Thursday, December 9, 2010

Last day in India and a sad farewell

What a sad day. I have had so much fun in Nepal and India but this is my last day. At the beginning the trip seemed so long but as time went on, time went faster and faster. I don’t think it was till we had our last bus trip, then our last train trip that is really set in that the days are numbered.
My last day started slow as roomie had had a good dose of gastro overnight which had left her a bit sluggish so the start of the day was on the seats in the reception area of the hotel (free wi-fi) catching up on emails, flights etc. We did eventually get going about 12 and headed back to Connaught Place to find that illusive market. It appears that it is down the street we tried yesterday but we just didn’t walk far enough. Along the way we stopped for lunch at Pizza Hut. Who would have thought my last meal in India would have been a margarita pizza from a multinational but as it turned out that is what it was. It was nice to sit there and savour the pizza before the haggling and bargaining that was to come. I wasn’t intending to buy anything but sometimes you get caught in the moment so I brought a miniature Taj and two bags. Jackie, who had absolutely no room left in her back pack brought more to fit who knows where in her backpack. It was alot of fun for our last day.
Dodgy scaffolding

A street market that proved to be expensive for Jackie and I
We retreated early from the markets as roomie’s belly was not behaving. We ended up doing a power walk back to the hotel. Soon my room (technically) became the packing station as the girls were meant to be going to a nearby hotel for the night. With Elisca resting in bed, Jackie and I starting lugging the backpacks over to the other hotel in two trips. On my final trip and with a heavy backpack on I got chatted up by some guy. He was trying to guess which country I was from and as per usual never got it right (phew) so I carried on. The only problem was I had to go past him to get back to my hotel. I got offered a cup of tea on the way passed and I had a nice smile to myself. The plan was to go out with the rest of the group but things changed and I stayed behind with Elisca and Raj as they had a bit of fun with a new computer. Elisca decided to stay the night at my hotel which was nice. At least I had someone to say good-bye to even if she was sick and half asleep. I left the hotel at 4.30am on a very foggy and somewhat cold morning. As a reminder of the driving in India the car that I was in had a close call with a van. Call it Pavlovian conditioning but I didn’t feel myself flinch which is a worry. And so ends my Nepal and India story.
Just a few points
My favourite places?
1.      Taj – a dream fulfilled
2.      Kathmandu – chaotic with great, cheap food
3.      Ganges at Varanasi – you hear about it but seeing it is another thing
My favourite memories?
·         An awesome guide in India (thanks Raj)
·         A beautiful roommate for 20 days
·         A great bunch of travelling companions (we got along so well)
·         The night at Thordi Ghar
·         Elisca’s response on the bus when we had a near miss with a truck (near miss might be an understatement!)
·         Wearing a sari for a whole night and the thing not falling off
Favourite eat?
·         Steamed momo in Nepal

·         Dossa in Delhi
Favourite photograph?

Final words
This trip would not have been what it was without the people that I travelled with.
Raj, you were fantastic. I know you were as sad as we were that the trip had finished and it sort of feels like we have abandoned you but you have left us with lasting memories especially of the time that you gave us at the end of the tour. You never seemed to get stressed out (at least outwardly) and you were so easy going. I promise I will do the feedback form but it is currently about 4000 kms away in Cairns. Please stay in touch Raj.
Elisca, words cannot describe what a  privilege it was to share with you. You are a beautiful woman who will land an amazing man one day. I loved your honesty and strangely we had a similar wit. Love you sis.
Jackie and Alex, I still have a quiet laugh when I see the picture of Alex walking the Annapurna circuit in a skirt...such a girlie girl on this trip that seemed so ungirly. Jackie, you have an amazing sense of humour which I can’t wait to meet again on Friday (I won’t let a natural disaster like a flood stop me...hopefully)
I will stop there before I really embarrass myself and others. Thank you to all my travelling companions. It’s a shame it didn’t last longer.

The last days: Delhi

We arrived in Delhi at about 7.30am, piled back into a bus for the last time L and headed to the hotel. The streets around the hotel were still quite quiet and after what seemed like a bit of a search we got to the Hotel Dreamland in Karol Bargh. Time for a shower and then off to see what Delhi has is store.
Arriving at Delhi train station. We all look like zombies
I must say that the Metro train is mighty impressive when compared to what we have seen for public transport in India. I think, us woman were probably more impressed than the men because we got our own (along with other women) carriage on the train away from the guys who were travelling cramped cattle class in the carriages behind. It was the first time in India where us as women had something over the men and meant that we felt a bit safer from pick pockets etc. The poor guys were very cramped back there while we were basically the only ones standing in our carriage.
What a lovely sign...just for us women

We made it to the old part of Delhi (Chandni Chowk) and walked to the Red Fort where the paparazzi was at its worst for Jackie and Alex. J walking also proved to be a bit more challenging than other towns. We walked to a mosque which some walked to and others (me) didn’t choosing rather to be steered at by some mentally unstable person (not by choice). We walked down some little alleyways through some really old buildings. I am fairly sure you could get truly lost in these alleys without some knowledge.
The Red Fort in Delhi

Before the onslaught of cameras

Streetscape of Delhi

The small alleys of the main streets of Delhi

The alleys obviously make a good motorbike park to

Shopping opportunities in old Delhi

 Eventually we made it back to the railway station and went to Connaught Place to see a bit of modern Delhi. This was where Raj left us and off we went for lunch of dossa’s. A dossa is a massive crispy crepe roll with a bit of potato masala in it (see pic). Despite being really oily, it was really nice and kept me going for the rest of the day.
New Delhi
Elisca and her Dossa

Almost didn't put this one in (weird face!) but this is me and my dossa

 After lunch we attempted to find some markets that Raj had suggested but just couldn’t find them so returned via the Metro to the hotel and watched TV which was probably a good move considering the lack of sleep last night. Tonight was our last group dinner, although Michael had already left for Australia. Tonight was chicken tikka. I think I am curried out and need a break and the chicken tikka was just right along with the long island iced tea. After dinner we retreated to Michael’s now vacant room to have farewell drinks. I think this was dampened due to the lack of sleep that most of us had last night and at least for me it was an early-ish night unfortunately.

The track to Delhi: Another train trip and more laughs

Morning awoke and off we went in search of breakfast again and with no surprise we headed back to the Lotus for a bit of jam and toast and then it was shopping time and shop we did. More pashminas and more scarfs. I don’t know why...I live in the tropics. The coldest it got was 16 degrees this year, hardly a reason to buy scarfs! We went for a wander around the jewellery stores but I didn’t buy any as it didn’t really seem that cheap. All in all, it was a good day of haggling and having some fun with the local sales people.
We had to get back to the hotel by 5pm in order to catch the train to Delhi. To get from the hotel to the train station we had to take a tuk tuk ride and I felt sorry for the tuk tuk because it had two of us plus our backpacks (and one of them was not too light) but surprisingly we past two other tuk tuks from our group but the driver was getting some encouragement.
Back in the train again and with some swopping of beds I finally got a top bunk by the door AGAIN compounded by the fact there was no ladder to get up there when the time came to go to bed. We filled in some time with UNO which Jackie is queen of. Then, we had the pleasure of watching Jackie eat a meal from a stall at one of the stations (a bit of a risk) especially when you eat the hot pickles on your first bite and end up with a burning mouth and turning into a bright shade of red. Bed time came and a clamber up the beds to the top only to discover an air conditioning duct right by my bed which led to a rather chilly night. For the most part I had a light annoying me and it was only at 6am when I got Eric to turn off the fan that I found out that we had the light switch!!!!! Because of the air conditioning duct I turned myself around (somehow) and put my head by the door which proved to be my best move all night – I just had to make sure that I didn’t hang my head over the end and get my head jammed in the door like my feet were. Apparently the only bed is a short bed in an Indian train. Overall, it was a cold night with some sleep but not much!

Udaipur: “Venice of the East” and the final shop

The decision was made that given we were near the end of the trip that we would eat out a bit more and away from the advice of Raj and Ranny so Elisca and I headed out in search of breakfast. We first went to a rooftop restaurant but classified as not clean enough for us so we walked on a bit further to the  Lotus Cafe where I discovered the “special” lassi is in fact a marijuana lassi. Thankfully I found this out by asking and not by trying. Breakfast was really good (cheese omelette with too much cheese but easily fixed) and cheap. We were to get back to the hotel to join the group before they went out for the daily sightseeing but instead thanks to Brett we arranged to meet them at the Shree Jagdish Temple but they took forever to get there so off shopping we went and about 40 minutes later they arrived. The local guide for the temple greeted me with a “Kia Ora” which was nice. We wondered around here. I think I was a bit “templed” out because I wasn’t really listening at all.

Carving on the temple
You know you are bored when you are trying to get the shutter speed fast enough to catch a drop coming out of a lions mouth!
  After we left the temple we moved up the hill to the City Palace and explored this massive structure. Amazingly, on the roof top was a nice secluded garden which was a welcome retreat from the outside world. I could imagine having a great party up there and it just being so relaxing. It was a beautiful palace with lots of differing sections and rooms which were used until fairly recently. The views over lake Picola were fantastic and obviously some money had been spent on some flash hotels that were positioned on or near the lake. Apparently the lake has been close to drying up in recent years. This city is described at the “Venice of the East” and although I have not been to Venice (yet!) I can imagine the similarities. The palace was full of elaborate wall work, vibrant colours and stained glass windows.
My job is not so bad afterall

Doors of Rajistan complete with spikes to prevent elephant attacks (decorative)

Very ornate

Venice of the East

Beautiful stained glass windows in the palace

Rooftop entertainment area at the palace
Looking through a window out into the city

Another doors of Rajistan photo

This got included because I think it turned out so well

Five photos stitched together to make a panorama

We walked around the palace and then went to the sunshine rooftop restaurant for lunch. I had an omelette again for lunch and then Elisca, Brett, Rachel and I headed off in search of the markets.
Another wedding in progress
Sights along the way

Busy streets
 All we found were closed markets except the fruit and vege markets which was a hive of activity but in the process of closing down for the day. If only we could eat some of the fruit but all that is safe to really eat is the stuff that you can peel. Oh, how I wanted an apple! I missed apples.
I was not sure if she wanted a photo or not (communication error) and should have considered the knife a bit more in the decision making

Colours and apples everywhere
 Elisca and I walked and walked and eventually we ran out of map so took a tuk tuk back to the hotel but the was a sunset to be caught on camera but before we did that we headed to the internet cafe (one of only three I found in India) for a quick check and by the time we finished there we had run out of time for a time to get to a vantage point.
Our night time activity was to go to a cultural show which was a power walk from the hotel. We met most of the group there and enjoyed what was a well run show. I have to admire the woman who balanced all the bowls on her head with such poise and a smile on her face.
I am sure this is a useful skill somehow

Now that is balance

It was a really colourful show. After the show we went out for dinner of curry again and then wondered back to the hotel for bed

Jodphur: Another Fort and the Sardar Market

View from the homestay rooftop early in the morning
Despite my tiredness, I woke early and following Elisca’s lead scrambled my way onto the roof for a sunset view. In the distance I could see the Meherangarh Fort. It was just so peaceful...until the school kids started turning up next door. Breakfast was lovely but I am killing for some bacon! No to be in India.
After a rather sluggish start we headed off to the fort for a wander. We headed to a look-out first to catch a glimpse of what was to come. Big and imposing and built on a hill to offer the maximum in defence, this fort really stands out on the landscape.  
View from the look out
 The Fort is big and grand and it feels like a lot of people could have been housed here in its time. Today, it is more of a museum to times past. Pam managed to catch a handful of bird poop. I am not sure that this a sign of luck or not but it took a lot to clean up – poor thing. I too, managed to get blessed with a second dosing of bird poop on this trip but nothing compared with Pam. We walked around the Fort for a couple of hours and did a self-paced audio talk. I think I listened to about half of it and ditched it so that I could take photos. Walking, listening and taking photos was just too much. The view’s were amazing and you could see why this is called the blue city with all the lovely blue painted houses.
Pots at the entrance to the Fort

Massive in everyway
He was there, he was posing so I took a photo

The climb begins

The Fort extending into the city

I consider this an effective and efficient use of land

Jammed packed but the blue was beautiful

Ten photos joined together to form a panorama of Jodphur
 Next stop was the Sardar market which we saw from the top of the Fort. From the Fort it looked like a busy centre of town. Apparently, according to the Lonely Planet this market has the best lassi shop in all of India so as soon as we got into the market place a group split off in search of it. The rest of us were meant to stay together and despite Ranny’s best attempts it didn’t happen. Two of us ended up with Raj and the rest with Ranny. It was nice just to wonder around at a nice slow pace. Ranny had positioned himself at the main gate make sure we had everyone but the lassi (type of thick milkshake made with yoghurt) group was still MIA. After a phone call they returned disappointed about not getting an omelette (again, famous in the Lonely Planet) but with spare lassi’s for the afternoon journey. It would have been good to have more time there and even have lunch there (which would have been a much cheaper option than where we went!).
Egg plant, chilly, capsicum, cauliflower and it looked so much better than Woolworths or Coles

The Lassi Shop...recommended by book!

Ranny, making sure we all made it out
Strolling through the markets

A typical sight in India...cows inhaling fumes in the main street
The rest of the day was spent in a bus on our way to Udiapur. Described as a six hour trip, I think it ended up being about seven. We had the option of stopping along the way for dinner but as a group decided to go direct to the hotel and get to bed.  The other group stopped but ended up 1 ½ hours behind us and we were in bed by the time they had arrived – nice. The trip was not without drama. At times the passing was very close and the game of chicken was played a bit too close for my liking at times. There was also a close encounter with a cow and a road diversion with the later probably being the most interesting.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

More wedding photos

There seemed to be too many for the last post so I will put some here

The women at the womens party

Some flamboyant dancing (and a painful light shining right in my camera!)

I finally gave into her requests for a photo

How it all started. With Mary getting up on the floor and then the rest of us HAD to follow. Thanks Mary

Some were lucky enough to get up in a group...I wasn't that lucky

The groom at the start of the parade

MBA looking at the camera

People people everywhere (see the video below to get the vibe)

Mary at it AGAIN

Crazy eyes. I think the tired giggles had set in

A very posh Ranny

And finally some video