Where did the last one leave off? Oh yeah, with myself, Allison, my
mom, and sister meeting up with friends Zac and Joan in Mumbai (Bombay).
there we headed south on a tour of my childhood. We stopped and saw our
old houses, schools, teachers, friends, and villages (Panvel and
But not before Zac and Joan attempted to tear apart the hotel room (and each other) with a pillow fight.
may recognize from my first India blog the woman seen between my mother
and I, she is my childhood school teacher. The last time we saw each
other was over 18 years ago.
Kids love to beg for money while poking and grabbing you, I found a good way to scare them off.
we ventured by train to Matheron, a huge nature preserve on the top of
a plateau, inhabited by lots of monkeys. We chose to see some of it by
horse back, Zac mounts a horse for the first time.
Then we walked around the perimeter to see its various lookouts.
The market in the town below had all kinds of fly infested food to eat.
said our goodbyes to my mother and sister and took another packed local
train to the north. The mob mentality during the scramble for the door
was like nothing I have ever experienced, even in Tokyo at the world's
busiest subway station. Despite our best efforts, the girls said they were groped more times in
those 2-3 seconds then they could even count. Joan hangs in there.
next stop on the way to the north was Jalgaon. It was Ganesh Chaturthi,
the festival for the elephant god Ganesh so there were people selling
piles of colored sand everywhere for sidewalk and temple adornment.
was very sick and bedridden, so we mellowed out and took it easy. Then
the four of us took a 26 hour sleeper train to Varanasi (Banaras).
This is the view from our hotel balcony, overlooking the holy Ganga river and Manikarnika (burning ghat).
is another example of Indian brainiacs at work, you witness such acts
of stupidity every few seconds. They needed to do some electrical work,
so they leaned a bamboo ladder against the wires themselves and
proceeded to clip live electrical wires barefoot and with no gloves as
the ladder flexed and bobbled.
sect of Hinduism dictates that you never have to wear clothes. This
guy, who I referred to as "naked man" could be seen any day, anytime sitting naked along the street, just "hanging out" so to speak.
After a number of people attempted to pick pocket us, we headed away
from the Ganga to explore Varanasi in its entirety. These two boys
begged to have their picture taken.
We wanted to see the nightly ritual of lights, singing, and dancing so we rikshawed to the main ghat. This is the entrance.
To get a different perspective, we headed out on a boat.
When the show came to an end, we headed down stream back to the burning ghat and our hotel.
The night sky was filled with fire, smoke, and the smell of burning hair and flesh.
burn bodies 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. The only people who are
not burned are Sadus (holy men), pregnant women, children, lepers, and
those killed by snakes "death by cobra".
Viewed from above, the heat, smoke, fire, and stench are blinding.
next morning we woke at sunrise and got a boat and boatman to take us
out to see the daily ritual of people bathing, drinking, and washing
clothes in the holy Ganga. Not everyone is burned before getting dumped
into the Ganga, and the river is home to fresh water dolphins that feed
on the flesh of those who cannot afford to be burned. Just after I took
this picture, a dead baby floated by.
view of the burning ghat, notice the foot. The fires are smaller than
the bodies placed on them, so the extremities must be flipped back into
the fire after the torso has disintegrated. The soul is said to have
left the body when the skull "pops". Quite the sound.
I got more sick that day then ever before. Confined to my bed all day, I thought I was dying. Bad times.
following day we hired another boat in hopes of adventuring along the
less inhabited opposite shore of the Ganga. Here a man thoughtfully
bathes, a part of most people's daily routine.
For safe drinking purposes, water must have a fecal count of less than 5,000 parts per liter, less than 50,000 PPL for bathing and
below 500,000 PPL for agricultural
use. The present level of coliform in
the Ganga is 2,100,000 PPL and is considered "septic". I decided to play it safe and just dip my feet in.
explored this very same area with my dad as a child, finding bones and
skulls along the way. Hasn't changed much in 20 odd years.
The Ram Nagar Fort across the river looked interesting, so we ventured that way.
With our curiosity of Varanasi quenched, we bought tickets on the local
flight leaving for Kathmandu, Nepal. After getting a ride to the
airport with a crazy, drunk rikshaw driver, we discovered that
"security" is really just a laughing matter. We arrived 30 minutes
before the flight, knowing in junk show Indian fashion that the plane
would most certainly be late (and boy was it). Ever had a flight
attendant dressed in a sari?
and Joan decided to go their separate way the next day, so we spent our
last night together seeing what Kathmandu had to offer. This is the
Pashupatinath Temple, where they also burn bodies.
following day Allison and I headed west via 8 hour bus ride to the town
of Pokhara, at the base of the Himalaya to do some hiking and see the
largest mountains in the world. It was the sketchiest bus ride of my
life, there were no guard rails and we passed countless head-on fatal
collisions as we flew through the mountains. Nonetheless, people pack
into the buses, even on the roof. We also had a goat in the aisle of our
Like I said, it was a white knuckle ride. Even the locals were puking.
Didn't seem to bother this woman much, she continued to eat after
At last, the town of Pokhara, on Phewa Lake.
next morning, we walked out of town and around the lake to embark on a
hike up to Sarangkot. We hiked past numerous terraced rice fields.
Midway through our hike, the town of Pokhara can be seen in the distance.
The view of the Annapurna Range was temporarily obstructed by clouds, better pictures are below.
figured renting a motorcycle would be a good way to cover some serious
ground, so the next day we threw down a whole $4 and got this hog.
Plenty of sketchy off-roading was in order as we headed up footpaths
into the mountains.
was in a small village we came across, tucked into the hillside. These
bamboo swings are a very common sight, and we were encouraged to give
it a shot. Pretty sure we were the first white people most of these
kids had ever seen. Allison boosts.
We came across the World Peace Stupa, perched high on a ridge.
made our way back down the valley and after some motoring and walking
around, came across an interesting water fall. Naked in Nepal, might as
We set out to make it around Phewa Lake, which turned out to be more of an off-roading adventure then we had anticipated.
It's a rental, you think I'm NOT going to jump it? Here I attain some HUGE AIR.
dead end "road" led us to a town on the far side of the lake. We had to
cross more streams and rivers than I recall. I lost my sandal just
after this picture was taken, and a villager ran downstream to retrieve
it for me. The bottom of all of these crossings were rocky stream beds,
would have never guessed a motorcycle could do this...
In short order, my goggle tan was replaced with a sandal tan.
Some boys play soccer under the highest (23,000 ft) and most recognizable peak in the Annapurna Range, Machhapuchhre.
our few days spent in Pokhara, we took another sketchy bus to
Kathmandu to catch our flight back to India. We couldn't help but
see a few more sights though.
I write this from Pune (near Bombay). Due to some Indian nonsense, we missed our flight a few days ago and will hopefully make it out tomorrow. I want to do nothing but ski as soon as I get back, so wish me luck and look for my last India blog detailing travels to Darjeeling, Calcutta, Bangalore, Goa, and Mumbai.