Tamang Heritage Trail – Kochi to Kathmandu

April 11, 2020

Monday 24th February 2020.

Kochi dawn

Much to our surprise we push back at 0720 under a smokey orange disc turning shimmering silver over our wing. We are due out at 0730 and in this land that redefines procrastination the fact that Air India Flight 466 is ahead of time is worthy of note. We are on the keys at 0929. A train with 20 passenger cars hurtles past on the other side of the fence. The fellow passengers are silent, mostly asleep, including all the toddlers thankfully. Early to the airport (there is no traffic at 0300 thankfully) we were checked in and through to Kathmandu and off to security by 0420, a routine that was particularly thorough but reasonably good humoured. Rotate at 0734.

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Tamang Heritage Trail Diary – Via Kochi

April 6, 2020

Friday 21 February 2020

Kochi Harbour – Dawn

Getting launched this morning was a factor of lasts nights preparation which might sound like I am organised but that would be misleading to imply The previous evening had been complicated by the need to drop Mak at the vet, then shop for last minute kit – mainly hand sanitiser. The COVID19 story is starting to ramp. We have a couple of half used little bottles we regularly use but the coronavirus panic has resulted in a dearth of this stuff in our Chinese centric community.  But there is plenty in the Miranda pharmacies . We actually were resigned to buying sanitiser in bulk then loading up a couple of smaller dispensing containers purchased at Paddy Palin. The idea is that we have this stuff hanging from our packs rather than hidden inside. That might prompt our use of it. Home from shopping to an online exam followed by packing at 10pm. Fortunately most of my kit is ready to go and bags are reclosed shortly thereafter. A slow start this morning on a temperate, humid and overcast day. Our first Uber ride (ever) to the airport is painless and far cheaper than the usual cab connection. Price is never really the metric of concern in this city (within reason) but whether or not Sydney’s traffic will conspire against your travel plans. This morning everyone is on our side and we arrive with plenty of time to spare and with few fellow travellers. The airport is relatively empty and we are through the barriers and into our bacon and eggs before we know it. SQ232 is delayed, not helped by a very non Singapore airlines crush at the boarding gate but it’s not a full flight and this 380 had plenty of vacant seats. We lift over Botany Bay at Magicians time – which is of course Gandalf’s ‘ precisely when he means to’.

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16 Hours on an Indian Track

August 18, 2012

Dahl baht and rice looks pretty much the same at either end of the digestive tract. It’s delivered on a silver tray in some sort of order. Delivery at the other end is another matter altogether. At Saugauli Junction train station it seems to me that the vast majority of everyone’s Dahl baht is sprayed across the sleepers and tracks, baking away under the 35 degree heat, putrefying in the 90% humidity. The stench is overpowering but the thousands of Indians here, milling about, with some gathering in a cluster around us (we are objects of some curiosity) don’t seem to mind. Read more

India is not…

November 28, 2008

prabudda.jpg…a country of poverty and perverse Victorian customs lost in time and place. It is not Mother Teresa or slums, cholera or cyclones, terrorists or dodgy airlines. It is first and foremost a country of the senses. India is felt on the skin, tasted in all the mouth, heard through every pore, and smelt even when sleeping. It is spices and aromas and sensuous fabrics. If you are the remotest bit tactile India is seductive. Read more

India Opens Your Mind

March 15, 2008

india-fashion-week.jpgNot by inhaling some of its roadside greenery tamped into a bong but by travel. Which will do that to your mind (if you let it), regardless of where you go. But we usually start with such polarised preconceptions about India that any visit there dislocates our understanding of the place. This picture from a collection taken of the India Fashion Week reminded me of the effect the subcontinent can have on our expectations. Read more

Vale Nigel Hankin

January 15, 2008

nigel-hankin-290x200.jpgReaders can be very kind, even if it is sad news they bring. Ray Pearce has just brought to my attention the death of Nigel Hankin, a COMPLETELY eccentric, gentle, likable old chap who won our hearts when we met him in India. Thanks Ray, I had missed it. Read more

Cricket: India versus England, Australia, NZ, Sri Lanka…No one wins.

January 9, 2008

indiacricket.jpgIt was a World Series Clash held in Mumbai. It was hot. In the mid thirties and steaming, with the heavy salt air hammering the city with a humid blanket that never lifted. The tamarind trees around the ground had their foliage blasted off and shade was notional at best. Sri Lanka was batting, there had been an appeal and the umpires were closely looking at the wicket to determine if there had been an error. The crowd was screaming for blood. Out! The crowd roared and hooted and the next batsman skipped out onto the pitch with the crowd chanting his demise even before he started. Read more

I Married a Dog

November 13, 2007

There is a wonderful line quipped in Ghostbusters by Dr Venkman (Bill Murray) when he rather nonchalantly explains to his colleagues that his girlfriend, now turned into a hellish demon with a canine disposition of Cerberus, is just that, a dog. “So, she’s a dog…” It is typical of Venkman’s understated throw away humour but its a line that snapped to mind last night when the Hindustan Times picked up a story of an event that is not uncommon in India – a person marrying an animal. But AP picked it up as well and it was splashed across the Sydney Morning Herald today. According to all reports this marriage was one of atonement, the groom having not only felt aggrieved for stoning and killing two rutting dogs years earlier, but was now convinced his stroke and other illnesses were a direct result of that culling. Marriage would appease the gods. Perhaps there is more to this than meets the eye. After all it looks like he is doing his own ghostbusting. By all accounts he can divorce the dog with no ill effects and is not precluded from marrying a two legged creature (bird?) when he feels that is appropriate. In the meantime he has no in-laws to concern himself about, he has not had to add an extra room onto the house, his toothpaste tube can continue to be squeezed just the way he wants and the cost of the reception was kept to a minimum. Her family had no guests and while the groom had a feast all she needed to sate her hunger was a bun. Training her to fetch slippers will be a career enhancement, not a red neck sexist approach to living together, and “bitch” will be a term of endearment. Sounds like a marriage made in …well, India of course.

An Extraordinary Well

March 18, 2007

Our prowl around Delhi with Nigel Hanklin turned up some surprising revelations. Some of which helped remind us that the modern day has no exclusive claim on art, inventiveness, science or creativity. Sure, we know all that, but sometimes it requires something to be in our face to understand it.

We paused for a stop at a low brick wall in the shade of a large tree, then walked around to one end of the wall, ascended a few steps and were presented with this rather odd view, looking down into this structure with a small green pool at the bottom. Its scale can be gauged by the figures in the top right hand corner. I exhausted all ideas about what this structure was before Nigel revealed that it was in fact a well. Albeit a very large one. Once filled to within about eight feet of the top. But which had in fact been only about a third full for most of its life, as the lighter, less weathered brickwork shows. In fact the water level was most consistantly at the ledge above the largest and lowest arch at the far end. Steps at one end descend to this depth. It still eludes me as to why a well would be build with the arches and interior architectural decorations if they were to spend all their life under water.

As it turns out modern Delhi has put so much pressure on the water table that the well is nigh on empty, the current small pond revealing the depth of the table. But that earthen mound of centuries old silt covered in weeds must be ripe for an excavation, surely. As a kid I used to watch people excavating old wells, of the more traditional kind, around the goldfields of Otago, pulling out old bottles and crockery. What would a 3-4 century well of this size reveal?


January 29, 2007

During our trip with Nigel around New Delhi we were treated to some extraordinary sights, with Nigel focusing on cultural elements of the city that a tourist probably would not plan into their day. But which are an integral part of the fabric of India and for which a visitor is all the poorer for not visiting. You might not think that a couple of hours spent at a crematorium would hold much a appeal. Yet in a strange way it formed a powerful part of our visit. Mortal Hindus are cremated quite quickly after death and the process is an interesting reflection of society. The rich parade their deceased on an open bier, covered in marigolds and send them off with a very large fire – the firewood is purchased at the entrance. The very poor, some of whom had passed away on the river bank beside this crematorium, are picked up by “social workers” and given a solemn send off. We watched both. Interestingly, in each case once the fire was under way all spectators left, and the fire was left to blaze away on its own.

It is a good place to be reminded of our fleeting passing, and while intriguing (without being morbid – India wears everything out on her sleeve and this really is a good example of death being a part of life) it also was a sobering visit. But it was a good place to see death put in perspective as well. For directly in front of us a beggar woman had been placed on a bier, lifted to the top of the pyre, and the fire lit. Immediately after the crematorium staff departed another beggar jumped the fence and rushed over to the fire. We had all just ducked out of a heavy shower but this chap must have been caught up in it. The heat from these fires is intense. Very quickly he pulled off a pair of pants (revealing another underneath) and held them up to dry while he placed another garment on his head to get the same effect. Shortly there was a cloud of steam pouring off him. Here he is, giving a new level of meaning to “recycle”, while keeping half an eye on the crowd off to the left who were saying farewell to a wealthy businessman. I don’t think anyone in that crowd chased the beggar off -it is not that sort of place after all.

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