Goodbye Letter Before India & Nepal

Hello everyone,

Well, thank you to all of you that were at my birthday Sat. night. I had a great time and I hope you enjoyed yourselves as well. Thank you for making my 35th so special.

For those of you that were there and witnessed my front walkovers and break dancing, I did it, didn’t I? No, I mean I really did it. I really did break my thumb on my right hand. The doctor who took the xrays on Sun. morn. said I needed to see an orthopedist on Tues. The orthopedist said it is ok to wear a brace for 5 weeks instead of a cast so I can still go on my trip. Whew!! That was close. I broke it not doing the flips or dancing, but by just using my hand to push myself up off the ground after sitting, so be careful.

This is a long one because it is an itinerary. My messages from overseas are never this long. Hope it keeps you interested. I’m hoping it is interesting enough that it would make people want to read a book of the actual happenings after I’ve seen all of these things. I did not really proof this, so forgive any errors. It is hard typing with this cast like thing on my hand.

So, I’m off again. I leave on Jan. 21 for India and Nepal. I’ll be home on March 30. I know some of you really like to see itineraries or get updates, but if I am mistaken about you, write me and I’ll take your name off the list. If you have an email change, let me know.  I hope to find internet cafes to check my mail so please feel free to send a periodic hello so I can touch base with a little bit of home and my friends. Let me know when great things happen or when you just need to share something. Just please understand if I don’t get a chance to write back. I will miss everyone. This will be the longest I have spent in any one country.

So, India & Nepal Highlights…

I planned this trip myself. I chose what I wanted to see and sent it to many, many companies and said please price this. This particular company really came through and made sure almost everything I chose was on the list. It was impossible to get everything, but this was the most research I have ever done for one of my trips. I will be going alone. I hired Airtreks.com to be responsible for me the duration of the trip. I will have a driver and car almost every day and a private guide on every sightseeing day. The main highlights are on Jan. 26, I will be in New Delhi for “Republic Day”. This is their Independence Day. There will be a huge parade with camels and dancing at around 9am and I already have my seat reserved.  The next is really quite amazing.

The WORLDS largest religious festival, Maha Kumbh Mela (The great festival of Elixir) in Allahabad this year takes place once every 14 years. This year, 2001, is a rare alignment of the planets that occurs every 144th year that Hindus consider auspicious. It will take place from Jan. 21-Feb. 21. 15 million pilgrims traveled to this festival in 1989 and, “Guinness Book of Records said it was the largest gathering of humans assembled for a single purpose in history”.  The celebration goes back to the 10th century. It will take place at the confluence of two of India’s most sacred rivers, the Ganges and the Yamuna. Their source is in the heights of the Himalayas. People believe that nectar from heaven manifests itself on the six auspicious bathing days at the Kumbh Mela so they cleanse themselves of sins. A ritual dip is said to ensure immortality and the sanskaric bindings of rebirth. I will be at the festival for 3 days and be there for Maghi Poornima Feb. 8, the 5th main bathing day. They expect 70 million people to visit India for the festival this year. In London, their local channel 4 will have a daily broadcast of the festival for 3 weeks. At the festival, I have the opportunitys for Yoga workshops, Massages and herbal workshops in thatched huts, audiovisuals on their culture, spirituality, and a resident astrologer will be there from dawn to dusk every day. Each evening there will be classical and folk musicians performing as well as dancers from all regions of the country.

The Legend of the Kumbh (if you are interested)

Amrit, the nectar of Immortality was resting deep at the bottom of the primeval ocean. To attain it, both the gods and the demons tied the sea-serpent, Anant Nag around Mount Meru and churned the ocean til finally, the pitcher (kumbh) of nectar emerged. A fierce battle ensued. The gods managed to snatch the pitcher away, but not before four drops had fallen on earth. The four drops fell on Allahabad, Haridwar, Ujjain and Nasik. The festival of nectar is held at these 4 places in rotation. A ritual dip is said to ensure immortatlity and freedom from re-birth.

I’ll go on now:

Jan. 28 I will fly to Kathmandu, Nepal. I will be in Nepal for 8 days. I will have sightseeing every day but highlights here will include the sunrise panorama view over the Himalayas by flight to see Mount Everest, Chitwan Park, home to the One-Horned Rhino, the Royal Bengal Tiger, the Gharia, freshwater dolphins, Sloth Bears, and the 4-Horned Antelope. Here I will take an elephant back safari into the dense Asian jungle. Pokhara, Nepal will give me relaxation I’ll need after that where I will cruise the Phewa Lake, and stay in the Pokhara Valley with the Annapurna range and Fishtail Peak just in front of my room.

I’ll continue in India on Feb. 5 in Varanasi. They say, “The INDIA without VARANASI is to ITALY without ROME”. We’ll see. I’ll be in Sarnath where Buddha gave his first sermon. Feb. 7-9 I’ll be in Allahabad for Kumbh Mela (See above). After the fair, I will arrive in Khajuraho to see their famous temples. The statues about these intensly decorated temples are a distinctive influence of Hindu, Buddhist and Jain religions. Then I will once again be on safari, this time at Bandhavgarh National Park famous for the most tigers, the Gaur, Leopards, Wild Dogs, Chital herds, Sambhar Deer’s, wild boars, Solitary Munijac Deer, Antelopes (the Nilghai, Chinkaras, and Chausingha)

Valentines Day, Feb. 14 I will be aboard my first Indian train the Jhansi Shatabdi Express to arrive in Agra to see one of the seven wonders of the world, the Taj Majal. This mausoleum stands as the witness to Emperor Shah Jahanis, immortal love to his wife Mumtaz Mahal. I will visit the Taj both at sunrise one day and again for sunset on the 15th.

Once again, I will then be on safari at Ranthambhore National Park situated over the Aravali and Vindhya mountain ranges. I’ll be staying overnight in tents while on safaris. I’ll have a few days to relax and enjoy more wildlife. The tigers are known here to be the friendliest in India and to be said to be out and playful during the day… We’ll see. My camera will be ready.

On Feb. 19, I’ll arrive the Maharani Palace in Jaipur, the capital city of Rajasthan known as the pink city built by Raja Jai Singh in the 18th century. The city is surrounded by fortresses and fairy-tale palaces, camels and brightly dressed peasants. At the Amber Palace, built in the 16th century,  I will get to enjoy a truly Indian experience riding an elephant at the palace like the Maharajas and Maharani used to do.

I continue to Bikaner, an outpost on the once great camel caravan route to the west, where I will have the honor of visiting a camel, breeding farm where I will have the opportunity to drink female camel milk. WHAT? I don’t think so. We’ll see.

I’ll continue on the 23rd to the border city of Jaisalmar where people still live in fortresses as they did 800 years ago. Here the Panihari women balance water pitchers on their heads for over a mile to get the water from the Gadisagar tank into the city.  I will then take a camel back safari into the desert and stay in a tent in the middle of a sand dunes. I am really excited about that. It should be beautiful. I keep imagining these swirl patterns of soft sand as far as the eye can see when looking back seeing only traces of camel hoofs. Wow!

Jodhpur founded in 1459 by Rao Jodha, descendent of Lord Rama (hero in the epic Ramayana) is next. The massive Fort Mehrangarh will be the highlight there. This is still one of the leading trading centers of wood, cattle, camels, salt and crops. I’ll have a daytrip to Osiyan to visit the famous Jain Temples of the 10th century. I’ll go on to Mount Abu to see the exquisite marble carved temple at Dilwara. I’ll ride a boat on the Nakki Lake, the center of Mt. Abu.

Udaipur is my next stop where I will have a motor launch on Lake Pichola and a visit to the lake palace. I’ll have a day excursion to Chittaurgarh to see its main fort. It lies on a 180 meter high hill and is spread over 700 acres. The Vijay Stambh (Tower of Victory) was built in 1440 to mark the victory of Rana Kumbha in a battle.

Bombay is my next stop surrounded by the sea on all sides. Here I will see the Gateway to India and the next day visit the Elephanta Caves by motor launch. These caves are the famous 8th century cave temples still containing magnificent sculptures.

The next part of my journey will be the famous rock-cut temples Ajanta and Ellora at Aurangabad. These are the most remarkable monuments of their kind in the world. These monasteries and shrines are made out of living rock by generations of men dating back 2000 years.

Now I get to reach the southern part of the country. I’ll go to Madurai, one of the oldest cities in India. It is known for its Meenakshi Temple dedicated to Goddess Meenakshi and Lord Sundareswar (Siva). It has a thousand pillared hall built in the 16th century. Here I will also see the Vishnu Temple and Gandhi Museum.

March 12 I will go to Periyar National Park. The sanctuary is set around an artificial lake formed by damming the Periyar river. Here I will take a boat ride on the Periyar lake to view heards of elephants, tiger, sambar, barking deer, mouse deer, Nilgiri tahr, porcupine, lion-tailed macaque, black langur and more…Hopefully!

I’ll reach Cochin after driving through lush tea, coffee, rubber, coconut trees and rice plantations. Vasco-Da-Gama was buried here in 1524 but the remains were taken to Portugal 14 years later. At night, I’ll see a Kathakali Dance performance. Cochin city has, I believe, the only remaining jewish synagogue. I’ll get to cruise by villages and observe daily life while cruising in the backwaters observing the countryside.

Bangalore was founded in 1537 by Kempegowda and has blossomed into one of Asia’s fastest growing cities. It is known as the cleanest city in India.  I will do all my usual local city siteseeing here before going on to

Mysore. On route I will visit Srirangapatnam, the town of island fortress which stands literally in the middle of the river. Tipu Sultan, the Muslim ruler who has become a legend, waged war against the British with the French alliance from here. He was ultimately defeated here in 1799. In Mysore I will go to a silk factory and a sandalwood oil factory.

March 18 I will take the Shatabdi Express train to Madras (Chennai). The Marina Beach in Madras is considered to be the second largest beach in the world. There is a great aquarium, a senate house built in the indo-saracenid style and a war memorial. About 25 miles away is the famous Mahabalipuram known for its rock cut 7th century monolithic shrines and its beautiful Shore Temple. Here I will also see the caves, an old light house, Trimuthi caves and tiger caves and a sculpture training center. In Madras I will visit the National Art Gallery and the People’s Park & Zoo. I’ll also take a day trip to Kanchipuram, one of the seven great ancient cities of India and the only one south of the Vindhyas. This is where Buddhism, Jainism and Hinduism flourished.

On March 22 I will fly to Bombay again and stay till I am transferred to the airport at 2:45 am to fly to London to visit my brother in Bognor Regis, England for 7 days.

I will arrive home on Fri., March 30 1:15pm  with a few stories to share.

I hope you stay safe and healthy. I’ll look forward to talking with you all upon my return.

Keep in touch!!

Love,

Elisa

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