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Travelogue 9: Travel Review and Mussoorie again [April 9 - 17th]

The lengthy nature of some travelogues dissuades readers, and some friends requested a quick update to skim. afterwards is a short travelogue update for the past week I have spent in Mussoorie.
  • Jan 30 2002: I arrived in Delhi, India and spent three days in Ayurvedic massage treatment and received herbal supplements to keep me healthy during my travels.

  • Feb 3-22: I arrived in Mussoorie and took Hindi lessons for three weeks at the Landour Language School. The highlights were the high caliber of people here, all very friendly and we had great times together, and the weather, which went from freezing all the time to snowing, raining, hailing, and then lighting striking the TV tower near my room and blowing up my water geyser (heater). Exploding friends' windows, etc. I learned a LOT of Hindi and had a great time.

  • Feb 22-28: I traveled to Amritsar, in Punjab near the Pakistani border and stayed at and saw the beautiful GOLDEN TEMPLE, the holiest place for Sikhs. Then I spent two days in DHARAMSALA near the Dalai Llama's residence and met and befriended a saintly monk who spoke only Tibetan.

  • Feb 28-Mar 14: I traveled with a group of Transcendental Meditators from USA and England, I joined the group halfway through their 4-week trip, in Allahabad. We had visits from Pundits who chanted in Sanskrit, and we bathed in the holy sangam, confluence of rivers (which I had seen last year at the Kumbha Mela).

    Next we went to Jabalpur, in Madhya Pradesh where we saw more Vedic pundits and angelic schoolchildren, it was great! Next we saw Khaujuraho, which was a fantastic Highlight! These ancient temples decorated on every square inch of their exterior AND interior were marvelous!! The Taj Mahal was the next stop and it was beautiful, but not the best site. Then I left the group for one day and went to an archaeological convention in New Delhi, which was academically stimulating.

    Finally, from Delhi we went to Haridwar and Rishikesh where we saw Ganga Aarti, a holy ceremony on the Ganges. Next we went white water rafting in the Ganges and did some great shopping. As always we had great meditation, but this time even better because we arranged for a group practice room where we could all meditate together, which was powerful. We then went to Delhi and the group flew back to the states while I continued to travel alone, this time I purchased an UNLIMITED FLIGHT COUPON!

  • March 15- 17: EAST COAST: I flew to Bhubaneshwar, drove to Puri, saw the HUGE JAGGANATH TEMPLE, rented a bike and saw the nearby village and seashore, seeing huge fish perched on a womans' head at sunrise was beautiful. Then I saw KONARK SUN TEMPLE another fully decorated ancient temple of gargantuan proportions, archaeologically conserved and I hired a guide which taught me a lot. The last day I went to Bhubaneshwar and saw ancient caves and many temples as well as a museum with papyrus-like PALM LEAF MANUSCRIPTS, (ancient preserved writings.)

  • March 17-18: CALCUTTA: I flew to Calcutta for one night and day. Then I flew to Mumbai (BOMBAY). In Calcutta I got the quick-tour-de-force and saw the holiest Kali temple there and saw some other city-sights, which were nice.

  • March 18-20: BOMBAY: I arrived at night in Mumbai and went to McDonalds for a snack. I met the manager and we became friends, the next day on his advising I saw Lagaan - the movie that was up for an Oscar. It was great even though I didn't understand most of the dialogue. That night, back at McDonalds he played the soundtrack on the loudspeakers, it was great!

  • March 20-23: WEST COAST - DHOLAVIRA: I met professor Bisht from the Archaeological survey of India on a flight to Bhuj. I was his guest while visiting the Ancient INDUS VALLEY CIVILIZATION site of Dholavira in Gujarat next to the Pakistani border and the Arabian Sea, right smack in the middle of a salt-plains-desert, called the GREAT RANN OF KUTCH.

    Being his guest was an archaeologists' dream come true, and I learned so much from that hands-on experience - handling artifacts, walking the excavated homes and streets, all of the civilization and time period (3,000-2,000 BCE) I will be studying for 7 years in pursuit of my PhD!

  • March 24-25: AHMEDABAD, GUJARAT: I drove all day with Professor Nauriyal and we visited archaeological sites. He knew all the people there, we went in for free, and saw parts that were closed to the public! However, upon arrival in Gujarat it became evident that riots were still a concern and thus calmly avoided dangerous areas and I had to cancel the rest of my Gujarat trip, I flew the next day to Bhopal.

  • March 25-27: CENTRAL: north of Bhopal I saw the Sanchi Buddhist stupa, which was spectacular. The next day South of Bhopal I saw BHIMBETKA ancient cave paintings from prehistoric tribal groups in a stunningly set group of mountain rock outcroppings. The last day I saw the 'lake city' of Bhopal, enjoyed fine museums, and an outdoor recreated set of villages from different tribal native Indian groups.

  • March 28: HOLI: I went to Nasik and hiked up 1008 steps to the source of a holy river, received darshan from a holy JYOTIRLINGA in a Hindu-only temple, and saw numerous other holy temple sites. Finally I ate and set aflame a Holi bonfire made of cow-dung patties piled 6 feet high!! I made friends with some city-folk and we talked until it got late.

  • March 29: AURUNGABAD: I spent the day in a delayed train, but spent the afternoon at the local caves and the evening at a Taj-like marble mausoleum.

  • March 30-31: AJANTA & ELLORA: First I saw the Ajanta caves which were magnificently preserved, hand-carved, caves with preserved mineral-dye-Buddhist-paintings on walls and ceilings. The next day I saw Ellora which had Buddhist, Jain, and Hindu caves, all hand carved with detailed frescoes. But the most magnificent was the Kailash temple, built over 150 years by hand, from one solid mountain. Carved out in negative, a three-storey temple, surrounded on three sides by the mountain and approached through gates, it is the largest monolith (single-stone) in the world.

  • April 1-5: HIMALAYAN FOOTHILLS: After an evening flight and narrowly caught overnight train I arrived in Kathgodam and had my foot run over by a taxi, then I spent a harrowing day traveling through rain and hail in a crazy-driver-car on thin mountain roads. Finally I spent 3 days at an Ashram in the Almora area of the Himalayan foothills near Nepal. I spent one day in silence and the others engaged in talking to my sadhu friend who was fluent in English. I befriended a female sadhu and stayed at her home in Almora after leaving the ashram, and the next day went to Delhi.

  • April 6-8: A terrible overnight bench-car train trip with people sleeping on each other and in luggage racks and on floors and under seats brought me to Delhi again. (I had no reservation) I spent a productive day running necessary errands and my poor broken camera was taken into a repair shop. Then I Mounted an AC chair class train (whew!) and made it "home" to the hillstation in the Himalayan foothills: Mussoorie.

  • April 9 - 17th: (TODAY): Now what have I been up to recently? First, on arrival I encountered a road closed for construction - with only a dirt road bypass two miles distant, but the very next day the road work cut off the bypass, and ever since it has been COMPLETELY closed to most vehicular traffic! Therefore I am so glad I got my 30 Kilo (over 60 pounds) bag up the hill when taxis were going. How I will get it back down is a question I'll entertain in two more weeks.

    The rest of my stay here has been filled with trips to the community hospital: First I got my foot checked out (It was X-rayed for only $1.50 in Delhi!) and it is only a tendon injury, not bone, so it will heal slowly but surely for a month or so. Then I got REALLY sick (right when I ran out of Ayurvedic medicine and had a free weekend, obviously my body was WAITING for an opportunity to break down wasn't it?) I had a 103-degree fever on and off for 4 days and even today I have a dull head - but I am getting better and am "back to school".

    Again the best thing about being here is the people, I managed to have dinners at friends' houses more often than not, and even once cooked an eggplant parmesan for some friends in their kitchen! It's been great except for the weather and sickness. My new neighbor, Em, deserves mention for both her great friendship, help when I was sick, and her amazing situation; Her boyfriend has been stuck in Sri Lanka for two weeks arranging for his return and new visa, but right before he left he rescued a puppy that was completely run over and she and him have nursed the puppy back to health! He is the cutest (Brian Bear) and her other puppy (Piggy) is also a 'reformed' street dog, I am amazed at how street dogs have become such great pets. They are now clean, healthy, and Brian is extremely well behaved.

    Now I am learning both Hindi and Sanskrit but with sickness and missed classes progress has been slow and may continue to be, as my learning curve is slower now. But I am happy, healthy (becoming so), and still loving Mother India and all my friends & family.