Monthly Archives: April 2009

NEPAL

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But first – need to talk about remainder of varanasi! Our 2nd day in varanasi, we went for a sunrise boat trip. Then us ladies headed out for some pampering – I got a facial, a pedicure and my eyebrows waxed. All fairly new territory. The facial went down to the boobs -funny getting my boobs massaged by a strange lady but apparently the Indians have no taboos (or taboobs) about that! The pedicure was good too, but I learned just how ticklish my feet were. I then got my eyebrows shaped, not with wax but with cotton “threading”. I have never had this done before. It hurt but my brows look loverly. All up it cost the equivalent to $20 AUD. Then we went to a yoga class with a real yogi! Our tour guide, of Canadian origin but living in Varanasi, has his own yoga instructor and arranged a lesson for some of us. Mr. Pathak was wonderful and I felt really stretched out and relaxed after.

In the evening, a night time candle ceremony where we got to light candles, make a wish and float them on the ganges. I made a few wishes with a few candles. It was magical. I then went and bought some artwork by a fellow who has a world record for 51 hours spent painting pictures of ganesh the elephant god.

NEPAL

We were meant to drive to lumbini after varanasi, however there was lowland political instability, meaning roadblocks, sowe flew from varanasi to Kathmandu instead. My GP had told me that everyone gets sick in KTM. I was queasy all day and then the squirts started that evening. I was even woken at night. The next day was a 6 hour drive to Chitwan national park where I learned I have not yet gotten over my choldhood motion sickness. A very queasy ride indeed!

We got to our hotel and had some gin and tonics. IN the late afternoon, we went to an elephant breeding ground and saw some baby elephants, including a very cheeky one who swung his trunk at me. I have decided that my favourite feel is that of a baby elephant trunk: looks rough but surprisingly soft. That night, however, I had diarrhoea that broke the space-time continuum (i.e. I was shitting out food and drink that I had not eaten yet!) I had to wander out for water at 2am as I got dheydrated.

The next morning, off for a ride in a dugout canoe and thena long hike. We went out rhino hunting. It was a bit difficult having been ill the night before and I still wanst feeling flash. It was also ver humid and I was sweating bricks.

We were rewarded with a very close encounter with a rhino, in fact it was about 6 metres from us and sniffing us out! We were all very frightened as we did not wish to be mauled by his proboscis! Our brave tour leaders threw sticks at the behemoth and luckily he ran away.

The walk back was particularly tough, I was really beginning to feel unwell but I kept going, albeit slowly. Finally we arrived at our very basic accommodation (squat toilets, bucket for shower) and ate dinner. It was a very early night. This morning, back in thejeeps to our less basic hotel. This arvo an elephant ride.

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Ganges and Varanasi

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Well a coupla nights ago, we caught the night train from jhansi to Allahabad. Certainly not as festy as the Vietnam train, but quite cramped. Managed to sleep on and off. From allahabad we took vans to the Ganges river. There was a heated discussion between our tour guide and the driver about what speed was appropriate. There were no seat belts in the van also.

CRUISE ON THE GANGES 

The boats were 4 person dinghies with a tarp cover. For the toilet, either a coy dip in the ganges or we had to go ashore. There was no outboard motor; it was either oar or sails. Since we had not slept so well on the train, the gentle rocking and swish of the water of the ganges sent us all for naps. later, lunch came from the kitchen dinghy. It was delish.

During the heat of the day, we chatted about india and her philosophy, society and religion, read books and waved hello to the kids along the shore. After a few hours of sailing (once tackling the oars myself), we found a sandy bank to camp on. Our trusty crew in the kitchen dinghy pitched our tents, set up a campfire and dug a latrine. We watched the sunset,ate dinner, took some photos and shooed moths away. We slept very well in our tents and in the morning i excitedly stuck my head out of the tent, thrilled to remind myself that i was camping ont he banks of the ganges, one of the world’s holiest rivers.

We ate breakfast while our crew packed up, then got back on the boats. We saw a pod of freshwater dolphins and some flying fish. We saw a wedding ceremony and water buffaloes bathing. i got some amazing photos.

After lunch, as the heat bore down, we jumped in to the ganges for a swim. It is said that swimming in the ganges washes away a lifetime of sins(and drinking the water even more!!). I dunno about that but it sure felt nice.

We called ashore near Varanasi and got back in Jeeps. In the hotel we gratefully jumped in the shower and changed clothes that we had been in for 2 days.

Last night, a walking tour of colourful, spiritual Varanasi. We caught a bone-rattling rickshaw ride into town to look around. The streets were crowded with people, cows, goats, dogs and vehicles. We wandered through narrow alleys with shops selling silk and beautiful beaded sarees. We went to the cremation ghat where people send off their loved ones,and we were quietened by the solemnity overall. We went back, dodging cow pats and dogs. I saw a leper beggar and felt saddened. We walked along the ghats and watched the evening unfold – kids selling flowers, kids playing cricket (I reflexively covered my head against errant cricket balls) and we took in all the temples. It was quite surreal.

Very early this morning we boarded a boat to watch the sun rise over the ganges. Even at 0530, there were many people (and animals) around. People bathing and washing their clothes, gurus chanting, praying and singing, and dogs barking and fighting playfully. It was just magical.

then – breakfast with strong turkish coffee and internet. later, we will be sampling varanasi’s beauty salons and I will be taking a yoga class. Another boat trip and a candle ceremony later still.

Namaste!

wonderful Orchha

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Yesterday, we went to a palace in Orchha dating back from the 1500s. A wonderful photo opportunity. Then to a recycled paper factory employing tribal women, a responsible business strategy. Many beautiful paper products were purchased. Last night we had a picnic dinner (complete with thali plates) along with live indian music and dancing.We ended up dancing with the little children and we had a simply joyous time.

I met with a very friendly cow who licked m arm and I gave her a pat. When I stopped, she nudged my arm again as if to say “more please”. The next day she appreared to remember who I was!

this morning, to a cooking demonstration at a lady’s house. She showed us how to make chai, vegie curries and chapatti. Afterwards we ate the profits, and got henna tatoos and garlands and red spots on a foreheads.

Tonight, on the overnight train to Allahabad, then for a cruise (and possibly swimming in) the Ganges.

In Orchha

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we caught the train from agra to jhansi this morning, instead of sitting in first class with air con, we went with the seated but unairconditioned car. This was great at first, I could see out the windows and interact with local folk. Then it just got too dang hot (it nears 40C). A bone rattling rickshaw ride after arriving in jhansi, we arrived in Orchha, a little town in the state of Madhya Pradesh, with gorgeous forts and palaces, cows insouciantly roaming the streets, and men who look like gurus wandering around. More of it tomorrow….

In India

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Am sitting in an internet cafe (3 seater) in Agra, sweaty, grimy, with the sound of Indian Music in my ears and the smell of incense burning.

What a wonderful couple of days.

We got into Delhi 2 days ago. No issues with the luggage, luckily.

On Delhi Taxis:

In Australia, we are used to orderly queues for airport taxis, we can trust that we will not pay more than the going price, the cars are usually functional and in most of them have satnavs. Alas, no such thing in Delhi!

We were approached by about 5 taxi touts but were under strict instructions to use the official prepaid taxis. We waited outside for one but it was a free for all. A fella pointed at us and took us to the front of the unofficial “queue”. This garnered angry shouting in Hindi and we were tempted to say “sorry mate” to the people we pushed in front of. We just kept our eyes down and got into the taxi. Of course, our saviour demanded his tip and we gladly gave it to him. We got into the taxi, unfortunately we did not have an exact address for our hotel and our driver did not know where it was. He took us to the tourist office, but not before going through the delhi airport traffic which was akin to mad max. His driving was questionable, as were the taxi’s brakes, and I just thank God that we were not going at any great speed. After 90 minutes of driving around (and us getting more and more anxious, he finally found the place. He also shook us down for the “evening fee”.

Our first full day in Delhi, we thought we would wander about, but found that we just got accosted by auto-rickshaw drivers and nothing was open anyway. So we met up with a few of our fellow travellers on our tour and went out in a group, finally acquiescing to the call of the rickshaw (probably a good thing). We were after basic things; toiletries, pharmaceuticals, socks but the drivers took us to handcraft markets and assured us that such things would be available (alas, they were not). After much repetition (including showing them our socks) they finally took us where we wanted. We had a lovely lunch together and met up with the rest of the tourgroup. Our tour guide is a Canadian Fellow who has lived in India for 11 years and speaks fluent Hindi.

We went for a walking tour around Delhi. We were acquainted with the Delhi metro, which was clean and very secure; we had to go through metal detectors. Going into the trains, it was like sardines and we got very up close and personal with the Delhi-ites. Everyone was really well behaved considering the crowding. We took in a Mosque (us ladies had to wear a long smock which was provided) and a Sikh Temple. We were given saffron coloured scarves to cover our heads and we had to remove our shoes, but we were treated to a beautiful visual spectacle and chanting. On our way out we were offered some sweet doughy stuff, which I took gratefully. Another Sikh lady, seeing I was given only a little, offered me a little of hers. The Sikhs are great hosts.

We went to a spice market and coughed and sneezed violently, we were treated to the sight of a Hindu temple shaped like the monkey god, and climbed to the roof of a building so we could look at the heaving mass of humanity below and reflect on how millions of people of 3 religions all co-exist so harmoniously.

Today, off on a very clean (reeking of disinfectant!) train to Agra. We have seen the Red Fort and the Taj Mahal. Words don’t do them justice, I will insert photos later.

The heat has been oppressive and we have needed to drink constantly, but we have had a wonderful time.

‘Til next time! 🙂

2 days to India – On call.

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It is my last on-call possibly for the year – wahey!

Have had McDonalds for dinner – feeling slightly dirty but don’t have it very often (ok, had it about 2 weeks ago but that is an anomaly). Also figure that they will prolly not have any in India. They had none in Cambodia or Vietnam. Only KFC and we reckon it is because Colonel Sanders looks a little like Ho Chi Minh.

Have to pack and get my salary packaging stuff in order.

Rash resolving.

3 days to India – random stuff

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  • Busy day at work today, expecting chaos after four days of inactivity but it was OK.
  • I have a rash over both medial malleoli, I don’t know where it came from.
  • I scored myself a flu shot (no, it didn’t cause the rash, the rash was there before.
  • My back is a bit stiff.
  • I got my new Woman’s health magazine in the mail – full of the usual shite. Mildly amusing shite, though. They just cannot make up their mind about eggs – one month they are bad, the next they are good ad infinitum. I quite like eggs and most sensible people say they are quite nutritious.
  • I have been getting in the quality time with the dog before my trip. She very much enjoyed Bendigo and was Spoiled Rotten!
  • To the list of things I have to do, I must add: photocopying passports, making Mr. Sassy get his antimalarials and flu shot, Buying dog food and leaving a cheque for the cleaner. Also making a list of stuff to pack (must not forget camera)
  • It is my last day of my current rotation on Thursday and I am glad as the job was starting to give me the shites.