In the past few days we have traveled from Colombo, Sri Lanka to Singapore to Auckland, New Zealand to Hobbiton to Rotorua. There have been several long flights and the jet lag has really been messing with my internal clock. We’re currently staying at an amazing lodge in a lush forest on the rim of an extinct volcano. This is the first Chance I’ve had to sit and collect my thoughts about our trip up to this point.
We’ve been on the road for about five weeks and we’ve traveled to nine countries. They are: Austria, Hungary, Czech Republic, Slovakia, Germany, India, Sri Lanka, Singapore and New Zealand.
The journey has been absolutely remarkable and neither myself nor Christy can pick one thing that stands out above all our other experiences. Everything has been a peak experience. However, all of our time in India with Rohit was joyous and special, it is something we will always cherish.
One of the great revelations of the trip was my new Fuji X-Pro2 travel camera outfit. It was a little rough to use on safari where I wished I had my Nikon with a longer lens but it did surprising well nonetheless. The Fuji performed flawlessly as an urban camera, for landscapes, documentary and street photography. I am currently writing a full review of the Fuji as a travel and expedition camera.
I have quite a bit more to say about our experiences on our third full around the world expedition so stay tuned.
The flight from Mumbai to Aurangabad was pleasant and we had a leisurely discussion about what do. There were quite a few sights to see and we were most interested in the Ellora Cave complex. The most remarkable aspect of the Ellora caves being the “great Kailasa”. This is a large Siva temple that was carved out of the solid volcanic basalt hillside. The complex was carved completely intact during the 7th-9th centuries as a single monolithic structure and took five generations of devoted builders to complete. There are no seams or individual stones.
First the sides of the Cliffside were cut to create the rough dimensions then the entire complex was carved from the top down. The large interior spaces are exquisitely carved out caves and the high ceilings in the main temple required the artist to intricately carve a solid rick ceiling much like Michaelangelo painted the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel. I’d never seen anything like it.
We spent a long time there because it was so beautiful and peaceful and the light was quite remarkable. The stone buzzed with spiritual energy and throngs of people came pouring through. There were families with children, artists with sketch pads, loving couples, elderly women, all of them had come to see this remarkable place.
Mumbai was a big congested city, and I mean big. The population hovers around 21 to 25 million people. The city sat on a peninsula like San Francisco and was surrounded by the Arabian Sea. I have a deep relationship with the ocean and I was excited to be in a coastal city. Traveling through the Mumbai, there was no shortage of signs of the former British colonial presence and I spied a number of gorgeous neo-Gothic buildings.
From our hotel, we had an ocean view that overlooked the Gateway of India Arch. Looking out the window at the small bay in front of the arch, I could see small tour boats moored on one side and small fishing boats on the other. The sunset was beautiful. We decided on dinner in the hotel at the modern Indian restaurant, We were seated next to the gentleman who was hand rolling, tossing and cooking roomali roti, known as handkerchief roti in english. They looked absolutely delicious.
We walked around a few places in Mumbai, one being an outdoor hand wash laundry and another being the lunch box people. While we were driving I saw a weathered wooden fishing boat up on the sidewalk next to a group of what looked like lean-to’s and shanties. This looked interesting and we stopped. It was a small busy community of fisherman. Judging by the looks of things it was low tide as men were being attentive to their nets and children walked about looking for ways to send their homemade kites high into the air.
I found Mumbai to be a very vibrant city and appreciated having a chance to see and visit the smaller communities and businesses that contributed their energy to the life of the city. No trip to Mumbai would be complete without discussing “Slum Dog Millionaire”, and our chat about the slums was pretty interesting. I can tell you that all the shanties have power and satellite dishes. Also due to their hard work and population density, the people that live in the slums make up an important part of the cities economy.
After a week in the jungles of Central India we returned to Delhi to catch a plane to Dharamshala. Unforunately the weather in Dharashala was bad and our flight was delayed several hours. We decided to stay in Delhi, see a few sights and catch the new Star Wars movie.
One of the sights was the second oldest step well in Delhi called Agrasen Kibaoli dating from approximately the 10the Century. It was massive and deep with several levels build into the walls and a long descending staircase. When we arrived voices and shouts were echoing off the walls. A group of students were there, perhaps on a field trip and from the looks of it, they were having a great time. It was one of the coolest things I’d ever seen.
After the step well we continued on to the movie theater which was in a suburb of Delhi. Pulling into the parking lot I looked up and there were blue skies! Blue skies near Delhi! It was a very new theater with IMAX 3D and we had reclining chairs in the back, very nice indeed.
A peculiarity of watching movies in India is that you have to stand for the Indian National Anthem at the start of the film. The sound system loudly declared “Please stand for the Indian National Anthem” and respectfully we did. Another thing is that there is an intermission in the middle of the film that lasts about 15 minutes. The first time this happened I thought there was something wrong with the projector but now I know and kind of appreciate it as a good time to get up and take care of personal business.
Christy and I have enjoyed seeing films in other countries because it’s fun to see how other cultures go about the same familiar rituals as we do. It was a great time.
We had been having good luck. With the exception of our first day at Bandhavgarh, we had great tiger sightings every day. Curiously, all the tigers we had seen were female. A male tiger sighting was conspicuously missing. Thankfully that was remedied in the fading light of the last hour of our last day.
He was a large 8 year old male and he was quite the character. We noticed he had an injury on the front of his left shoulder.
We followed him for for an entire hour and he was so much fun to watch.
He had a long name and number so we started calling him Sher Khan after the tiger character in “The Jungle Book.” Truly he was the king of the Jungle.