A Travellerspoint blog

The Jungle Blog

In the jungle, the mighty jungle the flying five sleep tonight ...

Day 1
We are very happy travellers today!  We are staying at a wilderness retreat just outside of Corbett National Park.  Corbett Park is an extensive, protected jungle and Asia's first protected forest, named in memory of a local hero, Jim Corbett.  Corbett was a legendary hunter and naturalist who had a deep respect for the local people and their jungle home.  Corbett is recognized as a pioneer in India's early conservation efforts.  The park is home to many species of birds, deer and monkeys, the sloth bear, leopards, and has a thriving tiger and wild elephant population.  
This afternoon we went on an elephant safari!  Our elephant's name was Galena.  She was very sweet and super intelligent.  Galina took us deep into the jungle where we saw spotted deer, sambhar deer, wild peacocks, many species of birds and two different types of monkeys.  We did not see tigers today but we saw many signs of the elusive wild creature including foot prints.  
Our accommodation feels pretty much like paradise.  It is a charming, impeccably clean and comfortable cottage.  We are surrounded by lush and fragrant jungle.  We are fed 3 meals a day plus snacks.  In the evenings we are treated to a bonfire.  Tomorrow we leave very early on another safari.  Wish us luck!

Day 2
We had an early, 5am wake up call today.  We had no trouble waking up after a very comfortable sleep as we knew that we were heading back into the jungle.  After a cup of warm chai, we climbed into the back of the jeep and as the sun was rising and the mist was thinning we entered the jungle with much anticipation.  We were treated to spectacular wildlife viewing.  Our most enjoyable was a troop of monkeys interacting with a herd of deer.  We were informed by our guide that monkeys often warn deer of danger and this sets off a series of deer calling to other deer.  We heard these calls of impending danger so we were hopeful that we would see a tiger.  In the end the majestic tiger eluded us but we like to think that she was watching us from the tall grasses just beyond our view.  Going on a safari with the hopes of spotting a tiger is very exciting and although we were not successful we enjoyed ourselves immensely.  We delighted in driving through river beds, watching a wide variety of birds, soaking in the greenery 
and bouncing in the open air jeep.  Upon our return to the retreat, a hot Indian breakfast was waiting for us.  We are now enjoying our balcony and trying to work up an appetite for a hot Indian lunch
We were compelled to set out again this afternoon, but this time, we went on foot.  Our experienced guide, Hari Lal, took us out on a guided nature hike.  Our mission was to track and spot a wild tiger!  We hiked down a trail which opened up to a dry river bed.  We followed the dry river bed for quite some time, noticing fresh tiger, king cobra and lizard tracks.  Again we heard the alarm calls of the deer.  We waited for a while and then our guide, acting on instinct, led us back into the jungle.  We hiked on, looking for clues, but still no tiger sighting.  We returned to our cottage and soon learnt that a tigress with 2 cubs was just spotted at the very site where we had waited!  It appears that when we re-entered the jungle, we disrupted her, and she exited.  You can't possibly imagine our disappointment but we like to think that this is good for our karma.  Our actions made it possible for two other people to spot the beautiful wild tiger and her two cubs.  We retreated to a high observation tower overlooking the jungle to dissipate the disappointment with a round of cards.  After some time, Mike and Meera retreated to the spa for Ayurvedic massages and steam baths for a little extra-special consolation. 

Day 3
We had to leave our awesome jungle retreat this morning after a delicious breakfast.  The friendly and very helpful staff bid us farewell and sent us on our way with a packaged lunch for our train ride back to Delhi.  We will return someday to this jungle paradise and hopefully catch a glimpse of the mysterious and wonderful tiger.  Would anyone care to join us?
A beautiful lotus flower

A beautiful lotus flower

Going on an elephant safari!

Going on an elephant safari!

Saying good bye to Galina.  She took us on a wonderful adventure through the jungle.

Saying good bye to Galina. She took us on a wonderful adventure through the jungle.

Galina saying good bye to us!

Galina saying good bye to us!

A happy monkey in the jungle!

A happy monkey in the jungle!

Looking for tigers!

Looking for tigers!

Chittel deer on high alert in their jungle home

Chittel deer on high alert in their jungle home

Corbett National Park

Corbett National Park

Sunset in the jungle

Sunset in the jungle

Posted by The Flying Five 18:34 Comments (1)

A divine experience on the Great Ganga River

We jumped out of the Toyota Land Cruiser and scurried down the rocky trail to the fine-grained, expansive, white sand beach (It is much easier to scurry when a Coolie is carrying your luggage).  One can imagine this Yukon family's utter delight as our eyebrows rose and our jaws dropped upon seeing a row of canvas safari tents with ready made beds in a neat line just beyond the circular dining tent complete with chafing dishes and wicker chairs.  After we finished a deliciously satisfying meal we headed out on our first rafting adventure.  The boys stayed back for this one but they enjoyed a challenging rope course and some exciting badminton.  Mike, Meera and Solstice enjoyed an afternoon of thrilling, constant and wet rapids.  Meera was slightly nervous for her first rafting adventure but Mike and Solstice welcomed the challenge with intense enthusiasm.

Our time at the beach camp was extremely fulfilling.  It offered us a much needed respite from the constant craziness of India and afforded us the opportunity to enjoy what we love best.  The GREAT outdoors treated us all very well, we were nourished by the sun's rays, mystified by the holy Ganga, sustained by the delicious camp cooking and sun rise yoga practices, tickled by the fine white sand and exhilarated by the rushing rapids.  The kids and Mike jumped off high rocks right into the Ganges and enjoyed body surfing in the river.  Mike is so proud because all of the kids have done their highest jumps to date.  They had many holy dips.  Meera's holy dip was a bit more unexpected as she was ejected from the raft in a particularly strong rapid.  She was a bit scared but all smiles knowing that she had now completed one of the great spiritual events of life - a dip in the holy Ganga river.

 We are now back in Rishikesh practicing yoga, contemplating the world as the Ganga flows by and feeding our souls.  We are also negotiating our way through the busy streets filled with monkeys, dogs, holy cows and Sadhus on mopeds!  Every morning when we practice yoga a crow comes to visit us, tapping at the window and croaking encouragement.  We love these visits from brother crow as it fills us all with such fond reminders of our Yukon home.
Today we visited a school for orphans.  We joined in for a music class and had a nice tour of the school and grounds.  The children are very proud of their school and are empowered there.  They have organic gardens and the produce that they grow is used in a garden cafe which in turn generates income for the school.  They also make jewellery that is sold at festivals.  The income goes directly into the child's bank account.  We returned this evening for a pizza party and movie night.  The children prepare the food, take your order and serve it to you.  It is truly a remarkable and well run facility that put the welfare and future of the children first.  

What we will remember best about Rishikesh is our expansive balcony where we sipped on copious amounts of lemon ginger honey tea, played Big Boss and watched the Ganga flow by.
All smiles, arriving at the rafting camp

All smiles, arriving at the rafting camp


Happy days at the river camp!

Happy days at the river camp!

Ready for white water rafting on the Ganga river!

Ready for white water rafting on the Ganga river!

Aleix is happy after a successful jump off a rock into the Ganga.

Aleix is happy after a successful jump off a rock into the Ganga.

Mike returning from an afternoon of river rafting

Mike returning from an afternoon of river rafting

Drying off after swimming in the Ganga

Drying off after swimming in the Ganga

Exploring the banks of the Gangac

Exploring the banks of the Gangac

Solstice just outside a very old Shiva cave temple

Solstice just outside a very old Shiva cave temple

Navigating our way through a very congested pedestrian bridge in Laxman Jhulla, Rishikesh

Navigating our way through a very congested pedestrian bridge in Laxman Jhulla, Rishikesh

Drying saris at the Ghats of Laxman <br />Jhulla.

Drying saris at the Ghats of Laxman
Jhulla.

Posted by The Flying Five 18:28 Comments (0)

Namaste Devotees

It has been too long since we last posted a blog and we beg your understanding, but do not ask for forgiveness.  Guilt is a western concept, so they say, and we are now in the east and the crown jewel that is India.

Our flight to Delhi was fine and upon our 3 a.m. touchdown we were glad and relieved to be met by Meera's cousins Arjun and Maneesha.  Maneesha's husband also tore himself away from the party they had been at to meet us.  We have been overwhelmed by Sarins of India hospitality and graciousness ever since.  

We stayed at Maneesha's house for approximately ten days.  Maneesha and Arjun both live just outside of Delhi in a city named Gurgaon, although to the newcomer the two metropolisis appear to be one big city. And one big city it is!  Over ten million people in cars, buses, bikes, rickshaws and cattle carts share grand boulevards and potholed byways with holy cows, mischievous monkeys, and wild pigs. Traffic rules were meant to be broken and it is with anxiety that I had the opportunity to drive during our stay. Anxiety soon turned to exhilaration as I tried to master driving on the left side of the road. Part of my exhilaration also came from discarding Canadian politeness and realizing vehement use of the car horn was all part of the unwritten rules of driving on Indian streets.

Also driving on Indian streets was India's first ever formula one race. The race was accompanied by several big concerts and events. But the only event we participated in was a massive traffic jam after one concert was cancelled and fans tried to get home. How does one describe in words traffic so tight that bicycles can't get through and where cars are stopped dead facing other cars also stopped dead but determined to take a short cut (?) by going the against the proper flow of traffic in the wrong lane!

Meera and Solstice have been doing a fair bit of shopping and Meera has hand selected a fresh new variety of products for Om Sweet Om.  While they were shopping I had the opportunity to take the boys and Maneesha's son Rohan (a totally cool two year old) to an expansive inner city park called Lodi Garden.  Whilst rambling amongst the ancient tombs and mosques I came across a few cool looking dudes accompanied by some pretty ladies. I kept my cool and my distance wondering if they were part of the F1 race, and I am sure they were wondering what the heck some big white guy was doing chasing three kids around in the heart of Delhi.  It was only the next day while reading the newspaper that I realized I had been shaking hands distance from the members of Metallica - the same band which had their concert cancelled causing us to be stuck in the traffic
jam! They might be famous but I still believe they talk amongst themselves trying to figure out, "just who was that only other white guy in the Delhi park and why was he there with three kids?"

During our stay in Delhi we celebrated Diwali, which is a celebration of lights.  The best way to describe it is New Year's Eve and Christmas rolled into one: presents, fireworks and way too much good food. They are going to have to roll me into the airplane when I eventually leave this country.

On November third we managed to tear ourselves away from the comforts of Maneesha's home and take the 6:50 a.m. Shitabti Express, a train, to the town of Dehredun.  Six hours later and without pause for breath we tumbled into an old Ambassador (the iconic taxi of India that looks like something built in the 1950's) and climbed into the foothills of the Himalayas to an elevation of 6000 feet and the hill station town of Musssoori.  Our hotel was an old summer home of a British officer that had survived over a hundred years and three major earthquakes. The hotel overlooked the valley and came with mischievous monkeys at no extra charge. 

Unfortunately three of our party, Meera, Solstice and myself, finally succumbed to brutal colds.  I will be honest dear reader that this was a bit of a low point of the trip so far.  All we wanted was a roaring wood stove, comfy down pillows and all the creature comforts that home allows.  I detest self pity but the bed was too hard, the shower too cold and the effort which is traveling just a bit too great.  That said the boys stepped up and took good care of us (cable television really does have it's place and time - Master Chef Australia is a favourite show and makes for excellent dinner conversation).

On our third night in Mussoorie we stayed with Meera's Aunt Gita and Uncle Sashi.  Again, we were overwhelmed with hospitality.  Illness stood in the way of our being good house guests and I can not thank them enough for the way they took care of us.  As they are both Hindus I stand convinced that their treatment of us in our time of need will reap huge rewards in their next life.  Dhanivad Gita Bhua and Shashi Uncle!

From Missoori we rented a car and driver to take us to Rishikesh. We like the car and driver thing over here.  Depending on how far one is traveling a car and driver cost approximately $50.  The best and worst thing is for that price you get a driver.  The obvious plus is the driver negotiates Indian roads and knows whe he is going.  The downside is that being a family of five the backseat can be a little squishy. Of course this is only a downside if you ride in the back and being the biggest I usually get the front seat...

Rishekesh is famous for being the place where the Beatles ran away from it all and spent time in an ashram (Ringo split shortly after arrival so maybe he isn't as out there as reputation suggests).  We quite like the hotel we are staying in: clean rooms, big balcony and a home-style restaurant.  Meera and I wake up a do an hour and a half of yoga.  Folks, I'm sold.  I'm stretching body parts I didn't know existed and my mind
feels clear and ready to solve the problems of the world.  But I suppose not having to go to work also helps facilitate most things.  The hotel is called Divine Ganga and the manager is named Ashiesh.  Is that a coincidence or what?  If you don't understand the hidden reference do not be too troubled as India had a way of bamboozling and perplexing like no other country on earth.  We wake up to bells, drums and people chanting Hari Krishna, but what I can't figure out is why all these people are Russian and why, if they are on holiday, are they waking up at five in the morning to do so?

So this is the India blog part one, when we return (and I don't know when that may be) we will tell you about white water rafting and sun salutations and the Ganges river.

Om Shanti Om and may Mrs. god bless you all,

Mike and family
Qutub Minar, New Delhi

Qutub Minar, New Delhi


The Garden of the Five Senses, New Delhi

The Garden of the Five Senses, New Delhi

Shopping!

Shopping!

Humayun's Tomb, New Delhi

Humayun's Tomb, New Delhi

OM

OM

A nice visit with Gita bhua and Shashi uncle

A nice visit with Gita bhua and Shashi uncle

Posted by The Flying Five 10:55 Comments (0)

Bollywood Ending

 We spent our last evening in Istanbul wandering the narrow streets of the Sultanahmet district.  This district is so fascinating to be in, as around every corner there is superb architecture from both the Byzantine and Ottoman empires.
The children are by now quite scholarly on both of theses ancient civilizations.  A bi-product of learning about theses 2 great empires is also learning about 2 of the world's greatest religions: Christianity and Islam. The kids received the religious education that we have neglected to give them!  The heart of modern Sultanahmet was also the heart of ancient Byzantium and of the Ottomans.  The Sultan Mehmet Il conquered the christian stronghold of Constantinople in 1453.  Some scholars claim this date is also the end of the Middle ages and the beginning of the modern era. 

Ancient Istanbul and modern Istanbul complement each other beautifully.  Aside from wravespectacular architecture, Istanbul offers precious views to the sea.  This is the only city in the world that straddles 2 continents: Europe and Asia.  Sultanahmet district is on a peninsula on the European side with views to the Sea of Marmara on one side and the Bosphorus Strait to the other.  Directly across the water and its constant traffic of boats and ships one sees the busy modern metropolis growing up on the landmass of Asia.  In Sultanahmet are funky cafes, eclectic restaurants, world-class shopping where the food and wares are little changed from years past but for the fact that they can be purchased with a VISA card. 

The streets are joyous and overwhelm the senses.  The language of dozens of countries are echoed in the streets and the encouragement of vendors to passerbys fill the air.  One is offered   fresh popcorn or roasted chestnuts and if your stomach is full, you can try your hand at colorful spinning tops or test the weave of luxurious carpet.  Magic is everywhere and nothing disappears quicker than the coins in your pocket while visiting the Grand Bazaar.

There is just so much to see & experience in Istanbul.  We have by no means seen or done it all but there have been many, many highlights: strolling down the Hippodrome, gazing up at the architectural wonder of the Aya Sofya dome, enjoying the tranquility and beauty of the underground Basilica Cistern, admiring the gorgeous mosaics of the ancient Chora church, appreciating the splendor and importance of the Blue Mosque, being mesmerized by the call to prayer, EATING, drinking tea, watching parakeets in the treetops of Gulhane Park, revisiting 1453 at the newest museum panorama 1453, exploring the Grand Bazaar and all its nooks and crannies, taking the tram, buying baklava, absorbing as much of the political and cultural history as possible and visiting the opulent Topkapi palace of the Sultans. Never mind the Turkish people themselves - a more gracious and hospitable people do not exist.  You are rewarded immensely for visiting this city.

We are definitely feeling sad about leaving Turkey and at the same time feeling so excited about going to India.  On our last evening in Istanbul, returning from the oldest park in Istanbul, we encountered an entire movie production in the heart of Sultanahmet.  We were returning to our hotel, when luck would have it, we spotted many people of Indian origin on the crew!  We inquired and discovered that they were there to shoot a scene for a Bollywood film!!!  The leading actor was none other than the infamous Salman Kahn!  We watched for over an hour, nothing too exciting, no singing just Salman Khan and his leading lady playing their parts amidst the a que of Istanbul yellow taxis.  What a perfect transition for us!

On our final evening, in a city with a population of over 13 million, we also bumped in to 3 lovely Australians that we met on the Hot Air Balloon in Cappadocia.  There truly is magic everywhere.  

Enjoy the photos of this magical city.  We are off to enjoy our final day in Istanbul! xoxoxoxo

The kids in the Hippodrome

The kids in the Hippodrome

Inside the Aya Sophia

Inside the Aya Sophia

Ancient Byzantine Mosaic, Aya Sophia

Ancient Byzantine Mosaic, Aya Sophia


Manas sticking his finger in the Weeping Column at the Aya Sophia

Manas sticking his finger in the Weeping Column at the Aya Sophia

Happy family with the Blue Mosque in the background

Happy family with the Blue Mosque in the background

View of the Blue Mosque

View of the Blue Mosque

Meera at the Blue Mosque

Meera at the Blue Mosque

All is peaceful and sublime in the Basilica Cistern

All is peaceful and sublime in the Basilica Cistern

Mike with Ataturk, the father of Turkey

Mike with Ataturk, the father of Turkey

View of the Bosphorous strait from Topkapi Palace

View of the Bosphorous strait from Topkapi Palace

Posted by The Flying Five 13:28 Archived in Turkey Comments (1)

Safranbolu ... an historic village

Merhaba,

I am writing this latest blog entry from the comfort of our fully restored Ottoman guest house. I am sitting on a traditional bench called a Sedir. These are typical for Ottoman homes and double up for storage. They are covered with beautiful, decorative cushions. It is raining outside but I am reveling in the grandeur of the architecture and the presence of this historic home. We are in Safranbolu. Safranbolu means abundance of saffron. This village used to be a major trade centre on the historic Silk Road and saffron played an important part in the regions economy and still does so today. Today the tiny streets are still lined with vendors selling saffron products: soaps, perfumes, candy and the precious and expensive spice itself. Its' uses date back thousands of years and range from the medicinal and culinary to the spiritual and esthetic.
To market, to market

To market, to market

Happiness is ... A whole bunch of vegetables!

Happiness is ... A whole bunch of vegetables!

Scenes from a local market

Scenes from a local market

Salad fixings

Salad fixings

Hot chili peppers

Hot chili peppers

The local lollipop man!

The local lollipop man!

Sugary goodness

Sugary goodness

Manas has finished his lollipop!

Manas has finished his lollipop!

Lol

Lol

The candy man providing sugary goodness to my children

The candy man providing sugary goodness to my children

Safranbolu is a UNESCO world heritage city. It has this title as it is Turkey's finest example of an authentic Ottoman village. Around every corner, you experience echoes from the past: Ottoman style mansions and houses, shops, mosques, ornate fountains, a clock tower and a world class hamam. A hamam is a Turkish bath house and Sol, Mike and I experienced the benefits of a Turkish bath yesterday. This particular hamam is a one of Turkey 's most reputable and historic. The experience was invigorating and rejuvenating. Solstice can hardly believe that in all her 14 years she has never, up until yesterday, experienced a complete body scrub! We are feeling a little lighter today!

The village itself is built in a lush valley with 3 narrow gorges running through it. The houses are sometimes built straddling a gorge or are built
Attached to the cliff face. A wander through the village is captivating. This village is thriving and the locals are very proud of their picturesque and successful home. They are eager to show you their trades, to invite you into their typical restaurants, to tempt you with a taste of fresh Turkish delight, to offer you recently harvested fruits and vegetables and even to share with you a loaf of warm, fresh bread. You can easily get lost in time here, but once you hear the ephemeral quality of the Call to Prayer you are instantly brought back to the present. At this moment, we are thinking of you all. xoxoxo

Sensational Safranbolu in the rain

Sensational Safranbolu in the rain

Hallways and passageways in an Historic Ottoman mansion

Hallways and passageways in an Historic Ottoman mansion

Caving!

Caving!

Relaxing on an old Byzantine aqueduct

Relaxing on an old Byzantine aqueduct

Mike the Neanderthal!

Mike the Neanderthal!

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Posted by The Flying Five 11:45 Comments (1)

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