The backwaters of Kochi

Unbeknownst to Yours Truly I’d been enrolled in still another sunrise adventure. As you Escapees well know by now, Rule #4 unequivocally states “No More Sunrise Adventures.” So why am I sitting in an Uber in the dark being pummeled by Kochi’s back roads? I think we can all agree it’s to maintain domestic tranquility.

Marce seems to be cheerful enough when the driver stops in a dirt alley and gives us that look that says, “Ride’s over.” No signs, no buildings, and no guide. False dawn reveals water and a small punt at the dead end of this unpaved alley but we’re still 20 minutes early.

Here in India you don’t expect clear signage but once again, as the sun rises above the tree tops, no one is here. After half a dozen texts and phone calls Marce reaches a very sleepy proprietor who says his guide must have gone for tea. That’s India.

Finally a harried but apologetic guide showed up with a small container of outboard fuel and after frenetically rearranging the plastic chairs onboard, he gestured toward the seats he wanted us to take.

With the sun well risen we putted away from the sea wall.

Well this is quite pleasant, if not an actual sunrise cruise. Before long we entered the backwater channels.

Marce here: This is one of the main tourist draws here in Kochi, and particularly further south in Alleppey. You can take short cruises like us, a longer overnight journey in a private houseboat, or group cruises, all in traditional wooden boats ranging from rustic to luxurious. I wanted to experience the quiet shallow waters of Kerala on our last day to bookend our month in India. We began in high octane Delhi and we’re ending on these peaceful waters.

Because our boatman was late we’ve missed the dawn and it’ll get hot too soon but the water is unrippled and we’re seeing a different slice of Indian life. It reminded me of the bayous of Louisiana.

We saw lots of birds, including a few gorgeous kingfishers, their iridescent blue feathers flashing in the morning light as they flew away before I could raise the camera. The herons, egrets, and cormorants were much more obliging.

It’s a whole different world here, with dwellings of all kinds. I’m sure the people are accustomed to the tour boats gliding past but everyone I waved to waved back.

This woman is sifting through the bottom mud with her feet for oysters and her dugout is filled to the gunnels.

We saw the evidence of fish farms in lots of places but we failed to understand our guide’s explanation so we don’t know if they’re still in operation or not.

As we glided toward more open water we saw ahead a flock of birds circling and diving near a couple of boats pulling up their nets. Of course this is a common sight, seagulls following the catch, but as we inched closer and our boatman cut the engine we realized they weren’t gulls but sea eagles, dozens of them, young, old, whistling and swarming, trying their best to share in the catch. We were transfixed. We’d never seen more than one or two at a time and we sat for many minutes taking it all in. Even our boatman watched in wonder.

For the rest of our allotted time we motored in and out of the mangroves, sometimes running aground in the shallows. We wondered what the nautical charts would look like in such a place.

We were returned to the dock at the scheduled time, with no allowance made for the fact that we’d left very late but it was getting hotter and we have packing to do and a long journey ahead of us. We couldn’t have picked a better way to end our trip.

Back early, It must be tea time.

Later that day, you know it’s time to wrap it up when Jack starts looking for local news.

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Exploring the lanes

We learned there’s a historic synagogue in Kochi and on our first day exploring the chaotic market Jack spotted it tucked away down a long alley. We were surprised to see a tropical fish shop inside, and the doors to the sanctuary locked.

This is the Kadavumbhagham Ernakulam Synagogue, by some accounts the oldest of the synagogues of the Malabar Jews, establish about 1200. It holds only occasional services and to visit you have to make an appointment with the caretaker. We hadn’t.

When we moved over to Fort Kochi we were interested in visiting the other oldest synagogue, and we hired a tuktuk to drive us to the area called Jew Town rather than hoof it in the Kerala steam heat.

We’re at the end of the tourist season, good because there are no crowds, bad because many businesses have already shuttered for the season. Luckily the synagogue is still open for visitors.

This is the Paradesi Synagogue and as you can see, it claims “oldest in the Commonwealth” status.

Before you enter the synagogue there’s a small gallery of drawings, paintings, and maps illustrating the history of the Jews on the Malabar coast. The congregation of this synagogue are descendants of the Sephardis who were expelled from Iberia in 1492. The Malabar Jews and the Sephardic Jews maintained their separate cultural identities. After India gained its independence most of the Malabar Jews emigrated to Israel, and most of Paradesi Jews emigrated to other commonwealth countries, leaving only a small congregation here.

The synagogue is small but lovely, filled with artifacts and antiquities from its long history. The elaborate crystal chandeliers are Belgian; the hand painted blue willow porcelain floor tiles are Chinese. The provenance and significance of nearly every feature is detailed in small plaques.

Kochi is part of the old Indian Ocean trade route that includes Singapore, Malacca, Penang, and Zanzibar. We’ve loved visiting these crossroads for the lasting imprint in architecture and culture left by the Dutch, Portuguese, Spanish, English, Arab, and West African traders. Kochi was, and still is, known for spices and textiles.

Back at the beach we explored the back streets, graveyards, and old and new art as our remaining time in India grew short.

Every time we walked to dinner we passed an intriguing sign: Jail of Freedom Struggle. There was an iron gate and a uniformed guard. We decided to see what it’s about.

The guard let us in and walked us around the compound. It’s not clear when the jail was built or who it housed but it’s believed to have been a transit jail where freedom fighters were held before being moved to other facilities. There are eight small cells with concrete slabs for beds. Pretty gruesome.

Back when we were in Delhi our food tour guide told me all the spices except saffron are grown here in Kerala. I figured I should buy some fresh local spices to take back, but knowing the strict customs regulations on bringing plants and plant products across the border I looked for packaged spice mixes that have a better chance of being allowed. I consulted our guesthouse host and he invited his own spice supplier to bring us some samples. She grows and dries the spices and creates her own blends. Everything smelled so good and I bought more than will fit in our tiny campervan, and some for friends and family too.

We bought even more spices from this lady down the street who had our favorite peppercorn mix and an intriguing ginger coffee that I couldn’t pass up.

With only one more day left we watched our last Arabian Sea sunset before dinner, and peered through the fence at a wedding party on our way home. I’ve barely stopped smiling since we got to India and I can’t believe it’s almost time to go.

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Theatre night

While we were checking into our new guesthouse the host offered to book seats to a traditional performance that evening. VIP, he said, and he wasn’t kidding. We were ushered to the front row in the theatre of the cultural centre right across the street.

This was a Kathakali music and dance performance, a style of theatre native to this area of southern India and practiced by the Malayali people.

The performance was in three parts. As the audience arrived the two actors were already seated onstage preparing their makeup, a ritual part of Kathakali. There are distinct designs representing individual characters, and each of the colors is symbolic. The actors spent many minutes grinding natural pigments into a paste then applying base and designs with what looked like sticks. There was an unhurried, meditative quality to the process and it went on for an entire hour. The process presents the transformation of an ordinary human into a mythical character right before your eyes.

Makeup done, the actors left the stage and a musician arrived with a large drum and curved drumsticks. As he set up a narrator described the traditions of the art. He explained that to become a Kathakali performer a boy apprentices at a young age for many years to learn the flexibility and muscle control required to portray the ritual emotions.

This lead to part two of the performance, a demonstration of the actor’s craft. As the narrator described each move or emotion, and the musician drummed trance-like rhythms, the actor demonstrated through his eyes, face, hands, and body the coded moves that tell the story.

At one point as he held his face perfectly still his black eyes circled round and round and round and round, fast and faster, accompanied by insistent drumming. It was at once creepy, hypnotic, dazzling. I was so transfixed by the minute control he had of his eyes and the individual muscles in his face that I didn’t even lift my camera. The man was middle aged and pudgy but moved with the strength, balance, and posture of a ballerina. I’m pretty sure I was staring agape at some of the things he could do. This was by far our favorite part of the show.

During the demonstrations the performer interacted with those of us in the front rows, then invited a young boy onstage with him, where he taught a few moves. The kid was a good sport and we gave him a hearty round of applause.

Finally, after a short break the actors appeared in full costume and performed an abbreviated version of one of the classical Kathakali plays. The musician sang a haunting tune and enhanced the story with his drumming.

At the climax of the play the woman, portrayed by the chubby actor, turned away from the audience for a moment, then spun around and shrieked and was revealed to be a demon. It was quite dramatic, even though we’d read the text of the story in the program and knew it was coming.

This was definitely one of the best experiences we’ve had in India and we’ve chided ourselves for not seeking out this kind of cultural show more often in our travels. It’s always exciting to see traditional art forms, particularly music, dance, and theatre.

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Something quite unique

Ah, this feels better. Still bloody hot but just listen to the quiet! Oh, you’ll hear the occasional car horn, but you can walk around Fort Kochi’s town square without dodging cows or their byproduct, while enjoying the huge stately Raintrees without being deafened. So that’s just what we decided to do. Think of it as orientation.

Once again we are drawn to the waterfront which features a small ferry, the usual Indian vendors and their insistent barkers.

One vendor had a large stack of red and blue boxed cap guns in front of his booth but his dispirited barker had to reload and fire a cap gun every 30 seconds or so. We were less than entertained. However, tuktuk drivers are the same wherever you are.

This chap handcrafts these clever harmoniums right in Kochi.

These boilers are evidence of past shipwrecks. It can get a little rough out on the Arabian Sea.

A walk in India will usually feature a visit to a fort and this walk is no exception. Fort Manuel of Cochin faces Kochi City across an estuary of the Arabian Sea, although no less than seven rivers empty into these waters making it quite brackish. The fort was built by the Portuguese in 1503 and it’s considered the first European fort in India. It’s hard to believe they beat the Dutch to it; they do so love a fort.

Many examples of Dutch, Portuguese, and English architecture still exist and are usually repurposed into hotels, restaurants, or art galleries.

Our main goal however is to see something described as Chinese nets which we found lining the waterfront along the shore of Fort Kochi.

They kind of remind me of the giant wooden squid-catching machines we saw in Indonesia, except those were mounted on large ungainly barges.

The crews of the Chinese nets would invite us to wobble out onto one of these things where we noticed that none of them were catching anything but flotsam.

This last guy dipped his net into the water with the same result, turned to us and demanded rupees. He seemed less than pleased with the amount.

We beat a wobbly retreat to shore. That’s the thing about India. Are they just being friendly? Or are they working an angle to cop a few rupees? In our experience usually they’re just being friendly.

Friendly or not we all gather for a spot of sun worshipping.

With the sun sinking into the Arabian Sea the temperature follows it down into the low 90°F/32°C.

It’s time to seek something interesting for dinner, which is not difficult in Kochi. I gotta go.

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A different India

By the time we left Mumbai we were questioning our decision to go south this time of year. Five minutes on the street, even moving in slow motion, left us dripping and dull-witted. Nevertheless, we flew even further south, to Kochi in the southernmost state of Kerala along the Malabar Coast of the Arabian Sea. We’d read that it’s unique and a change of pace from where we’ve been so far. Truth be told, each of our stops has its own character, culture, food, and general vibe. India is a big country and we wanted to get a taste of different regions for this first trip.

I initially parked us in the business district of Ernakulam, just to get our bearings and clear our lungs of the residue of Mumbai air. We soon realized we really want to be in Fort Kochi, close as the crow flies but a world away, and right on the sea.

First, of course, we ticked off the required Marce Tour of the city market. It was a long and sweaty walk but even in these conditions I love to poke my head into the various stalls to see what’s on offer.

Kerala is where most of the spices are grown. Seeing these tubs of fresh whole spices and breathing in the exotic aromas made me long for a kitchen and a pantry big enough to stock with bags full of everything.

I don’t know what these little clay cups are for, but there didn’t seem to be much English spoken in this market.

I’ve never seen so many varieties of dried fish.

When we left the market we were stopped by a colorful gridlock right where we wanted to cross the street. Locals walked right through, weaving their way around trucks, cars and motorbikes. We stood aside like the tourists we are, laughing and waiting for a little more room to move. It was like one of those sliding block puzzles where only one piece can move one space at a time, allowing the next to move one space. Even the drivers and passengers were shaking their heads, some in amusement, some in frustration. Eventually we got where we were going, which was back to our hotel to pack up and cross the backwaters to Fort Kochi and a little peace and quiet.

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Mumbai over and out

A must-see in Mumbai is Dhobi Ghat, the open air city laundry where over 100,000 pieces are washed, dried and pressed every day. We got an Uber to drop us off at an overpass where an observation deck gives you a good view of the activity below.

We were there at midday so missed the flogging of the clothes in the concrete wash pens but some of the dhobis (washermen) were still hanging the clothes on twisted ropes.

The dhobis and their families live here, and the trade is passed down the generations. This is supposedly the largest open air laundry in the world. You can see some great closeup photos here.

Mumbai is huge and we moved to another area of the city to experience something different. It was an hour-long Uber ride from one neighborhood to the other and we drove over the Bandra-Worli Sea Link, the fifth longest bridge in India. It’s tough to get a good photo of a bridge you’re driving over from the backseat of an Uber but we did get a better shot from shore a few days later.

Our new neighborhood was more upscale than the noisy tech-store district we’d been in. It was still lively and close to the Arabian Sea and despite the intense heat we walked along the shore hoping to reach Bandra Fort. Unfortunately, after a couple of hours of profuse sweating we found the entire fort peninsula closed for renovations. These are things Google maps doesn’t tell you. We wisely called an Uber to take us back to the hotel and air conditioning.

We moved again to another hotel, this time in the clothing shopping district where I got a pair of trainers to replace the Merrells that have nearly fallen apart in the two years since I bought them in New Jersey. For the price I paid for the new ones if they last a year they’ll be worth it.

The very best thing in this new neighborhood was a gelato store where I got the most amazing ice cream I’ve ever had, guava-papaya sorbet with chili sprinkled on top. I went back the next day to have it again and asked for more chili. After tasting it, all other flavors pale in comparison. Even the delicious Tanzania chocolate couldn’t hold a candle to it.

And then it was time to say goodbye to Mumbai. We both agree the Mumbai airport may be our favorite so far. Not only is it quiet, but the Museum of Modern Art made the airport an adjunct gallery and we barely noticed the distance we had to walk to our gate because we enjoyed the art so much.

Against all advice from locals, we are on our way further south. We must be out of our minds.

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Onward to Elephanta Island

Mid morning on a hazy day, we hopped out of our Uber at the Gateway to India. We quickly went through security and crossed over the huge plaza that was only just waking up, trying to find the ferry pier that goes to Elephanta Island.

The ticket taker took one look at us and without a word motioned down a ramp leading towards a ferry that looked already full.

We sat down on a flat orange liferaft. One minute later we were backing out of the slip. Someone said, “I hope this is going to Elephanta Island.” I hope so too, I smiled, and said, “Well, that was well planned.”

The ferry was barely making five knots through the harbor but I didn’t care. I had entered my happy place, in a boat on the ocean. Although it would be hard to find a more industrialized harbor.

We motored for about an hour. After disembarking we found you could wait in a line to buy a ticket, then wait in another line to board a tiny train to ride the one kilometer to the base of the hill. Or you could walk down the long pier past dozens of chatty venders where “no thanks” doesn’t seem to translate. I don’t know about you but running into a row of palanquins at the base of the hill to schlep some putz up to the top was a shock. Can you imagine?

This is where the vendor density and the pitch of the stairs increased exponentially and before long I no longer had the breath to say “no thanks.” I just grimaced and slowly plodded up.

When we gained the summit we found an unoccupied bench in the shade and sat for a while, breathing deeply and finishing the water bottle.

After our vision cleared we realized we were at the entrance to the main cave. The monkeys realized we had a small bag with a few snacks and we sensed they were planning something nefarious.

Time to visit the caves.

It’s hard to believe this was chiseled out of solid rock in the 5th century.

The main cave is 39 meters deep and over 9 meters tall so it’s no small thing.

Every cave had a phallic symbol, don’t know why.

Resting under a fine shade tree, enjoying a nice hill top breeze we still made sure we knew what the monkeys were up to.

A large multigenerational family near us were not as alert and sure enough we heard a scream and saw a monkey zoom up the tree with a very large Tupperware container filled with what was to be their entire family’s picnic lunch. These families take picnicking seriously. He balanced the tub in the crook of the tree and at his leisure picked through the best stuff. They all stood under the tree watching helplessly as the monkey would occasionally drop something. I don’t think they’re getting that plastic tub back either.

On the way back to the boat we stopped for a late lunch at an open air restaurant with a view. I do so enjoy a good view.

The press of humanity coming up was much more intense now and once again I’m reminded of the 1.4 billion humans that call this place home. Back at the end of the pier we found a ferry just beginning to load so this time we got a seat.

Now we had to motor into a light breeze but the Arabian Sea remained benign and aside from watching a huge container ship creep ever closer to us, we reached the harbor in just over an hour.

Before long the skipper had us tied up to the pier.

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North? No, south.

In case you haven’t noticed, we’re making up this India adventure as we go along. Here in Udaipur we asked many Indians for suggestions on where to go next and I guess we shouldn’t be surprised that not too many people in this huge country have ventured very far from home. Those who have traveled widely urged us to go north, as it’s getting mighty hot even here in Rajasthan, and it’ll be cooler in Dharamshala and especially Kashmir. We love the mountains but unfortunately every route north involves backtracking through Delhi, then returning again to fly out to the UK in April. This would be a clear Rule #1 violation, plus a big ol’ dent in the travel budget. There’s no cheap or easy way to get to Dharamshala. Next time, we sighed. South it is, continuing our linear path. And it’s going to be hot.

A long Uber ride from the Mumbai airport gave us our first look at India’s second largest city and its financial capital. We’re told there’s great wealth here, and great poverty.

We haven’t seen the wealth yet, and our perfectly adequate budget hotel is above an electronics store on a street lined with nothing but electronics stores for at least half a mile.

Around the corner we found a small city market and a wet market but Jack couldn’t put his hands on a Snickers bar.

We plunged headlong into sightseeing, something we usually don’t approach with diligence. It would probably be easier to book a city tour and get driven around from photo op to photo op but our aversion to being herded and my general inclination to take on the navigation duties always send us off on our own to find (or not) the things you’re supposed to see as a first time visitor. I think we did pretty well in Mumbai.

We started, as you do, at the Gateway to India, a monument to the arrival of George V and Queen Mary in 1911, and the symbol of Mumbai. More significantly, the last remaining British troops departed through the arch in 1948. We’d read warnings about crowds, touts and pickpockets but no one bothered us at all, not even for selfies.

Across the street is the magnificent Taj Mahal Palace Hotel. I should mention that we went through security (scans and bag checks) both to enter the grounds of the Gateway and the hotel. The hotel was the site of a terrorist attack in 2008 during which more than 160 people were killed.

It was fun to walk through the lobby, and especially to see the photos of some of the famous people who’ve stayed here.

This is the Colaba area of South Mumbai and a collection of Gothic Revival and Art Deco buildings make up a UNESCO World Heritage site. We had fun seeking out some of the buildings, and they are all beautiful.

Part of this UNESCO site, but also listed on its own is the Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Terminus, formerly Victoria Terminus. It’s a huge and fabulous Italian Gothic complex and we spent a long time trying to photograph it. It’s just too big to fit in the frame of an iPhone but we did our best to capture its glory.

Mumbai is so huge that we could only tackle one area a day. Like Delhi, it would take more than the few days we have to fully appreciate the scope and variety of this place. We’re always aware with our advancing age that this may be our only opportunity to be here and more than visiting “the sights” we often just want to soak up the atmosphere of the places we visit. We chose to move hotels every couple of days to experience different parts of the city. Did I mention how big it is?

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Kumbhalgarh Fort

Ok, Adventure Seekers, it’s time for another UNESCO pilgrimage to a far-flung isolated Indian hilltop fort. This one features 52 miles, three hours of shake ‘n’ bake on high heat in the back of a four door speck called a Suzuki to the world’s second longest continuous wall called “The Great Wall of India.” We all know who’s got the longest.

Once again we start out with the familiar early morning Old Town zigzag and footbridge shuffle to the pickup area where the authorities allow cars. Prem, our driver, was waiting by his car which featured most of the correct pieces commonly associated with a functioning automobile, although it did turn out to be prone to overheating but then again who doesn’t overheat in India?

On the way out of town the pigs with horns were at it again.

The roads are a haphazard combination of nearly first world divided highway alternating with a dirt and gravel moonscape. It’s India, and as you pass by you get the sense that it’s the same as it ever was.

This alternating road/no road pattern persisted. Prem said, “come back in a year and this will be all new beautiful road.” The lack of any evidence of anyone actually working on the road might be discouraging but that’s India.

The large infrastructure needed to handle monsoon rain looks oversized in the dry season.

Well into the mountains, I sensed that we were getting close. Besides, it’s been nearly three hours. There’s hardly a hill that doesn’t have some sort of fortification on top and Kumbhalgarh Fort certainly follows that paradigm.

Prem dropped us off at the mighty gate where the monkeys were doing their usual naughty hi-jinx tricks.

The scale of this monster fort is overwhelming.

In a fit of patriotic pride Prem proudly told us the fort was never attacked but in a rare bout of professional enthusiasm, Yours Truly has already done the research for our Escapees and found that while many had tested themselves against these walls, most failed. Built in the 15th century by Rana Kumbha, the 38km wall did its job, or as some believed, maybe it was the divine intervention of the 360-odd temples contained within the walls. It seems Mughal Emperor Akbar the Great failed by attacking directly so he poisoned the fort’s well water. I think that we can all agree that really doesn’t count.

It’s said that 8 horses can walk side by side on the wall.

We started the climb after buying an extra bottle of water. The sun was directly overhead and scorching.

Marce found the only shady spot in the whole climb.

It’s a magnificent view from the top of Kumbhalgarh, but every party has a shelf life and Prem wants to show us a Jain Temple on the way back.

Prem’s enthusiasm has us rocketing over dirt back roads in the outback of India. Apparently we stayed a little too long at the fort.

An hour later we arrived. It seems shoes can’t come any closer than 100 meters to the Ranakpur Jain Temple. Interesting architecture but the damn asphalt is burning hot.

I’ll admit that Prem was right about the Ranakpur Jain Temple but how do I find my shoes?

Back on the road Prem suddenly stopped and backed up. He turned to us and motioned toward the side of the road. We were in the middle of nowhere. In a scene as old as time, we witnessed two buffalo turning a waterwheel which lifted water up to a trough. Not a show or a demonstration but an everyday need being met with what they have. An old Tahitian friend, when happening upon a scene like this, would exclaim, “It’s authentique!”

It’s India.

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Happy Holi

Holi Anni is the Spring Hindu Festival of Colors celebrating love and the end of winter. We had planned to move on from Udaipur but when we learned Holi was coming up in a few days we extended our stay. The city was booked up, including our wonderful guesthouse, but our host found us another room just around the corner.

Last year we were in Bhaktapur, Nepal, for Holi and it was a joyous but rather sedate celebration. We looked forward to the Rajasthani version, which we were told can get a little rowdy.

The day before Holi we crossed the footbridge into the city and visited the main temple. Jack, as always, stayed on the perimeter with his shoes on while I subjected my bare feet to the hot hot hot stone temple grounds to see what was going on inside. There was already quite a bit of color on the people and the temple itself and I could hear chanting and bells and clapping.

I joined the crush on the steep steps but only got a glimpse as I teetered at the top.

I followed the cows down to the street and Jack and I sauntered back to the Old City.

At the crossroads of nearly every neighborhood men were constructing the trees that will be burned to symbolize the victory of good over evil. We’re told the big bonfires will be in the main square in town along with the big crowds but these little neighborhood celebrations appeal to us. Our original host has especially invited us to join his family at their neighborhood full moon ceremony.

They light the bonfires close to midnight so while we waited we took a turn around the Old City. Things were certainly heating up. Down the street from the footbridge we joined a crowd outside an open doorway. Neither of us could figure out what was going on, and while a local next to me tried to explain it I couldn’t make out what he said over the din of traffic, chanting and bells. We could see the man inside quivering, his right leg vibrating so hard it looked like it might fall off.

In the main square the dancing had started.

We made our way back toward our old guesthouse where our host and his family were beginning the ceremony.

First was a blessing and offering, then the lighting of the tree. It was so much more explosive than we expected, and so hot we couldn’t get near it for about 20 minutes. At one point an ember fell on my head and burned a patch of hair. That was about the time one of the overhead electrical wires melted and the power went out. We noticed this happened above several of the burning trees nearby but the lines were reconnected or rerouted quickly and the power was back on in minutes.

The tradition is to walk around the burning tree seven times for good fortune in the year to come. If you can’t do seven then five or even three are enough. We did the optimum seven and I felt like my right side was barbecued.

The actual festival of colors was the next day. You’ve probably seen this in NatGeo where people dance and carouse and throw color powders and colored water on each other. We’ve been respectfully daubed with colors before in Fiji and Nepal but we really wanted to see the full action, if not join in completely. We selected T-shirts that we wouldn’t mind tossing if they got ruined but neither of us has any throwaway trousers. In any case we prepared to make our way to the square to join in. That’s when these two arrived back at the guesthouse from their foray into the city.

They’d had a lot of fun, and it’s a once-in-a-lifetime experience but in the end we chickened out, mostly because of the gauntlet of young kids we’d have to run at the end of our alley before we could ever get to the footbridge. Most of the older folks, tourists and locals alike, also skipped the colors fun. Still, I think we’re both disappointed in ourselves and if we ever intersect with Holi again I think we’ll plunge right in. Why not?

We did get the respectful daub again, so there’s that. Happy Holi!

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