Namaste!! – Greetings and Adoration to you all!!
It has been nearly six weeks since I arrived in India and I am writing this while up in Northern India, surrounded by the Himalayas with the fresh air and amazing vistas every where I turn. I have waited to post about my time in India until I had a quite place to sit back and relax and reflect on the past six weeks, which was not easy to find, but I think I have it here in one of he most amazing places in India, and the world for that matter!
It all started fairly traumatically, with first being turned away from India at 3:50 AM on September 1st due to Visa issues and being sent back to Abu Dhabi, my layover location from South Africa for an unexpected, but still very exciting, week plus of discovering the United Arab Emirates (UAE). I finally arrived on Monday, September 10th, again at the crack of dawn, but this time with a proper Visa in hand and to a warm welcome by the border control folks and soon after by my friends from Blue Planet Network, Peer Water Exchange, Bluefoot Cultural Consulting and Tours and all the friendly people of India!
India as they say can be very stimulating to all the senses; smells, sights and sounds to top them all off, but tastes and touch follow closely there after. When in the cities you often hear it referred to as being a controlled chaos, which as I arrived it proved itself true as I found my way through the streets of Bangalore in a little motorized rickshaw, a Tuk Tuk, weaving in and out of traffic, horns blaring, lights flashing, and everyone out and about on the streets talking and yelling and on the move; – which is full on anytime, let alone at 4:00 AM in the morning! This place definitely has some energy!
A good friend told me as I arrived that India is where patients was invented, and for me I can definitely attest to it is where I have worked hard in the process of perfecting that needed skill set. After nonsensical delays due to bureaucracy, a million holidays, and various strikes, lack of electricity, lack of toilet paper, or just the lack of a simple toilet itself, for the non-existence of antiperspirants, but the noted readily availability of ‘body spray’, which I currently smell much like I would assume a 1980’s Miami Vice night club extra would smell like. This place quickly has you adapting to what ever happens next.
All of it if though, has led me to this place, one of the most amazing in the world. And on the way all my senses have been stimulated, in a good way, while traveling through the south of India and seeing all the amazing temples and rock carvings dedicated to the God’s Shiva and Vishnu and their Wives and Avatars, to seeing the amazing Forts and Palaces from the south to the north of India. In the past six weeks, I had the chance to travel through the backwaters, hill stations and tree plantations of Kerala, the beaches of Goa, the Land of Kings in Rajasthan and Uttar Pradesh, the Cities of Bangalore, Chennai, Mumbai and Delhi and now doing the mountain treks in the Land of the Gods, in the Himalayas. It is truly a pretty amazing Country; or Subcontinent that is India!
I will tell the story in reverse starting with today, here in the mountains, and going back to my first week here meeting the amazing people, doing so much good in NGO’s in and around Bangalore. All this is before I continue my travels, jumping ahead a little bit, on to Thailand,Vietnam and the rest of South East Asia, Australia, New Zealand, the South Pacific before finally getting back to the States and home for the holidays!! I cannot wait!!
I seem to somehow be taking between 200 to 400 pictures each day, which means I have obviously been seeing a lot of amazing sights each day, but I promise I wont share them all with you. I am hoping to try to keep it to showing you a couple of pictures per day and location. Fingers crossed!
Also, as you know your eyes are an amazing thing, and sadly the camera cannot pick up all and exactly what your eyes can see. Add to that the questionable skills of a photographer and a newly formed crack on the lens of my camera, sadly the following photolog of my travels may not be able to show it all so well, but I hope they somewhat capture at least a piece of the majestic beauty of the Himalayas and of this overall leg of my travels.
Here are a few pictures from Kullu-Manali and the Trek in the Himalayas with Peaks between 16K and 20K (they say up to 23K) all around us in Himachal Pradesh, India that I did the last four days:
The opposite of the Himalayas, Delhi is a seriously crazy city. – I stayed in a backpackers hostel on Main Bazar, close to the New Delhi train station, so I experienced it all first hand for sure. Accommodations where… there – all I can say is I used the cocoon sleeping bag liner my brother Jim gave me so not to sleep on the sheets and pillows and I stayed a total of 24 hours in Delhi, quick to get out and move one. With that time I had there, I did get a chance to have an amazing meal in the Pandara Market near the Gate of India and see both the inspiration and continued growth of Shah Jahan’s empire, the builder of the Taj Mahal and most of the forts and palaces in the areas. A few pictures to show my time in Delhi:
Agra, the Taj Mahal, Fort Agra and Fatehpur Sikiri
Visiting the Taj Mahal at sunrise has to be one of the most amazing experiences known to humankind. There are so many stories of the history around the Taj and so many stories by people who have seen it, that the only way to really grasp it all is to experience it and listen to the stories of it all first hand. The eternal love of a man for his wife, the royal family history, imprisonment, concubines, honored deaths of nobleman followed by their whole court, battles and forts and dynasties and kingdoms all tie to this area and these amazing structures that tell the stories through their gates and walls and windows. A few pictures in an attempt to tell a small part of it all…
Known as the Land of Kings, I had the chance to visit two of the Rajputs’ dynasties major cities; Udaipur and Jaipur, the White and Pink Cities, and see a half-dozen of the Forts and City and Lake Palaces of the families that led this land. I missed Jodhpur (the Blue City) and the dessert forts of Jaisalmer, but it is always good to leave something to come back for next time. Photos of Rajasthan:
Mumbai was a treat. – I had the chance to visit my brother Dan’s office, and through his good spirit being shown through the overall team of people there, I felt like I was in New York with family! – It was a great feeling. – In addition to Dan, I have to thank Manish for showing me around and Hari and the team in LERA office for their great hospitality. In Mumbai I got to see everything from Victoria Station and the Gate of India to the Dharavi slums, the base home of Slumdog Millionaire. I got to stay in a western hotel in the Colaba area of town, which I was in need of, along with its great bar called Wink, which had to be one of the nicest parts of all. I also got to see Bollywood at its finest and do some restocking on supplies and get my first international (Indian Phone) – #091-9167559208 – I have tried to send texts and make calls to the States, but I have not quite figures that out yet, but I was able to use it to register and buy train tickets in the Indian Rail system and that has helped a ton!! – Pictures of the sights of Mumbai – The New York / Manhattan and LA / Hollywood of India all wrapped into one!
Goa and traveling up the west coast of India
Goa is where India goes to let loose – It is also is where a lot of Brits and Russians come to party after about October 15th. I happened to be there the weekend of Gandhi’s birthday celebrations (Oct 2nd), so it was a four-day weekend for India and they came out to party for sure! – This was my second scariest hotel, second to the hotel near the airport in Guatemala, I guess because of the holiday hotels were not too available. And also I went on the cheaps here. It seems also that I might have stumbled upon bachelor party weekend and destination here in Goa. I went to Tito’s and Britto’s, the two must go to bars/restaurants in Baga Beach Area of Goa, and it seemed like mainly packs of 6 to 8 Indian guys together – literally hundreds of packs of these teams of guys. They all seemed to be having fun and nice enough, so all was good, but since I did not exactly fit in and it was not exactly my scene, I rent a scooter and went up the coast and found a couple of beaches, mainly with Russian women sunbathing, which seemed just fine for me. – Here are some pictures of the time in Goa – The Dewey Beach of India
Kerala is known for a lot of good things from beaches to backwaters and I got to experience a number of things that made the area famous. I spent a couple of days in Fort Cochin, on the west coast and the Arabian Sea, and the old Portuguese colony where I saw the old churches, harbours, Chinese Fishing Nets and Jewish Town. I also day tripped down to Appalley to go into the backwaters and see the sites of the little villages along the way. I moved from Cochin up to Munnar and had a couple of days there, up in the hill country where I visited tea plantations and saw the natural relaxing beauty of the area. A few pictures to show the story of my time in Kerala:
Side note – sadly due to delay getting into India and a single entry Visa, I was not able to make the side trip to meet good friends in Munich for Oktoberfest, which would have been this weekend. – Sorry to Bill, Dan, Ray, Steve, Knut, Sonya, Ken and Nicole, – Wish I could have been partying with you all! – Also it all caused delays to miss Kevin Ferris up in Delhi and Agra/Taj at this same time – Sorry friends – missed you all!
Trek Across Southern India – in a bus….
Before arriving in Kerala, I had a whirl wind tour of the southern tip of India. Over the course of four or five days I cut across India from Pondicherry to Kerala by taking multiple buses while visiting and staying in multiple places, seeing the country and city and road side life of most of southern India. I was talking to one guy, saying that it seems like there is a new village about every 5 km, he said
“oh yes, maybe closer to every 2 km” – So, if you are looking a map of Southern India and you see a little village, more than likely I have passed through it. – I saw a lot of temples, all in the Dravidian Style which is typical of South India. You will see it in the pictures, the towers look like Praying hands, like Namaste!! – Some of the more memorable ones and ones that I took most of the pictures include
- Chidambarum where the Nataraja Temple or the Chidambaram – Temple dedicated to the Dancing Shiva is located – Shiva won a dance of contest over Vishnu – so it was a pretty cool dancing temple!
- Tanjore saw the Big Temple and the Big Bull at the Brihadishwara Temple
- Trichy and the Sri Ranganathaswamy Temple
- Madurai which is a big City and a place of pilgrimages to the Amazing Sri Meenakshi Temple dedicated to Shiva – Over 10,000 pilgrims come here each day!
East Coast of India on the Bay of Bengal in a Train!!
My first train ride was a 6 hour adventure from Bangalore to Chennai. Chennai is a big city and I had a chance to see the old English Fort St George, St. Marys Church at Fort St George and San Tomas Cathedral – Which is where the remains of St. Thomas the Apostle are located. Their was a sign there that said this is the trifecta of saint remains if you have visited St. Peter’s Cathedral, Santiago de Compostela and the remains of St James and now San Tomas – check, check, check – I just scored a trifecta – YAY!
This leg of the trip I traveled south from Chennai, I headed south to a really cool Artist Colony in Muttukadu called Dakshina Chitra where I did some serious shopping and experienced the great setting of the artist get away. All very cool! The same day I went onto Mamallapuram, traveling down the east coast of India and the Bay of Bengal. Mamallapuram is where the Shore Temple is located built in 690 AD, a shrine cut our of two rocks; one to the God Shiva and one to the God Vishnu. Also the Five Rathas was here, dedicated to Four bothers all cheerish one women – The rock carvings of the Arjuna’s Penance is 96 feet long and 43 feet high and is the second largest monolithic rock carving in the world.
After a couple of days I made my way down to Pondicherry and stayed a couple extra days there in this little french area on the coast for Ganesha Celebration and a short delay due to a strike of all services in India as a protest against the increase in fuel taxes. Saw alto here from the Sri Aurobindo and the Mothers Ashram, the French Consulate /French War Memorial, the Gandhi Statue, the Notre Dame des Anges (The Church of Our Lady of the Angels at Dumas St.) and the Shrine of the Immaculate Conception.
And Back to the Start – Week One, Amazing week with people in Bangalore!
As mentioned, I finally received Visa and arrived back to Bangalore at 3:50 AM Monday morning September 10th – and went directly to Rajesh Shah of Blue Planet Network /Peer Water Exchange – (arriving at 5:00 AM) – I spent the day with them meeting with Vinita and two programmers discussing Peer Water Exchange, its future plans, the focus of Blue Planet Network, the need in the world of water with a focus on community responsibility; identify what is working and what is not and focus on projects that team with the people early and are sustainable. – With a goal of long-term growth and not just a short-term gifts. – It has been said, if you asked a child if they would rather have a day in school or a day at a party, almost all would say “take me to the party” but the day at school, the continued many days at school, is what gives that child a chance to grow and gives them a future. – The discussion went on that the short-term gifts we give can make a lot of people happy, but do not necessarily add and help with the growth of the people. We need to focus on the long-term sustainable growth. Also discussed was adding advocacy for a change in mindset, a focus on needing a cultural change to make a difference – Now this is what I came here for! – Thank you Rajesh and Vinita and all!!
The following day, Tuesday, September 11th was another amazing great day spent touring and meeting and discovering the world of NGO’s in Bangalore, thanks to Kaveria and Bluefoot Cultural Tours and Consulting! Also many thanks to my friend Chris in Austin for making the original connection. Kaveri is an amazing cool person and gave me an amazing cool experience meeting people like Anita Reddy and her group DWARAKA www.dwarakaonline.com and DRIK/DRRT who has been helping house, educate and empower the people of the urban and rural slums of Banglore for 30 years along with people like Rohan Abraham of PledgeBack http://www.PledgeBack.org who is linking groups together doing and needing NGOs around Bangalore. We visited sites where Kaveri and the groups are making a difference first hand in the lives of so many in need. It was amazing.
These meetings with all of the above lead me to the rest of the week meeting other amazing people around the City doing amazing things in Bangalore and around India including Susmita and Rajesh via Stanzin and the good people of CDD Society www.cddindia.org /CASS/BORDA who are focused in proper sanitation for those in need. Also I met Vishwanath from Biome www.biome-solutions.com Rainwater Club www.rainwaterclub.org / Rainwater Harvesting who is doing amazing sustainable construction using natural materials found in India and the area they are building.
I also got to do a little touring seeing the Black Magic Cemetery and Shrine and Temple, the Tipu Palaces, the Bull Temples, Universities, Parks, Lakes and Churches of Bangalore
Thursday was spent with Edward from DRRT / DWARAKA and visiting some of the projects done by Anita Reddy and her group have done in and around Bangalore including four communities in urban and rural slums and a new school she is building for those in need. We visited both Wahab Gardens and Mrs. Palya in the urban area of Bangalore and Gollahalli and Nalakadirenalli in the rural are outside of Chickaballapur. Also with the under construction of Drik Viveka campus near Chickaballapur.
Friday ended with Dinner and drinks with Kaveri at UB City, which was a great way to end a great week, – Thank you Kaveri and Rajesh and Anita and Rohan and all for an amazing first week in India!!