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December 8, 2017

Murchison and beyond day 1

Filed under: Trips — pearsey @ 7:52 pm
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13 March 2017 – Uganda
The plan was to leave earlyish for Murchison Falls National Park, but it wasn’t as early as we planned. Then we had to stop and get petrol and we discovered that the insurance had expired in the car. In Uganda you have to have 3rd party insurance or the police will fine you if you’re caught. We sorted that out on a detour to the Bombo police station for something else. Some Germans (I think) were there because they’d taken a photo of some prisoners being transported to work, then they and their driver had been rude to the police, and even after they’d deleted the photos, they were still brought to the station. He was one very sorry and upset person – the police station wasn’t the most friendliest place, especially when you don’t speak the language at all, but I think they did give him his camera back in the end.
So after a few hours, we were about 1hr down the road. After that though, it wasn’t too bad and we stopped for lunch at a road house. I took over the driving, cruising along around 80-90kmh on the good stretch of road, which was about the next half hour to Masindi. Then we hit the dirt, back to about 40kmh. Once we got over the ridge and down the escarpment, which runs alongside Albert Lake and murchison falls national park, we were driving along a road that was pretty much corrugated the whole way. Back to about 10-20kmh. There was a few hours of that. They showed signs of going to fix it because there were piles of dirt every few meters for about 30km. Finally though, we made it to where we were staying at Maritas, a friend of Mike and Shirley’s. Checked out her brick making machine before it got dark, had something to eat and that was the day.

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December 5, 2017

Uganda – Week 1 Kampala Area

Filed under: Trips,Uganda — pearsey @ 8:22 pm
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5/3/17 – 11/3/17 – Uganda

Earlier in the year two of us from my church headed to Uganda with the aim of spending time teaching and training pastors. The build up to leaving for this trip was pretty hectic. Right at the end of summer and the finals season in tennis, plus it was relatively short notice. As well as that, there were lessons to prepare for the teaching that would be happening in Uganda and the strategic purchasing and delivery of gifts… Just like Australia, there are some things that you can bring in and some that you can’t. Given that I was visiting some Australians in Uganda, some treats from home are always welcome. Think salmon, kabana, cheese, chocolate, lamb… the list went on. As long as they were cryovaced (vacuum sealed), they were ok to bring in and would make the distance in good shape – that meant still able to be consumed at the end! If you’re interested in taking stuff on a plane (checked of course) that is normally cold, go for the gel ice packs which stay frozen/cold for a day or two and then a thermal blanket. The ice packs were still cold when I unwrapped them about 36 hours later. Also, stuff that is vacuumed sealed would probably survive ok as is without the icepacks for a short time.

The Emirates flight on an A380 was very nice. Great debate surrounded what the little pull out button thing on the back of the seat was for. Turns out it was a coat hook type thing. Seems entirely useless to be honest, as anything hanging hangs down and gets in your way.

It's a coat hook!

It’s a coat hook!

After arriving in Entebbe Monday arvo around 2pm, we had some lunch at the pizza place near the airport, then went home via the centre of Kampala to get Dave a local sim card so he could use the phone glued to his hand. Meant we didnt get back to Mike and Shirley’s till maybe 10pm, thanks to all the traffic.

Ponds for the fish

Ponds for the fish

Tuesday was a free day, had a tour of Mike’s land in the morning and went in to Bombo and had a quick look around at the town in the arvo. The land has come along since my first visit to his land a few years ago (maybe 2012). There’s goats and bees, some ponds for some fish (good job Shirley), vegetable plots and the trees planted all those years ago and have started to develop. Of course there was also a house now, which was the first time I’d actually seen the house there. (And since I’ve returned home there’s also some running water added now!!)

One of the many goats!

One of the many goats!

Wednesday we had a CRC conference in the morning where we talked about the values of the CRC for those who will be joining and were interested in joining. Did a whiteboard session with the guys there, they really enjoyed that. Mostly people just get up and talk at them. In the arvo Dave went one way, while I went another, to David’s church. Left around 8 in the morning, I got home around 9.45 pm, pretty long day.

Thursday we went to David’s church in the morning where we talked about pastoral care with the leaders there. In the arvo we came home for about an hour before I headed to Sulas church and Dave to David’s church. Another late night.

David's church

David’s church

Friday was the same, but the morning was up in Luweero, a country town north of Kampala. That was a nice friendly place up there, a lot more relaxed being out of the city center.

Luweero

Luweero

Met some interesting people, mostly pastors at the morning meetings, but that was the intention. They seemed to have responded well to the messages, but the fruit is really in the outworking.

Today (Saturday) is a bit of a rest day, decided to stay home rather than go to Jinja, tomorrow is church in the morning, lunch with a pastor who has planted a few churches, then to a meeting in Kampala – so another long day ahead.

Then a few days free while we travel to Arua in the far north.

November 13, 2017

The Swan Song

Filed under: Church life,Idle Ramblings — pearsey @ 9:17 pm
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A few months ago I received this awesome biscuit, hand made and hand decorated. The lovely swan biscuit was a gift on my last day at church in Geelong – chosen because it was my “swan song”. For the last couple of years I’d been heading down most weekends and some week days/nights to church there, where the parent church of my Bendigo church is located. It was a great couple of years and I made some great friends – but like with all things, there comes a time to move on.

So I finished up there around the end of August and now I’m enjoying some quiet Sunday’s. I’ve been getting my backyard done (will need to post some photos soon), catching up with friends that I hadn’t really been able to spend much time with the last couple of years and just generally enjoying having Sunday free. It will be interesting to see what happens next. I have a few ideas, but in time, all shall be revealed!

If anybody is looking for some handmade biscuits drop me a comment and I can put you on to Leonie who’s just beginning to build her biscuit baking business. She’s just completed a huge batch of biscuits for me at work, specially hand crafted pigs, which I’m sure will taste just as great as the swan did!

August 17, 2017

Thought for the day…

Filed under: Idle Ramblings — pearsey @ 10:28 pm

As I was driving to work the other day, I came up with this.

Some things work. Some things don’t. Don’t be afraid to pull the pin on those that don’t. Learn. Then move on.

Sometimes we try to hang on to things hoping that they’ll change. Maybe we’re afraid to move on because we don’t know what’s coming or where we’ll end up. Perhaps we keep doing things out of habit, becuase that’s how we’ve always done them. Or you invested plenty of time/money/effort into something, so you’re reluctant to let it go. But don’t be afraid to pull the pin on those things that haven’t worked out as planned. Whether it’s personal, business, within the church or your local tennis club, don’t be afraid to pull the pin and move on. We only fail if we don’t give something a go.

It reminds me of the scripture in Matt 10:14 And whoever will not receive you nor hear your words, when you depart from that house or city, shake off the dust from your feet.

In the context of this scripture it’s talking about preaching the gospel. But I like the lesson at the end. As you move forward, you don’t take anger, hurt or resentment with you. Don’t allow offense or bitterness to creep in.

You put on that new man, you renew your mind and you move forward with peace, joy and love in your heart.

If things haven’t worked out as planned, shake the dust off your feed and move on. It will sure save you a lot of stress if you do!

February 3, 2017

India – Day 21 Migrating to Australia

Filed under: Trips — pearsey @ 2:19 pm
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21/10/16
On the train yesterday was an advertisement that advertised migrating to Australia. Another of the questions you continually get asked is "where you from"? I got sick of answering that, so I started saying India. It got laughs, and largely I could then avoid answering the question. So after seeing the sign yesterday, I thought today was a good day to migrate to Australia – aka go home!
It would have been nice to sleep in past about 7am, but then even that is a sleep in based on the past few days.
Did a final pack, and said a final goodbye to some who were around. Grabbed some tiger balm for 35 rupees! 35. How cheap, and the pharmacy over the road from the hotel was very quaint. A nice old guy ran it, he struggled with English a bit, but you have to have to respect him for giving it a go. I can’t do two languages.

One cool thing in India is that many of the packaged products come printed with the price on it. Very handy for when those vendors try to rip you off (this guy didn’t). Back in Jaipur at a shop in the bazar, I had one guy trying to charge me more than what was recommended. One look at the packaging told you how much you should have been paying and he quickly agreed to the lower price.

Leaving the hotel involved ignoring the beggar harassing us as we got into the car, then ignoring the banging on the window of the car as we drove off.
There was some kind of mosaic tiled roundabout on the way, with a few different sporting scenes pictured. Not sure what it was. Possibly put there when the Commonwealth Games was on in Delhi.

The mosaic roundabout

The mosaic roundabout

The drive to the airport was uneventful, it was pretty quiet and we arrived 3 and a half hours early… There’s only so long you can spend in an airport that doesn’t have all that much shopping.

Diwali is next week. The festival of light. The signs at the airport encourage you to spread the light, goodness, joy and happiness of the festive season. We celebrate Christmas, something we shouldn’t allow to be eroded by political correctness if we follow the Indian example. Other religions in India don’t believe in diwali, but it’s still celebrated freely and publicly.

Diwali Decorations

Diwali Decorations

Did some shopping, using the last of my rupees: a few Indian food souvenirs, chocolate bars and mission accomplished. All rupees successfully disposed of! Wondered how the guy in front of us managed to get on with at least 3 over sized bags, and another 3. How can you carry that many, why does the airline allow it…

So India. A land of contrasts. Cows that roam the streets freely. Because cows are like a god here in the hindu religion. It originated when they wanted a way to stop the people killing them for meat. So they told them off the value they had: dairy, milk, curd, cheese etc and that it was wrong to kill them. Supposedly the cows routine is to visit the temple in the morning to get the morning offerings in feed, then they wander to the markets to eat the foodscraps, a way of not wasting anything, they then spend time next to the roadside to get fresh air and they wander home via the temple in the arvo. Problem with that is that the cows don’t realise that’s the routine they’re meant to be following, most don’t have homes and you don’t get fresh air near the roads, it’s really polluted here. The cows are commonly found picking over the piles of rubbish at any time of the day, ignoring the “routine” and what they’re supposed to do. Mostly the cows will wander on the roads and everyone just goes around them: very few even toot their horns at them. They’d probably ignore it anyway.

Elephant at the Airport - The elephant is also pretty special in India

Elephant at the Airport – The elephant is also pretty special in India

Now they’re everywhere and have really reached plague status, with many thin and or unhealthy. Hardly the way to treat a god!
Next to the cows are the dogs. They’re feral and also everywhere, found picking over the rubbish and wandering the streets. Then comes the pigs, not so many in Varanasi area, but everywhere in Jaipur and Delhi. Not sure how the pigs fit into Hinduism, I suspect the Muslims just followed the Hindus cow example.
Then if the cows, dogs or pigs aren’t picking over the rubbish, you’ll see humans doing it. The level of poverty is high, many barely surviving. Ads in the paper would often have a photo of a body found at a train station, asking who the dead person was. I suspect many would go unidentified.

The food overall was pretty good, I think the hottest food I was served was on the planes, so if you don’t like hot food, you’ll still be ok in India.

And that was India. The plane arrived pretty much on time, I zipped through customs and then back to reality – quiet, smooth roads, peace and quiet, no horns and many many less people!

February 2, 2017

India Day 20 – Jaipur to Delhi

Filed under: Trips — pearsey @ 9:32 am
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20/10/16

It was essentially my last full day in India today and in keeping with the tradition, I was up at some super crazy time again, leaving at 5am for the Jaipur Railway Station. Zigzagging through the streets at that time was quicker, but not a lot. I was surprised how much traffic there was and once we got to the station, it was a traffic jam. The station is home to many people, literally. As we arrived, there were many sleeping in and around the area of the station, owning nothing but the clothes they were in and the rug or cardboard they were covered by. Some begged a little, some hassled you a bit, but at that time, most were still asleep.

Jaipur Railway Station

Jaipur Railway Station

The train looked more modern, the carriages were double decker, but the train was still around 20 carriages long. It was an express train, but somehow stopped at nearly every station and even in between. It arrived about 3 hours late, not bad for a 2 hour journey.

Beside the train, Jaipur

Beside the train, Jaipur

The approach into Delhi central station is not one you would expect of a capital city. The side of the railway line was a stream of shelters of rusty iron held together with rusty nails, serving as shelter for thoursands, clothes, often not much more than rags, hung from whatever was available, kids and women sat in the dust outside, while piles of rubbish could be seen on the rooves of the shelters and surrounding areas. The rusty iron soon gave way to a more improved standard of dwelling – two storey brick buildings with external ladders to get to the second storey. Both types of dwellings weren’t much more than a few square meters in size, but nearly all had satellite dishes…

The slum area, just near Delhi

The slum area, just near Delhi

The contrast in life styles was stark, as less than a few meters away, people sat on a train immersed in their phones, oblivious to the surrounding area and the struggles of many just to survive.
Back in Delhi the waiting continued as there were only 2 taxis arranged for 17 of us. Just another example of the lack of organization from our tour leader, but that’s another issue.

The contrasts in life, slums and phones

The contrasts in life, slums and phones

Outside our hotel we were greeted by a lady and her young child begging. They tugged on us, then followed us to where we had lunch, kindly waited outside for us, then followed us back to the hotel. As harsh as it sounds, giving the beggars nothing is the best thing for them. It reinforces that it’s ok to ask for money, without having to do anything in return, it perpetuates the cycle from one generation to another and in the long term does more harm. Often too, there’s a ring leader behind the beggars, who take almost all the money given to the beggaras, leaving them with barely enough to provide food. The circumstances the beggars find themselves in doesn’t diminish their value as a human, they still have thoughts and feelings and are loved by God, our challenge as a society is to find a way to help them without hurting further, a way that will bring about lasting change and a change in mindset, enabling them to realise they are loved and valued, and helps them utilise their gifts and untapped potential within. Training, shelters, rehab, childcare may all help, but whatever the solution is, it won’t come easily or cheaply.

At Delhi, finally!

At Delhi, finally!

After a quick lunch a few of us went to Qutab Minar, built around 1193. Took the metro out there, which was really easy. It was a little busy buying tickets, and it was interesting to note that some of the Indians got upset with those who started to queue jump – that was quite satisfying given our experience earlier in the trip. Once at the Qtuab Minar station, we thought we’d get a tuktuk the last part. Got a couple who agreed on a price, then just as we got in the drivers started saying it was more and they were going to take us shopping as well. Climbed out, tried another, argued with them and we started walking. It wasn’t that far anyway, just would’ve given us more time to look around when we were there, because it was already late. There were a couple of nice looking parks around this area if you have time to explore, one with some interesting rules!

The rules for the park, near Qutab Minar

The rules for the park, near Qutab Minar

At the Qutab Minar complex, the main part of the structure is a single minaret, a 73m tower of victory, towering above the surrounding buildings. The stones are engraved with verses of the quran, and the area is meant to record the triumph of muslim rule. There’s also an iron pillar, 7.21m high, weighing over 6T and in over 1000 years is yet to rust. That’s one impressive piece of workmanship. Overall, most parts of the complex were in remarkably good shape given its age.

Qutab Minar

Qutab Minar

The same tuk tuk drivers we tried to get to take us to the area were there on the way out, as we expected. We gave them a wide berth and jumped in another for the trip back to the Carol Bagh metro station. Half way there one of our drivers says I’ll take you to the shops… We told him no shopping, no talking, so he turned the music up loud and drove along, wondering why we weren’t answering his questions the odd time he asked. Who knew those things did music! Great sunset as we jumped on the train. It was peak hour going back into Central Delhi, so the train was packed, but pushing is an Indian national sport, up there with hockey and cricket, so we just joined in.

Ruins at Qutab Minar

Ruins at Qutab Minar

Qutab Minar Station

Qutab Minar Station

Sunset from Qutab Minar Station

Sunset from Qutab Minar Station

Tonight was our final meal together with our group and we got back just in time to wander up to the roof top restaurant of the hotel. The meal at our hotel (Hotel Perfect) was quite good, reasonably priced and they did a good job of hosting our larger group.

January 31, 2017

India Day 19 – Jaipur City Palace

19/10/16
Earlier in the day was the Amber Fort. In the arvo, I headed to the city palace, in Jaipur itself, another opulent palace with extravagant decorative structures and fittings. There was a textile museum with both mens and womens clothing from centuries ago that was ornately decorated with beetle wings. Polo and billiards were introduced by the British around 1819 with sample costumes of the era in display. A weapons museum and the royal room were another couple of highlights and the four peacock doors in another section where one was restored looked magnificent.

Pink buildings at the City Palace

Pink buildings at the City Palace

Unfortunately Jantar Mantar Observatory, literally just across the road, closed at 5pm, just after I’d left the palace, and headed there. I would have liked to have gone there as well, but the palace was definitely worth visiting. Beware of the tuk tuk drivers outside of the palace, they’ll hassle you as much as they can and become your shadow outside the palace.

Outside the City Palace

Outside the City Palace

From there a few of us headed toward the bazaar in the city centre area for a few last minute souvenirs. Before we even got there though, we found a cool shop, Pachouli, that had a vast array of clothes, scarves and homewares that were well made and very reasonably priced. That’s near the city palace and the Tripolia Gate Bazar, they are well worth a visit if you’re looking for any reasonably priced small gifts for friends, or clothes for men, women or children or any kind of homewares like tea towels, towels or tablecloths.

It was around here that we encountered our “follower” for the second time. He’d introduced himself in the city palace to us, then “appeared” just as we were leaving Pachouli. He popped up again a couple of times in the bazar streets, then as he popped up again, we decided it was time to get out of there fast. You can’t accidentally bump into people around those crowded street bazars that many times – and we’d walked a fair way.

The bazar area was a tour through different areas with similar shops, a heap of stationery and book shops, some clothes areas, and general goods. Crowded narrow streets decorated with lights for the upcoming Diwali festival added to the atmosphere.

The streets at night, Jaipur

The streets at night, Jaipur

Our tuk tuk ride back was interesting – 5 of us jumped into a tuktuk for 4, got a few weird looks from the locals as normally it’s them travelling like that, not us! And the traffic at that time of the night was crazy. Jaipur is also getting ready for diwali, the annual hindu festival of lights, equivalent to Christmas for us. It’s next week, if it’s crazy now, I imagine it will be much worse next week.
Had a nice evening sitting in the lawn area of the Hotel Arya Niwas to finish up the day. Excellent hotel if you’re looking for a place to stay in Jaipur. Lovely lawns, restaurant (vegetarian), rooms and library. There’s also a nice little gift shop with a good selection of very reasonably priced souvenirs.

January 29, 2017

India Day 19 – Jaipur, Amber Palace

19/10/16
Fort, palace and shopping filled in the day today.
We drove past Hawa Mahal on our little scenic detour last night, not realising what it was. Actually even when we stopped to take photos this morning, I didn’t realise what it was. It wasn’t explained to us then, but at least I knew what it was called. It was built in 1799 for the ladies of the royal household to watch what was going on in the city, such as processions and general life, so that they didn’t have to mingle with the people.

Hawa Mahal, Jaipur

Hawa Mahal, Jaipur

From there we went to Amber Fort or Amber palace. The fort is actually higher up the hill, and it’s the palace that you look around, but it’s mostly referred to as Amber Fort. Either way, it was really stunning. The steps up to the fort look more difficult than they are but the elephants make light work of it. The elephant drivers are typical drivers and a few could be seen on their mobile phones while driving the elephants! Not sure how good the conditions are that they’re kept in.

Talking and driving on the elephant

Talking and driving on the elephant

The entrance to the fort consisted of food vans, snake charmers and of course people, but would have to have been the worst I’ve encountered in terms of hawkers (at least in India). They were persistent, in your face and extremely annoying, not taking no for an answer. They were selling a great variety of things, with not much actually related to the fort.

Pigeons reach plague proportions in India (much like the hawkers)

Pigeons reach plague proportions in India (much like the hawkers)

The fort stands on the hill, an impressive structure, visible from the surrounding plains, an ever present reminder of the dynasties that flourished, but no longer exist, the concentrated opulence of a few, on display for the world to see, a reminder of times past, existing now to serve the town in tourism only.

Amber Palace from the outside

Amber Palace from the outside

It is well preserved, the walls able to tell stories dating hundreds of years. The large courtyard in the fort was once home to the hustle and bustle of markets and town life, the fort walls containing the town of Jaipur until it was moved to the plains, part of the reason being the plains were more suited to the <a https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jantar_Mantar,_JaipurJantar Mantar observatory.

Jaipur

Jaipur

Mirrors decorate different parts of the palace in the Sheesh Mahal (Palace of Mirrors). Shining a light on the mirrors makes the ceiling twinkle like stars at night, a spectacular feature of the palace. In other areas marble wall carvings, columns and arches abound.

Mirrored Ceiling, Amber Palace

Mirrored Ceiling, Amber Palace

The golden cage was interesting. It was where the wives and harem of the king lived. 12 wives, 132 others. The 12 rooms of the wives looked on to the courtyard, but all were kept separate. There were secret passages inside the walls so that the king could walk between each and nobody could see where he was visiting. The area had hot and cold running water, latrines, wheelchair access and a special area set aside for the women to give birth. It was ahead of its time, but if I was a woman from that era, I wouldn’t want to live there: the “golden cage” nickname a clue as to how the women were treated.

Some rooms of the golden cage, Amber Palace

Some rooms of the golden cage, Amber Palace

The drive back in the tuk tuk was through some narrow crowded lanes – and for the first – and surprisingly only – time our tuk tuk was involved in a little scrape after we were nudged from behind by a bus I think. It was significantly bigger than us, but our driver jumped out and was ready to have a fight with the other driver who took great amusement at our drivers animated antics.

The old and newer... Elephant and Tuk Tuk

The old and newer… Elephant and Tuk Tuk

Lunch at the the Hotel Arya Niwas was good as usual. More on today later…

January 27, 2017

India Day 18 Tordi Gah to Jaipur

Filed under: Trips — pearsey @ 3:59 pm
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18/10/16

Another early morning, up in the cool and dark to hike up the hill to see the sunrise from the fort at Tordi, which was really worth doing.

Different colours

Different colours

I’m glad we walked up the hill in the dark though, as there were some fairly steep sections, which if you could see them, may have messed with your head. I’m sure it’s always easier to walk up the hard parts in the dark without knowing what you’re in for.

Lake in the morning light, Tordi Gah

Lake in the morning light, Tordi Gah

It was a great view of the area from the top. The fort was fairly small, especially if you’re comparing it to the big forts in Agra, Delhi and Jaipur. It was only a small kingdom also, so a smaller fort does make sense. The sun came up really quickly, and seemed to pick up where it left off last night colour wise. It came up a brilliant pink colour and brought a soft glowing light to the surrounding area. Sitting at the top was nice and peaceful. No horns, no people, nice and cool and some biscuits and tea to fill the gap.

Time for a rest while drinking in the view (and water)

Time for a rest while drinking in the view (and water)

After watching the sunrise, I took a quick look around the overgrown fort ruins. Most of the fort was just ruins, some brick walls and wells hidden beneath the vegetation, hidden reminders of an era long gone. I’m not sure there’d be enough to even try to restore if they wanted to.
We wandered back down, getting a view of the others side of the hill and the dam in the distance.

The few willing to make the hike

The few willing to make the hike

After the fort hike, there was time for a bit of recovery, then off for a walk around the village. It was just a normal rural Asian village, people walking around, or going about their normal morning routine like washing, getting to work, school etc. The population is about 1500 and most earn their living from subsistence farming, so the addition of tourists has been good, but it needs to be monitored a little so that the kids don’t take advantage of the tourists for thing like money etc.

Generations, Tordi Gah

Generations, Tordi Gah

From there our short stay in the village was over and we headed to Jaipur. Tordi Gah was a great little detour and while there’s not much to do, that is also part of the attraction. You’re able to get away from the noise, hustle and bustle of tourist India and take some time out.

Tordi Gah guest house with fort in the background

Tordi Gah guest house with fort in the background

Once in Jaipur, our tour leader took us on a short walk (march) to the old city area – going past the shops too fast to actually see much. We ended up visiting another couple of tourist shops, one which demoed block printing, then of course tried to sell us things like linen, scarves, etc, then on to a gem shop for the same type of thing. At least they give you free drinks at these shops, but it gets a bit boring if you’re not there to buy anything.

Shopping can be boring

Shopping can be boring

We were driven back to our hotel by a guy who owns the gem shop. He spends 2 months in Italy, then comes back to India for 2 months, back to Italy for 2 months etc. He was great, very informative and would probably make a great tour guide! The traffic at night around the city centre in Jaipur is crazy and our driver gave us a good tour of the city after he unintentionally took the scenic route. It would have been good to get to see the park at night, that was lit up well and looked really cool.

Elaborate candelabra, Jaipur gem shop

Elaborate candelabra, Jaipur gem shop

January 22, 2017

India Day 17 – Tordi Gah

Filed under: Trips — pearsey @ 9:44 pm
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17/10/16

Up early and caught a public bus to a mid way point along the side of the road, where we swapped to a private bus to take us to Tordi Gah.
As we were leaving Agra, we drove past a few areas on the city which looked like rubbish tips, but had people living under tarps and tents. It was just a reminder that some don’t have (or choose not to have) the comforts we take for granted. The drive from Agra to Jaipur was on a nice highway, or tollway, and thankfully relatively free of cows. I think this was the only time I actually saw a dead cow, there’s really not much chance of avoiding them at 100km an hour and it would make a bit of a mess if you hit one.

Tents, Home, Agra

Tents, Home, Agra

We drove through Jaipur to get to the rural village of Tordi Gah. The countryside on the drive here looked a lot like Kenya/Tanzania, unending desert like plains, with the odd hill rising out of the dust. The land wasn’t as sparse though, with a reasonable cover of low grass tufts and trees, whose branches were covered in thorns. Shepherds, or stockmen, sometimes just young boys, would take their sheep, goats or cows out to find feed.

Goats in the village, Tordi Gah

Goats in the village, Tordi Gah

As the bus struggled down the narrowing dirt roads, we guessed we were getting closer. The fort ruins on top of the hill signalled we were close to the village of Tordi, which has a population of about 1500.
At Tordi we checked in to the guest house there, and went on a drive through the village. We went to a step well, where no matter how deep or shallow the water is, you can take the steps down to the water level. The well isn’t used anymore and the water that was in it was stagnant. Makes you wonder how the water was kept fresh when it was a working well.

The steps at the well, Tordi Gah

The steps at the well, Tordi Gah

After that we went to a dam, which seemingly appeared out of nowhere – it was just not where you’d expect to see a dam and it looked like it had been a long time since it had been anywhere near full.

The other direction - not a lot of water

The other direction – not a lot of water

Here you could also walk down the side of the wall with wide steps taking you to the bottom. We had a good view of the sunset from here and were happy to sit there and watch it. But, there was a better place to watch it we were told, so we headed to the sand dune area and climbed the sand dune to watch the sun go down. The sand was nice beach sand, just thousands of miles away from a beach! The sand dune did indeed provide a great view of the sunset and surrounding area and was worth the walk up there.

Varying colours, sunset, Tordi Gah

Varying colours, sunset, Tordi Gah

We finished the night with a meal on the rooftop overlooking the village. Our hosts for the night pumped up the music for a while, which must have really annoyed the whole area, because it was otherwise so quiet. I found it interesting that the dances they did were meant to tell a story – to be perfectly honest I couldn’t pick the story from the dance, it didn’t line up at all!

Blue lights in our room, Tordi Gah

Blue lights in our room, Tordi Gah

The place we stayed in was a 300 year old property, one that the ruler of the local area used to live in. It had been well converted, air con, fans, bathrooms and it was better than some of the other places. The accommodation provided income for 30 families in the village.

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