One Year on the Road

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That’s right , one year on the road. We can’t believe is either, although when we look back over the last 12 months the incredible number of adventures we’ve had proves that it must be true.

It’s been a year of highs and lows – literally. Continue…

Lions and Tigers and Bears – Oh My!

These famous lines from the Wizard of Oz have been mocked by many who like to point out that lions are native to Africa, whereas tigers are found in Asia – not too fast nature lovers. India is the only country left in the world where both tigers and lions roam the wilds (not to mention bears as the title of the post points out.)

The Asiatic lion, which once ranged from Greece to Bangladesh, is now only found in one small pocket in western Gujarat in a relatively unknown, yet incredibly important national park called Sasan Gir. Hunted to the brink of extinction, it is believed that only 17 individual lions existed in the late 1870s. Realizing that the species would soon disappear, the Nawab of Junagadh set aside land for a reserve in the early 20th century. Clearly, this guy was way ahead of his time.

Gujaratis are exceptionally proud of their lions, and locals are thrilled to discover that we have come to Gujarat for the express purpose of seeing one. Many of you might be wondering why we are braving the insane desert temperatures at this time of year – it’s because the lions are easier to spot when they hang out by the watering holes.

Everybody wish us luck!!!

Dinner at the Cemetery

“What are these green boxes between the tables?” I asked the waiter as he was serving my coconut rava masala dosa.

“Ummm…ummmm,” he was searching for vocabulary, “they… they are dead bodies.”

I glanced around the restaurant noticing a dozen or more. “This restaurant is a cemetery? All these are dead bodies?”

“Yes, yes,” he confirmed, smiling. All around us, people were munching and slurping and having a good ole time stuffing themselves over the bodies. Somehow, the tree in the middle of the restaurant growing through the roof seemed to make a little more sense.

“Are they Hindu bodies?” I asked, already knowing the answer.

“No,no, they are Muslim bodies.” Happy with himself at having survived the English conversation, the waiter bounced away to serve another table.

Thinking to myself that the Muslims must really hate this place, I suddenly noticed Continue…

On to Gujarat

After over two months in Rajasthan, we have finally moved on to Gujarat, the most western state of India bordered by Pakistan to the north. Famous for its Hindu, Jain and Islamic architecture, its ex-Portuguese colonies along the coast, and its rare wildlife, Gujarat’s real attraction seems to be an exceptionally friendly and welcoming people.

The first time we encountered Gujaratis was at the Continue…

The Hospital

Tony keeps saying how nice Mt. Abu is – especially the ice cream parlors. Not like I have any way of knowing that. I got sick on my second day here and I’m spending most of the time in bed. It started with a swelling around my left ear. When I asked Tony if my face was swollen, he said that my face always looked fat so he couldn’t tell (well, thanks). But a day later, while we were having breakfast, even he began to worry.

As soon as I had had a couple of spoons of yogurt Continue…

Mt. Abu

Continuing our quest to visit the ultimate Jain treasures of India, we’ve made our way here to Mt. Abu. In addition to being the location of the spectacular Dilwara temples, Mt. Abu is the only real hill station in Rajasthan providing a cool relief from the blistering heat of the surrounding desert.

Mt. Abu comes as somewhat of a shock to us because it is a kind of resort area for middle class Indians, mostly from the neighboring state of Gujarat. Gujarat is considered the most prosperous state in India and Gujaratis are well known for being exceptionally generous and hospitable. These generalizations are Continue…

The Adinath Temple of Ranakpur 360 View

Over the past few months, I have been dragging Thomas from one Jain temple to a another. It has become a bit of an obsession, and we are actively hunting out all the key Jain sites. (Stop laughing! If I have to spend hours watching him photograph every bug between Hong Kong and Rajasthan, he can visit a few Jain temples.)

Well, my somewhat obsessive quest has brought us to one of the Grand Daddies of Jain architecture: the Adinath Temple, located in Ranakpur, a VERY small, one-kiosk town northwest of Udaipur. Considered one of the masterpieces of western Indian architecture, the huge fortified temple opens up into a surprisingly large multi-storied structure containing a series of vaulted chambers supported by 1,444 columns, each carved with unique designs ranging from sensuous dancers to geometric patterns to fine floral motifs.

Surprised that we hadn’t come on a daytrip and that we intended to stay overnight in the tiny town, the local Jains invited us back to the temple to participate in the evening prayers. When we returned at night, the dark, candle-lit temple was echoing with drums, giant ringing bells, and Jain chanting. At first we hung back not wanting to disturb them, but we were quickly ushered up onto the altar platform in front of the large statue of Adinath and included in the service. We had no idea of what was going on, but smiling faces kept welcoming us and everyone seemed absolutely thrilled to have us there. This is truly one of the most hospitable places we have been so far.

What’s more, this phenomenal Jain temple allows photography, so I can share it all with you in the form of a 360 view!!!

The Art of Hanging Around

Elin is a chaos pilot. That doesn’t mean she graduated from some backwater second-class flying school. Oh no! She is studying at Kaospilot International in Sweden, a school for young entrepreneurs and project leaders.

What sounds rather dry and business-suit-like turns out to be quite the opposite. When we met Elin in our hotel in Udaipur, she was on a mini-vacation from her latest 3-month project in Mumbai. We’re not talking a banking internship or an assignment on the growing high-tech industry – her project is simply titled “Mumbai Music – The Art of Hanging Around.” Continue…

Room with a View

You need to pamper yourself a little to survive the onslaught of the Indian experience. Long term travelers, in general, must recognize the necessity for some downtime; in India, the need to pull back is a hundred fold. Sensory overload, or perhaps complete system breakdown, is a serious risk. For us, Dream Heaven comes just in the nick of time. Continue…