welcome to the family

i would like to introduce my new child. His name is Rollei. He is quite done up in this photo and doesn't look so pretty most days but I love him anyways.

here is his picture

We got him in Mumbai and cannot wait to spend more time with him.

He joins his other siblings Little Bertha and George. What a lovely little family I have. I'm bursting with pride.

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Mumbai (Bombay)

So we've made our way down to South India. About a week ago we flew from Delhi to Mumbai. For $55 a piece we flew on Indigo Air which is somewhat comparable to Westjet; they get stuff done, and on time. A far cry from the old guard Air India.

At my job with Advomatic we often work with some developers in India since there's always more work than we have people to do it. Yashesh Bhatia and his business partner Prakash live in Mumbai and Yash invited Debbi & I to stay with his family. This was a new thing for us, we hadn't yet stayed in someone elses home here in India. As with many homes in India (and anywhere in the non-West for that matter), this is an extended family home. The home takes up several floors of an apartment building. Yash and his wife Neha have a 3 year old boy; there's also his parents; sister in law; and at any given time there's between 2 and 6 other family members staying for extended periods. Plus 3 staff, so the house is a pretty busy place.

The Bhatia clan was very hospitable to us. They really bent over backwards to try and make us feel at home. Yash drew out these elaborate maps so we could find our way around the city, and whenever we walked through the doors we were always pulled to the dinner table for something to eat.

Mumbai is a pretty cool place too. Way nicer than Delhi: cleaner, fewer cows, all the rickshaw wallas use the meter, and far fewer touts. Our first night we walked around the suburbs a bit and checked out a Hare Krishna temple. On our first day we took the local train to downtown Bombay (which was a bit difficult since there's little English signage) where we walked and shopped and saw the sights (photos might not come for a while). We visited the National Gallery of Modern Art which had some really great stuff. The top floor is a half sphere, so it's really cool to walk around and hear your footsteps echo.

On day two we went to the planetarium and saw a movie about stars, planets and all things celestial. We then walked accross to the Nehru Centre where we saw another art exhibition (The artist copied several famous paintings and made their subjects "Indian") and an exhibition about Nehru, India's first Prime Minister.

Yash has been recovering from malaria for the last 2 weeks and has still been getting fevers.  2 days ago he went back to the doctor and got some more tests and found out that the reason he's not getting better is that he also has typhoid. Talk about bad luck.  So in the interests of aiding his recovery we decided that it would be time for us to move on. 

So we again took the local train downtown to purchase train tickets to Goa. We stood in line for at least an hour. In Queues in India you always have to watch for budgers. You've got to speak up otherwise you'll be in line for days.

We took the local train back to the 'burbs but this time it was rush hour. Canadian commuters have no idea what a full train is. Imagine a C-Train at it's fullest in downtown Calgary during rush hour. Now imagine the same train with twice as many people and you'll have an idea what a rush hour train is like in Mumbai. I'm not even exaggerating. We were one stop away from getting off and I was worried that at 4 ft from the exit I wouldn't be close enough to get off at our stop. But then all of a sudden I was expelled from the train as the 30 people in the 12 sqft next to the exit rushed off. As the train was pulling away I quickly grabbed on to the edge of the door of the ladies car and rode on the outside of the train to our stop. I was hoping that any authorities would give a foreigner a break. Not that it would be possible for anyone to check tickets anyway.

We're now in Goa, but I'll leave that for a later post.

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travelling on movie created memories

Riding trains in India is unbelieveably romantic. You can do the most ridiculous things on the trains. You can run beside a moving train as it carries your lover away. You can lean out the door. You can jump off as the train is still moving. You can do any number of rather dangerous acts all while on a train in India. Its a wonder more people don't die. I mean plenty of people do, but I guess it is one of the great marvels of India, it usually works out.  

On my way back to where we are staying tonight, I'm going to stick my head out the side of the train and feel the air on my face. I will of course be careful, and a wee bit romantic.

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back to delhi

After a few days in Jaipur, Byron and I went off on a camel trek together. We took an overnight AC bus to Jodhpur (By far my best bus experience so far, but AC is too cold). As we were booking our trip we met 2 guys from Victoria who had just come from a camel trip deeper into the desert and they told us horror stories of how bad it hurt: "I broke my nose once; ridding a camel hurt more." But they said that it was worth it, so we carried on.

From Jodhpur we took a 1hr local bus to Osian where we met our guide Namm. There was a 1-hump camel for each of us. Byron and I rode in front of the humps while Namm and his younger brother rode in the rear. It wasn't half as bad as what the guys from Victoria described. I'm guessing they didn't have saddles.

It was a 6km ride to Namm's house which was our base camp. The only other buildings in the vicinity are a few huts, one of which we stayed in. Over the next 24hrs we made 3 treks into the surrounding desert and to local villages. I think we spent about 11 hrs on camel back. We saw antelope, goats, sheep, a fox, and at least 20 species of birds including peacocks and a kingfisher. The people here grow mostly millet or castor or raise sheep and goats. It was a blast.

Byron, Dave and camels
our host's grandmother
look waaaaay up
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more photos

I've just uploaded some more photos. There's some from Rishikesh, Jaipur, Jodhpur, Camel riding, and Delhi. This brings us totally up to date.

Deb & Dave
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Touring Jaipur

Yesterday we decided to do something a bit different and we went on a guided city tour. The 9 hour full day tours are run by the regional government tourism office and are supposed to hit 11 sites.

First we rode past a few government buildings and other random highlights. I'm not really sure what we were seeing. The speakers for the back half of the bus didn't work.

Our first stop was a Hindu temple. "20 minutes only. And the bus waits for no one." So in we trot in and make one quick rotation. There were statues of various Hindu gods about, and oddly enough, also of St. Peter, St. Thomas, and St. Aquinas. Strange.

Then in through the old city walls we went. This is what's known as The Pink City. In my mind I was picturing tulip pink, and there was some of that, but most buildings are much closer to terracotta than pink. We visited the observatory and saw instruments created by a maharajah that had 12 wives and 6 fingers on each hand. This included several sundials, moondials, dials for each astrological sign, and other star measuring devices. There was also a huge sundial (a modern construction I suspect) that is accurate to within 2 seconds.

Next to the city palace which contained a few museums of royal artifacts, weapons, and clothing.

Back to the bus. We discover that some of the sites are only drivebys as we zoomed past the Lake Palace. I got one quick shot out the window. And onwards we went to one of forts north of the city. This particular one houses the worlds largest canon. It shoots 34km and takes several elephants to move. Yet another example of an emporer's fascination with falices and war.

On to another fort that had a nice view of the city, or at least as far as you can see through the smog. Here we ate lunch lounging in a room where maharajah's once ate.

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The road to Jaipur

So a few days ago we took a 12hr overnight "deluxe" sleeper bus from Haridwar to Jaipur.  I'm not really quite sure what was deluxe about the bus.  I would have called it 3rd class.  Especially the part where we took a detour down coblestone and dirt roads at high speeds.  At one point a large quantity of tree mater flew into our compartment due to the driver's facination with the edge of the road.  But in the end we arrived safely, and made it to a hotel without being gouged by the rickshaw drivers. 

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taking a trip

Get out your clapping hands because Debbi needs a round of applause for the fantastic trip she took down a flight of marble stairs.

She isn't too battered. Sore wrists and a beautiful back bruise are her trophies.

She is beginning to really hate marble as this is her 2nd marble fall experience. Looks pretty but it is very slippery.

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