Joy Swing

As I’d picked up my bike early into my Indian wanders, I’d yet to travel in India by train. A couple posts back, I described the anarchy that is an Indian railway crossing. In Patna, I learned crossings have NOTHING on another process involving railways: obtaining a ticket.

Many Indian trains are booked weeks in advance. But for many routes the railways set a couple tickets aside as specific last minute buys; there are tickets designated only for foreigners, tickets set to be sold only 2 days before the journey. . .Pete and I were hoping to take advantage of this opportunity.

Unfortunately, so, it seemed, was the rest of Patna. Continue reading

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Buddhist Technophiles and Cross-Cultural Pollination

Bodhgaya’s a temple town. Pretty much every country with a significant Buddhist population has set up a shrine here, the reason being the nearby Mahabodhi temple (a UNESCO World Heritage Site) and its celebrity Bodhi tree, underneath which Gautama Buddha is said to have attained enlightenment.

The Mahabodhi Temple

Continue reading

Poor Timing in Jharkhand

Last post I promised a second story about being popular in India. Alas, this one isn’t quite as lol-worthy, and involves no stealth erotica photography. This instance I’m recounting as a reminder that timing doesn’t always work with us in life, and travel is sure as shit no exception to that rule.

As mentioned back in this post, I wiped out on my bike in Daltonganj. It wasn’t a terrible accident, just tiring, embarrassing and inconveniently timed. After I’d bandaged my shoulder and reclaimed my bruised pride back from the mildly bloodied dust I’d dropped it in, Pete and I rode into town to find some fruit to get our energy up for the ride ahead.

I was in a terrible mood. Beyond being sick and injured I was worried about how much longer I was going to be able to keep this up for. Somewhere in the back of my mind, I was even vaguely frightened of the possibility of actually shitting myself to death (not a terribly dignified death, that), or of losing consciousness on my bike and having a much more severe accident than a slow tumble into the dust (slightly more bad-ass but still not exactly desired outcome #1, if you know what I mean).

Which made it very difficult to muster up smiles for the crowd that was gathering around me as I sipped at my juice. Continue reading

The Novelty of a White Chick in a Tiger-less Tiger Reserve

I can see FOREVER.

The GPS was being a cock again. During the past 2 and a half months, our ‘Map my India’ navigational system had displayed some fairly prize moments of creative route creation (attempting to convince us a railroad was a highway and leading us through twisting alleys to the dead-end of someone’s cow-and-trash-inhabited backyard spring to mind) but we had by then caught on to its wily tricks. This particular day it was trying to convince us that Betla National Park was 450 km away. . .when it should have been 21.

It was for some reason suggesting that, as opposed to making a perfectly legal U-turn, we should instead go 300 km out of our way to change direction, drive PAST the place to which we were trying to get, then enter from the opposite side. When Pete and I defiantly ignored the route and made the turn off through a set of arches towards Betla, the GPS begrudgingly changed its ‘distance to destination’ reading from 441 km to 12, as though muttering, “. . .oh, yeah, OR you could go that way. You know, whatever. My way was real scenic and stuff is all. . . “ Continue reading

A Vagabond’s Guide to Driving in India:

The short version of this guide is simply, ‘don’t’. But, for those of you not dissuaded by cautionary warnings and sound, informed advice for maintaining your personal safety/sanity, below are some helpful tips I learned from my time on Indian roads.

Firstly, I should point out that I am no expert; not on Indian traffic laws and certainly not on motorcycles. I earned my license the summer prior to leaving for India and had, in total, approximately 4 months of riding experience behind me, gleaned from well paved roads in a quiet corner of Atlantic Canada. My 1984 Honda Magna (aka ‘Michael‘) had been just temperamental enough that I was familiar with stalling in public, how to get a bike going off a rolling start, and what it felt like to find out your ‘fuel low’ light doesn’t work by running out of gas 30 km shy of the middle of nowhere.

My advice will be (as all advice is, really) specific to my experience, which was riding a 2010 Royal Enfield Bullet Electra (aka ‘Hrithik’), over the course of 2 1/2 months, from the Northern town of Uttarkashi to the Eastern hill station of Darjeeling. I’ll get some actual, practical advice up on things like ‘buying a bike in India’ and ‘repairs along the road’ later as a part of a larger Indian resource post. . . .but, for now, one dozen general pointers for touring India by bike: Continue reading

Wandering the Ghats of Varanasi III (of III)

Backdated from March 29 – April 03

Lassis are an Indian staple. They’re a drink made by blending yogurt with water, and can be served sweet or savory, mixed with sugar, spices or fruit. The best ones will be mixed with a bit of milk, and topped with a thin layer of clotted cream. And the best I’ve had in all of India are to be found in Varanasi, at the Blue Lassi in Kachauri Gali.

The Blue Lassi – best in all of India

One of the Blue Lassi’s few workers setting up for the day. As the shop is a 3rd generation family business, you’re likely to see the same faces milling around each day you drop by.

Here the drinks are piled high with fresh fruits, shaved coconut, coffee or cocoa powder, or combinations of all the above (Because we are living IN THE FUTURE, you can even pop over to youtube to watch a lassi being made here). A personal favorite of mine was the chocolate banana. For the adventurous, ‘special’ (wink wink) lassis are also available. Perhaps don’t ask for them too loudly, though.

This particular evening I went with a chocolate blackberry (which turned out to actually be dark grapes), while Pete chose chocolate banana coconut. Our bellies filled with yogurty goodness, we made our way down to the river to hire a boat. On the night’s agenda was to watch the Ganga Aarti ceremony at Dasaswamedh Ghat. Continue reading