FREE BIRD T.V.: Episode 5 (Rajasthan~Land of the Kings)

Here it is–our newest India-inspired video!  Joe and I combed through, trimmed, deleted, re-trimmed, arranged and re-arranged an hour and a half of footage to create this 5+ minute montage of our Rajasthan experience.

Hope you enjoy glimpsing the Land of the Kings–we LOVED our adventure there.


Crumbling Walls + Faded Paint: The Beauty’s in the Buildings

We’ve made it to Gokarna’s Om Beach–land of gold sand, stray dogs, wandering cows (Joe theorizes these are vacationing cows, taking a break from the crowded streets of Varanasi), and run-down beach huts.

While the hoped-for hut I’d envisioned in my mind on the long journey here (two rickshaws, a 9-hour train, and three buses in the heat) included an ocean view, the ones available are tucked away behind the beach’s restaurants, though the sound of the Arabian Sea can still be heard from our doorstep.  Along with monkey calls and birdsong.  And the odd yelp I emit when our resident beetle makes a surprise appearance.

India!  Only four days left in this expanse of emotional and spiritual chaos before we transition to island life in Indo.  But more stories + photos (and videos) from here are in the works, so Free Bird will be bouncing around a little in chronology and countries in the days and weeks ahead.  Hope you’ll stay with me for the ride!

Here’s a new gallery featuring one of my favourite aspects of India–the beautiful crumbling buildings.

~Courtney xo

One of Pushkar's main streets

*Click on a photo to view gallery in full-size

Castles and Temples and Forts, Oh My

Day 5 in Hampi:

Woke up early to watch Lakshmi, the temple elephant, take her 7:30 a.m. bath in the Tungabhadra River.  Sadly, we then witnessed a local man empty three bags of garbage into the water, watch it float downstream, then jump in for a dip.  (One of the bags was all paper materials–he sorts, then pollutes?)  Beautiful bathing elephant to our left, dirty floating garbage to our right.  This is India.

After a breakfast of milk coffee, masala dosa, and fried eggs, we took a fishing boat across the river, walked through a village called Virupapura Gaddi, and stopped for a lassi break (the heat is like an oven here, making time in the shade a necessary pleasure) on a floor-cushioned patio overlooking a rice paddy field.  Lined with palm trees.

One more day and then we’re off on an overnight bus to Gokarna, a temple/beach town on Karnataka‘s west coast.  Beach hut time is calling…

New story with pics and our latest video are coming soon!  In the meantime, hope you enjoy this peek at some of India’s most awe-inspiring architecture–the castles, temples, and forts of Rajasthan.


Rajasthani Dreaming

Hello from Hampi–land of banana fields, palm trees, and giant boulders that look like they were strategically placed along the river by the massive hand of some mythological, pre-historic God.  Which wouldn’t surprise me.  In India, everything is possible.

We arrived here yesterday after a subway and flight from Kolkata, a bus ride and rickshaw in Hyderabad, an overnight train to Hospet, another rickshaw, and a final bus which pulled into the Hampi bazaar at 11 am.  I’ve got two weeks left in this country before we fly to Indonesia, and still so much to share!

Such as this photo gallery from Rajasthan, where we spent our first three weeks.  I hope you enjoy the glimpse; this part of India is even more exotic and multi-faceted than we had imagined.

Jodphur kiddies

*Click on a photo to flip through the gallery in full-size

Free Bird T.V.: Episode 3 (Sharma, Baba, and the Monkeys)

On the back page of the menu at Sixth Sense, the restaurant at our guesthouse in Pushkar, which sat above an open courtyard with rope-swing benches and a fountain scattered with rose petals and blue domes that curved out from the ceiling, a paragraph caught my eye.

Countryside Walk, it said.  Join Mr. Sharma, our neighbour from one of the oldest religious families in Pushkar.  See rose fields, peacocks, and other wildlife through the hills surrounding town.  3 hours.  250 rupees.

After asking for more details at the front desk (“Good walk,” said the man, “I hope you like.”), Joe was skeptical.

“Sure, it sounds nice,” he said.  “But do we really need a guide to walk into the countryside?  We could just do that on our own.”  We were sitting on a bench next to the fountain, the sound of its water flowing down behind us.  Pigeons soared onto the stone, perching among the petals.

“It’s a gamble,” I said.  “It could be a waste of money.  Or it could turn out to be the best thing we do on this trip.  But it’s only five dollars.”

At 4 pm the next day, we met Mr. Sharma in the guesthouse entrance.  He wore a pale yellow button-down shirt and loose blue pants.  His hair and beard were mostly grey and a line of red was painted between his brows.

“Now we go,” he said, “buy food for the monkeys.  How much you can spend?”

Strolling through Pushkar (past the lake,  where we’d been given blessings and petals and dye on our foreheads the day before–by disingenuous priests, it seemed, who demanded 300 rupees for a prayer they forced us into) past the chai shop with dreadlocked travellers and the owner in his dark pink silk shirt saying Sir, sir!, shaking Joe’s hand, you come here anytime, ice cold water only ten rupees, past the shops with bangles and threaded scarves, the neon-lit temple and the dogs and the holy flower sellers, we arrived at the nut and seed shop.

“One hundred rupees for the monkeys,” we told Sharma, and the shopkeeper poured the nuts from their mesh bags, weighing them on metal scales. He handed them to us in newspaper, and then, past the coin sellers and the row of men who sit and sit, selling nothing, their beards long, their knees bare beneath cotton sheet-skirts, past the bus stop and its herd of tired cows, we turned right, and the road quieted down.  Here, in the muted light of late, late afternoon at the outskirts of town, the walk began.

“This,” Sharma said, pointing to a walled encosure, trees climbing upward amidst cement –“this is where the  merchant caste cremates.  Villages from 20 kilometres around,” he swept his hand, “can do this here.”

The road was long and mostly straight.  Women bent in their fields, sarees glowing against the grain,  harvesting long shafts of everything brown or green.  To our left, rose bushes climbed up into the blue, which at this time of day was bright but clear, the sun’s glare diminishing so that the colour of the sky was revealed without the necessity of shade. Sharma led us past a metal fence and into a farm’s backyard.  A woman–a grandmother?–held a baby, sitting on a wooden chair.  Behind her, a goat was milked by a girl–the baby’s mother?

We walked past fields of chilli peppers.  A farmer joined us, pointing out papaya and rows of sugar cane, then waved goodbye.  Sharma strolled on, through the shade of mango trees, toward a leaning bush of bougainvillea.  Beneath its shade, he pointed, “Monkeys!”  Grey with black faces, a group of nine or ten langurs jumped across a high wall, their tails curled in wide loops. Our first time seeing the creatures up close in India, we whipped out our cameras, recording their leaps as Sharma walked on.

“Come, come,” he said. “There are more.”

In the hills to our right, cacti grew in clusters, their green arms extending from the dry, rocky ground.  A lone peacock stood among the scrub as we climbed higher, the path widening.  Sharma stopped, listened.

“My monkeys,” he muttered.  “I can’t hear them.”   The view gave way to a white-washed temple above, surrounded by taller, greener trees.  Sharma squinted toward it as we stood still, waiting.  A figure stepped out of the temple’s door and Sharma walked toward it.

Joe and I waited, looking back to the coloured roofs visible beyond the fields.  The day’s heat had begun to thin.  We heard Sharma’s voice mingling with another, and then he reappeared, descending from the temple.  “Now,” he said.

Sharma stood beside Joe and let out a loud yelp.  From the temple another voice called, “Hello, hello! Hello, hello!”  Sharma nodded and said, “Now they are coming,” as we kept our bodies still, watching the path ahead.

From the hill the langurs leaped, first two, then four, then seven, then eleven, then more and more monkeys, 50 at least racing toward us, a rush of feet and hands and long, looping tails.  Mothers leapt, their babies clinging to their bellies.  Some paused on rocks before making a wide jump to the ground at our feet, where nuts fell from Sharma’s hands, showering their black faces and open, hungry mouths.  He flattened his palms, showing Joe the correct technique (“Don’t close your hand,”he said,” or they angry.”) as they reached up on hind legs, grabbing handfuls of nuts and shoveling them into their mouths, the sound of their crunching eclipsing the bird song above us.

Safe in a pair of blue converse sneakers, my feet were shielded from those of the monkeys, which appeared everywhere I stepped.  Up close their teeth looked fierce, their fingers limber–ready to snag the next stream of nuts that fell from our palms.  Amidst the crunching, they emitted a choir of squeaks, leaping to the rocks, trees, and temple ahead.

A voice continued to call.  It belonged to Baba, the orange-clothed, dreadlocked holy man who lived here.  We climbed the steps toward him, dodging hands and tails as Sharma led us through his monkeys to the top of the temple, Baba and the view of Pushkar waiting.


*Baba–a Sadhu from Nepal who lives alone at this temple– is one of the coolest people Joe and I have ever met.  Before checking out the video of our awesome encounter with Sharma, Baba, and the monkeys, see photos and read about Baba on Joe’s blog here.

Then come on back to Free Bird for the video!

As always, thanks for reading and watching.  Please share if you enjoy!

~C. xo

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