Sunday, August 29, 2010

Hampi (Day 2)

First I have to say that despite the extremely long drive to Hampi on the Thursday night (into Fri. morning), the kids were excellent. Craig tried to sleep through it and Alanna suffered in silence. Once in a while in the last couple hours she would say, "my nerves are getting as thin as cheese wire." Our driver, Balakrishna, didn't complain at all either. Michael and I - well, we may have had a moment or two - but we actually tried to laugh through it at the end. Maybe we were just delirious.

Friday morning we had a late start and got under way just before noon. The ancient ruins of Hampi are on the list of UNESCO’s World Heritage sites. The ruins are spread over 25 square km. The topography is straight out of The Flinstones and Bedrock City - huge boulders one on top of another are strewn all over the countryside.

We drove to the little hippie town of Hampi bazaar and started by going to Virupaksha Temple which is still used as a religious temple to this day. In fact the kids and I were blessed by the temple elephant, Lakshmi.

We took a walk up the rocky and somewhat slippery hill above the temple for some nice views.

Everywhere you go there are temples. Here we came across a family at an underground temple having a picnic. They insisted on giving us some food and taking photos.

Lotus Mahal is one of the most beautiful buildings and the grounds are clean with lots of trees. It is a great example of Hindu and Islamic architecture.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Hampi (Day 1)

Most people take the overnight train to Hampi. Get on the train at 10:45pm, sleep and arrive in Hampi in the early morning. Simple. I don't know anyone who has driven. For some reason, regrettably, we chose to drive.

We left our house at 3:00pm and planned to be in Hampi six hours later at 9:00pm.
It took two hours just to get out of Bangalore. Highway construction. Traffic jam.
Picture a one way road with stone meridians on either side. Huge trucks and buses like these ones were all around us:

Traffic just stopped all of a sudden. No where to go.
What are they thinking - trucks try to turn around - they maneuvere back and forth, inch by inch and everyone moves out of their way. They actually succeed and then proceed to try to drive headon against the traffic up the one way street. Chaos.

Finally a break in the meridian and we were on our way. Once we got past the construction the #4 Hwy was good. We seemed to be making up time and thought we would still get to Hampi by ten.

Then we turned onto Hwy #13 - a narrow two lane road full of potholes, with tons of oncoming traffic, buses and trucks. Where were they all coming from? Where were they all going?

We made it to a large round-about, just outside of Hampi at 10:30pm and phoned the hotel for directions. Off we went, taking the first exit. We came onto a small, but very long bridge, and stopped in our tracks again. Right behind a huge truck with non stop oncoming traffic. This truck looked like it was just parked there - no lights, no movement and we couldn't see around it.

Finally a break in the oncoming traffic and cars and auto rickshaws darted into the other lane to pass. I shouted, "follow them, go quick." And we did. But then we saw what was in front of the truck - more trucks and buses lined up for miles. We were shocked at them all but we were passing them, we were moving!

It was short lived of course when the cars and rickshaws ahead of us stopped head on against a bus with a line up behind it. We all pulled over and opposite traffic could move, but we were stuck again.

This continued for some time. At 12:00am we made it off the bridge but still jammed in. We couldn't figure out what was going on. Our driver pulled over and asked directions again. He gets back in and says, "We have be misguided - we must go back to the roundabout and take another exit."

"We are not going back,"  I said.
Michael looked at the GPS on his phone and said, "No, there is a road ahead that we can take. Keep going."

To make a long story short...we came upon a policeman who was telling everyone to turn around and go back. No explanation and we never found out why. So now everyone is making u-turns on this narrow road and going back - more chaos. We got back to the roundabout at 1:00am and made it to the hotel at 1:30am.

The guy at the front desk of the KSTDC Hotel Mayura Bhuvaneshwari was a gem. No emotion, no facial expression. He had no idea who we were even though we had prepaid. There was no reservation book.

Finally got the rooms sorted out but had to go back and ask the guy for towels, soap and toilet paper. It was sad and to quote Lonely Planet's description of the hotel "soulless."

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

A Day at Soukya Holistic Health Centre

Click for the most recent version A Day at Soukya Holistic Health Centre

I spent the day at Soukya Holistic Health Centre with the OWC group. The centre is only twenty minutes from where I live, a place where people come from around the world for "high quality holistic health and integrative medical services." The recommended stay is a minimum of two weeks and I take it people stay much longer and they have repeat customers every year.

Whether you are there for medical or wellness reasons you would be given a Doctor's consultation and then an individualized programme would be designed you for the length of your stay. Many systems of medicine are used: Homeopathy, Ayurveda, Naturopathy, Allopathy, etc. As well, therapies such as yoga, reflexology, counselling, nutrition etc. contribute to the programme.

The centre is situated on 30 acres of land, the rooms and gardens are beautiful and relaxing. There is a restaurant, a pool, and a yoga centre. The food is vegetarian and they grow their own organic food on site. There is a wonderful organic medicinal garden which are used in treatments and to prepare medicated oils.

Staff seems extremely knowledgeable and committed. It's a bit pricey but seems to be an excellent centre where one could truly benefit in many ways: medically and in learning to prevent diseases and just change ones lifestyle for the better longterm. One that I sure wouldn't mind trying out - hmm, now I wonder if anyone would miss me for a couple weeks?

Friday, August 13, 2010

Daily Living

The kids are back to school, they are just finishing their first full week today. They seem to be ok with it and settling in well to the routine. They both refuse to eat breakfast or lunch at school so they have breakfast at home and make their own lunch. Craigs only complaint is that he only gets gym once a week now, which isn't much at all. They are each suppossed to be getting laptops from school, but surprisingly enough (not) the company hasn't delivered them yet "tomorrow, tomorrow."

I started a new yoga class today, it is different but seems ok. This teacher concentrates a lot on yoga breathing also known  as Pranayama. I'm sure it all has health benefits but it can be quite comical. One technique for the thyroid: take a deep breath in, both eyes look towards mid temple, stick tongue out and curved down as far as possible and make a loud (demonlike) sound from your throat. Luckily we only did that one twice.

I have also spent too much time waiting around for people to fix things. Our outside water tank is leaking, more electrical problems, sliding shower door that refuses to slide, a lot of mold on our upper outside decks and some mold on one of the kitchen cabinets.

Finally yesterday it looked like we were getting somewhere. My buddy in the orange jumpsuit from "Handyman" came and fixed some electrical problems. One of which was a little embarrassing when he told me there was no light bulb in the light above a desk - no wonder it didn't work. Our ceilings are high and of course he didn't have a ladder with him so he proceeded to put my step ladder on the kitchen table to fix the light. I've also seen people balance on the back of two kitchen chairs to get high enough.

Someone also came to inspect the mold on the decks and check the shower door. Both of them said they would be back today to fix same. Neither have shown up.

However the milkman came by today although I've never bought any from him.  And the flower guy came by as well and for 300Rp ($7 Can) I bought a lovely bouquet of ten Bird of Paradise. He shows me everything on the doorstep and then trims what I choose and puts it nicely into one of my vases.

Looks like we are settling back into India just fine.

Monday, August 9, 2010

The Weekend in Pictures

We went to Mysore via one of the more rural roads this weekend. Here's a look at the roadtrip in pictures:

Shivanasamudra Waterfalls

This cow traffic jam slowed us down a bit.

Talakad: A lively place on the river with lots of people playing, washing clothes and taking coracle rides. We took a ride in a coracle (boat), 10rp/pp, as did many Indian tourists. There are temples nearby to walk to.

Continuing on there are many beautiful sights along the way.

Goat traffic jam slowed us down a bit too.

A happy family with a lot of pots!

Last stop before Mysore: Somanathapur temple. Small but beautiful, intricate carvings.

Inside and outside Mysore market has lots of action and color.

The flowers are piled high.

Always important to stop and smell the roses.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Rangoli Cover Photo

Here is one of my favorite photos from the Andamans chosen for the front cover of the Rangoli magazine this month. I love it because I just happened upon this scene one evening at sunset. The lighting was perfect, the wave came in, the kayakers went up and the elephant turned to the side. I was thrilled to be there to see such a sight and snap a great shot.