2011-01 From Rishikesh to Kolkata, flowing with the Ganga

Week 7 – Corbett Park, Ramnagar

This Sunday, I left Rishikesh with Nadesen and Hainoa Haridwar by bus. Stop lunch in front of the station to wait for the departure of our respective trains. So I took the train in the Sleeper class and then sat for Ramnagar after a change in Moradabad. Good little 4 hour trip without any hassles before arriving in Ramnagar where I was picked up by the driver of the hotel I booked for those two days / three nights at Corbett National Park. Here too the climate is cold, but in addition the humidity is at the rendezvous and the morning mists are icy. As for lodging, I opted for a tent, but the sheets being damp I asked to change and I was ‘upgrader’ in a cottage, no warmer, but less humid. This Monday morning departure for my first safari at 7am with a couple of Indians and their Irish friend. Kevin. The Indian is called Ekta and is pure strain of Delhi and the hotel actually belongs to her uncle, her husband, Anil is British, but of Indian origin is sports presenter on a cable channel of Delhi which broadcasts in English , He does not speak Hindi very well. So we left to find the tiger, but despite the connections and overwhelming enthusiasm of Ekta, we will only see birds, deer, deer, footsteps and tiger and elephant droppings. The next day, a different area, Gillian a teacher of the Shetland Islands, on sabbatical leave and traveling around the world and participating in research projects of the NGO ‘EarthWatch’ joined us, but rebelote, no tiger in sight. We even went for a two-hour walk in the forest, but apart from a few monkeys, peacocks in the distance, a vulture carcass, a doe, no tiger on the horizon. The landscape is nice, but I prefer by far the setting and volume of the fauna of Ranthambore in Rajasthan or that of Periyar in Kerala.

Wednesday 19 January 2011

Week 7 – Lucknow – Another World

This Wednesday morning, I leave the state of Uttarkhand for that of Uttar Pradesh and its capital Lucknow. The train that I take to Morradabad is from Amritsar, so it is a total change of scenery, for having spent all this time in a most sacred region of Hinduism, I am heading towards one of the capitals of the Islamic and ancient capital Mogul, cultural, artistic, and culinary center of North India and former rival of Delhi. It would also be here that religious integration would be an example with Islam, Hinduism, Sikhs and Jains. My train, coming from Punjab and the sacred city of the Sikhs, Amritsar seems therefore a chance conducive to a coherent arrival with this city that I make discover. Turbans, sails, keffiehs are now the clothes I meet, but the smiles, curiosity and friendliness remain the same. Another big change in sight, food, because Lucknow would be one of the high places of Kebab and has a culinary reputation of sheep and chicken, so I will see if I maintain the vegetarian diet I have since the beginning of My stay or if I transgress …. I think I will transgress because Friday I would be in Varanasi so back to 100% vegetarian. The climate should also soften, I hope to be able to abandon jackets and sweaters and go to the t-shirt

Week 7 – Thursday in Lucknow

OK it starts, I get up early and decide to go on the adventure, finally to go to see the school of the Martinière, an emblem of the city. I find a bike Rikshaw that takes me there, I make some pictures and asks him to bring me back, but to my surprise after 10 minutes he stops and asks me to take another rickshaw, all in Hindi that I do not understand Not and he does not understand English. So I find myself having to pay 2 different drivers and lose a bit of self-control with the second and find help with the neighbors to find the right way. For the rest of the day I had already organized a full time driver that I will share with an Australian during the morning and I think it is really the best option to want to venture alone in a big city that I do not know. I take seed for the rest of my visits. I spend the rest of the day with Sandra and our driver Gottam who makes us the total in terms of visiting and tasting of the local dishes and to finish purchases of essential oils and a contact taken to send me thereafter as well As top quality massage oils. We bring Sandra to the train station, because she leaves for Agra, I then made a massé it was not bad, but not top either then back to the guesthouse to prepare my morning departure tomorrow for Varanasi. I would probably have a little white in the communications, because I do not think there will be WIFI where I would be, but there must be a lot of cybercafes so I should still be able to make a little cuckoo.

Week 7 – Departure from Lucknow to Varanasi

This time it is in 2nd class AC that I make my trip of the day, and it is very good. The compartment is made up of berths with pillows, sheets and all comforts. Each place is awarded, I would not have 12 people on the bench with me as had been the case in 3rd class AC. Here, the odors are less strong and therefore the journey of a little more than 4 hours should be done without difficulty.

Otherwise I can not wait to find the Ganges and discover Varanasi, a very old and ultra mythical city. What is on it is that the clean Ganges that I left a little less than a week ago in Rishikesh will be more dirty and so there is no way to set foot or hands.

Friday 21 January 2011

Week 7 – Varanasi whaouu

What energy, it’s crazy …

Well, I’m on the ass, arrived in the early afternoon, the traffic and density is amazing, my hotel on the Ganges requires walking distance and luckily I asked to be picked up at the train station because I would never have found it otherwise.

From my arrival I did my laundry and then stroll around my Hotel along the Ganges, solicited from all sides, after 30 minutes we get done and I avoid braces and discussions too long and I ‘ Manages to get out of it. I visit the ghat of cremations, and it is the amount of wood that impresses me, I do not look at the detail of what burns, nor the logs but the atmosphere is special. I take my left foot right in a fresh dung and an Indian laughs when seeing me and congratulates me with this foot in the shit is sacred. I walk through the narrow streets it is narrow, it is dark, it is powerful, it is picturesque.

I finished the afternoon at nightfall at the main cat for the fire ceremony and there what spectacle. I thought I had taken full view and hearing in Haridwar and well here what a show! So super arrival in Varanasi, tomorrow I plan to get up for the sunrise and a long stroll along the Ganges. Namaste, om shanti shanti shantiiiiii

Saturday 22 January 2011

Week 7 – Varanasi & Sarnath Wuahhh

This is confirmed is a powerful place. I got up too early, the gate of the hotel being closed I went back to my room doing yoga which was great, because on the one hand I had to go there and on the other hand It was really too soon to leave. So I left around 6am and walked along the Ganges to one end (my hotel is located about in the middle). It’s calm, people get up and go to wash and pray in the Ganges after defecating on Ghats dedicated to this, and yes, all asses are looking. But it remains pretty charming, everything depends on the direction of the wind. A lot of solicitations to reach 30 other people on boats to see the city from the water, it remains good child. At the end I visited the Temple of Durga which is very very powerful all red and dedicated to the goddess who pulls the tongue. Offerings made, orange dot and red at the front I take an autorickshaw to go to Sarnath 20 km from the city where Boudha would have given his first speech after his illumination which had taken place in Bodh Gaya, my destination Monday. And very nice, temples of a lot of Buddhist countries, an archaeological site, and a monumental stupa. A beautiful visit to the Tibetan monastery whose walls of the temple are painted and are sublime. A statue being finished in the Thai part is impressive by its size and the veil that Buddha carries until the finish of the statue. I then shaved my beard and returned to Varanasi. The Rikshaw driver drops me off at the other end of the town, so I run through the other half of the Ghats where the linen is washed for the whole town, as well as buffalos and of women, men and children. past.

Here I am back at the base I have lunch, but the food is not the strong point here, I think, but good it is good, I am on the terrace and tank top. I think I deserve a nap now.

Week 8 – Varanasi bye bye

This afternoon I leave Varanasi for Bodh Gaya, my last moments in Varanasi made me discover a temple of Shiva which is an immense lingam (phallic symbol) then a 500 year old hanuman temple, the campus of the university of And its huge Shiva temple with white marble interior and painted Tibetan-style decorations and references to Buddha and finally a wooden Tibetan temple with erotic sculptures on the banks of the Ganges. I then found at the station a young Belgian babacool named Floris and whom I had met at the guesthouse in Lucknow and who is also en route to Bodh Gaya. I would probably find him there, because we are not in the same wagon.

Week 8 – Bodh Gaya

Arrived with a little delay, nobody was waiting for me on the dock, but in the end I had a transport twice less expensive than what the Tibetan meditation center where I stayed should organize me. I could not see much in the middle of the night, but there seems to be pagodas everywhere. The ‘Root Institute’ where I live is a Tibetan / American retreat and meditation center, which also works to help local people with medical care and a focus on AIDS with treatments for children and prevention campaigns for the local . They also have general medical and chiropractic services. The accommodation is super clean, spartan, but very nice. The place is a little out of town, but there are bicycles to get around apparently. This morning I wake up and discover the garden filled with little Stupa, a beautiful statue of Buddha, small cottages and a beautiful pagoda in the center where I attended the morning meditation session before eating breakfast Also spartan. I now expect that the reception opens to understand a little more the operation and begin the visit of the various temples and monasteries. I am not a Buddhist or at least I am not a great practitioner of complex rites, prostrations and recitations, however I found in yoga simple practices, recitations of mantra and bija just as simple as I try practice. At first sight Buddhism has fine principles, but the rites are a bit ‘too much’ for me, but spending time meditating does not hurt and I totally respect. Of course their art is unparalleled and the real character of the Buddha is an inspiration. It is a bit like the Hindus except that they have thousands of gods and goddesses, and here I discover interesting practices. Both are similar in their basic principles, just like yoga and that I think is close and I appreciate this path of discovery of my spirituality and my beliefs that is more and more part of my daily life.

This is confirmed, even if the main temple located in front of the bodhitree is very beautiful and strong, the rites are a little too intense for me, the whole temple is surrounded by prostration boards on which thousands of practitioners slip and pray, It is very powerful, but far from being a quiet place. The statue of the Buddha inside is sublime adorned with diamonds and monks distribute food to visitors. D other temples and pagodas are located all around the main site and they are all decorated with magnificent drawings and frescoes. I am cycling which allows me to move easily from site to site.

Week 8 – Direction Calcutta

So I left Bodh Gaya where apart from Buddha there is not much to do and despite what one may believe even though the Buddhist religion is probably the most tolerant, practitioners are not as friendly As the basic Indian, I even found that in the center where I was staying as in town, looks were fleeting and often fixed the floor. I met the guy from the ‘I’ll go to bed at home’ program who was on the go with whom I talked for 5 minutes and told me he had trouble finding people who would take him This morning departure from Gaya after a trip by taxi or the car hit the wheel of a bicycle and drove the young boy who had cut us the road, fortunately more fear than harm. I took the wrong train, ah ah ah, but the controller was really inconvenient when there was room and I put besides installed to the one that I believed mine before being almost insult to me by the Who asked me to leave his train at the next station to take mine which fortunately was still behind, but which should nevertheless arrive before, because faster, but in fact not. Train was carrying the same name as mine but not the same number and arrived at the station on the same dock and at the time that was indicated for mine on the panel while mine instead of the 30 minute delay posted, In fact 1 hour more, what I discovered on the platform of the station of koderma where I got disembarked. At least it’s a small peaceful station where I found a place to ask me and wait peacefully. In fact the train was 3:30 late, but in the end I discussed with two Calcutta men who had come to make a wedding and who fed me grilled peanuts and gave some Hindi classes and so it was better to Spend this time in a small peaceful station that in the hustle and bustle of Gaya station. So here I am on board and I share the compartment with a German who had stayed at the same center that I had bouddhaland, but we had not seen there, what a coincidence 😉

I arrived in Calcutta with about 5 hours late, but the guesthouse is charming and it is actually more a small hotel with a lot of charm that accommodates me for these 5 nights / 4 days in this city.

Saturday 29 January 2011

Week 8 – In LOVE with Kolkata

I do not know where to start, but I will try. First of all we are terribly well in this city, despite its size it circulates and it horns much less than elsewhere and taxis use the counters so no scam. People are super friendly, especially poorer classes who live on the roadside or under decks in fairly clean shantytowns and all wash themselves either in the Ganges or even the sidewalk or water pumps are available every 100m . There is a chic side too, but this city seems to manage the mix very well and you feel safe with police stations at every crossroads. My first day was spent shopping clothes and clothes to make clothes in Goa because I do not have time to do it here. I also spent a lot of time at the post office to send a parcel of clothes that I repatriated following my purchases. I finished my day with a special yoga class at the Vivekananda center which is next to my hotel. Today, on my second day, I left just before 6 am for the flower market which is located in a slum under the main bridge of Kolkata, the Howrath. And what spectacle of colors and smiles, and of laughter and braces and emotions. Tomorrow I go back, but sooner, I fell in love with this place. Then I continued my walk and attended the various toilets and varied, because the shops do not open until 11am, so the premises prepare for the day by soaping on the sidewalk in joy and good humor. Then I left to the jain temple of the north of the city which is composed of mirrors and which is a real jewel of marble and sparkles. Thalli local lunch after another stroll in a street market where the battery of my camera ended up saying STOP, since since this morning I am at nearly 600 photos. Then stroll to the central market of the city, a little bof and disgusting because there are slaughterhouses in the center of the complex so it ‘s hard to bear, but hey it’ s like this and I found a stone d ‘ Alum which is antiseptic for micro cuts in addition to dried properties (it is used in deodorants), on the other hand no seller of herbs and ayurvedic products, I hope to find what I lack in Goa or Gokarna the month next. Tomorrow I spend the afternoon with a local activist who is at the head of a local NGO called Prajaak (http://www.ashoka.org/node/3631) who takes care of the orphans of the stations, so I think it will be very interesting to meet him.

Week 9 – Kolkatta the end

The last two days in Kolkata were an opportunity to meet Deep, who explained to me what he was doing with the orphans and children of the stations and his ambitions for his NGO, this meeting was very interesting and allowed me to Understand the issues, but also the ways and means of action that exist here. I made a very early visit to the flower market and took a lot of photos and had a lot of emotions in this very special place. A visit to the temple of Kali, protective goddess of Kolkata was also very moving with nearly 30 minutes of tail before being pushed by the priests in the temple and marked with the front of the orange dye that they coat on the statue. In the end I am still glad to leave the big dusty city, as I really want to laze around and beach and soak in the ocean, but this city is definitely a ‘must see & experience’ experience. ‘Urban India and also a gateway to the northeastern regions (sikkim and Darjeeling) …

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