Aug 04, 2006 06:00 PM Majuli Island
I first went by bus to Jorhat, took a rickshaw to the port and waited for the boat. There are three daily boats to Majuli, two in the morning and one in the afternoon. The journey to Kamalabari, in Majuli, takes almost two hours crossing the Brahmaputra River. There are no bridges, nor airports in Majuli Island. The first night I slept in Garomur and the second in Kamalabari.
It was my last night when I spent a whole day in a satra, or kind of Hindu monastery of the Vaishnaya culture. In the past there were 64 satras in Majuli, but today only 22 remain. At 7 PM I was invited to observe the dances that take place in that monastery every day. I sat on the floor adopting a lotus position and watched the dances.
Soon appeared about thirty monks dressed with white tunics who interpreted harmonious dances accompanied by rhythmical sounds of drums and cymbals. Sometimes only drums played, and then only cymbals, and later both instruments at the same time until most of the monks fell in ecstasy, like the whirling dervishes that I had seen in Cairo, Khartoum and Konya.
The atmosphere in that temple was terrific and made me feel in another world: drums and cymbals playing at the unison, the drops of blood that poured to the floor from the hands of some monks owing to the fervour and strength with which they hit the drums, even little monks of about 10 years old, the light that went and came, the rain of the monsoon in the exterior, the thunders and the flashes of lightning , the nasty heat that made me sweat all the time, the mosquitoes and the frogs invading the temple with impunity …
After one and a half hours the ceremony ended up; all the monks were exhausted, even me as spectator was dead beat. We went to the refectory for dinner.
Next day I left to my second Sister: Meghalaya.
Aug 02, 2006 06:00 PM Assam, Kamakhya Mandir (temple)
Guwarati, Assam capital, on the banks of the Brahmaputra River, was a pleasant town.
The hot was so intense that I was sweating like an open faucet, and when walking I was leaving on the floor lines of drops of sweat falling constantly from my nose, elbows and the fingers of my hands.
I walked until the Brahmaputra River and noticed on the top of a hill a striking religious construction. I took a rickshaw and headed to that place that was called Kamakhya Mandir (temple), at about 4 kilometres of distance. Once there I took my shoes off and visited for a few hours the temple premises.
The hill was called Nilachal, and the temple was an ancient seat of Tantric and Shakti cults of Hinduism.
There were hundreds of sadhues and faithful people following the ceremonies. Musicians played drums and cymbals and the shops were selling souvenirs and food to be offered to the gods as prasad.
I had planned to visit a natural park in Assam, with rhinos or elephants, but during monsoon season no excursions are organized; I only saw elephants a few times from the windows of my bus or train when travelling in some of the Seven Sisters states.
After Guwahati I left to Majuli, the greatest river island in the world, crossing endless tea leaves fields.
Jul 31, 2006 06:00 PM Rumtek Gompa, Sikkim
First, in Rangpo, I was granted 48 hours permit to enable me to enter the state of Sikkim and acquire a 15 day permit in Gangtok.
Most of my friend’s monks of Rumtek Gompa were not living there any longer. One had returned to Bhutan, some others to several Buddhist monasteries scattered around India and Nepal. The rest of monks, when recognized me wearing turban and with a beard of two weeks, were not happy to see me that way. I explained them about my plans to visit the Seven Sisters, and then one of them advised me: “Go openly”.
I followed his proposal, shaved and left to Assam, one of the three out of the Seven Sisters opened to the tourists. Apart from Assam you can visit Meghalaya and Tripura. For the rest of states: Arunachal Pradesh, Mizoram, Manipur and Nagaland, if you are a foreigner you need a Restricted Area Permit that is obtained from the Ministry of Home Affairs. You can apply for it in Delhi, Mumbai, Kolkata and Chennai, but it takes long, is issued for ten days and only granted for married couples and for groups with a minimum of four persons buying a package tour in a travel agency. For Indian tourists is much easier and they can get this permission (called for them Inner Line Permits) in Guwahati (Assam) in 24 hours.
Presently, Sikkim is administratively united to the Seven Sisters as a “brother”.
The border between Sikkim and Tibet (China) is open, but not for tourists. Only local traders, Sikkimese and Tibetans/Chinese can cross it to sell their goods. (This information was required to me by Wojciech).
Jul 28, 2006 06:00 PM Portuguese Daman
It was very hard to get to Daman. Roads were flooded. There is no transport available going out from Diu. There is hard rain all the time. Buses were cancelled. Only private cars risked going out of Diu. I also risked and hitchhiked.
Some drivers charged money, about 100 rupees for 100 kilometres, what I considered reasonable and paid. A motorcycle finally dropped me in Vapi after riding across the flooded roads for 80 kilometres. Vapi is a crossroads between Daman, Dadra and Bombay.
In Daman I took a boat to a walled fort and territory in front and even assisted to a mass service in Portuguese in a Catholic Church. There is a cheap hotel in the same port and a nice restaurant with gardens where I ordered fresh fish and beers.
After Daman I went to Dadra, but there was nothing, just an ark across the road indicated that I was in another Indian state. It reminded me the small fragment of Oman inside Al Fujeirah state, in the UAE. Therefore I took a rickshaw and proceeded to nearby Silvassa, the capital of the Indian State of Dadra and Nagar Haveli.
In Silvassa I saw a XIX century Portuguese church. The town was nice and the museum too. There were gardens with lakes around the town.
I noticed a sign saying en English that in 1954 the Portuguese finally were expelled from Dadra and Nagar Haveli, while Goa, Diu and Daman had to wait until 1961 until the Indians could get rid of the foreign invaders.
After Silvassa I left for Sikkim,
Jul 26, 2006 06:00 PM Diu Island
I arrived to this island after a tiring train voyage from Delhi to Rajkot and then by a night bus to Diu. There is monsoon season in India. It is very hard to get through in local transports. To Diu there is only one flight service from Mumbai, but is often cancelled because of the monsoon.
I sleep in an old Portuguese Catholic Church today converted part in museum with effigies of saints, and on the top there is a cheap hostel with magnificent views of the Arabian Sea.
There are very few foreign tourists; I just met three during two days. Most of the visitors are from Gujarat and go to Diu and Daman to buy and drink alcohol with anxiety and without coercion, which sale is free, because, since Mahatma Gandhi was born in Gujarat, alcohol is forbidden in that Indian state.
Diu is a very pleasant island with nice beaches and a marked Portuguese flavour. Owing to the two bridges uniting the island with Gujarat, Diu has lost some of its romanticism; the same happens with other lovely islands, such as Mozambique or Penang.
I spend a couple of days without shaving and wearing a turban. I want to enter the seven forbidden sisters in North East India disguised as an Indian and need to look like an Indian.
After Diu I went hitchhiking to Daman.
Jul 07, 2006 06:00 PM The Seven Sisters (India)
Finally, after working hard in the Spanish Costa Brava during three long months washing dishes in hotels, without week ends, saving all my money without spending it in idiotic things, and eating vegetarian and cheap food, I got enough money to finance my first travel in the list of my last seven journeys before I die.
I already bought a cheap ticket with KLM to New Delhi, departing the 26th July and returning from Calcutta some months later, when I will finish all my money, and then will return to Spain to work again to earn money to buy in the London Trailfinders travel agency a cheap ticket around the world lasting 80 days.
First I will visit the Indian territories of Damman and Diu plus Dadra and Nagar Haveli. Probably I will stay in the mythical hippy place Ringo Guest House, in Delhi. Then, via my dear Darjeeling, where I have many friends in the esoteric Kagyupa Buddhists monasteries where I lived in the past as a monk, will travel by trains and buses, or trucks, or burros (donkeys), or on foot like a pilgrim, to the Seven Sisters to discover its secrets:
1 - Arunachal Pradesh
2 - Assam
3 - Manipur
4 - Meghalaya
5 - Mizoram
6 - Nagaland
7 - Tripura
Until recently these seven states were forbidden to foreigners because the political and military tensions, since China, Bangladesh and Myanmar have pretensions to some parts of these territories. I heard that presently three of these seven states are more or less open to the tourists. The rest depend on your diplomatic ability to give some baksheesh to the army in the appropriate conditions to let you proceed further and to your skill to dress like a local to pass unnoticed among the Indians soldiers. I will sleep in the monasteries which addresses will furnish me my Darjeeling monk’s friends. I will buy a turban, will paint my face with brown shoes polish cream and will do my best to visit the seven states in a row, the last seven Indian states where I have not yet been. After over two full years of my life spent travelling entirely around the four corners of India I hope that after this trip I will be able to proclaim that I know all Indian states in quality, from Jammu and Kashmir to Tamil Nadu, and from Gujarat to Mizoram.
Did I tell you that India is my favourite country in the world?...
Apr 22, 2006 06:00 PM Is travelling a lot morally justified?
I have projected these seven travels listed below after a long and painful deliberation full with reproaches to myself.
A few years ago an uncomfortable thought assaulted me and did not give me any peace. The thought is the following: Is spending a lot of money travelling morally justified?
A thousand times I have felt guilty when I refused to give more baksheesh to the many beggars who asked me alms in African or Asiatic countries, but after distributing some coins or notes to them or buy some food and clothes to the more desperate I left them with tears in my face because I could not give all my money away, cancel my travels, and return broke to my country.
Indeed, you will recognize the good traveller in which he is generous with the paupers that he meets along his journeys.
I have observed that many tourists travel to farewell places to watch, in fascination, the kind of people that they ignore at home. With the money that they spend in these journeys, most of them vain, a poor family from Bangladesh, or Mozambique, or Bolivia, could live for one year or more.
In the past only pilgrims, adventurers, some scholars, merchants, sadhus and dervishes used to travel constantly. Tourists (and the so pompously called “travellers” or individual tourists) did not exist.
Why we, very rarely, if ever, find tourists/travellers from Malawi, or Paraguay, or Burma, admiring the Eiffel Tower in Paris, or the Museum of Prado in Madrid, or the Coliseum of Rome?
Do they not have right then, like us, to admire our common planet and its wonders?
During long time the pangs of remorse in my conscience made me suffer a lot, day and night, and many times I was about to leave my travels and enter a monastery to atone during years my lack of humanity for having spent so much money in my egoist journeys instead of using it to succour the poor.
But one day a simple aphorism from the beginning of the Humankind helped me. This aphorism was: everything that contributes to raise your being is good; everything that obstructs to raise your being is bad.
And then suddenly I attained my inner equilibrium. Then I realized that if you travel with the purpose to learn how to live properly thanks to the observation and conversations with other fellows wiser than you sharing this planet, then travelling becomes an instrument for learning. Then the knowledge that you acquire by travelling justifies morally all the expenses and efforts.
Since then I do not feel a tourist, I do not even feel a traveller either, but rather a monk in constant pilgrimage around his temple, the beautiful planet Earth.
Apr 12, 2006 06:00 PM My old Mapamundi (Worl Map)
In the picture I show my old mapamundi up to middle April 2006. I still have seven travels to achieve in the coming years, as soon as I earn the money to afford them.
Here they are:
1 - An around the world journey in 80 days visiting some little known islands in Oceania such as Parece Vela, Tokelau, Macquarie, Wallis et Futuna, etc.
2 - The Seven Sisters: Arunachal Pradesh, Assam, Manipur, Meghalaya, Mizoram, Nagaland and Tripura.
3 - Bizarre Russia: Chechnya, Severnaya Ossetia, Ingushetia, Dagestan and some other bellicose Republics in the Russian Caucasus plus the rebel Abkhazia in Georgia, then navigation from Krasnoyarsk up to the Arctic Ocean through the Yenisey River.
4 - North American pizzicato: Nunavut (Baffin Island), then navigation through the Mackenzie River up to Inuvik during the Aurora Borealis period, and finally crossing the Darien gap from Turbo in Colombia until San Blas islands in Panama opening my way through the impenetrable jungle with a machete.
5 - Geographical North Pole via Frank Joseph Land.
6 - Geographical South Pole via the Antarctic US base Mc Murdo.
7 - The seventh journey is a secret. I can only advance you that it will be the most fantastic journey in my traveller career.
Before accomplishing the seventh journey I am sure that I will have seven more travel projects to perform, but I will let you know them in due time…
Buenos Viajes a todos!
Feb 20, 2006 09:00 PM Tahiti Island
In Papeete I meet Globo member Bertrand (Polytrad) and have a local beer with him. He is extremely nice and his Spanish is perfect, as if he was born in Salamanca or in Valladolid. Talking about the Heaven and the Earth we discover that we have a common friend in Papeete. He phones her but it is too late to arrange a meeting the three friends. Next time. Bertrand has a leg broken but soon he will recuperate and will walk and run again.
I travel by local buses to the south of the island. The island has a form like the number 8. During my last three trips in the past to Tahiti I never managed to visit the south, called Tahiti Iti, or small Tahiti (Tahiti Nui means great Tahiti). There, in the village of Tautira, I was interested in visiting the grave of a great Spanish explorer of the XVIII century who died in Tahiti, Domingo Bonechea, but instead of his tomb there is a Catholic Church with a plaque dedicated to his memory, written in French, Spanish, Tahitian and Basque languages (curiously not in English), and a huge cross in the same place where Captain Cook, furious because the Spaniards had been in Tahiti, destroyed the tomb.
In the evening I return to the Maxim Gorki, say good bye to all my friends and fly back to Spain to work hard in order to earn money enough to arrange a future around the world journey in 80 days.
Hasta la vista!
Feb 19, 2006 09:00 PM Bora Bora Island
Bora Bora has changed a lot since my last visit a few years ago. Now there are many luxurious hotels like palafitos, in the sea. I walk around the island refusing rides and take a drink in a famous place called Bloody Marys where I read the names of the famous personages who have taken dinner there: Julio Iglesias, Gerard Depardieu, Ringo Star, Harrison Ford, The Carpenters, Pierce Brosnan… I drink a papaya juice and enjoy the atmosphere, but I do not envy them. They are rich in money, I know, but I am rich in travel experiences. They do not know the astonishingly beautiful planet Earth as well as an inveterate traveller does.
In the night I return to my ship to continue the journey.
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