Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Jain Phil


Chief holy mans stuff
jain Saffron Blessing Stuff
Jain Temple
The Chief Priest got me. I gave him 10 rupees for the saffron mark and the blessing. He said I was a beautiful man but that didn’t increase the 10 rupees (hard man that I am). The grinding stone is how he makes the yellow stuff.
The Jain temple outside Udaipur in a place called Ranakpur was the best temple I have seen on this trip. The stone carving was amazing in its detail and also how well it has survived.
Jain religion is a contemporary to Buddhism and shares many main ethics but a few BIG differences too. The main gurus are nude and sweep the path in front of themselves with amazingly colourful peacock dusters so not to kill even an ant. One devotee told us that his guru does not cut his hair but pulls it out using all digits of one hand to grasp and pull. The devotee asked his guru why he did this and his guru told him that it was to remind him of…something…that I have now forgotten. Doh. I am sure I would have remembered it for the rest of my life if I pulled out a chunk of my hair.

Dancing diva


biancaDance2
Bianca with Nepali party animal
I think I have blogged on Bianca’s dancing prowess before. Well here is more proof. The tops pics are from just outside Jaisalmer in Rajasthan at a little town called Kurri. The dancer had such a smile and had a amazing beat and rhythm to her dancing. She apparently said that Bianca was really good and given a month could turn her into a dancer. The pay was 15000 rupees (450aud) a month. They didn’t see Bianca as she slumped into her chair after the 3 dances puffing and panting =).
The bottom pic is an oldie but a goodie from Nepal with a die hard party animal who Bianca had been dancing with.

Sleeping in the Desert under the stars



Camping In Style
Our accommodation on this trip has ranged from the luxurious to the comfortable to the "I'm glad we're only here for one night", but nowhere has the difference been greater than in Rajasthan on the 24 and 25 November. On the night of the 24th, after stuffing ourselves with delicious Rajasthani food and enjoying fine Rajasthani music and dancing, we were loaded into a jeep and driven into the desert sand dunes where we were given a mattress, pillow and blanket each, and left to enjoy the starry night and (relative) peace of the desert. I say relative peace because there were three young Delhi lasses who were also sleeping out under the stars, and while they slept some distance from us, the foghorn-voiced driver sat with them for ages telling ghost stories or something like that. Whatever he was saying, it worked, because at 2am they decided to return to the comfort and safety of our guest house. Pussies. We had a v toasty night under the stars thanks to Phil's super-dooper double sleeping bag.
The next night we had booked in at a place called Camel Camp - a luxurious resort featuring decadent tented accommodation and a swimming pool perched high on a dune above the town of Osiyan. The tents exemplified camping in style - carpet, wooden double bed, marbled bathroom with hot water, sofa and lounge chairs out the front. The place was lovely but unfortunately the pool was freezing cold and as the only guests in this enormous resort, we felt a little isolated! Plus the nearby Jain temple was doing an all-night worship so the megaphoned singing and clashing drums went on all night. Thank god for earplugs.

Monday, November 27, 2006

Dung Beetle in love


DungBeetle
Originally uploaded by nospuds.
There we were on the dunes waiting for the sun to set when a dung beetle swerves from its course and makes a bee line for Bianca big toe. I just couldn't work out what this dung beetle found so interesting in Bianca's toe...?!?

geroff


geroff
Originally uploaded by nospuds.
Once again Bianca has her hand in MY food. It's only just hit the table too. This is a Thali and it cost 3 australian dollars and you get refills too! Thalis are standard tucker as we travel and they are normally very good.

Phil, camel wrangler


Camel shadow
Up close and personal with camels
Phil, camel wrangler
Originally uploaded by Mistress B.
Everyone says THE thing to do in Rajasthan is a camel safari, where you head out on your ship of the desert for 3-4 days, sleep under the stars, experience life as a camel herder etc etc. After hearing horror stories of people walking funny for days after just 2 days on a camel, we opted instead for a 2 hour camel ride to see the sand dunes of Khuri. And 2 days later, we're still walking funny and Phil's groaning like an old man. Our drivers decided this was to be no leisurely camel ride - it was a race to the death. So off they galloped, and sitting astride a galloping camel is about as comfortable as being whacked in the groin with a large padded mallet 5 times per second. I'm sure there's a technique whereby you don't just bounce up and down, but we didn't learn it. Instead I bounced so high I got completely airborne with each stride and at several points the driver sitting behind me put his hand on my shoulder to stop me bouncing right off the saddle. Part of the problem was the more I bounced, the harder I laughed, the faster the camel driver drove the camel, and the more I bounced. It was a painful but screamingly funny feedback loop. Phil, being taller and heavier, fared even worse than me but luckily the family jewels are unharmed. And to add insult to injury, camels are flatulent like no other beast.

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

2 gorgeous ladies at Junagarh Fort Bikaner

HelloBeautifulLady CleanerLady

RATS

We've hired a car to drive us around Rajasthan in style...well if you class a Hindustan Ambassador as luxury =)
On the drive to Bikaner from Pushkar in Rajasthan we stopped off at a famous temple where rats are worshipped...yuck. Its a temple called Karni Mata in Deshnok. You have to take your shoes off before entering.
I found out 5 things:
  • Rats smell!
  • Rats can sleep anywhere (just like me I guess)
  • If a rat crawls over your foot it is lucky. Bianca accidentally kicked one but we didn't think that counted (except maybe negatively).
  • If you eat food that a rat has salivated on then it is lucky (we didn't try this)
  • Rats really smell!

sleepingRats2 rodentsInKitchen
SleepingRats Mmmm Milk Karni Mata Deshnok

Thursday, November 16, 2006

The greatest ambassadors


Cheeky lad
Banana seller
Originally uploaded by Mistress B.
Everywhere we travel, kids are so friendly and unabashed about coming straight up to us, saying hello and insisting on having their picture taken so they can see it on the digital camera. They truly are the best ambassadors for their country and people. They are unencumbered by prejudice, hate or embarassment, and love nothing more than a foreigner who says "hello" in their own language!
It's given us lots of opportunities to take photos of kids without having to resort to the subterfuges so many photographers are forced into by the current climate of fear. If anything, we've had to fight them off once they see their photo or their friends photo in our camera - it's on for young and old!

Details

I got a bit carried away photographing the amazing architecture and carvings we've seen in India - here's a small selection!
p.s we're currently in Jaipur, capital of Rajasthan state.

Taj detail Taj detail Detail
Archways Fatehpur Sikri

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Phil, me, and an Indian shack


The Taj Mahal
Phil, me, and an Indian shack
Originally uploaded by Mistress B.
We've seen some amazing man-made and natural wonders of the world on this trip - Great Wall of China, Mt Everest, the Potala, the Ganges ... - and each one has been mind-blowing for such different reasons. And now we have come to the Taj Mahal, one of the greatest monuments to love ever constructed. The white marble glows in the light but its real beauty is in the fine inlay detail inside the tomb. We also had the chance to meet a stone artisan who is (allegedly) member of one of the families whose forebears built the Taj, and who have inherited that skill and now work on its restoration. Of course, it could have been a load of codgers told in an effort to persuade us to part with cashola in exchange for inlay marble tables, but he told a great story!

Varanasi and the Ganga

All Happening

Dead Buffalo

Wash With Goat

Holy Man

Originally uploaded by nospuds.
After many warnings that Varanasi was a hole Bianca and I had a great couple of days there.
Beautiful old city with many things to see. I really love the stuff that is still alive and kicking though and not the old relics of the past.
We got up early one morning, not early enough to see the sunrise though :( as everyone kept pointing out to us, and got an auto rickshaw to the Ganga Ghats. The river is used for everyday life teeth brushing, washing, morning rituals, spitting, rubbish removal, dead body removal etc. It is quite amazing to see even if you did miss sunrise.
We saw the obligatory dead body floating by as well as a few dead buffalo. We also saw a family burning a dead loved one and various ashes of past burnings being flung in the river (you need extra minty toothpaste in varanasi).

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Buddha's Birthplace - Lumbini, Nepal



Shrine
Friendly Bhikkhu
Originally uploaded by nospuds.
Bianca was a bit ill with a cold so for the first time I headed off by myself for a morning to Lumbini which is believed to be the birth place of the Buddha. It wasn't your usual religious Disneyland and luckily I arrived not long after sunrise. The main park was a peaceful place (even when bus loads of pleasent smiley international pilgrims turned up).
A friendly Bhikkhu (monk) walked slowly over to me with a lovely smile on his face. We chatted about life the world and everything with the 10 phrases he knew of english and with lots of smiling as the sun rose in the morning sky.
When I asked to take a picture of him he wanted to sit as shown in the picture but I will always remember the gorgeous smile with the missing teeth.
Even though we are over 2500 years after his birth there were still young buffalo boys herding their animals with a stick through very basic fields. I felt I got a sense of what it could have been like all those years ago.

After dinner mint Sir?

After Dinner Mint

After Dinner Mint
After Dinner Mint
Originally uploaded by nospuds.
Varanasi, India.
What could be better after a sumptuous dinner than a small after dinner mint? Well this one contained Coloured Fennel, dry dates, mishri (what?), coated sugar balls (didn't know they had them!), silver coated cardamom (more likely aluminium), rose petals, betel leaves, and herbs.
I must admit it was a heady mixture that was quite wonderful after a meal =)

Monday, November 13, 2006

Prints...Beware



TigerPrints

Originally uploaded by nospuds.
Chitwan National Park, Nepal.
We saw these 2 prints just 10 minutes walk from the centre of town. The Tiger print was on the town side of the river!! Yikes. The tiger is a fully grown male. We saw another very fresh tiger print on the path we were walking on later the next day. The tiger print was still damp and on top of a trainer shoe track.
The other print is a rhino which I would say is a bit more scary than a tiger...

Sniffing for banana


BiancaAndEle
DUMPED
Elephant washing


Cheeky elephant
Originally uploaded by Mistress B.
Elephants lurve bananas, as Phil discovered when he bought a few on our elephant jungle safari. You can run, but you sure can't hide from a hungry elephant with the smell of banana in its nostrils.
This was just one of so many wonderful moments during our 5 day stay in Chitwan National Park, Nepal, and most of the highlights seemed to revolve around elephants. We did a jungle elephant walk where we were lucky enough to see wild rhinos and wild deer. Then we participated in an elephant bathing session, which turned out to be a game of "how many times can the elephant throw Bianca and Phil off its back into the river?" The answer is many, many times, and it just kept getting funnier for the Nepali crowd watching from the river bank. But it was such an amazing experience to be so close to these magnificent creatures. They are so beautiful and gentle and intelligent.
Our stay in Chitwan was made even more special because of where we stayed - an eco-lodge called LunTara, where we had our own mud bungalow, were driven around in horse and cart, fed fabulous food and enjoyed the lovely company of its owner Hanna. Big big thumbs up (LunTara).

Blind Men and an Elephant

Do you know of the story of the Blind men and an elephant?
Well I thought I would take a few pics pick to back it up =)
I LOVE elephants!
FootAndEar EleStudy3
EleStudy4 EleStudy2
EleStudy1 EleTail
eleEye Elephant trunk