Namaste to my friends, family and people I’d like to get to know.
Doug and I are back from our epic adventures in India. 2 months saw us travel across the liberating North and around the tropical South, using every transport imaginable from day train to overnight sleeper train, local bus to luxury bus, boat, auto rickshaw(tuk tuk), bicycle rickshaw, subway, car and plane.
I’m constructing this blog of parts of emails I sent out and entries from my Diary I kept.
Jaisalmer after Delhi was our first stop and quickly and has remained one of my favourite places in India. Who can say that they have stayed in a life size sandcastle. Go to Jaisalmer and that dream can come true.
Home to the Thar Desert. We took a Camel Trek across the desert to our sleeping place where we slept under the vast starry sky where dune beatles and scorpians scampered under our beds.
Camels are ALOT taller than I thought at 8 feet tall. Serious violation is caused to the buttock area
Whilst 4 hours is spent on the back of a camel.
Doug and I have done, experienced and seen a lot in 2 months but the 29th of March takes the cake. We’d previously arrived in Agra, home to the Taj Mahal. The Taj as a monument to love has a power in its own. But now it has its own special power with us. At sunset, whilst sitting across the river from the Taj Mahal, this is the spot Doug chose to ask me to Marry him. And of course..I said YES!
Apart from excepting his proposal and celebrating, our first action towards the wedding, naturally as a photographer was to ask my favourite Wedding Photographer in NZ to shoot our wedding. I met Jess and Paul Jones (www.jessicajones.co.nz) last October and I’ve had my eye on their magnificent work ever since. I was in pure ecstasy when I got the email telling me they’d love to shoot our wedding.
The Taj Mahal has power. it’s the monument devoted to eternal love. It felt like it was the beating heart of India, the people that come through there are the flowing blood keeping the heart beating…and they take a little something away.
The story of the Taj goes as..The king, Shah Jahan built it for his 2nd wife after she died giving birth to their 14th child. Devastated, he designed this perfectly symmetrical monument in her memory. It took 20,000 men and 22 years. After which one of his sons overthrew his power, imprisoning him in The Red Fort in a meter wide cell where he lived out his remaining days which just happened to overlook his creation.
We went into the Taj for sunrise the morning after our engagement. Lining up with a long line of tourists at 6am kills the buzz a bit, but entering the grounds with the sun rising, the fresh air, clear skies and this magical monument standing before us devoted to love… Suddenly everyone around us disappeared. Walking up and touching the cold creamy smooth marble put a fire in our stomach, a blanket around our heart and a twinkle in our eye.
It was hard to leave, but you couldn’t forget it if you tried.
Varanasi, Home to the sacred holy river, the Ganges or Gangagi. Here we took a sunrise boat ride along the river for about 2 hours, slowly rowing by all the Ghats we watched as the city woke up and the people living their lives, washing, bathing, swimming, preying in front of thousands eyes everyday.
Bodies from all over India are bought to Varanasi and they are cremated in the eyes of the public on the banks of the Ganges. I was fortunate not see any dead bodies that weren’t covered up.
People who aren’t cremated are pregnant women, children under 12, people with leprosy and snake bite victims . Instead they are weighed down into the river for the turtles and fish to (forgive me) feast on.
That night we took another boat ride for the flower ceremony at sunset. Setting tea light candles into the river we wished happiness and good fortune for each individual family member and watched as each joined together in the distance to make a symphony of lights.
Reaching Madurai by train… the sweat was dripping off us. We get out of the shower, dry ourselves and then ask ourselves the question…”did I dry myself?”
Blessed on the head by elephants trunk after paying my 10Rupees. Elephant proceeded to vacuum my head. – Madurai.
Whilst in Varkala I finished an email proudly like this: “We have reached paradise… I finish this email in a café overlooking the beach and ocean from the cliff top, palm trees surround me, the sound of Bongo drums are in the air along with Bob Marley and the air is a gentle warmth joined with the sea breeze to make me think that I’m making you all jealous right now!”
Hampi, along with Varkala are the essence of Intrepid’s ‘South India Unplugged’. Redeemings South India.
In Udaipur I met a man by the name of Mohhamad. Once a Tuk Tuk driver, he nows sits and waits in this one quiet street for tourists to come by. He charms them into having a seat and he shows you his way of travelling. Postcards from many lands and many travellers, his collection of foreign money and many photos with him and his tourist friends over the years. I’ve vowed and declared to send him a little piece of New Zealand along with the photos we had taken with him. Heart of gold this man!
Goa we made a friend in Thomas. A little restaurant shack on Calagute beach that feed us day in and day out and even got us some killer cheap accomodation. 10 nights for $90!
Our 10 day holiday had me running on the beach at the crack of dawn each day, swimming in the salty bath water that is the Arabian sea both at sunrise and sunset, sunbathing, I read 4 books, we drank during the day under the sun and I was Angelina Jolie to 7 year old Manju.
Manju was my peanut supplier on the beach. With his wicked cute ways and for what he was selling, he got a lot of money out of me. Everytime I handed over 50R ($1.30ish) he’d go into a state of pure ecstasy, screwing up his face with a pudgy grin. He started calling me ‘Mama’ and Doug ‘Papa’ and kissing us like a Frenchman, one of each cheek. One sunset I took him swimming and the attention we drew was unbelievable. One Indian man wanted to take a picture of the white girl and the little Indian boy on her hip, then we were surrounded by 50 Indian men. The lifeguard watched over us 3 in the sea, whistling any Indian who went in the sea out while we were there.
We bathed with an elephant at the Spice Farm and our last night in Goa had delivered us an epic electrical storm. Exhilarating bolts of energy streaks thorugh the delicious blueberry skies for hours while we sat in the warm air on the beach and the ocean as our soundtrack. Magic.
Mumbai: After Doug and I both read Shanteram. Very famous book especially in India. Based in Bombay/Mumbai we followed Lin‘s footsteps. We stayed where ‘Lin’ stayed when he first came to Bombay, India Guesthouse. Leopolds where he drank. Taj Hotel, India Gateway, Colaba Causeway, world Trade Center. I recommend Shanteram as a read. Just beware..its tiny writing and 933 pages long.
And finally, we were offered to be apart of a Bollywood movie as an extra being paid NZ$15 each for 12 hours work. We flew home that night so we declined.
The best quote I have learnt of : “ The world is too big to travel it all, but is small enough to think that you could”
Facts I’ve discovered of India:
Men with bright orange hair and facial hair.-Not a bad hair day but is the art of henna equivalent of a female getting henna on the body.
Moustaches: What is the deal with them? Doug’s Dad, Martin had a killer Mo 10-15 years ago, here in India he would have fit in nicely with that Mo.
They are mad for moustaches! I think as soon as puberty kicks in, boys begin what growth they can muster (catapillar if you will). The older they get, the fatter the catapillar. Men of Doug’s age. 24. Look mid 30’s. But it’s the facial fashion and they believe the Moustache is a sign of great respect.
A lot of fat men stand round showcasing their bellies. This is a sign of wealth. “Look at my belly, I am well fed, I have plenty of money and lots to offer you!” Hmmm
Returning to the big city after 10 days on the beach made me think of this:
Indian Road Rules
Rule Number 1: Your kidding right? You can assume that India has no road rules, up until the point you get pulled over because you turned into the wrong intersection not knowing the “rule” had changed only 2 weeks prior.
Rule Number 2: Don’t be fooled by the dividing white lines for lanes. One must drive where one can get that 1 inch ahead of other drivers.
Rule Number 3: One must not have a temper on ones self if one wishes to survive a couple of hours on Indian Roads. Crazy driving doesn’t cause accidents, but road rage will.
Rule Number 4: One must not yield at the traffic circle, one must yield half way through causing lovely jam in road.
Rule Number 5: One must use horn as if world will implode if heavy hooting is not applied. Hooting does not convey anger, hooting is to let other drivers know that “I’m overtaking on a blind corner”.
Things I’m really going to miss:
Seeing Cows, Elephants and Camels in the streets. Not to mention to herd of cows going home along the beach.
Café Coffee Day and their Cold Sparkles (iced coffee).
Running on the beach, bare foot at dawn followed by a swim.
Wearing thin baggy pants that look like you haven’t had your nappy changed in awhile, that are the way of a travellers wardrobe here, but would be seen as pajamas back home.
The friendly open nature of Indians. NZ strangers don’t speak to one another. But in India, within the space of 10 paces, 5 hand shakes and 20 “hello, how are you’s” are applied.
The sleeper trains! I really enjoyed each and every 10-17 hour train trip with the sleeper beds!
The wonderful climate! Didn’t drop below 30 and the highest was 43 degrees celcius.
My tan I acquired! – Yes its true!
The incredible cheapness of food, books, clothes. (Doug and I have a habit of picking up books on our travels, we came with 1 and we left with 7, good way to build up a library for home!)
The electrical storms. We don’t get those in NZ. Gorgeous jazzy bolts of energy dancing through the delicious blueberry sky for hours on end.
Dosa’s. $1 equaled 5 different spices and curries in small bowels and a giant looking pancake.
Tuk Tuks… Only in India can the driver be a crazy driver and the foreign passenger be perfectly comfortable. Plus they are 3 wheelers, yellow and cool!
Things I’m NOT going to miss about India.
Seeing the many many disfigured people, legs and arms mainly. It makes me shutter. How did they come to be like this?
Beggers! Its hard walking by every 2nd person asking for money or food.
Plus I think it’s a reflex now ‘White person coming, must hold out hand!’
The smell of urine in the streets I could do without.
And feeling like you have to have up a guard because anyone who has a conversation with you in one way or another wants something from you. If someone puts something around your wrist and sez it’s a holy day..blah blah…50 rupees please. “Puhah?”. another example. I had a jasmine bracelet put round my hand, I resisted it 5, 6 times the little girl insisted she wanted no money so I thought ‘Maybe she’s genuinely wanted to give?!’ Puhah!.. “Please just buy me some food!”
Squatter toilets.. I think I peed on my feet a few times, but it didn’t matter because they were filthy to begin with and probably had someone elses urine on them anyway. At least I know where mines been! lol
And spitting, every 2nd person spits whether they are washing out their mouths, brushing their teeth or hocking that piece of flem out. Not to mention blowing their nose into the street. ‘Sorry I didn’t order snot on my toes this morning’
But I will say..with all the things I’m NOT going to miss. I probably will anyway because that’s what makes traveling and makes the differences between countries and with all of the disgusting things we encountered, we laughed a lot because of them!
India in general is perfectly miss able. Its an amazing place to explore. India is somewhat like Marmite! Either you’ll love it or you’ll hate it. Lucky for me, I love both!
Back into the routine of life again. But can’t wait! Back to work, back to photo shoots and a Wedding to plan!
Hope to hear from you soon.
Lots of Love,