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India - Day Three – Hard Roads and Harder sells PDF Print E-mail
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Tuesday, 23 February 2016 17:32

The Tower of Power!oke up feeling good (had been wondering if I had contracted Ebola from the New Delhi tap water I accidently swallowed last night). With my guts intact, we packed up and headed out, down the road from New Delhi to Jaipur. On the way, we stopped to check out the Qutab Minar Victory Tower, a huge standing structure made and remade and remade again (they need a lightning rod on that thing). Evidently the firm solid structure inspired my guts because in the rest room nearby I deposited a poop of equal consistency. Yea! So it’s looking more and more like my dose of tapwater will not leave me sweating and shivering. Whew.

After that we hit the road. Headed south in heavy bumper-to-bumper, door-to-door, honk-to-honk traffic, pushing through sound and heat and smog to a Delhi satellite city – a brand new burg twenty years old housing three million people, and they are still making the same mistakes they had before: clusterchunk housing, tight roads without a central plan – it’s like a mini-Delhi. Once we broke out into lighter traffic, we made okay time, but driving in India is something that needs to be experienced.

The new freeway, a heavy–use truck route, runs three lanes each way (sorta) with frontage roads to either side, set apart only by a crumbling curb and a patch of red earth six feet wide which must become a soup when it rains. So you’ve got heavy undisciplined traffic flowing in both directions, using lanes when it sees fit.

See, they WANT you to honk!The outer lane (to the left – British colony and all that, lad) is the chaos lane – here are all manner of cars, auto rickshaws (three-wheel cabs), milling pedestrians, entering trucks, departing trucks, slow vehicles, impatiently passing vehicles, sacred cows and god knows what else, all making it a collision crap shoot. This being the case, most traffic hangs to the right lane, including the slower trucks (rumbling at about 40mph). And so this leaves overtaking cars to require the center lane, which is also the same lane the chaos lane bleeds into. That Indian drivers honk as they overtake (they even say so with HONK PLEASE painted on the tailgates of their trucks) and so you have massive multispeed confusion, with a dusty haze hanging over it and pedestrians dashing through it. Some cars, needing to go the other way, occasionally run short distances against traffic.

Stopped for lunch at a little midway restaurant, an oasis of quiet where we dined under a white tent, Rajas all. Had a deep-fried sandwich thing, a pakora with a cold, wonderful coke. Traffic rumbled faintly like a demented carnie over the building, dust rising, but here we looked out over lush fields to hazy crags, and watched a faraway herd of camels feed in the brush.

Once we got into the pink city of Jaipur, the driving really got intense. If New Delhi was bad, Jaipur was worse, all manner of cars and busses all bustling about. After we found our hotel, we freshened up (which meant a calming lie-down) and then went out to go shopping in the marketplace. This is an outdoor carnival of craziness, a million little shops all jammed together, all with lights and sleeve-tugging hawking. Pat, JB and I made our way down the narrow aisles, looking for a dress for a friend. Went into one and saw something I really wanted for her, a purple blouse. Crafty bargaining on my side got it for a steal at $20 (the steal was not mine – I am horrible at this sort of thing, trying to determine what I will pay and converting it all over to rupees). Anyway, got that and then continued, only to find a better dress which my sister deftly knocked down to $10. No manhood here. Anyway, then she went on to tear the shop apart, to have dress following dress pulled down until my initial purchase (“May I pay? Hello? Now where did it go?”) was lost. Finally we think we located it but it might not have been the right one (with all those psychedelic patterns my eyes were strobing). After that, a little further – of course, the moment Pat stopped in one shop of bangles, some woman with a baby was tugging at my jacket, yelling up into my face for money. That’s when I felt the hand brush down in inside of my jacket (had my own hand firmly on my wallet in the front right pocket of my jeans). I turned and she was through the crowd like a sparrow, gone. So nice try, ma’am.

After that, a chancy dash across a nighttime Jaipur road, all manner of cars and auto rickshaws and whatnot dashing past, some without lights, all without pity. Got home and retired downstairs to a quiet meal amongst traveling companions.

Sorry, went a little long, but yes, for all my carping, it was a day of glorious fun. India, dusty noisy craziness.




Last Updated on Thursday, 25 February 2016 20:06
India - Day Two – Delhi, new and old PDF Print E-mail
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Tuesday, 23 February 2016 17:15

he day actually started at the airport – we got in at half-past eleven in the evening. The Indian tourist visa deal was a pain; it took an hour to clear it what with the dodgy fingerprint machines. The van ride in to the hotel was hectic; dark and smoggy and honky. When we got to the hotel, ready to crash into bed, first we accidently rode the elevator down to the basement then found out the room card wouldn’t allow us access to the elevator buttons. Finally someone coming up gave us a lift back to the lobby. After getting the cards recoded, we went up to the room, got out all the beddy stuff, and when I put the power converter followed by a surge protector into the socket, the protector just blew up. Took the entire room down, not a light in the place. Had to call down for maintenance to come up and toss the breaker.

But happily, even with four hours of sleep, the day before had been a short one, nine flying-against-the-earth’s-spin hours. So we were fine.

Jama Masjid - a mosque so beautiful, I almost converted...So we started by going to Old Delhi. Amazing to look out at Delhi with its population of seventeen million. Dirty, yes. Littered, yes. Smoggy, very. But still a sprawling, honking, bustling city. We crossed to the Jama Masjid, a huge mosque. I wished I’d brought my camera in (there was a small fee that I balked at). Had to swap out my shoes for slippers; the flagstones were cool but the air warming. It was quite an amazing place, with its minarets and spiraling kites, its pious attendees, its surrounding sprawl. We just walked around the courtyard, just marveling.

After leaving, we were then treated to a cycle rickshaw (basically, a bike with a carry-seat in the back). And off we went down little back alleys and twisting markets, the lanes like sharp caverns, cycles going both ways and motorcycles honking and overtaking and, by a miracle, not hitting anyone. There were snarls of electrical wire overhead (often with monkeys playing amidst them), wandering dogs, everyone selling everything, litter and trash and people darting about in glorious chaos. It was a total mindbend of how urbanization works at its base level, for good or bad.

After that, we went over to the place where Gandhi was cremated, a beautiful memorial garden. Fat bees buzzed in the breeze-nodding flowers. Then back on the bus, over to a nice lunch place, good food with the group (JB and I shared rice and curry and naan). Then a ride around the administration core of New Delhi, the place the British built to rule this land from, with the foresight to finish it right before they lost it.

These wires remind me of how I used to code...A tour of a Sikh temple, one where they a day-long service/ceremony all around a holy book. Had to go in barefoot with a scarf over my head, a real pirate. Amazingly, everyone in this temple volunteers for everything. They pump out a massive number of free meals every day, all done by people just tossing in a couple of hours. It was really an amazing show of socialistic charitable pageantry, something that rocked me back on my dirty heels.

After this, we rode over to Humayun’s Tomb, a stunning mausoleum the size of a palace, all built in Arabic architecture. Just hung on the wall for a bit, looking out over Delhi, wrapped in its smog and noise like a couple of bawdy brawling houris.

Wonderful dinner with Pat and JB in the hotel lobby, a buffet you couldn’t go back to enough. Then we came upstairs and I decided to add spice to the trip with the most ironically stupid thing I could come up with. Took my malaria pill and washed it down with half glass of tap water, done without thinking. So now I’m under the cloud – did I just give myself Delhi Belly? I have no way of knowing right now. Took two Pepto-Bismol pills, drank a whole bottle of water, and am now waiting, seeing, and peeing. I guess this blog tomorrow I’ll know if I suffer the karma of distraction. So we’ll see, with baited bowels.




Last Updated on Wednesday, 24 February 2016 11:15
India - Day One – Travel and travel and more travel PDF Print E-mail
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Sunday, 21 February 2016 21:39

couldn’t sleep last night – too much in my head, what with three airlines to navigate, a 4am wakeup, a ride to the airport, guilt over the cat, and the endless milling dread of imagining things that might go wrong. Which is what I do, I suppose.

Anyway, the limo guy was a touch early and he took the abandoned 436 in, a straight shot in twilight Tuesday. Got to the airport and found out that, no, Jet Blue does not share luggage routes with Delta so we’d have to do it ourselves (which wasn’t what they told me on the phone). Thank goodness we left a lot of time at JFK.

Anyway, the GEOS jump-the-security-queue cards worked like a dream. We were at our gate nice and early. Had breakfast. Caught a nap. The jet was ready on time and with a tail wind so we broad-reached north, getting into JFK early. Got our bags, lugged them about a mile to the tram which took us to another terminal (my shoulder bag, with the CPAT unit, my tinytop, a bunch of books, all that crap, is getting heavier and heavier). And that’s where the fun started.

The tour group fat-fingered JB’s name so it doesn’t quite match her passport (JANEB rather than JANE_B) which flunked the autoscanner. So we had to go see the out-of-work-comedy-club Delta security guy. He looked at our passports and paperwork, and thrice did that “Oh my. Hmmmm. I’ve never seen such a thing.” And he told us how the hardest part of is job was telling people he couldn’t clear them through (even though he hadn’t cleared us yet and we were dangling). By the time he’d had his fun, I was sweating. But no, everything was correct regardless of his false flags and trip-cancellation-innuendoes. Ha ha. Very funny. Ho ho. It ‘tis to laugh. Finally we got a nice sitdown lunch at a fake pub, then went off for the long wait at the gate for my sister (who is traveling with us). Hopefully, she can get past the bridge of death!

 …continued in Paris De Galle airport…

 It’s 9:20am. Pat made it – her flight was delayed for a family emergency and a prolonged gate wait. But she made it and we got on our trans-Atlantic leg. By fantastic luck, the flight was only half-full so we could all find four-seat rows to stretch out in. Very heavy turbulence at mid-point, but since I was trying to sleep anyway (had the sleep mask and earplugs on) it wasn’t too bad – just like some clown shaking the bed. Actually fell asleep in a bad patch.

So now we’re in Paris in a calm morning, getting ready to head out on the final leg. In eight hours we’ll be in New Delhi, it will be closing on midnight, and my body will be screwed up again.

Action Photo: JB readies herself for flight in Paris




Last Updated on Wednesday, 24 February 2016 11:16
India - Day Zero - Worries, worries PDF Print E-mail
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Sunday, 21 February 2016 00:00

ey, blogs can be therapeutic. I think you can write stress away. Anyway, hoping so.

We've been getting ready for our big India trip, twelve days on the other side of the world. I'd name this work Passage to India but that's already taken. But it's been no less an ordeal.

Our travelers include myself, my wife and my sister. We came up with this a half year back - I pitched it to the wife and managed to get her to agree (you can refer to my other blogs to know just what happened to her in Amsterdam - hint, it made a noise like a stick breaking. So she's a little timid about the entire deal.

But the troubles. We had to go get our GOES cards (so we can hopefully get around the worst of security - I don't know if this will work at all). Then the travel visas (India demands them). Here we got a close look at Indian bureaucracy when they shut the payment site down as I completed my wife's request (mine took an hour to do with my sister's guidance). This added three days to the process and we tried and tried to simply pay for her request, and finally had to do the entire thing over. Then the tickets to NYC (where we'll catch AirFrance to India). And the various pill regiments we've had to start (for typhoid and malaria).

I don't know how this is going to pan out. Right now I'm having to do 90% of the trip prep, and this sucks since my wife is retired and I'm very busy. There is the hassle of getting to the airport. And as of the time of this writing, our departure date is looking like its being held in conjunction with a winter storm coming through NYC. We have something like a 6-7 hour layover (we learned that from our trip to Switzerland), but I'm still worried. If you want a mental picture of me right now, imagine me pacing. That's pretty much it.

More details on the way. I hope to update our trip report either on a plane somewhere out over the Atlantic, or perhaps in an airport hotel room in New York, snow swirling down. More to come.



Last Updated on Monday, 22 February 2016 18:51

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