Island Idyll

A Helpful Ferry Map - Pins  Not Relevant!

A Helpful Ferry Map – Pins Not Relevant!

Close to 1,000 miles ago, I was standing on a wooden deck at a small cabin overlooking a beautiful bay in the Gulf Islands…specifically, Salt Spring Island – a verdant, lovely and quiet retreat during this now nearly two month long journey across the North American continent.  Exploring Salt Spring Island with generous Canadian cousins was the first “vacation-like” experience of the trip thus far.  We aren’t going to move to British Columbia, Canada, as appealing as much of that incredibly beautiful country has been…though there are moments (especially during U.S. election years!) when it seems like a good idea.

Blue Barn Door

Blue Barn Door

Local Produce

Local Produce

Charming, Odd

Charming, Odd

The climate is gentle in the Gulf Islands and the scenery gorgeous, whether on foot, bike, or boat.  Our couple of hour sea-kayak trip took us out of Ganges Harbor in slightly rough seas and with the wind at our bow.  The return was quicker and less strenuous and so we tucked into small rocky coves to explore, surprising a heron and looking for the seals that would normally sun on the rocks.  No sun that morning, but rippling waves, murmuring winds and red cheeks announcing our effort.  The harbor was filled with sail boats, motor boats and a tug or two – one was for sale, and we’re fortunate there was no one home to welcome us aboard, or whimsy or momentary insanity might have found us the new owners…

A Century Old, Lovely

A Century Old, Lovely

Sheep and Fences

Sheep and Fences

Lovely Salt Spring Island, kind cousins, snug beds and no internet.  Pretty much Paradise…for a while.

Sunset

Sunset

Storm off Salt Spring Island

Storm off Salt Spring Island

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2,000 Miles, & “Across the Wide Missouri!”

Travelling miles and miles in a car with a companion who enjoys trivia and musical tidbits just as much as I do is great fun – we’re struck every once in a while by something that starts us humming or singing a song that perfectly fits where we are…such as when we crossed the Missouri River, and “Shenandoah” came to mind.  Then there was discovering Daniel Boone’s last home (in a beautiful stretch of land between St. Louis and Jefferson City – he lived within miles of where Lewis & Clark travelled, and there is no record that they ever met), and remembering “he was a man, he was a biiiiig man, with an eye like an eagle and a…..(I’ll bet you can fill in the rest!)  “Kansas City, Kansas City, here I come,” and of course, even though we were in a car:

As I was walking that ribbon of highway,
I saw above me that endless skyway:
I saw below me that golden valley:
This land was made for you and me.

Here’s a link to a wonderful YouTube video of Pete Seeger (at 90!) and Bruce Springsteen at the Lincoln Memorial singing “This Land is Your Land” – if you’ve never heard or seen Pete Seeger, who died earlier this year, please watch!

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HE4H0k8TDgw&feature=kp

Our Ribbon of Highway

Our Ribbon of Highway

This map is from the Museum of the Westward Expansion at the St. Louis Arch, and the red line depicting the Lewis & Clark Trail starts in the east in St. Louis, where we really start to parallel the Trail and follow it for a couple of days. We’ll pick it up again later in the trip, after a long detour to Idaho and British Columbia.  The “Voyage of Discovery,” commissioned by President Thomas Jefferson was ambitious and extraordinarily successful – they started out in May 1802.  Lewis & Clark returned after nearly three years of exploration having lost only one member of the Corps of Discovery, and with massive amounts of information about the vastly expanded country.  Having read Undaunted Courage by Stephen Ambrose years ago was great preparation for exploring some of the areas in which the Corps of Discovery passed.

Driving through these regions and realizing just what those men and Sacajawea had to endure is my outdoor classroom – truly “learning it all, over again!” (So fitting! That’s the subtitle of my blog:  Read. Travel. Learn it all, over again!)  We followed the Missouri north and westward, to visit tiny St. Charles, where the journey began.  (Some would argue with reason, that the journey began far to the east, where Meriwether Lewis had the keelboat made in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, but it wasn’t until St. Charles that the two leaders finally joined forces and the expedition began.

The Lewis & Clark Trail

The Lewis & Clark Trail

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Organized!

Organized!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Besides generally following the Lewis & Clark Trail, how else are we managing on this trip?  By perusing our well-worn edition of “RoadFood,” which has traversed the country now at least three times!  It shows just how enduring those classic old-timey restaurants and diners are when our 2005 edition still points us to great spots for a bite to eat.  We’ve written something by the listing for each of the many places we’ve stopped, and I love reading notes from other years…I write in my books – you might want to try it!  Yep, whether a food guide, a cook book, travel guide, poetry, fiction or history, my books are lined with marginalia – books which someone, sometime, will pick up at a used book sale, and puzzle over, perhaps wondering who wrote the sentences, exclamation marks, and sometimes ever-so slightly critical words scribbled in the margins.

The Road Food Book

The Road Food Book

From St. Charles we roughly followed the Missouri and the Corps of Discovery’s route to Jefferson City, where The RoadFood Book directed us to Central Dairy for delicious, and cheap ($2 for an overflowing pint of scoops)ice cream break – the best deal of the trip so far.  Then, as CW so delicately puts it, we “beat cheeks” to Kansas City MO. (This phrase apparently refers to a horse’s flanks – contrary to what you may be thinking…)

Kansa City was a great stop, where I was delighted to find “The Roasterie,” (http://www.theroasterie.com/) an amazing coffee roaster/wholesaler/retailer with an airplane and flight theme (check it out!) whilst CW enjoyed a private tour with the Lead Brewer at “Boulevard,” (www.boulevard.com) a major craft brewer – they were within blocks of each other, and we cheerfully split up for a couple of hours to each enjoy our own “brews.”  That’s another good tip for long term, close quarters travel – make sure to build in time to pursue independent activities!

The Roasterie

The Roasterie

Boulevard Brewery

Boulevard Brewery

So far, no one place has called out to us as a potential landing spot, though some are full of history and a vibrant culture; in fact, crossing Missouri, I had glimpsed a sign for Rosebud, MO, and I longed for a moment, to live in a place called “Rosebud.”

 

 

Monkey in the Breakfast Room

After two plus weeks in North India and covering over 2000 km overland, it was time to turn our sights South – and so we reluctantly left lovely Udaipur and flew first north to Delhi and then to Bangalore – a total of about 3 hours of flying. The Udaipur airport was new, large, and empty. We counted a total of only 5 flights out scheduled for the day. Apparently some political kerfluffle has limited flights between Jaipur and Udaipur, and squelched a lot of the tourist traffic (or so we were told…politics is proving an endlessly interesting and multi-sided subject here.)

South India Itinerary

South India Itinerary

Following our alphabetical route map for South India, we go:
A: Bangalore
B: Hosagunda
C: Chickmaglur
D: Kollegal
E: Coonoor
F: (this is really on the map as G) Munnar
G: Periyar
H: Allepy Backwaters
I: Cochin
J/K/L: fly to Chennai, car to Mahalibalipuram, Pondicherry

India Makes My Heart Go...

India Makes My Heart Go…

By late afternoon of our Udaipur departure, we were delivered to the Villa Pottapatti, (http://villa-pottipati.neemranahotels.com/) a Neemrana Hotels property in Bangalore. Neemrana is buying or leasing wonderful old homes and other properties throughout India, and with minimal changes converting them into a version of a homestay, albeit with professional staffing and branded amenities. We were delighted at Villa Pottapatti to meet its owner, Mrs. Reddy, whose husband’s family had built the house in the late 19th century. She was sitting in the garden dining area when we came out for breakfast, and we spent an hour learning all about the house, the family, the neighborhood…and, how very different everything is from when she arrived as a bride over 50 years ago. It felt like we were guests in a lovely old home with a hostess who sent us out into the neighborhood on a treasure hunt.

Villa Pottapatti

Villa Pottapatti

Pottapatti Neighborhood Rose Seller

Pottapatti Neighborhood Rose Seller

Selling Apples by Bike

Selling Apples by Bike

Our first week in the South would test our energy – we’d be in six different beds each of six nights, including one spent on the local overnight train to Hosagunda (definitely not the lux train for tourists, we each had a bottom berth of three stacked, and were separated from the narrow aisle by a non-working curtain.) For most of the first week in the south we were guests of former business relations when I worked with Honest Tea. The first few days were with the Phalada Agro team (http://www.phaladaagro.com/). Phalada is an award-winning supplier of organic and Fair Trade ingredients, ranging from turmeric and coconut to spearmint and tulsi and I’ll write at much more length about this wonderful, motivated company of change-makers after getting back home.

We visited the Bangalore processing plant and test garden, visited Mr. CMN Shastry’s organic farm and excavation/reconstruction of an 800 year old temple in Hosagunda, and travelled by car to Chickmaglur where we visited an organic coffee grower and learned how cardamom is grown! Whew.

Phalada Nursery

Fascinating temple visits along the way included Halebad and Belur – where the craftsmanship of the stonework was breathtaking – the incisions were deep, crisp and incredibly intricate, after hundreds of years. The temples themselves were more geometric than anything we’d seen so far, and I was awed by it all…the detail, the age, the clear devotion of those who conceived of and built the temples. And – the sculptures of the elephants that surrounded the base of both temples…hundreds and hundreds of roughly 12” long by 8” high elephants marching around, in and out of the undulating base.

Belur Temple Elephants

Belur Temple Elephants

Belur Temple Base Carvings

Belur Temple Base Carvings

Gorgeous Goddess Anklets

Gorgeous Goddess Anklets

In Kollegal, I was truly honored to meet the small scale farmers who are growing organic vegetables, herbs, and spices, under the auspices of the Phalada Agro group. At a Natural Products Food Show in 2013, it was thrilling to hear from Mr. Shastry about the ways in which the farmers and their families are benefiting from selling organic ingredients to Honest Tea http://www.honesttea.com, (and of course, other manufacturers as well.)

Organic Coconut Water, as Fresh as it Gets!

Organic Coconut Water, as Fresh as it Gets!

Beautiful Organic Krishna Tulsi

Beautiful Organic Krishna Tulsi

Every part of the visit with Phalada was inspiring – my work with organic and Fair Trade products has always been motivating, but travelling with the Phalada team was amazing. They are working directly with very small farmers in the Karnataka region who are at the forefront of organic farming in India. These families have 1-3 acre plots that are planted with organic tulsi, corn, watermelon, sugar cane, turmeric…and sell their product to Phalada. Their Fair Trade tulsi sales bring them an additional premium that is changing their lives. The farmland was lush, the sounds of birds and insects filled the air, and the farmers and farm workers seemed delighted to have a visitor from away. I had brought a bottle of Honest Tea’s Heavenly Lemon Tulsi with me to share – it’s not often that the farmers get to see the end result of their labors, and they were excited to see, and taste, the beverage. My few words of Hindi and Kannada (different local languages are spoken all over India) and a whole lot of smiling (I hope) helped them understand how excited I was to actually stand in the organic fields and say “thank you,” for all the work they do.

Kollegal Certified Organic Farm!

Kollegal Certified Organic Farm!

From Kollegal we headed to the highlands of tea country – first to Nilgiri, where our hosts were the team from the Chamraj Tea Estates (http://www.chamrajchai.com/), which also owns Korakundah, a large organic and Fair Trade tea garden. Chamraj’ tea bushes are grown at 6-8000’ elevation, the highest in India. It is an incredible landscape, with the labyrinth-like tea bushes growing on impossibly steep hillsides; hovering above them are the silverwood trees which are “pollarded” or pruned at various times to either shade or allow more sun depending on the need of the plants.

Chamraj runs a 60-bed hospital, school for 1200 students, and an orphanage, all on its property, and partly funded by company and Fair Trade funds. Our host, Mr. Hendrickson, seems to have 10 different full-time jobs, and is passionate about not only the tea he helps to sell, but the company’s responsibility for the community it is part of – anyone in the area is welcome to use the hospital facilities, and the school is also open to the community, not just the children of the estate staff and workers.

Chamraj Guest Bungalow

Chamraj Guest Bungalow

A visit to the Chamraj processing plant reinforced the intricacies of creating fine tea, and a tasting afterwards introduced us to “Frost Tea,” from plants grown at the highest elevations in the Nilgiri.

Tea Tasting at Chamraj

Tea Tasting at Chamraj

Chamraj Tea Hillside

Chamraj Tea Hillside

This second week is a slower paced travel time, as we catch up on sleep and energy after the hectic travelling in the north. And, it’s giving me some time to fully recover from my cold. So, after Chamraj we drove 30 minutes to the highlands town of Coonoor, a former summertime colony for the British as they escaped from the heat of Bangalore. We stayed at the “Wallwood,” an old bungalow and another Neemrana property. Enjoying the crackling fire in the living room, and reading one of the left-behind paperbacks while enjoying a cup of tea was like being transported back to the time of the British Raj. Strolling through Sim’s Park with its hundreds of specimen trees from around the world, and having a coffee at tiny “Cheri Brewing” completed a simple, relaxed day. With that, more to come next time!

By the way, the monkey joined me in the Wallwood breakfast room as I was sitting enjoying a cup of tea and making some notes. The monkey was about the size of a 2 year old child, and sneaked in so quietly that he was about two feet from the table when I spotted him. I calmly(!) and quickly called out “monkey in the breakfast room,” at which time one of the staff came in and shooed it away. Just another thrilling animal encounter in India!

Wallwood Bungalow - Coonoor

Wallwood Bungalow – Coonoor

Please let me know via a “comment” if you have any questions – I’m just scraping the very surface of the notes I’ve made. Food questions? Lodging? Culture? Travel? Let me know and I’ll try to respond with how we’ve become a bit more “JourneyWise” on this trip!

The JourneyWise India Adventure

Enough about London, fun though it was! We’ve been in India for five days, jet lag is over, and it’s time to share! What an incredible sensory overload it’s been so far. Here’s a map (thank you, Google maps)that represents the northern, 12 day part of the journey. We used our trusty old Times Atlas of the World and Google maps simultaneously to plan the trip, appreciating how old tech (paper) and new tech worked so well together.

We’re leaving beautiful Jaipur tomorrow for a long drive to Jodphur, and will catch up on what’s happened before that in the next blog or two. In the meantime, here’s the plan:

JourneyWise through Rajasthan

JourneyWise through Rajasthan

My nice placemarkers didn’t move over with the map (still working on my blogging knowledge!) so, starting with “A” we’re going from Delhi to Agra to Jaipur to Jodphur to Jaisalmer to Manvar to Udaipur, then fly to Bangalore for the second part of the journey. Our funny, smart and extremely good driver, Raj, has introduced us to the concept of the “Indian 1/2 hour” – think, “one hour,” so we’re sincerely hoping that the planned 8 hour drive tomorrow doesn’t get adjusted too much, and by too many hours!