September 2008 Archives

Back home .....

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Well - having omitted to blog during the trip, I will make a contribution now that I am home again!

First of all - congratulations you lot for reaching Mumbai!!!  Really glad that it all went well (apart from the dents and the Langurs) and I have to say that I am insanely jealous and will have to visit Rajasthan myself, to make up for having to come back .... Good luck with the next bit and hope you get through all the formalities okay ..... And hope the Yacht Club is good (if you go) - and .... I don't really want to hear any more because life here is just not quite as exciting and much too predictable (although Barnsley keeps me on my toes... and I'm sure my colleagues would agree.)

The Gulf Air flight was fairly uneventful and uncomfortable with some okay films, but best of all they allowed me on with 10kg of excess baggage, which they didn't query.  The same was not the case for the flight to Manchester, where BMI baby made me re-distribute it into two  bits of handluggage to avoid paying an extra £70, although the whole lot weighed exactly the same ... Anyway - I got my carpets back ....

I have arrived home and taken up the usual pace of frenetic activity - with a childcare takeover which involved him leaving at 5am and me arriving at 10pm the same day.... followed by work a day later and then a trip to Glasgow to take my daughter to university.

And I must say that thinking about it afterwards, it just wasn't quite the same .... Everything was so tame.  I mean, I drove up the M6, and yes the scenery was beautiful, and I even passed the turn-off to Sedburgh (so it really does exist - wonder what its other products are like? I felt like having a look ..) but - my 1100cc car felt so tinny, compared to the Landcruisers .. I keep putting on the windscreen wipers instead of the indicator, I just don't get the feeling that things will move out of my way.  And worst of all, it was so uneventful - not a single melon was passed through my open window, nobody cycled the wrong way down the motorway, there were no cows or people to avoid, I couldn't even do a U-turn if I wanted ... no-one cut out in front of me - there were no side roads to do that ...  And when I reached Glasgow (although that definitely has potential as an interesting and friendly city), nobody jumped into my car to show me the way!  There were no taxis to follow - and noone invited us to their house (although the hotel receptionist did remind me to buy a birthday cake for my daughter, and told me where to get it) ... (I paid the same price for the hotel as we had for the Oberoi).  Though I think things were much more eventful in the student halls - someone manged to jump out of a window and break an arm .....

So - while I'm still re-adjusting, I just wanted to take the opportunity to say thank-you for all the hard work that was involved in the pre-trip preparation, especially for Steve, and to everyone else for making it such a good time ....and even for the difficult times!  It has certainly re-opened the door for a lot more travelling as far as I'm concerned and tied up some previous travel experiences, which it was good to be able to share....

Hope the Landcruisers get off okay and the blue barrels return safely too ...






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Yes, we made it !

Arrived here today after a 6 hours drive from Daman.   Since my last blog we have been to some fantastic places......   In Udaipur we each did our own thing for a day and I took a rickshaw up to see the Monsoon Palace.   Perched on top of a hill high above the city it was deserted for many years (and used as a hideout for dacoits) until the James Bond movie Octopussy when scenes were shot there and it was renovated somewhat.  Leopards still up in the hills round about.   Later I wandered round the City palace which was very interesting and huge.   The ruling family in Udaipur are one of the oldest noble families in India, and they moved their capital here after the Moghuls repeatedly invaded their previous fortress at Chitaugarh.   In the evening there was a huge festival in the town which some of us went to.   We got covered in bright pink powder which was being thrown liberally over all and sundry.   Gods on small palaquins were being paraded around town and being taken to the lakeside for a wash, before being taken back to their respective temples.   The noise, heat, insense, and music were tremendous and in one of the squares there were fire-dancers twirling flaming battons, breathing fire, and leaping through burning hoops.   Real India and fantastic atmosphere!

We then drove to Chitaugarh where there is probably the largest castle I have ever seen.   It completely encompasses a huge hilltop plateau.   Just the idea of building it seems incredible.   It encloses 700 acres and would have been absolutely impregnible.   How they managed to defeat the incubent army I failed to find out (must read up on it at home).   We spent a great time looking around, and drove round the inside perimeter.   Stopped to get out and climb up onto the outer wall and as we did so a troupe of about 70 or 80 Langur monkeys arrived.   A large male got up onto the roof of the Landcruiser.   Went to the top of the 'Victory Tower' - 9 storeys high and required a rock climb to get onto the top storey.   We continued to Bijapur Palace Hotel out in remote countryside.   Beautiful old fortress being slowly converted, tastefully, into a stunning hotel.   The Raja owner, who knows Prince Charles, and had Peter Cook stay there once, showed us around.   He runs riding safaris and has 9 gorgeous horses.   Set in rolling hills and delightful countryside.

Frome here we moved on again to Dungapur and to my mind this was the nicest place of all the fabulous Rajasthan towns we had been to.   We again stayed in a converted palace which eclipsed everywhere we had seen so far.   The palace sits on the edge of a large lake, surrounded by pointed, wooded hills and exuded wealth and influence.   Sitting off from the palace,, and seeming to float on the water, was a pretty temple.   The priest rowed out each morning.   There was a large aviary with large and small birds, including Emus, turkeys, and all manner of exotic colourful winged creatures.   There were 7 or 8 dogs including boistrous Great Danes, a Boxer and some Labradors.   The swimming pool 'disappeared' into the lake and was completely beautiful with two stone elephants spouting water and its own 'temple' changing room.   Again the owner (not sure whether he was a Maharaja or not) showed us around - in his garages was a collection of classic English and American cars and wheeled cannon, old carriages and furniture in enormous heaps rescued from his old palace up on the hill.   We ate in an open courtyard which had a dining table that must be unique - it is marble with inlaid semi-precious stones and is rectangular and must be 40 feet long.   In the centre is a long pool whose water comes perfectly up to the edge of the marble surround.   Amazing engineering achievment, fascinating, and to top it all the water produces a strange optical illusion  -  wherever you sit at the table the patterns on the bottom of the pool make it look like it is deep where you are sitting but shallow everywhere else.   The large family dining room is a veritable hunting trophy room, with heads of tigers, bears, deer and wild boar.   Our rooms were delightful.   We had a day's rest at this quintessential place and in the evening took a ride down the lake towards the town.   As sheer luck would have it we had coincided with the last day of a festival in honour of Ganesh.   Large Ganesh efigies were being brought down to the lake, put on rafts, taken out onto the lake, and then sunk to the bottom.   There was a huge crowd on the shore and a noisy firework display which frightened scores of large fruit bats that flew past us   The scene was Draculainan (?)   The heat of the day had exhausted the marble clouds which stood still thinly veiling a full moon.  Indian music drifted across and I felt that in this place I had found a perfect piece of India.

We then suffered a 13 hour drive to Daman on horrible roads ending in the dark and torrential rain.   By the way did I say Dave had a slight argument with a bus and 'Silver' now has dents all down one side!


Must go I am late to meet the others for dinner.

Anyway we really have made it all the way from Wotton-u-Edge to Bombay - hasn't sunk in yet.......seems a year or two since we many adventures....wouldn't have missed this for all the world!!!



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Since Mandawa we have been to Khimsar Fort, Jodhpur, Rohet Garh, and now Udaipur.   Rajasthan is a non-stop kalaidascope (?) of colourful impressions - the women wear startlingly bright saris, the men often all in white, including their large turbans.  Camels everywhere, the landscape greener than I expected but it is like this after the rains I'm told.   Khimsar Fort was at one time a gorgeous old castle in the middle of an utterly flat plain with a large village around its skirts.   However, regretably the fort has be over-developed and the new build hotel (although of good quality) rather swamps the beautiful original castle.   There is a collection of old cars including an old Rolls Royce.  Fabulous swimming pool and a full size snooker table which looks flat but isn't.

The fortress at Jodhpur is one of the most impressive structures it has been my pleasure to see - jaw dropping, and we spent the good part of a day looking around.   So, so Indian - the audio tour was excellent in content but all the numbered stops were out of sequence and no sign posts so one spent one's time going up and down floors looking for the next number.   What a place though!

Rohet Garh was a haven of tranquility - old buildings surrounding a large, mature garden with peacocks, parakeets and chipmonks, not to mention a very naughty Labrador who chewed up the cushions in the flower beds.   The Germans always got to the swimming pool in the morning before us!

Leaving the plain behind we entered some absolutely beautiful hills to visit the temples at Ranakpur.   Again astonishing huge Jain temples built in marble.   Highly carved in fine detail - voluptous sexy Indian women writhing around pillars, huge marble elephants, ceilings that only a mathematician could have invented, and touches of the Karma Sutra in the reliefs.   No leather and no photos of the Gods themselves allowed.   Fabulous place but a couple of large Langur monkeys slammed one of our car doors on Jeremy's toes!

Arriving quite late in Udaipur our hotel lay in an old part of town and in the sweltering heat our team skills and patience we tested once again in forging our way through narrow streets full of people, motor-bikes, rickshaws and holy cows..   It was worth it - our hotel the Jagat Niwas Palace Hotel overlooks the lake and is full of character!  Emerging onto the roof terrace you are confronted by black night and a shinging Lake Palace lit up and reflected in the tranquil waters.   Magical!


Must go and visit the city palace......


Bye for now.   After this we will visit some off-the-beaten-track places in Rajasthan before the final leg down to Bombay......

Steve  (miss you Seraphina, Katie, Ellie, Tara, Snowy, Willow and the goldfish too (whose names I have a silly mind-block on!)

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Hi  again,

My last blog from Shimla seems to have been lost in cyberspace - never mind!   We are now in Rajasthan after further adventures - I don't know where to start.   Yesterday we set off from Kaithal on what we thought would be a straightforward drive but it was not to be so.   To begin with when we tried to leave the town the main road was blocked and we tried to find a way through the town.   After getting totally lost we ended up in a street that got narrower and narrower until we entered an alley and blocked the tide of humanity, scooters, bicycles and animals flowing towards us.   Within minutes (I was the lead car with Jeremy) we were surrounded by a noisy crowd of friendly Indians all shouting different suggestions.   On top of this our second vehicle was offering their own advice over the radio, and Jeremy and John were outside in the street also making loud and conflicting instructions.   Finally we somehow managed to reverse and turn round and extricated ourseves before the whole town came to a standstill!   We then stopped at a roundabout and a friendly man guided us on his motorbike through the maze in the right direction.   He took us to his office and treated us to cold drinks and we met his family before we travelled on.   Lush rural countryside slowly changed to a drier terain.   We passed a terrible accident where a lorry was on its side having had a head on collision with a van.   It must have happened some time before as there was no sign of anyone there.

We carried on and towards the end of the day crossed a railway line three times.  Each time we had to wait for a train to pass, though it looked like the same train each time!

As we approached a town called Fatephur there was a monsoon storm ahead flashing with lightning.   We were soon in the storm of torrential rain, and with night falling.   The streets of Fatephur were like running rivers and again we got lost, only finding the way out when I dashed half a dozen steps to ask some men sheltering under an awning.   I was totally soaked in just those few steps.   We carried on to a bridge under the railway which was already 3 or 4 feet deep in water.   Low ratio gears and we were through and crawling up a slight incline down which poured a stream of water.   We still had 20 kms to Mandawa and if anything the storm ahead looked worse.   It seemed truely biblical, gloomy, errie, and by no means certain that we would make it through.   Upon entering Mandawa we peered through the windscreen (the wiper blades working at full speed barely clearing the rain) and wove our way through narrow streets to the main bazaar.  Luckily we found the hotel near the city gate, the Mandawa Havelli Hotel.   An old converted merchant's house the like of which I have never seen before.   It is fantastic!   Like something out of the Arabian Nights.   Frescos, intricately carved doors, fabulous wall paintings, a galleried courtyard, and a warm welcome.   We must build it into one of HK's itineraries.   After a meal in their beautiful resteraunt we crashed.

Today we went for a walking tour of the town.   Amazing! and one of the best cultural experiences of the trip.   Lots of camels, donkeys (one which was painted in ocre dots) and women dressed in highly bright, colourful saris.   The town is a maze of old merchant houses dominated by a fabulous old castle.


S'all for now - must go and do some shopping!!!!!


Aged and happy Hippie in another world here in Rajasthan, Indiaaaahhhhh



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I'm Mandi - Fly me!

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What's that all about? Well, firstly we're in the bustling town of Mandi, just below the Kullu valley, where we've been staying in Manali after having to return the same way from Spiti due to the landslides mentioned by Steve in his last. (By the way, when he said we had problems getting back down the Rohtang Pass, he didn't mentioned the military style operation,headed by Dave, that was required to get us past the 2 lanes of stationary oncoming lorries blocking our way, (on what is only just a 2 way road at the best of times!) due to a blockage caused by a steepbit of muddy roadwhich the overladen lorries were getting stuck on. Using handsets and willpower (and by simply standing in their way), Dave stunned the oncoming lorry diveres into submission and wove us a path past the jam - only took 2 hours. We were greeted like old friends at the Mayflower hotel - they have even set out all our room keys in anticipation, even though we hadn't actually told them we were coming back. So a comfortable night and another chance for fabulous trout at Johnsons cafe-bar (and some interesting and very acceptable Indian red wine)and then we had a day sightseeing at Nagar Fort and the Roerech Gallery. David and Mary, if you read this, it's all a bit deja vu. The only other time I've ever been to India, we stayed in Daramashala (which we visited this time for about 1 hour due to time contraints), Manali (which has grown enormously and has better hotels than it did) stayed at Nagar Fort (which has now been restored to within an inch of its life and really best for its view and not much else, but does a good cup of tea,) visited the Roerech Gallery - (which was far better than I remembered but strangely made no reference to Theosophy - which I'm sure it did last time) and stopped in Mandi for lunch at the Raj Mahal- an old Mahararah's palace, very much falling apart but worth seeing. Well, guess where we stayed last night! Yes, restored (to a degree!) full of character and numerous muskets and strange paintings, it is now worth staying at. The food last night was excellent - I think the best so far in India and the place a haven of tranquillity in the noisy and noisome mess that is Mandi - can't say I'd recommend Mandi for anything else!

So today we move on to Shimla and there the female contingent of the party are left to make their way to delhi to get flights home (that includes me) and the chaps continue through Rajistan to Mumbai and the macho delights of getting the vehicles through customs.


Sooo looking forward to seeing my family - the hardest part of this trip - in fact the only real hard part has been missing them. They will have to come with me next time!


And happy birthday to my lovely Jo who is 15 tomorrow!)


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End of Spiti Trek

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Aged Hippie here again!   Just back from a fantastic trek in Spiti.   What a beautiful region!   Very like Ladakh with phenonemal scenery, gorges, mountains and pretty Tibetan-like villages.   Staggering monasteries.   Saw a herd of Blue Sheep, two wild foxes playing, lots of interesting birds, crossed a 15,500ft pass, visited the amazing temples at Tabo, passed through a police check post by mistake without stopping in the vehicles (had to go back and make amends).   Met all sorts of interesting people including 4 climbers from Austria who were 'bouldering in a remote valley and seemed stoned most of the time!  Were stopped from driving onto Shimla by a massive landslide which had swept away 400 metres of road, so we returned the way we had come.   Encountered terrible traffic jams on the Rotang Pass and used our low ratio gears and Diff Locks to go off road to get past the jams.  Sraped the Silver landcruiser on a lorry as we tetered past it - never mind.


Love to all my family [and yes I miss you too Ellie (and Tara and Snowy and the goldfish)]


Bye - off to Mandi now, and then Shimla tomorrow.



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