A Travellerspoint blog

Oh The Trains!

The wonderfully popular mode of travel in India!!!

sunny 90 °F

As we continue to catch up on our stories here on the blog I wanted to talk about the trains. You have heard about the death defying car rides, the camel excursions, the Tuk Tuk zig zagging but what we have failed to mention is the all important very popular train system. I will start from the beginning--we had been in Delhi 2 days and the initial shock of India was still settling in when we had a 6am train out to Jaipur. Actually there was no traffic at 5:30 am in Delhi so it seemed almost mellow (I will mention that Yo had just spent the prior day dying from the Hong Kong hurl and Cooc woke up at midnight just in time to join in on the fun herself). Mellow that is until we got to the train station- even at such an early hour the traffic and melee around the station was what I now know as classic India. So we jump out of our cars groggy and sick, all bags and kids in tow. Finally making our way through the parking lot traffic to the station only to find people sleeping everywhere (sorry I don't have pictures to show, our photographers were in no condition and all hands were full, so you will have to just use your imagination). We hustle through hurrying after Loretta finally getting to our platform and train. It all seems like a blur now and come to think of it, it all felt like a blur then. Onto our AC Chair car we go-load all the luggage onto the racks above and take our seats (sort of like old worn out airplane seats). Yo and Cooc scoot to our 2 window seats and cover their heads in the throws of the sickness misery- and Arella begins to crack (the- it is early, it is dirty, I don't feel good and I am not having any fun tears start to flow). By the way breakfast was included on this journey, which there was no chance in hell any of us were going to eat due to our recent experiences with mass transportation food. A few hours later and its hustle time to get off--only a short stop in Jaipur(about 5-7 minutes). OK that was a weird experience.

Next train experience - Pushkar to Udaipur. This time we have a little more India under our belt and one prior train ride so we are ready for this one. We got to spend the morning in Pushkar so there was no rush for an early morning train-- much better. Death defying car ride to the station and we are ready to get to the platform. Now we purposely thought we were traveling light and even left 2 suitcases in Delhi, but I am still carrying my suitcase on my back and rolling 2 others behind me. This is fine until I have to go up and over to the next platform- the 100lb shrug with a 45lb weight on my back. When we get on the train we find a different seating configuration with half the car facing one way and the other half facing the other way, with a small table in between the 2 rows directly facing each other (great for looking at peoples faces). Yona and I have the seats with the table and my thought was "Thank god I am riding forward and not backwards." For some reason I always get a mild motion sickness on trains-not enough to boot but enough to feel nauseous the whole time-going backwards its worse. The train was supposed to be about 5 hours long. Lots of stops, actually some in the middle of nowhere for no apparent reason. When we come to the second to last stop the train sits, and sits, and sits for what seemed like forever. Then out of nowhere we start going backwards (towards the way we came). Are you kidding me--we're already salty from such a long ride with multiple delays and now we are going backwards--what is up???? Loretta informs me that this train actually goes past the place we are going and then goes back--guess what "We are in India man, nothing is impossible!!!!!!!" So the last hour and a half i double up on the nausea and there you go another train ride in India. When we get off Loretta finally asks, "Do you want to get porters( guys in red shirts at every station)" I say, "How much?" She says, "50 rupees each for 2 guys." I say, "Absolutely!" I think.... "Now you tell me it's a little over $1 each to get these guys to carry my bags, why wasn't I informed of this earlier?" One suitcase balanced on their head and one rolling behind, these guys are pros.

Next train ride is the always popular local train from Ranthambhore to Bharatpur. I believe Yona already spoke about the fecal condition on the tracks so I will spare the smelly details. This time there is no AC chair car. We are in the 'Slumdog Millionaire' train complete with bars on the windows and sections with births for seating( triple stacked bunks across from each other on one side, double stacked bunks along the other). Now I am on the outside dealing with the porters and apparently there was a group of Muslims hogging up our zone which Loretta promptly booted along with their luggage (pots, pans and all). We all packed into our zone and the fellows who were booted moved their luggage to their upper bunk across from us leaving them just enough space to sit on either side of said luggage. These same men then proceeded to stare at us the whole ride. This time there were guys going back and forth down the isle selling anything from cold drinks and candy to some kind of chip style munchy to trays of fresh fruit (none of which we would feel comfortable buying). On one side Yo and Po lay together on the lower bunk, Cooc and A on the middle and our luggage on the top bunk. Across from them we lowered the middle bunk and Rae, Loretta and I sat on the lower bunk/now bench. The windows were open, wind blowing through the car, earphones on meandering through whatever song comes through my head and I am having my favorite ride in India- real India!!!

Last but not least is the final train from Agra to Delhi. A night train leaving at 20:45 (that's 8:45pm for you US folk)- an AC chair car just like the beginning complete with dinner that none of us would eat. This ride and train was now run of the mill to us. The story was the station. We had read and been told about the high levels of crime and fraud in Agra- the number one tourist destination due to the Taj Mahal. As we got to our platform through the normal sleeping, begging and stench we noticed a large number of kids (very dirty and scruffy) milling around. Now at this point we are at our wits end with the general filth of India because we have all been sick and it seems everywhere you go all you see is germs (this is part of the emotional toll that these 2 weeks have brought to us). Loretta has warned us to keep a close eye on our stuff because lots of bags are stolen here and it is the young kids who do it. So as we stand there and wait for our (yes you guessed it) delayed train, it feels as if we are being cased by all these young boys, tweens and teenagers who apparently just live there at the station. Not only are we dealing with the harsh realities of these kids lives and there constant begging from us, but I am feeling completely nervous, tense and angry with the feeling of being circled by street urchins just looking for their chance to pounce. I have thought a lot about India and how I would write about it--what I decided is to be honest about how I felt and write the good with the bad. As I have said before the experience is hard to put into words or even imagine for myself. The good, bad and ugly- all of it. What I do know is that I do not regret coming here one bit and the experience is something I and I am sure my family will never forget--the stories will be told for many years and with many details all a part of my history and wisdom.

"And that's pretty much all I can say about that." ---Forrest Gump

Posted by sherpaBen 13:05 Archived in India Tagged family_travel Comments (6)

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.
------------------------------------

Posted by MamaYo 07:45 Archived in India Tagged family_travel Comments (1)

"That's India For You."

"This is India man, nothing is impossible!"

sunny 85 °F

Well, these are the quotes that I will remember for the rest of my life.
The other day when we visited the Hussein family for lunch, I had the misfortune of stepping in the open sewer trough when I got out of the Tuk Tuk. A horrible feeling--luckily it was only the front of my shoe which is leather. Loretta asked Mr. Hussein if I could wash it off. As in every hotel, Mr. Hussein had a faucet at foot level for foot cleaning. I washed and Yo said to get the bottom because she was worried it would get on the floor. I went to rewash some more and he stopped me and exclaimed, "This is India man, nothing is impossible!" It was the way he said it that made me feel at home.
This place is crazy-anything can happen-nothing is unexpected. The lunch and his hospitality that followed were incredible. He sat and dished us up, refilling our plates saying "more, more". In India it is customary for the host to serve the guests and eat after the guest leaves. I was full, especially after the rice pudding dessert ( my favorite--he made me eat 6 bowls.)
All the kids from the neighborhood came and we all played games, laughed, the girls got henna tattoos from the older daughters, even the mothers were in the room smiling and laughing with all of us. Truly a life experience for my family that was priceless and will last forever.
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Playing games with the kids!
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Our host!
The first quote was by Loretta as we walked across the bridge on our way to a show and dinner. The bridge is a walking bridge about the width of a sidewalk and a half. Halfway across there were 3 cows all laying down blocking the path--and they were not moving. We had to single file along the railing-this is when she turns to me and says "That's India for you!" Perfect--and at this point, not shocking or out of the ordinary--just accepted as what is.
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Posted by sherpaBen 05:28 Archived in India Tagged family_travel Comments (3)

Brown Sugar

I thought brown sugar was regular sugar with molasses?

sunny 92 °F

Brown sugar—that is what the driver kept pointing and saying. Of course, I was wearing my “stupid” American hat and thinking “I thought brown sugar was sugar with molasses—these plants are totally different?” Then he said “Brown Sugar- drugs” What we were driving by was fields of poppies that produce opium. The driver then told me the government gives them a permit to grow it.
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The next evening in Bijaipur we went on a village safari. I personally feel uncomfortable when we do these types of things because here we are “rich Americans” being paraded around these poor villages- for some reason it does not feel right for me. This time we stopped and a whole flock of kids followed us through the village. Yona was surrounded by little villagers, some in dirty and shoddy clothes, with her camera around her neck. The kids are so sweet though and so happy to see us.
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Monte

Monte


Monte our guide took us to meet a farmer who was growing the said poppies. He and his family sleep in the fields on a patch of concrete and tile with a little shade over it. They do this to guard the pricey crops. The government gives them a permit to grow and requires 15 kilos per plot for which they pay the farmer Rs(rupees) 1000-1500 per/kilo. Monte said if the farmer has extra, which he usually does, he sells it on the black market for Rs 50,000-90,000. The farmer showed us how they harvest the opium. They take a little fork-like knife and scrape the bulb—12 hours later, the secreted juice is pure black opium.
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They then scrape that off with a knife and put it in a pot. We saw fields upon fields of this during the last few days on our many 3hr drives through the heart of Rajastan. As we left the farm, the farmer gave Monte a little bit on some paper – Monte said “It's good for diarrhea .”
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I am sure he was telling the truth (wink ,wink).

After the village tour we ate dinner at the Intrepid (tour co.) luxury camp spot. It was on a lake-that was dried up from the drought of course. Monte said it was the first time it was dried in 830 years. The tents had furniture, bathrooms, and electricity—not quite roughing it. We drank delicious masala chai under the stars and ate a nice meal. On the ride back they took off the cover of the jeep and Monte had a guy with a spotlight searching for panthers as we crept along. We drove slowly looking for the lit up eyes reflecting the beam of the light. We were full of anticipation. Soon enough we hit the jackpot and saw a hyena. He was big. Monte told us to be quiet and then he started to make goat and cow sounds. It worked and the hyena would stop and look, eventually walking toward us. As this was happening, we also spied a small fox. We were sure the hyena was after the fox, but when we distracted the big dog, the little one silently scampered off—it was cool. Though we did not see a panther (actually we only saw a jackal after that) it was fun.
This morning another 3hr ride to Bundi. Hot, dry, desert was all I saw. In Bundi, we went to another city palace. This one was built on a hill and looked like something from Harry Potter. The palace was overrun by Macaque monkeys and our guide told us to beware and not make eye contact with them—I said “or they will ask you for money!!” Afterward we walked through the old town and new town back to the guesthouse. This was not the tourist India of the last few cities—this was the dirty, smelly, busy real India—and here I am walking the streets with my 4 year old on my hand—a real shocking reality. I wonder what Po really thinks? We are all battle fatigued-Yo is out in bed fighting a nasty head/sinus cold and Cooc’s stomach is not well—the big kids are in the “Yeah, another city palace (in most sarcastic 13 year old voice)” mode and it is really hot out. India is not easy travel on the mind and on the body, but it is an experience that cannot be understood through pictures, movies or books—one my family will never forget.

Posted by sherpaBen 05:13 Archived in India Tagged family_travel Comments (4)

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)

Just a minute to post..

Hello all--I am doind some business in an internet cafe and only have a moment to post. We are in Pushkar riding camels and drinking chai--you know just everyday normal stuff. It is very mellow here-not blaring car horns all day long. Our hotel does not have internet so we cannot post so regular but I promise when we get a chance the pictures will be spectacular. We are all feeling better and really enjoying ourselves. Much love to everyone.

Posted by sherpaBen 23:10 Comments (9)

Cows→Cars→Tuk Tuks→Motorcycles→Scooters→Trash→Pedestrian

Catch my drift

sunny 75 °F

Long time no blog.............. We have reach India. It is nothing like anywhere i have been. It is dirty, smelly and loud all at the same time. Pedesrtians dont have the right of way, cows do!

Today we went to a very pretty palace. It had an entire palace inside made out of mirrors. He chose mirrors because if he (the king) used stained glass the color would never change and it would eventually fade but with mirrors he could just change the carpet color that the mirrors reflected. Smart huh? He also had 12 wives and different passages to the master bedroom (1 for each wife). This was so the wives wouldn't fight when they saw one another. Smart again. The palace was so big in fact that they had 350 rooms just for the different types of cocoa beans. We didn't have time to see all of the palace but what we saw was cool.

The food here is great. Naan and chicken tikka and rice. Im sure there is other good stuff but my favorites are always included. I have also been making up for the lack of Indian food restaurants in Truckee. I have had 5 mango lassies already. My FAVORITE.

Just so everyone knows we are 13 and a half hours ahead of pst.

Love Arella

Posted by Arellaskye 08:19 Archived in India Tagged family_travel Comments (7)

Our fearless leader goes down...

sunny 80 °F

Well the bug has got everyone. Yona woke this morning with the same thing we all had. She suffered through a tough day, transferring hotels through traffic and meeting our tour guide. She is trying to rest before we leave at 5am to catch a 6am train to Jaipur. I am sure she will pull through. Meanwhile we went on a little sightseeing tour this afternoon to a crafts museum. The textiles were truly amazing and we all felt so sad that Yo missed it since that is her favorite thing. It was nice because we came to the part of Delhi where the government offices were--it was actually green-tree lined streets and grass-a nice change from what we have termed the jungle. It truly is a jungle out there. I thought China's infrastructure was a bit rundown, but this is unbelievable, unexplainable. We haven't really taken many pictures yet but we will soon upload when the sickness settles.

Posted by sherpaBen 05:39 Archived in India Comments (8)

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