I’m in Bombay (Mumbai), on my way to see these guys. That’s Mustafa on the left, of Seeco Shipping
So, in the cab, on the way there
The driver says he knows an amazing suit shop I should stop at. LOL! He probably makes 10% commission for everyone he drops off. I’ve been through this countless times and think to share a pitch with you. It was also a good exercise learning to how to trim a voice memo in Quicktime, exported from my phone, and import it to the blog. This guy is typical, and awesome
So many stories to tell, so much to catch up on. It’ll happen shortly. I love India.
Walking back from the pub tonight I was thinking about riding and traffic in India. 5 months isn’t enough to talk about bigger stuff yet, although that’s what occupies the mind.
So, just rattling off stuff:
Pedestrians have no rights. Zero.
The traffic isn’t madness. The opposite in fact. I even have a name for it: Homogeneitraffic. Cool, huh? The first thing is that the accident rate, same as Indonesia, is (I’m guessing) lower than at home, despite the fact it looks like a video game. And the evidence of this are the mothers, children and even babies on the back of scooters and motor with no helmets. They’re safe. Because in a country with a long history of a single people densely interacting with each other there’s harmony. They’re chill. As simple as that. Even in the most dire road circumstances, you just don’t see stress. They make their presence known when closely maneuvering with the horn, which means “I’m here”. However no one is a bigger critic of the overall complexity of the experience than an Indian. They bitch about it all the time. But their doesn’t cause them them to be frustrated to the point that they feel stress, which is common to, say, Vancouver.
Out in the country there’s a different thing because of the buses and trucks. They are higher up the food chain and have road priviledges. They’re coming through, get out of the way. No problem.
Good thing I didn’t listen to any of the people who said ride a small bike in India. Bullshit: you would go nowhere fast and get eaten alive by the crowds of similar sized bikes, having no advantage and none of the experience or harmony. Bring a big enduro and have road presence, power and options. The HP2 has been in its element here.
However where I’m headed is maybe the place place on earth for her, which is what led me to write this.
So here I am, back on the roof of the hotel in Bangalore
Miss G touched down at Heathrow an hour ago, half way home. We were up again this morning at 3:45 am to get to the airport. Early morning flights out of Bangalore are rough. But G commented on the same thing I’ve noticed: the airports and flights here run with impressive precision
Jaipur was, as I warned G might happen, a survival story. It’s a city of stone structures and the heat radiated off everything. You stand in the shade and you got cooked anyway.
Some we did what the other tourists did and ventured out for 4 hours in the morning and 3 or 4 hours at night. G spent a lot of time in the hotel pool.
The Jaipur monuments were beautiful, like the Royal Palace
The astronomy observatory
And the walk at dusk up the hill to the Hanuman temple
Walking around town
And we learned some history.
Despite all of that, Varanasi more than made up for Jaipur, and G and I had an unexpected, spontaneous and fantastic holiday. And she goes back tan, well fed, but will probably sleep for a week.
That was probably the briefest wrap up ever done, but now at this end things get serious as the ride changes gears entirely and I get buried in logistics.
p.s. this was creepily metronomic, from my hotel room window:
A horrendous start out of Bangalore, up at 3:45 am.
Arriving in Jaipur at 10:30, very busy
J: It is very very hot. The weather online says 38/39, accuweather says 39/40 but I find that hard to believe. I’ve been above 40 twice, once in Chiapas, Mexico, and once in Australia, and this feels way hotter. There’s no way you can venture out between 2 and 5.
A short tour of the Pink City
Lots like this
G: One of the textbook pictures I had seen in my research of Jaipur, which is in fact – just a facade with no actual building behind it.
J: We headed off to the Amber Palace. A touristy elephant ride to the top. There were hawkers everywhere and hundreds of white tourists. It was hard work keeping them out of the shots.
Which went like this. It was slow fun.
View of the town in the valley bowl, surrounded by a battlement along the hilltops enclosing the entire valley
Here’s a famous thing, often used in MC Escher books to illustrate one of his influences
Which led to this
A pond below with water buffalo cooling off. It’s very hot, limiting our day to about 4 hours in the morning and 4 in the evening
Small temples with monkeys, cows and pigs
J: Jaipur is famous for its jewelry. We went to the top manufacturer to get a small piece. G tried on a necklace priced at a million $US. He had another like it in rubies. They sell these for weddings. Tons of money here.
G: Not seen: me pooping my pants as somebody informs me $1,000,000.00 is on my neck.
G: This area was filled with water previously, so that as the cannon (biggest on wheels in the world) was set off the person could run and jump in… hopefully saving themselves from any repercussions of the cannon. It was only ever fired once, at a distance of 20 miles, as a test.
J: A beautiful skytop garden. Used in Bollywood movies. If you’re wealthy enough you can rent the whole fort.
G: This is the future location of my future wedding, thanks in advance, Dad!!
The view down to Jaipur, roasting in the heat
Somewhat like El Alto, Bolivia, but without the fighting Cholitas
On another hilltop, a huge Air Force radar installation
In this fort they had s single tourist thing. This is how Justin-the-idiot should have done it, and stopped. G was resistant but quickly warmed to the idea
The idea of catching up on detailed Varanasi stories is now most probably, officially, toast. We’re already a day into Jaipur, a couple of flights away.
We hit Varanasi hard, it’s hot and after both the heat and the famous freneticism there’s not much energy left for luxuries like blogging. Sleep, food and short after lunch naps are the priority.
The area of intensity in Varanasi is quite small, just 7 kms by 1.5 kms. The idea is to explore all of that. There may be places in Africa, perhaps Cairo, with occasional patches of similar intensity, but it’s unlikely. So far in my travels it’s unique for unrelenting sensory input. The core story, a 4000 year occupation, the heart and soul of Hinduism, Mother Ganges, the 8000 temple deities in walls, on corners, the shit, the cows, the colour, the living, the dead and the dying. There’s nothing like it and IMO is a must visit, twice probably, maybe spaced a couple of weeks apart. I’ve found that the places I’ve loved were much more rewarding the second time.
G was fantastic. I was concerned that she’d find the heat too much to deal with and the mandatory complete immersion overwhelming. But no, not at all. She loved it and even thrived on it. It was so satisfying that it worked out this way.
Maybe we’ll catch up after G goes back to Vancouver in a week, but like catching up on Kazaranga, it’s a long shot.
But outside of the wonderful chaos, on the last day we went into the countryside to a more remote Shiva temple
Inside an inner temple
After the video below, I was instructed to move beside her, camera off, and the Brahmin priest came in from an outside courtyard and G was surrounded, in this small space by 6 men, chanting at maximum volume, that Shiva would give her a good life, for 15 long minutes. It was a privilege for her and an extraordinary experience.
The initial blessing to Shiva before the ceremony started
Here’s another one of a 17 year old village girl applying her henna
And taking a selfie in the village women’s day room
G: Got to witness Dad have his first unhappy moment of our trip today. Left for the airport with zero buffer for traffic as it was a Sunday, and our hotel assured us it would be plenty to make our flight. Apparently they had failed to realize the provincial government was having some sort of hoopla, and so the people of that political party from all of Karnataka would be pouring into Bangaluru (the capital) at the same time we were exiting.
G: A few 10 minute standstills and we got free of it, but had tens of kilometres to our right of standstill… apologized to our driver in advance as he would have to come back this way… and also for pulling out some Ryan Gosling style driver moves to get us to the airport on time.
G: Since Dad was worrying enough for the both of us, letting his mind wander to what would happen if we missed our flight and imagining all the horrible repercussions, I decided to ignore him and the fact that we were doubling the speed limit and relax to some Willie Nelson and a sudoku.
G: The entrance to the “Palace Grounds” as the civilian members of the party poured in.
G: Arrived in Varanasi in the dark, we somehow made it on the flight even though we got to the check in 2 minutes after it had closed.
Dad posed a question wondering if we had been extremely unlucky or extremely lucky today.