Saturday, March 19, 2011

Best Laid Plans

The best laid plans of mice and men.    I’m not sure how that all applies but after our first two full days of travel in India, everybody who know to look at the blog have seen nothing.  
7:00 am India time.  3rd day   13 ½ hours before central time and an amazing amount has transpired.
  Normal travel muck of scheduling flights because of economics and spending an extra 7 hours in layover in Chicago contributed to the trip to forever syndrome.    Met up with most everyone in Chicago and exhilaration was tempered by time.  
We were  met at Indira Ghandi airport by Johnanna Kinsler (treasured  neice and the excuse for the trip) and Harmit Singh (travel agent).  First impressions are that the airport is quiet and clean.   Heat blasts you as you exit the airport doors and we piled into vans for the ride to the hotel located closely.   As it comes out, so close that our decompression time we spent drinking our first cup of tea in the nice garden was punctuated by jets at 400 feet every two minutes as they landed.  Can anyone say flightpath????
Next morning all twelve of us piled into cars and went to the local park to play soccer.   Harmits friends and accomplices and the family played soccer, talked, walked, and were suddenly immersed in the dichotomy of India.   Rose Ann, Joanne, Amelia and I (Don) walked down the newly constructed street in a half constructed condo subdivision (come to find out, all of India is half constructed)  and took in sights as we dodged dog poop and steet vendors.   The soccer game went for two hours and we returned to order breakfast in the rooms and depart near nine.   Nice family hotel (friends of Johanna).   Clean and attentive. 
Jet lag and Elizabeth coming down with something before we left is tempering our judgement about how much and how fast we want to do everything.    Lizzie has a fever and is nauseous.   Threw up in the car.   We stepped back and started looking at what we had to give her.   She’s rallied and we headed back to the airport to catch their version of the subway(new,clean,fast) to downtown Delhi.  
Went to Mahatma Ghandi’s place of martyrdom.   He was an amazing man and his peaceful protests have shown the world much.    Our first encounter with that was the strike and sit in on the tracks that started to cancel the trains early yesterday morning.    Our train to Jaipur was cancelled as we shopped in the large bazaar/market that’s half done like the rest of India.   Food at a clean local restaurant there.   Great and cheap.   $1 each for lunch.   Water is what we’re craving and can’t buy enough of.   

Whole family is learning that no and meaning it is a very desired trait.   Hawkers and salesmen sensory overload the market.  

We quickly jumped the cabs provided and headed to pick up Sabrina (Austins friend who came with us).  She was visiting her uncles in Delhi and it was best to meet her on the way out of town.   Because our train was cancelled we were going to drive to Jaipur for the first real leg of the trip.   Jaipur was 4 to 5 hours by train.   Jaipur was 8 to 9 hours by wild cab.   Because trains weren’t running, the roads were gridlocked.  Every bus was filled and overflowed with passengers on top.  Trucks with goats and passengers anxious to go to Jaipur at what seemed almost any expense.  Our cabbie didn’t talk much because he was following the other cabbie in a race through the night.   Rose Ann and I were laughing in fear the whole way.   My right leg hurt because of pushing down on the brake that wasn’t there all night.  We’ve decided to call that leg Harmit’s Tour of Terror.    The cabbie in front was on a mission even acknowledged by Harmit as aggressive.   Our Cabbie seemed to just have to keep up.   A 9 hour cab ride in full blown traffic at speeds ranging from 0 to 120km dodging in and out of giant trucks, other cabs, busses and any other mode of transportation imaginable.  I guess I could never  conceive of this type of a ride.   Random Lane changes puntucated by horns, inches of room in every decision between life and death.   Traffice was completely stopped heading  the way headed back to Delhi.  This necessitated the ones headed to Delhi to sometimes try and cheat the traffic by trying to go against our oncoming traffic to accomplish any real progress for themselves.   This also caused intense fear for us to be avoiding them randomly.   The half built highway to Jaipur has completely inadequate signage for lane endings and they do go from 3 to 2 lanes regularly, but it didn’t seem to bother the cabbies as merging seems to be an artform practice continually along the way.  The big problem is that you really couldn’t see the lane ending because of the traffic.   You were really just dumped into it.   Lots of instant split decisions by the cabbies.  
Our cab has decided to market a new video game called “Night Ride to Jaipur”   Object is to drive your cab to Jaipur.  Points off for dead passengers, dents in the car, dead cows or pedestrians who pop up unexpectedly wearing dark clothes in the dark and running across fast traffic.  Fastest person to make the drive wins.   Hazards include random lane endings, massive dust clouds, immoveable objects randomly scattered, other aggressive cabbies and drivers, holy cows, and anything else you can imagine.
The next morning started with breakfast at the amazing hotel.  Built in 1882 by a Maharaja for his courtiers, it’s pretty cool.  Rooms are spacious and definitely not the common hotel.   Courtyards everywhere.  Fresh picked Flowers in bowls are placed everywhere for a wonderful scent.  
Harmit has hired 3 tuk tuk drivers to spend the day with us for $1000 rupies each.  (about $25 each).   Exchange rate is around 43 rupies to the dollar.   We went shopping in the pink city market.   Bought buckets of muck to haul with us for the rest of the trip.  Everyone has learned the word no pretty well.  The crush of humanity is amazing to behold.   The contrast of wealth and poverty is pretty crazy too. 
Oh, during Harmit’s tour of terror ride, we were invited to tea by (I’m not sure exactly who).  12 of us invaded this familys beautiful home on an acre or two that was gated and enclosed.  Gracious family and social values that are amazing.   Spent 1 hour there having Chai tea on their immaculately manicured lawn and gardens.   Contrasts and dichotomy.   Unexpected detour and totally delightful. 

Our tuk tuk drivers are fun.  We played tag darting among traffic as we go through Jaipur.    They are 3 family guys just trying to make a living.   We’re headed to the elephant festival on the polo grounds.   Just not the polo grounds we arrived at.   8-10 kilometers away we got there but on the way Audrey and Harmit buzzed up on a Royal Enfield motorcycle and started Holi with us.  This is a paint powder war among participants and gets totally crazy.   Dashing through Jaipur throwing colored powder at each others tuk tuk.   Crazy ride to begin with in a tuk tuk but add playing Holi to it makes it insane.   Holi was to start our 3rd day, not now.   Amelia was in her new dress and the rest of us had bought white shirts for nothing at the market so that we could just throw them away (or frame them) after the celebration.   The white shirts were still in the bags and our clothing is a total casualty. Austin smacked me with a whole handful of blue holi dust in the eye.   The war was on and before it was done, everyone was covered in wildly colored dust.  I nailed one of our tuk tuk drivers.   He’s fastidiously clean and was annoyed.   He nailed me back on the ride home with probably a quart of magic dust.  Purple, green, blue, yellow, orange, almost electric colors and a lots of fun .   The elephant festival was beautiful and both Amelia and Caroline got to ride fantastically decorated horses.   Pagentry to the max.  We got home and cleaned up and headed to dinner at this rooftop restaurant.   Posh and upscale but incredible food and view.   $14,000 rupies ( for dinner for 12) later I rode the Royal Enfield with Harmit back to the hotel.  We’ve concluded we may be packing too much in but the immersion into the culture is wonderful.   Amelia and Caroline were just about trashed when they started to fall asleep at the restaurant.    We may be pushing them too hard.   They’re holding up well though.  Photos to come.   Internet is random and hard to find.   All photos are being downloaded to our Ipad.  We’ll try and upload some to all as we can.   At this point, don’t know how. 
Holi starts this AM.   A new meaning to the phrase “magic dust”.    Catch back up later. 

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