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London2018

Kuala Lumpur to London 07/August/2018

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.

Malaysian Airline Kuala Lumpur to London

Malaysian Airline Kuala Lumpur to London

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.

changing of the guard, view from our balcony, Big Ben having a face-lift, the London Eye

changing of the guard, view from our balcony, Big Ben having a face-lift, the London Eye

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.

Random big-Red bus rides - hanging in front on the top level

Random big-Red bus rides – hanging in front on the top level

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.

Amritsar

Amritsar

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.

We had our flat-for-a-week @ ‘Model Colony’ – a gated community of large almost modern homes – a lot like our previous home in Adelaide at Lochiel Park.

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 street hair-cutter

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.

Khalsa College,

Khalsa College,

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

Sri Harmandir Sahib ("The abode of God"), also known as Darbar Sahib, (Punjabi pronunciation: [dəɾbɑɾ sɑhɪb]),informally referred to as the Golden Temple, is a Gurdwara located in the city of Amritsar, Punjab, India. It is one of the most revered spiritual sites of Sikhism.<br /> Amritsar (literally, the tank of nectar of immortality) was founded in 1577 by the fourth Sikh guru, Guru Ram Das.The fifth Sikh Guru, Guru Arjan, designed Harmandir Sahib to be built in the center of this tank, and upon its construction, installed the Adi Granth, the holy scripture of Sikhism, inside Harmandir Sahib.The Harmandir Sahib complex is also home to the Akal Takht (the throne of the timeless one, constituted by the Sixth Guru, Guru Hargobind). While the Harmandir Sahib is regarded as the abode of God's spiritual attribute, the Akal Takht is the seat of God's temporal authority.<br /> The construction of Harmandir Sahib was intended to build a place of worship for men and women from all walks of life and all religions to worship God equally.The four entrances (representing the four directions) to get into the Harmandir Sahib also symbolise the openness of the Sikhs towards all people and religions. Over 100,000 people visit the shrine daily for worship, and also partake jointly in the free community kitchen and meal (Langar) regardless of any distinctions, a tradition that is a hallmark of all Sikh Gurdwaras. Read some more at https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Golden_Temple, I did.

Sri Harmandir Sahib (“The abode of God”), also known as Darbar Sahib, (Punjabi pronunciation: [dəɾbɑɾ sɑhɪb]),informally referred to as the Golden Temple, is a Gurdwara located in the city of Amritsar, Punjab, India. It is one of the most revered spiritual sites of Sikhism.
Amritsar (literally, the tank of nectar of immortality) was founded in 1577 by the fourth Sikh guru, Guru Ram Das.The fifth Sikh Guru, Guru Arjan, designed Harmandir Sahib to be built in the center of this tank, and upon its construction, installed the Adi Granth, the holy scripture of Sikhism, inside Harmandir Sahib.The Harmandir Sahib complex is also home to the Akal Takht (the throne of the timeless one, constituted by the Sixth Guru, Guru Hargobind). While the Harmandir Sahib is regarded as the abode of God’s spiritual attribute, the Akal Takht is the seat of God’s temporal authority.
The construction of Harmandir Sahib was intended to build a place of worship for men and women from all walks of life and all religions to worship God equally.The four entrances (representing the four directions) to get into the Harmandir Sahib also symbolise the openness of the Sikhs towards all people and religions. Over 100,000 people visit the shrine daily for worship, and also partake jointly in the free community kitchen and meal (Langar) regardless of any distinctions, a tradition that is a hallmark of all Sikh Gurdwaras. Read some more at https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Golden_Temple, I did.

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…

The Wagah Border

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.  

The Punjab State War HeroesMemorial and Museum

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.

We saw a sign that read the theatre was not working – something to do with a bear I think, but when we got there all systems were go.Here is a blurb from their stuff:

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.

The flight is only an hour between Amritsar and Delhi; barely enough time to take another zillion photos out of the window and play with them on the camera.

 

Delhi again

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

  • Take lots of video/photo cards – I filled three 64 gig cards for my Nikon; take lenses – I have an 18 – 55 MM, 55 – 300 mm, and a wide-angle lens. If I could have taken more I would have, but my carry-on with my laptop was already past the eight-kilo weight limit. I would have liked to have brought a tripod but again no room for it. I only used an external mic once, so I could have left that behind.
  • Be organized – Narda put together this trip many months before we left. Most of the train trips had to be booked three-months in advance. I just went along for the ride. However, I did organize my web-content (http://neuage.org/india) well before we left, and our blogs so that we wrote when we were taking a breather from exploring, riding trains, waiting at airports, flying… and I used Adobe Premiere for video-editing and Photoshop for photo-editing, and Dreamweaver for webpage content. All three programs I have been using since the 1990s, and have taught them, so knowing these programs made editing quicker. It still takes a long time; like an hour per minute of video editing.
  • Know where everything is, always, or at least the daily-carry stuff. For me that was camera and lenses, phone, wallet, and prescription sunglasses that are worth close to $400. Narda and I kept track of each other’s stuff at all times too, which helps in these fast moving crowded situations. Usually we lock up our computer(s) where we are staying but this time we didn’t. We even bought a lockable mesh thing to put over a suitcase with computer and passports, important crap in it, but we only used it once on one train. We used our hanging over the bed mosquito net only once too. The air mattresses and pump as a guard against hard Indian beds we gave away to our tuk tuk driver in Agra.  We had three changes of clothes for hot weather and two for cold weather (Shimla) and that was plenty.

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!

Our favourites:

  1. The Pakistan – India Border show
  2. Catching up with our ex-students from China in Pune (Sidhee even had us feature in their university magazine with a title something about ‘the man as old as India’; I had said I was born in August 1947, soon before India became independent from the Brits.
  3. Our visit to Shambhu’s village in Agra
  4. The food – I think the Northern Indian foods with their gravies were tops
  5. Meeting locals and hearing their stories
  6. Meeting other travellers and hearing their stories
  7. Animals – cows in the streets – love it… summing it up with this meditative cow in Agra,
  8. Camal riding in Jaisalmer
  9. Random bus rides – every city
  10. Trains – I think the overnight one stands out – seventeen hours (Jodhpur to Mumbai)
  11. Everywhere we went people wanted selfies with Narda
  12. A day to the village, an hour from Kochi, of Narda’s dentist
  13. The Toy Train and the Single Car Toy Train to and from Shimla
  14. Boating on the backwaters of Alleppy
  15. The fort and Blue City of Jodhpur
  16. Taking thousands of photos and videos – I started with doing video in 4K, but it was eating through my memory cards, so I went down a notch.
  17. Inspiration everywhere – I continued writing daily as I have been for decades and I think I have a lot of material for my next eBook – http://neuage.org/e-books/
  18. Facebook – I know people are saying quit it because of all the privacy stuff (hey Russia, read my posts!) but I have enjoyed sharing our travels with family and friends on Facebook and receiving feedback and of course, ‘hearing’ where others are and what they are up to. I never feel far from family and friends because of Facebook. I only wish we had Facebook back in the 1960s and 1970s when I was exploring the States – on, oh so many levels.

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/

My HomePage is http://neuage.org

Shimla

Shimla

I long had dreams of going to Shimla, based mainly on watching the TV series “Indian Summers”. The setting is a beautiful green valley, with lovely gardens and walking trails. Shimla is NOTHING like that! It is a vertical city, perched on the steepest, largest mountain sides I have ever seen. Each building is above or below the next. A difficult city to get around.

Shimla

Shimla

We arrived on the narrow-gauge railway, built a hundred years ago by the meticulous Brits, to give their ex-pat citizens a place to cool down in the summer. The trip takes 6 or 7 hours about 22 Kms.

The train to here was amazing; see our clip of the Himalayan Queen here

The trains are old and restored, listed as World Heritage. You go over 800 bridges, through 103 tunnels and ascend to 7,500 ft, and there you are; Shimla.

Kalka to Shimla railroad

Kalka to Shimla railroad

The Kalka–Shimla railway Tunnel at Solan

The Kalka–Shimla railway Tunnel at Solan

We are staying in a small village, perched on a narrow ridge on the top of a mighty big mountain.

Kasumpti, Shimla

Kasumpti, Shimla

You look behind houses on one side of the road, and there is an almighty drop, then cross the road to the other side, and another similar drop. Blimey. Today we decided to head to downtown Shimla, where some lovely historical buildings can be seen along the “Mall”.

Mall Road - the main shopping area of Shimla. Walkable - no cars except emergency vehicles

Mall Road – the main shopping area of Shimla. Walkable – no cars except emergency vehicles

So we took the local bus. It is only a short distance, but takes an hour, with crazy turns; the fast-moving bus driving precariously close to the edge of a cliff.

I had to move to the other side of the bus and look away. The return trip was worse, with way too many people squished in, and us trying to stand. Each time when we thought, “no way, no more people, I can’t breathe”, another 5-people got on. The passengers were very good natured, no one got upset at having an elbow in their face, or their nose in someone’s armpit. Everything in Shimla is like that; that’s what I meant by difficult. It’s all a matter of perspective. We have a lot to learn.

See our one-minute video of our  bus ride @

It is SPECTACULAR. The views are mind blowing. The Himalayas just keep on going, as you look towards the horizon, and the mountains get bigger and bigger. So here we are; the agony and the ecstasy.

Kasumpti, Shimla

Kasumpti, Shimla

We have a nice Airbnb, which is gorgeous inside, lots of space and friendly hosts living upstairs. However it can only be reached by going very slowly down a long set of outdoor steps, VERY steep and scary, especially with luggage. We are starting to get used it to it…a bit.

our flat at Kasumpti, Shimla.

our flat at Kasumpti, Shimla.

Our village, called Kasumpti, is becoming familiar. We have the older guy who sells us large bottles of water (you can only buy smaller ones from the other little stores), and eggs at 5 Rs (8c) each, sometimes a bottle of soda water and Cadburys chocolate. The village is just a strip along the mountain. There are often lots of people congregating in a central area, called the bazaar, who are waiting for buses. There is also a wine shop; first we’ve seen in India. I asked about the price of a bottle of Kingfisher. It was marked 85 Rs but he insisted that we should pay 180 Rs, so no-sale for me. Other store owners just charge the price on the item. Oh well.

Yesterday began another hospital day. I had squirties again, and a tummy ache, so I thought, better get onto this early. Our host very kindly offered to walk us to the local hospital. He has never driven a car! I guess this makes sense in this part of the world. The traffic is chaotic; with the road circling those mountains, always with 1000 ft drop on one side and steep mountain on the other. There is NO wiggle room. He told us that several times a year a bus rolls off the road into the gully. Everyone is always killed. I’m surprised that it is not more often. Anyway, you can’t drive up or down the mountain. There are steps which join the road loops around it. So, it’s mainly walking for most people. It’s much further to take the circling roads. We finally arrived at the hospital and I was waved ahead of a longish queue. I walked to the front, apologising to the folks, who simply smiled and pointed the way forward. The lady at the desk, a very efficient woman, who had it all ‘in hand’, said she was surprised that I was ‘a senior’. She then became my new best friend. I got the paperwork done and we (the three of us) sat down to wait. It wasn’t too long before we got to see a doctor in another building, who sent me off to have some tests.

Tenzin Hospital, Kasumpti, Shimla

Tenzin Hospital, Kasumpti, Shimla

We walked back home. Our host had been with us for some hours, a kind man. Today we returned and I had my very first Indian ultra-sound. Kinda cool. The radiologist himself was operating the thing….a wand? He dictated to his assistant the whole time and told me what he saw. ‘probably not appendix’ I have a really sore spot on the right side, which is some sort of infection, ‘needing further investigation’ when we return. Oh well.

The hospital ‘ground floor’ is actually the 7th story. So you can enter from here. Then you go down to the 4th floor (where the ultra-sound room is) and step out the back. When you look down it’s the roof of another 6 or 7 story building. The building seems to be anchored somehow to the mountain side.

Tenzin Hospital, Kasumpti, Shimla

Tenzin Hospital, Kasumpti, Shimla

The other day we took a walk in the other direction, following a very narrow path cut into the mountain side; the same deal. A massive drop to one side, and the steep side on the other. It’s so steep that you can hold you hand up to it to steady yourself. I keep my eyes on the path. I can only look around when I stop. It truly freaks me out. As we progressed, the path got narrower and I had to stop and head back. Terrell was completely comfortable with it, but not me. On the way back, we were greeted by a man sitting outside his house, which basically sticks out over the valley. We had a friendly chat, and he asked us in for a cup of tea. It was really nice. The couple are both retired, speak English well, and it was interesting. One of their grown-up kid’s lives in Chicago, the same as the son of our host. The house is heritage listed, 100 years old. He told us that the forest is also protected, 100-year-old pine trees filled with black faced little monkeys. It really is very beautiful.After our month in Kerala (see our Kerala blog) we stopped in Delhi for a couple of days. As usual we stayed in the Paharganj area in the Main Bazar. We have posted enough clips of that bustling area in previous blogs. We stayed at Hotel Hari Piorko with a fish tank in our room.

Hotel Hari Piorko in Paharganj area in the Main Bazar of Delhi, India

Hotel Hari Piorko in Paharganj area in the Main Bazar of Delhi, India

Our first room didn’t meet our requirements; i.e. the TV didn’t work, the bed was too hard, we couldn’t plug our computer into the powerpoint… so we got them to change our room – something which happens surprisingly often. We enjoyed our stay; the next room was good. I did worry about one of the fish in the tank – it looked depressed, didn’t swim around with the others, and kept to herself. Narda said it was a ‘bottom-feeder’ and that was perhaps its normal behaviour. It did move about a bit but she did not respond to my tapping on the glass. Maybe I should reassess my communicative style with females.

The rooftop restaurant was good both for the view and food. We had an Ayurveda massage and I got some Ayurveda crap for my hair; allegedly makes it grow thicker, longer, healthier, and perhaps will awaken my brain-cells clustered at the foot of my hair follicles.

Kalka

Kalka is a town in the Panchkula district of Haryana.

We arrived on the train from Delhi at 11 pm, staying at the $16 USD/night,  Kalka Hotel Dharam Villa, which was a good hotel. They made us a great omelette breakfast the next morning. The room was clean and the shower sort of OK. I think it was our cheapest place in three months of travel. We paid $22 USD for it on the way back a week later due to it being high season for tourism.

We grabbed a smoothie on our way to the train station in the morning,

Kalka fruit stand

Kalka fruit stand

Got a tuk tuk to the train station and got on the toy train.

Kalka Shimla toy train

Kalka Shimla toy train

On the way to the train I saw a very distressed horse with a sore foot. I spoke at great length with him and Narda and I went out to find an apple for him, but as we do, we got side-tracked and when we went back the horse had disappeared. He was obviously in pain. Someone had put on a plastic bag and tape, but the poor thing was not happy.Solan

The trip from Kalka to Shimla is about six-hours. We went for four hours, stopping at Solan.

Solan is our first venture into the state of Himachal Pradesh (listen), literally “snow-laden province” which is situated in the Western Himalayas with such groovy borders as Tibet and Kashmir. See the map that I borrowed from Wikipedia.

Folks have been enjoying the cold and heights for heaps of time, for example, the Indus valley civilisation flourished here between 2250 and 1750 BCE – so after more than four-thousand years one would think this is one of the more advanced areas of civilisation in the world. This is what we are in a quest to find. Is there an advanced civilisation in the world or are we all just muddled bystanders to the winds of fate? We Westerners like to think we are the top of the pile but watching the news I think we are the bottom-feeders. To read more about Himachal Pradesh check out Wikipedia’s article at https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Himachal_Pradesh.

 

Folks have been enjoying the cold and heights for heaps of time, for example, the Indus valley civilisation flourished here between 2250 and 1750 BCE – so after more than four-thousand years one would think this is one of the more advanced areas of civilisation in the world. This is what we are in a quest to find. Is there an advanced civilisation in the world or are we all just muddled bystanders to the winds of fate? We Westerners like to think we are the top of the pile but watching the news I think we are the bottom-feeders. To read more about Himachal Pradesh https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Himachal_Pradesh  Wikipedia’s article.

Solan one of the first stops on the way to Shimla. We stayed overnight here so I could adjust to the altitude. In Quito, it is ten-thousand feet and I got quite sick.

Solan one of the first stops on the way to Shimla.

We stopped at Solan at a height of 5,000 feet (1,600 metres) so I could climatize to higher altitudes before hitting the 8,000-foot mark in Shimla. Years ago, in Quito, Equator, at ten-thousand feet we had to get off the mountain due to my not being able to breath. Of course, even in small towns Narda finds things we ‘need’. Solan is a city that reminds me of a medieval European city with narrow streets and oldness, a bit more mildew and more trash about the place with a few cows standing in the middle of the street looking overwhelmingly content and people speaking Asian, Solan is tops for us. One night, two days is not enough to hang out here. In the evening from about 6 – 10 the main street is blocked from traffic so the locals all go out for a stroll; so cool. We stayed at the Mayur Hotel Bar And Restaurant, http://www.mayurhotelsolan.com/ an adequate space at $26 USD/night. There were no fish tanks in the room but good just the same.

some 1960s hippie throw-back overlooking Solan or was it overlooking Shimla? These mountain sites are so similar

India is known for its sweets – and once again I gave my sugar-free diet a rest… as well as Narda did so likewise,Narda has posted about the toy train to Shimla. The only downside was that there was a narrow path to the train station, so we were unable to get a tuk tuk from the town of Solan to it. The night before we really struggled to get up the hill with all our crap, plus it was raining so we were on the bit of a self-pity side of life when we finally did get to our hotel.

Coming back was fine with it being down a steep hill to the station. There are more than one-hundred tunnels between Kalka and Shimla – this one is next to where we were sitting at the station. People pass through them, I suppose as a shortcut, which explains why the train sounds its horn when it gets to each tunnel. For those of our multitude of readers (I think we have four or five family members who feel obliged to skim through these long winded things) who are familiar with the children stories about Flat Stanley http://www.flatstanleybooks.com/  I am sure one could think of that being the result of folks who do not obey the train whistle warnings.

The Kalka–Shimla railway Tunnel at Solan

The Kalka–Shimla railway Tunnel at Solan

The train made several stops and we all piled off. At one of the stops, children lined up to have their photo taken with Narda. Not sure why she is always so popular (more than me – but I am not complaining – just wondering what I can do to get as much attention) – this has happened for many years in many countries. A selfie with Narda is just so cool for folks. I know I do it too. The carriages are smaller than regular Indian trains as they are on narrow gauge tracks. There are toilets in the front and back of each carriage. The distance from Kalka to Shimla by rail is 97 kilometers with several bends, 102 tunnels, 988 bridges and 917 sharp curves. It takes more than six-hours to make the trip up.Last year, the train had met with an accident near Dharampur while it was travelling at a speed of 28 km/hour. The driver was dismissed for speeding. The one we were on went considerably slower, making leaning out the window to take photos and video easy, though Narda gets nervous as I go out the window or door to get footage. Our favourite sign along the way at one of the stations on the way up to Shimla. Now, a week after Shimla, in Amritsar, the centre of Sikhism (that story is next) we are learning this is the crux of what the Sikhs have to say.

Shimla

Shimla (  listen), also known as Simla, is the capital and the largest city of the northern Indian state of Himachal Pradesh. The climatic conditions attracted the British to establish the city in the dense forests of the Himalayas as the summer capital, from the 1940s. The main shopping area is Mall Road in the centre of the city. It is closed to traffic except for emergency vehicles, making walking rather pleasant. There are many monkeys around the place – I liked this bold one.

See our clip of our week in Shimla

And of course, Narda got more folks rushing up to her to get a selfie – no one asked me.We had a nice Airbnb, Narda wrote about this above. We were on the edge of a forest area and often monkeys would be everywhere. The photo below is moneys at our house – one was licking the wall. Narda captured one of their capers this morning; I had put out a bag of trash, hearing lots of noise, a monkey was taking a few prized possessions out of the bag – we didn’t record much, so it does not show that there were six or seven soon after at our door. They are very bold and used to humans. Narda’s sister, Caroline, was bit by one a couple of years ago in Indonesia and had to have shots.

See the short clip of our monkey-thief

Narda has written about our stay in Shimla. I will just add that it is one of our memorable places we have visited. We would not do it again as it was a bit difficult for us. The narrow roads, steep drops, climb down and up to where we lived, and our flat; two-bedrooms, two bathrooms, large lounge area, lots of English news stations and easy to plug in our HDMI cable to watch our latest series of our computer, ‘The Last Ship’, and the Netflix documentary on the Rajneeshees, ‘Wild Wild Country’ – we were just in Pune for a week, even stayed at an AirBnB run by a couple of their devotees and last year we were in Oregon, their US Centre – so we are quite interested in their stuff. Of course, you can reread the ‘Pune’ blog about this. And the other difficult part for us, the elders, was that there was no heat. It would be five-degrees Celsius (41 Fahrenheit), cold for us, warm for our New York family and friends, in the morning. There was no shower, as we have done in other places, we used the bucket provided and got enough warm water to dump over our shivering bodies. During the day it was warmer, outside, but for a week, we never got warmed up in the house. We wold wrap up in blankets in front of the TV. The other minor complaint we have had before is that beds are incredibly hard. Luckily there were enough quilts to pile under our sheets to make it bearable.

These houses are built not only on mountainsides but in areas that are not accessible by vehicles, every brick, window, roof tile, everything is carried in. We have seen men with washing machines on their backs, 50-kilo bags of cement mix, and so much more. When we left our flat we were unable to carry our suitcases up the hill and paid a man to carry them; he took two suitcases and a bag of our not-needed crap (hey family we bought you each something) all together on his back.

KSR railcar on The Kalka–Shimla railway

We took the railcar – a single carriage train back down the hill. 8,000-foot drop in four hours. As it left Shimla at 5 pm we only had an hour of daylight. After dark I spent a few hours catching up on our writing and video editing, all the things I seldom have time to do as we keep adding more experiences to our trip. There was only one stop along the way and we all ran to the toilet and grabbed a bite to eat then we were on our way. We stayed at the same hotel in Kalka that we stayed at coming up.

See our clip of the Shimla to Kalka Rail Motor Car   – about two-minutes

We only had a few seconds to see the sunset as the mountains covered the setting sun most of the way. This was not touched in Photoshop. Do the Shimla trip once in your life.

Kerala

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

Thiruvananthapuram

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.

 view from our street
The food is so cheap it’s embarrassing! We pay less than $US3 for a meal for the 2 of us, with drinks. So we try to tip them a bit, but they won’t have it.

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).

Thiruvananthapuram Zoo

Thiruvananthapuram Zoo

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.

Padmanabhaswamy Temple The temple is built in an intricate fusion of the indigenous Kerala style and the Tamil style (kovil) of architecture associated with the temples located in the neighbouring state of Tamil Nadu, featuring high walls, and a 16th-century Gopuram.

Padmanabhaswamy Temple The temple is built in an intricate fusion of the indigenous Kerala style and the Tamil style (kovil) of architecture associated with the temples located in the neighbouring state of Tamil Nadu, featuring high walls, and a 16th-century Gopuram.

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.

Kovalam

Kovalam

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.Lighthouse Beach (Kovalam)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.

Villa Maya Heritage Restaurant

Villa Maya Heritage Restaurant

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.

Varkala

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.”)

Varkala Cliff

Varkala Cliff

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.

Alleppey

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.

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 recommendedhttp://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.

St Joseph’s

St Joseph’s

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.

https://youtu.be/QMkoqmTnN1Y  

 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.

Panampilly Nagar

Panampilly Nagar

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

Kundannoor Bridge in Nettoor, on Panangad Island which is a part of the Maradu Municipality

Kundannoor Bridge in Nettoor, on Panangad Island which is a part of the Maradu Municipality

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.

Vembanad, the second largest lagoon in India

Vembanad, the second largest lagoon in India

Vembanad, the second largest lagoon in IndiaVembanad, the second largest lagoon in India

Vembanad, the second largest lagoon in India

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.

‘god of cricket’, Sachin Tendulkar.

‘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.

When we take random buses too far from home we help tuk tuk drivers find our way – sometimes it takes a village to find our home.Chinese Fishing Nets

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

Chinese Fishing Nets

Chinese Fishing Nets

Metro

Kochi Metro: Welcome to the most advanced Metro System in India

Kochi Metro: Welcome to the most advanced Metro System in India

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.

Jew Town

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/

My HomePage is http://neuage.org

Mumbai

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/

My HomePage is http://neuage.org

next blog PUNE

Jodhpur

Jodhpur 05-07/February/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)

  • Blue colour has been associated with Lord Shiva and there were lot of Brahmin followers of Shiva, they consider blue colour to be sacred.
  • Blue colour has psychologically most soothing effect. That is one of the reasons why Facebook is blue. Mark Zuckerberg said so. (See, “Why Facebook Is Blue: The Science of Colours in Marketing” @ https://blog.bufferapp.com/the-science-of-colors-in-marketing-why-is-facebook-blue
  • Blue colour reflects most of the heat. This could be the most important reasons for keeping homes cooler in the city of jodhpur which is one the cities of India receiving highest solar power per unit area.
  • Blue colour paint is the mixture of limestone and Copper Sulphate mixed in water and applied directly to the walls inside as well as outside homes thereby copper sulphate imparting its Rich Blue colour.
  • There are two possible geographical reasons for colour being blue
    a) Copper is an abundant mineral in Rajasthan thus copper sulphate was easily available,
    b) Indigo Plantation; There has been historical evidences of Indigo Plantations in Jodhpur and nearby regions. Indigo dye was used for making the blue colour
  • I like blue – but that is most likely not the reason Jodhpur painted their houses blue. We are at the Singhvi’s Haveli heritage family guest house. From their website http://www.singhvihaveli.com/; “This haveli is more than 500 years old. This was being built at the same time with the fort. The family is living in this house for last 400 years.” It is rated #1 of 196 B&Bs / Inns in Jodhpur on TripAdvisor.We had a very good breakfast here for a total (coffee, cheese omelette, toast, yogurt) of $4.50 USD for the two of us. We got the cheapest room, they have some very large suites for a few dollars more, but I did not want to climb a lot of stairs, the bed is soft, the shower is budget but does spit out some hot (warm) water after a while. Overall this is a good place to stay with several hippie types (excuse my 1960’s San Francisco mentality) spaces.

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)…

 

 

Jaisalmer

01 – 04 February 2018 Jaisalmer, Rajasthan, India

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/

My HomePage is http://neuage.org

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Jaipur

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.

Below is the Hawa Mahal (palace of winds) which is really just a front – there is no building in back.
Jaipur Pink City

Amer Fort...

Amer Fort…

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.

even with Delhi Belly shopping is good

even with Delhi Belly shopping is good

And there is always someone to ask for directions, even if everyone points a different direction.

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/

 

 

 

India2018: Agra

Travels through India with Terrell Neuage and Narda Biemond. India 2018 itinerary   Previous blog: Delhi

Wednesday 24/01/2018 Agra

We were up at five am after not sleeping well all night from waking up constantly to be sure we were awake at five am. We had our phone alarms on (my wake-up ring tone is a Dylan song ‘She belongs to me’ and Narda is enough to drown out a freight train) plus the hotel was to bang on our door but we were up before then. Still we worry.

We got a tuk tuk to the train station that even at 6:30 am was crowded with zillions of people all over.

We had a nice chat with a couple of police people while we waited. They helped us get on to the correct carriage, which in our case was first class seats for the two plus hours. See  below.

The train seats were comfortable – not Amtrak comfortable but Indian good. Our first train on this three-month trip. We got breakfast served (cornflakes, milk, coffee, and a hot meal of eggs and something which we declined as we had breakfast at the train station. An uneventful couple of hours with some reading done. Shambhu, our tuk tuk driver for the next three days greeted us with our names on a sign and we settled into Hotel Sheela near the Taj Mahal and after eating at the hotel we slept. The hotel is quite basic, we had booked the basic room for $23 USD for two nights, but apparently it was too basic for us uptown folks (no hot showers, and small) so for $53 USD we got a hot shower and a larger room for two nights. We thought the beds in India were going to be too hard, so we brought a couple of blow-up mattress and a pump which puts our luggage over weight for internal flights. The beds so far are good, thick foam, after two stays we gave them away to Shambhu.

With Delhi we were tossing out blogs a day, videos, photos galore, now we are too busy to do any such thing. Or we were, I am writing this on the night train to Jaipur, with Narda, and everyone else in our carriage asleep. When we get there I will be stuffed, but then I should sleep, Narda will be reading her Kindle for the rest of the night. The last couple of days have tested every fibre of this seventy-year old and I am sure Narda-the-younger feels exhausted also. Of course, she has been asleep for the past three hours on the berth above me. And this morning I woke her at eight am, so we could get out the door; such is the life of an old person.

We did the Taj Mahal thing Wednesday morning, a very foggy morning – barely saw it. An hour later when sun decided to shine and chase away the fog we got a couple of photos. It is somewhat impressive, the fact that it has lasted so long is a testament to something.

I have always liked cows, from living on a dairy farm in Australia to not eating them since my parents may have slipped something onto my plate in the early 1950s and throughout the early 1960s that may have had cow chunks in it, cows have been an interesting topic of observation for me. My email image of the past ten years has been with me walking alongside a cow in Goa.  In Delhi, Agra, and now Jaipur I have had many photo ops with cows. So many in fact that Narda has put me on a cow-band. I will include a couple here just to remind myself of these days.

We met our tuk tuk driver in the afternoon and went to a carpet weaving place.

Shambhu was recommended to us by Narda’s work colleague, Brother Rob. He has been using his services and those of his family for a period of about 30 years as he made frequent trips back to India. This family of tuk tuk drivers has become very special to Rob, and he has many great stories to tell.

We visited Shambhu’s village. One of our favourite visits, ‘the real India’ he said. The video below is a bit blurry, something I blame on very poor internet for uploading but it does give an idea of this village. Shambhu is getting married in a month and he explained the process to us. His brother arranged a girl from the same class; in his case the ‘shoemaker class’. They meet at McDonalds. He asked if she like him and with an affirmative she asked if he like her, and thus began their romance. They met one-another’s families and when we met Shambhu he was in the process of building his new home; an add-on room to his brother’s home. There will be no floors, outside of what the earth provides, he has the bricks and has started digging out the sandy soil for a foundation. They have a well for water for their area, provided by Brother Robert, who brings students from his school in Australia. It will cost some 50,000 rupees to build his new home; about $776 USD. Shambhu is working hard with this tuk tuk business to raise the money. If he can not build his house in the next two months he will lose his bride as her father wants her provided for. She is 19, he is 25. He is also raising funds for the marriage. I forget how much it is but it is supposed to be a three day affair with a horse and bands and lots of celebration. Travel gives us such a different view of life-styles. Narda and I met on the internet, from the day we physically met at the end of 2000 until now we have rarely been apart. My marriage proposal was one night when, in the middle of the night, not even knowing whether Narda was awake or not, I said, ‘let’s do this thing’. That was it. I could not even use the word marriage for a long time. We did the deed with family present at the end of a pier, and I called it ‘JettyDay’. At the time I didn’t have a car, I was a single-parent, a few bucks in my pocket, and I didn’t even give her a ring. What a contrast to an Indian hitch.

The class thing takes awhile to get one’s mind around, but we have heard people mention it wherever we go. People will tell us on first meeting, ‘I am of the Brahmin Class’ which I believe is a priest class and they feel they are at the top of the heap. It seems strange to identify with birth as the totality of one’s place in life. Of course, it is easy for me as a white male from a western culture (with my duel citizenship of USA and Australia) to say one can achieve whatever they wish. I sure have. I realise I need to get over myself and understand how society has limited people by race, gender, place of birth, belief systems. I always thought by now, 2018, the world would be more homogenous. Maybe religion would be replaced by doctrines of love without doctrines. We would treat each other equally. I think it is getting worse. America First as well as anyone else who proclaims themselves first is putting us back into the class systems. Everyone is to get in the back of the line. I must be careful when I think a tuk tuk driver is over-charging me 150 instead of 100 rupees ($2.33 instead of $1.55 USD). A cup of coffee in most shops in Australia is about $4 (204 rupees), a beer in a pub starts at $8 (408 rupees). Our daily budget for food in India is $20 USD (sorry about switching between USD and Australian Dollar) for the two of us which is about one meal if we are doing it on the cheap in Australia. We feel good about ourselves giving a beggar a twenty rupee note until we realise we just gave away 30-cents. India is tough on a western consciousness.

Narda even played a bit of cricket with the children.

Shambhu and his sisters made us a meal. We were concerned about getting to the train on time. He kept saying we would be there on time, and he did do it. Was I feeling uneasy being waited and eating a meal surrounded by about twenty children. I said feed them first and we were told there was plenty for them. What I saw didn’t seem like it. The meal was cooked in their kitchen, a small open fire on the ground with a few vegetables. Letting go is such a difficult thing. Perhaps this is what I will learn in three months of being in India.

We were told that the school situation was good for people with money, they could send their children to a private school. Public school was a different story. Teachers are paid a salary. They do not show up, except a couple of times a year when there is an inspection. When we were there on what should have been a school day, children were all over the place. We went up to the roof and 360 degrees around us there were children on the rooftops waving to us. We did not share a language but they were smiling and we all laughed together. Narda taught them a song – see the clip below.

Village visit =

Shambhu took us to the local market with everyone smiling and saying it was OK for me to take their photo. We didn’t buy anything, no one seemed to worry. Around historic sites it is a different story with so many people asking for money, selling tours, trinkets, pity. What would I do in their situation? I have had my hardships, tragedies, failures, and success in life but nothing compares to the stories we get and the situations we see. I feel I get beggar fatigue. But I feel somewhat good about animal life in India. I am sure I will go on about this too many times. Unlike cultures of animal-eaters (goody-two-shoes vegetarian for decades me gets a bit judgemental in this space) the animals in India receive more respect. Cows are holy. They wander everywhere. Nutritionally their life is crap as they forge for themselves among the garbage, but they get to live their lives, hangout with each other. The calf is not separated from the mother at birth so we can steal the milk, pigs and chickens are not forced to live in such totally unnatural conditions where they can barely move, let alone socialize, so we can slaughter them to get fat on.

We had no intentions on purchasing a carpet – what would we do with an expensive new rug in our home that we are trying to get rid of stuff from? We watched how rugs were handwoven, months of works, and such an array of amazing colours. Then we thought of our home back in Adelaide. A bit dated, needing new style, something different than our Chinese collections of things dotted around, then we remembered how we have no second thought of replacing a camera or computer for a thousand dollars every few years; phones, television, constant car/caravan servicing, etc. A handwoven carpet should last for a long time. We were told it also would help several families.

This is the carpet we bought. We will now need to redecorate our lounge; oh wait, the house, the next day we bought three more: two for our bedroom and one for the hall. We need new curtains, we will paint the lounge when we get home, maybe even some new furniture. It is amazing what one can do a month after saying no more spending on the house.

the two for our bedroom: handwoven months of work,

And the one for our lounge;

And the one for our hallway (in the middle)

We were told this took five months and three-months of work to make. That is about how much we had to work to make the money to pay for it (not really – but they were not Walmart rugs.

Carpet – here is a video we took of them making a carpet:

We went to a music store where we were given a sitar concert and Narda was taught how to play a sitar in a few lessons. Of course, they wanted us to buy one but we didn’t.

We went to a marble shop and saw how marble pieces were inserted into tables and things. Tuk tuk drivers get a small commission for taking tourists to places like this. There is no pressure to buy anything; we did go nuts at the carpet place, but other places we just look and make it clear for the start we are not buying. They are happy to show their wares and the tuk tuk driver gets something and we learn from everyone we meet and there is always my ever-present camera taking photos or video. I made a rather uninteresting video which can be seen here Marble factory

Agra Fort video

Agra Fort is in the city of Agra. It was the main residence of the emperors of the Mughal Dynasty till 1638, when the capital was shifted from Agra to Delhi. Compared to the Red Fort in Delhi it is much more spectualar. The fort in Delhi was going through a reconstruction cycle but even without that the Agra one is bigger and better. It was India Tourism Day so we got to have our photo taken with some foreigners. Narda got them all to do a round of “Aussie Aussie Aussie” and them to say “oi oi oi”. I did not get my camera up in time to record it so just imagine it.

Video Clips are HERE

Terowie

5 April 2017
Terowie, South Australia

Terowie, South Australia

Terowie, South Australia

Robert said he heard his mate calling him from mid-north SA. So he and his wife packed up, and moved there. They bought a house for $90,000 opposite Robert’s mate’s garage. He told us about the murders in Terowie.

“Just like Snowtown”, he said, “Maybe worse. These victims were buried in a wall.” (any American reading this may like to Google “Snowtown murders, South Australia…chilling reading)

It was a warm Saturday night, around 8 o’clock when all the young ones are out partying, or having expensive dinners. Not in Terowie. There was one young one. We saw her sitting on the swing in the local, nicely kept, playground. This was in the afternoon, on the Saturday. We returned later and she was still there, swinging.

But the boys were out, with cans of West End, sitting on upturned buckets and some old car furniture, shooting the breeze with Robert’s mate. This was where and when we found them. We had just set up camp on the nearby railway siding. We were feeling quite pleased with ourselves, with our shady little spot, free, and our new bike rack.

Then we discovered one major puncture in one of our bikes. Bugger. We remembered passing this servo on the way in, so we walked along the main street till we found it. And there they were. Action in Main Street. Having nothing to lose we asked the mechanic (Robert’s mate) if he might have time to fix the hole.

He said, “No worries”.

Nice bloke. He was the only one working, among the boys and their West End cans. We returned later and joined the friendly banter. That’s when we learned of Robert’s life story, his mortgage, the murder and many other things. In the end the mechanic refused to charge us. Blimey. We felt a little humbled.

That is Terowie. A little town at the end of its life. In its hey-day there were 2000 folks living there; a town of lovely stone buildings, a bustling railway town, where broad gauge trains have to unload their passengers, their animals and their goods, and reload them onto narrow gauge trains, heading north.  Now the town is sad. A few buildings; the blacksmith, the old post office, and the old general store have been converted into museums, but there’s no-one there.

And yet, it keeps on. A big “RV friendly town” sign welcomes you as you drive in. The toilets in the main street are kept clean by an unknown person, for the convenience of Grey Nomads, who camp at the railway siding for free. The mechanic, who is also the owner of the large Victorian hotel, used to offer counter meals. He recently decided to stop, because “the pub in the next town is also struggling, and there are not enough customers for us both”.

Why is this? There is a giant wind farm only 20 minutes south, with millions of dollars invested in hundreds of giant wind mills. Why is this not bringing some wealth into the area? Robert, who knows such things, told us that the money goes to NSW, and we don’t get any benefit as a state, certainly none as a town.

Hallett 2 Wind Farm Mount Bryan

Hallett 2 Wind Farm Mount Bryan

 

So there it is. We spent three days there; but it made quite an impression. The town has treasures, like absolute silence; what an unusual gift, and clear black skies where you see the colours of planets. It is enough. And if you’re wondering about the bodies in those walls, ask Robert. We have no idea.

ask Robert

ask Robert

Our Video – with kangaroos and real outback footage and heaps more – for first time internet users click on the white arrow in the image below – everyone else do the same.

Our first stop, real stop, not counting Elizabeth twenty-minutes from home was in Saddleworth, in the Gilbert Valley, approximately 100 kilometres north of Adelaide.

Wanting to be accurate I looked up Krispy Kreme store-locator. I am sure it is Elizabeth but I wanted to be sure. Perhaps their IT department needs to work on their location finder. It said the nearest one was in Missouri and Google provided a map to there which was most helpful.

Krispy Kreme location finder

Krispy Kreme location finder

 

Saddleworth is definitely a town that looked worth exploring. There is a caravan park there but we did not see a free site so we kept going.

saddleworth

Saddleworth

We were having a bit of a bother with our Pajero which had an engine light warning. We had it looked at and some minor repair but ‘Billy’, our Pajero (our caravan is “Holiday”) was feeling a bit under the weather and the further we went the worst he felt. By the time the trip was over we could barely make it up a small hill even in first gear. Currently Billy is booked in for surgery next week and Holiday is at the caravan shop getting a review of her situation with some add-ons such as solar panel so we can go further afield and do more free camping. We did limp into Terowie, a town we had passed through several years earlier. I even bought a fridge magnet there. This time the town was very quiet and though the entrance sign boasted 150 residents, most of those have since gone and places are for sale at bargain prices. We looked at the post office that was for sale for $105,000 with land, four bedrooms, all modernized with beautiful floors – I want to be the mayor of Terowie and being a Leo is really all the qualifications I need to succeed and Narda could be the post master.

We were alone at the free-camping along the rail-line the first night and the second night there were four others. The area was so large that everyone was very spread out and we did not have any contact which is fine with me but Narda likes to meet people and get stories such as above. I just want to be in a quiet place to write a novel or another version of my memoirs. (you can read my  original version of ‘Leaving Australia’ @ http://neuage.org/e-books/

We chose this town in part due to the flatness of it. After six-weeks recently in Holland and riding every day – even in the snow (this was January – February 2017) we were up for riding more. Our house in Adelaide is in a bit of a hilly area so we rode heaps – though there was not far to go; one end of town to the other – well there is five-minutes of our life gone. We did ride around the ‘suburbs’ which took another fifteen-minutes. This is a photographer’s dream place. I did not get anywhere near the amount of photos a ‘real’ photographer would have gotten. There are four or five old churches on one street, not Main Street, a couple old pubs and lots of buildings.

This was an important train stop between Adelaide and the North. One of their main claims to fame here is that General Douglas MacArthur paid a visit here with his family after WW II. For Australians MacArthur was some military dude for the USA, a five-star general – which is a lot, who was quite important during the time he was important.

General Douglas MacArthur

General Douglas MacArthur

We decided to go to a place called ‘World’s End Reserve halfway back to Adelaide. Due to a combination of not getting internet where we were and our GPS, which hates us (I have spoken of this in a previous blog) we got hopelessly lost on a gravel road and never did find the place.

World's End Reserve

World’s End Reserve

We got to Eudunda, found some free camping spot: changed gas bottles, started cooking, smelt gas, panicked, drove home, got home two-hours later, and realised how good life is, once again.

Two ponts and a castle

30 January Monday DAY 66 of trip

Previous to this trip videos: Riding on Rienk’s boat through the canals of Utrecht https://youtu.be/Per0jb8JszU Sep 17, 2012 / ‘Hup Holland Hup’, Narda and friend at the Dalian International School singing the song supporting the Dutch soccer team – https://youtu.be/9rrMeajC6v0 a classic not to be missed / another old Utrecht one – a minute and a half – https://youtu.be/7sGJR_jNymg that we uploaded Aug 28, 2009. We have done heaps over the years and maybe will post those later.

Netherlands > Belgium > Germany Road-trip

Video @ https://youtu.be/6AdcUP7g054

We left straight after breakfast on Monday morning to have a little foray into another country; a road trip. So ‘first thing’ was around 11am, not bad. We set the GPS to ‘no freeways’ and drove through many lovely towns and villages; almost all had a central very old church, and some surrounding cobbled stoned; old towns. We crossed rivers twice by ferry; quite a surprise. The ferries are ‘ponts’ in Dutch, in case you were wondering. The ‘castle’ loomed and surprised us completely. We’d actually become quite lost amongst the market gardens, with lit up glass houses, fascinating; no idea what was being grown, perhaps flowers, and then there it was! So we accidently found the best preserved castle in the Netherlands, built in the 1300s and restored recently. Just beautiful.

Castle Ammersoyen (in Ammerzoden in the Bommelerwaard region in the province of Gelderland) http://www.kasteel-ammersoyen.nl/

Castle Ammersoyen (in Ammerzoden in the Bommelerwaard region in the province of Gelderland)

Castle Ammersoyen (in Ammerzoden in the Bommelerwaard region in the province of Gelderland)

Castle Ammersoyen (in Ammerzoden in the Bommelerwaard region in the province of Gelderland) http://www.kasteel-ammersoyen.nl/

The castle was originally built in 1350 by Dirk van Herlaer along the river Maas. 
Ammersoyen was a unique castle as it was built using a fixed plan, 
which was unlike other castles built during this era. 
The design included four wings that were constructed around a center court. 
Each corner had its own heavy tower for extra protection. 
The castle included a gatehouse and was originally surrounded by a moat. 
At the time, it was one of the finest defensive structures in the country.

In 1386, the castle was lost to Duke of Gelderland who gave the castle 
to his illegitimate son. 
He then sold the castle in 1424 to Johan van Broekhugen, Lord of Waarenburg. 
For the next four hundred years, the castle only exchanged hands through inheritance.

 After a couple of hours, we re-joined the freeway and sped along to Maastricht. Terrell had booked an amazing hotel, which was a country estate, Buitenplaats Vaeshartelt; think “to the Manor Born” for the low season price of around 60 Eu. Really beautiful grounds and buildings. We also had a great meal at an Italian place (Il Bacaro, http://www.ilbacaro.nl/) in the city square, with some amazing old churches for a backdrop. We parked the car in the carpark underneath the plaza; all very easy. Maastricht is a beautiful city, a little different from the northern Dutch cities, perhaps more French influence here.


Getting off motorways is the way to see a country. I grew up alongside route nine in Clifton Park, New York. Throughout my youth it was a two-lane highway then it expanded to the four land road it is now. In New York, US 9 extends 324.72 miles (522.59 km) from the George Washington Bridge in Manhattan to the Canada border.

route nine going through Clifton Park, New York

route nine going through Clifton Park, New York

The reason I am rabbiting on here about Route Nine is that when we do not want to drive on the freeway/motorway/turnpike/thruway/interstate/autobahn we say we will go on route nine; wherever in the world we are. Narda lived along Route Nine with me for a couple of years before we moved to Round Lake, New York then to Brooklyn then to Jersey City then to Australia and on the road again; always looking for Route Nine to get where we are going.

We found our Route Nine in the Netherlands though we do hope on the motorway lately as we have extensively explored the towns around us; mainly by bikes. See our previous blog with the clips of towns we love in the Utrecht area.

We had not booked a place to stay for the night as we wanted to figure it out along the way based on where we were when it was time to find a place to stay which in our world is early afternoon or about three to four-hour drive. As Narda mentioned above we stayed at Buitenplaats Vaeshartelt (http://www.vaeshartelt.nl/en/) in Maastricht. And yes, I do show this place in two different videos but who is counting?

31 January Tuesday DAY 67 of trip

The next morning we had a nice breakfast at the hotel (Buitenplaats Vaeshartelt), then returned to the city centre, and explored more of the lovely narrow streets and buildings. Found the worlds most amazing book store; amazing because of it’s location in an old, stately church with wonderful arches in the ceiling.

Selexyz Dominican Church in Maastricht is a real cool place – now a bookstore but dating back to the 13th century, the structure was a Dominican church until Maastricht was invaded by Napoleon in 1794 and the group was forced out of the country. https://www.libris.nl/dominicanen

The Basilica of Saint Servatius is the place to be seen at. The oldest of the old shit to see in Maastrict. Their website starts with the bells playing, well worth the visit (to the website) http://www.sintservaas.nl/ or for our two or three English readers…  http://www.sintservaas.nl/english/index.html we tried to capture the bells but instead had too many others sounds, like me complaining of the cold.

Terrell also got some more bits and pieces for his camera and I bought him a Maastricht mug for the good memories. Then we had coffee, which was served with little glasses of Baileys or Kalua, topped with whipped cream; pretty cool.

Maastricht

Maastricht

The rest of the day was frustrating as we tried to follow two GPS’s with opposing views, out of a city under renovation. We did quite a few hours of circling Maatricht before we finally sat down in a nice hotel for soup, to calm us down at Hotel In Den Hoof http://www.indenhoof.nl/.  The server there was very helpful and told us the insiders path out of town. “Just follow the letter “L” on signs, and it will take you to the road that leads to Liege.” Who knew? Good grief! Anyway it was not over. We drove for some more hours into Belgium, with a reasonably price hotel earmarked for the night. Just before Spa. Well, the two GPS’s did their thing again and got us amazingly lost…in tandem. So it took longer than we thought, but now we are happily there, in a modest, comfortable room at LE MIDI Hôtel, 4800 VERVIERS Belgium, nice and warm, and ready for dinner.

We both slept, uninterrupted, for 10 hours!

Maatricht video at 

1 February Wednesday DAY 68 of trip

Narda spoke with Mäu 8 am we decided to go to Hamburg 8.30.

Now there’s a rapid change of plans. We checked driving time, and distances and decided to do it. It took us 6 hours, and apart from getting freaked out by the fast German drivers, it was pleasant and uneventful. Easy coffee and pee stops on the highways (you pay 70 cents to pee!).


We prebooked (expedia) the Hamburg
Centrum Hotel Commerz am Bhf Hamburg Altona for 50 Euro. http://www.hotel-commerz-hamburg.de/  This turned out to be 3 minutes from Mäu’s place, a bit of luck. They provided some urban style (time garage down in a basement) for 10 extra Euros, which was a pretty good package as Hamburg can be expensive. Mäu came to meet us and we had some snacks at her place, met her Johann her 10 year old, recorded his drumming; pretty great for a kid his age, and had dinner with Mäu at ‘lorient’ restaurant a Lebanese food place  http://www.restaurant-lorient.de.

We are living in our bubble – we drive in our bubble – our bubble rolls along the highway close to the posted limit of 130 kilometres per hour (130kph= 80.77825mph) but we were often in the slow lane with the trucks. Germans have little sense of speed limits. I would see them at a distance in my rear-view mirror then there they go just their tail lights barely visible from being so far so fast away. From distant tail lights to head lights in seconds. Narda’s relative said he likes to see what his BMW will do and 190 is a good speed (190kph= 118.0605mph). Of course my question to him was ‘why not go past 200?’

I like the hotel in Altona we stayed at. The breakfast room reminded me of Faulty Towers as did the hotel but no one acted like that it was just one could imagine it being the same. The inn keepers were a couple who kept a good establishment moving forward. Breakfast was five euros which was cheaper than the 15 each we paid at the Buitenplaats Vaeshartelt or nine euros we paid the previous night at LE MIDI Hôtel, back in Verviers Belgium and it was the same European continental style spread; cheese, cold meats, yogurt, granola, coffee, and etc..

2 February Thursday DAY 69 of trip


Mäu came over to the hotel the next morning for breakfast. Actually a nice brekkie, lots of continental style choices, good breads, and ham and cheese and other spreads, yogurt, coffee, juices. It was lovely to spend time with her again, and despite not having seen one another for many years, we lapsed easily into our old long standing friendship; no awkwardness at all. This is such a great thing to have in one’s life.

Hamburg is one of my favourite cities. New Orleans, New York City, Hamburg – especially the Altona section. Nice walking distance to the river. We took the ferry to the new Elbphilharmonie centre – the new landmark for Hamburg. https://www.elbphilharmonie.de/en/

The Elbphilharmonie is a concert hall in the HafenCity quarter of Hamburg, Germany, on the Grasbrook peninsula of the Elbe River. It is one of the largest and most acoustically advanced concert halls in the world.

Our video from 2009 of Hamburg, especially the Elbe River, Hamburg is at https://youtu.be/AZyKsEbatXI

hamburg

We left Hamburg and stayed overnight in Oldenburg, Germany – Panorama Apartment Cloppenburger Str. 282, 26133 for 60 euros. We found it through Booking.com as we drove through Oldenburg. All the hotels were more than $100 which is not much but when travelling for four months we try to save when we can. 60 euros is about $$66 US which is cheap for this part of the world. Not sure why it was so cheap as it was a two bedroom apartment with bunk beds in one room, a kitchen, master bed, large TV with some English channels, furnished kitchen and an Aldi supermarket across the street. We found the owners working on a storefront in the front of the building and as there was little understanding of English and Narda’s few German words got us a receipt and keys. They didn’t even ask our name or for id. Maybe in the future they will have this place up and running and charge more but it was a good stop.

3 February Friday DAY 70 of trip

Left Paramount Apartments nine am –Netherlands (A293 from Alexanderstraße > Take A28, A31 and A37 to Rondweg/N382 in Dalen, Nederland. Exit from N34 > A28

Lunch at Lunchroom The Goose Girl Markt 13, 7741 JM Coevorden see their menu at http://m.deganzenhoedster.nl/en well worth it and a unique place at that.

Lunchroom The Goose Girl Markt 13, 7741 JM Coevorden

Lunchroom The Goose Girl Markt 13, 7741 JM Coevorden

Home at five pm watched three episodes Blacklist

Our video of our trip to Germany is at  https://youtu.be/QGdCKxunhyE  

Our next blog will be our final couple of weeks in the Netherlands and we will end this blog with a wonderful afternoon with four amazing violinist, Pavadita Tango String Quartet, performing for a small group of about 15 of us in Utrecht at the Paviljoen (www.paviljoenpop.nl) Sunday afternoon. ‘Pavadita specialises in playing Argentine tango yet dislikes to be labelled’ http://pavadita.com/

https://youtu.be/JqsQVrOhFYY is our video of this event

E-book storefront http://neuage.papertrell.com/
new photo-textual fun – HERE

http://neuage.org/e-books/

Liam meets Maggie and Mabel in Washington DC in the epic tale ‘Liam’s secret’ http://neuage.org/MM/ (free)

Returning Home

Finally settled into our European Holiday or for Narda returning home

See part one toward the end of our last blog @ https://neuage.me/2017/01/24/washington-dc-to-amsterdam-and-life-in-between/

22 January Sunday DAY 58 of trip

I was thinking most of 2016 that we would be in Holland for a month. However, the reality is five-weeks. Six-weeks in the States, Six here, and four in Southeast Asia. I think what I am concluding from what is going on in the States these past months is that most folks are concerned about fact-checking. It is all the rage and so it should be. We say that politicians are liars with almost everything they say. Alternative narratives are either accepted or lambasted. The narrative of life on earth is filled with alternative narratives, some seen as allegories some seen as stories for children some seen as creative twists of truth; religious stories, myths, fairy tales, what we tell our parents, children, partners  – ‘changing water to wine’, ‘I was doing homework at Johnnies house all last night’, ‘feeding five-thousand mates with a couple of fish’, ‘Santa coming down the chimney’, ‘gingerbread houses’, Cinderella, ‘a million and a half people at an inauguration’, not to mention all the Greek, Roman, Aboriginal, etc. stories. We were at the Women’s March in Amsterdam yesterday, previous blog; http://goo.gl/WQPBuE so there may be a lingering trace of an outside thought about fact-checking.

Nevertheless, here we are, a new blog. When we started this trip, and from ones we have done over the past 15 years, see http://neuage.us/BLOGS/index.html for a selection of our past one-hundred+, each one was per day. Now we are putting together groups of days. The last one covered ten-days. Bottom line is that this current blog is a blank slate.

What is exciting about today, Sunday, is that we have a whole month here, another thirty-days.

The first time in my life in Utrecht was in 2005. Narda’s first time was the day she was born, which of course, was not very long ago.

Saturday, June 18, 2005 Utrecht - The luxury of holiday. I got up at 10 AM and the 
others soon followed. A day without plans is so different. After the past six-months 
of getting up every day at six AM for work and of stressing because of all the work 
on our house it is good to have few concerns other than where should we bike ride 
Today? The only thing I ‘need’ to do today is find a charger for our video camera.
I found an adapter yesterday so I could plug the one we had in but as soon as I 
plugged it in (US 120 voltage into European 240 voltage) smoke came out and the 
thing became fried. We are driving to Belgium tomorrow for a few days and at this 
point I think we are just pointing the car we are borrowing in that direction and as 
long as we do not end up in the English Channel 
we should be fine.

As synchronicity would have it, not only where we in Utrecht a year later but we went to see the same people as we saw today (22nd January, 2017) as we did on Monday, June 19, 2006 Utrecht, The Netherlands – see http://neuage.org/trip06/June19.htm to read about our bike riding adventures eleven years earlier.

We drove into Utrecht as we have not sorted out our bikes yet. The ones left for us are not the right size; the man’s bike is way too large for me, and the woman’s bike is too small for Narda.

We visited Narda’s Uncles Pete and Rinke and cousin Hans. Pete, at age 90, has recently had his second knee reconstruction. A good indication of what health insurance is capable of when it is set out for the people. Rinke in his mid-80s is doing well. We used to ride around on his boat through the canals in past trips but this is our first winter visit and the boat is not an ice-breaker so no cruising this time. And Hans, in our age bracket, well Narda’s, I am in a bracket of my own; my sister has banned me from saying I am old so I fit somewhere between Narda and Rinke, interacts with us on Facebook so we are always a bit up-to-date with one another. We will explore more of Utrecht with him this time as he is retired now, the same as us.

Narda had a cold for four weeks in DC and now I have that cold. I managed to be up until one in the morning trying to breathe but we are troopers and colds will not thwart our explorations.

23 January Monday DAY 59 of trip

Narda rang Rinke this morning and asked if we could borrow a bike. In the past, we have often borrowed bikes from him and several times we have stayed with him. Rinke helped us get it into our rather small car so we could enjoy a month yet to go.

We spent a few hours riding around our local hood and in downtown Woerden. See https://youtu.be/TjTXv_y7zU0 = skating on thin ice in Woerden.

Woerden

Woerden

24 January Tuesday DAY 60 of trip

Left this morning on our bikes, the weather was very foggy; you couldn’t see too far.

Harmelen, Netherlands

Harmelen, Netherlands

Our plan was to visit Tom and Ineke in Harmelen, and cycle there. The GPS said 17 minutes, we took an hour. A nice effort. Had a coffee and a chat, told them about my bike which was a bit small for me. They promptly offered me Ineke’s bike which she never uses anymore. Of course I accepted their offer with glee. So now I am all set, bike wise!! After our visit we explored Harmelen, a lovely little town, never than some of the others, but certainly very liveable.

A part of the Rhine goes through Harmelen, news to us. We stopped at the local grocery store and bought some assorted goodies for lunch, cheese, a bread roll, yogurt drink, and assorted veggies for his vegetarian-lowcarb lordship!!

We a pleasant picnic table, covered in bright green moss and had a lovely picnic. It was freezing and rained a little, but we are not people to be deterred by something so insignificant as rain. The food made up for it! Got home at 4, saw lots of school kids cycling home on our way back…dangerous drivers, but so are most of the Dutch.

Harmelen picnic

Harmelen picnic

We left the bike Narda was riding and went off with Tom’s bike. It continues to fascinate me the biking in the Netherlands. Being a rather flat place it helps. There are roads just for bikes, even with lanes, traffic lights, and often there is also a walking path. Travel is unique here; train track, walking path, bicycle path, road of cars, canal with boats (not so much in winter) all side-by-side, going forward.

Still freezing we sought refuge at the only place we could find that did coffee, de kloosterhoeve, and to prove it is a real place here is their website, http://www.kloosterhoeve.nl the coffee was strong and it was good, we thawed out and headed down the road.

Narda needed some adjustments and the first bike shop we came to gladly got her into a royal position of comfort, free of charge.

25 January Wednesday DAY 61 of trip

We planned to bike to Monfoort, a mere twenty minutes away per our Google Maps. Forty-five minutes later we had gotten to the small village of Linschoten. By now we were cold, I was in pain (agony) with extremely cold toes. I thought I had frost bite (OK it was one degree above freezing, but my toes registered -20 both in Fahrenheit and in Centigrade). We went into the first restaurant we found, Café Van Eijk, http://www.cafevaneijk.nl/ which if you read Dutch there are probably some good deals. I had mustard soup which was so yummy that I looked up a recipe for it while eating. We asked the waitress if theirs was the same recipe as we found online which had leeks as a base but she said they did not use leeks so now I need to find a Dutch mustard soup recipe without leeks that is as good. Narda had some meat thingy but admitted mine was better.

We read on some sign that the Linschoten church was burnt by residents of Woerden in the 1500s. There were a lot of people cooked at the stake, mainly women that didn’t fit into the Christian ethos of what a woman should be like. Listen to our Linschoten video clip where Narda tells us about the good citizens of Woerden; which by the way is where we are living for five weeks, and their incursions into Linschoten just a fifteen-minute bike ride away, or an hour’s when slow like us.

In the evening we continued to watch our Netflix series, ‘The Blacklist’. We have now seen episodes in Adelaide, Hawaii, DC and now here. Even though it unrealistic, though in the ‘alternative’ world of facts we now live in, who knows? We like it, even more so now after living in DC for the past six-weeks. The thing is mostly filmed, or supposed to be, in DC.

Linschoten

Linschoten

Linschoten video https://youtu.be/5iJE6ErACAo

26 January Thursday DAY 62 of trip

Up at 6:30 this morning. Narda stayed in bed until 10 with the cold I had, now gone (back) to her. I worked on Photoshop and writing projects for a few hours.

Spent our first day home since arriving eight days ago, not that I am counting. A down-day that we used to incorporate with our travels so we could gather our beans to go off exploring the next day but since here, and even more since we have had bikes we have been gone all day, each day.

We baked today. Always a good thing to do when traveling with a fussy-boots (oops that would be me). Narda made her wonderful low-carb bread and I made my low-carb cookies. Our food budget is doing well in Holland with the prices here much lower than Australia and overall lower than the States. In the States we made a budget of $350 a week for food which included a couple of times a week at a restaurant but here we have been closer to the $200 mark which is great and will pay for six-nights in hotels we did in the States that we had not budgeted for. I suppose this is part of being retired, having a budget, enough to go again and again without having to go back to work.

Another great thing about being here is how close everywhere is. I just looked up Paris. It is five-hours away. “Hey Narda I want to go to Paris for a couple of days”. Hamburg where Narda’s friend lives is five-hours away. I think we will go there sometime soon. Wow! In Australia it is like ten-hours to go to Melbourne from Adelaide. In the States we went to lots of places, thanks Chris for your car.

27 January Friday DAY 63 of trip

Went to lunch with Els. Els invited us to have coffee at her place and then go to lunch in a little French restaurant in Vianen. Which we did. She lives just outside the old city, her apartment is the end of a row, and the benefit is amazing views all over the countryside with the freeway wizzing along in the distance. She has a lovely back room surrounded by glass; a great place to sit and chat. It turns out we are related. She is the daughter of Tante Nels’ brother. Who knew. So I have a second cousin. We walked to the French restaurant, Suzettes, yummy food, Terrell had a quiche with salad and I had the soup.

Vianen

Vianen

Vianen video is at https://youtu.be/Wpo7zFbzgrY

28 January Saturday DAY 64 of trip

Another lovely visit with my cousin Karin and her husband Frank. Poor guy had just got off the plane from the USA a few hours earlier, so he did really well keeping himself awake and us entertained with lots of interesting stories. They have recently moved into this lovely house in Niewegein, just south of Utrecht. A very pleasant afternoon.

20170128_143216

 

29 January Sunday DAY 65 of trip

After a lazy morning at home writing, photoshopping, video- stuff we went to IJsselstein

IJsselstein is in the province of Utrecht. IJsselstein received city rights in 1331. IJsselstein owes its name to the river Hollandse IJssel which flows through the city.

We spent a lovely afternoon and evening with my cousin Hans and his wife, Mirjam, and daughters Linda and Suzanne (see our video below). They took us for a very interesting walk through the village (town) of Ijsselstein, entertaining us with interesting stories of the history of building and events. The video below gives some snaps of this. For dinner we had the traditional gourmet, using a large heating plate, and leaving folks to cook meals for themselves, table top, to their heart’s content. Lots of fun and very gezellig. An interesting and hospitable family; a highlight for us.

IJsselstein

IJsselstein

IJsselstein video

End of this cycle – next blog starts with our trip south heading to France though we may stay in other places instead – who knows? A week or so from now you will and so will we.

E-book storefront http://neuage.papertrell.com/
new photo-textual fun – HERE

http://neuage.org/e-books/

Liam meets Maggie and Mabel in Washington DC in the epic tale ‘Liam’s secret’ http://neuage.org/MM/ (free)

More of not the same

01 January Sunday DAY 37 of one-hundred fifteen of our round-the-world retirement catching up with family and friends tour and trying to do a low-carb vegetarian diet

Back in DC. Great start to the year! Kids went out for New Year’s Eve and we babysit and got to bed by 10pm. Our kind of night actually. Yesterday we left our hotel Clarion in New Castle Delaware and made it home pretty quickly, not much traffic on the road. We started by taking a secondary road, which was nice, you actually see the country that way, but by Baltimore we took the interstate home.

Smithsonian Museum of Natural History Washington DC Narda finds a man

Smithsonian Museum of Natural History Washington DC Narda finds a man

We took Liam to the local park. It was a nice relaxed time. I had an interesting conversation with another dad watching his kid. He was from Brazil working in the Brazilian consulate. He’s also been posted in Guatemala City, where he was paid for trips home because of the danger. This is the 2nd person we’ve randomly chatted to employed at a consulate. The other one was a woman as we were boarding Best Bus from NYC to DC. She was working in the Spanish consulate. Coincidentally, the Cambodian consulate is 2 blocks from where we are living with Chris and Jess.

Church time, Chris again preaching an amazing sermon on the disconnect with who we really are, and how we act. Lots of things to think about here. Terrell and I went for a walk through the local area, gorgeous little row houses, close to Georgetown.

Chris' church

Chris’ church

Terrell and I went for a walk through the local area, gorgeous little row houses, close to Georgetown.

img_15751

Sweet potato and spinach mash for all. Again, as I have waffled on about in previous blogs – let me do the cooking then I know we will be having a low-carb meal.

02 January Monday DAY 38 of trip

Today was  Chris’ day off, so he took us to the Smithsonian National Museum of American History. Really great. I’m not such a museum person, but this is so well done and interesting , even to the museum-semi-literate such as me.

Lovely morning, and then lunch (pulled chicken for me) in the cafeteria. Large salad for me.

03 January Tuesday DAY 39 of trip

Purchased slide projector for $50. We had looked on Craig’s List for a projector that would hold my father’s carousel slide trays – there were 18 of them with up to 140 slides in each, and found one for sale 45 minutes away in Gaithersburg, Maryland. Gaithersburg is located to the northwest of Washington, D.C., and is considered a suburb and a primary city within the Washington–Arlington–Alexandria, DC–VA–MD–WV Metropolitan Statistical Area.

A bit of a well-to-do space with large stately looking homes. Stepping into another person’s space is interesting; culture-evolution at play. This dude who was 75 said he had found the secret to success in life when he was 53; he retired and his wife kept working. This sounded quite sound to me and I took a quick look at my wife only to realise we just sort of retired a few months ago with me pushing 70 and she barely at the start of her youthful 60s. Retirement seems to have been good for him. A nice home, grand piano, well decorated for the Christmas holiday, through his kitchen I could see a pond and nature. I could live here. The slide projector was a Kodak that my father’s carousels fitted in.

Outside of the little rich-man’s-cove we found a bit of a shopping centre with our favourite shops, a Staples, an Aldi grocery store, and a Dunkin Donut where Narda found two donuts to her liking and I had coffee to go with my home-made organic low-carb cookie. (he’s such a try-hard!)

We started looking at slides soon after getting back home.

Made spinach soufflé dinner for us all. Baby Liam likes my cooking and has never complained about a meal.

04 January Wednesday DAY 40 of trip

Finished blog about New York and visits and posted at https://neuage.me/2017/01/05/snow-country/

To post office mailed book about my brother to Kathy. I discuss this book in the previous blog.

Groceries – made sweet potato and pumpkin soup for dinner

Forgot Sacha’s birthday – which was today but yesterday in Australia. {I was a single parent for about 20 years. I never forgot Sacha’s birthday in thirty-four years. My feeble excuse is that the 4th of January in Australia is the third of January in DC. Sorry Sacha. I will buy you that pony I promised you as a child next time}

05 January Thursday DAY 41 of trip

Up at 8 am out the door at noon

Counted our money and started looking at trips for 2017-2018, main idea is to get a house-swap before August or after August with a boat trip around 1 – 15 August anywhere in the world. As I will turn 70 August 10th I want to be at sea which will be some sort of symbolic representation of my life.

Back to the museums by bus which was fun. Had an interesting chat with a passenger about the state of the nation…couldn’t really figure out if she was pro or anti the president elect, whom I can no longer name (we have decided to ignore him from now on, it’s too stressful to even think about this maniac). She was keen to know about education in Australia, but pretty supportive of Australia’s tight borders. Hmmm.

The Museum of Natural History was simply amazing. We watched a film on creatures in the deep ocean, which we really enjoyed. Then we checked out the Origins of Humans display which was so interesting, especially knowing that Jess is involved with the research in this area. We should be riding buses more, you really get to experience things differently.

dsc_1539

Hmm, stuck in the back with oma

We are fascinated about our origins. I am more interested in cultural evolution than physical. No one has shown for sure how we got to where we are physically. Millions of years, thousands of years, trillions of stars and planets; perhaps even millions of universes. Too much to grasp for me and it does not really matter. I have this body and all I can do is shove in what I believe will be good to keep it going. I drink my smoothies, eat my low-carb crap, I have been a vegetarian for lots of decades for better or not, I exercise, and bop around with mostly happy thoughts. I was born white with whatever DNA stuff one has. I could have been born something else but I wasn’t. What I find fascinating is cultural evolution. How did I get these beliefs, how did society get this way, how have certain people re-invented slavery for thousands of years (now it is working for minimum wages for some)? How do religions get made up and people are controlled this way to be pawns of wealthy intuitions? How does society get shaped by fake news? Inventions? Events?

Narda of course, had to point out that one exhibit tried to claim that eating meat was important for the development of the brain and the increase of intelligence. Really? I know lots of idiots who eat meat and only cool people who are vegetarian. What more proof do we need?

Being sucked into having my face morphed into what I would have looked like 50,000 years ago (it was free) I had myself transformed. I didn’t care about the extra grey hair but whether today or 50,000 years ago would I have thought the same? Probably not, they didn’t have social media to influence us.

Saint Terrell of the cave - 50,000 years ago in your backyard

Saint Terrell of the cave – 50,000 years ago in your backyard

Saint Terrell of the cave - 50,000 years ago in your backyard

Narda reaches out to Saint Terrell of the Cave’s hand printsssssss

Made dinner for all: sweet potato chips, soup from last night, meat for them, mushrooms and salad for me.

06 January Friday DAY 42 of trip

Finished looking and separating slides of father. What to do with thousands of old slides? We took a few out of each carousel and I am taking a photo of the ones I am keeping to have a digital copy and maybe printing some. The difficulty in tossing away the past is that the past then disappears. Thus my argument against de-clutter courses and their silly ideas. The few I was dragged to (kicking and screaming – at least inside of myself) annoyed me. I have a shed back in Australia full of my crap (the shed is small only 20 foot by 40 foot) and of course our house too, but here is my problem with de-cluttering. For example, my father’s slides. When they find their way to the local land-fill here in DC for the next brothel or whatever they build on top of land-fill the memories are gone too. I no doubt am the last one with images of my father from the early 1900s and the stories associated with them. Well Narda knows some of the stories too. My father who was cactus at 102 years-old told her stories when he was in his late 90s when we hung out with him in upstate New York (2002 – 2010). He was born in 1905 and his teenage years were filled with the wonders of the first car, the first telephone, World War 1, World War next, and all the stuff of the early twentieth century that we know little of. We barely remember when there was no internet or evil GPS that get their jollies by getting us lost all over the States then laughing deep in cyberspace about how disorientated we are. By destroying images of the past the past no longer exists except on some level of consciousness that at least I am not evolved enough to replay again after I am dead.

A lot of the slides were of travels my parents did. I grew up doing road-trips. Every summer we were off exploring and camping in national parks for a few weeks then I got shipped off to Bible Camp for the rest of the summer, every summer. I did like the travel though. In later life after I left home my parents travelled even more (I left home about age sixteen, just to avoid being shipped off to Bible Camp anymore as it was affecting the structure of my adolescent brain development in a crazy way causing me to spend years in alternative therapy of my own 60’s-70s choosing to erase those harmful summers). My parent’s slides show their trips through Canada, the Western USA, Alaska – all while in their 70s. Alaska is a long drive from New York and my father took a lot of pictures. My father even came to Australia in 1992 when he was 87. Narda and I looked at the many photos of that trip when my father, my two sons, and I drove half way around Australia in a campervan (RV) for a month.

What Narda and I got out of these slides that we have spent many hours going through instead of making new memories tromping around DC this week was that we are quite keen now to go to Alaska. It might be our next trip to the States; maybe late 2017 or mid-2018. We do plan ahead. We planned this current little four-month trip a couple of years ago. 2017 is already quite full with travel and some creative projects I hope to dabble in back in Australia. 2018 we are planning our trip for three-months to India, January – March.

dads-slides2

Looking at many photos – and taking photos of the slides which does not give a good quality but does provide an essence of what is being captured we could see the slant I was raised with. Some photos are quite good and we will print from the slide to get better quality. But to give an example to my ranting above; according to my sister we could be one-eighth Indian but even without that knowledge I find the nature of this slide racist. That the lives of white settlers are emphasized over Indian lives. My father has taken a lot of slides of plaques that provide us with this sort of narrative.

indian-discrimination

Nevertheless, we completed our project and put the slide projector back up on Craig’s List, got $40 back, and we are thankful for having this opportunity to have a sticky-beak into my parent’s lives. It does explain a part of my reason for a love of travel – the other reason is that I am always trying to escape the moment before. Narda has always had a love of travel; even before her parents migrated to Australia from the Netherlands, she has a story of when she was three taking her two-year old neighbour down the street heading to the train station to see her grandmother and they apparently got a few blocks before being found by anxious parents. It sums up our life. Now we have anxious off-springs.

I don’t want to trivialize my father’s slide collection but I sort of was aware that there were a lot more photos of my brother than of me. There were more pictures of churches than me. There are more marijuana shops in Oregon (more than 400 and multiplying daily) than Starbucks and McDonald’s. So what? I am still alive and my brother and my father aren’t. I don’t need to see slides to know I exist.

Friday night was lovely. We met with Trish and Allan, and wonderful re-connection with a dear friend from Dalian days. Trish and Allan live in a lovely house, on a ½ acre in Fairfax county. Allan cooked up a delicious New Orleans style dinner and lively conversation was had by all!

Though the GPS said it was about 40 minutes down the road, we decided to leave at lunch time and explore the area. We checked out a few shopping malls (had not done that for a while). The first one, Landmark Mall, in  Alexandria, Virginia was completely derelict. Only a large Macy’s and  Sears where there, the rest was boarded up. Weird. The second one, Tysons Corner Centre in McLean, Virginia was fabulous. Book shop, nice café with tomato soup, a train station and a movie theatre. A perfect mall!

We realised when we got home that night that we had been running the car on empty for too many miles. Given the extreme cold, this could have been not-so-nice.

07 January Saturday DAY 43 of trip

Finally got a bit of snow. I want two feet of the stuff. We had a fair amount when we were driving around last week in New York – see last blog, but not like what we used to get when we lived in upstate New York (2002 – 2010). We did get about an inch and a half, enough to cover some of winter’s brown but never enough.

Narda went with Liam and Chris to Ikea to buy furniture. I stayed home and had a bit of a play in Photoshop and catching up on a writing project I have had little time to do these past six weeks, no doubt something to do with travelling and not enough down time. Took some photos of Liam’s toys in the snow for some future picture work. See http://tinyurl.com/hjt7lrf

When Chris, Narda, and Liam got back we bundled up and headed out to the snowfields – well actually down the street for a block to wade through the one and a half-inch snow.

cambodia-embassey

Looked at P&O cruises out of Sydney instead of flying to some far-flung-foreign destination and there is one during my birthday time so we may do that one. Anyone having any recommendations for a cruise let us know. If nothing else at least I will know that someone read this blog.

Made eggs with Liam in the evening

img_16028 January Sunday DAY 44 of trip

-9C off to Safeway for groceries –  Took Chris and Jessica to Slims for lunch. We have had been to Slims before over there on the corner of Upshur and Georgia Avenue. There is a limited menu but worth the effort. I tend to go for the eggs and grits and the others like meat pulled off animals. The wait time of almost an hour on a cold day was a bit budget though once settled into our booth we are all content.

We took a bus to the White House – then to Smithsonian National Museum of African American History & Culture.

We froze waiting for the bloody bus and thawed by the time we got to the White House. Of course, we being lowly citizen could not get anywhere near the place.

nardawhitehousecomments

I, who sometimes lobby hard and get my way, ‘suggested’ that we climb to the top of the hill where they have that Washington Monument monument. Narda could not believe it. We had walked all around the White House looking where we could get at least one photo. We were shooed away from each street nearby and we were thinking we were getting frost bite. When we lived in China, way up north, even when we went to the Harbin Ice Festival we were OK but we were dressed for it. The warmest for today was -6, I think that is 18 Fahrenheit, add a bit of strong wind to cut through our clothes and we were almost ice cubes.

But as a loving wife who ‘understands my photographic needs’; “but honey the pictures will be fantastic look how blue the sky is…” or some such rant, side by side, wind picking up, temperature dropping we managed to finally get to the top of the hill to the entrance. I pointed out from the start that there appeared to be very few people going up to the monument, no doubt because it was so cold and we would not have to wait in line and I could guarantee that it would be warmer inside and of course going up the elevator to the top for our spectacular pictures would be warm and we would not have to wait in line.

We dragged ourselves to the entrance door,

closed

Oops…

Well how was I supposed to know that?

Narda said we were going into the first open building we got to. I was in a bit of the bad-books and could not offer any suggestions such as perhaps going to another monument.

smithsonian-national-museum-of-african-american-history-culture

Barely able to get into the door because we were so frozen the first person said “you cannot get in without a ticket”. Narda said we need to just come inside the door to get warm and a kind lady at the check-in thingy said that she had two extra tickets and we could go in. We were so grateful. The first thing we did after the toilets was to go to the ‘Sweet House Café’ – talk about pricy – we each had a small cup of coffee and a small sweet (I was so cold I thought stuff the low-carb nonsense I need sugar to get my blood moving and got a fudge thingy) for $17.05. Now I know how they funded this new building. Because the National Museum of African American History and Culture, is the newest Smithsonian museum there apparently are heaps of folks who want to get in so one needs to get a ticket. Tickets are free but they allocate a date so the place is not over crowded. Perhaps because it was cold or maybe fewer people go here on Sundays it was not too full.

For us white people this is a real eye opener. We were both amazed and the hour we spent there was far from enough. I guess what struck us both is how our current society, the Western World, is built on top of slavery. Beginning in the fifteenth century and until recent times and in some places of the world even now, it is the slaves who create the wealth of a country. The United States was not built by hardworking individuals but by slaves who worked for a minority of white men.

I remember a segregated south. When my father would take us on trips through the south in the 1960s there would be segregated toilets and areas in restaurants. I don’t think I even saw a black person, except if we were travelling (there surely were none in the area of upstate New York I grew up in) until I left home at age 16-17.

And where was the church or any other religion for those five-hundred years? Well they were making money too off slavery. I shouldn’t go into all this but suffice it to say that the National Museum of African American History and Culture is well worth the visit. Not just a place to defrost in.

Walked heaps took a bus to Chris’ church got there only half frozen.

Made zucchini spaghetti for dinner.

09 January Monday DAY 45 of trip

Home Narda working on Chris’  Ikea furniture. Chris has collected non-collectables from Ikea – you know those flat boxes that just need a nail and a screw to make them become 3-D? Narda and Chris worked all day on those cupboards and drawers and still were not done. I was as supportive as I could be – I stayed out of the way, and spent the day on this laptop. Due to luggage constraints we only brought one computer on this trip which means sharing and with my usual work-load averaging eight-hours a day on this thing I have not had too many straight forward shots of non-physical contact to exercise my digital-self. We also bought only one phone card when we got here – imagine sharing a phone with someone, but we have and it is good. We just get lost together now.

Made spaghetti squash for din din. We have not found this in Australia and it was a favourite when we lived in New Jersey and New York. Liam loved it. Actually, little Liam has liked everything I have made, even tofu, to the wonderment of the eye-rolling folks at the other end of the table. I am sure Liam would be a happy little vegetarian alongside of me given the chance.

10 January Tuesday DAY 46 of trip

Fact Check: Washington D. C. is bugged

Fact Check: Washington D. C. is bugged

Took a bus back to the Museum of Natural History. WE were just in time to see the Imax film, narrated by Robert Redford, on America’s National Parks. A really beautiful film, worth seeing. Some amazing sights. I scribbled notes for future travel. Then we checked out the Insect Zoo where I got to cuddle some critters!!! We bussed/trained it back home; stopping half way for another Panera tomato soup lunch; the best! Then it was our turn to pick up Liam from day care. He was happy to come home with us, though he did ask where daddy was. We stopped on the way home to pick up some groceries. Liam, while we waited at the checkout, was able to communicate to the old black guy riding a red scooter, also in line; that he would like one of those too!

homeless

Here are the homeless in a wealthy city where rents are sky high. I walk by, give them a couple of dollars to salve my conscience…..and feel BAD, just bad. Easy to say, why isn’t the government doing something, but much harder to actually get off my own bottom and do something myself.

loos

AND THAT IS ALL FOR THIS BLOG. Thanks for reading. We have five more days in DC then to Utrecht, The Netherlands via Helsinki for a month. No doubt we will have stuff to say in a bit too. Today, Narda is still working on assembling the Ikea stuff and I am having a bit more time on this laptop then we are off to some museum though we will have decided which one when we feel we have been on the bus long enough and say “let’s get off here”.

Our next blog will be next week after Helsinki and settling into Utrecht, The Netherlands for a month

Our next blog will be next week after Helsinki and settling into Utrecht, The Netherlands for a month

E-book storefront http://neuage.papertrell.com/
new photo-textual fun – HERE

http://neuage.org/e-books/

Liam meets Maggie and Mabel in Washington DC in the epic tale ‘Liam’s secret’ http://neuage.org/MM/ (free)

 

Marijuana friendly-Oregon

E-book storefront http://neuage.papertrell.com/
new photo-textual fun – HERE

Sunday 17-12-2016 Day 22 of one-hundred fifteen of our round-the-world retirement catching up with family and friends tour and trying to do a low-carb vegetarian diet

Despite dire warnings about the Artic Vortex and freezing rain, our flight to Portland took off right on time. Terrell and I had asked for a window and an aisle seat, hoping for a free seat in between. It was not to be, another passenger came between us and we stayed put. I watched 5 episodes of Grey’s Anatomy straight, so I wasn’t much company anyway! We had brought our own food, cheese sandwiches, snacks and chocolate, so we’re right on budget. And there’s free coffee and tomato juice on the plane.

Randy was right there waiting for us at the Portland airport, a really nice airport actually. We spent the first night in Portland with Randy’s friend Tony, who kindly put us all up. The following morning, a nice brekkie of eggs benedict with some other friends. Then off to Eugene the next morning. The last few days have been really relaxed, catching up on lot of stories. The freezing rain was quite spectacular, sparkling all the trees, bringing a few of them down. Now we have regular rain; more typical of the area. Eugene’s a great little town, very organic, nice size, folks on the treat are really friendly. Randy’s place is a lovely old house, full of interesting nicknacks. Gezellig! We’ve slept pretty well, though this morning I was awake at 4.30…a little out of wack from the east coast. Randy is a gracious and generous host; we’ve had lots of lively conversation.

Breakfast with Tony, his ex-wife, Randy, and me was at Biscuits Johnson Creek, a great place to eat with meals large enough that Narda and I shared our breakfast.

snow-road

Portland to Eugene on I-5

I think what strikes me firstly about the States is the amount of homeless people. There always have been homeless but this time there seems to be a lot more: Hawaii, New York City, Washington DC, now Oregon. In Portland we see people in the snow under pieces of plastic or living in their cars. It is below freezing but people are still living outside. Driving into Portland there are several tent cities.

Portland's homeless - Portlandia's other people

Portland’s homeless – Portlandia’s other people

Of course there is the general, all over the States, forebodings of the next president. We have not met anyone that feels positive about this and every city we go to the local newspapers paint a dire picture. Of course Americans are generally positive and giving, but there is this dark shadow looming. We made our plans for this trip almost a year ago due to the complex nature of going to so many places and catching up with people. Now we wish we had added a week in DC so that we could be there on the 21st of January. Instead, we are leaving on the 17th for Europe. Everyone says it is a good thing that we are leaving before the inauguration but we would have liked to be present during the actuality of this train-wreck. In other visits to the States there is very little political talk when we are with our friends and family but it just dominates every conversation now. Even with strangers. People here are so obsessed with the future.

We have not been to Portland before except for me passing through the airport a couple of times and staying with Randy’s friend was interesting in answering my wondering of what became of the people from the 1960’s hippie culture in California. Well they moved to Oregon.

I first met Randy in 1968 in Laguna Beach, California in front of the Mystic Arts World; Timothy Leary’s bookstore in Laguna Beach: we went looking for spaceships in an altered state and that is how our relationship began. You know how some people you meet at some point in your life and they pop up or you pop up in one another’s life for the rest of your life? Well that is my story with Randy. He features in my e-book ‘Leaving Australia – Part One – “Before the After”’ available from Papertrell at http://neuage.papertrell.com/id004005007/ or Amazon (where the first ten pages are available to read for free) @ http://tinyurl.com/z4efohb though if you were to purchase it please get it from Papertrell. Just one major tidbit, Randy was mostly responsible for my surname. When I was in Hawaii and sort of had to get married the first time for Sacha’s alleged mother to stay in the country (she was from Australia) we argued over what to do for our surname. We didn’t want to combine them, she didn’t like mine, I barley could pronounce her Russian-Ukrainian name. We spent days trying to agree on a name. One day Randy said in a sarcastic tone ‘you think you are such new age people just change your name to newage’. We looked at it numerically, astrological, egotistically, and every which way. We came to the brilliant conclusion that Newage was a bit tacky so we dropped the w and put in u which was good numerically and astrologically. We got divorced a couple of years later and I was a single parent for the next twenty years so whether our name had anything to do with all this or not I do not know. Narda did not change to Neuage and in fact kept her family name.

Times and places that our paths have met over the past 48 years. Most not pre-planned:

  • 1968 met Randy in front of the Brotherhood of Eternal Love’

    Laguna Beach, California in front of the Mystic Arts World; Timothy Leary’s bookstore

    Laguna Beach, California in front of the Mystic Arts World; Timothy Leary’s bookstore

  • 12/1969 – Randy gets me into a metaphysical cult order in Hawaii
  • 5/1972 – I get Randy out of metaphysical cult order in Nashville – we go to New Orleans – see each other over next couple of years
  • 4/1974 – hangout together in San Francisco then I go back into metaphysical cult order
  • 4/1980 – work with Randy in Hawaii my first son is born in Hawaii 1/1981
  • 1/1985 – visit with Randy for a week in Hawaii (I have been living in Australia since 6/81) with my two children age 4 and 2 and a half – I am a single parent now
  • 1/1992 – visit for a few days with my two children in Eugene, Oregon
  • 6/2007 – Narda and I go to Randy’s daughter’s graduation – Syracuse University, New York
  • 7/2010 – I visit for a week, Eugene, Oregon
  • 12/2016 – Narda and I stayed with Randy for a week

To make a long story short we stayed at Randy’s mate, Tony’s house in Portland after arriving from DC in the evening.

18/12/2016 Day 23 Sunday

After breakfast at Biscuits Johnson Creek (http://biscuitscafe.com), Randy drove us to his house in Eugene. Trying to stay in control of my diet Narda and I made dinner which was one of our usual-low-carb-vegetarian-easy-make-Terrell-happy meals of mashed sweet potato, spinach, onion (not cooked chopped fine), with vegetarian gravy. For meaties the others had some road-kill or some such dead thing and I had portabella mushrooms – yummy.

Life is easy at Randy’s; laid-back, at-home feeling. Randy has been doing eBay reselling junk or stuff or collectables I believe they are called for more than two-decades and has managed to synchronize working and chilling at a comfortable level. Not being a sports fan except for when NFL football is on TV (they call it grid-iron in footy-mad Australia – which by the way is a totally different game; more of a free for all with a ball in the middle) Randy and I watched the NY Giants lose and another team too which now three days later I have forgotten. We watched the Portland Trailblazers lose too. Narda read and was not concerned by who was losing.

19/12/2016 Day 24 Monday

I lived in Eugene on Friendly Street in 1969 – long story – see my e-book mentioned above.

 

Not Portlandia Terrell 1969 Friendly Street, Eugene

Not Portlandia
Terrell 1969 Friendly Street, Eugene

Yes, that is me in the photo(s) and Desiree has been my friend on Facebook for years. I lived with her and her mother for a few years in California, Oregon, Hawaii. I think of her as my ‘almost daughter’.

We found where I used to live on Friendly Street and as life would have it there is the Friendly Street Market. At the Market there is Moss-Crossing (https://www.leafly.com/dispensary-info/moss-crossing) a marijuana dispensary. Of course for Yanks this is nothing unusual with all the legalization happening across the country but not having lived in the States since 2010 when this stuff was illegal and living in Australia where you surely do not see shops selling pot it was all quite interesting to visit and have a sticky beak around the shop. I know in The Netherlands and other places this is not uncommon. Granted I have not been around this for some forty years and have no interest of re-visiting that phase of my life but a few things about all this. In the past you could be jailed for many years for marijuana possession and now, here you are; giggling in the corner. Unfortunately, except for I think it is Vermont, people who were arrested before it became legal; like about a year or so ago, are still doing their time. I have been asking lots of questions about the effects of legalization as any curious tourist would. Like are there more road accidents or what limits and a whole bunch of stuff that I know everyone else knows except me; a once-were-hippie, who knew lots back then and less than nothing now. How could that be?

So, what I think I have learned in the past couple of days. The difference is between medical and recreational. Medical is legal throughout Canada in about eight states of the USA. Recreational is legal in several states but since I am looking at Oregon we’ll stick to that. Here in Oregon one can purchase marijuana for either medical or recreational. The difference is that there is a 25% tax on recreational purchases. Medical one needs to get a certificate from a doctor. Not a regular doctor as it is not recognized by the doctor’s association folks. But there is a specialized dude that is a doctor but has a special permission thingy and someone wanted a medical certificate must pay a couple of hundred dollars a year so lots of people have their hands into the pot. A person can get any amount they want but can only smoke within their home/property. However, with a medical certificate, as long as the person is not driving, they can smoke. What folks are using nowadays is vape pen which is the same as an e-cigarette setup. All that can be looked up online. Does it affect one’s driving? From my research, no. Are people going around stoned? No. Randy says that there are more marijuana shops in Portland than Starbucks.

People are so friendly in Eugene. Walking along the street, in the shops… why is that young lady smiling at me? Is she high?

  1. She thinks I am a model, a stud, a movie star, rock singer
  2. She thinks I am homeless and people here are sympathetic to them
  3. I remind her of her grandfather who took too much LSD in the 1960s and sits in elder-care dazed and confused
  4. She is being polite
  5. She is high

If I were younger, not retired I would try to get a university to sponsor me for a second PhD doing research on these states that have become legal the past year or two. After all my first doctorate degree was a bit cutting edge at the time (mid-1990s) ‘Conversational Analysis of Chatroom Talk’ and yes, I actually did get a PhD on that and my 500+ page, 150,000 word book is available in e-book form. I would love to research everything; is there is an effect on

  • student’s grades – I know students have been getting stoned forever but it is now different. With these vapor pens one can easily go undetected with a toke. My understanding is that a toke can space one out for four to five hours
  • motivation/ambition – does one become dulled? I have witnessed folks (Not my friend Randy by the way btw) who sit in front of their TV all day just high
  • does one’s philosophy/outlook on life change?

Of course there are many more questions. Maybe this is a government conspiracy to get everyone so stoned that the new awful government can do what they want. After all a large portion of Yanks did not get out to vote. Could it be that they were home and too stoned to do so? Maybe during this administration there will be commercials advocating getting high first thing in the morning and throughout the day to produce a zombie society. “take your morning toke – your government is looking after all your interests – just sit back and cruise – we have your backs”.

Oh, and costs. I forgot to get a price sheet from the pot store – well actually I did but I sent it to my son thinking he would like to see it. But the vapor pen costs $18 and the refills cost about $50 which gives about 300 hits and one hit gives one a high for four to five hours. I cannot vouch for any of the effects but friends, who start smoking when they start the day, give me this info.

We like Eugene. It is a mellow place – maybe because marijuana is legal. There are a lot of organic stuff happening – this is such a wholesome city. I sleep well here too. Why is that? Is there so much pot in the air that we all just lay down and slip off so easily into la la land?

Last night we went out for dinner, Randy’s treat!  It was a Japanese restaurant. We all ordered bits and pieces and shared the food. Quite yummy. Randy’s ex Cheryl and their son Shane came along. Lovely to meet these people.

The restaurant ‘Izakaya Meiji Company’ www.izakayameiji.com  we would highly recommend. Pricing is fine (though because Randy insisted on paying the bill we lost track of individual items) Most individual items were around three dollars. The final bill for five of us was $77 plus tipping which of course to Australians is almost a foreign concept. I got my share of the vegetarian stuff and the others filled up on animal matter.

I lived with Cheryl and Randy when Sacha’s mother arrived in Hawaii (1980) with him inside of her. Cheryl had Sephera inside of her and there was a time we were all at the beginning of parenting and the future was just a seed. Things became unstuck along the way but there was a time in Hawaii that we were all at the start. Though we did not know what that start was. Cheryl, Randy, and I Skyped with Sephera who was in Connecticut and I tried to get Sacha on but sorting out times in Australia with the East and West Coast of the USA did not work this time.

Oh dear we lost a day somehow – but if I hadn’t it would be listed as 19/12/2016 Day 24 Monday and it would be here

20/12/2016 Day 25 Tuesday

The highways into Eugene have so many RV dealerships. Randy took us out for a day of RV window shopping. At the first place we stopped we went into a large bus, with pullout sides. They wanted about $175,000 for it I think. The salesman told us a long winded story about how some rockstar, with a vague connection to Elton John had the dealership store this RV, and when he returned to the area in his jet, they would make it ready for him so that he could take it on the road for week or two at a time. (hmmm I think a fact check might be in order). After he finished his story I asked him if he had something for $5,000. He looked at me in shock. So I went easy on him and said, Ok maybe $10,000 or $15,000. Well, then we were back in business. He showed us a couple of pretty groovy class A motor homes (getting the lingo see..class A is a big square bus). This one was about 22 ft long, pretty good size, a bit old, but quite roomy. A couple of really comfy arm chairs, but a smallish bed.  It was owned by an old lady (who must have driven it to church). The appealing thing was that it was simple; no computers running things, very low mileage (40,000 m) good tyres, all for $15,000. He said that if we traded it back after driving it for 6 months we could pretty easily pocket $10,000 again. No such a bad idea.

We visited another place that had the same kind of range. These $15,000 buses are 1995 model approx., though we did see one 2002model in that range. So it’s doable I think. They really look comfortable, all with full bathrooms, lounge chairs, separate bedroom at the back, decent kitchen. Much more living space than our Jayco at home. Not complaining, mind you.

dsc_0909

My cold flared up again. Productive coughing. (sorry about that). I actually felt really crook later in the day and lay down for a while, slept a bit. When I got up I felt worse, and it felt like the flu. I sat in my easy chair wrapped in a blanket not functioning much. Then Randy offered me a dose of CBD, which is a derivative of the marijuana plant, minus the ‘high’. He put some drops under my tongue. After 5 minutes I started feeling better. No…. really. It was quite weird. I am such a sceptic with this kinda stuff, but for the rest of the evening I felt almost normal. A coincidence? Maybe. Or maybe not. But that’s exactly what happened. As I write this the following morning, I’m feeling pretty good. Go figure.

I am still managing my diet. I made a low-carb spinach soufflé for dinner getting our ingredients from the local you-beaut organic wholefood market. Randy’s friend Moria visited and had dinner with us. She and Randy and their upstairs neighbour stayed with us in New Jersey about six years ago for a week and of course we are seeing everyone we can now on our retirement-world-tour. She was a music teacher, like Narda for decades and we all ate a great meal; she made a mushroom dish and the others ate some animal that was organic or something, maybe it was wholesome and we watched a Portland basketball game. People here seem to support the Portland Blazers. Narda and toddled off to bed, being nine pm, before the game was over so I do not know who won.

21/December Wednesday Day 26

 

Oregon Coast

Oregon Coast

We left Eugene at eleven AM driving Route 101 along the coast: coming into Florence, stopping at Heceta Head Lighthouse which is rated as the strongest light on the Oregon coast (the beacon shines 21 miles from land) with a fantastic view – when we were there the waves were quite large which my little photo above does not truly capture. We stopped at Newport, a very similar to Newport, Rhode Island place, had lunch, watched a bunch of sea lions and taking the turn east of Lincoln City managed to get to Portland by 7 pm.

 

sea lions getting high in Newport, Oregon

sea lions getting high in Newport, Oregon

22/December Thursday Day 27

A day of exploring Portland seeing snow-capped St. Helens and Mt. Hood (shown below).

Mt. Hood

Mt. Hood

Our two main stops were Powell’s bookstore with Narda getting “Hotel Honolulu” by Paul Theroux @ $7.50 for a used copy, I got a couple of fridge magnets and a mighty bright light, and shopped at Whole Foods Market, primarily getting food for dinner. As I seem to say in several of these posts, having a specific diet is always a bit of a challenge. One of the ways I have control is cooking the evening meal. I enjoy cooking anyway but staying with folks and suggesting I cook dinner could have opposition but it never has. We have been cooking dinner for Narda’s son and daughter-in-law in DC and again in Eugene for Randy and now at Tony’s house. Tonight’s meal was zucchini spaghetti and as usual I had my meaty (which in this case was tempeh, though usually it is mushrooms), Narda, Randy and Tony had lobster tails. We did not have our veggie spaghetti maker so Narda used a potato peeler to make strands out of zucchini and yellow squash plus we added garlic, onions, and mushrooms and sautéed it and tossed it all into a pot of spaghetti sauce and another rather low-carb meal was enjoyed by all.

23/December Friday Day 28

We watched a couple episodes of Portlandia which is filmed in and around Portland for the past five or six years. According to our hosts it does depict Portland with all its trendy ways.

This morning we went to the Country Cat for breakfast – really good feed; on Stark Street. A Portlandia copy. Hopefully we will catch another episode of Portlandia tonight. Our host, Tony, and Randy drove us around the countryside showing rivers and the burbs. Explored an Airstream (caravan) lot and looked inside several. Narda didn’t ask if they had any for five-thousand dollars. We went to Tony’s daughter’s house and fed the chooks. This is a place we could live in.

portland

24/December Saturday Day 29

The taxi rang at 4:15am that he was outside. We got up at 4 and somehow were showered, dressed, and packed and we were at the airport by 4:38. Portland airport was quite busy for such an early hour. Narda had to go through a special sorting out because we did not bring our passport, thinking that since it was domestic to Portland and back that our driver’s license was good enough. But no they did not know what to do with Narda’s Australian ID. I was OK with a Jersey license that would expire in early 2017. We thought for a moment we would not get on our way but after examining every bit and piece of our body and luggage they decided Narda was no danger to the American way of life as is known.

If we wanted to take the time we could have made money on this trip with all the overbooking the airlines does. Firstly, going to Portland we could have gotten $150 each, then coming back the offer got up to $300 per passenger for a flight Portland to Chicago, and $150 when we were in Chicago to get to DC. In other words we could have gotten $600 each and considering our flights cost $25 total (we used flyby points) we could have come out well. But we want to spend Christmas Day in New York City; just the two of us, so changing flights at any profit was not good. But do take in mind that to gain in the world of flying pick holidays, pay your tickets months in advanced then give up your seat for the next flight for cash. We have done it in the past with our favourite being an upgrade to business from Bangalore, India to Hamburg, Germany just because we were willing to get on a next flight.

The served us Stroopwafels on the plane. They’re not even Dutch. A bloody bonus I recon.

flight

dsc_0943

 

Day 6/7 01 – 02 December: Thursday and Friday

70th Annual Kaimuki Christmas Parade

Our last night in Hawaii was as local as you can get.  We took the 13 bus. The actual stop, we discovered on our last day was right outside our block of flats; you just had to go to the other end of the lobby. We chatted for a while with 3 homeless guys, talking about how expensive real estate was in Hawaii. Just before we left one of them came up to me and said, “if I were a bit younger I’d ask you to marry me!” Well there’s one to blog about. I think he was about 50. It made my night. The bus took us about 20 minutes up the side of the hill near Waikiki. We stocked up on some munchies at the supermarket and found ourselves a good seat in the gutter. It was fun. We discovered that if you had a bag, you would be given many gifts by the paraders; candy canes, tootsie rolls, even little lights. It was a fun hour.

Friday 3 December

Our last day in Hawaii. Maybe sometime to return. I have managed to find myself here six times, five from Australia and twice with Narda. We were supposed to have come here in August, 2003, but the events of Leigh stopped it. Our ticket was for a Monday and his last day was the Saturday before which changed everything for me and we went to Sydney instead of Hawaii. (http://neuage.org/leigh.html) It took us thirteen years to get back this time.

Of course I had to compete with a homeless guy that wanted to run off and marry Narda but I had the promise of an upcoming parade to go to and no woman can forego a parade. I used to be in the Shenendehowa High School band in upstate New York back in the 1960s and playing trombone I was in the front row; always a chore for me as there was just too much to keep track of: staying in step, playing the song, and watch where we were headed. I seldom could do all three and usually chose to watch where I was going. I looked forward to seeing a parade that the write up said would involve 1,500 people with lots of floats and several marching bands. Of course you would have seen our  video by now and realised that the parade was a series of mottly groups of disorderly people. But this is Hawaii and there are not a lot of order and rules. When in Hawaii it is best to chill and follow your own path. Life is a parade and Hawaii is the best one.

Now is winter. By tomorrow we will know what winter really means when we get to New York City in the evening with a 4 C forecasted. Looking at my app for the weather right now at all our places we will be in before back to Adelaide (centigrade): Honolulu = 23, D. C. = 9, Saratoga = -3 (that is minus three – we will be there later in the winter when it actually gets cold), Eugene, Oregon = 3, Helsinki – 2 (minus two), Utrecht, The Netherlands = 7, Chiang Ma = 20, Phnom Penh = 26. Of course all those places will change as we get to them being colder for the east coast and northern Europe and warmer for Southeast Asia.

Observations: Observations of a selection in time is always tricky. I am 47-years older than the first time here – damn! It was the 1960s and early 1970s. The homeless dudes we saw in Waikiki could have been my lot. I had a time after leaving the occult order that I got sucked into for a couple of years in Hawaii then later in the 1970s when I had nothing. I had lost track of the girl and her baby I had come to Hawaii with and I was homeless. I went and lived on a beach in Maui for several months then on the big island. I got the money from my parents to get back to New York. Decades of some good breaks got my life from a homeless person in Hawaii to a few months from seventy-years old with a good mate and enough money to make Hawaii a stop on a round-the-world trip.

When I lived here 1980 – 1981 and Sacha was born I had another observation of Hawaii. I worked here and started the parenting thing. I lived in Honolulu and Waikiki those two stages of my life. This time I was here as a tourist. Narda and I were here as visitors in 2002; on the Big Island visiting my brother who I have only seen once in my life (half-brother, same mother – found each other at the end of the 1980s). I stopped here with my children in 1985 as a single parent when we stayed with Randy whom I have known since 1968 and who got me in the occult order here in Hawaii in 1969 and whom we are visiting in a few weeks in Oregon.

Not a lot has changed in Hawaii in those forty-seven years that I have seen during various phases of my life. It has always felt like a long way from anywhere – well it is a couple of thousand miles from the mainland of the USA. To be homeless and out of money here is really being stuck. It is not like one can hitchhike to another place. Money here is generated by the tourists so being older and not in the tourist business and not being Hawaiian is difficult. Maybe being a surfer would be good. Hawaii is very expensive, even more so than Australia. Food is mostly all imported from the mainland or Mexico. Our eggs came from Arizona our milk from Texas our tin of pineapple that said Dole Pineapple on it was from the Philippines – go figure. All that food is expensive. We had decided to be able to make it for four months we would have to have a budget of fifty-dollars a day for food until Asia then forty-dollars a day. We managed to be $78 under budget by the end of this first week so we are proud of ourselves. Our first day we ate at what appeared to be the cheapest eats around and that was $48 by the end of our scrappy little meal. Also, with my low-carb diet and vegetarian high-horse mind-set eating out is not really much of an option. We had better meals than we would have had at restaurants anyway. Then there is the tipping. Australia is free of such nonsense. They pay their servers a fair amount. Why do we have to give 20% to someone that is already being paid to bring us the food? OK so they don’t get paid much – add more to the bill and pay people properly. Here if a meal is $15 there is a service tax, city tax, and then they want a tip so it suddenly becomes $20. If someone picks up your bag they expect a tip. You can tell which are the Aussies and who are the Yanks at hotels or for airport shuttles. Australians say thank you, Yanks give cash. I like to thank people for their efforts.

As I have pointed out prior the best way to get around is by the bus for $2.50 or we just say two seniors and put two-dollars into the thingy. There are also the open-air trolleys from Ala Moana shopping centre to Waikiki for two-dollars. Watch out as they will try to sell a $25 pass for the trolley to get around for the day.

We got the afternoon flight to Los Angeles feeling a bit worse for wear arriving close to eleven pm and getting to the Crown Plaza and to bed closer to midnight than we would prefer. Sinking into the multiple soft pillows I questioned whether we would be getting ourselves up and to the 8:30 AM flight. Unfortunately for my aging body and wobbly consciousness I was awake too many times and Narda told me in the morning that she slept even less.  We were finally, deeply, happily asleep when the front desk rang with an incredible loudness fifteen minute before the requested time of 5.30. There was the inevitable falling forward to the airport where we had a rather good though expensive breakfast. A couple of eggs with a bit of tomato and toast equalling our allotted allowance for the day.

With a good five-minutes of sleep under our belt on the plane’s drift into the clouds we settled in to watch films and I played around with photoshop and some photos of clouds and snowy hills covering someplace in Arizona. I had to make some adjustments because the original photo was too light to discern clouds from snow from earth from something blue so I changed some things; actually the blue was not in the original photo.

clouds outside my window over Arizonia

clouds outside my window over Arizonia

So next stop, New York City and a few days at an Air B&B in Brooklyn before settling in for a few weeks in D.C.

 

Day 5 & 6 of 116 day retirement world-tour > Oahu

Day 5 & 6 of trip or day 4 & 5 in Hawaii 29/11/2016 Tuesday/Wednesday

We are getting better at this time zone change situation. I took this picture when we were almost all the way to Hawaii to remind myself which side of the day I was on. Flying over the International Dateline and the equator at the same time got us twisted about. Of course we were awake for most of the trip whether it was then or now or perhaps even a tad bit before. I am saying this because after only three or four days we are within three or four moments of being almost normal which we are mildly excited about. In other words I was asleep at ten pm last night; OK so I took a sleeping pill, and up at six am. Narda took longer to sleep and was up at 8. Yes, blogs can be this boring and mundane.

Qantas flight to Hawaii - Night and Day

Qantas flight to Hawaii – Night and Day

I was particularly anxious to get an early start to the day because this was the day we were going to go around the whole island. We plan to go around that other island we have lived on since moving back from China and before that New York – Australia, but we will probably take a lot longer to do that. Oahu we were going to do in one day. And cheaply too. There are tours for hundreds of dollars per sucker offered by everyone you meet here. Hawaii is a real hustle but that is what the place survives on. Us tourists, well not us – but ones who actually spend money, shell out the income for these paradise lounge lizards.

The best way and of course cheapest, is to take the Circle Island-via North Shore bus. Bus #55. We ask for the dollar per-trip senior rate even though Narda is five-years too young and I am four years past the mark for it. We average out the 65-year old requirement and that is almost honest. The regular cost is $2.50 so even that is quite a cheap way to get around the island.

The bus, as everything in the States where there is a hint of warmth, was super air-conditioned and we sat shivering because we did not think of bringing a jumper because hey this is Hawaii and it is supposed to be warm. We noticed everyone that got on the bus had a jacket or jumper or something a tad bit warmer than next-to-nothing at all. We got off two hours later at the Dole Planation, on the Kamehameha Highway in Wahiawa, just to get warm and to grab a cuppa. As we had transfers we knew we could get back on the next bus to get to Haleiwa.  It is listed as the number one spot to visit on some tourist brochures but somehow, we were not terribly impressed. There is a large sales place to go through with lots of overpriced crap all with images of pineapples on them. Pineapples themselves, and this is where they are grown, cost a couple of dollars more in the shop than at Walmart. Go figure. Then there is a train ride for eight bucks through pineapple fields which we didn’t go on. I did go on it back in May of 1981 when my parents came over from New York to visit because Sacha had been born six months earlier and they wanted to see him. We went to Maui then too but this trip we are staying on Oahu. The last time Narda and I were here, July of 2002, we did this bus trip too but we did not stop at this pineapple place. We did not go on the pineapple walk for six dollars per person either but chose to look at the pineapple plants around the store and over the fence. What really caught my eye were these trees which are a gum tree though not the same as we have in our front yard back in Adelaide in which we get the occasional koala visiting and I run out and take photos to put on Facebook. These trees are Mindanao Gum trees and have colourful markings. They remind me of paintings from my street artist days (1972 – 1974) in New Orleans (yes, you can see my paintings from any one of my four ‘Thoughts in Patterns” books available in e-book format from (http://neuage.org/e-books/)

mindanao gum (Rainbow eucalyptus) at Dole Pineapple Plantation

mindanao gum (Rainbow eucalyptus) at Dole Pineapple Plantation

We stopped in Haleiwa and got warm again and had coffee, and took the bus to Kahuku. The waves were not high today. Not even at Banzai Pipeline or Sunset. In the next few weeks they can get to 40 – 50 feet swells. We did have good views from our bus window. The night Sacha was born, January, 1981 a previous passing through my life (and having a couple of kids with me) entity and I drove to the North Shore for the birthing experience and the waves were going across the highway (I was working at Queens Medical Centre and we wanted a more natural setting plus we wanted and had taken classes to do the Lamaze underwater birthing trip and Kahuku Hospital was the only one who would go along with it.).

Vans World Cup - World Surf League - Sunset Beach, Oahu

Vans World Cup – World Surf League – Sunset Beach, Oahu

We only saw this from the window:

world cup championship seen from Bus #55

world cup championship seen from Bus #55

Terrell was actually an angel on the bus and let me have his back-row corner seat which was heated from the engine. It was such a relief I nearly wept. No kidding, hypothermia was not far off. The second part of our circle-the-island trip was speccie. Our driver was a speed demon, but not the same as in Cambodia where you seriously start planning your funeral as the bus dodges and weaves at a million mph, while texting. This one was fast and good.

I am sure few folks go to the hospital where their children were born. I have now done it twice both times with Narda. As I explained to Narda it is the process that is enjoyable. Going to Hawaii then taking a day to go to the end of the island to see some little hospital. Not exactly on the tourist top one-hundred places to visit. We only spent ten-minutes inside then went out and got the next bus back to Honolulu.

Kahuku Medical Center

Kahuku Medical Center

It is an Hawaiian custom to plant a tree over the placenta so feeling Hawaiian back in 1981 I did that. Yesterday we looked for the tree planted in 1981 but not sure which it was or even if it was.

When we arrived in the rain into Honolulu we bought some groceries at Walmart and had a nice home cooked meal back at the flat. I’m getting quite attached to this place. The weather is perfect, cool breeze all the time, warm enough to swim. Last night we watched a few episodes of Blacklist.

Each morning we get a free coffee and cake from the convenience store, ‘on the house’ as long as we turn up before 9 am. They call it a continental breakfast.

Waikiki lanai meals

Waikiki lanai meals

Our balcony – the ocean is visible between the buildings

30/11/2016 Wednesday

 For us it’s morning tea. So this morning I woke up normally, no pill, feeling good. We went on a long walk to Diamond Head and the suburbs nearby, crossing though a park full of these Banyon trees.

banyan tree at the Honolulu Zoo

banyan tree at the Honolulu Zoo

We discovered open inspections in this area and I managed to drag Terrell inside.

Lady Muck sitting on a $1.6 million Lanai

Lady Muck sitting on a $1.6 million Lanai

The first one was a 2 bedroom flat listed for 1.6 million dollars. The next one was amazing, every piece of furniture hand-picked and designed, all sorts of beautiful jungle colours; only 3.6 million, 2 bedrooms 2 bathrooms. Unfortunately, they did not let us take any photos. Not sure who buys them. I asked the realtor that question and she said they were most often bought by foreign investors. (not teachers!!)

We also, ‘toured’ a house for a few million that was built in the 1920s. I think that is the one we will purchase and in a future dream move into it. There was no shed involved so bringing all my belongings that fill our shed in Adelaide will be a problem. We probably should buy the house and the apartment overlooking the ocean and that way Narda would not send me off to de-clutter classes in the future, again.

Diamond Head Park between the sea and the crater, always one of my favourite parks in the world. Memories of going to music concerts in the 1960s – 1970s in the midst of the volcano. Sitting under coconut tree reading Mary Stewart’s Merlin Trilogy – feeling like I was part of King Arthur’s Court. Not quite sure what these folks were doing in my favourite park but it wasn’t King Arthur’s Court.

Diamond Head Park butts to the wind

Diamond Head Park butts to the wind

Being retired teachers (we think) (yes, definitely says Narda) we try not to think of school but a surf school would be ideal as long as they stayed in the water and we on land; or we drove their school bus:

Surf School Bus

Surf School Bus

 

Aloha from Narda and Terrell

Aloha from Narda and Terrell

With only two days left in our first stop in our four-month ‘retirement-world-tour’ we hope to get up and about tomorrow, Thursday, good and early though it is already 10:30 pm Wednesday so we may sleep in.

Some other times in Hawaii: 1981, 1982, 1985 with Sacha:

 

 

 

 

Day 4 of 116 day retirement world-tour > Oahu

Nothing says “this is Hawaii” better than having Elvis with some hula girls singing on Waikiki Beach. Yes, it is him – the reason it is blurry is because no one was supposed to have seen this. Like in those UFO photos.

What is more iconic in Hawaii than Elvis with hula girls? Well Elvis with Narda, of course. She looks so happy with him. Luckily, I am not a ‘jealous guy’ as Elvis once sang to me.

Narda duets with Elvis at the Aloha Tower

Narda duets with Elvis at the Aloha Tower

Today we had a bit of a late start – got out of our flat at 12:30. This Hawaiian slow-mellow-relaxed life style is good for us. We grabbed a bus to downtown Honolulu, passing Queens Medical Centre where I worked for a couple of years 1980 – 1981 well closer to a year really. I worked in the locked psych ward – not just with loonies but a bit dangerous ones. We used to give some electric shock treatment; not me but the doctor and I was doing the nursing thing of strapping them in and sitting with them when they came too. I hated the whole process and thought it was a bit mean. So, we wandered around Honolulu for an afternoon. Went over to Aloha Tower, had some lunch and watched a ship come in, and I tried not to talk about my past all the time as that is annoying.

(I was kind of asked not to include my thoughts about the below image but I can’t help myself) We had stopped into Walmart for the loo-toilet-bathroom, whatever they call it in the States, and I was looking at toys as one does. I was fascinated by this particular hula girl doll and the fact that ‘Moana sings her iconic movie song, “How far I’ll go”’ with bold lettering at the top telling us to “TRY ME”. I have no idea what is going on here. My only frame of reference comes from my male reptilian  adolescence brain. And that is all I will say on the topic. I did not purchase it. After a few giggles and being told that I was “not funny” I went on to think about some other thing though I can not recall what.

"How far I'll go"

“How far I’ll go”

I really dislike all the cat and dog things people post – how annoying; saying that, I thought this was an interesting shot. Actually, the dog should be getting exercise and it seemed more interested in my pack of imported spicy Korean Seaweed in individual packs or perhaps the dog near me, than walking.

dog in a basket

dog in a basket

We had a nice sun-setting evening with the beach only two blocks away from home. Finally got my sorry-ass into the water and had a bit of a slash then we sat on the lawn and watched the day disappear into the sea. We love Hawaii and this is another place we could live for a long time though it looks like Southeast Asia is best for us.

We got into a chat on the beach-lawn with this guy from Alaska, who’s girlfriend is from Bulgaria. OK, time for more research. I edged the topic towards the recent election. His response was quite moderate, though he said he voted for the T guy (can’t bring myself to write the word). He said he had also read Obama’s book ‘the Audacity of Hope’ and had concluded that he was a really decent fellow. So there. Another take.

I am an American, though part-Australian having lived there for twenty-four years. My American part sure quickly comes out; especially with sports. I almost forget about NFL or worry about the ups and downs of the New York Giants, when living in Australia. Here there is always NBA, or NFL on or college games. Hawaii Uni won yesterday and got themselves into a Bowl game. Folks here are excited. Not that we sit around and watch sports but I do sneak in a view now and then. Half the people in this area are tourists from the Mainland and the other half are from Japan with .004 % from Australia, New Zealand or some other distant place. I like the Americanisms though it is difficult to pick them out specifically. I feel like a tourist in Australia and still get lost in Adelaide after living there for more than two-decades. I get lost in Hawaii and on the mainland too but I feel less lost.

 

Day 3 > Honolulu

Day 3 Sunday 28/11/2016 Honolulu

One of my first impressions of Hawaii when I first arrived in December, 1969, was all the images of a cold northern winter. Australia does this too. Both places with no snow in sight for thousands of kilometres unless you go to the mall. Then there are songs about dashing through the snow in a one horse open sleigh and songs about snowmen and crackling fires in the snow and here in Hawaii, they are doing the hula to Christmas songs. I was here in December of 1980 too. It was a month before Sacha was born. This year though for Christmas we will be on the east coast though we are not sure where but no doubt real snow will be involved and no one doing the hula.

Ala Moana shopping centre is the largest outside mall in the world. It was right from the beginning. Of course, with a climate like here it makes sense, one of the things that does here. We walked the 45-minutes from our pad (do they say that anymore or is that a left-over from the 1960’s?) to Ala Moana. I have been saying for this past year; “we’ll get it at Ala Moana”. Now with our suitcases filled beyond what they can hold we are unable to purchase anything more than a fridge magnet. We were a bit disappointed. It is just another shopping mall, like every mall in the world, only bigger and outside. Narda said our local mall in Adelaide, Tea Tree Plaza, was the same size and to save the argument and not be one of those people who claim “I told you so” I looked it up; Tea Tree Plaza equals 312,769.03 square feet, Ala Moana Centre (Center) equals 2,100,000 square feet. So, one is seven times the size of the other but I will not say anything. They are equal when it gets to snow scenes but Hawaii has the hula snow scenes; how cool is that? We did find the Shirokiya Japan Village Walk fascinating. Maybe a hundred or less Japanese eating places. Sacha and Georgia recently had gone to Japan and were telling us about how much they liked the food so this is the closest we could get to matching their experience. We found some vegetarian and seemingly low-carb eats that were really tasty and took the bus back to Waikiki. We got on and said “two-seniors” and paid a dollar each. One of the perks of being old.

Japanese vegetarian low-carb at Ala Moana Shopping Centre

Japanese vegetarian low-carb at Ala Moana Shopping Centre

Of course things change. But one that I was quite disappointed in was the International Market Place in the centre of Waikiki. This was once a great place to hang out with lots of funky shops. Now it is ‘world-class shopping’ meaning a lot of glossy expensive stores that were empty even when the area was crowded with tourists. Honolulu will never be Hong Kong, Tokyo, Singapore or anywhere else except Honolulu. Why they are trying to downgrade it is beyond me.

Narda chilling at the Hilton Hawaiian Village

Narda chilling at the Hilton Hawaiian Village

Like most cities, we are living shoulder to shoulder with our neighbours. Because of the climate people leave their doors open. No privacy here. This is looking out from our window.

our neighbours in Waikiki

our neighbours in Waikiki

It is great to have no plans for the day. Narda is still asleep and it is 8 am. She used to be up at five most mornings, never sleeping this late. So Hawaii has already become restful after a stressful few months before heading out into the world of ‘could this be retirement’?

Ok, “my turn” as Maggie would say. First some fact checks. I think that the Tea Tree Plaza size was measured in metres not feet..just sayin’. Furthermore, Ala Moana was dominated by Coach, Fendi, Gucci, Cartier, bla bla bla stores with NO ONE in them), and TTP is NOT. So, that’s all I will say.

We went shopping at Foodland (not the same) and were so shocked by the prices. Eggs $6-$7, bread nothing under $5, milk $7 etc. Blimey, there goes our budget. But…we’ve managed. We found a groovy sweet potato, $1.99 per pound, mixed it with chopped spinach, gravy on top..yum. Dinner on the lanai (my new Hawaiian word). Very nice. Me drinking Yellow Tail, sorry Bren.

corn eaters of Waikiki

corn eaters of Waikiki

After dinner, some rain, then a nice little walk around our own hood, staying away from the Waikiki strip. (More Gucci, Amani, whatever…). We came across a little pub with 4 old guys singing old style jazz, and lots or rock n roll. Think Rockin Robin, The Twist, Blue Suede Shoes, Crazy little thing called Love. We went in, even though was WAY past our bedtime. It was fun. We gotta get out more.

old Hawaiian people singing 1950's music to old people from the Mainland (and Australia)

old Hawaiian people singing 1950’s music to old people from the Mainland (and Australia)

If you read e-books my storefront at http://neuage.papertrell.com/ sells mine along with others I have favoured. Or go to http://neuage.org/e-books/ for my scribbles and photographic-texts of the past few years including ‘Leaving Australia Part One and Part two. If you want a preview of my photo-texts; I post on my picture-poem collection page on Google+ at https://plus.google.com/u/0/collection/E_6JaB occasionally one I favour at the moment.

got to tell ya about this

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yesterday perhaps before