on bike. There are bike paths around the Schlachtensee, the southernmost of the chain of lakes surrounding the Grunewald (Green Forest). We were even surprised… coming around a forested area, along the lake, to see many naked people. On the footpath, laying on the lawns, basking in the sun alongside the Schlachtensee. I wanted to take photos of the beautiful lake but Narda thought maybe I shouldn’t.
We weren’t looking for anyplace in specific, just riding through parks when we came across Cecilienhof.
Site of the Potsdam Conference, at Cecilienhof, the home of Crown Prince Wilhelm in Potsdam from 17 July to 2 August 1945. Joseph Stalin, British Prime Ministers Winston Churchill, and Clement Attlee, and President Harry Truman hung out together and shared thoughts; how to administer Germany.
Being with Dutch born Narda, we had to find the Dutch area in Potsdam. There are exactly 134 red, two-storey brick houses, arranged on four squares. Known as the Holländerhäuser (“Dutch houses”), they were built for Dutch immigrants between 1734 and 1742. They make up the largest exclusively Dutch housing development outside the Netherlands.
There are lots of cafes, and shops and cool streets to act Dutch in (not quite sure what that means but I enjoyed myself).
Berlin has 5 other public ferry lines. There are links on the Berlin homepage https://www.berlin.de/ and there is a dropdown menu to choose whatever language floats your boat.
The Berlin Wall and The Wall Museum East Side Gallery are main attractions. We spent a few days in this area.
The path goes to Potsdam which is some 20+ kilometres but we only went about five K, stopping little towns along the way and further up where it is wider we saw this big-ass barge with a couple, in our age bracket if not older running it. Narda immediately figures she wants to have a barge and navigate it. Being Dutch, with family members who had tugboats, and other vessels, it is in her blood. Of course, I agree but believe we may be a bit old and foreign to start a career as barge drivers.
When we were not hooning about on our bikes and trains, we took random buses. We do this in most every place we go. Our main criteria is, if a bus stops with empty seats we get on. In Berlin it was if there were empty seats on the second story in the front, so we could feel like flying through the streets of Berlin.
We went to so many places that were so old, we felt young. For example, St. Nicholas Church in Perlin-Spandau started in 1240 and complete 1398. In 1806, Napoleonic troops used the church as an ammunition magazine. In 1944 a bombing raid burnt the tower, but they fixed it back up in the 1980s. They have several things from 1398, the alter is new though, built in 1582. I have the information sheet in front of me here in Adelaide (January 2019) so it makes remembering things from four months ago a bit easier.
There are many memorials around the city such as this one,
We took trams to random places in the former East Germany starting from Alexanderplatz, a huge meeting place in the centre of Berlin. As most places in Berlin the ‘Alex’ was pretty much wiped out, though now there are no signs of anything but modern building throwups. With the many museums we managed to get to two. The American Museum and one and Berlin’s East Germany museum. As we were here toward the end of September we went one evening for the Oktoberfest celebrations but by nine pm we were bored and went home.
In the East Germany museum there were displays of how everyday life in the German Democratic Republic looked during the wall division. I thought they looked pretty much like anywhere in the Western world except every apartment looked the same… wait isn’t that how they were everywhere? There was the chance to drive a Trabant, the most common vehicle in the former East Germany and so Narda did. Unfortunately, I missed that exhibit and have no photos as I was looking at the exhibit about nude bathing… and other interesting parts of German life.
While Terrell was busy with the nudes, I found a display of an old ccommunist era Trabant, which was all set up to have a ‘driving experience’ with an interactive screen and real steering wheel, gears and foot pedals. I managed to get it ‘going’ and drove very fast around the neighbourhood, narrowly missing other cars and pedestrians. It was a hoot. Unitl I finally crashed it into a pole. Oh well. Next.
My favourite Berlin iconic food was ‘curry wurst’. Basically yummy German wurst covered in tomato sauce and sprinkled with curry powder. Simple but good. I clocked up 6 meals.
Berlin has been a traditional hot spot for squatters, initially driven by the multitudes of empty properties left by families leaving the former East Germany. We found an area in the Turkish Quarter (Kreuzberg) with a block of apartment buildings with poetic lyrics on banners hanging about the place. As there is a squatter’s museum we passed we tried to find it again but never did. Our host took us to a large area filled with huge Russian statues, The Soviet War Memorial (Tiergarten) erected by the Soviet Union to commemorate its war dead, particularly the 80,000 soldiers of the Soviet Armed Forces who died during the Battle of Berlin in April and May 1945. So impressive I took maybe a hundred photos but two here is enough.
We went to other free concerts, such as the ones offered at The Kaiser Wilhelm Memorial Church. There is no entrance fee to see inside the ruined church or to bop around the new one. The church built at the end of the 19th century, bombed to smithereens in 1943, rebuilt in the 1960s, still has part of the bombed-out section, including the bell tower. It is quite impressive to see the ruined steeple surrounded by the ultra-modern skyscrapers around it. We attended an organ concert but didn’t make it to any of their other free concerts or paid ones. Well worth the bother to get to this part of town. See their webpage for stuff (in English and other languages too) https://gedaechtniskirche-berlin.de/. inside the new church – zillions of small blue windows – It is located on the Kurfürstendamm in the centre of the Breitscheidplatz. The Christmas market is near the church, this is an active area day and night with buskers, outdoor concerts, souvenir places and shopping centres. (On 19 December 2016, a truck was deliberately driven into the Christmas market next to the Kaiser Wilhelm Memorial Church leaving 12 people dead and 56 others injured). I have this in my Thoughts in Patterns Book 6. (page 27 – print edition) (eBook) (Examine the first fifteen pages for free). Book 6 is from our 2018 travels.
I was taking photos of the area when this little girl walked by, looking at the flowers and memorial to those who had died. (On Google+ here).
Another area we explored was Potsdamer Platz about 1 km south of the Brandenburg Gate and the Reichstag. After developing from an intersection of rural thoroughfares into the most bustling traffic intersection in Europe, it was totally wiped out during World War II and then left desolate during the Cold War era when the Berlin Wall bisected its former location. In the last couple of decades, it has once again become a centre. We took Europe’s fastest lift (elevator for the Yanks), to the top (100 metres or about 30 stories) in 20 seconds. It is the coolest lift. At the top there is a 360-degree view of Berlin. We were there on a clear day and though we could not quite see Australia in the distance we did see heaps. Hitler’s Reich Chancellery was just one block away and many other Nazi government things were nearby as well, and so Potsdamer Platz was right in a major target area throughout the war until it was levelled. When the Berlin Wall, 1961, went through the Platz it stayed in its rubble state. Only one building in the whole area remained. To get a feeling for how it was see the German film Wings of Desire https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wings_of_Desire The film scored 98% on Rotten Tomatoes, meaning it is quite good. There is a YouTube trailer of it at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Og4Y9gbhqBE Or rent the two-hour movie from YouTube at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ehLj4RzUhrs. For more groovy stuff; on 21 July 1990, ex-Pink Floyd member Roger Waters staged a gigantic charity concert of his former band’s rock extravaganza The Wall to commemorate the end of the division between East and West Germany. The concert took place at Potsdamer Platz. The full concert is on several YouTube sites – as is the nature of YouTube, some are better filmed than others. Not sure if there is an official version.
Just a couple of more places/insights. As we often say, “we like to live where we visit”. We try to make minimum stays of four-weeks. Berlin, we need to stay for several months. Everyday we were out and about, though if we had longer we would have had some ‘downtime’, a day at home; perhaps even writing a blog, instead of waiting for three-months later, as is now, to write from memory, Narda’s handwritten notes, my daily textualities, picture-poems, and sorting through, easily, a thousand photos and a lot of video. I am not doing a video for Berlin currently. Just too much else to do in life, and we still have all of Spain to write about.
One of my favourite museums, The Urban Nation Museum for Urban Contemporary Art by far is the best, but up there with the next tier of museums is the American Museum (Allied Museum). http://www.alliiertenmuseum.de Not because I am one of them, but due to its quality of information. It is free, except for a euro to go inside an airplane used during the Berlin Blockade.
A video (in English) tells the daringness of the Yanks during the Soviet blockade to starve out western Germany. We also got to see Checkpoint Charlie buildings. We saw tunnels,how the Yanks did the 1960s in tough times and so much more. Well worth the visits, to see how the locals endured. The last place we will mention is the Spandau castle. We took the train out to the Rathaus Spandau stop (on our bikes). and yes it does look like a girl’s bike, but we don’t call them that. We call them ‘step-through bikes’ as that is their current names and less gender humiliating (for males). I need this type, as at 71, running and throwing a leg over and racing away is difficult!
“Spandau Castle was indirectly mentioned for the first time in 1197. The Margraves of Brandenburg had built it on the site of an old Slavic settlement at the place where the rivers Havel and Spree meet.” http://www.zitadelle-berlin.de/
“The Citadel is home to 10,000 bats every year. They come to sleep through the cold winter. The vaults of the old fortress offer a multitude of hiding places. The brick walls offer one of the most important winter quarters for bats in Europe.” (http://www.zitadelle-berlin.de/en/ )
We went to the bat cellar. Very interesting. I used my phone light to look through the glass. Maybe it isn’t supposed to be done. The bats went nuts flying all over inside their once sleepy enclosure. But we did get to see them in all their glory. Spandau Castle is a good whole day visit. There were maybe five other tourists the whole day we were there. We brought our lunch and thermos of coffee and between the bats and the towers the day was wonderful. Some of the highlights here are the Julius Tower which is the oldest building in Berlin (1500s), which we lumbered to the top of for a spectacular view. The Fortress ‘A masterpiece of Renaissance architecture’ since the 16th century‘ is groovy too.
And that is all we are saying. We loved Berlin, a month is just not enough time there. A short blog like this only scratches the surface of our life in Berlin. We lived life like we do at home or anywhere we nest: we watch Netflix series in the evening, watch Colbert, John Oliver, Bill Maher and other USA real-news in the morning, eat our usual meals which for me is low-carb, organic vegetarian. And with Narda, meat and stuff. Next blog is Northern Spain. Between Germany and Spain, we popped into Great Britain for ten-days. Staying in Horsham, Brighton, and taking a Brittany Ferry from Portsmouth to Santander, Spain, with visits to museums and castles all of which we will share in the Spain blog, coming soon to you, exclusively.
I agree with Terrell; we coud easily have stayed here for 3 months. I think we will probably return. The city has a very special presence. Full of tragedy and courage, and the memories are everywhere. And full of art and creativity. We also enjoyed the Turkish quarter, another different vibe. One of the highlights for me was the conversations with Frank and Wally. Frank has such a lot of knowledge about Berin’s history, but also about the state of the world and I found his insights so fascinating. They are a very generous couple, both in their dealings with us, their hospitality, and also in their work with the refugees. Berlin made a big impression on me.
Thanks for sharing this moment with us.
Terrell Neuage Thoughts 2019 updated 05 February 2019 Adelaide, South Australia
‘Leaving Australia Book 2‘ (new NOW IN PAPERBACK & AS E-BOOK)
‘ Leaving Australia “Again’: Before the After” (See the first ten pages of each for free) Paperback Edition
(This was written 22/08/18 – and posted mid-December 2018. How time flies)
We have a clip over at YouTube – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fBJhZgMqB6A
The Netherlands is like my third or fourth home. USA would have to be first as I was born there and spent about 33-years before nesting in Australia, then nine-years back to New York for teaching. Australia would be second with about twenty-six years. China could be third with three years, but The Netherlands could be my third home; this is my seventh trip here and Narda was born in Utrecht and her family here is my family now too. This time we are only here for three weeks. Last year we were in Utrecht for February. This time we can ride bikes heaps. In February we needed to stop quite often and warm up. Another house-exchange; a bike ride to the oldtown which we are doing today. There is no point in timing our excursions based on phone-maps as we get lost too easy. Yesterday, we rode to Harmelen to visit Tom and Ineke. The GPS said 25-minutes, we got there one-hour and fifteen minutes after starting. Tom and Ineke are Narda’s uncle and aunt. We visit them each time we are in town. A side-story; they visited us June 2004 when we were living in New York. We were standing in the Times Square’s area when news of Ronald Reagan dying was being announced. A reporter with microphone in hand was asking folks questions on how they felt with his passing. The reporter asked Ineke and she said, “I’m Dutch, I don’t care”. It was playing live on the big news screen there on 42nd street. If we could have posted to social media, we would have put a video up. Of course, social media was just starting its run of silliness then.
Another aside, a pretty sad one. Just a few months after we returned home, Tom died suddenly at the 25th anniversary party of my cousin Hans. Tom, although we miss him; he was the last of his siblings to die; he died surrounded by his loved ones.
We took the Eurostar from London to Rotterdam on my birthday, 10 of August. We wrote about that in the last blog-thingy. Overnight Rotterdam in a nifty Airbnb space, had a nice breakfast served to us and were soon out the door. Hello Holland!
We got to Utrecht Centraal about an hour later. Utrecht Centraal is the largest and busiest railway station in the Netherlands. Bigger than Amsterdam, it is all new. From there we got a local bus to our house-exchange. We got settled quite quickly and the next day we were out on our bikes to explore The Netherlands. Well actually we went about ten-minutes along a canal to Maximapark, (https://www.maximapark.nl/).
Maximapark is large, larger than Central Park in New York City or the Parklands in Adelaide to give an idea. We explored that on other days; on our first in this area, Saturday, we went to the Castellum Hoge Woerd (museum).
Castellum Hoge Woerd, situated in Utrecht’s Leidsche Rijn neighbourhood, is a modern interpretation of a centuries-old Roman fort. One day in 1997, contractors building the Leidsche Rijn residential area stumbled by chance upon the entire infrastructure of the Roman borde, the border road, the river and a ship. Their big thrill came when they uncovered the Roman ship De Meern I. This inland vessel from 150 AD had to undergo conservation for 12 years before it could be exhibited. See photo below; not sure where the suites and buffet area of this ship are but it surely does not match the cruise ship we were on a year-ago today.
And we got to see what we looked like back in the day when the Romans hung out in these parts, a couple of thousand years ago.
Even though they have spent their life in nearby Utrecht they had never been to this part or this museum. Yesterday (Thursday the 16th) we were with Narda’s other cousin named Hans and his wife and they said they had never been to this park or to this museum either. We told a few other family members, all living nearby, and none of them had been to it either. And these people travel heaps. Hans number two goes overseas a lot for work, Hans number one and family travel a lot around Europe. What is it in us humans that makes us see the world but not our local stuff even if it is historic. “Hey mate, we just found a 2,000 year old Roman ship in the ground”, “groovy, no time to see it, on my way across the pond to see New York City, Paris, Adelaide…”. I am the same. Tourist sites in Adelaide I have yet to see, if there were any in upstate New York I never got to see them either; too busy seeing the world.
If you come to The Netherlands, give Amsterdam and Rotterdam a miss and go to Utrecht. And if you go to Utrecht check out the Castellum Hoge Woerd and Maximapark. Don’t just come to visit us, we probably won’t be here.
The northern frontier of the Roman empire along the Rhine in the current Netherlands was established in AD 47 and abandoned around AD 270. Ships were used to transport troops and supplies to the frontier zones. Now days we speed around on freeways or ride bikes.
We had our lunch in Máximapark (https://www.maximapark.nl/), watched people go by with carts of children, ducks coming and going, the museum, and generally had a best time ever. Máximapark is a place to see, check out their website for stuff happening like free concerts, Australian tourists on bikes… Máximapark is rated number three on stuff to see in Utrecht.
As everywhere in The Netherlands, Germany… school buses are quite personal. A bike full of children on the way home from school.
We spend so many hours each day riding bikes; so fit, though admittingly very sore at the end of each day. Being me, or being the average guy, I noticed the people passing by on bikes or jogging; especially those in their twenties and thirties, forties, fifties, you get the picture. Such nice smiles. Are those females flirting with me? Do they think I am hot? OK! Reality check, those nice smiles are them thinking of their grandfather, maybe even great-grandfather. Maybe they aren’t sexy smiles, just kind-to-an-elderly-person smile. Thoughts of a kindly, frail, a bit-confused, slightly eccentric, OLD, grandparent. Dam! Dutch women have enchanting smiles. I know, I married one.
Riding bikes should not be a challenge. Narda’s 92-yearold uncle who had two knee replacements, one at 91, rides every day. Sure enough I managed to fall off. Twice. The second time was in the old-town, so many folks on bikes, so fast, I moved over and hit the curve and sure enough not only fell but hit my head, lucky I was wearing a helmet; something locals rarely do. Knocked my glasses off, got a few cuts and scrapes, several people helped me up. Shattered ego.
We rode to Utrecht centrum several days, bought and tasted cheese, and took another armful of photos of the Dom (Domtoren, the 14th-century bell tower) as we do every time we come to Utrecht. We go into details of this area in our previous blogs (2009, 2017, 2006). Of course, our old video clips are the best way to see this area: The Dom, Boating in Utrecht, Old Utrecht and of course the one from this trip = https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fBJhZgMqB6A
Today we went to visit two of Narda’s uncles and a cousin. Remarkable Oom Pete (oom being Dutch for uncle) (remarkable because he had his second knee reconstruction at 91 and is now riding his bike most days). We have stayed with Rienk before and in his 80s is feisty as ever. He has a great German World War 2 boat which he has taken us around the canals of Utrecht.
After two-weeks at our home-exchange we moved to our Airbnb, Tugboat the Anna from 1927, https://www.airbnb.com/rooms/4426214, on the river Vecht. Our host from our house exchange drove us the half hour there which made the transition from a large home to a tiny home easy. We loved the boat and the area. We were here for four-days. The space was small compared to a larger space (and of course a larger space larger than a large space but who is measuring?) but hey, who is complaining? We could bump our head inside our cabin, worry about falling in the river crossing over on the narrow plank to the boat, drop our cameras into the River Vecht or wonder what happens when we poo in the toilet – yes, we can now tell you where it all goes. It goes into the river. Apparently, as we were told, due to the age of the boat, and size, that which goes into the loo goes into the river – directly. Of course, we did not look out the porthole to confirm if anything floated by, saying all that, we did make good meals in the kitchen and spent time riding on the bikes provided.
We rode around the quaint small town of Oud-Zuilen where there is castle, Slot Zuylen Castle. Being the tightwads that we are, we took sandwiches and ate on the lawn of the castle rather than go to the overpriced café and we watched a YouTube video about the castle instead of paying lots to go inside and see it. An economical day out can easily involve packing a lunch and reading internet pages and viewing online clips about the inside of a place. Some museums are surely worth the money and some restaurants are worth the bother but save fifty bucks a day on a three-month trip and that is more than four-thousand dollars. Do a house exchange with a car included and that can be worth more than five-thousand dollars a month. There are ways to do Europe for months at a time on a budget and still have a great time.We found a couple of windmills and did lots of riding on trails into the Dutch countryside. Our hosts in Germany did a four-day bike riding trip recently (Germany is our next blog) and they are 78 years old and they took their cousins with them (both in their 80s). Because of their age they only go thirty kilometres a day then stay at a hotel. Narda’s uncle in Utrecht, after his second knee reconstruction, age 92, rides his bike to his son’s house most days. Hopefully we will still be riding around various countries when we are much older too. The concept of being tethered to a car is a bit repulsive, limiting, imprisoning, crap.
We had thought dragging our stuff out of the boat area would be difficult but there is a bus stop within walking distance of the river which we managed to keep from falling into and we got to Utrecht Centraal a couple of hours before we had planned. The train to Gouda from Utrecht is only eighteen minutes and the walk to our Airbnb took us half an hour. We are still dragging too much stuff with us and as usual are realizing we need less than we have. Our week rental home was an older arty quaint two-floor plus attic house within walking distance of the old quarter of Gouda. We explored the Church of St John ~ ‘Sint Janskerk’ (The Netherland’s longest church)
built for and by the Catholics in the sixteenth century but after the reformation the Protestants grabbed it and have held on to it since.
In our Utrecht clip there are a few minutes of organ music as well as shots from inside this beautiful building. Included with the entrance fee of about six Euros is a listening device which very clearly explains the many huge stained-glass windows – one of the better information deliveries I have found at any museum. Plan to spend at least an hour here to get the low down on all the capers that went on in this neck of the woods. Wikipedia has lots about it over at https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sint_Janskerk and if you want to jump to see just the stained-glass trip hop over to https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sint_Janskerk. My suggestion is to just watch our video – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fBJhZgMqB6A . Better yet check out their page http://www.sintjan.com/ with great photos and stories told. There are many windows like the one below.
Gouda of course is the cheese place and apparently there are seven different types, but I cannot recall which was the best. I think it was the fifth one we tried. We also found out that Gouda cheese accounts for 50 – 60% of the world’s cheese consumption (I read it on the internet).
In the bike-mad country of The Netherlands there is always a better bike – this one below has a bit of a rustic appeal.
Below is a Photoshop rendered image from the centre of town. I manipulate photos for my writings that I post on Twitter (https://twitter.com/neuage), Google+ (https://plus.google.com/u/0/collection/E_6JaB), tumblr (http://neuage.tumblr.com/), pinterest (https://www.pinterest.com.au/neuage/picture-poems-by-terrell-neuage/), behance (https://www.behance.net/neuage), linkedin https://www.linkedin.com/in/neuage) and most other sharing sites.
Below is the town hall. (not Photshopped) Unlike our house exchanges our Airbnb places usually do not include a bike so we rented one for a day and rode morning to night. There are bike paths to country farms and along rivers. We had lunch beneath this lift bridge below – see our video to see this in action. What we found unusual was that it did not lift at one end but the whole bridge moved up.
And that was The Netherlands, again. I wrote a lot less this time because not only have we done this six or seven times before and written heaps then, but our daily life was riding bikes most of the day, making dinner at home and watching our television shows in the evening. House exchanges were best for us as we could live ‘like a local’ and as we would spend more time in one place, life became a pleasant routine. Of course, we shopped at Jumbo, our favourite grocery store. I was able to fulfil my foody-needs; low-carb, vegetarian, slightly-organic, affordable, tasty, Narda-eye-rolling meals. Next up is Berlin for a month, of course if someone in our family was to read this, they would rightfully claim not only are we past Berlin, but we are through our next couple of stops in the UK and headed off to Spain; but, this is a slower process this time. Earlier in the year when we were in India for three-months we wrote every day and posted many videos. This trip we are just living our life – though most mornings I spend an hour or two on my textual-images that I play around with in Photoshop and other programs and I have listed a few of the places I post them above. I do the same thing back in Adelaide and I have been doing textual illustrations since the 1960s – making this a very routine part of my life. We love to travel – the idea of living life on the road or at home in quite the same fashion appeals to me. At seventy-one having routines is quite comfortable and I write every night and have for more than fifty years and most mornings I find a way to illustrate something I had written the night before; doing this anywhere in the world: in a new setting home, on a plane, train, bus, even in a park using my phone makes this a life that has a continuous flow, with everywhere being home. The only difference is I have a shed full of crap back in Adelaide which is nice and for some reason Narda won’t let me carry it all with me. Narda writes as much or more than me, though she does it by hand and pastes in photos of places, meaning she did not write a lot here, though I refer to her notes for a hook to remember things.
Next little blog will be our month in Berlin. Thanks for sharing.
Thanks for sharing this moment with us.
Terrell Neuage Thoughts 2019 updated 05 February 2019 Adelaide, South Australia
‘Leaving Australia Book 2‘ (new NOW IN PAPERBACK & AS E-BOOK)
‘ Leaving Australia “Again’: Before the After” (See the first ten pages of each for free) Paperback Edition
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/
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/