Truly Seeing…

I didn’t think I’d enjoy reading on my Kindle during this trip, but necessity has forced, if not a conversion, then at least acceptance, that this is a good way to carry along the dozens of books I will read during a 3 month journey. Among the many books I’ve got, I didn’t realize that reading Dan Barber’s “The Third Plate,” would be so meaningful. It contributed the following quote:

“See what you’re looking at.”
Dr. William Albrecht
(1888-1974)
Soil Scientist, Univ. of Missouri

It’s the United Nations Year of the Soil, so I’m delighted that the desire to truly see what I’m looking at is echoed by one of the pioneers of organic agriculture…

Here’s some of what we’ve been seeing on our South American sojourn:

Wisps and Clock...

Wisps and Clock…

Faded Beauty

Faded Beauty

Soaked in color...

Soaked in color…


Oasis

Oasis

Reflection, Lake Near the Sea

Reflection, Lake Near the Sea


See what you're looking at...

See what you’re looking at…

A harmony of sand & sea...

A harmony of sand & sea…

Perched at the edge of the sea...

Perched at the edge of the sea…

Next, some big cities and coffee farms!

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Meditation…

Quote

Let what we love be what we do.                                                                                           There are hundreds of ways to kneel and kiss the ground.                         RUMI

Salt Spring Island Distant Storm

Salt Spring Island Distant Storm

 

Into the West…

Welcome, Wyoming!

Welcome, Wyoming!

Much of the drive across Wyoming was flat flat flat, with the glorious presence of vast cloud banks.  I’m reading “Open Road” by Phil Patton, and he says “At 65 miles an hour, experts say, the driver sees five times as much sky as at 45.  Roads are drunk with the principles of perspective.”  So far, so true!  We’re not home-hunting in Wyoming, but headed west for the Grand Tetons and more camping, so we we’re testing the 65 mph views (or better, as speed limits here hover around 75 mph and so the perspectives must be that much better!).

About the Clouds...

About the Clouds…

Though we’re on a local food/farm to table/craft-brewing oriented journey, we’re learning that “local” doesn’t necessarily equate to “good,” though it more than often does mean quirky or quaint, and usually “nice.”  The Broken Wheel Truckstop and Restaurant was a refueling station, with a basic truckers’ breakfast (we passed up on the steak and eggs) and kind waitresses who kept pouring the coffee.

Breakfast Spot

Breakfast Spot

On the other hand, sometimes local means both kind people with a mission and really really good coffee.  Being “West” also means they get to have some real fun with their branding.  I liked the cowboy-themed packaging of the Brown Sugar Coffee Roastery in Riverton, Wyoming (http://brownsugarcoffeeroastery.com/)  and their coffees are FairTrade USA certified too!  NOTE:  if you’re curious about why I care about Fair Trade, check out :  http://fairtradeusa.org/  for more about what Fair Trade means to the small growers and farmers around the world.  Also, my earlier blog about our visit to the Fair Trade/organic farmers in India might be of interest!

Howdy, Pardner!

Howdy, Pardner!

Primed by Brown Sugar’s coffee, and hours and hours of driving later, we gained our first view of our home (tent) for the next two nights in Grand Teton National Park.  And found there was a little more snow than we’d planned on!

The Grand Tetons

The Grand Tetons

A Little Snow...

A Little Snow…

Here’s where words, at least mine, can’t measure up.  Our hike around Jenny Lake…

And the Hikes!

And the Hikes!

And then, we were off to Boise, Idaho and a wonderful weekend of wedding celebration activities!  Was it the wedding and reuniting with friends, the farmers’ market and wonderful museum that gave us pause, and had us house-hunting?  More on this, next time…

Waking Up to Delhi

If you’re visiting the blog just to take a peek at the photos, skip right to the bottom!

After the slightly nerve-wracking wait at Indira Gandhi International Airport for our luggage (our lonely bags seemed to be the last off the plane), we were met in the jam-packed (at 2am) airport arrivals area by our driver, who drove us to the “Colonel’s Retreat” in an area of Delhi called the Defence Colony, which had first been created for housing the British military. It was about 3am and the night watchman escorted us right to our room, where to our disappointment, once we’d collapsed onto the large, low bed, it turned out that the bed frame creaked like mad – every time we turned over it was like the bed was going to fall down…making for a fitful couple of hours rest before dawn. But, the lovely floors were marble, nice and cool on our feet, the ceilings high and the bathroom simple, with a large shower. Most of the places we’re staying in India are not 5 star hotels – and so far we’ve really enjoyed them, in their own special ways!

We were a little tired the first day, but that probably made us all the more relaxed as we faced the pollution, heat, crowds and rather amazing traffic. We pulled ourselves out of bed for a nice breakfast of omelette (including a tasty masala omelette), banana bread, oranges (very sweet and easy to peel), bananas, great coffee (choices included a Malabar, peaberry, Viennese roast), toast and delicious housemade jams – fig, marmalade and mixed fruits. After breakfast we met Shishir, our Journey Sutra representative who went over the schedule with us. (Once we’d determined our general plans, Journey Sutra assisted with internal travel, hotel reservations and booked entrance for us at most monuments. They provided local guides who a number of times was able to facilitate visits, show us their personal eating places, and sometimes helped deal with the very persistent children asking for money or chocolate.) We’d decided before leaving for India that we would make a donation to a specific organization (most likely Fair Trade related) or to people who were engaged in a craft or work of some kind, and not give money to individuals – it’s tough to say no (in fact, better to simply not acknowledge the taps on the car window) but this makes our daily interactions easier.

We spent the first day a bit tired, but it probably made us all the more relaxed as we faced the pollution, crowds, and rather amazing traffic. We were grateful for our guide, “Dynamo” and driver, “Geerish”, who made the 1½ days in Delhi a perfect introduction to India. (Note: I’m using phonetic spelling for person/place names that I never saw written down.) We left the hotel and the schedule as planned changed immediately – and has pretty much every day – we have seen everything we wanted, but not in the order/time we thought. We went to the Qutub Minar first – a complex featuring the “minar” or victory tower, dating from 1199. Then, on to Chandi Chowk, the Old Delhi market, where we visited the Jama Masjid, the largest mosque in India, and built by Shah Jahan, who also built the Taj Mahal. We engaged a cycle rickshaw to ride through the old market. It was incredible in so many ways – very very crowded; the rickshaw would crunch against the wheels of other rickshaws and the drivers would hop off to quickly untangle them; we clipped against the shops which lined the barely 8’ (or so) wide lane and I was terrified that we’d end up running over some one’s feet – but everyone was keenly aware of the movement of the marketplace – it was amazing. The colors of the spices, jewelry, fabrics; the sound of the rickshaw drivers calling out, the shop keepers bargaining, mothers calling their children; and the aromas, some fantastically enticing (spices, bread cooking, chai being made) others not so great (no need to describe.)

We ended the day with a visit to lovely, pink, Humayun’s Tomb – a precursor to the architecture of the Taj Mahal. There weren’t crowds of people, and it’s a peaceful site, so a nice way to end our first day of exploring.

Our travel learnings from the first day included “just buy water.” Drinking bottled water and using it for things like brushing teeth has made me a lot more aware of just how much water we use every day. We’ve put a case of it in the car so we don’t run out on the long drives we’re now doing.

On day two, we got a bit earlier start (it seems to take us about 3 days for the jet lag adjustment to a 6 hour time change). We visited a beautiful Sikh temple – made of white marble with lots of gold leaf in the interior. Musicians were seated cross-legged on cushions, playing to one side of the center canopy and many people were just sitting and listening, so we joined for a few minutes, partly needing to simply have a few moments of respite, and to listen to the music. Also on the busy agenda were India Gate, the President’s Palace (designed by Luytens and originally the home of the British Viceroy), part of a very regal government complex now with a combination of British and Hindu architectural elements, including elephant sculptures.

Lesson Two from Delhi: Know a little history! I’m so glad to have read books ranging from William Dalrymple’s, “The City of Djinns, to Monica Pradhan’s “The Hindi Bindi Club,” among many others. India’s not only enormous in size, but a country with ancient history, a variety of religions, cultures and languages, adding up to a complex place and people to try and understand – knowing even a little about both the ancient and modern country helps appreciate the places we are seeing – especially when the forts, palaces, temples, mosques, tombs and city gates start to blur in my mind a little! It’s fantastic, in every sense of the word.

Delhi hotel: http://colonelsretreat.com/
Travel Organizer: http://www.journeysutra.com/

Old Delhi Chandi Chowk

Old Delhi Chandi Chowk

Humayun's Tomb detail

Humayun’s Tomb detail

Sagar Ranta dinner - Delhi

Sagar Ranta dinner – Delhi

Delhi Days and Delays…

We had a bit of a wait at London immigration and at arrival in Delhi and I’m thinking:

If you’re the right frame of mind, you can make travelling easier and more enjoyable. What I’ve gleaned from over 40 years of travel and am reminded of as we travel in India is this: Relax.
Yup, relax. If something can go wrong, it will. If getting from here to there can be longer rather than shorter, it will be. But, if you’ve made some simple preparations, you can mitigate many of the less desired outcomes. There are plenty of formal travel guides out there with lots more information, but here are a couple of things that work for me:

1. Always put a copy of your passport elsewhere in your belongings, and send yourself a digital copy.
2. Send yourself a copy of all travel arrangements, or even better, a complete itinerary. I started a simple itinerary for our India trip when we first started talking about it, and expanded it as details started being filled in. By the time we left the U.S., we had a multipage personal travel guide, filled with travel logistics and reservations, but also notes on the places we were going including the special things we wanted to remember to see, history we might not get in depth from a guide, and suggestions from friends for things off the beaten track.
3. Put something to read in whatever bag you carry around with you – I’ve usually got a few pages of a magazine article or a small paperback book with me. I’m digital, but prefer reading on paper, especially if I don’t want to advertise my phone or tablet, or am in a moving vehicle.
4. Buy postcards right away and keep them and a pen handy. When you’re stuck in traffic, waiting in line, or just whiling away time in a coffee or tea shop, write a postcard and surprise someone! Buying stamps is a good adventure in a new country too, right up there with grocery shopping…it’s fun, lets you mingle with the residents, and gives you a very personal look at daily life. I know, I know – postcards. But truly, what a quick and memorable way to communicate and let someone know you were thinking about them in the midst of your adventure!

So far the U.S. to London to India trip has been remarkably stress-free though, partly because of what I’m sharing here! When the immigration line at London Heathrow was slow, the Artemis Cooper biography of Patrick Leigh Fermor kept me company…when we thought we might have a lost luggage situation at Delhi International, William Dalrymple’s “City of Djinns” was a fascinating companion. (Our bags were among the last ones off the plane, but they did arrive!)

Now in Delhi, soon to depart by car for Agra. Next time, perhaps a little about what we’ve actually experienced! In the meantime, photos from the spectacular Qutub Minar – a beautiful Islamic minaret in a complex of buildings dating from the 12th century.

Qutub Columns

Gallery Columns with beautiful detail…

Qutub Minaret and Column
Qutub Minaret and Column

How to JourneyWise

5 days til departure!  We planned our trip to India over many months, but the actual tasks involved were simple, echoing the thoughtful research we did during many years of living overseas, transferring between countries, some more familiar than others.  In the early years, we didn’t have the benefit of the internet or search engines – the clatter of the fax machine or the sound of a heavy envelope dropping into the mailbox would signal the arrival of eagerly awaited information – to be added to that gathered from conversations with friends of friends who had been where we were going.

This is how it always begins for us:

Consult the world atlas!  Yep, even in this GPS and Google Maps world, we haul out the massive Times Atlas of the World (one of the best wedding presents ever), plop it on the table and start dreaming…

Talk with friends, family, and colleagues if they’ve been where you want to go; take notes, especially about what they liked best, worst & what they’d do differently.

Browse the guidebooks in the library to understand not only the possible highlights of the trip, but with an eye on which book (if any) you might purchase to take apart and take with you.  Plenty of websites give advice about specific guide books, but looking at them yourself is best of all.

Poke about the web and let serendipity guide your explorations of where other travelers have gone and what they learned – there are blogs aplenty.  Copy and paste any ideas that appeal into a word document that can become the basis for your personal guidebook and if there’s even a chance you might reuse any of that info, be sure to note where it came from.

Take a few minutes (or more!) to reflect on why you’re taking this particular trip and let that guide your plans.  For example, our India trip takes us to a country neither of us knows well; is quite far away from our east coast USA home; and to which we may not return.  So, we’re going for a longer time (4 weeks) and after putting a rough itinerary together ourselves, reached out to a recommended travel service in India to help with reservations and travel logistics – even though that goes against our massive DIY ethic.  For India, we were willing to turn some of that responsibility over to someone right there, and treat ourselves to a little less worry.

Read Read Read.  The subtitle of the JourneyWise blog is “Read. Travel.  Learn it all, over again.”  Before a trip, I’ll look for fiction set in the country to which we’re travelling or by native authors.  I’ll read essays and other non-fiction, including history, as well as news articles that relate to where we are headed.  I’m a reader with deep curiosity, and I love a bookstore – searching them out wherever I go.    For India, here’s what I’ve read recently (not including many others read through the years):

The Siege of Krishnapur by J.G. Farrell

The Namesake by Jhumpa Lahiri

Karma Gone Bad by Jenny Feldon

Holy Cow by Sarah Macdonald

India in Mind edited by Pakaj Mishra

Read. Travel!  Enjoy…

Luggage Tags

Quote

From time to time (alright, often) a quote is all it takes to send me eagerly onward – in new directions or with new inspiration.  I find them under bottle caps, on package labels, in books, calendars, email signatures; they make us giggle, sigh, or simply, think.  I’d like mine on my luggage tags!  Here’s today’s:

“Not all those who wander are lost.”
― J.R.R. TolkienThe Fellowship of the Ring