Himalaya part 2 and more than ready for home

Montag, 28.05.2012

I am really tired of writing all the impressions down here in a connected full text, as it is very difficult to find any words for the experiences, emotions and pictures in my mind about these last days before coming home.

As mentioned before, we rode to Badrinath to see an important temple and a small mountain village there.
Here the most important keywords(will be a lot anyways, you see it´s sooo difficult to keep things short):

-          Jeep ride on the craziest street you can imagine

-          Overcrowded pilgrim city, mass tourism

-          One of the holiest places for hindis, but still they throw their plastic everywhere into the nature. Hippocrits one can think, but many just don´t know better, as there is no awareness or any kind of disposal care by the government (no excuse though, one could think for him-/herself)

-          One kilometer queue for entering the temple, skipped it and searched a walking path away from the crowds

-          No one except for us and some Sadhus walked that way, which reminded me of the Scottish highlands, with fields surrounded by small stonewalls and small stone houses. All others drove the 3km way on the other side of the river by car or bus (modern pilgrimage one could say)

-          Small village Mana: good Nescafe, handmade woolen clothes/accessoires, 5000yr old cavetemple, photo-greedy indian tourists, people offering to carry tourists the whole way up to the cave for some small amount of money (what a life, carrying day in day out pilgrims to a small cave temple, which was about 5squaremeters big)

-          When on the way back, someone mentioned a waterfall (pall actually, as Indians barely can speak out an “f” ;)gonna upload a quiz “what could this indian mean??” some time :P ) but we had no time, so spontaneous we climbed up to another one where no other human being was

-          It was amazing, cool shower, purest water one can get in India, the only sound was the waterfall and our own breathe or occasionally a cowbell from far away.

-          Filled a bottle with pure Himalayan water and made our way back to Badrinath

-          At bus/jeep station no bus seemed to drive to Joshimath at that time, so we hired a jeep alone for 700Rs (for a 50km ride!!)

-          The driver was pretty young (he looked like Buschen junior) and had a ridiculously  AWESOME playlist on his USB stick(Britney Spears, Vengaboys, Enrique Iglesias, Aqua-Barbiegirl, Akon Album, Justin Bieber, Backstreet Boys, DMX etc.)it was the best ride we had in whole india, I did not even notice that the way back took double the time (3hours)

-          The last two days i´m having so much pictures coming to my mind, I have to smile so often when I think of situations, people, experiences and emotions that I connect with home.
I fantasize about food, sparkling mineral water, sitting in the silence of nature, family and friends I havent seen a long time and many many more things.
I even dream of so many crazy things with people from home, which is pretty unusual for me, as i´m not much of a dreamer at home.
Confirms me that it´s really time to fly back and make these dreams come true!

This is propably my last report from India, maybe I will upload some pictures at the airport.
goodbye, tschüss, doei, Namaste!

Himalaya part 1

Montag, 28.05.2012

How to begin a report about a journey that is indescribable?
Probably just at the beginning.
When we arrived at Rishikesh we met aGerman man named Jost who seemed a nice guy and had a quick chat with him.
We met him and his wife two more times while being in Rishikesh and had a nice conversation with them, not only because they had similar thoughts about India and Indian people, but mostly because they are friendly and nice persons with a good attitude, which has become a very important thing to me within the last months.
The evening before we left to JoshimathJost came up the stairs and we talked for more than two hours and he gave me some useful tips for the Himalaya region, as he was in Joshimath and Badrinath just two weeks ago.
We really connected quickly and for the first time in India (except for Marie and Arasu) I had the feeling of talking to a friend.
He kindly asked if he could join us for 60km to a place called Deoprayagwhere the two rivers Alaknanda and Bhagirathi merge and form the river Ganga.
Of course we granted him his wish and were very happy about some company for at least a little time of the 10 hour journey (turned out it should take much longer, you just cannot predict any exact timings in India).
Having someone to talk to in your mother language is really a blessing in a country, where most of the people barely understand you talking English and you barely understand them, not even concerning the big differences in culture and attitude.
So I really enjoyed the two hours ride to Deoprayag and when we said goodbye, we shared email addresses so we can stay in contact.

About the taxi drive I can only say two things:
the driver had the worst cough over hours I ever experienced, that was the first reason why I could not find any sleep (bought him some Wick´s, but think this is already some chronic thing… poor bastard).
The second and even bigger reason was the condition of the street to Joshimath.
Even though it is checked by BRO, I sometimes was scared when the walls down to the river were hundreds of meters deep with no securing to the side whatsoever.
Words cannot describe this journey, just enjoy the pictures in the next report and imagine you sat in that car!

Finally we arrived in Joshimath, and again a manager of the first hotel/guesthouse we checked out rooms wanted to cheat on us, demanding way too much money for the room, seems this is a never ending story when being a foreigner ;).
We ignored him and checked into another hotel nearby.
Joshimath itself is a pretty ugly small city built around the small roads that climb the mountain up like a crawling snake. Faith into the skills of your driver is a must-have, otherwise you would go crazy.
As planned, we drove to Ski resort Auli early the next morning to try to get a look on the Nanda Devi, the biggest mountain of whole India.
Sadly the view did not clear up the whole day to see the Nanda Devi, but we had an awesome breakfast buffet (stayed for more than two hours, drank some Nescafé that we really learned to love here, and ate so many pooris, so tasty), and the view was awesome anyhow. In the afternoon we were able to see some 7000´s in the north of Auli. Additionally we climbed up the slope to a silent place far away from other tourists or human beings. It was just us, the mountains, and some cows saying hello from time to time. It was so relaxing, I fell asleep for more than one hour up there.
This was definitely the place to be for us so near at the end of our travel, as my mind and soul are really thirsting for positive energies far away from the big razzle-dazzle that is everywhere in this crowded country (Erst die Fremde lehrt uns, was wir an der Heimat haben!!!)

I thought it could not get better, but the next day taught me different.

Yoga, Ganges, Pilgrims: Rishikesh!

Freitag, 25.05.2012

Wow, so much has happened the last days, I´m gonna try to keep this short but it propably won´t work, and I will still forget a lot of things that I want to tell.

We started our travel from Agra to Rishikesh via Delhi with a Taxi on Monday morning after checking out of the hotel in Agra, which had the worst service you can ever imagine.
You just don´t get what you pay for most of the time in India, and if you ask for it, you get an angry look and people try to make you a bad consciousness for it.
When we were still in Agra, the taxi driver asked us kindly if we could take his wife with us so they could stay one night in Rishikesh, too. OK for us, so we picked her up.
In Agra he picked up a spare tyre, which was just fixed with some whole they screwed in it and put some plastic rubber into that hole… incredible India :D
After driving some hours, we saw a severe car accident where the driver had micro-sleep and flipped into a rice-field. Luckily, they had a guardian angel which protected all of the four persons, leaving them nearly uninjured.
Two hours before Rishikesh one tire flattened and he had to change it.


flat tire on the way.. again... I asked him if he expected this and he told me of course, and now we have to fix the original one.
Took about 45minutes, so with this delay we had a travel of about 13hours for a distance of roughly 430km.
After arriving totally tired in Rishikesh, I gave the driver a symbolic tip of 100Rs, getting the comment “bad trip for me”, which I ignored. His wife obviously wanted to kill me with her look, but I felt ok.
Can´t be Samaritan for everone, right?

Rishikesh is a pilgrim city as the river Ganga floats through the city and the so-called world center of yoga with uncountable ashrams, and even the Beatles came here for meditation and yoga and wrote lots of songs within that time.


View over Laxman Jhula bridge and the river Ganga

On Tuesday I directly went to a massage center for a traditional Ayurveda massage, which relaxed me a lot and gave back good energy to my body and mind.
After lunchtime I took a quick bath in the Ganga, which was soo refreshening, keep in mind the temperature here is around 40°C!!!
In the afternoon we tried yoga for the first time, and continued this until today for once a day, and after only 3 days I already feel benefits of it through the whole body (memo to myself: try this out again at home). The teacher is a unwillingly funny guy, and his instruction “body, mind and face: compleeeeeeeeeete relaxx!! Smile on face!!” was not really hard to follow.

Wednesday we headed off north towards a waterfall, for which we had to walk for approximately one hour on a well-made way up a hill.
Well, we followed two indian guys for a while, but they were too fast and after a while we found ourselves in front of a gravel slope which was the only way further up, except for turning around and wasting another half hour going the official way.
I took a quick look, and told Marie “sure we can make it”, and there we went, in flip flops up that slope.
Well, to keep it short it was an experience that reminded me of my work in the Kluterthoehle, when people tend to think they cannot make it, and I make them make it, which gives an extraordinary good feeling afterwards to have accomplished that.
View downhill after the ascent sideview of the slope

 

The waterfall itself was a beautiful place, where the temperature dropped to approximately 25°C, and the water was chilling us down from the ascent in the heat.
meditation in the nature

And because this is India, you could buy chips, drinks, and even Maggi-noodles after this ascent, as somebody opened a shop up there. Crazy world!
proud owners of the waterfall hillstation shop

In the evening I wanted to take some pictures of Rishikesh in the dark from the hanging bridge over the river Ganga, when two girls passed us by, one with a small silver crown on her head.
bridge @ night time
I asked her, suggesting she was German (think we saw them earlier somewhere, hearing them talking) if she had birthday.
We spontaneously sang a birthday song for her and talked a little, finding them having similar thoughts about India like we do. It was soothing to hear this. We agreed on meeting later on in the restaurant of our hotel to talk a little.
Turned out one of them wanted to work in Tamil Nadu, but due to circumstances she stopped after two weeks and started travelling alone, and the other one was travelling alone from the beginning.
Somewhere they met and kept on travelling together.
If you ask me, you gotta have a strong will and character to travel alone as a woman in the early twentys in India, because it´s not always easy even as a man.

To get away for some hours of the razzle-dazzle of Rishikesh´s pilgrims, we took a taxi early Thursday morning to Rajaji National Park, which has its entrance at the small village called Chilla (yes, it´s really called so).
CHILLA
Because we did not have any time or opportunity for breakfast, we ordered some omelet and noodles when we arrived there, and when we got it served a guy with a small orphan gray langur came to us and we were able to share some minutes with him. Totally stunning feeling, did not expect this to happen ever!!! These primates are just amazing, absolutely similar to small human babies.
Gray Langur orphan
After entering the park area we drove around for more than 3 hours with a jeep and a tour guide, and it was amazing.
Just check the pictures!!!
jeep safari tiger and elephant trail elephant family finally a calm and peaceful place horizontal tree another elephant family monkey up in there

The park itself was so hot we had to take a bath in the Ganges when we returned, and we found a nice calm little bay with some sand in between big rocks, where we could just enjoy the cold water and fresh  breeze.

Concluding I can say that Rishikesh was definitely worth visiting, and I am very satisfied with how everything worked out, but it´s time to move on now for the last station of our journey, which is already throwing its shadow down here – the hills of Himalaya.
Tomorrow we will start early morning with a taxi to Joshimath, a small pilgrim village 250km northwest of Rishikesh. The road is only opened at daytime, and the ride will take about 9 to 10 hours. Do the maths and calculate what kind of road this will be ;)

We plan to visit some unique and very important Hindu temples, take a cable railway to a higher place called Auli to enjoy the view on the Nanda Devi (biggest mountain in India) and lots of other big mountains, and take a daytrip to a even smaller village called Mana, where we hope to find real quietness and rough nature.

I have no idea if we will have internet up there, otherwise, see you guys when I´m back home!!

some thoughts from Rishikesh

Dienstag, 22.05.2012

We´re in Rishikesh right now, and even though it´s a small place built along the Ganges river, it´s also a touristic place because here the Ganges becomes a real big river.

Today we had our first Yoga lesson, was a very nice experience and we will definitely do this more the next days.

after reading Marie´s blog entry of today, I decide to just copy her link here because I can absolutely sign this statement.

not everythings bad though, a lot of things were very positive during the time in India and I will never ever forget this journey in my life, as it changed and developed me personally a lot!!

just check her blog out (german, though ;) )

 

http://marie-in-indien.auslandsblog.de/indienmuede/

 

you will see some pictures the next days, I was too tired of taking pictures today.

 

peace!

Jaipur and Agra

Sonntag, 20.05.2012

So, after I flew with Go Air from Mumbai to Jaipur we checked in at our Hotel and decided to explore Jaipur the next day.

Jaipur is said to be the pink city, because in the old part most of the houses are painted pink (or orange mostly, but Indians say it´s pink, only with dirt on it).

We visited Amber Fort, which is an impressive Mughal Fort and were again faced by the masses of Indian Tourists, who seem to see us more an attraction than the century old buildings of the Fort, which is sad. Most of them don´t even ask for permission to take photos, so at some point we had to say explicit that we do not want this and just want to enjoy these old buildings and learn something about the history of it.
But, you gotta accept it at some point, they won´t change, because they do not have the respect and understanding of privacy that we do. Cultural differences.

Amber Fort Great Chinese Wall in India Home is where the coke is elephant´s leftover

On the way back we stopped so i could buy a tender coconut to drink, and the guy wanted to charge 150Rs for one tiny coconut! Insane! i gave him 30 and went away, showing him that he can´t just cheat randomly on people just because they´re tourists (which is btw the usual case, they will always try, you just have to be aware and not pay prices they offer you at first).

After that incident we visited a handcrafting factory for carpets and all kinds of textiles, and i was really tempted to buy a custom made suit, made of finest material for around 160€.
But i resisted, knowing that i could not bring that one home in my baggage, even though this was actually too cheap to be true!

Handmade carpets awesome style, just 160€ custom made Kashmere test with ring

Jaipur itself was easy to check out in one day, and we even found some places of refuge in the middle of this crowded city.

entrance to Krishna temple in small sideroad

Just check out the pictures, saying more than words.

Janthar mantha Oldschool Riksha with muscle power

Luckily we had a taxi driver who could organize us some train tickets via Tatkal (there is a certain amount of tickets that are free to buy one day before the train departs) to Agra, so we went by train on Friday to the famous city of the Taj Mahal.

I saw the shadow of the Taj from the rooftop restaurant of our hotel that night, and i thought i could already feel a bit of the magic of that place. More about that later....

view from rooftop restaurant

In the morning we went to an ATM, and while standing in front of it the sign of the shop next to it randomly fell down when a soft breeze hit it. Incredible India ;)

randomly this fell down when we stood in front of an ATM

empty side streets if you avoid the tourism hotspots keep india clean, use trashs (not?!) some park with a statue, noone was there as it was not a big monument

Next day we walked to Agra Fort, not much to say, big old Fort, many tourists, again some silent places at the sides where noone except us tended to go, as there is nothing to see or experience except for some moments in silence to enjoy the place itself.
And if someone wanted to suicide, just pay 300RS and suit yourself!

richtig asi :D suicide spot jump? ah, better not, still so much to do in life

I had some bad food that day i guess, so yesterday i had the worst night of my life!!! Believe me, you never ever want to experience the aftermath of some indian killer-bacteria.

dog life i had that night


After rehydrating we bought tickets for Taj Mahal and slowly moved towards this unique monument of eternal love.

entrance Taj main building side view from a little less crowded place random picture
It really is a more than impressive building made of so much marble stone, I can´t imagine how many people were required to build this, but we could not feel the magic of the place at all.
I think because May is the month when Indian families have holidays and travel to these places, it was totally overcrowded. That wouldn´t be a problem, if we could have just enjoyed the moments sitting near to the Taj and just being silent in our heads, but every minute someone asked to take pictures with us, or did not even bother asking just came, stood near to us and let someone take a picture.
It was so annoying, we just wanted to be left alone for a few minutes but it was impossible.
After we said to some people loud and clear we do not want to be photographed, it was unbearable (trust me, I am a very patient person....) and we were satisfied with some pictures and moved on.
So, maybe the magic of that place is true, but one needs time and space to feel and experience it. For me it was very difficult to do so, as the Indians just thought we were the center of attention and not the Taj Mahal.

To be honest I am disappointed by Agra, as it is (maybe especially in May) a place of mass tourism, where most people just come to stand in front of it, take a picture, and move on. No time to enjoy, no time to rest, no time for just standing still and having a moment of silence.


Well, for tomorrow we booked a a/c taxi to Rishikesh at the foot of the Himalaya, where we hope to find some more time and space to relax, and do things we want to do in our pace, like visiting a national park or riding higher into the mountains.

moving towards higher spheres tomorrow, like that kite

Pictures Mumbai

Dienstag, 15.05.2012

Market in Mumbai Döner in Mumbai :) Nature´s recapturing Alphonso Mango Indian friendship expression no idea BAZINGAAAAAA first and propably last crocodile we saw Homer´s Donut Street Fruit Art Sandwichmaker Indian Style The Blue Synagogue Luxury Amazing tree Old stuff store pretty hard job over here in India University (i think) noone cares, really! readjust glasses, dude small street book store CST (old Victoria) train terminal strange name for a Dentist in India yummyyy...... not Moshe´s cafe (nice small cafe in crowded loud Mumbai) Coffee, black (look at the Manufacturer of the Glasses on the left, remember chemistry class @school?) Elephanta Island Caves monkey family Cave Temple for god Shiva Shiva and us asocial ;) found Tupac in India, he´s still alive! Onion Tomato Uthapallam, yummy!

Mumbai, too big too busy

Montag, 14.05.2012

So,

it´s been a while since Kochin, and a lot of things happened.

Since then we have been travelling to Goa with a very comfortable sleeper night train, and stayed there for 4 nights.

Afterwards we moved on to Mumbai, where I am still right now until wednesday.

I could not really enjoy so much of the last stations of our travel, as I was not feeling well the whole time, so I got me checked up now.

Everything´s quite fine now again and I will move on to Jaipur on Wednesday. Will be my first domestic flight in India, so I´m pretty curious!

At the moment India is pretty hot, but Mumbai is really not my climate, as it is also quite humid here. Better move on quick to dryer areas of the north!

To all at home: only roughly two weeks until we meet again, I´m really looking forward to it!

Picture updates will be done later on, got to sort them out first.

Kochin

Freitag, 04.05.2012

not much to say, just gonna let the pictures speak.

right now were in goa, but im not perfectly feeling healthy so i cant enjoy the beach life and the ocean so much, but it´ll be ok as theres enough time to enjoy here in india.

 

the first place, Kochin, was nice, as being tourist after such a long time is balm for the soul.

we did a trip to an elephant training centre, and the day after a boattrip through the kerala backwaters.

enjoy!

Kathakali, traditional showdance of Kerala state

Elephants

a cow transport in india

backwater cruise:

Last day before leaving

Donnerstag, 26.04.2012

So,

tomorrow will be our last day here at Mercy Home.

Im writing these lines with one happy and one sad eye, because there will be a nice month coming for us with traveling to lots of different places in India, but on the other hand leaving the children at this place makes me really sad.

Tomorrow we will make a very nice day for them, with games, waterpools, some fruits and cookies to eat (because the nutrition here is not quite good) and then say goodbye to all!

Its difficult for me to know that not much will change for these children, as the leaders here are not really using the money they get for the children. Instead they make some strange decisions, like spending the money for all kinds of construction sites or other things.
Yesterday, they brought a small Labrador, which cost 7000INR and will get food for about 1000INR per week. The sad part is, that he will never have a good life, as they keep him locked most of the time and only take him for small walks. They already have another dog here, which is kept on the chain for the whole day and is barking for freedom, but noone knows about raising and taking care of dogs, just like children.

These children get really nothing of the money that is meant for them, and some of them who are quite smart, do not want to stay here anymore, because they know it is not good for them (infections, bad food, no variety in daily life etc.), but their parents are just too poor to keep them at home all the time.

Now to the good part of leaving: one month of travelling ahead!!!
We will start with a bus travel from here to Ernakulam, to stay in Kerala for 3 days and take a houseboat-trip through the fascinating "backwaters", go to an elephant training centre and watch the so-called "Kathakali", a unique dance-storytelling show, which is told to be very fascinating. We will see, until now i´m not so much a fan of indian music and artforms (at least in television).

After that we will travel by train to Goa and have a few days of beach-vacation and relaxing. BTW there´s a place called german bakery, where we can eat anything we are having sense in, like cheese, ice, real coffee, wine etc. :)

 

I´ll keep this updated when i have the time, and upload some pictures as well. Internet is just too slow here at the moment, as we´re having lots of thunder and lightning the last days!!

Some updates

Donnerstag, 29.03.2012

Heyyo,

been some time again, but life here is kind of exhausting here (35° ++++ temperature!).

 

First of all, I wanna say something about the people here, therapy and how I experience things in India.

It is very difficult as a european person to see how the responsible adults "take care" of the children here. Without a stick, they don´t see themselves able to handle any child at all. I can´t count the amount of sticks made of thick hard palm leaves i cracked in front of their eyes to show that this is a wrong way of treating children.

Further more, here are some mentally ill men that get food and some shelter to sleep, and even they are beaten by a guy who is really cruel, and who states that he can´t handle them without a stick. Pretty ironic that this place is called "Mercy Home", but i guess noone ever tried to show and explain to them that there are really other ways of treating these children and men. If they would come once to therapy (which we offered) they could see that handling these children is 1000% possible without beating them, even more, that these children are actually really happy spending time with us.

The problem is, noone here knows how to take care of children and how to treat them in daily life. The children have daily classes from 9-12am and 2-4pm, where uneducated women (they are about 20 years old) let them repeat the same things every day over and over again (alphabet, numbers from 1-40).  Except for one half an hour daily, no child is physically challenged by playing any games outside, or mentally challenged in a creative way. I think the money that is donated to this organization is not benefitting the children in a way that it should be, and that makes me sad. Think this is a major problem in organizations that gather donations for a good cause, in the end, there´s not much left for the people who actually need the donations.
The food they get is the best example, day in day out white rice with some sambal, we had some discussions with Arasu, and we agree that many children suffer of malnutrition.
One of the major reasons why these children have infections of skin and extremities on a regular basis, the second one is bad hygienic care overall.
But i think Marie and me are able to start some basic changes in the way how people think here (at least I hope Stany, the one who will be in charge here in future when his uncle retires) and that the following students will take this internship as the same challenge as we do to introduce some real changes for the benefit of the children.

 

So far so good, now i just let the pictures talk.

Kurkuma (forgot english name), basic ingredient for all "Currys"(european) aka Masalas (spice mixtures in India)

  Bittelnut, photographed for Jan

Coconut Tree

Bananas, one of the hundreds of varieties

met Homer Simpson, he was also climbing up that hill

View mid ascent

pretty hot here View over the valley

You can send your letter to Hindu gods, amazing isn´t it ?

Exercise Room (smaller than the one last year, but as mentioned above........) busy with self-made goniometer

me and my buddy Pachiappan getting ready for takeoff aka washing washing time

first time on indian streets with a scooter from anno 1950 ;)

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