Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Lengurs waiting for the bus?

click to enlarge

Travel Pals - 2+ weeks traveling with Keelin, Claire, and Colin - pictures of us on the road

What a great bunch these three were to travel with. We had a great time, and saw far more, and met more people than we ever hoped for. I will write more soon. . .I've just arrived home after a 28 hour road trip, and two long long flights from Bombay to Seoul, Korea and four hours later Seoul to Seattle.

Anyhow, thank you Claire, Colin, and Keelin. Click all pictures to enlarge...


Tuesday, March 30, 2010

My favorite spectator sport in India--Driving, auto-rickshaws, and traffic (don't tell anyone here it's not cricket!)

a rickshaw/auto-rickshaw/tuk-tuk. Many have shrines for Krishna, Buddha, Ganesh
or another deity above the center mounted steering column (handles, not a wheel)

One of the things I've enjoyed most about India is watching people drive--trucks/lorries, scooters, cars, bicycles, and most of all, auto-rickshaws. You witness the most insane traffic situations and traffic jams, but the one thing you never see is people getting angry. Yes, the horns are constantly honking, but never in anger. People honk to let you know they're coming around you, or cutting across you, or just letting you know they are there. In fact almost every truck and lorry in India has a sign emblazoned on the back, something like "Please Honk," or, "Horn Please!" Let me say I don't want to drive here at all; it's far more fun as a strictly spectator sport. I was tempted, however. But this was nothing like driving in Turkey.

Adding to pedestrian difficulties for non-British visitors, of course, is the fact that they drive on the left side of the road. You have to remember to look the "wrong way." And in smaller towns, or late at night, red-lights are really more a suggestion than a command to stop. On our first night, coming into Bombay at 3 AM from the airport, our driver probably blazed through thirty or forty red lights

It takes a while to get your pedestrian legs here. Once you understand how they drive, you learn when to walk, and how to walk. By the end of our two+ weeks, we are easily able to navigate even the most insane intersections and crossroads. Here are examples from YouTube of traffic in India. This was fairly typical. And by the end, we could jump right in there and make our way to the other side.

I can't tell where this video clip is from, but it's fairly typical, except in our travels, we would generally see less cars and trucks and far more auto-rickshaws. And, as I said, in the end, we could jump right in there and cross the street. Let me say here too, that I absolutely love the auto-rickshaws, as noisy, smelly and harrowing as they can be. They are extremely cheap--we could pile three or four of us in one and go across town for less than a dollar.

If you are going to go around a truck, they want you to honk so they can pull aside, or be prepared--because they never know when an auto-rickshaw or pedestrian may cut in front of them or triangulate both of you. Honking is encouraged, and it works amazingly well. In all the extremely traffic-snarled cities we've seen--especially Bombay, Aurangabad, and Pune, we never saw an accident.

It's not that surprising, really. I also never saw an Indian angry (I compare this to my commute to work, where it's a rare day when someone isn't angry, or exhibiting road-rage). I'm sure they do get angry, but in general, it's not part of their DNA. Somehow this crazy stew of vehicles and foot warriors cooperate, despite all the confliciting inputs. Even when I saw close calls, the drivers would often just smile. and wobble their heads (more on this later--I want to write an entire post on the head wobble), and one of them would back up or swing around the other. One contributing factor to the amazing harmony on the roads, streets, paths, and expressways, is that no one drives particularly fast. Of course, scooters and auto-rickshaws in general can't, which helps a great deal. And the comparatively small number of cards helps too. There were a fair number of cars in both Pune, and Bombay, but in most places it's the smaller vehicles that rule the roost. In Udaipur, for example, with 550,000 people, there were virtually no cars or trucks at all, except for the occasional taxi, or delivery truck.

I am really going to miss this place and the people of India (we head out tonight for a 28 hour journey back via Seoul, Korea...Claire and Colin, lucky dogs, are staying two more months).

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Outside Araungabad - A seriously fortified Daulatabad

Daulatabad was one of, or maybe the greatest, of Deccan forts. It was fortified with triple walls (nerdy friends: think of Minis Tirith in LOTR), moats, both dry and wet, cannon batteries, impregnable gates, and walkways and stairs that are nearly impossible to walk now on foot, let alone while riding a horse or an elephant. Daultabad also sat on a high hill that gave the defenders plenty of advance warning. Probably the best part of the visit to the fort was a) no western tourists; and b) all the young Indian student-tourists (mostly fron the universitiewanted to talk, and even trade email addresses.

Click all the images to enlarge.


Friday, March 26, 2010

A dusty, bone-rattling Auto-rickshaw ride to the village of Sisarma

click images to enlarge

Today we took a bone rattling, dusty ride out to a village, Sisarma, in the more or less desert outside Udaipur. From the looks of it, it won't be a remote little village much longer. As we approached the village, there were signs of construction everywhere. A large group of people were building a bridge over a very wide looking arroyo. Apparently, the village often cut off in monsoon season.

We visited a beautiful, rustic, old temple, where we were invited in after we left our shoes outside. The interior (where I did not take pictures) was painted in a rainbow of subtle pastel colors that almost looked like they may have been mixed in with the plaster, al fresco style.

All the children, and people we met when we got out and walked through the village out toward the bridge were extremely friendly. Keelin and I spent ten or fifteen minutes chatting with a very nice government worker--the guy who reads the electric meters in town.

All four of us piled back in the auto-rickshaw for a ride back to town, the other way, which was much smoother, but also brought us through the outskirts of what looks to be rapidly developing Udaipur, pushing its boundaries outward.

The village temple

The village water pump