May 31, 2009
Sorry we have been neglectful bloggers.
We've settled in a little tourist enclave, Bhagsu, 2km from the Dalai Lama's home and the Tibetan government in exile. Bhagsu is packed with Israeli backpackers and, as a result, its many restaurants offer some of the best hummus east of the Middle East.
There is an amazing Tibetan organization that we have fallen in love with here. It's called Rogpa, and you will soon know all about it as we are going to plan a big fundraiser for them in Toronto. In the mean time, we have been keeping ourselves very busy editing and designing their upcoming newsletter. Also, we sometimes get to hold adorable babies at their daycare centre.
Many more posts to come when we get our films developed and scanned in Delhi. Life was so much easier when it was digital.
May 24, 2009
Both our digital cameras have broken. This makes presenting compelling visual content on The Linen Club difficult, but not impossible. We have two film cameras left (A Kyocera T4 and a Holga), so we can get our photos developed and scanned. This will delay things somewhat, but we will forge onward.
Here are some photos in the meantime.
May 14, 2009
In the town of Vashisht, 3km from Manali, there is a natural hot spring that feeds several public baths. For locals, the baths are part of their daily washing of bodies, clothes, linens, and pots and dishes. For the many Indian domestic tourists, the baths and the adjacent temple are an attraction, in front of which you pose stiffly for family photographs.
At first, Andrew and I saved our own cleaning routines for the privacy of our bathroom. This was a big mistake. Once we eventually joined in the hot springs fun, there was no turning back.
My first attempt at a group bath was a minor failure. Seeing as Indian women swim in the ocean fully clothed in saris, I figured I should cover up so as not to offend anyone. That first morning, I entered the ladies' bath and quickly stripped down to bikini, with tank top and shorts over top. While submerging myself in the shockingly hot water, straining to avert my eyes, I quickly realized that for the first time in three months, I was the most overdressed woman in the room.
Within these four concrete walls (just tall enough so you can't peek in from the road), several generations of Indian women were splashing around, completely naked! I hadn't seen so much as bare knee in months, and suddenly it was the full monty. There were definitely a few giggles about my outfit, but otherwise I was able to slip right into the action, throwing a few elbows for a spot under a spout.
From then on, I look forward to the morning bath, and baring all for my fellow sisters. It is the one place in this conservative country that I really feel that I can connect with the Indian women. Without men and clothes to hide behind, my fellow bathers are comfortable, confident and playful.
Men's bath - surrounding walls just low enough for a sneaky photo
This afternoon, our tightening budget inspired me to queue up for one of the spouts outside the baths to do some self-laundering. A few ladies took an interest and scolded me for my poor scrubbing technique. It was all good fun until I realized the repercussions of having chosen the last spout downstream. A pile of soapy laundry ended up covered in peanut butter chunks when unbeknownst to me a woman started cleaning out PB containers two spouts above me.
My new favorite thing (again) is fly fishing. It was my favourite thing for a time when I was a a young lad, 8 or so. But I didn't ever really go fly fishing, I just collected the equipment and read Field and Stream and took a fly-tying course in a Peterborough strip mall with some old men.
So actually going fishing for three days on the Tirthan River in Himachal Pradesh was a real thrill. The weather was a little ugly but the valley was beautiful and the fishing was great fun, but also serious. There is something very serious about fly fishing.
The Tirthan, and other rivers across appropriate terrain in India, contain salmo trutta, Brown Trout. They're not a native species, but they've lived in the mountain streams and rivers for a hundred years or more- they were stocked by the British. "Wherever the British army went, there are trout," our host Christopher told us. (Such an aquacultural feat amazes me - how did they manage to transport the fry, keep them at the appropriate temperature, etc...?) Over two thousand years earlier, Alexander the Great's army inhabited these valleys as well.
Day One saw us rent one fly rod, and start off at an easy spot to cast, where I hooked a decent sized fish (10 inches is a keeper) but lost it on behalf of a poor landing effort. As the afternoon progressed, I noticed Mel getting a little frostier. Not cold, but bored. I realized I hadn't been sharing the rod very well. Maybe at all. We decided to rent two rods the next day, and hire a guide, in hopes of more fish. I read Way of the Trout at night, voraciously.
Losing a fish
The next morning we were still very much "finding our rhythm" with the line which accounted for many lost flies. After we had lost 10 or so, I asked our faithful guide Deepak how much the flies cost. Maybe wondering if the bill would come through to us. He said they were 200 Rs - $5 each. This could get expensive, we thought. I did manage to hook into a keeper male, which we decided to have for dinner, smoked.
At lunch I decided to tie a few flies, mostly to save us the expense of losing them. My skills were rusty since my Ptbo days - I broke the vice - but I managed to produce a few passable weighted nymph imitations. In the afternoon, I managed to hook a nice little trout on one of my flies. I can't believe it actually worked. Who knew. It was a handsome feeling.
Day three was two rods and no guide. Still going through many flies but I was starting to feel the whole thing out. I only caught a tiny trout, but Mel caught the fish of the day (on another one of my flies) as the sun was going behind the mountains. I was glad for her.
If you're ever in the neighbourhood, I highly reccomend a stay at the Himalayan Trout House. Great food, atmosphere, and fun in a remote mountain village setting. We were only charged 150 Rs for all the lost flies.
All in all, a magical three days for me and another obscure and expensive hobby, refound.
Johnny Appleseed, Amen
May 8, 2009
Four out of five Indian men have moustaches. Usually, they're unassuming, neatly trimmed, nice black 'staches. But in Rajasthan, the moustache culture is out-of-control amazing. Pride in the 'stache runs generations deep. Rajasthanis are generally super nice to begin with, but the men really light up when I ask to take a picture of their moustache. These guys know how awesome their facial hair is, but not in an unbecoming way. They're like, "I know, right?" They're always whipping out little moustache combs and styling, probably with coconut oil. Again, not in a creepy, lugubrious wannabe-suave way (like some Indian bachelors publically preen their bangs), but rather in a passing-the-time, may as well do some work on the ol 'soup strainer kind-of-way. Add in the psychedelic neon turbans, and the outrageously awesome footwear and you have some of the most stylish, poised, quietly-confident gentlemen I have ever had the pleasure to be around.
Crazy declicious saffron, cardamom and lemon lassi in Udaipur. So rich.
The maharana of Udaipur has a fine vintage car collection. All left hand drive. Unfortunately, we were unable to see the crown jewel of the collection- the custom Rolls Royce James Bond used in some Octopussy scenes. It was under wraps for no reason we could understand- too precious to display, or something. We tried to get our money back, to no avail.
I liked the hood ornaments.
I liked the hood ornaments.
This is the car he takes to polo.