India & Nepal, 3-21 April 2016

April 3, 2016 Sunday;

The adventure begins with an hour and a quarter flight to Atlanta where we meet with Jim and Cynthia.  We have time for a short visit where Jim and Wayne reminisce about their time together in the Navy in the 60’s.  Then there’s the eight and one half hour flight to Paris followed by another close connection and the final eight and one half hour flight to New Delhi.  Arriving shortly before midnight, the airport is still bustling with activity.  The van ride to the hotel accentuates the constant flow of traffic.  Like a beehive, the city never sleeps.  Traveling for two days has us ready for the comfort of the hotel bed.  The night will be short.  Tomorrow, there will be new and exciting sites to see.

April 5, Tuesday.

The world’s tallest minaret, Qutab Minar Tower, looms above the city scape.  Several ancient Hindu and other religious temples were destroyed by the Mugals so that they could use the stones to build this tower and the close by mosque.  The city tour continues past the imposing India Gate war memorial to the last residence of Gandhi, now a museum.  This was also the site of his assassination.

The Gurudwara Bangla Sahib is one of the largest Sikh houses of worship.  Here, they feed thousands daily free.  Donated food is prepared and served by volunteers.  After lunch, touring the National Museum proves very interesting and educational.  It has over 200,000 works of art spanning over 5000 years.  That’s a full day!  You’re ready for dinner and a good night sleep.

Gurudwara Bangla Sahib

India Gate war memorial

Qutab Minar Victory Tower

Sikh temple kitchen

April 6, Wednesday.

Today, we leave Delhi and travel by bus to Jaipur.  The ride itself is an eye opener.  The heavy traffic is unbelievable with every mode of land transportation sharing the road.  Vehicles just go around the free roaming cows and dogs.  Use of horn is a must.  Without a horn you can’t drive.  They aren’t used in anger, but as a form of communication.  They honk to alert that they want to pass, honk to signal it’s ok to pass and honk to say thank you.  Finally arriving at Jaipur, you see why it’s called the “Pink City”.  The buildings were painted that color in 1876 to celebrate the visit of the Prince of Wales to Jaipur.  The bustling bazaar beckons to shoppers with hundreds of stalls filled with handicrafts and jewelry.

hotel (lunch stop)

interior of hotel (lunch stop)

sacred cow

April 7, Thursday.

Sitting on a hill overlooking Jaipur is the grand Amber Fort with a fusion of Hindu and Mughal styles.  From the fort, you can see the original city walls and the lake below.  The City Palace (a former royal residence) has been converted into a grand museum.  Nearby is the 18th century open air Jantar Mantar Observatory beautifully preserved and waiting for you to use its many stone instruments to make astronomical calculations.  The day is highlighted by a wonderful dinner show.

Amber Fort walls

Amber Fort

dancer

elephant ride

Jantar Mantar Observatory

ladies in traditional dress

 

April 8, Friday.

Near to Jaipur is the small rustic village of Samode surrounded by the Aravalli hills.  Camel ride anyone?  Travel on to Chomu Palace Hotel for a relaxing afternoon in this opulent hotel.  Experience a royal welcome and elegant gala dinner at a fabulous restaurant including dancers, musicians, and fireworks.

camel ride

courtyard of the Chomu Palace Hotel

elegant restaraunt for dinner

elephants in the street

rose petal shower greeting

snake charmer

traditional bread making

traditional dancers

 

typical traffic

April 9, Saturday.

Traveling from Chomu to Agra, we stop at the small ancient village of Abhaneri in northern Rajasthan.  Located here is one of the largest step wells in India, Chand Baori.  The journey continues to Agra and a relaxing afternoon followed by a fantastic show depicting the love of the Shah Jahan for his wife and the lavish lifestyle of the Mugal era.

temple in Abhaneri, Rajasthan

Chand Baori step well

camel cart

April 10, Sunday.

The Taj Mahal, in all its majesty, inspires all who gaze upon this beautiful white marble monument to love.  It took 22 years to build and has stood the test of time.  The rare non-porous marble is unique to this area and as time has proven it doesn’t stain or degrade.  Truly it is a marvel of architecture.  Later visiting the red sandstone Agra Fort, the grandeur of the Mughal Empire is once again center stage.  Nearby stands the beautiful white marble tomb of Itmad-ud-Daulah inlaid with mosaics and semi-precious stones.

us in traditional attire

Tomb of Itmad-ud-Daulah

Taj Mahal

our groups guys dress in turbans

our groups guys dress in turbans

home cooking

cows in the road

Agra Fort

Agra Fort (inside)

Agra Fort (inner area)

April 11, Monday.

After a relatively short bus ride from Agra back to Delhi, take a “cycle rickshaw” ride down Chandni Chowk, the main street of old Delhi.  This narrow street barely has room for you to walk, yet motorbikes and rickshaws meet and pass weaving through the pedestrians.  Nearby is Jama Masjid, the largest mosque in India.  The afternoon is spent relaxing and preparing for the trip to Kathmandu, Nepal.

our cycle rickshaw

shoppers on Chandri Chowk

street vendor

the very narrow Chandri Chowk

us at the mini-Taj

April 12, Tuesday.

Today is a travel and relaxation day.  After the flight, there’s time to relax in the beautiful Yak & Yeti Hotel before the Nepal Tour Director provides a briefing on what to expect.

our room at the Yak & Yeti

April 13, Wednesday.

We’re up early for a flightseeing of Mt. Everest.  Everyone gets a window seat in the twin engine ATR72.  The pilot invites us up one at a time to view Mt. Everest from the cockpit.  It’s amazing and exciting to see the highest mountain in the world.

On a hill overlooking Kathmandu, the golden spire of Swayambhunath reaches to the heavens adorned with many colorful prayer flags.  Hundreds of pilgrims, monks, and tourists circle the complex clockwise spinning prayer wheels as they go.  Running amongst the many people are the ever present monkeys.

Continue on to Durbar Square, a complex of ancient temples and palaces including the Hanuman Dhoka, the ancient palace of Nepalese Royalty.  The Temple of Kumari, home of the Living goddess, is also found within this site.  In the afternoon visit Boudhanath, the largest stupa of its kind in the world.  Participate in a prayer ceremony and receive blessings from the Holy Lama.

ATR72 for Mt. Everest flightseeing

Buddha

Dianne spinning prayer wheels

Freak Street sign

Gurka in traditional dress

Hindu Holy Man

Holy Lama statue

Mt. Everest (center peak)

our cycle richshaw

pharmacy

singing bowl shop

temple (small)

temple area

temple monkey

temple repairs

April 14, Thursday.

After a short ride, you arrive at the medieval city of Bhaktapur.  Streets are lined with palaces, temples, statues, and squares.  On the banks of the holy Bagmati River stands Pashupatinath, one of the most sacred Hindu shrines in the world.  Cremation platforms spread along the river where families wait their turn to cremate their departed loved ones.  From our vantage point across the river, we see several cremations in progress.

cremation fire lighting

cremation in progress

cremation preperations

Hindu Holy Men

Nepalese New Year sign

new year celebrants

Nyatapola temple

sacred bull

sacred Hindu Shrine

street in Bhaktapur

street produce vendor

temple earthquake damage

temple in Taumadhi Square

April 15, Friday.

A long ride on narrow mountain roads plagued by heavy traffic, construction, and traffic jams takes us through Bharatpur and other small villages.  Near the Tharu villages of Chitwan sits the Temple Tiger Green Jungle Resort.  It’s a rustic resort with an amazing naturalist-guide, Ambika.  After time to relax from the long bus ride, we climb aboard elephants for a jungle safari.  The elephants take us across the river into the Chitwan National Park for an up close view of the wildlife.  Several Asian rhinos, red deer, and numerous birds are easily sited.  The tiger eluded us.

asian rhinos

elephant safari

Jim, Cynthia & Dianne on elephant

on safari in Chitwan National Park

our cottage

resting elephant

roadside shops

Temple Tiger Green Jungle Resort greetors

typical truck decor

April 16, Saturday.

Today starts with a jeep safari into the park.  After crossing the river in small boats we have a short walk to our jeeps.  On the way to the jeeps our guide points out fresh tiger tracks.  Again, deer and rhinos are spotted.  A short nature walk and picnic lunch are followed by a familiarization with a mother elephant and her “teenage’ calf.  After returning to the lodge for a brief rest, ox-carts are waiting to take you to the nearby Tharu village.  The villagers, especially the children turn out to interact with everyone.  The Tharu people live traditionally in a protected area.

Dianne with elephants

Dianne with Tharu children

elephant familiarization in Chitwan

ox-cart

rhino in protection mode

rhino mock charge

river crossing

teenager and mom

Tharu girl

Tharu teenager

traditional boat

traditional Tharu hut

working elephant

April 17, Sunday.

The road to Pokhara passes miles of rice paddies and tiny villages.  Pokhara is the second largest city in Nepal and home to three of the highest mountains in the world.  It’s the primary starting point for the majority of trekking in Nepal.  It’s also the home of the Gorkha (Gurkha) museum.

Gurkha museum poster

Gurkha's kukri knife

Pokhara from hotel roof

road construction

roadside village

rooftops in Pokhara

wedding celebration in temple

wedding party

April 18, Monday.

Ride across the lake in wooden row boats and then hike up the mountain to the Peace Pagoda.  It’s only a two hour walk up a very steep hill.  The view from the top is fantastic.  The walk down the other side is a little easier and the bus is waiting partway down.

Visiting the mountain museum is educational.  The museum provides information about the climbers who come from all over the world.

boats on the lake in Pokhara

fun sign

Mountain Museum

Peace Pagoda

 

prayer scarf on the climb up to Peace Pagoda

reminder of the hippie invasion

toilet half way up to Peace Pagoda

typical roadstop toilet

view from near the Peace Pagoda

view half way up to Peace Pagoda

waterfall in Pokhara

April 19, Tuesday.

It’s the long ride back to Kathmandu over the narrow mountain road with its ever present traffic, construction, and traffic jams.  Though less than 100 miles, it takes 10 to 14 hours.  At the end of the trip, you’re ready for that comfortable hotel bed.

Annapurna Mountains

Fishtail Holy Mountain

German Bakery

great sign

Kathmandu traffic

our bus and assistant driver

Pokhara rooftop

road sign

roadside hut

rural house

view from hotel roof in Pokhara

village houses

April 20, Wednesday.

The morning is spent with last minute shopping and packing for the long trip home.  We won’t see our checked bags until be arrive back home.  We’ll have our carry-ons for the layover in New Delhi.  Just a few steps from the boarding gates and adjacent to the duty free shopping area is the layover hotel.  After some more shopping and a short nap, it’s time to board the flight home.  This is another long transient with 8 ½ hours to Paris, another 8 ½ hours to Atlanta, connection times, customs, immigration and an hour and a half flight home.

April 21, Thursday.

Back home from another great adventure.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Posted in travel | Comments Off

Tanzania 2016

29 January 2016 – Friday: Arusha, Tanzania

Arriving late in the evening, we were taken directly to the beautiful African Tulip Hotel in Arusha where we spent the night.

 

30 January 2016 – Saturday:  Arusha, Tanzania

After the hotel breakfast and our first daily photography class, we drove to a traditional Maasai village where we toured their simple school and homes.  They were non-materialistic basically wearing all their personal belongings.  Several of the ladies were selling handmade crafts.  Both the men and women demonstrated a traditional Maasai dance.

From the village, we continued driving through the countryside to the Ngorongoro crater.  While we waited for our guides to have the national park permits processed, we were entertained by a troop of baboons.

Climbing to the rim of the crater, we stopped at the first overlook and were amazed at the vast expanse of the caldera.  From there we witnessed a double rainbow.  It was a truly awesome sight.  We then continued around the rim of the crater to the Ngorongoro Sopa Lodge which would be our home for the next two nights.

Dianne with Maasai ladies

Maasai men dancing

Maasai mother and child

baboons at the gate

31 January 2016 – Sunday: Ngorongoro Crater, Tanzania

We were up before sunrise for our decent onto the crater floor and an early morning game drive.  We enjoyed a picnic breakfast on the crater floor.  Only then did we realize the true size of this crater.  Animals hadn’t been visible from the rim and now there were many including elephants, hippos, cape buffalo and a black rhino on the lush green crater floor!  After enjoying a wonderful buffet lunch at the lodge, we returned to the crater floor ringed by high volcanic walls for more animal viewing and photographing.  Later, waterbucks and monkeys visited the lodge grounds.

black rhino

elephant on the Serengeti

gazelle

lioness

sisters

Wayne and elephants

woldebeasts

zebra

1 February 2016 – Monday: Serengeti National Park, Tanzania

We checked out of the Sopa Lodge after an excellent breakfast.  We drove around the rim of the crater and down to the vast Serengeti where we stopped for a picnic lunch in the midst of the gigantic wildebeast herd migration.  A dung beetle was busy rolling her treasured manure ball.  The Serengeti plain was wet and green from recent rains and the herd animals stretched as far as you could see.  We continued driving and viewing the wildlife as we proceeded to the Nasikia Mobile Migration Camp.  For the next two nights our accommodations would be tents.  These are not your everyday camping tents.  They were outfitted with carpeted wood floors, a mosquito netted real bed, a bathroom with a real toilet, and a shower pull chain to release a brief supply of warm water from an overhead canvas bucket.  After checking into the camp we were back in our vehicles for an afternoon game drive.  We saw giraffes, zebras, and lions very close by.  The meals served were nothing short of amazing.  They were what you’d expect from a really good restaurant, hardly from a dining tent in the wilderness of the Serengeti.

big giraffe

wandering giraffe

lion crossing the trail

lion yawning

2 February 2016 – Tuesday: Serengeti National Park, Tanzania

We continued to enjoy great meals, a photography class, plus both a morning and evening game drive.

cheeta jumped on the hood for a better viewpoint

cheeta on the move

crane

giraffs

hartibeasts

lone hiena

lioness and cub

our tent

the pride

warthog

wildebeast herd

wildebeasts and zebras migrating

3 February 2016 – Serengeti National Park and Crater Highlands, Tanzania

Our wonderful breakfast gave us a great start for the morning game drive.  After our camp lunch, we ascended to the outer crater rim exiting the park.  We received a farewell from the gates resident baboons.  We drove partway back to Arusha stopping at the Acacia Farm Lodge for our farewell dinner and to spend our last night.  The Acacia Farm Lodge is a beautiful resort in a coffee growing area.  The accommodations are both spacious and luxurious and is a wonderful place to relax.

baboon couple

bull elephant protecting the herd

hiena pack

vulture

4 February 2016 – Arusha, Tanzania

You felt so comfortable at the Acacia Farm Lodge that you hated to leave.   The staff made you feel welcome and relaxed like you were part of the family.  Clouds blocked our one chance to see Mt. Kilimanjaro on the drive to Arusha.  Our flights in and out of Tanzania were night ones.  Both the flights and time in Tanzania were near perfect.  No time was wasted due to the superior tour scheduling.  We liked being in the company of the other 14 participants.  We believe that they were all younger than us and were mostly photographers, writers or both.  The airport and the big silver bird beckons.  This adventure comes to a close and it’s time to return home.

All the Best,

Wayne & Dianne

 

 

 

Posted in travel | Comments Off

27 July 2014 – Sunday: Moscow

Today we wander out on our own since we decided not to sign up for any of the offered optional tours.  A grueling day of walking with a few photo stops.

 

 

All the Best,

Wayne & Dianne

 

Posted in travel | Comments Off

26 July 2014 – Saturday: Moscow

We arrive in Moscow after lunch.  After a bus tour of the city, we visit Red Square.  It is breathtaking.  The immense square is surrounded by beautiful buildings.  Standing proudly at one end is St. Basil’s Cathedral.  Along one side is the GUM Department Store, the largest store in Russia.  Across from it is the tomb of Lenin just in front of the outer wall of the Kremlin.  The day is completed with an evening Classical Folkloric Concert.

 

 

All the Best,

Wayne & Dianne

 

Posted in travel | Comments Off

25 July 2014 – Friday: Uglich

We visited a Russian family in their home this morning.  They treated us to snacks and home-made “vodka” (something between brandy and grain alcohol).  It was actually tastier than some commercially produced vodkas which ofter resemble paint thinner.  They got their water from a well in the yard.  Their kitchen garden was quite large and very productive.  The “indoor” toilet consisted of a plastic bucket with seat/lid.  Very much like a portable camping potty.  After the home visit we toured Uglich’s Kremlin (fortress).  The small cathedral contained beautiful painted icons.

 

 

All the Best,

Wayne & Dianne

Posted in travel | Comments Off

24 July 2014 – Thursday: Yaroslavl

Approaching our destination we see many beautiful old buildings and churches on the banks o the river.  We are visiting the city of Yaroslavl.  Founded in 1010, the UNESCO world Heritage Site contains one of the most beautiful early churches.  The Church of Elijah the Prophet has one of the most decorated interiors in all of Russia.  The original interior paintings, frescoes and icons are breathtakingly beautiful.  The nearby old Governors Palace, now a museum house many excellent paintings by Russian Masters.

 

 

All the Best,

Wayne & Dianne

 

Posted in travel | Comments Off

23 July 2014 – Wednesday: Kirillo-Belozersky Monastery

We continue sailing this morning towards our next port-of-call.  There is a lecture on Russian History as we cruise the river.  We dock at Kuzino where Viking has built a replica of an early Viking fort.  We are entertained with a tongue-in-cheek historical skit before going to the Kirillo-Belozersky Monastery.  The monastery is the largest Orthodox Monastery in Europe.  The wall around the monastery is 3.5 miles in length.  At it’s peak it housed 300 monks and 300 soldiers, acting as both a monastery and a fort.  The monastery contains the largest collection of original 16th century Icons in Russia.  We also visit a local school.  Later tonight there will be a vodka tasting on board.

 

 

All the Best,

Wayne & Dianne

 

Posted in travel | Comments Off

22 July 2014 – Tuesday: Kizhi Island

The northern most point on our journey Kizhi is only a few degrees south of the Arctic Circle.  Located on Lake Onega, the second largest lake in Europe.  The Island’s settlements and churches date back to the 15th century.  Most of the buildings on the island were brought here for preservation.  It is an open air museum containing over 80 historical wooden structures.  Among the buildings are two 18th century onion domed churches constructed entirely of wood.  The Transfiguration Church has 22 domes and the Intercession Church has 9.  The remainder of the day we are sailing towards our next port of call.  This afternoon we enjoyed a presentation on the Romanovs.  This evening was the coctail party for the Viking Explorer Society (repeat Viking cruisers).

 

 

All the Best,

Wayne & Dianne

 

Posted in travel | Comments Off

21 July 2014 – Monday: Mandrogi

We start the day leisurely with lectures on board about Russian food culture and what to look for in gifts and typical souvenirs.  After lunch we arrive in Mandrogi.  This is an artificial village, a grouping of several old traditional buildings that have been brought here from various locations.  The buildings are old homes, shops, farm buildings and windmills.  The buildings housed craftsman and gift shops.  Mandrogi was built buy and enterprising Russian as a tourist stop for Russian travelers.  Back on board the chef had a fun presentation on how to make “pelmeni” a Russian filled dumpling.  It’s similar to raviloli or Chinese dumplings.

 

 

All the Best,

Wayne & Dianne

 

Posted in travel | Comments Off

20 July 2014 – Sunday: St. Petersburg

This morning was free time or optional tours.  We opted for the free time.  We took a short walk with some new found friends to a small convenience market not too far from the River Boat Port.  It was interesting to see how grocery items were displayed and sold.  After lunch we went with a small group to visit a Kommunalka.  About 7% of the population still live in these Solviet era communal apartments.  Each family has one room in which they live.  The kitchen, bath and toilet are common ereas shared by all.  The Kummunalka we visit had only four families living in it, some have as many as seven.  This evening is the Captain’s welcome coctail party before dinner.  Our ship casts off during the coctail party to cruise overnight to our next port.  Here it is 10:15pm and it’s still daylight.  As we enter lake Ladoga we pass the small island occupied by Schlusselburg Fort.  Thus ends another day.

 

 

 

All the Best,

Wayne & Dianne

 

Posted in travel | Comments Off