martes, 14 de septiembre de 2010

Un pequeño video que había quedado olvidado. Un gran momento en el Festival de Teej, en Patan, Nepal, donde las mujeres se viste de rojo y bailan pidiendo una larga vida para sus maridos. No tenia el vestido rojo, pero si las ganas de bailar!!

Aquí va!

viernes, 12 de diciembre de 2008

Just when you're thinking things over!!

And in a flash of light there you have it.....4 months, 1 continent, 2 countries, 13 states, 35 cities/towns/villages, 37 hotels.....of varying standards, 13 trains, 33 buses, 2 camels, 1 moped, 6 Metros, 5 boats, numerous rickshaws....& an unimaginable number of kilometres on foot....often to get places & quite fequently to retrace our lost steps!!
So what can be said of India! It is impossible not to be enthralled, mesmorised & baffled by this great country.....but almost as impossible to sum it up in words. To fully appreciate it in its entirety one must take the plunge & make the visit themselves. Between the 2 of us having done fairly well in recent years at covering the globe we found India to be unlike anywhere else on our fascinating planet. A crazy blend of love & hate, old & new, rich & poor, sun & rain which all contrive to stimulate, frustrate, excite & confuse albeit at the same time!! And in our 3 months there we still only managed to see a fraction of this wonderful place, from the mayhem of Mumbai to the deserts of Rajasthan.....the fresh mountain air of McLeod Ganj & audiences with the Dalai Lama to the mind boggling events of Varanassi......35 hour train rides along the East coast & to the hippiness of the Goan beaches!
Then of course you have Nepal, just across the Northern border & into the Himalayas, where the madness of its neighbours disappears immediately upon entry. A land of smiling faces, happy people, jaw dropping scenery, unsurpassed beauty & endless festivals.....from the tranquility at the lakeside town of the vibrant capital the mesmorising towns of the Kathmandu valley. If you do nothing but do nothing in this country to us it would be time well spent & should be on every travellers must visit places!
No amount of planning could have prepared us, or anyone, for the events that took place over these past 4 months & although some situations were at times rather harrowing I would not change them for the world.
I have returned home an exhausted & satisfied traveller, captivated by both the people & places, who has accomplished a dream & is of course now awaiting the next adventure!!
One love. Namaste!

jueves, 4 de diciembre de 2008

Goa.....India for some.....but perhaps not for others!!!!

So here we were, after 4 months of ups & downs, loves & hates, swings & roundabouts, heartaches & happiness, on the beaches of Goa. Was this to be the idyllic setting we were hoping for to end our journey?
As ever it took a solid & hard 15 hours by train to reach the Southern most tip of the Goan province.....Palolem beach. Arriving at night we even splashed out on a £15 a night hotel.....A/C, TV, hot water & terrace.....true package tour style......aaarrrghh it was painful......until my head hit the pillow, which culminated in a poetic night with the dreamweavers!!!! (although it is not like I hadn't slept well prior to this occasion). Eager to find out what was awaiting us on the shores of the Arabian Sea, I woke with a yawn in the first light of dawn.....well around 11, & then took advantage of the fine breakfasts on offer......ah Goa....such fine foods, yet nothing of India.....funny eh!! So finally we got to the beach, & a pretty good one it was......a mesmerising, palm tree surrounded, crescent of golden sand, accompanied by clean crisp luke warm waters which were attacked at the soonest moment. All was good, Martina & I overly content & not even the young souvenir sellers could get to us, or the remainder of the not too many tourists. So 3 days flew past as we took our place on the beach with the cows, fruit sellers, armed police, & the odd, to be expected, letchy local. However there must have been more to Goa than a beach & surely it couldn't all be so pleasant.
Never ones to spend too long in a destination, we left the holiday makers and moved North to Panjim & Old Goa......where did all the people go!! Panjim has to be without doubt the quietest town in India & it was a pleasure to wander the streets amongst the pastel shaded buildings of Mediterranean influence. As with the most of Southern India we were treated to an array of fascinating churches & cathedrals, particularly in Old Goa, however viewing was cut short as we had a Goan Party Cruise awaiting us, with live music, folk dancing & singing.....hahaha......4 kids doing the oki koki in Goan dress & a DJ was not quite what we bargained for, although entertaining it was & allowed for Martina & I to demonstrate our Bhangra dancing skills, much to the delight of the adoring Indian audience!!!
Fearing we'd be asked to join the on-board team for future events, the following morning we made tracks back to the up Anjuna!! The home of the famous flee market, trance parties & middle aged Italian & Russians in thongs.....aaarrggghh too many men in still traumatised!!! We found refuge in a small guesthouse, in which we could hear the sounds of the ocean from our window......marvellous, & remained at the sane end of the beach. Quiet & peaceful again, however the beach was not as pleasant as Palolem & Martina was once almost swept away by the nasty undercurrents of the ocean. Fortunately I was on hand to enforce full Baywatch procedures.
The days were now disappearing & seeing as our train out was further North we chose to spend the last few days in Arambol, the first beach to which the hippies of the 60s era landed. To this day the hippy vibe can still be felt with its laid back style & flower power so far beating off the property developers. But cant be long before Benidorm syndrome takes over!! It was here that we were to witness one of the most bizarre events of the trip, & there had been a few!! Having spent a wonderful day lazing on the beach, watching the world & cows go by, enjoying the odd beer & whatever hippy products may or may not have been available, the unbelievable was to happen. The 2 of us had pondered over how the beaches appeared relatively clean, with Palolem being immaculate, however as we sat enjoying a beer in the cool evening air a young gentleman came out from a beachside cafe, proceeded to dig a 3 foot hole in the sand, empty the full contents of his trash into the hole & then refill with amazing disregard to the environment & all the poor little fish of the sea!!!! Dumbstruck with confusion the only plausible answer to this we could find was..."hey this is India, & thats just how it is."

Beside this strange incident Arambol proved to be a fine end to our beachtime, but it was now time to board the Indian rail network for the final leg & trundle 12 hours North to Mumbai & back to the start again!!! Was a pleasure to take these 10 days & enjoy the sunshine amongst the holiday makers & a fitting end to an overly interesting adventure!!!!

lunes, 1 de diciembre de 2008

Kumily & Kerala.....a refreshing change!!!!

Onwards again we moved, further South, & inland a little, to a small town by the name of Kumily. Martina & I were slightly concerned at the ease of travelling by bus here, as we had the luxury of 2 seats to ourselves and a placid driver who calmly sped his way through the hilly tracks to our destination. For sure there were no complaints!!!
Kumily is home to Periyar Wildlife Sanctuary, and so with our bodies recharged we decided to set out for some tiger spotting. Arising at 6am we made the 4km walk from town to the park which we were told would be a fine opportunty to view wildlife. Tigers maybe not as we'd have been in for some trouble. Unfortunately any chance of animal viewing was crushed by the constant flow of traffic pounding into the park with horns honking & bhangra pop blaring at unappealling decibels. Keeping our spirits high we joined a farcical queue for the boat cruise and fought our way in to purchasing tickets. However, the sum total of animals on show was zero......could maybe learn a thing or two on game park etiquette from our African cousins!!!
The day being Mr Gandhi's birthday & an alcohol free day across the nation we decided to celebrate by watching the sunset from the fine balcony of our homestay.....accompanied by the odd Kingfisher picked up on the sly from a restaurant ever eager to sell to tourists.....good work that man!!!

Time to move on again & a standard 6 hour bus ride brought us to the West coastal town of Fort Cochin (Kochi)......the home of fine fresh fish, crazy Kathakali dances & fascinating disco churches!!!! Was also from Kochi that we ventured out into Keralan backwaters, a number of inland lakes connected by a network of canals. Aboard our man powered house boat we cruised leisurely along, taking in the tranquility, which we so often had to search long & hard for in the North, observing the daily goings on of its inhabitants. Back in Kochi we were to stumble across a fine choice of fresh fish, brought to shore through the use of ancient looking Chinese fishing nets, cooked to our liking at a small but delightful shack by the side of the need for knives, forks, plates.....just a bowl of fine ocean fodder & our able fingers...naturally we were to return day after day!! What else of Kochi? Of course, the disco churches, with the finest, the Santa Cruz Basilica, located in the centre of the town and yet another religious site with a Disney facelift. This is Kerala, "Gods Own Country" afterall, so why not show it in style!!!! And then the Kathakali, an extraordinary blend of song, dance, poetry, drama, make-up application & traditional ritual......all of which combines to provide a mesmerising experience.....have a look should you ever get the chance!!!!

When the times are so relaxing & events run so smoothly it is sometimes harder to put it into words.....or am I lazy....or have I just forgotten.....writers block I even a writer???....think I need a holiday!! Regardless, for this past week I feel the experience is best viewed in the photos.....note the smiles & cleanliness of the two of us (well me anyway, as compared to usual).
Next stop Goa & the beach.....should be interesting.....very interesting!!!

domingo, 9 de noviembre de 2008

Return to India - North to South in 5 days!!

So after 1 month amongst the tranquility of Nepal we headed back across the ramshackle border at Sunauli and on to Gorakphur, which was to be more of a culture shock than when first landing in Mumbai so many weeks back. Having a train the following morning we needed to find refuge for 1 night and the only available option resembled more a truckers "pay by the hour" nesting shack than any sort of hostel/hotel. For 1 night surely we'd survive, which we did, although it didn't get much better as we searched for a respectable eatery we dodged rats the size of cats, cockroaches looking like they had eaten the rats, & waiters looking like cockroaches.....beautiful!!
Needless to say we made it through the night & began the 1st of many epic train rides to take place over the coming month. 23 hours & 850km to Kolkata where we were greeted by the usual barage of questions from the ever curious natives.....these of which we have grown well accustomed to by now. We had heard some mixed reports of the former capital....extreme poverty alongside the usual difficulties associated here. However Martina and I were pleasantly surprised by the friendliness, apparent organisation of roads and obeying to traffic rules, and general ease of the city. And all this taking place amongst the busiest of cities where not an inch of space is wasted or goes unutilised. With a feast of fascinating architecture of British India around the BBD Bagh area and Victoria Memorial, a monument that would rival the Taj Mahal had it been built to celebrate an Indian, and areas reminiscent of "the land that time forgot" in Barbarbazaar & Chinatown, Kolkata has an interesting contrast of struggle & splendour. Chinatowns are hectic & fast paced the world over, however, wandering the markets & chaotic alleys here made us feel like a grain of pliau rice being ferried around by an army of busy ants!! The decision was taken to depart after only 3 days, as after enjoying the city so much we did not wish to risk the possibility of something, or someone, ruining our experience.
On to the train again.....this time a 35 hour.....1600km journey along the East coast to Chennai. How we wondered would time pass without too much boredom??? Another pleasant surprise as the train became immersed with an array of beggars.....some nice, some annoying, some entertaining & others just disturbing. We had Sari clad singing transvestites, blind men playing accordians, men with no legs sweeping & cleaning the carriages, all kinds of diseased (non contagious) & malfunctioned bodies, harmonica players with no arms (maybe this I made up???), fruit sellers, nut sellers, chai sellers, paperboys, plagiarised book sellers, plus the usual amount of train riding nutcases!! The entertainment was all free of charge and kept us sane, if at all possible, until finally we reached our destination.

With just 1 day in Chennai and after longing to feel sand between our toes we headed straight for Marina Beach. How different beachlife is in this crazy country, with women swimming fully clothed in their Saris, hoards of men playing endless games of cricket, young girls perfroming death defying tightrope acts, plus the usual Indian street cuisine. However, with trash sprawled as far as the eye can see it is difficult to understand the lack of respect for such a natural beauty as the beach & ocean are. Throw it in the bins for f$%* sake!!!! The rest of Chennai, or what we saw, is more traditional and a far cry from its larger counterparts and a wander through the market streets gives an enjoyable glimpse of village life within a city.

The last leg of this entry took us to Madurai, once again by train, only 9 hours & in the with the comfort of a reclining chair & A/C.....travelling in style now!!! Madurai is a small town with the focal point being the huge Sri Meenakshi Temple, a Dravidan architectural masterpiece, covering no less than 6 hectares of land. Inside was somewhat like a Disneyesque fair ground, with an array of souvenir shops, fairy lights depicting Gods & elephants happy to take money from the crowds of pilgrims lining up to make offerings.
So much of what we have been used to and alot of new ever surprising events. The first week back in India had been as interesting as ever.

domingo, 2 de noviembre de 2008

Walking the Kathmandu Valley!!

Its been so long that it almost seems like another lifetime since we were in Nepal. But for the viewers pleasure I'll have a go at recalling the events. Since I last left you I believe we were in Kathmandu and about to commence our voyage around the valley, and I've just had a sneaky look at the photos Martina has uploaded and we appear to have come along way since Nepal, but regardless I shall give it a go.

Have not a clue where now to start so will have a guess at Bhaktapur, 1 of the 3 royal cities of Nepal, alongsaide Patan and Kathmandu. The city of culture, myself & Martina were blown away by the architecture, landscape, local cuisine and fascinating attitude of the local people. Such a joy to wander the streets & be greeted by the welcoming smiles & innocent laughs. It was here that I decided to test my travel insurance limits for the first time, by riding atop a local bus, to Changu Narayan, alongside the goats, sacks of rice and a few locals. This proved most entertaining, especially having to dodge the overhead power cables, breathing in the fresh country air and the knowledge that Martina was squashed up inside in a ball of sweat!! Bhaktapur is one beautiful little town and power cuts weeks could easily be passed by here just watching the world go by.

From Bhaktapur we then made our way up to Nagarkot, 2175m above sea level, a town said to offer unrivalled views out beyond the Kathmandu valley bowl. What we did miss though was that these views were expected from October onwards. At this time of year there is not a lot else to do in Nagarkot, so we sat, feasting on the delights of yak cheese sandwiches, in the hope that the rain would clear for a just a few minutes sat! Our patience was to pay off as one morning we were vigarously awoke at the crack of dawn to be greeted with the stunning sight of sunrise and the fascinating view of the snow capped Himalayas.....well worth the wait!

Not ones to indulge in full mountain treks we decided to take our own hike 25km from Nagarkot to Bodnath, via the beautiful small villages of Sankhu, Bramhakkel and Mulpani. Through this route we were met with some of the most breathtaking scenery and happy smiles to ever lay our eyes upon, making the walk more pleasant than we could have imagined. However we are still monsoon season and the walk was interrupted just outside of Mulpani forcing us to hop on a bus for the final few kilometres.....this was not met with too much disappointment. Nepal just keeps on amazing us and Bodnath was to be no different. A small town housing Nepal's largest populaion of Tibetan exiles and incredible architecture built around the incredible Bodnath Stupa, which is best visited late of an afternoon to witness the Tibetan and Bhuddist community going about their daily rituals.

The past week has possibly been the most peaceful, relaxing and jaw dropping since our arrival on this continent. Now, however it is time to return to the organised chaos of Kathmandu and then on, once more, to Pokhara.

lunes, 27 de octubre de 2008

Emprendiendo la vuelta....

Y asi se dan las cosas que despues de 4 meses me encuentro nuevamente en "tierra firme", o mas bien que flota! Una vez mas en Inglaterra y a una semana de volver a Buenos Aires. Parece mentira que el tiempo haya pasado tan rapido y de repente me encuentre amaneciendo en Mumbai y durmiendo en Bishops Cleeve, el mundo es cada vez mas chico y parece que se encogiera por minuto.
La India me desafio en mas aspectos de los que habia pensado posibles. Despues de haber viajado por Africa pense que podria facilmente adaptarme a un pais que es mas viajado y mas "desarrollado" en terminos turisticos por la inmensa cantidad de visitantes que lo recorren. Sin dudas, India fue una especie bautismo de fuego, que por momentos me hacia cuestionar esta incesante necesidad de viajar. Una realidad tan pero tan distinta a cualquier otra que pude vivir, una complejidad en la diversidad de credos y costumbres que habitan su suelo, un obstaculo en cada esquina....pero tambien una recompensa en cada rincon.
Apenas llevo 3 dias de vuelta en el "primer mundo" y ya puedo ver en retrospectiva parte de lo que la India me dejo. A la distancia, todas aquellas experiencias que en su momento parecian incomprensibles, agobiantes cuasi claustrofobicas, ahora las puedo ver bajo otra luz. Todos esos intensos momentos en que rodeados de por lo menos 20 personas interrogandonos acerca de los mas diversos temas, "A que pais pertenecen?", "Porque no estan casados?", "Cuanto ganan por anio?", ahora son testimonio de la incansable curiosidad de los indios y de su sincero interes por aprender de quienes los visitan. Las innumerables invitaciones a tomar un "chai" (te) o a cenar en sus casas que en su momento nos hacian sentir poco menos importantes que Brad y Angelina, ahora son muestras de su hospitalidad y calidez. La India y su gente son capaces de inundarte de carinio en escala tsunami, a la distancia lo puedo ver.
Recorrimos por 4 meses India y Nepal. Visitamos 13 estados , 35 ciudades/pueblos, dormimos en 37 hoteles de la mas variada naturaleza, tomamos 13 trenes, 33 buses, 1 moto, 2 camellos, 6 metros, 5 barcos, incontables rickshaws y un ridiculo numero de kilometros caminados que no me animo a nisiquiera intentar contar. Recorrimos el perimetro entero de la India empezando y terminando en Mumbai. Pasando un mes en Nepal, un pais unico por su encanto y su gente.
Recorrer la India de punta a punta en 3 meses nos dio una posibilidad unica de ver las enormes diferencias entre el Norte y el Sur, entre el Este y el Oeste, entre las grandes ciudades y los pueblos rurales, entre el rico y el pobre, el hindu y musulman. Un pais enorme en su extension, enorme en su riqueza cultural, historica y religiosa. Un pais de contradicciones constantes y de sorpresas en cada esquina. Un pais que nos pone a prueba a cada paso que damos, ya sea por las piras funerarias en Varanassi o por la sonrisa de un chico que te desarma en la calle. Un pais tan diferente a cualquier otro, que muchas veces me parecio mentira que vivieramos todos en el mismo planeta.

Y asi es que este viaje termina, o por lo menos este capitulo. Y una vez mas me quedo con esta contradictoria sensacion, por un lado la enormidad del mundo y por el otro nosotros, quienes lo habitamos, tan distintos en tantos aspectos pero tan iguales en escencia. Nuestras alegrias, nuestros sufrimientos, las preguntas que nos hacemos y las respuestas que les encontramos. Parece que el mundo por mas enorme que parezca no es mas que un punto en el universo y nosotros estamos todos mas cerca de lo que pensamos.

Gracias a todos los que nos siguieron! y a por ello que no es tan dificil como parece....