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India - Day Eight – Love and Death PDF Print E-mail
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Monday, 29 February 2016 00:00

kay, so, Khajuraho Temple – looks like those temples out of the Jungle Book (yeah, already made that comparison). But that’s where the G-rating ends.

I might not know art, but I know what I like!Whoever the natives were, they were very open-minded. Their temples showed all manner of court life (unclothed court life) and all manner of sexual configurations (69, three-somes, voyeurism, bestiality).  So yeah, I got a lot of pictures. Really, there is something (as an occasional writer of erotica) that these stone-masons of 1000AD captured, the saucy cant of a woman’s hip, her come-hither expression, all that. And did they ever catch it. Honestly, much of it is repeats of earlier scenes in the other complex; one woman adjusts her henna markings (and twists back a leg so erotically) yet you see the same moment captured over and over (woman with a thorn in her foot, woman needing help with an ankle bangle) that you rather get the idea. Still, some moments of raw sexuality there. Worth a look.

Then a rush to the airport to pick up a flight to Varanasi. No problems with the flight – oh, it was rinky-dink with the banana-republic security, the rolling boarding ramps, all that, but a 30 minute plane ride tops a 12 hour bus ride.

This afternoon, we drove over to the Ganges for our special tour of the river by sunset. It was a bit of a problem that the cars had to drop us twenty minutes’ walk away. This doesn’t sound like much, but Varanasi is an Indian city – you must see traffic to believe it. We pushed along a flood of humanity, stepping over deformed beggers, dodging hawkers, shouldering along with natives, all to the singing horns of the traffic. Pushed our way down to the river bank – a hazy purple in the late afternoon glow, the ancient steps packed with worshipers and watchers. Picked up a couple of flowers from a boy, a cup, flowers and a candle in each – these were for sending wishes along the Ganges.

Okay, so two swarthy river-rats loaded us into their old wooden boat draped with orange flowers, backing us under long ore/poles into the main body of the slow moving river. We eased north along the bank, threading past boats out to see the night’s happenings. Further along, pyres were bursting against the evening gloom, one, two, three… five – even more. Cremations were taking place all along one section of the bank. Kites fought against a half-mooned evening sky, bats fluttered, mosquitos hummed, the riverboys calling out to each other, clearing down port and starboard.

Crazy, yes, but better than some gray funeral.We held station off the cremations, watching new bodies being brought down, new pyres flaming high. Tiny candles were lit in their cups and set off with a wish. Got mine and JBs lit and we launched them together, watching them flow north, riding into the darkness where all dreams go. A defeated kite fluttered down with a tiny splash further out. Boats rode easy, not two alike.

We poled our way back up to the launching point, only to find a line of Brahmans performing some religious line dance on a lit stage, all the river’s vessels pressing close to watch. The alien music floated over the waters. Tea-boys walked from boat to boat, selling steaming drink by the cup. I looked over my shoulder and saw a female Indian boat girl facing away, tending to an oar. She turned to reveal that she was in advanced pregnancy. I realized that at that moment I was looking at true India.

Eventually we got ashore – then came the crazy walk back, the scooters, auto rickshaws and cars flooding past uncaring pedestrians. Once again we had to push through intersections so clogged with honking cars that one had to turn sideways and slide between scooters, rubbing against the drivers. We got to the curbing – the woman before me (one from our tour) stopped dead. Just off her line-of-march, a shadowy patch of muddy ground, a dead dog lying there. There we stood, traffic chaosing past, and she’s locked up over the dog. “Keep moving,” I said firmly and gave her a gentle push. I didn’t want to lose sight of the guide. That would be death. I’d never get home.

But I did, following a crazy drive home, including a dust-roostering shortcut through a slum. Finally we made it. Retired to the hotel restaurant for Fish and Chips, too much beer, then back to the room. As I write this, fireworks are banging from a nearby Indian wedding and car horns ring in the night.

We’re going to see another Ganges tomorrow, hopefully a calmer version, when the sun rises.




Last Updated on Tuesday, 01 March 2016 18:13
India - Day Seven – Steel Rails to Jhansi PDF Print E-mail
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Sunday, 28 February 2016 14:27

errible start for the day (the usual 3am bing awake deal). Turns out JB had some sort of mango tea drink for dinner. Either that or something else dumped her guts. I’m lying in bed, trying to will myself to sleep, and I’m hearing say that her bowels are dumping, that she’s got a throbbing headache, that she’s sick as a dog, and my mind whirls on the logistics of three hours on a train and five more in a bus. Told her to pull the ripcord and take the anti-diuretics, aspirins, everything. Bomb bay doors open. Salvo.

Within ten minutes she was snoring. The next morning (two hours later) she was perfectly fine. Since I’d prayed for Ganesh (the elephant god and supposedly the deity of travel) I now owe him something. I think I’ll visiting the Hindu temple when I get home and toss and offering his way.


All Aboard for Jhansi!On the platform after breakfast to catch the Shatabdi Express for Jhansi. Since I’ve got a clinic to present to the train club in a week, I decided I’d do one on traveling on Indian railroads. And I’ve got a lot to go over.

You have scant minutes to throw yourself aboard. Of course, our tour group went in the right carriage door, another one in the left door. Turns out all our seats were on the other ends of the car, so a lot of bulky tourists with big carry-ons trying to get past each other. Anyway, eventually the train was off and I was shooting pictures out the window.

Saw sacred cows lying on nearby tracks. Saw derail tracks in stations (I thought it was some sort of trailer unloading station but there was no way to get a truck in – then I realized it was a safety precaution). I people-watched in the stations, and train watched at the sidings. We ended up cooking along at a cool 80mph. Yes, the trains are beat up around the edges but this one was comfortable, on time, and better than a day’s bus travel so I’ll take it. Pulled into Jhansi on schedule.

Strange area around Jhansi – unlike Agra and Delhi, the Jhansi drivers drove quietly – you hardly ever heard a horn. The city is also neat and tidy (compared to the rubbish of Delhi and Jaipur). Once we got out on the roads, it got a little more honky. Worse, it was a long drive to Khajuraho (our next overnight). We were on the road five hours. We stopped for lunch and got to check out the old tombs of Orchha overlooking the River Betwa. They looked just like King Louie’s ruins in Jungle Book. Then another couple of hours, with a piss stop in a small restaurant with a gift shop. Looked for something for a friend, and found neat Ganesh statues carved out of camel bone. Got one for my friend and one for me (I owe Trunk-man my thanks for setting things good with my wife’s cold). But really, it was a drag of a ride. Read a bit, slept a bit, and wished my fellow travelers would quiet down and please, stop sneezing (I don’t want JB to catch something else).

Anyway, I got the erotica day wrong. Tomorrow. I promise.

Gateway to Heaven - so quiet and peaceful...




Last Updated on Monday, 29 February 2016 15:12
India - Day Six – Grieving with marble PDF Print E-mail
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Saturday, 27 February 2016 19:57

o the first thing today – the Taj Mahal. And what can I say – as soon as you walk in, forget all those movies and photos you’ve seen of this place. The reality, especially on a cool clear morning, is just of walking through the sandstone entry gate, looking through the darkened portal at the gleaming white dome, and spouting an expletive. This was my India moment, where I stood and shot photos and just shook my head and said “Wow…”

Taj moment; Pat photos JB

Strolled around it for a bit. Sat with JB on a bench and watched the parrots and chipmunks fight their eternal battle for lawn domination. It was just a glorious day before a wonder of the world. Yes, occasionally architecture can make our souls soar.

After this, a quick stroll down to a marble working factory. They were showing us tables, little round flat marble things with painted tops with Indian patterns. And after looking at them over, softened by a beer (the classic trader trick), I realized that our patio does need a table, and one of these (alone with a marble base, suitable for underlighting with an LED) would be marvelous. So, nearly two grand later, we’ve got ourselves an Indian table, something we can always remember our trip with. I’ll post it up once it comes in a couple of weeks.

Back to the rooms for a little rest – bought two pepsis from the downstairs bar and had to pay an exorbitant 500 rupees. As I walked up to the room, I calculated this out to be about four bucks a can, so shame on me for not checking beforehand. But that can be India sometimes – you can get screwed out of money before you even know it’s happened.

Of course, after $1800 for a patio table, $8 for cokes seems to be a quibble.

Good to be king, the Agra Fort's Royal Audiance BullpenIn the afternoon, we journeyed to the Mini-Taj, a prototype of the big dome, build shortly before. It was interesting – not the eyeball-bouncer of the big boy. The interesting thing came when we tried to leave – traffic was at a standstill and our bus was a mile away. So we crossed to road and huddled between the tiny shops, watching the traffic honk and smoke, with scooters whizzing by scant inches away. Finally we got our transport and went over to AgraFort, a sprawling red sandstone fortification looking out over the city. Climbed all over this place – even saw shell holes from the India Mutiny. Finally, back to the room for some emergency packing – we’re running for Khajuraho tomorrow and suitcases need to be out early tonight. So JB is currently loading hers with a snow shovel. She simply cannot travel light.

Okay, I promise, dirty pictures tomorrow!




Last Updated on Sunday, 28 February 2016 14:52
India - Day Five – Mad Max: Agra Road PDF Print E-mail
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Friday, 26 February 2016 16:36

oke up today and JB gave me a Valentine’s Day card. In return, I gave her a dumb look. Totally forgot, given the strange background we find ourselves in. But it was a sweet gesture.

You stair-climbers, knock yourselves out!Pretty much a transport sort of day. In the morning, a quick run over to the Palace of Winds (where the ladies of the court could spy on the street from their perfumed sitting rooms in the sixteenth century). Then we hit the road for the Step Well of Chand Baori. What’s a step well? Well (snicker), imagine that you have to go down thirty feet to get to water, so you put rows of steps to allow access. But what if the level drops again, and now you are sixty feet deep. One hundred? Two hundred? These steps, like those famous Escher stair woodcuts, go on and on, forming mind-bending patterns as they drop ever deeper. Nothing short of amazing. And right next door was the temple devoted to Harshat Mata, goddess of joy and happiness – a goddess I could really get behind. Some of her carvings were quite the eye-popper.

Then lunch at an outdoor camp-ground/spa. Food was meh (I don’t like bones in mutton curry – crunch crunch). Then we were back on the road. Even though it was Sunday, traffic was heavy, cars coming into and off of the highway. I looked at India scrolling past – it never gets old for me. Thousands of road-side stores: men loitering, camels cudding, pigs rooting, women harvesting. On and on across fields of wheat and mustard, under the shadow of the brick kiln chimneys. On we traveled across the hours.

But then the road went from four lanes of heavy traffic to two lanes of heavy suicidal tendencies.

We were passing bikes, camel-carts, brick trucks, driving directly at oncoming cars, white knuckle stuff. The road is narrow, damned so, and potholed to hell. And you’ve got everything from pedestrians idling along, joggers (I couldn’t believe that guy), cyclists and motorcyclists, transports and rushing oversized tour busses such as our own. We’d swing out and dare motorbikes to keep to the lane, literally forcing them off the road while completing our dangerous passes. A couple of times I was certain we’d hear the grind of metal as we buffed each other. But on we flew, in and out of our lane, honk honk honk!

Made a freind at one stop - Bruce the camel!In the end, we made it to our hotel, a massive opulent sprawl, decedent and luxurious. I don’t think I’ve ever seen anything this lavish – it’s about 200 yards of marble halls just to get to the front desk. I’m going to like it here.

Post note/ day six: Having problems sleeping – I think it’s the sensory overload of India. I wake up at 2am with my mind awhirl about one thing or another. Last night, I figured a great way for photo hawkers to do better business with westerners. Just lay where with my mind spinning, thinking, I gotta sleep…





Last Updated on Saturday, 27 February 2016 20:16

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