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By this Author: Flemings2

Back so soon?

Return to India With a Twist

Hard to believe it was 2 years ago we were in India. Hadn't planned to return so soon. The plan was for Nepal, but the sad situation there has made us reluctantly change course. In addition to the earthquake aftermath, the more pressing problem is the civil disturbances arising from the new constitution in September. The results are severe shortages of fuel and medical supplies. Nepal is just not in our cards at this time.

So what to do? Bookings were already made for Bhutan, so, to make a long story short, we are spending the time allotted for Nepal in India instead. We have decided on seeing some of the historically and culturally important cities to the east of Delhi.

Posted by Flemings2 16:58 Archived in India Comments (1)


A very long, long trip...

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After about 20 hours on planes and 9 hours waiting in numerous airports we finally reached our destination. At least part of us did! Upon exiting the plane in Delhi we were met by a man who worked for Thai Airways carrying a sign with our names on it. Apparently our baggage was still enjoying Bangkok and will likely arrive late tonight. We hope. Don't want to think about what our next days will be like if they don't arrive. (Just might have a huge shopping spree tomorrow.)

So while I sat in the guesthouse's nice garden in the clothes I've been wearing for 30+ hours, enjoying some rest, Don went off to explore the neighbourhood and its photographic opportunities.

Arrivals hall at Delhi airport

Don's made friends with the neighbourhood rickshaw drivers already!

The knife sharpener

Local recycling system (outside the back door of our guesthouse)

Posted by Flemings2 13:01 Archived in India Comments (0)

Best Day Ever

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Yes, it was a VERY good day - our bags showed up mid-afternoon.

We braved the Delhi metro system - a great way to get around. Spent the morning in Lodhi Gardens, a set of tombs from the Lodhi dynasty around the late 1400's/early 1500's. A nice retreat. After lunch went to the famous India Gate, which proved to be a great spot for people watching.

Evenings/mornings can get quite cool but midday it's a respectable 14-15 degrees.

Back to the airport tomorrow...yuck! Taking a domestic flight to Lucknow.

Note: the pics from yesterday were a little large. You may have had to scroll left to right to see it all.

A Lodhi tomb in the gardens.

Mayhem at India Gate

On guard at India Gate - a memorial to fallen soldiers.

Posted by Flemings2 08:11 Comments (0)

First Impressions

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Arrived yesterday in Lucknow. First impressions were not good. Don hit the streets and came back a couple hours later completely frazzled! The traffic in this city is horrific. Today it took almost an hour to go about 5 Km in an auto rickshaw that we hired for the day.

But at least today we were able to enjoy some of the sights. India is such a paradox. It's so alive yet all around everything is in such bad shape - many people, most animals, and all of the environment. The degradation here is so in-your-face.

On another note, thanks to everyone who have been sending messages. It's been wonderful to hear from you! I haven't yet found a way to send a response - don't think there is one. But rest assured we've enjoyed reading them.

Glad I came prepared.

Old mosque, still in use, at The Residency site - the place of refuge for British soldiers and their families under siege during the Indian Mutiny in 1857.

Don inspecting the rebuilt gear box (with our driver).

Posted by Flemings2 06:12 Comments (1)

Ferris Bueller's Day Off

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What a funny day.

This morning we visited a 19th Century boys' school, still in operation, called La Martiniere College. Built in the late 1700s by a wealthy and eccentric French businessman working for the British East India Company, the palatial complex is a mix of European and Islamic influences, for a stunning eclectic mix. It has a very interesting history, including a role in the Indian Mutiny, 1857, not to mention a link to Kipling's 'Kim' who supposedly went there. Today it remains a prestigious boys' school, from 'nursery level' to pre-university. We were fortunate that we visited at the exact time they were celebrating a reunion of past graduates. The bonus was that there was a large group of students wandering around as guides. Several extremely polite, well spoken fellows followed us around impressing us with their knowledge, each trying to outdo the other. We actually had a fabulous time.

So now to the reason for today's title.

Somehow we inadvertently assisted one of the boys to escape from the College for a few hours in a scene out of a Monty Python movie. Upon heading out of the grounds, we were stopped by a young man of about 14, whose name was unpronounceable. His nickname 'DVD' was much easier to remember. We had a long and involved conversation, during which we were joined by Dr. Bharti, a chemist who spends his days off seeking out foreigners he can pin down to speak English with. Twice during the conversations DVD ducked and hid because someone went by on a motorbike (a headmaster perhaps?). As we pressed our need to go (time for coffee), DVD insisted he show us the way. So off we went through the gates: DVD on his bicycle in his crested uniform, Dr. Bharti jumping onto his motorbike to join in, and us jogging behind trying to keep up. They both offered to piggyback us, but that wasn't too appealing. Lo and behold along comes a rickety old cycle rickshaw that we hop into with enough room for 1.5 persons. What a motley crew - us in the rickshaw, DVD (aka Ferris) holding onto the rickshaw as he cycled alongside, and Dr. B driving in circles around us. Down the road we go, merging onto a major traffic artery with every form of conveyance known to man whizzing by. OMG I thought, we're going to die! Around 2 traffic circles we went. Dr. B soon gave up the chase, and DVD began to look more nervous as we got further from the College, and he still couldn't find a coffee shop (he thought tea would suffice - not!). Soon he left us at a western style restaurant after asking us to buy him a take-out lunch, which we did. A very bizarre day.

The wonderful boys of La Martiniere:

Don with Dr. B:

Me in the bicycle built for 1.5:

Posted by Flemings2 07:43 Comments (0)

Unforgettable Ganges Pilgrimage in Allahabad

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Yesterday was a travel day, taking the bus to Allahabad. Of course our scheduled 'good' bus was cancelled and we were put on one 'not so good' bus - but it went fine, considering it was a 5 hour journey with the bus horn blowing the whole way.

Today we made our way down to the Ganges for the incredible Magh Mela, the annual Hindu bathing festival that draws almost a million devotees. This is the site of the much larger Kumbh Mela that happens every 12 years in Allahabad (tens of millions). We have NEVER experienced so many people in one place. After several overwhelming hours we made our way out through the flow of humanity.

Colourful fruit stand:

Amongst the masses:

Posted by Flemings2 17:10 Comments (0)

Another Incredible Day on the Ganges

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Reading the newspaper this morning I realized I made an underestimation. February 8, yesterday, was a very auspicious day to bathe in the Ganges and for that reason the number of people there was larger than normal. I said close to a million. The official estimates say it was 1.2 crore. That turns out to equate to 12 MILLION! No wonder it was a little overwhelming and we didn't actually make it to the river.

We found ourselves down there again today but although there was still about a million people it seemed much tamer, except for the constant barrage of urchins clawing at us for a few rupees. Great place for photography though. What makes the place special is that it is the juncture of three holy rivers - the Yamuna, the Ganges, and one underground river I cannot attempt to name. Many pilgrims go out in boats with water jugs to fill up with holy water to bring home. It was tough on the sand spit as there was no shade to speak of. To leave the area we had to traverse through the temporary tent city - a bit of a maze.

Unforgettable experience but I think we've had enough crowds for a lifetime....

Boats available for going out on the river:

Some of the bathers:

Don getting pics of some of the kids dressed as gods/goddesses. They got a kick out of seeing themselves on the camera screen:

Posted by Flemings2 05:13 Comments (0)

A Much Needed Rest

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Our final day in Allahabad and I took some down time while Don went back to the streets. One thing he's learned is that it's a whole different atmosphere when I'm not with him. As a light-haired western woman I am constantly being pointed out and stared at. The hassles are definitely increased with me in tow. In the afternoon we went to the Anand Bhawan, the Nehru family home where Nehru and Indira Gandhi lived. It's where Gandhi also spent a lot of time and plans for independence were worked on. A small but interesting museum.

Off to Varanasi tomorrow. Definitely ready to get moving. It's very tiring to be constantly dealing with noise, dirt, dust, suicidal drivers, trip and strangulation and electrocution hazards, and people always hassling you. At least we are familiar with Varanasi and it's actually a lot quieter down by the river - no vehicles of any kind.

Just one of the many obstructions on the road...amazing how you get used to them wandering down the road in the middle of a busy city.

Posted by Flemings2 06:25 Comments (2)

Return to Varanasi

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A 4-hour train ride took us from Allahabad to Varanasi. A strange feeling as it has only been 2 years since we were here.

Varanasi is a breath of fresh air after the chaos of Lucknow and Allahabad... Okay, maybe 'fresh air' isn't the best expression 😄😳 Already things have changed: it seems warmer in the evenings, the sky is hazier, the river level has dropped quite a bit, and our favourite restaurant (right next door to where we are staying) has recently closed. But no worries; we returned to a Nepalese restaurant around the corner where we ate fabulous pizza and mushroom paneer for about $2.50 each!

Riding the train - this was the "unreserved" section - ours was substantially better and didn't have bars on the windows:

View from the roof/balcony of our guesthouse where we have breakfast (or can enjoy a Kingfisher beer - tough to find commodity here - as the sun sets over the river):

Monkey trouble (have to take care with open doors and windows lest they get in):

Posted by Flemings2 18:48 Comments (0)

A Sobering Day in Varanasi

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We spent the better part of the day walking to the end of the ghats on the river and back again. It took about 3 hours to walk 2 kilometres because there was so much to experience. Sadly, saw some very seriously ill and deformed people, one of which was particularly hard for both of us. Plus the time spent at a burning ghat watching all the funerary processions meant for some very disturbing moments. The amazing thing about India though is that one minute you can feel horrible about what you see and the next minute you see something incredibly beautiful or comical. We try not to let it get to us; just accept it.

The evening was spent at the ritual Aarti ceremony on the riverside. This is a beautiful Hindu ceremony held daily. Quite a production.

Typical morning scene on the Ganges:

Goat with a shirt....another goat had a sweater, but really I thought it was too warm for that....

The Aarti ceremony:

Posted by Flemings2 08:08 Comments (0)

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