Author Archives: jklen

Destination Alaska

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Good Olde USA!

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Click link “Spring Break in AZ, UT, NV” on the top of this page to see pictures of our trip

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Final Thoughts

I think this road sign says it all, India is a work in progress.  With over 1.3 Billion people change comes slow, but change is happening and in years to come hopefully more people will have better living conditions and greater opportunities to make a decent living.

Most of India’s infrastructure is in ruins, debris and trash everywhere, poverty the norm, one can only hope change comes sooner than later.

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Mumbai

The busy city of Mumbai, our final destination before going home.

We had the good fortune to have a “home stay” with a very nice family, the Sharma’s, Jeetendra and Sweta, along with their son and daughter.  This was all arranged by the Jeetendra’s brother whom I met in Jaisalmer more than a week prior.  He is the same person that gave me his motorbike to use, the same person that had his brother meet our train in his city and board the train with dinner, and the same person that had a taxi pick us up at the airport in Mumbai and take us to his other brother’s apartment to stay for the night and the next day.  What a treat.

The Sharma’s couldn’t of been more kind.  I think Sweta was trying to fatten us up (more) as she would not stop bringing more and more food for us to eat!!  I even helped her with breakfast the next morning making a common breakfast called Poha (diced potatoes, rice flakes and lots of secret spices). We enjoyed interesting conversation about both of our families and countries and what the future holds for India.

We toured the city most of the afternoon and started out to the airport close to 6:30 pm for both of our flights later that evening.  We even had a chance to visit the house where Mahatma Gandhi lived for many years.

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Kids are Kids Everywhere (the park across the street from where we stayed) http://youtu.be/dtjb31Qe_AM

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Goa, the Real Deal

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Goan beaches are great, except the one in our Town!! It was a Blast riding our scooters, we averaged 60-75 miles a day going to a local market and then cruising from one beach town to another, each one better than the next.

The markets are great, great for tourists and locals alike.  Villagers from all over come to sell their goods.

Mapusa Friday Market     http://youtu.be/2dtc9rgfhzw

We got to party with the locals during their Festival of Holi as we where cruising through town on our scooters

http://youtu.be/U0DVHFS_RJE

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Destination Goa

I was sad to leave Manali but not the rain. The sad part is that the weather seemed to be clearing at least in the morning as we drove the 25 miles down the mountain at 4:30 AM. Fortunately the sand and giant boulder slides from all the rain didn’t really bother our race car taxi driver and we arrived at the airport even before they had turned the lights on, yes really. Even with the rain I enjoyed my few short walks but never got to see the real beauty of this special place.

Tropical Goa is another story, cove after cove of rocky coral formations with tall palms trees and soft sand, not the India we have experienced the last couple of weeks.

We rented scooters for a few days and this morning set out northward where ever the road took us plus to see the popular market in Anjuna. All I can say is this place is like a huge Key West with a giant shot of Jamaican Marley Vibe. The market was off the hook (can’t believe I said that) and so I suggest next time you have the time stop by, it’s every Wed. We spent the whole day zipping here and there and that’s it, oh right, I convinced Adam to get a haircut. Don’t worry I even took pictures of his barber, but the funniest part of it was the price, 30 rupees, that’s a little more than .50 cents!!

Picture will follow sooner or later.

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Manali Exit

Let’s see, we have been here 2 1/2 days and it’s rained almost non stop since late the first day. So all the trekking, biking and paragliding is a wash. It’s also so pre pre season that not much is open except mostly the very local non tourist shops. That’s fine with me.

The main market area is full of eateries and shops selling all kinds of cloths and other wares. It’s kind of like the walking mall in Cape May except the Indian version. I even saw a soft ice cream machine with a sign that read “4 in 1”. Not that I know everything about ice cream but last time I checked the machine only had 3 spouts for 2 different flavors plus the middle one which would be known as “mixed”. How they get 4 is beyond me. I asked but still have no idea. I enjoyed talking to one shop owner that has been in his super tiny shop for 35 years. His rent is $70 per month. We compared “war stories” and after much discussion think he definitely has less stress. As an example I asked if I can look around and then tried squeezing by the front counter to get a better look of what he had to sell, well I nearly went up in flames, he had a pile of wood burning just behind the counter just to get the dampness out I guess. I asked him about inspectors, licensing and insurance and there is very little required or none. In Wildwood I live in fear of who next is coming to try to close me down or send me to the poor house.

Today I read, played some pool with other guests (yesterday was ping pong and America won) and played LCR. We had a good time with the game but I didn’t get any orders for an Indian version. When the rain finally slowed briefly today I started my walk through the forrest and into town. I’d rather get soaked than sit in the room all day. My mission was to find the guy open that rented motor bikes hoping that if tomorrow is nice we would go touring and maybe out to try paragliding. After many twists and turns I finally found the rental and told him I’d probably see him tomorrow.

Another thing I didn’t know about Manali (the guide books never mention it) is there is a Jamaican influence and Bob Marley items are everywhere and some places are playing Reggie. I asked a T-shirt guy if he knew who Bob was or ever heard of Jamaica and he had no idea!

Anyway, when I got back to the hotel I found out that our travel agent was able to change out flight out of here for tomorrow instead of the day after since the weather has been horrible. So no trekking, paragliding or motor biking, we are out of here in the early morning!!

Rain or Shine you can always play “The Tire”  http://youtu.be/AnfPxtsidA8

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Trifecta

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Adam Motor Biking through town http://youtu.be/niWKb5UB14E

My View on Bike http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yWLPxV8Hc2s

Sad Views from Train http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=so8u4v0sQiA&feature=youtu.be

After checking out of our major pad in Jaisalmer we went to another haveli which we where to depart from for our safari. We had about 4 hours to kill before going out into the desert (really just more desert but our destination would also have sand dunes, a lot less traffic and considerably less trash).  The owner offered a room to us which was great because I was feeling under the weather and probably running a slight temperature.  I’m thinking great, I’m getting sick and I’ll be bouncing up and down on a camel!  I was able to sleep a little and along with some magic pills seemed to be under control.

We then left by car deeper into the desert for our overnight camel safari.  As you may have guessed, it was your typical over night tented camel outing, similar to the ones offered in NJ:).  The standard camels, dunes, great sunsets, tents, quietness.  It was short and sweet.  Later in the evening we had a late dinner with other guests followed by a show of traditional Indian dance and music.
We returned late morning the next day.
Then the crazier fun began.  Having  asked our guide a few days before about taking motorbikes out for a ride (in the desert of course)  he came through. The owner of the haveli offered his own personal bike!  I actually went on the back of another bike with him driving to a repair shop and picked up his sweet Royal 350 CC  Motorcycle.  I then followed him back to the haveli getting some puzzled looks from the locals with my sweet ride, I felt like I was in Easy Rider. After some more arrangements and a little arm twisting I convinced Adam that it would be fun to go out for a spin and would more than likely not get killed in the process!  As India has the highest death rate on the road I was hoping for the best:).  The basic driving technique employed in this country is to go forward with the least resistance.  I figured I could do that.  As long as we can remember to drive on the  opposite side of the road,  pass either side and sometimes drive on the wrong side all should go well.  Oh beep beep like crazy and don’t hit any cows.
What a blast! I lead with our guide on my bike giving (trying) me directions by mostly pointing.  The funniest directions where “left, right, no, left, right”.  What was that, I couldn’t process that for sure. What he was referring to is that since there are open sewers everywhere along the road the ones with the biggest gaps have these plates PARTIALLY over them (to ease the pain I guess).  As we approached one of the larger openings (notice I didn’t use the words OPEN SEWER) I missed his que and kinda went dead center of course where no plate existed!  Luckily I hit it better than worse and neither of us required any sterilization (my shots are up to date, but when the infectious disease doctor at home had to decide what immunizations I would need based upon where I would be traveling and what I would be doing I don’t recall mentioning anything about maybe falling into an open sewer).  Other than your normal crazy traffic and your normal cows in the road (beep beep), all went well. We stopped for lunch and Adam had to do more $2 T-shirt shopping.  Then back to haveli for shower and mentally prepare for the next leg of the journey.
An 18 hour (if all goes right which it normally doesn’t) train ride all the way mostly east and some north from the edge of the Indian desert back to the big city of New Delhi.
The third part of our hook up (room and motorbike where the first two) was that the owner of the haveli also arranged for his brother that lived some 5 hours away along one of our train stops to meet us with a nice warm veggie dinner!!  So sometime around 10 pm we got a call and then magically this guy boards our train with a box of goodies all for the both of us!!
Yummy.
We had met a mother and son at the haveli (she resides in Toronto and her son in Australia) traveling through India for 2 weeks thus far. They spoke of the horrors and scams they had been through during their travels and where so fed up they where returning to their respective homes.  This was her second time in India but she was just overwhelmed and exhausted.
So far we have been far luckier!
In a few hours we arrive in New Delhi for 1 day and then we fly up north into the mountains to Manali.
The train ride was nowhere as bad as we though it would be.  In fact, a few hours after we settled in to our 2nd class berth (this compartment only had 3 beds so we had more room, well actually Adam’s bag) our agent called and said he forgot to tell us our wait listing for 1st class came through, we stayed put and had a good laugh!
PS – For some reason Adam doesn’t snore on trains!
There is a god:)
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Camel Safari

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Our trip further into the desert for our safari went well, thank god we only did for a few hours!

Desert Dancers http://youtu.be/dfRuhYEfplU

Desert Tunes http://youtu.be/A_ENEwaWnfk

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Jaisalmer

Me and the Friendly Cobra http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VSB4F-BhCtg
The people here can’t do enough for us. The town is always busy busy.  The fort and the Jain Temples are AMAZING!

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