Monday, November 30, 2015


India has one of the best Tiger preserves in the world. This perserve of almost 100,000 acres used to be the private hunting grounds of the Majarajas of Jaipur.  We saw the actual blinds where they would kill the tigers. Even Queen Elizabeth shot and killed one before this was outlawed. The Bengal Tiger is making a comeback thanks to India's Project Tiger. There are many beautiful bird species and other animals in this National Park, including Leopards, but everyone wants to spot the Tigers which can be very elusive. After a nice lunch at the lodge we boarded these huge oversized jeeps and took off on a late afternoon drive.  It was so bumpy, we had to hang on and so dusty too. We stayed out until dark and it got cold, but we didnt spot a tiger. We were accompanied by a great naturalist who certainly had a passion for his work.  He knew all the tigers and stories about one that has killed 4 men in opportunistic encounters. The lodge does not guarantee tiger spotings, but we got up very early the next am, ready to try again.
Big Bats hanging in the trees.

We had some quick coffee and took off in the cold am light. We drove around in our assigned area andnothing was  spotted. Finally The coffee took its toll and we went to a building where the women could use a squatty potty and the guys used "a loo with a view" , which it is called in the forest. Guys have it easy. Just as the last woman was in the toilet, our guide started calling us all excitedly back...hurry, hurry, hurry...they had heard roaring in a certain area, and we were going to be hot on the trail. The Guide asked us if we could "REALLY hang on for dear life", and we assured him we could. Good thing we had all just peed, or we would have all been wet! That driver put the petal to the metal and we had quite the ride careening around sharp turns and rocky patches, and it was thrilling but rough! very rough.  We got to the roar area to find a few smaller jeeps had beat us. We saw one large male and a female and they were mating. Then the male would follow the female and try again, and again, and again........
It was all worth that bumpy ride. We got back to the lodge late and ate breakfast about 11:00am. Dirty as heck, but so pumped we had seen this. We had one more ride schedualed in the late afternoon, so no one took a shower...we just grubbed around waiting to go again. Lo and behold we sighted a young Tigress before it got dark. She was marking territory and also trying to hunt.  She paid no attention to us. 
We all felt so lucky and happy that we scored 2 out of three and a mating,which we were told is a rare sight. It was a blast, and a thrill of a lifetime to see these animals in their natural environment.

Saturday, November 28, 2015


We left Jaipur for Ranthambhore and a small boutique style lodge on the edge of the Nation Forest. We traveled thru the rural India that most visitors don't see. Many many small villages and tribal areas. Women in bright saris working out in the fields. Many camels pulling carts and plowing apparatuses. Small markets of fruit, and the life that almost 70% of all Indians live.  Very rural, very poor, but the rhythm of life was very evident. The roads were awful! Bumpy and rutted, but not as much traffic as in the cites. Still, crazy drivers and much car dodging. If I only knew what it was preparing  us for later.
We arrived at our comfortable lodge about lunch time and it was a peaceful oasis in a bustling village that had literally grown up around this park.  These were our rooms. Very spacious and comfortable. The lodge grew all their own vegetables. And the food was the best we have had so far on the trip, with a different regional flavors. A bit spicy, but absolutely fresh and wonderful.
Of course, we traveled all this way to see the Bengal Tigers in this area. The village people used to kill them, and be killed by them. Poachers,of course used to be a big problem. India  has made a huge progress in Ranthambhore to protect these magnificent animals, and it has worked. They have almost completely eliminated poaching, and also hired the villagers as guards, guides, craftsmen, and that has  eliminated   the need for guides for the poachers.  In fact, ALL tigers in India are FREE. Not in zoos or private homes like in America. Completely free to do what tigers do. They do not interfere with males killing cubs, or anything of the natural order. We spent two days with the most wonderful Naturalist on "drives". We were bounced, jostled, dirty and exhausted, but successful and happy.  It was a lifetime thrill and a totally different "India" than many see.


Thursday, November 26, 2015


We got to Jaipur, the largest City in Rajastan, about lunch time and checked into the "Jai Mahal Palace Hotel". Now, we're talkn! Pretty nice and we stay for 3 nights of exploring. We were pretty tired, but rallied up after lunch for a bit of a city tour, ending up at Birla Hindu Temple at sunset, just in time for evening prayers. This is an all marble building with three types of architecture representing the three major religions in India. It was quite beautiful. It was crowded inside, but we stayed, as the faithful prayed and the priests tossed the holy water on all of us. Checking shoes at these places is kind of a "cluster f_ _ _, if you get my drift. The inevitable happened as one of our group put on some other mans shoes and was about to walk. We noticed a guy frantically looking for HIS shoes, and figured it all out. Eeeewwww. Stinky feet.
We got back to the hotel and the UW hosted a bit of a cocktail party for us poor wretched travelers.My bed was spinning that night!
We got up early am to get to the Amber Fort before the crowds. Thank goodness, as the day got,pretty warm and it got crowded. We also went to Jantar Mantar, a collection of astronomical instruments built aboutn1734 without slide rules or sophisticated instruments, and still accurate today. Since Horoscopes play such a huge part in Hindu match making, we were given a short lesson by an actual reader of horoscopes. It was very interesting.
Amber Fort

Wednesday, November 25, 2015


We packed up and hit the road for about a four hour trip to Jaipur. It was finally a freeway and a smooth ride. Along the way, Naveen, our Hindu guide went into great and hilarious detail about Hindu culture and arranged marriages. He and his two brothers all had their marriages arranged by their parents. Two brothers never even saw their bride until after the wedding when they lifted the veil. Holy crap! Naveen was a bit luckier and a bit more defiant as he met his future bride a few times before, she was weeded out of 6,000 applicants and was actually chosen by the Hindu priest after he did the horoscope. VERY VERY important to be compatible horoscoptically. Also, same class, which was extremely number one in importance. Quite a "Bollywood Tale" in real life, and he could have a second career as a comedy writer.
Along the way, we saw trucks hauling huge hunks of white marble from an area about 60 miles away. We saw many camel caravans who had left the Camel Fair and were returning to their homes. And yes, they walk them on the shoulder of the freeway. But the MOST interesting thing we saw was a naked Jain monk walking with his ontorage, barefoot, in one lane of the freeway. The Jain's are one of the oldest sects of religion in India. They Are off the wall devote, non violence to everything. They are ultra   strict vegetarians, and will not eat any plant that grows down in the ground, as carrots, potatoes, etc. only plants that grow upwards. The monk believes he needs no clothes as the universe is his clothing. Well, we were a bit shocked and we pulled over to let them pass us, because we wanted to look closer...oh, I know. Anyway as they passed us they waved to us to join them! So we got out and went over and THEY wanted to take a picture of US! Standing with them! Then the priest threw holy Ganges water on us and they resumed their pilgrimage. I am NOT making this up. Every day, something strange happens to us in India. When a Jain monk feels his time on earth is over, he just stops  eating until he dies. The government is fighting this practice, but in fact with over a billion people in the country, there are many things to worry about.
I have included a newspaper page which is just one of 4 in yesterdays paper. The parents put ads in the paper for "hard to match kids" and hope something will happen. India really is a developing country in so many ways, but here the Indian traditional ways still prevail. Very strong culture with the old ways. Still very machismo and poor women struggle unbelievable.  China is developing much much faster in all ways. Very interesting. 

Tuesday, November 24, 2015


After the Temple of Lord Brahma ( which has no relation to Brahma Bulls, or the Brahmin caste) we walked to Lake Pushkar to take part in a ceremony of blessing our ancestors, and asking for all things good in our lives to come. We could take pictures as we approached the lake on a red carpet, no less. But then had to stow cameras and shoes once more. Most Indians actually bathe in these holy waters, and they just dont get wet, they have to have the head in the water. Obviously, we weren't going to submerse. A holy man said ritualistic words and we repeated, even in Hindi. He spoke pretty fast, and some of the words that came out of our mouths, probabaly weren't correct..maybe even funny...well, hilarius. But it was a serious and solemn ritual, so no chuckling.  Most men stripped to white clothes for their bath. The women kept on whatever veils and gowns they were wearing. Also, most women used a seperate "ghat" as the holy bathing areas were called.  It really was beautiful.
Then we opened our palms and the holy man placed rose petals in sniffing to the nose, just relax and hold the delicate flower petals while we repeated more words. Then saffron was sprinkled on the rose petals. More chanting. Then we asked for good Karma, good health, good business, more money, more happiness for all our relatives too. We also asked for good Karma for everyone in our family who had died and would be reborn. It was starting to get to me. So serious. 
The holy man made the red paste and placed the mark on our foreheads, then we walked to the water and gently tossed the petals into the Holy Lake. Coming back to our seats on the steps, the Holy man asked us if we were married or not, and tied the yellow and red string on the appropriate wrist. Hmmmmm. 😳 
Finally, we said more "prayers" following his lead, and finished the ceremony.  It was a real. I liked it, and now I feel sufficiently blessed by Lord Brahma. Interesting morning.


Pushkar is one of Hinduism's holiest sites. It is the ONLY place in the whole world there is a temple dedicated to Lord Brahma, the Creator of the Universe. Hinduism has many gods and goddesses, millions, in fact. There are many temples all over the world for these gods and goddesses. But only ONE for Lord Braham. And it is in Pushkar. Timed to coincide with the full moon, the fair draws pilgrims to the many temples surrounding Lake Pushkar.
We left the hotel right after breakfast and boarded the ever present tuk-tuk brigade. This time we would walk to the Lord Brahma Temple, through the fair stalls. Along the way, our guide Naveen, would tell us about the wares, foods, interesting factoids particular to many Indians. There are so many different tribes and groups here, including many many gypsies and Muslims, attracted to a place to sell their wares and services. It was extremely interesting. We saw young boys offering tattoos, with needles that had been used many times! And a very primative tattoo apparatus. The foods were so varied. Pushkar itself is 100% vegetarian and alcohol free. The hotels build away from the town to attract the visitors who want to drink and or eat meat. Cows, bulls, pigs, and a few other animals wander freely thru the market. People feel they can increase their good Karma by feeding the cows, especially, since Lord Brahma, Creator of the Universe, made the cow sacred. We stopped by a woman and bought some of her grass and helped her feed some cows who had gathered.
The Temple area was very crowded with the devout climbing the steps to worship Lord Brahma. Pilgims come all year round, but this is the busiest time because of the fair. We left our shoes and packs AND cameras with a guard and proceded to climb the marble steps to the top. There were Indian Police in high numbers. People streamed by the temple port hole that had the god in it, and gave "sweets" and small bits of rice too. There were a lot of yellow jacketss attracted by the rotting food, but no bother. We got in the procession and just followed along. It actually was pretty amazing to just watch the families, people from all walks of life in India stream by and pray to their supreme diety. 


We got to Pushkar in the afternoon and immediately went to "experience" this gigantic camel get together. It was everything I thought it would be. There were arts and crafts bazaars, dance performances,colorful people, pilgrims, and of course, hundreds of camels.  We got onto some camel carts to ride out into the desert. There we saw many tribes of bedouin Indians and their camels. A feast for the eyes as people compete to dress their camels and even shave their fur into designs. There is quite a bit of begging and a lot of hassling to buy or pay for  pictures.  It seemed everyone wanted money for something. It was very dusty, warm, smelly, noisy, but a lot of fun. There were also some very beautiful Arab horses there. There were turbaned men, gypsies, tribes people, bejeweled women, ethnic music and interesting food. It was toward the end of the five day celebration and some of the tribesmen were walking home with their herds. They are nomadic people who have to keep moving to find food for the camels, but some of them came pretty far, and all got here to Pushkar by walking the herds here.

Monday, November 23, 2015


This is of those experiences where people say "you had to be there"! We started out early for the Delhi Train station, to take an early am train to Ajmer. It was a Sunday and we made it thru traffic easily and got to the train station. After  a half hour wait on the semi dark platform with rats crawling between the tracks, and many people sleeping on the platform, our train came. We didn't have assigned seats, but we were ball in the same car. First thing my seat was wet! Wet enough to get my jeans damp. No Likie!
After the train started to move, I saw a space empty by Jill and moved there. Wet seat! In fact most of the seats were wet and we never did find out why. It is an old train. More people are employed by the train system in India than anywhere else. There are a lot of people riding the trains. Ours was NOT delux in any sense of the word, but it was adequate. They Immediately served a box breakfast of some sort, which I waved off. A mistake, because I forgot to pack my snacks, and after a 6 1/2 hour ride, I was HUNGRY. Indian People are nice, they are kind, they don't get upset when some western person sits in their seat. They just find another. No big deal.

Arriving in Ajmer was chaotic. This was the India you see on travel shows. Now, we're talking! Someone, we made it OUT Side, where we were met my many Indian men with far , so good. Car was clean, and had A/C. Out here they don't speak as much English. We commenced on what I can only describe at a "death ride" thru this bustling town. I could not find seat belts, but it wouldn't have mattered. I have been thru city traffic in crowded countries. Guatemala, Cairo, Istanbul, Kampala, Paris, Beijing.....piece of cake, calm compared to what we went thru. And this is the part of India where cows, goats, and whatever animal decides to cross the road has the right away.
Basically we played "chicken" all the way to our hotel with a young driver we didnt swerve, slow down, or show any signs he wanted to live another day. The worst and wildest ride I have ever been on. EVER!

We couldn't wait to see what the camel fair was all about, so after  lunch, our bus driver took us to a dusty field to meet up with some tuk tuks, because the roads are too small and congested for anything larger than a small auto. Soooooooo...... Repeat "chicken dance", except with a tuk-tuk! The way to really see a camel fair of this size, was in a "camel cart". Duh. Well, guess what, camel carts in India can play "chicken too! Plus, there is nothing to hold on to and it is very bumpy and very dusty. By then I was pretty exhausted by all the various modes of transportation and the chicken dance on all but the train.  And we still had to repeat it going back to the hotel.


The last thing we did today was visit on of the largest Sikh temples in the world.  I had seen a documentary a few years ago about a Sikh temple that fed thousands of people a day, every day, no charge, to anyone who showed up. Some days there are 50,000 meals served. (This is India, after all). There is no requirement to be a Sikh or even anything religious. Homeless, wealthy, atheist, devote, westerners, anyone. The documentary showed a huge kitchen with all sorts of people cooking lentils, chapati bread and vegetable . As people entered the large room they took a seat next to the last person...sitting on long rugs on the floor. They are handed a large tin plate and a spoon. Then a SIKH will come put fresh food. on the plate and you eat. I was so impressed with this and the kindness of the Sikh. This very temple is where the film was made! Never in my dreams did I think I Would be there, veiled, standing barefoot in a wonderfully hot busy kitchen watching people from all walks of life cook for others and serve them. HUMANITY!
We arrived and were taken to a room where those without head cover were given a bright orange head scarf. Men and women. Everyone had to be barefoot, no socks or anything on one's feet. Sikhs believe in only ONE Deity, but welcome anyone to their temple. Inside the temple one cannot take photos, but there is much gold, chanting/singing 24/7 which never ends. Also a Sikh is placed  by the holy book 24/7 using a big feathered fan to keep flies or anything from the holy scripture. We observed and listened for a bit and then walked to the  immense dining room. As I said before, ANYONE can eat at anytime as they serve food for 12 hours every day. Many people, even Hindus, Christians, and others volunteer to cook and clean. If you show up, they will find a job for you. It is common on India to make a gift of grain or lentil bags when one has a birthday or graduation. Our guide is Hindu, but he takes his young son to "work" a few times a year. He said his boy loves the service. Sikhs never beg,believing that each person no matter what their situation is, can offer help for their food, even singing or opening a door can be helpful.
The community kitchen is meant for providing food for all devotees, pilgrims, and visitors. It is a SYMBOL of EQUALITY , FRATERNITY, AND BROTHERHOOD.  This is where that the high and the low, the rich  and the poor, the learned and the ignorant, the kings and the paupers, all share the same food sitting together in one row. This Langar (community kitchen) is instrumental in creating social equality among the WHOLE of mankind. HUMANITY!

Anyway, for me, it  was the highlight of the day and We went back to the hotel for our last night feeling very thankful for everything. Wake up call at 4:00AM for an early morning train trip to Rahjastan. Goodnight!


The flight was long, tedious, but went off without any hitches. We arrived in New Delhi, the capital,of India, a bit jetlagged , grumpy, and just wanting to lie down in a proper bed. We were met by Indian guide, Nuveen Bhatt and whisked away our hotel. Upon arriving were greeted with traditional Indian greeting of fresh chilled mango juice and a colorful chrysanthemum lei. The day was topsy turvy and we went to our rooms and tried to sleep and start sightseeing in the am. Delhi is really 2 very big cities...the "old Delhi, which was the capital of Muslim India for almost 3 centuries, and the "New Delhi", and Imperial City, which was created by the the British Raj. It is a beautiful city with trees everywhere, and millions of people and cars. So so much history!
We got up late and had a leisurely breakfast and left in the afternoon to make sense of a small taste of India. The bus system is for thrill seekers. And those with mass time on their hands. The buses are hopelessly overcrowded and driven by maniacs. In fact, everyone driving must be a maniac. They drive on the "other side", honk incessantly, and only stop when something is literally blocking them. I rarely saw women driving. We saw the Raj Ghat, which is the memorial to Mahatma Gandhi, and very very simple. Indians flock to this tree lined park to pay homage and today was a school visit day by many many "boy schools". For some reason they got real pleasure out of following us and saying "Hi", and wanting one of us in a picture...with our own camera. Once started, it became a snowball affect, and not a good idea!
The city has many mosques and we went to tour the largest, the Jama Masjid, which has a courtyard which can easily hold 25,000 people. It is the largest Mosque in India. They were having Friday "prayers" so we decided to do something else while we waited for about 7,000 people to disperse. This something else was a ride on a three wheeled tricycle through many small shopping alleys lined with every kind of tiny shop. It really is hard to describe the incredible push of humanity in this human sea. There was a rhythm of movement, but I could not digest how we were actually moving against the tide of people. We were on rickety gerry rigged tricycle managed by a tiny frail man in flip flops, and somehow we got back the Mosque. It was a BIG taste of India full force!

Saturday, November 21, 2015


This was a good day to see sights in "New Delhi" because there is much less traffic. We had a full day and saw much of the cities  government area. Along the way we learned of struggles and assasinations and all sorts of  turmoil for thousands of years to make India into the developing country it is today. Because most Indians speak English and other languages,they are easily sought out by "call centers" because of their willing to work for much less than in our own countries.  We talked alot about the call center phenomomen. We saw anchient Mogul  archtecture and saw how important the Muslim influence was in building this part of India. We had a delightful lunch at an outdoor garden resturant and started the afternoon with a tour of the National Museum of New Delhi. I always think that in a big city, even local museums are a good way to show the culture and get a sense of an area. This one did not disappoint, but it also had too much to see and absorb in an hour. I Concentrated on the "jewels" of past rulers...holy cow! Incredible pieces of jewelry dripping with gigantic jewels and gold.
Then I found the Buddhist Art where a group of monks and nuns had set up a chanting circle. It was kind of cool to walk around and see the old Buddhist artifacts while listening to live chanting.

The school kids in India tour their country's cultural exhibits as part  of their curriculum. But they do it on Saturday. This Saturday! There were literaly thousands of school kds in these areas. We tried to "beat their buses" but a few times our visits coincided with theirs. We were a great novelty in their day. We spent mush of our time saying "Hi"  "Namaste" AND posing for pictures. They just wanted to take pictures of US with their arms drapped around us. Mostly young giggling boys, with cell phone. They were persistant but extremely polite and always asked what country we were from. Our guide was having enough of all this, but we were having fun. I finally told them we were movie starts from America. That went over big! Because they know nothing. It was hectic, but it was also pretty fun!

Friday, November 20, 2015

Robing Up

Realizing how much Muslim history carved out India, we embarked on a trip across town to visit the Jama Masjid Mosque, which is the largest in India. Architecture is of the Mughal era, and the mosque is mostly outdoors surrounding a huge courtyard. Muslim women who are robed and veiled are allowed to walk in, but our "western" clothes were deemed to immodest by an imam, so we were offered cotton robes, which basically looked like a tacky hospital gown, tied up the back. Everyone had to take off their shoes. I was feeling like we look like the FLDS from Warren Jeffs brood. Kind of took the reverence out of the afternoon. Anyway, we did it, saw it, and survived it. Along the way Naveen, who is a teacher by trade poured out historical stories with charm and intellect. He knows his history well, and it is a wonderful way to learn the complicated history of this part of the world.
Back at the "Taj Palace",our wonderful hotel, we cleaned up and went for dinner at Marsala. So, I have had Indian food in many places. I have NOT had Indian food. While most Indians are vegetarians, they do serve meat, but not beef. Muslims don't eat pork, so mostly everyone serves lamb, or "mutton" as they call it. I chose the vegetarian meal  and was not disappointed. Everything is so much more delicate. Lots of spicy, but good spicey. A light touch on most curries, and wonderful vegetables. We had some incredible wine from a Vineyard near Mumbai. India is not noted for wines, but they have a very pleasant beer called "Kingfisher". A wine maker from Napa, CA made a bundle in the states and decided to come live in India and start a winery, so his wines were served for dinner. Dessert is usually light and small. We had small "milk balls" in a light syrup, which were just so yummy. Naveen gave us 4 sheets of  paper with food names and what was in the dish, and there is much to try!