A Travellerspoint blog

By this Author: MamaYo

Which ever way the wind blows

sunny 63 °F

We are back in Istanbul again. Yesterday we faced the difficult decision to cancel our flights to Hungary and the UK. We couldn't rationalize flying into the ash cloud with the possibility that we wouldn't be able to fly out and make it to NYC in time for Ben's step-sister's wedding. So, we opted to cut the trip short and head back to the states early. We consoled our disappointment by arranging to visit our good friends in Washington DC for a few days before we head up to NYC. When I asked the kids, "Spain or the Yardas'?" It was an immediate unanimous answer. Of course, by the time we thought it out and considered all the options, and then waited on hold to the airlines for two hours, the earliest flights out of Istanbul to the US were on Thursday! So we have another three days here--Emotionally, it felt like we ended the trip when we canceled the last few weeks in Europe. So now there is a little struggle with the waiting time to get homeward bound. Tonight, the usual dinner issues--where to eat, who isn't going to like it, who got to pick last, what kind of food to eat, what time should we eat--had Ben and I grinding our teeth. I miss home!

Everything about the last week is a big fat lesson of letting go of control--a common theme in my life! Maybe common for many people, at least in Europe right now!
Our time in Cappadocia was a hop out of step--I brushed against the frustration of life not going my way so many times!
I think Ben mentioned that our guide couldn't speak English very well? At first, her accent was funny with the way she emphasized the wrong syllable of each word. But she also thought that raising the level of her voice would make her more understandable. (I notice this is a common reaction when people aren't sure about being understood.) For us this meant our day with her consisted of her yelling at us her oft repeated version of Cappadocian history in response to any questions about the area--"the Christians came to cave howwwzes in 1st centureeee" or other basic observations such as "look at the pigeon howwwwses" "lots of pigeon howwwzes" "seeeeee the baby Jeeeesus" or our favorite "see yes the big mounteeeen" This one in response to our efforts to inquire about some pillars we could see on top of two large mountains near Avanos. We were all mystified about what ruins would be on top of the mountain, but we couldn't get her to understand what we were talking about--she repeated this in about 7 different variations--"there are two mountains" "the mountain is high" "it is very tall" Aarrghh! We gave up. Fortunately for us, the next lesson in letting go solved that mystery!

We had to do the hottest thing to do in Cappadocia--a dawn hot air balloon ride over the crazy rock formations. Of course, the day of our reserved trip, Posie had a fever, so we rebooked for the next day and couldn't get the early sunrise time slot. I was bummed to miss the great photo ops. We decided it was all for the best since we wouldn't have to wake the kids at 5AM--we didn't even mind that the breakfast cookies were picked over, or that there were no clean glasses left for tea, or that we were in a balloon with 12 LOUD talking tourists from Japan and China (we are immune to that now, and of course they had to take pics with Posa), -----it was the wind that got to us.
Notice that all the other balloons are over there....way over there, over the cool rocks and we are over the fields heading for the highway?
looking back to all the other balloons

looking back to all the other balloons

getting high

getting high


As we drifted farther and farther away, I asked Hussien, the balloon man, "how do you steer this?" His reply,"whad ever ways da winds go." OK. So the winds decided to answer our earlier query and we found ourselves drifting far away from the Cappadocia Valley right towards the "two big mounteeenns." And we did get to see what the pillars were all about--
LAND ART! Who climbs up here and gathers all these rocks into these neatly stacked stone walls? A crazy Aussie, of course!
The ride was getting quite exciting at this point, especially with the unknown destination and landing zone predictions being yelled out by Adrian every few moments. "we're gonna crash land in that circle!" "We're gonna hit that mountain!" "the balloon is gonna pop on those rocks!" "we're gonna land in the rock circle and never be able to get out!" It was a bit unnerving to see the rescue jeep racing up over rough roads below us to try to catch us before we went over the other side of the ridge into Avanos Valley. The balloon guys were professionals, though we had to assume "landing" positions, we were brought down right on the trailer bed and hardly even tipped sideways or dragged along in the dirt too much. Adrian has a different version of course--you can ask him about the crash landing.
Floating over the mountains?

Floating over the mountains?


flying over the mountain top art

flying over the mountain top art


coming for a landing

coming for a landing

our possible crash site--

our possible crash site--

haeding down sideways

haeding down sideways


open the vents!

open the vents!

trying to hold down the balloon

trying to hold down the balloon

landing site

landing site

And the moral of the story is: the wind blows where it will, and we have to deal with the consequences as they come to us--sometimes changing direction comes with a treat, like seeing much missed friends or getting the best view of art from above or just having to eat more rich and tasty Mediterranean food for a few more days...
The favorite meal to order

The favorite meal to order

Posted by MamaYo 15:49 Archived in Turkey Tagged family_travel Comments (5)

On the road to find out

sunny 65 °F

We have seen small glimpses of Turkish life outside the metropolis of Istanbul and the hot pockets of tourism at Ephesus and Cappadocia. I can't say we have truly experienced and lived in the culture as we have in other countries--maybe if we had gone to stay in the nomad camp down by the border of Iraq.....!!!! hahah
Despite not being sure that we really KNOW Turkey, I can say that the entire family really loves what we do know of this country so far, and we all look forward to another visit in the future. Food is effortless and delicious, language is manageable, people are approachable and friendly, history is rich and captivating, and the land is absolutely, amazingly beautiful.
view from near our hotel

view from near our hotel

one of many volcanoes in Cappadocia region

one of many volcanoes in Cappadocia region


Sort of a mix of Utah canyon lands and California mountain volcanos with the colors of Nevada sagebrush and hills--feels like home to me!

We rented a car and took a long drive out of the Cappadocia tourist valley--Ben and I were gasping at the open beauty and space. That little time in the car, cruising along with our family on our own time, was the golden nugget of our journey--that moment of togetherness and peace that filled our souls with calm and ease. Funny that we had to come all the way around the world to find it! Life is so hectic and busy, (no matter where you are)--In my life, I am constantly searching for the magical way to keep all five of us in harmony. A big part of this journey was my desire to exit life as we know it, leave behind the distractions of the life we have lived, the home, the comforts, the patterns, so we might see a stripped down version of ourselves and our family. Of course, you can't leave your self behind completely, but out here on the road, we have gotten close many times--sometimes from the pain and anguish (INDIA), and other times that perfect moment just comes upon us all at the same time.
Out on the plain driving out into the countryside of Turkey, was one of those times.
middle of nowhere

middle of nowhere

Top of the mountain

Top of the mountain

on the way up

on the way up

happy times

happy times

giggle attack

giggle attack

Posted by MamaYo 02:16 Archived in Turkey Tagged family_travel Comments (4)

Another week already!

62 °F

Hello all

There were some requests in the last few comments I want to address--

First, the food shopping:
Yes, there are supermarkets here, more in the suburbs though, which is due to space and lifestyle. Where we are it seems that most people still shop the "old" way. This means topping off at the fruit/veggie stand, the meat shop a few doors down, across the street to the bakery, and up the block for diary and cheese, back to a tiny shop on the corner that sells only eggs, or heading the other direction for a row of fish stalls, and a household supplies shop. It takes a while to hit it all, but everything is so fresh!
We have been spending time with Mehmet and his family this last week and I made a point to ask his wife, Ayla, about her shopping habits. They live about an hour outside the city and she always shops at the supermarket, but Mehmet's mother who lives in the city never does. So there you have it--I would think that generational difference is pretty much the norm.
We are enjoying getting our food the "old" way while we are here and have the time.
here goes that 13 lbs

here goes that 13 lbs

nearby fish mart

nearby fish mart

another fish shop

another fish shop

fruit stand down street

fruit stand down street

fresh bread down the street

fresh bread down the street


our pickled pepper store

our pickled pepper store

pickled everything for that matter

pickled everything for that matter

Second, more pics of Posa for AVA!
We convinced her to get these new shoes by telling her that AVA had the same kind--here they are getting broken in on a rainy day when we happened upon a street festival where thousands of balloons were being popped.
the ballon pop fest

the ballon pop fest


fresh mint lemonaid

fresh mint lemonaid

turkish bindi (pickle)

turkish bindi (pickle)

waiting for scraps

waiting for scraps


This was at lunch the other day--this cat was hanging out under our feet. He is quite handsome and friendly just like all the other cats of the neighborhood.

Something we look forward to on our walk to the bus, metro, tram, or tunnel each day is stopping to get a fresh squeezed mix juice. The pomegranates are GIANT and JUICY, the oranges are the sweetest I have ever tasted--what a treat!
fresh pom/orange juice every day

fresh pom/orange juice every day

Yum

Yum

Third, more info about where we are staying--We love our location and apartment. It is nice to be home a bit before we embark on the last month of our travels.
view from apartment

view from apartment

making fruit salad

making fruit salad


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P1020669


Apt entryway

Apt entryway


teensy elevator to 4th floor

teensy elevator to 4th floor

These are some pics from the few streets around our area. We are in the antique, jazzy, hipster, part of town--so there are lots of cool shops and people to check out
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art mirror

art mirror

more kitties on the block

more kitties on the block

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newest art around corner from house

newest art around corner from house

Posted by MamaYo 14:16 Archived in Turkey Tagged family_travel Comments (5)

The first week in Turkey

feeling wonderful here!

sunny 55 °F

That's my word these days. I'm almost back to normal, I can eat again! No more Thunder Guts! There is so much food to enjoy here every day we try something new and delicious. Ben had lunch with a old friend, Mehmet, who was an exchange student in Truckee over 20 years ago. They went to an old restaurant that has been in operation with the same menu for 57 years. It was so good we had to go back so I could try it. I think I may have eaten veal--Yikes! But it was very flavorful and so tender, I liked it. This is the specialty of the house--
Iskendar Kabob--Yum

Iskendar Kabob--Yum

We also have enjoyed the doner sandwich shops all over town. You will know this as Gyros--here it is served in a roll with peppers, french fries, and tomatoes.
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P1010468

loving chili peppers

loving chili peppers

tea at our afternoon favorite restaurant Kiva Han

tea at our afternoon favorite restaurant Kiva Han


Tonight we are meeting Mamet and his wife, Isla, to go to another famous seafood place. I'm excited to go out without kids for an adult night. Finally! Even with Cooc here to babysit, I was too sick and we never got away on our own, so this is a real treat.

Colleen wrote a nice bit about the last week. She did take hundreds of photos, many that I uploaded to the MamaYo link on the sidebar. We tried to see some of the main sites while she was here--Galata Tower, Topaki Palace, the Haghia Sophia, the Blue Mosque, the Basilica cisterns, the Grand Bazaar, and the Spice Market. She also helped us move from the hotel to our apartment on the other side of the Bosporus. So it was a lot of full days on our feet. We were staying in Sultanamet area of Istanbul, which is the location of the original city founded in 324 by Emperor Constantine. There are bits of the old city ruins here and there to be discovered--though most is buried about 15 feet under the new city. This was our first introduction to ancient Roman history and it has us even more excited to go south to Ephesus and Troy to see more archeological sites.
Some photos:
large_P1020532.jpglarge_P1020528.jpginside blue mosque

inside blue mosque

Blue Mosque

Blue Mosque

angel on church

angel on church

dome in church

dome in church

large_P1010205.jpgwalkway to second balcony in church

walkway to second balcony in church

Haghia Sophia

Haghia Sophia


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worn out entry step into church
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more tile walls

more tile walls

Harem

Harem


tile walls

tile walls

galata tower

galata tower

girls out day

girls out day

shopping

shopping

shopping for treats for the loyal blog followers

shopping for treats for the loyal blog followers

painted pottery

painted pottery

Inside spice bazaar

Inside spice bazaar

One stall at the spice market

One stall at the spice market

looking over Bosprous

looking over Bosprous

Colleen and I went to a mosaic museum that was built over the site of the original walkway from the palace to the Hippodrome where the chariot races were staged. The detail on the mosaic was stunning--and it was so cool to be standing on the colonnade where the Emperors once walked. The imagination has to supply all the details of the the palaces and ruins we see, and it is often hard to visualize how luxurious and extravagant life was when all we have before us are empty rooms. These mosaics though, that basically make up the roadway, somehow transported me back to the decadent life of the royal court.

Now with all the main tourist spots off our list we are going to settle in a bit and just live for a few weeks. Our apartment is in a great location--bakery, vegi/fruit market, and good restaurants within a few blocks. I could live here. We will send more photos of our area and get back to a daily blog tomorrow.

Posted by MamaYo 05:18 Archived in Turkey Tagged tourist_sites Comments (7)

Goodbye from CooCoo..

It already seems like India was a long time ago, but ever so often a smell or sound takes me back to a market in Pushkar or Udaipur or to a chaotic Delhi street…it will be this way for awhile, I believe, as the experiences and images from that country find a place to settle. I look forward to sharing more about our travels there---it was an incredible time.
This past week in Istanbul was an unexpected gift---We arrived feeling so worn down from the repeated intestinal illnesses and the hardships of rural India travel---the first few days of rest here were important for everyone----
Then we ventured out to explore the old Istanbul city. It was so exciting---another country and an entirely different culture to experience & learn about! I’ve loved it, and have taken hundreds of photos---feeling like I want to remember every detail----and has anyone blogged about the amazing cuisine?
At dinner tonight Ben & Yo asked me what my top ten of the trip has been---At first I thought how could I possible answer such a question---there are so many highlights…
Of course, being here with the children is priceless—Rae is blossoming before our eyes, and Adri is such a sweet & funny guy---I love that he & I went to a late dinner one night and he ordered for me.
As has been previously reported, Mariposa seems to have a particular charm over folks---I cannot tell you how many people stop to talk to her, smile at her, stroke her head (it was the same in India).
Someone in a shop today remembered her name and asked where she was! A few nights ago she was having a “time out” on a bench on our way to dinner---she was semi-sobbing holding her face in her hands with all of us standing very near by---quick as a wink a man swoops over to wrap her in his arms---so concerned—oh baby…
And so tomorrow I fly home ever thankful to have been here---THANK-YOU Ben, Yo, & children---Be well. I love you dearly, Cooc

Posted by MamaYo 01:59 Archived in Turkey Comments (4)

Light at the end of a long journey-

the luminous Taj Mahal

sunny 95 °F

By now you all know that we have moved on from India to safer lands (and foods) in Turkey. We reached familiar comforts just in time, as my body couldn't handle the last vicious illness that India hurled my way on the airplane, and I ended up at the hospital in Istanbul within a few hours of landing. A battery of tests eased our worst fears, and we were relieved to know that I just have a flu virus or maybe a parasite (tests pending). I'm much better after a couple days of rest and even ventured out to enjoy the food that the family has been raving about. Anthony Bourdain's Istanbul show got our taste buds flowing months ago and we have been looking forward to our visit to this ancient gastronomical capital. Tonight did not disappoint! But that is another story.....First I must rewind to finish the last chapter on India.

The travel days leading to Agra had us all in survival mode. I realize we were just on auto pilot with a grit your teeth and get through this attitude. If you can recall it was the day that Posa started getting sick that we were supposed to leave early to drive to Agra. Ben "packed his bags and jumped out the window" that morning and we had to do some damage control to reestablish our intention about being in India...
By the way that saying comes from our stay in Udaipur. One morning we awoke to find out that during the night another tourist at the hotel had panicked and thrown her bags and herself out of her hotel window (1st floor) grabbed a rickshaw to the train station. Hotel staff found her there, freaking out, trying to get a train to get her to an airport, so she could fly to Paris ASAP. Poor thing. I, of course, wondered, "geez what was so hard for her?" Well, didn't I get an answer for myself! HardyHarHar!
Ok-anyway, we had to cancel our tour plans for the day and decided to just drive straight on through to the hotel in Agra--good thing bc we arrived to find out that the monument would have been closed the next day when we had planned to visit. But we where there early enough to go and catch the sunset that day.
That time we spent there looking at the magical beauty of the Taj Mahal shines forth from the haze of negative emotions we endured the last week. It is difficult to explain how good it felt to my heart to breath in the beauty of the structure. You know the phrase "a sight for sore eyes?" I've never used it myself--that was the name of my eye glass store in Berkeley. But as I stood there seeing the glow of that marble in the soft orange light, I experienced profound release and RELIEF to be witnessing BEAUTY created from LOVE. I can still feel it now as I write this. It was a Light Shower after many days of Darkness, and the site that restored my sight.
For me, the myriad of remembrances from weeks in India are balanced out by those few hours in front of the Taj Mahal--the Crown Palace.

Some of our pics--more my link
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We made it!

There was an hour long line up to see inside--which we did bc grandpa Buff would want to know what it looked like. Though it was dark by the time we got to pass through, Cooc did sneak some flash photos so we would know what was there. We got to see similar inlay work at the Red Fort where the Shah Jahan and his beloved Mumtaz Mahal lived. The artistry and intricate, ornate detailing are astounding. All done in gems and semi precious stones.
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Everyone was joyful and happy. Lots of interesting people in line with us.
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Moments before Posa puked on the monument. Poor baby did so great out there in the heat, despite being sick all night and day. Would've been a nice family pic but for her pained look!
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The classic shot--Doesn't even do it justice...

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Having fun---
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Posted by MamaYo 16:14 Archived in India Tagged tourist_sites Comments (9)

So what happened, you wonder?

lots of complaining, for sure, but some smiles, too

sunny 93 °F

Last positive news was the royal treatment at Castle Bijiapur....then it all fell apart.

The recap:
My eardrum ruptured the last night at the Castle. So painful and weird. I still am partially deaf on that side. I really wanted to hold my head like a newborn baby on a cradle of pillows, but we had to keep moving on with our trip. That next morning, we began the intense travel days of our tour. Every day was a "pack up and go day" to the next destination. That first day we had a three hour drive to Bundi over the roughest "paved" roads I have ever experienced. HUGE potholes and ruts, plus the road was only 10 feet wide, so we had to swerve off the edge continually to avoid oncoming traffic. Sometime that meant bumping off a high curb into a deep dirt rut. OUCH! I was in extreme pain, beyond childbirth even, (and I am not kidding!) thankfully, I had brought Vicodin and was able to dose myself into oblivion. I don't have any recall of our time in Bundi, I was in sick bay. At least the family had some great adventures without me. Someone else will have to write about it....

The next day we had another three hour drive to Ranthambhore National Park. I was feeling a tiny bit better fortunately, because just a short way into the drive, Arella started vomiting. It was a long drive for her over equally horrid roads. The day had already started out rough bc somehow she also woke up with 25 mosquito bites though she slept next to Posa who had none. So much for malaria prevention...and for those of you who know Rae, you can imagine the scene with her and the 12 huge bites on her face....
We were about halfway there, when we came into a small town and noticed that there was a road blockade of motorcycles. A crowd was growing and as we tried to turn down a side street our cars were surrounded by a growing mob of shouting men. Our drivers tried to reason with some people to let us pass, as we had a sick child in the car, and someone sympathetically pointed out another road that went around the backside of town. We headed back and found the other dirt road,a turnoff into some fields and through some ditches. The road rejoined the main highway just slightly past the roadblock. I guess the mob saw our dust trail rising in the fields, because we saw men sprinting down the road to try and cut us off. We were just seconds too late, as they caught the first car with Ben, Colleen, Posa, and Adrian at the top off the embankment. Their car was surrounded by people yelling at the driver that we could not go through...My car stopped about 40 feet away at the base of the embankment. I was watching the commotion ahead and the crowd that was running down the highway towards us. I saw some boys putting boulders under the wheels of the car and I saw two boys holding big rocks (twenty pounds or at least big enough to hold with two hands) over the hood of the car and it looked like they were threatening to throw them through the window.
The threatening men caught on film

The threatening men caught on film


I didn't really think about what it all meant, I only thought about how the driver said the road could be closed for 24hrs and that my daughter was puking and feeling so sick she needed to get out of the car ASAP. I asked Loretta if I could go talk to the people up there and she said we should--so out I went up there to the mob. I guess the protective mama bear instinct kicked in, because I walked up to the car and started hucking and chucking the rocks out from in front of the tires. A man tried to stop me and I unleashed all my frustration on him.
Yo yelling outside Ben's car

Yo yelling outside Ben's car


I don't know what was said between me and the crowd of men standing in front of me. Lots of yelling and lots of pulling and pushing of people as they jostled each other aside to confront me. I was pretty enraged that they were threatening my family and I just thought, "They can't do this. I'm not going to let them. Who do they think they are. My daughter is sick and we are going to go and that is that." I barely noticed Loretta step between us and move me back. She was yelling in hindi for a moment and then she told me "they will let our two cars pass." I ran back to the car and we tore out of there with a bus and another car than took the opportunity to barge past us up the embankment.
The get-away!

The get-away!


It was melee, with people trying to catch the other cars and some men where not too keen on letting us pass at all, so we were lucky to get through. On the road, we were all silent for a while then we burst into laughter of relief and joy that we were OK. Pretty crazy. It was a strange moment for me that has left me with lots of residual displaced anger.....as for Ben he doesn't really want to talk about it yet--it was a very different experience for him in his car and he is still trying to process it fully.

We arrived (whew!!) and were supposed to go into the park for a tiger safari. Despite being ill, Arella wasn't going to miss out on the opportunity to maybe see a tiger, and the poor baby found a way to pass out in the 90 degree heat on an intense, bumpy dirt road in the back of a huge 20 person jeep. It was brutally uncomfortable for everyone, but we did see lots of wildlife and even a tiger from far away.
in the tiger park

in the tiger park

Lots of water in thepark

Lots of water in thepark

Tiger tracks

Tiger tracks

The line up to see the tiger

The line up to see the tiger

See that little orange speck in the mud over there?

See that little orange speck in the mud over there?

The next morning we had another long journey to the bird sanctuary in Bharatpur. We were booked on a public train in the sleeping berth compartments with no AC--which might have been fun, but that Adrian woke up with a fever, the runs, and a serious migraine. We were so fragile emotionally and so concerned about germs, but there we were, sitting in this train station. For those of you who have been to India and know the situation at the train stations, you can imagine how it looked and smelled. For those of you who have not--I'll try to paint you an image.

First of all, the train potties empty out onto the track and lots of people decide to "go" while at the station. But there are also hundreds of people who LIVE at the station and the tracks are their bathroom. Sometimes the trains don's stop at the platform, and require people to jump down off the platform, cross the human bomb minefield and board the train on track two or three. There are also people unloading and coming across to jump up on the platform into the station. Why does it matter? Well, it matters when you have watched your family get infected and reinfected with horrid diarrhea and vomiting from the unsanitary conditions everywhere. All I could think was we are sitting here in SHIT tracks.
Then there are the lepers and homeless children wandering around asking for food and money. I felt absolutely empty of compassion. That, I lost completely out there on the roadside... I was shocked and horrified at my reaction when I caught myself shoo away a boy who was hovering around Mariposa. It was like he was an annoying fly, not a human being. I cried inside that I have been reduced to being such a callous uncaring bitch. It was the breaking point for me.
In an instant, I completely understood how this country birthed the Buddhist path. There is so much suffering everywhere--the harsh realities of life and the truth of suffering is there on the outside, in plain sight. In our country, we stuff the suffering deep down inside and placate our emotional distress with material distractions. It's a different beast for sure and easier to hide from in the USA. Here you can't look anywhere without seeing pain. It requires a deep serenity and grounded presence to accept others' conditions, I cannot imagine living this life and the how it would feel. I am still struggling to find a graceful way to be here. I do not want to be closed off in relief that this isn't my life, nor be closed off in repulsion and disgust because of the filth here. But this reaction comes so easily despite my best intentions and prayers. Very, very challenging at my deepest core. I'm frustrated that it is all coming so fast and furious at us--struggle inside and outside. But no time to process and find center between bouts of illness. Enough of my personal musings...
back to the saga....

On the train, Adrian was looking bad and we tried our best to make him comfortable in the train berths.
We had to oust a crew of Muslim men who were squatting in our cabin, they squished into one seat on the other side of the cabin and stared at us the entire ride. It was uncomfortable at best. I don't know what they were thinking. We did enjoy being in the open train with the hot wind blowing through and being able to check out all the other families.
Train station

Train station

train, check out Ben's smile on what he said was his favorite ride in India--the stress is building!

train, check out Ben's smile on what he said was his favorite ride in India--the stress is building!

comfy on the train, poor Adri--look at him.

comfy on the train, poor Adri--look at him.

real life travel in India

real life travel in India

SIck Adrian at the station

SIck Adrian at the station

Bharatpur was just another stop for us. No one was up to do much activity. Adrian stayed back with Arella while we went to the bird sanctuary.
Keoladeo Bird park ride

Keoladeo Bird park ride

rickshaw bird watching

rickshaw bird watching


We enjoyed our ride through the park, but the peace was short lived. Posa started vomiting and peeing out the wrong hole a few hours later. It was another long night of sickness that brought us to our knees. We had to have the "talk" about "what are we doing???" It was not a good time for the parents.
It was too hard to make decisions when feeling so weary. No time to waste, we had to move on--the Taj was waiting for us.

Agra was a short drive. Posa thankfully slept in the car, while I was clenched and sickened with the adrenaline floods as our driver weaved through traffic. He was the most insane driver I have encountered yet. I am just unable to tolerate anything at this point. Every ride feels like my last and I have to stifle little screams constantly--I know I am exhausted but maybe the traffic is just worse, too.

So yes it all sounds pretty bad, I know. And according to our guide we are having the worst time with illness she has seen in her three years of family tours. BUT BUT BUT there is a light at the end of story.

There is nothing like seeing the Taj....

Posted by MamaYo 13:02 Archived in India Tagged family_travel Comments (8)

Into the far out there

sunny 95 °F

Bjaipur is a three hour drive from Udaipur. We drove in the late afternoon and caught the sunset as we were passing through a series of tiny villages in dry river washes. The landscape was once lush and forested, but years of drought and gradual climate change have withered the bushes and trees to gnarled stumps. The ground is piled with multicolored sandstone rubble that is also the building material of the many protective rock walls and cairns surrounding the few new growth trees that have been replanted by the government in an effort to re forest the roadside.
I can imagine how it all looked hundreds of years ago when this was the capital city, a thriving community for over three hundred years. The last tiger was killed here in 1981, but there used to be bears, boars, and tigers everywhere. Now only we see wild peacocks and fields of white poppies growing along the dry creek beds. The government pays the villagers to grow this crop??! No one could explain how it is legal to grow opium materials, yet the drug is illegal…
Kids chased our cars through every village cheering and yelling, “hello hello goodbye!” Each person stopped her activities to look up and see who was passing through. We were stuck as the evening spectacle, caught up behind herds of goats in the middle of the village road, unable to drive through until they bleated their little kids out of the way. The people staring and grinning at us made me wonder just how many tourists come out to this area. The attention to our caravan was just the beginning of our transformation into royalty!
We arrived to the old castle in town (tiny, tiny town with dirt roads and public wells—more like a hamlet) and a band struck up a mini-parade, we were given garlands of marigolds and walked through the castle gate under rose petal showers. What a welcome!
We sipped masala chai by candlelight beside the marble swimming pool until the dinner buffet was ready. This food was tops for India so far! We all loved getting hot, hot nan bread right from the kiln.
It is now morning, Arella and I woke up to catch the sunrise and hopefully join a yoga class on the rooftop. We are having a morning chai. I’m hooked--it’s the best! Today, we have a leisure day to choose our activities and lessons-riding, tracking, yoga, painting, swimming, cooking, henna, beauty treatments, and more. Tonight we will have a safari out to a small lake for bird watching at sunset. Another dinner, prepared by the same cook (I checked to make sure I wasn’t going to miss the opportunity to eat his cooking again) will be served to us at a luxury camp for us to enjoy at sunset. Then after a bonfire, we will night safari back with torches and try to spot a reclusive tiger! I don’t think I was ever a Raja living this life so long ago, probably just a servant fanning away bugs, but it is lovely to pretend, as we experience the royal treatment now.
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Posted by MamaYo 07:45 Archived in India Tagged family_travel Comments (1)

Message from Cooc--

Castle Bijaipur, March 13th before the second round of illness sets in.

sunny 95 °F

Namaste from Bijapur Castle! Not sure how much the Trustman’s have filled in their blogs from this past week…
The days pass quickly and are filled with so many incredible experiences. I loved Udaipur---the old part of the city around the lake area was quiet and felt peaceful—art, nature , & culture blend to provide a bounty of colorful images---it leaves one mesmerized.
We left Udaipur late yesterday traveling by 2 private vehicles. We quickly entered the rural countryside---I thought we were headed for Bijupur , the city…
The land in this part of India is arid and dusty, and people talk about the drought , but soon I noticed greenery and we drove through farmlands lush with acres of wheat, barley, sugar cane, & maize---once more the images will remain with me----colorful women working the fields, children waving & smiling along the way, cows & goats everywhere, & water buffalo in no hurry to move aside.
We left the main road and slowly winded up and over several plateaus---narrow roads passed through small villages. These were surrounded by pink colored rock-strewn hillsides---the sun was setting and the evening light reflected off the rocks casting a rose-colored glow everywhere. I silently gave thanks for being here.
After our 3 hour trip we arrived at Bijapur, a heritage hotel which is, indeed, an old castle surrounded by a small village---certainly not the 210,000 pop. city I thought we were going to! Luckily, I am not the navigator on this journey! Befitting the royal Trustman family we were given quite the welcome with drumming, singing, marigold garlands, and showers of rose petals----Must sign off now because Princess Mariposa is ready for her swim of the day.
Love to you all, Princess Cooc

Posted by MamaYo 04:54 Archived in India Tagged family_travel Comments (0)

More Pushkar photos...

back online! yay!

sunny 85 °F

nice blue eyes

nice blue eyes


The real Band of Gypsies

The real Band of Gypsies

Ben gives it a try

Ben gives it a try

desert men

desert men


Henna hand art

Henna hand art

this one was nice

this one was nice

strange<br /> creature

strange
creature

Lots of fun!

Check out this series of Cooc getting up on her ride...
hold tight

hold tight

lean back

lean back

hold on

hold on

awkward

awkward

she's up!

she's up!

Cooc and her camel

Cooc and her camel


As ever, we love having our Coocoo laughs!!! Seriously, I don't know how we would have made it through without her help and care!

Posted by MamaYo 03:45 Archived in India Tagged family_travel Comments (1)

quicky...

with tears... :*-(

Beloved family--
I am at a hotel check in desk sneaking a moment on our blog. No internet anywhere out here.
We are all really suffering the life here. I appreciate the good vibes you are sending our way!
Days of illness, Arella, me, Adri, now today Posa. We are just trying to get to the next destination where we will be in a more civilized place. (and get to see the Taj Mahal)
So crazy! What are we doing we wonder? Ready to move on SOON.
You won't believe the latest stories we have written for you...
until we can post all for you, know we miss you ALL so much and your lovely smiling faces!
xoxo
YO

Posted by MamaYo 23:28 Comments (9)

India still kicking our a**

We have been in Jaipur--a tiny village, not the huge city. We all wrote long entries to post, but can't use our computers here. I am typing on a hotel keyboard that requires serious pounding of the keys to function.
Send get well wishes and prayers bc we are not well today and have some serious travel ahead of us.
This AM Coocoo is sick again, in the bathroom giving herself an injection. Probably the desert safari food we had last night. I've been battling a head cold for a week and it is getting so bad despite herbs and all my remedies!! AHH. I think my eardrum ruptured in the night. I was crusty and now I am deaf. We are going to a another tiny village, I hope to find a doctor somewhere en route.

Posted by MamaYo 20:17 Comments (7)

Indian Arts in Udaipur

sunny 85 °F

Our destinations are getting mellower. We are now in Udaipur, the city of lovers and romance. The water is low here also, but there are still lakes and a canal. It is the first city where we haven’t been awakened at 4:30 AM for first prayer for Muslims by a very loud singer being broadcast over a citywide PA system or the persistent bell clanger, who I think was standing outside our window. The city is known for its artists and miniature paintings and because Octopussy was filmed here. This is noted every twenty feet in some storefront sign. Go rent it immediately, Buff says Ben

We met the founder of the only artist cooperative in town, who is the fourth generation of painters in his family. He won the money to open the gallery in a fingernail painting competition—less than 45 seconds to do an elephant. It is pretty impressive to see the detail—
nail art

nail art

Arella's peacock fingernail

Arella's peacock fingernail

Mama and baby elephant

Mama and baby elephant

Sanju from Janak Art giving a lesson

Sanju from Janak Art giving a lesson

painting on silk

painting on silk

close up of painting, done with single squirrel hair

close up of painting, done with single squirrel hair

checking out the miniature paintings

checking out the miniature paintings


We will have an art class with him today.

Finally we can eat regular spicy Indian food! Although, Loretta still orders her special food separate, bc her level of spicy is not served to tourists for safety reasons. This is the night view from our rooftop dining of the Lake Palace Hotel, where George Bush, Prince Charles, and Kathy Feuerstein stayed.
lake Palace Hotel

lake Palace Hotel

Our Hotel

Our Hotel

We really enjoyed our time in this city. The palace was beautiful. I am continually struck by the vast wealth that so few had (and still do) in this country.
women's viewing window

women's viewing window

Limestone columns

Limestone columns

In City Palace

In City Palace

entry shrine

entry shrine

We got to see a great dance performance, too.

swirling and twirling

swirling and twirling

About to dance on broken glass

About to dance on broken glass

Posa with traditional Indian dancer

Posa with traditional Indian dancer

Posted by MamaYo 20:08 Archived in India Tagged tourist_sites Comments (3)

Holy Cow!

sunny 88 °F

I spent the entire ride to Pushkar contemplating death—not, as I had in days prior, because I was sick, but because the driving was so reckless. It was scary to be in a tuk-tuk going 15mph narrowly passing cows, people, ditches, and oncoming traffic—but going 60mph+ head on into buses and overloaded cargo trucks took me to a place beyond terrified. All I could do was shrug and think, “Well, I guess this is it. Ohhgt. Maybe not. Ohhhhhh. Yep, here we goooo. Uh, Ok. Ohhgt, not gonna make it! Do I want to see this coming? Ahhh. Uggh.” An inner dialog of this nature for about three hours…There are no passing lines or road signs—people just pull out into oncoming traffic to see if the road is clear. At times we were being passed, on what I would consider a two lane road, by six vehicles bunched together, passing each other, separated by a few feet, and somehow there was room for an oncoming bus to squeak by, too. I still can’t believe we survived it. Once a cow decided to step out of the median into our lane (of three speeding lanes) the driver saw it coming and slowed slightly, the truck in the next lane locked up the brakes, but the bus in the third lane couldn’t see the cow at all. It should have been hamburger, but somehow the bus driver swerved off the road into a non-existent shoulder and avoided slamming the cow. How that bus stayed upright?! Divine intervention to protect the sacred cow-- Unbelievable!!! And gut wrenching!

We never found the fabled bong lassi of Pushkar—but the stoned out looking hippies everywhere certainly looked like they did! It was quite the “scene” there with the backpack/trekking, dreadlocked, dirty, barefoot, mystical wanna-be travelers lounging about the streets. The city is a very special pilgrimage site for Hindi people, Gandi’s ashes were placed in the lake there, so there are also people everywhere making offerings and doing religious ceremonies. Unfortunately they are in the fifth year of a drought and the lake has all but dried up. Strange to see the giant dust bowl as the center attraction!

Pushkar and the dry lake

Pushkar and the dry lake

Street scene

Street scene

central market

central market

produce

produce

hot pooris

hot pooris

flower offerings

flower offerings

pilgrims in Pushkar market

pilgrims in Pushkar market

main street

main street


We stayed at a hotel with a pool!! Joy for all! It was so nice to escape into vacation for a few hours.
Also to soak away the desert dust after our camel safari into the arid hills surrounding Pushkar. We stopped for chai and a rest of our very sore bums and were serenaded by a group of nomad men, who live out there in the desert at the edge of town. They make a little money playing music for tourists on homemade instruments that are sort of like a sitar but played with a bow like a violin. I will have to post those photos at another stop. The internet is so antiquated here it is impossible to upload photos.

We also met another local family for dinner. They are fourth generation natives to the area. He was so proud to tell about his healthy cows that are not allowed to roam about free—he explained that the cows will eat plastic and trash out on the streets, which effects the milk production and the taste of the milk. Actually, he told us that the cows are considered to be sacred (uh, no kidding) and that they would not even feed the cows left over food. We were supposed to be back at 8AM to drink sweet fresh milk, but we thought he was just being nice and weren’t ready when he called Loretta at 8:30 wondering where we were! That would have been yummy.
Shyam Family

Shyam Family

the kids

the kids

sunset on the Vishnu Temple

sunset on the Vishnu Temple

Aahhh-- paradise for an afternoon

Aahhh-- paradise for an afternoon

Posted by MamaYo 19:58 Archived in India Tagged family_travel Comments (5)

Dying in Dehli

sunny 84 °F

Those first few days are a total fog to me. I was barely living and only remember shuffling from car to bed to toilet. I came back to life in Jaipur, just as Cooc was taking her turn being ill. Thankfully, we are in the hands of a great leader, Loretta. She is a 24 year old, 4'8' Indian lady from Varanasi--a real powerhouse, who has no problem putting off pushy street hawkers and hustling our group out of harms way. We are so happy that we are traveling with Intrepid Travel group! They are an adventure travel company that focuses on cultural interaction and also promoting eco-travel. They also try to support small businesses in each town, including having us stay at Heritage hotels. These are essentially old palaces that have been converted to small hotels, many are very beautiful and classically elegant.
In Jaipur we were fortunate to be at this oasis.
flowers

flowers

lobby

lobby

dining

dining

Bissau Palace lobby

Bissau Palace lobby

Pool at Bissau Palace

Pool at Bissau Palace

Bissau Palace

Bissau Palace

Hotel entry

Hotel entry

Right outside out gates was total pandemonium, with tuk-tuks, cows, people, motorcycles, vendors, dogs, and pigs, all maneuvering the narrow 10' wide street and somehow managing to avoid falling or stepping in to the open sewer ditch on each side.
just one of the women balancing her load on her head

just one of the women balancing her load on her head

Typical meal for cows and street animals

Typical meal for cows and street animals

drive by photo

drive by photo

pig heaven

pig heaven

Jaipur street scene

Jaipur street scene

drive by photo

drive by photo

old style transport

old style transport

Posa in the Tuk-tuk

Posa in the Tuk-tuk

Tuk-tuk rides

Tuk-tuk rides


Ben wasn't so lucky and put his foot down into the muck as we were going to lunch with a local family. He wanted to cry-

Intrepid arranges local family visits in most every town. In Jaipur, we got to have a wonderful home cooked meal with a Muslim family. It was so much fun meeting Mr. Hussein and large extended family that live together.

Hussein Family and friends

Hussein Family and friends

Henna fingers

Henna fingers

Ben happily enjoying sixths of rice pudding

Ben happily enjoying sixths of rice pudding

The cooking gallery

The cooking gallery

feasting on our first homecooked Indian meal

feasting on our first homecooked Indian meal

P1010441

P1010441

One of the young ladies of the family

One of the young ladies of the family

temporary tattoos only for me

temporary tattoos only for me

We also ran into a wedding party on the street. They came over to say Hello. The girls can't beleive the customs here!!
How big would Rae's dowry be?
wedding party

wedding party

Young couple

Young couple

Posted by MamaYo 04:54 Archived in India Comments (9)

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