Bucket List? Huh! I’m Turning 50 and I Have a Pooh List.

Evil personified! This one took a jandal hostage and wouldn't give it back until lots of food was thrown at it. Bundi, Rajasthan.

Evil personified! This one took a jandal hostage and wouldn’t give it back until lots of food was thrown at it. Bundi, Rajasthan.

You hear the term ‘Bucket List’ bandied about quite often, yes? I was fortunate enough to cotton on at an early age that the world is a fascinating place and I had started a list of countries and things I wanted to see by the time I was 12. Tibet, the Pyramids, Bedouins in Arabia, Castles in England, Frogs in the Amazon, Iguanas in Galapagos, the usual run-of-the-mill stuff.

I’m not entirely sure where the ‘Bucket List’ term originated, but since I’m about to turn 50 and inherit my license for eccentricity, I’ve decided that I shall have a Pooh List. I know – I’m such a grown-up. And I’ve already ticked off several of the items on it: Continue reading

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India 2008 # 12: Uncle Chips and Penguin Spit

Before dawn I was woken by the sound of what seemed like the Tibetan version of
the bagpipes coming from the temple. Of course, that started off the dog packs
who accompanied this strident sound with what they thought was rather a nice
rendition of the Barking Symphony Number 3 in C Minor. Even that may have been almost tolerable had it not been for the monkey packs singing their Screech
Symphony Number 8 in D Sharp. As any musician will tell you, these particular
notes go not together. Finally, thank goodness, the Tibetan bagpipes stopped
– ‘insert sigh of relief’. Alas, too soon. Horns started up, replacing
the bagpipes, with an accompaniment of drums keeping beat as loudly as
possible. Okay, at least the horns weren’t being played at as high a pitch as
the bagpipe thingys. But I didn’t reckon with the pending cymbols about to be played at a definate clash of tempo with the drums. Conches then competed this cocophony of sound. Continue reading

India 2008 # 10: In Which The Magic Stick Is Sadly Missed and the Rewalsar Diving Monkeys

We walked around the lake with Ernie and Leisa and had breakfast at a different monastery. There were a couple of wallahs across the road selling little round things that they poked holes in, put a few chickpeas into, poured some kind of spicy liquid in and this you toss down in one mouthful. I have no idea what these things are called but they’re quite an interesting taste. Continue reading

India 2008 # 9: Caves, Hilltop Con-Men and Monastery Escapism

This morning, due to the Tibetan Monastery alarm system, I was up pretty early. There had been an influx of monks, lamas, etc, from Leh (way up in the mountains) and lots of them were little boys. I amused myself for ages watching them interacting with the monkeys. These monkeys, otherwise known to us as “The Thugs” can get pretty close sometimes, and some of the older lamas’ were actually throwing food to them. So there were a few close encounters. One little guy in a yellow t-shirt and marone robes would bravely tell a monkey off while doing a karate stance at it. Very brave in my eyes, as the monkeys were almost bigger than him and have pretty big fangs. This little guy, however, had a few smarts about him – as soon as he had told the monkeys what for he would run like hell. Funniest thing I’ve seen in ages. Continue reading

India 2008 # 7: Once More Into The Mountains

Tuesday 15 July –

We got on a bus to go up to Mandi, which is the entrance way, so to speak, to the Kullu Valley – up in them thar hills. We were told to meet at the guesthouse next door to us at 4 p.m. for the bus. We waited (as you do here) then traipsed around corner after corner and across a busy road to wait some more. Three or four different buses arrived and there was great confusion as to which bus we should be on. Many people waiting, bus loading guys cruising around with i-pods in their ears with not a care in the world (of course not – it wasn’t there bus to miss!) and a guy collecting tickets who looked perpetually worried and didn’t ever give clear answers about whether we were on the correct bus or not. In the end we just got on what seemed like the right one and claimed seats then sat there melting for half an hour. An ice-cream seller, a boy selling cold water and some beggars were working this strip and doing a roaring trade. One of the beggars, a girl of about 10, had a badly burned face, another could do unbelievably bendy things with her body. Watching out the window, after we had all got on, they were seen counting large wads of money between them. They knew the secret to prosperity alright – location, location, location. They’d bought themselves an ice cream each, relishing them as only a kid can. Nice.

Sitting upright for 1twelve hours in a hot bus is not the most fun thing in the world to do, but finally at about 6.15 am we landed in Mandi. Some more confusion in the Mandi bus stand and we found a bus which apparently went to Rewalsar. Another hour of winding roads and finally we got to the end of our journey. The approach was just mindblowing. There’s a huge statue of Padmasambhava (sp?) or Guru Rimpoche looking over the town which surrounds a small lake. This statue is so big it’s just impossible not to be impressed. Apparently it’s taken five years so far to build and they haven’t finished the base yet. Guru Rimpoche is the guy that took Buddhism to Tibet and this town, Rewalsar, is where he started from.

We booked into a monastery here, which is beautifully painted and has a temple, small outside rooms with glass sides and ever-burning butter lamps, a really tall pole smothered with Tibetan prayer flags and, as a nice juxtaposition, lots of thug monkeys. The view from our room looks over the courtyard at the temple and flags and it’s the most watchable view I think I’ve ever had. Tibetan buildings etc are so beautifully coloured. They really have a lovely sense of style.

We wandered around the lake (clockwise, as is the tradition here) and bought some food for the tame fish in the lake. There are hundreds of these fish and they all flop around, half in and half out of the water. For a little more baksheesh (yes, money) the old ladies here will beat the monkeys off with their long sticks so you can feed the fish. Some cunning monkeys a few feet away have learnt to dive for these fish biscuits. I’ve never seen a swimming monkey before, so that was somewhat novel. A nearby cow has also caught onto this whole fish bicky business and took a real liking to Ernie (and his biscuits) – it was actually smooching up to him adoringly. Must have sensed that he’s a farmer I think.