Thursday, November 29, 2007

Desert Ho!

This afternoon we are off to the desert on our camels. WE arrived in Jaisalmer yesterday and on the way passed sand dunes, but I'm hoping that the ones we camp on are more distant from highways and cities. Geordie was supposed to write this post - his title would have been "Hot to Trot" probably, but since he is suffering some "trotting" of his own, it is not to be. We hope he can at least climb on and ride the camel for the first half of the journey.

We have been enjoying the Palaces part of our tour a great deal. We have stayed in a couple of hotels with Palace in their name, but they have been hotels. The palaces we have enjoyed are called Rawlas (rowl ahs), and they are wonderful. Both of them have been in the centre of villages with a local market just outside the walls, but inside are those oases of calm one expects in a palace.

As well, when we have stayed it's taken time to see all the rooms because we tour each one. Every room has been unique. In our last hotel in Benswara, the walls were green but stamped with peacock eye feathers all over and with one of those old rugs from my childhood, with two peococks resplendent on it - you may know those gaudy rugs that people might have hung on their walls too. Maybe you even had one. But it's much more appropriate here.

One of the other rooms was kitted out as a harem or bordello we're sure. It had red velvet bedspreads, yellow and red floor mats and cushions in silk and they looked so inviting. It was funny to see us all running around from room to room checking out the features. Some of them even had the ceiling fans painted like the walls, although ours didn't.

At Benswara I also took part in a night safari - in hopes of seeing a leopard. We didn't start until after 8:30 pm and the moon was not yet up. We got to watch it rise about four times as we moved from place to place where the local hills got in the way. The first rising was most spectacular though with the blood red moon glowing over the desert landscape.

We did have sightings, although not of leopard, even though they had been sighted within the last two days. We saw a blue bull - which, despite the name, is a deer, a black buck with delicate spiral horns which was my favorite - a lovely little creature browsing the thorny bushes. There were a few rabbits, and we hounded a fox for a minute or two cruelly chasing it in the jeep until it found a hiding place, and at one point we sat below a craggy hillside and watched a troop of monkeys who looked very alarmed when the driver imitated the sound of the leopard.

The other helper on the tour was an expert at making the sound of a baby goat in trouble - hoping to draw the leopard out. We had no luck there, but the sound was so creepy it gave me shivers. However, the leopard was somewhere nearby because at one point as we backtracked in the jeep we found its pawprints in the jeep tracks we had recently made. So close yet so far.

At Benswara we also had an evening of dressup. Several of the women dressed in saris and looked so beautiful. One of the women also dressed as a rajah, or local headman perhaps, with a dhoti (wrap around skirt pulled between the legs and tucked in at the waist band), and a turban which was wound from six meters of cloth - watching the man make it was most interesting since he kept wrapping and adjusting somewhat like winding a ball of yarn on a ball winder.

Anothe highlight a few days ago was from our other Rawla. We took an hour and a half train ride on an old train which still delivers people up and down the line. I was thrilled to see a deer standind watching us at one point and at another saw a large hairy looking animal scuttering through the bracken. I attemtped to describe it to the guide (I was the only one who saw the creatures), and he thought it might have been either a monitor lizard or a mongoose. Neither sounds right since the lizard is hardly hairy and the mongoose is not large - maybe it was a yeti! - oh, wrong country.

The best part of the train trip perhaps was the friendliness of the people. The young kids hanging around the stations all wanted to say hello or goodbye, and the people on the train lay on the uncomfortable benches or hung out the window (which is what this mighty game hunter did too), and people were just lovely. I got a great picture of three of the young women. Mayb the picture will load here although it's a slow connection. (JUst discovered that there are no usb ports where they are supposed to be - so no pictures again. Sorry!)

Must go now and ready myself for my camel. We are only taking an overnight bag, but I bought another wrap for Geordie yesterday so we will both have them to keep us warm in the desert. I will make sure to get photos of us wearing them. I may wear the one I got yesterday - it's more flamboyant in it's pinks and oranges and maybe Geordie would look better in sophisticated red and black.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Pssst, Wanna buy a camel? Cheap?

We've been on the road for several days with little time to write you. We've been through Pushkar, onto an amazing palace hotel in Jojawar, and now in Udaipur. And no, I didn't buy a camel in Pushkar. Sorry, no camel rides when we get home.

Pushkar is an incredible place, with so many temples, bathing ghats, shops, people, holy men, and yes, camels. The lake at Pushkar is very holy - the place where Brahma dropped a lotus flower if my memory is correct, and it is also one of the very few places where there is a temple to him. Apparently his wife found him dallying with fair maids and cursed him so that people would worship him only there.

Our hotel in Pushkar was at the outskirts of the village - a ten minute walk to the lake past camels, cows, shops, travel agents, the bus station and heaven knows what else. Of course the streets were crowded, with so many pilgrims there for the festival. The fair takes place at the week leading up to the full moon.

At the camel grounds one is awarded with the sight of thousands upon thousands of camels, not there to furnish kitschy pictures for the tourists but for trading and selling. Camels are working animals as we saw on our way through Rajahstan where camel carts are more prevalent than horse carts. Many of the camels are caparisoned with jewelled cloths, wear necklaces of large beads and have patterns shaved into their hair. Some of them too have been blackened around the face or neck, no doubt to increase their desirability to the buyers.

And of course with a fair comes fair grounds. There was a ferris wheel, the usual rides, all gaily painted, and people everywhere - even cotton candy for sale. No corn dogs, though. We went into the arena too, to see the activities there. Camel carts hauling loads of tourists wander through, the horses on show are brought out to be seen (splendid horses, real beauties), and there are acrobats and tightrope walkers. There was even a race among the women which had them racing from the starting point, to a line of water jugs which they then carried on their shoulders back to the start. I'm disappointed to tell you that a local Pushkar girl was not the winner - I do believe an English woman took the honours. No Canadians were entered so we don't know what might have happened if...

Around the lake there are, as I said, many Pilgrims, who come to wash their sins in the holy waters of the lake. The lake is completely surrounded by the ghats, steps which lead down, and one wonders where the entry point of the water is. The ashes of the dead are also placed in the lake - Gandhi's ashes were brought here.

We had Puja ceremony on our second night in Pushkar. We sat on the edge of one of the ghats with our feet bare, a plate next to us with salt, rice, rose petals, red and yellow powder and a coconut. The Brahmin priest led us in a recitation to purge us of sins and to bless our friends and family and then used the paste to smear our foreheads, and placed rice there too which stayed until we washed it off later.

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Blow Horn, Keep Distends, Wate for Side

We just arrived in Udaipur this afternoon, after a visit our visit to Jaipur, two days in Pushkar at the camel fair and a night in a Maharajah's palace in a small village between there and here. (Oh, it was POSH! - so we must be too.) Pushkar deserves its own blog entry so this is just a taster for you right now.

Today on our way to Udaipur we drove past kilometres and kilometres of marble quarries with so much marble I think they could pave the world in it, or at least Canada. Today in our hotel we discovered that not only the floors in the room and the room are marble, so are the shelves in the closet! And last night the Maharajah's palace was another symphony of marble with a bathroom we could have held a ball in.

But to the blow horn title - not only did we drive past all the marble factories but we also drove by all the trucks that carry the marble, thousands of them, and they all have Blow Horn, or Sound Horn inscribed on the back, while some also have Keep Distance, or Wate for side. And a good thing. Since the roads are only two lanes, passing is an adventure but the drives all help each other do it.

First you pull out to have a look, if things look promising the driver pulls out, blowing his horn of course. Then the truck one is passing falls back a little (Keep distance) and finally the guy riding shot gun on the bus leans out the window and signals to the truck driver when we need to get in. And sometimes we have to get in fast.

However, it all works, and works like magic, since we are still here.

Now I have to go - we are off to dinner at Ambrai - with a view of the Lake Palace all lit up like a birthday cake I bet.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

On Touring - and a brush with Royalty

Our tour started two days ago. First things first - it's a really good group of people. First when we started gathering I was getting a little worried - seemed we were going to be a group of 20 somethings and two old farts (us!). However, we are no longer the only retirees. There are six others, a couple and a single travelling woman, one woman who hopes to retire next year, and two women travelling together one of whom is retired, but does dog grooming, and the other a social worker who has already been in India twice and is repeating many of the same places.

The surprise was to find that there seemed to be a majority of Australians. There are 14 of us, your boys from Canada, two from Switzerland, (not together), two from South Africa, two from England and the rest Aussies, although of those, two are German Aussies, and two are Polish Aussies - sounds very Canadian too, yes?

We got a tour of Delhi our first afternoon, which was not really that exciting. We had already seen some fascinating things so seeing the crowds at India Gate was a little anticlimactic. However it was a chance to meet our fellow travellers in travelling mode, and it looks like we are going to be all nicely compatible - yay!

The next morning we had to haul ourselves out of bed at 4:00 am to get to the train station for the 6:10 to Jaipur. And the train was on time. We were in airplane type seats if not quite so posh, but it was fun - we even got served breakfast - tea (twice), toast, a small plate with some spicy potato croquette things and five french fries with two green beans (well that was my plate, some got fewer french fries and more green beans, but we all got about 12 peas too).

Once we got out of Delhi the landscape turned interesting - in comparison the world suddenly looked clean and inviting - fields of yellow grain, corn stooks, an occasional camel cart going by, people out working in the fields. Looked lovely after the heavy smog and heavy traffic of Delhi. However, Jaipur is no less heavy trafficked, although the air is much more breathable.

We got an afternoon tour too, of the Amber Fort, which included a trip to the top by jeep and a guide who was not such a good guide. She did seem unhappy when we waxed less than enthusiastic about her lacklustre descriptions, we had a difficult time understanding her English and we were tired. Hey, we'd been up since 4 am after all.

We did have lunch first though - Geordie and I walked about a half hour to find a restaurant which we had read about in a National Geographic Traveller. It was good - we both ordered the Thali which came with about five different vegetarian options as well as a sweet yam like dish which we ate as a savoury but which I think was supposed to be dessert. Yogurt too. Walking back was like taking our lives in our hands - the traffic here is mad - chock-a-block with vehicles of every description. (Can you believe that Geordie and I have yet to try out a tuk tuk or cycle rickshaw?)

We were so full that in the evening we skipped dinner - well we went out and bought some cookies which Geordie had as his supper - I didn't bother. I didn't sleep well, had origami dreams, was awakened by a rooster at 5;00, the call to prayer at 5:30, the shrill of birds in the palm trees outside our window at 6:00 - might as well get up. But for breakfast we had our first eggs since leaving Canada - nice.

After breakfast was the City tour of Jaipur - the pink city, although I would call it muddy rose. WE also had a new tour guide - who is also the mayor of a town of 10000 people about 60 km from Jaipur - he was a great improvement on yesterday's guide, charming, entertaining and knowledgeable. The highlights of the tour were the Royal Observatory, a remarkable achievement for the 1700's with one sundial accurate to two minutes and another (the largest in the world according to the Guiness Book of World Records) accurate to two seconds. Honest! And Geordie and I took pictures of each other at our respective zodiac symbols. (No pictures this time though - another sticky keyboard and old computers with the USB port at the back).

After the observatory we got to see the City Palace, home of the Maharajah of Jaipur. And while we were there, his car sailed through and we could see him inside, wearing big sunglasses but nodding to the crowds. And if that wasn't enough we also got to see him being wheeled in his wheelchair across a courtyard and into his private residence - so six degrees of separation, people - there is only us between him and you! (Oh, and he was still wearing the sunglasses!)

Tomorrow we are off to Pushkar and the camel fair. I hope I can find a place where I can download some pictures of us on a camel cart or otherwise in compromising positions. I apologize for not taking pictures of us with snake charmers, Maharajah's guards, or the Sadhu (a holy man) who posed for the cameras with his tongue out and touching his nose. I'm sorry, I just didn't take pictures of those things, even though we saw them - can I be forgiven?

Now to rest for tomorrow and the hope that the earplugs I put in tonight will block the sound of the muzzein and the call to prayer tomorrow morning. I will look for opportunities to post photos of us - at the Peacock Gate in Jaipur, or with those camels tomorrow.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Getting There Was Half the Fun

We did brave the Metro today. And survived. In fact I think if I am ever forced to live in India I'm going to spend my time there. It's fast, efficient, cheap, clean and quiet. No tuk-tuk's and taxis and trucks honking there horns, no cows wandering the tracks, no excrement fouling the walkways - it's an amazing contrast to the above ground.

We started our day by attempting to find out what stop to get off at for the Red Fort, but the staff didn't seem too knowledgeable about where we would get off. We finally decided we'd chance it anyway and walked to the nearby stop we had checked out before. It was an easy walk, but the aforementioned excrement was rather too plentiful on the way. However, the metro itself was a model of decorum. Everyone goes through a metal detector and if it beeps gets frisked. We are frisked everytime. I suppose I could take off my belt. I don't have a hip replacement so it can't be that.

We had to transfer lines on our way, but the route is as well signed as one needs. There are also announcements for every stop in Hindi and in English, and also electronic information boards that say the same thing in both scripts. We had no problem getting to our desired location although it was a little disconcerting to come up in Chowndi Chowk with no directional signs, just an alley leading off. We took it anyway and were finally brought out to a broad and very busy roadway, where we reconnoitered and decided that we should walk to the east. Where indeed we found the Red Fort.

More security there, but not like yesterday at the Modern temple where it took almost an hour to get in what with dropping off our stuff at the cloak room (not a single cloak left there I'm sure) and then the wait to be frisked at the real entrance.

The fort is indeed red, or at least it's walls are. It has also been a royal residence so there are marble palaces which were once richly decorated as you can imagine. The Peacock Throne was removed from here and taken to Iran by the Persians. Some of the inlaid tiles are still decorating the marble walls and are very beautiful. (I think the flowers are poppies.)

After wandering, we headed out and stopped at a shop where I bargained for a shawl to ward off the early morning chill. It's red at the ends (about a foot) and the rest is black, but it has an allover woven pattern in Paisleys. Comes from Lahore apparently. I bargained it down from 400 rupees to 250, so paid a princely 6 dollars for it.

Now for confession time. We didn't see any coffee shops, but we did pass a MacDonald's on the way so we went back and had a cappucino there. It cost 60 cents for each one, and we had to wait for it because there was a power outage while we were in there. It came back on in a couple of minutes so we got to enjoy our nice hot coffee. We have seen no other coffee shops yet, (I think the Indian Coffee Shop chain is more South India - I hope we do find them soon, though.) Then horrors, I had a soft serve icecream in a fresh made thin walled waffle cone - delicious and 20 rupees or 50 cents.

Ok, now Geordie thought he should drag me through the crowded streets to the Jama Masjid, the Moslem Temple nearby. That was an adventure as we walked down narrow alleys full of people and cycle rickshaws (the human powered ones), as well as a few goats and sheep and many many stalls. He even dragged me down a narrower side alley which twisted and turned then deposited us back on another street from where we had to get back to the one we needed, Did I mention that we have seen no street signs since we arrived? Seems the only way you know what street you are on is if a business shows its address on its building.

Along the way we passed brick sellers, seems it's their street for a bit, cloth sellers, and we think not a few homes under tarps along the side of a wall. We couldn't visit the Jama until about 1:30 (service at 12:00) so we went looking for a restaurant we had read about in Gourmet magazine. And we found it, after going much too far, turning around and then finding the name of the restaurant gracing many businesses nearby. We were finally directed to the Karim's we were looking for by a guy in a shop who must be used to all the foreigners in the area.

This restaurant may have been mentioned in Gourmet but it's not for the decor. Formica tables and a kid on his haunches cleaning the floor with a rag. But the food was good (Gourmet? I don't think so). We had Chicken Tikka, chunks of chicken with onion and peppers grilled and yes very tasty. Plain Dal (yellow split peas), mutton qorma (a stew with a rich gravy made with yogurt and wonderful freshly made naan - very eggy in flavour which is not the usual, but oh so good. We had one, then as the waiter went by later with a plate of them he offered us another which of course we took - it was better than the first- really piping hot and so fresh. Delicious.

(I took pictures of the Tikka and the naan, but I have yet to see the USB link on the computer -it's at the back and I'm not crawling around on the floor to find it. Sorry bout that.)

There was still 3/4 of an hour before we could officially visit the Jama so we decided to skip it - what would we do during that time - there was no coffee shop after all. So we went walking looking for another metro stop, along a street that first was all paper suppliers, with men carrying reams of the stuff on their backs, every shop with its samples displayed, lots of fancy papers available. Then the street became the place to buy door hardware, many varieties of door handles, knobs and other door paraphernalia, then it was the motorbike repair shops with men filing bushings, selling ball bearings, greasing things with pots of grease. And finally the Metro stop - which by the way is not marked on our map so Geordie is using dead reckoning to find things.

Down into the merciful peace and quiet of the subway. And a guess as to where we might need to go to find the National Museum. We guessed right again, and got off at the end of the line and found the Rajpath above us - a broad swath of greenery where the lovers hang out to get away from family I'm sure. We walked about half its length and found the museum.

Here's a wierd bit - the first display we saw in the museum was a small exhibit of walrus ivory with some lovely NW Coast First Nations designs. Who knew? Then we walked through the pre-Columbian exhibit with Mayan sculpture, a codex facsimile, and some pottery. Not what we had been expecting.

We did finally find the Indian heritage stuff, some great Buddha sculptures. some tetxtiles, a whole display of armour, a room full of Indian miniatures but also full of a gaggle of girls - seems Saturday is the day the schools do the museum tours. The museum was designed to amplify every syllable of every girl's conversation - it was deafening. And in the midst of them we also found two of our fellow hotel guests who will be on our tour with us. They too were trying to find away through the crowds and out.

We'd had enough, our legs were tired, and we were thirsty so we decided to head back to the hotel. Another Metro trip, another transfer of lines and we were back. Easy as pie.

Tomorrow we meet our tour group for the first time. We will find out who our other travellers are and meet our tour guide. Aparently if we get Rudy we will be very lucky. He guided the tour of the people we met the first day and they liked him a lot. You'll get our opinion soon, I'm sure.

Friday, November 16, 2007

Driving Lessons in India

We took a tour today by car to see some of the sights we knew we would not see on the organized tour scheduled for next Monday. Our driver was certainly competent, which was a good thing. Hurtling to a full stop is not my strength but he did it so well. How do the people fit their cars into such tiny slots? With the ubiquitous yellow and green tuk-tuks, the bicycles, the bicycle rickshaws, the paving equipment (yes, driving on the road, not paving it), the buses, the trucks, it's a wonder anyone gets where they are going. But we saw only one minor accident, and as Geordie pointed out, in Vancouver that accident would have created a traffic back up of kilometers where here it just meant we swerved around it.

Apparently the lines on the roads have been painted as decoration. How else to explain the fact that we often drove straddling the line or as happened just a few minutes before we got back, driving on the far side of the yellow line and then taking a right turn before the intersection proper started!

Our tour took in some quite fascinating sights, including the Qutb Minar which is the site of the oldest mosque in India and the site too of it's tallest victory tower, and immense brick structure with Islamic characters around it. Some of the details were borrowed from the Hindu temples which were there first we asume - how else to explain the figures on some of the pillars - Islam does not allow human representation.

We made a pilgrimage to the Bahai Temple which welcomes all faiths for prayer and meditation. There we had to give up our shoes, but luckily the stones we walked on were cool, even in this heat. It's a huge temple designed to resemble a lotus flower, and it does a good job. It is very white - so I used the snow setting on my camera to capture it. I think it adds a blueness to counteract the intensity of the white.

At the Akshardham Temple we were overawed by the amazing carvings of elephants which ring the main temple.They were all so wonderful - and in many different poses, many representing lessons to learn. Surprisingly, this is a very new temple, built as recently as 1969. I knew it had to be when I saw the statues of little boys in short pans wearing belts. Not quite the Indian garb of the distant past.

We finished up at the Humayun's Tomb which is the forerunner of an inspiration for the Taj Mahal and now a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It is built in pink brick so not as powerful a statement perhaps as the Taj, but we will have to wait and see when we tour the Taj later.

All in all an interesting day. We are glad to have survived the traffic and were surprised late in the afternoon when we realized that we could actually see that the sky is blue. In the morning it was white and it was the air that was blue - a blue thick enough to cut with a knife.

I'm sure I will think of something else to say about our tour. I know that I even missed one of the sites we toured, but really, surviving the trip was so much more memorable that any temple. Now we think we may be ready to brave the Metro tomorrow to see the Red Fort in Old Delhi.

(A little note: I have attempted to add some links for you to the sites we saw, but this computer has been hijacked so that all the links take me to an area which is not exactly what I hoped for. So if you want to see more, you might do a google search. I did find the two links that are highlighted but failed to get a link to th Qutb Minar. It's an interesting site, also part of UNESCO's World Heritage sites and you will no doubt have more luck finding it than I have had.)

Thursday, November 15, 2007

I Love a Parade

During our time on the roof today, about 7:00 am, we heard drums and singing so had to go over to look over. Seems we were observing a Hare Krishna parade winding its way through the neighbourhood.

Later in the afternoon, while I was enjoying a coffee by myself on the roof I heard the sound of a marching band so had to go look again. It took awhile for the parade to come into view but when it did it was worth the wait. It was being led by two huge elephants dressed in long cloth that swept the ground - and a place on top where he carried his passengers. They were followed by eight men on white horses, then several carts highly decorated, pulled by more white horses. One of the carts was particularly ornate with a high sweeping overhang.

And following that was not one, but two, marching bands. The first in white with red hats, the second in white with orange hats and orange puttees. The music was a sprightly jazz tune that was jaunty and toetapping - hmmmm, New Delhi or New Orleans.

And just a second ago Geordie popped by to announce that a big white cow had walked by all alone. I guess with that many cows, it's no surprise that yogurt is freely available.

India Here We Are

It was a tight schedule, but we made it to Delhi with no problem. London was the squeeze - we had just about an hour to get from terminal 1 to terminal 4, but we found the fast track and got to our gate as they were loading the plane. It was a two overnighter trip. We left Vancouver at 8:30 pm and left London at 3:30 pm but were quickly flying in the dark.

Our arrival in Delhi was at a rather early 4:45 am, and the moment we touched the ground we could smell the smoke of the fires in the air. The air is thick with smoke - we're guessing cook fires or heating, maybe it's cow dung too- and it was the same all day today.

The trip from the airport to our less than auspicious hotel was almost uneventful - we did have a young man who swerved into the front of our car on his bicycle without bothering to look, but he didn't manage to hit us. Lucky for him, I guess.

At the hotel we were a little early for a room and were sent up to the restaurant on the roof for coffee and a goodly wait of more than two hours before a room was ready. It was at least a chance to update our notebooks, do a little reading and later to meet four people who have just finished the tour we are starting and gave it high marks, including the other hotels on the list - apparently this is the second lowest hotel (and the lowest was because of the noise in Agra), and the other hotels are all very nice.

Mind you, our room is very spacious and the beds are comfortable - we've been sleeping on and off all day. It's 11 and a half hours difference in time zones so while we are going to bed you will all be getting up. Of course our bodies will be on your schedule, so this morning at 3:00 am we will probably be wide awake and doing crossword puzzles. Let's hope the jet lag is not too long.

We did go off on a mini adventure, walking in our neighbourhood this afternoon. It's very close to a market area so we walked through it after shrugging off a few tuk-tuk drivers, a woman who just wanted a "banana for baby" and an elderly man dressed like Mahatma Gandhi who asked for alms too.

The market has a little of everything - a couple of guys sorting nails and screws, a lot of tailors busily sewing, tire repair, naan sellers (the bread looked good) and other food stalls. Too bad the hotel couldn't find someone to clean my shirt of the lovely red wine stain I managed to put on it when I tipped my wine glass over in the confines of the airplane. Note to self:" white wine for planes from now on. I washed it myself in the hotel sink and think I did a reasonable job of getting the colour out.

After walking the length of two streets of the market, we headed back and stopped at a "sweet shop" where we ordered some food - a paratha (bread) stuffed with shredded potato and a little spicy heat, a scoop of potato curry, and a spoonful of yogurt which I was told by one of my knitting buddies is good for Delhi Belly. The paratha was finger burning hot and fresh from the tandoor oven I'm guessing. It was indeed tasty fare - we enjoyed it as well as the milky coffee we ordered to go with it.

Tonight we did a little walk up to the nearest Metro station to see if we could figure out the system - we think so. Looks relatively easy. We may or may not use the system since it is relatively cheap to hire a taxi for the whole day to tour around. We may do that to visit the Red Fort and the market, which are not on our itinerary our first official day with Imaginative Traveller.

So, so far so good. Thanks to the folks who posted notes. It was nice to read them. And I think I know how to post pictures so will no doubt be doing that soon enough. There were few picture opportunities today, although I did take a picture of Geordie's meal. For those of you in the know about my camera woes, my camera did indeed arrive on time from Pennsylvania - at 9:30 am on the day we left for India, so cutting it close.

Our official tour starts in two days so we have to do some looking around here in Delhi, hence the need to think about taxis and metros. We will certainly be looking for more adventures to share tomorrow.

Thursday, November 08, 2007

India Here We Come!

On Tuesday, November 13, 2008 we will be making our long-awaited trip to India. It's a dream come true, although every now and again, like almost constantly, we think maybe it will be a nightmare. No, it won't! India is a place where all the rules may be thrown out the window. We are expecting everything to be hard to do, everything to be confusing, distracting, awe-inspiring, exhausting, wearing, exhilarating, just the perfect Nigel and Geordie trip.

We remind ourselves that we will not be the first to do this. We have been proceeded by thousands, nay, millions before us. Hey, didn't Marco Polo stop off here on his way to China? Oh, probably. There won't be a single new discovery we will make for the world. (As if!)

So this is how it will go... We will leave on Tuesday evening, our bags packed, the little plastic bag with our liquids as deemed appropriate by British Airways, maybe my knitting with the needles already holding the start of a sock to show I'm legitimate, and our passports holding our Visa to India. Now how exciting is that. We spent a morning one day and an afternoon the next sitting in the office of the Consul General of India to first deliver our application and then to pick it up - it was so exciting to hear the man at the counter as he passed us back our passports, visas safely glued in, say, Have a nice vacation. Thank you, we will.

We fly to London first, then after a short stay of four hours or so, we will be off to Delhi on our second overnight flight. We get in at some ungodly hour, but we will be met at the airport by someone from the hotel we have booked, and we will feel safe and sound as we are taken through the presumed maelstrom of traffic to our place of refuge.

We begin with a tour using Imaginative Traveller. Our tour is called Desert, Forts and Palaces.

A tour you say, Nigel and Geordie are doing a tour! What is happening in the world? Well, maybe we're getting smart in our old age. We have decided that to save our sanity, we will let someone else worry about us for the first three weeks and once we are weaned we can strike out on our own. Geordie has been very busy, doing the striking out. After a few false starts he finally managed to book us train reservations on India Railways (they move over a million people a day, so I imagine they can get us to Varanasi), and hotels in Varanasi, Bodhgaya (where the Buddha gained enlightenment and taught his first disciples, and on to Kolkata (you may know it as Calcutta, ma'am).

And he's even booked us a flight from Kolkata to Chennai (the city formerly known as Madras - anyone for some cheap cloth?) So we are well and truly on our way.

It's exciting for us. We are fretting over what to pack, other than that bag of liquids, do we need a warm coverup on the camel tour into the Thar Desert at night? Can we haggle for some cheap sweater we don't mind throwing away when we reach the beaches of the east coast? Oh dear oh, my, Lions and tigers and bears oh my!

There is so much we are expecting from this trip. We will come back enlightened, if not about life then with our weight. We are calling this our spa vacation, we expect to lose weight when we experience our bouts of Delhi Belly, and we will come back waif like and probably ravenous, after attempting to feed ourselves using only our right hand, our left tied behind us to prevent us from making the worst faux pas imaginable in India, eating with the wrong hand.

Can you tell I'm excited? Of course you can. What gave it away?

We think that this is going to be the way we communicate with you and the rest of the world from now on - Blog on! We'll keep you posted as we post our newsy notes and your mailbox will be clogged with nothing but gentle reminders that we have said something new and earthshattering and you must quickly check us out to see the latest news of Nigel and Geordie on Their Trip to India.