Satya Dhaam Farm Hostel

Satya Dhaam Farm Enclosure

Growing a Farm Hostel.

Satya Dhaam Farm logo
Satya Dhaam Farm
Well things are moving on apace. My India adventure is changing slightly as Mickey and I have thrown ourselves into getting the Satya Dhaam hostel going, see here. We’ve been out pricing materials and labour with a view to getting the first dormitory inhabitable. Some things are so cheap compared to the EU but other stuff works out at more or less the same price. I’m going to have to readjust a bit.

Now that my daughter has cancelled her India trip I’m not in as much of a rush to get on the road again and to be honest I’d like to do a little work. Most of you that know me know that I’m happiest when I’m doing something constructive. So I figured that a few weeks of work would be just as good as a few weeks on the road again. And besides, this hostel idea really interests me and it will be the way that I get to reside in this country. Which is, after all, what a part of this voyage of discovery is all about. Of course, if I end up with my residency here then there is no rush to see this lovely country, I can do it at a more leisurely pace.

You may remember Mustafa from a previous post? He’s the architectural student from Ahmedabad in Gujarat that got me to hospital in Udaipur when I took a dive down the stairs. Well a female friend of his, also an architectural student, has contacted me with reference to the work we are going to be doing. I think she’s now written her thesis and was asking us if she could come and stay with us with a view to getting some hands-on experience. Mickey and I are in agreement that to have a qualified architect (albeit newly qualified) on the job with us could be a huge advantage, especially as we want to do some actual building work. I’m hoping Swati will have some good ideas, techniques and technical info.

Satya Dhaam energy

Mangaluru in Karnataka
Some time ago I met Madan from Mangaluru (Mangalore) which is in Karnataka in south India. Karnataka is the state up (or north) from Kerala and before you hit Goa. Madan is very electronics savvy and has some big plans, big projects and big ideas on the go. He’s also keen to come up and visit me and Satya Dhaam. He’s offered his knowledge to try and help us with electrical wiring, alternative technologies and computerisation. This excites both Mickey and I as the farm is rural and has connectivity problems both with electrical supply and internet.

Obviously if this rural hostel is to have any degree of success we need electricity that is reliable. Big generators are available but at the cost of a luxury car and are therefore out of the question at the moment. But if Madan can come up with some cost effective solar solution (and there’s no reason why his experience shouldn’t) then we are cruising. Sun we have.

Tesla Powerwall
In India many houses have battery backups and inverters for their electricity because the supply is erratic. You may remember the photo of the electrical wiring in Chandi Chowk in this post? Well this type of cabling is not uncommon. So it is quite normal here to be running on battery power. This is something I understand a little bit because my brother lives off grid in Wales and has been generating his own electricity for years with sun and wind power. An example of this technology can be seen in Tesla’s Powerwall

My experience so far of Indian people is that they are so much more helpful, amenable, sympathetic, friendly and ready to muck in to help their friends than their European counterparts. I think this is because Europeans have to struggle daily for their work, the general cost of living and way of life that a goodly majority have become introspective and (understandably) self-centred to a certain degree. The Indian people on the other hand are used to helping their neighbours on the farm etc. it’s in their mindset. So the giving of time is much more common here and certainly fits much better with my ethos.

So, all in all, it looks like we have a hostel to build with some knowledgable, fun and friendly input. If Swati comes out to stay it will be great. Madan will turn up at some point for sure, probably sooner rather than later, and he knows perfectly well that when he needs graphics for his projects he only has to ask.

This is going to be hard work but fun. If you want to know more why not visit the website or the Facebook page?


Uttar Pradesh farming community

Farming community rice paddy

Morning walk in the Uttar Pradesh farming community

This is the Uttar Pradesh country side, a farming community. The first night we hit the sack at about 21:30 and we woke at 05:30 and it feels good. Bhagat Ji brought the tea, rich with spices and ginger I think, and sweet enough to tempt a bee. The fresh air knocked me out last night.

Green fodder farming community
Green fodder for livestock

wild cannabis in a farming community
wild cannabis growing on roadside verges
My first morning’s walk in this Uttar Pradesh farming community was about 6km down little country roads with its fragrant verges. I still can’t take in the wild cannabis everywhere. So I put a pic on Facebook. We strolled amongst the fields of sugar cane, the green fodder (which Mickey tells me is a barley) that grows to ten feet tall, maize, lentils and pulses and rice. The smell of the growing rice is heavy in the still humid air.

Cutting green fodder by hand
Cutting green fodder by hand
People are in the fields cutting these crops by hand. Families, neighbours working side by side. No big machinery here just honest labour. The transport is buffalo driven carts. In one field is a neighbour of Mickey’s harvesting corn. They stop to talk. Namaste. I’m inspected. And why not? A white man in a sea of happy brown faces. Apparently this corn is someone else’s but this group are harvesting it in exchange for the plant matter that will be used to feed livestock. No tax man here this is a farming community where barter is practiced! We stop and talk to an elderly man having a rest. He too is a neighbour of Mickey’s and this is his abode in the picture. These people have been up for hours working. We’re the lazy ones.

The Jat, Jut or Jaat people of Uttar Pradesh

Mickey had told me that these people are Jats, they originated in Jutland, northern Denmark. It’s hard to imagine these people being of Scandinavian origin but as you’ll see in the linked articles [1] [2] [3] there is some basis for this assertion.

Indian kingfisher
Indian kingfisher
There are kingfishers on the electrical wires, white long-necked birds whose name I’ve yet to find out, peacocks, the national bird, roam wild and they are tricky and cunning. Getting a photo is no easy matter. Neem trees grow all over. The neem is known for it’s benefit to health, so I’m munching the leaves daily. There are mango orchards. (Oh why didn’t I come a month earlier?) This is the land of plenty.

Second walk in the farming community

Our second day’s walk we walk a circle, meeting up with where we were the day before. More neem for breakfast. Passing through the village of Singanapura we hear an English class in the primary school.

I is for ice cream.

I is for India.

Farming community village elders
Singanapura village elders
A young man stops on on his motor bike. His English is good and he’s called Pawan. Pawan has just passed his exams to be a policeman and is waiting his first posting at the end of this month. As in UK (and I guess elsewhere) he will be sent out of his area to serve. We meet his grandfather and a village elder, both in their eighties. I pose for photos with them. Let’s face it, I’m an interest factor. In return the two elders pose for me. Pawan invites us back for tea. We accept the invitation but ask if we might walk a little further first.

farming community village school
Singanapura village school with Mannpreet Singh Khaira
Primary school children
Primary school children
I guess the news has hit the street of this farming community. Pawan has a foreigner coming for tea. Passing the primary school on our return we are greeted by the teacher of I is for ice cream. This is Manpreet Singh Khaira and he comes from Hapur to teach these children. He welcomes us and invites us to see his class. They are youngsters, maybe around 6 to 7 years old (I forgot to ask) some may be younger. I think they are a bit overawed by the white foreigner but they recite their english alphabet well. It is a classroom with no books. This is on purpose. It is also where they get their government lunch. And it’s nearly lunch time. I pop next door to what would be the kindergarten in Europe. The hindi alphabet is on the blackboard. This is where I belong! I pose for photos with some of the children, Manpreet, his principal and a colleagues.

Kindergarten with Hindi alphabet
Kindergarten with Hindi alphabet – were I belong

The school uniforms

Handing out school uniforms in a farming community village school
Handing out school uniforms in a farming community village school
We are just taking our leave to go for tea when we are called back. Would I do them the honour of presenting some of the children with their new uniforms? I promise you the honour was all mine. I was sat at a desk with the new packaged uniforms. The children’s names were read off the labels. Let’s face it, I hadn’t a hope of reading this beautiful script. I’d only stuck my nose into the kindergarten room with the letters on the blackboard. The children accepted the uniforms with the “namaste” greeting, which I returned not knowing if that was correct or not. But no one corrected me and it seemed the right thing. I have to say I found the whole thing quite emotional. These folk are probably the most friendly, open people I have ever met. And I say again, it was an honour and a privilege above my station to have been allowed to not only see but participate in their day.

Now tea.

We walk back to the centre of the village in this farming community, to Pawan’s family house. Cold water is served while the tea is made. It transpires that one of Pawan’s ancestors (probably his great grandfather) was a freedom fighter. Freedom from the British rule. Pawan earned credits in his police entrance application for having an ancestor that was a freedom fighter.

We are accompanied by Manpreet Khaira and a colleague. Little snacks appear and the rich tea is served. Tea here is taken like coffee in Europe, in little cups. We talk about the education of the children and how difficult it is for them to maintain a standard of english in a tiny village where everyone speaks hindi. But english is one of the national languages for which these children will probably never have a use. Manpreet and I exchange emails, facebook, phone numbers etc. and I am told that if there is anything he may do for me or any help he can give that I am not to hesitate in contacting him.

Why isn’t the rest of the world like this? I think we may have a lot to learn from India – AGAIN.

Uttar Pradesh farming communities

Seeing some of these farming community villages, some would be lead to think “poverty”. You would be wrong. These people are educated people with rich lives that Europe has long left behind in it’s obsession with consumer driven capitalism and a “free market economy”. I feel at home here and I’ve only been here a few days. In some sense I am dreading my return to Delhi for the remainder of my dental treatment.

Two days walking in the Ladpur area


Satya Dhaam Farm – Uttar Pradesh

Satya Dhaam Farms

Leaving for Satya Dhaam Farm

Leaving Delhi for Satya Dhaam Farm was like music to me. Even the incessant honking of horns sounded, melodious? No it didn’t, I’m lying. If there is one thing that I could say against India it would be that they don’t let up with the horn. Sometimes it seems that it has to be sounded to break the silence because I can see no logical reason for it. There may be someone 50m ahead and in no way impeding or needing warning of the on coming vehicle, but BEEP BEEP.

Virender collected me from the hotel at about 11:30 and we set off to the east in search of Mickey and the Satya Dhaam Farms. Our journey would take us through Ghaziabad which is in Uttar Pradesh, the next state to the east, and Hapur in search of Simbhaoli and the sugar mill. Leaving Delhi was a relief and horror. The roads were congested, smelly with diesel and petrol fumes, chaotic and above all, NOISY. It took some time to exit the Delhi conurbation only to reach Ghaziabad, which is a huge manufacturing area as noisy and developed as Delhi. The road, the equivalent of a motorway in Europe, is lined in places with stalls selling food, crash helmets, drinks. There are people repairing tyres, people just stopped on the hard shoulder for a rest or relieving themselves. Things you wouldn’t see in Europe or that would be plain illegal. The cars, trucks, tuk-tuks and bikes knit themselves in and out of each other, and as mentioned before, the lane markings are more of an indication than instruction. Women ride pillion on bikes side saddle! Three up on that Honda. Crash helmets – only if you feel like it. They are a legal requirement but what the hell?

The further behind we left Delhi the quieter the road became. We witnessed one scooter accident where the driver and woman pillion seemed to have hit the central tree and bush covered reservation. Cars were stopped on the road side with the outside of the two lanes filled with helpers and onlookers. Pandemonium! I hope they were alright.

We reached the outskirts of Hapur and stopped. Monkeys strolled up and down under the shade of the trees. There seemed to be a bypass. Consulting google we determined that going round would be easier than getting held up in another city. By now the roads were quite empty and the air fresh. The humidity is high, high, high. Sweat rolls of with the exercise of breathing. BEEP BEEP. Sheer exuberance at being on an empty road, or maybe it’s for the bike 300 yards ahead?

Eventually we arrive at Simbhaoli, a town alongside the NH9 road. Off to the left the smokestacks and buildings of the sugar mill could be seen. Mickey will be somewhere here in the chaos waiting. We spot a road to the left in front of the sugar mill gates and there is Mickey’s car. He greets me like a long lost brother with a big hug. I feel easy in his embrace. He offers a ride in air conditioned comfort but I’ll stay with Virender until we get to the farm.

satya dhaam passing traffic
Passing traffic
Mickey leads, we follow. First through a market in full swing and on possibly one of the worst roads I have ever been on. But the road gets better as we exit the town. It is a narrow road, a country road as you’d find anywhere. The only difference is that some of the traffic are buffalo drawn carts. Yes, buffalo. These animals are kept for labour and milk. Some of the carts are drawn by cows or bullocks too. BEEP BEEP. Motor bikes with multiple crash helmetless people roar up and down. I can smell what seems to be marijuana. Suddenly I realise that the road verges are covered with wild hemp! Covered as an English or Irish roadside would be with nettles. It’s everywhere. Mostly male plants but with the odd female running to seed. The smell alone is intoxicating. Eventually, some 8kms later we reach Satya Dhaam Farm.

Satya Dhaam farm rear
Satya Dhaam farm rear
Satya Dhaam is a walled enclosure with yellow gates (soon to be navy blue according to vastu shastra, the “feng shui” of the Indian tradition). The front courtyard has litchis, mud apples (sapodillas or chickoos, which I’ve never tried) and jackfruit. Unfortunately the season has just ended 🙁 No mangos either. We’re into the (boring) apple season.

Mickey shows me round and introduces me to his farm manager Bhagat Ji, a man of my age with silver hair and a smile. Bhagat Ji has a little english and was a plumber but swapped it for a life on Satya Dhaam Farm with Mickey following the loss of his wife and his children’s adulthood. He cooks, cleans maintains the water pump and electricity (which is erratic, to say the least). He deals with the sale of the sugar cane and produce. Mickey has known him since he was a child. Bhagat Ji was a friend of his father’s.

Satya Dhaam sugar cane under teak trees
Satya Dhaam sugar cane under teak trees
The farm is 6 acres (or nearly 2.5 hectares) and predominantly sugar cane, which gets sold to the Shimbaoli mill. Part of the land is given over to green fodder for livestock at the moment. The sugar cane is shaded by teak trees which represent Mickey’s pension. When the sugar cane is cut the land will be put over to nitrogen-giving peas and some vegetables for consumption here on the farm. All the food I have eaten so far, aside from the tomatoes, is grown here without the help of BigAgriculture. This is a land where you throw a seed at the ground and it grows. It is green and fertile. The water is from the Ganges. I have been warned to only drink bottled water but there isn’t any near by so it’s fresh, fast running well oxygenated water from the Holy River – and it’s lovely. And no I haven’t been hit with any stomach disorder – yet!

Satya Dhaam Farm Photos


Akshardham Temple Complex

Akshardham Temple

A day out with Virender

Virender and I had made a date to meet up. He wanted to introduce me to Delhi and take me somewhere special, a surprise he said. It was a surprise! He took me to Akshardham, the Temple dedicated to Swaminarayan. But before I get ahead of myself, let’s start at the beginning.

I was told that I should NOT bring my camera as it wouldn’t be allowed into the Akshardham complex. I moaned about that and was laughingly allowed to bring my small video camera that does shoot stills but not of terrific quality (sorry folks). Naturally I regretted that but I’ll have to go back and retake some of these shots with the DSLR. Nevertheless I have some pictures and footage of the day.

Delhi Metro

I met Virender at the Kailash Colony Metro station, entrance gate 2. It’s on the violet line. He told me that the easiest way round the city was to use the metro and went off and got me a rechargeable metro card with 200/- INR on it (I still have 144/- left). It’s one of the touch cards that I know from the buses in Spain. Nice and easy to use, no getting into difficulties with machines in english and hindi. No struggling with ticket office personnel that don’t speak english (and not every one does). Just place it on the reader and the gate opens and logs you on to the system. The card then gets scanned at your destination when you pass it over the reader and the appropriate amount is deducted.

The centre of Delhi.

delhi-metro-map
Delhi Metro
We got off at Jarpanth metro station and walked down the road trying to find a tuk-tuk driver that didn’t want tourist fees. Virender explained to me that the first and last carriages of trains are reserved for women – good to know 🙂 and also that there are certain designated seats for older people like me and differently abled people. It is illegal for a younger person not to offer one of these seats to us should they be occupying one. Yay, being old in Delhi pays off! We found a tuk-tuk drier that took us to the Government Buildings.

Today happened to be the day that a the new President Ram Nath Kovind took office so the security that I mentioned in the post on the Lotus Temple was phenomenal.

This is a city of approximately 27 million people (apparently that figure increases by about a third during the day when people from the satellite cities flood into Delhi for work,) so the chances of getting photos with no one in the way is impossible.

Government Buildings Delhi
Government Buildings
Because of the presidential inauguration all vehicles were being redirected, so Virender and I got out and walked up toward the top of the Rajpath and the government buildings until a seriously agitated policeman told us to get off the road as there would be official cars passing. The army personnel were a lot more affable. We stood outside the building that houses one of the ministies while the vehicles passed by and I took the opportunity to take some photos and shoot a bit of video.

India Gate

India Gate
India Gate
We then jumped into the tuk-tuk and headed for India Gate itself some few hundred of yards away where I hopped out and went and did my tourist thing. Virender waited with the tuk-tuk. India Gate is a war memorial to 82,000 Indian soldiers that died in WWI and the Third Anglo-Afghan War. It was designed by Edwin Lutyens, as were a lot of Delhi’s buildings of the time, and in some respects it is like the Arc de Triomphe in Paris. It straddles the Rajpath that is part of Delhi’s “ceremonial axis”. I’ve marked it on the map. The Government buildings are at one end and the India Gate is at the opposite end.

Ugrasen ki Baoli or Agrasen ki Baoli

Agrasen ki Baol
Agrasen ki Baoli, a stepwell
The next port of call and a short tuk-tuk ride later was Agrasen ki Baoli. This structure is a stepwell. It is located on Hailey Road near Connaught Place.

There don’t seem to be any historical records to prove who built Agrasen ki Baoli, but it is believed that the legendary King Agrasen had it constructed and it fell into disrepair. In the 14 century the Agrawal community rebuilt it.

The well was fed by monsoon rain that was collected from the surrounding area and funnelled into the well through the arches on the sides. The openings have since been blocked off. People were able to come and fill their containers at the well irrespective of the height of the water by using the steps to reach water level. It is 60 metres long and 15 metres wide and contains 108 steps that are slightly higher than a normal step and is fairly exhausting to climb 🙂

If you’d like to see a short video I made of this part of the day, go here

Akshardham

Akshardham Temple
Akshardham Temple
We then walked to Mandi House to catch the blue line metro, direction Noida City Centre, for Akshardham. Before entering the complex Virender took me off to a spot where you can get a fairly decent shot of the temple complex, (I’ve put that on the map too) and then we headed into the temple grounds. Construction on the Akshardham Temple began on 8 November 2000 and Akshardham was officially opened on 6 November 2005. On entering my back-pack was checked and I was waved on. Then came the security. You check everything! No pen-drives, cigarettes, cameras etc. The whole list can be found on the Akshardham website. There is a form you fill in listing your “prohibited” items including mobile phones (turned off!) and you sign it. Then you queue up to deposit your goods at the “cloak room” and receive a token with the identity number of your left items. Once through there you proceed to security proper where you pass through a metal detector.

Akshardham Security

Belts, wallets, handbags etc and items that are allowed in are removed and checked. Once through the metal detectors you are frisked by army personnel, and assuming you are clean, allowed in to collect your possessions. I have to mention at this point that there is a dress code. You are not allowed in unless you are wearing a shirt that covers your arms to at least elbows. Trousers or skirts that reach below the knees. If you don’t meet the trouser requirement they will rent you a sarong for 100/- refundable when you return it on exiting. I wore trousers and a long sleeved shirt because that is what is expected and I am a guest here. First time since arriving and I was sweating uncontrollably.

The Ten Gates of Akshradham

I have to say the place is stunning. The carving is beyond my ability to describe it but it is a fabulous example of Hindu art. The photos I have included are from their DOWNLOADS page on their website. The entrance area is the Ten Gates which represent all 8 major points of the compass, N, NE, E, SE… and UP and DOWN, ten in total. The main buildings are either white stone or red stone and every inch is carved and decorated with the various gods or their avatars. With the symbol of the peacock, India’s national bird. With stylised vegetation and religious symbols. It really defies description and has to be seen. It is such a shame cameras aren’t allowed. Then again I’d have filled dozens of memory cards and I wouldn’t have taken in the ambience, so maybe it’s a good thing?

Akshardham Pillarsakshardham temple carving

Virender left me to have a look at the gardens while he went and got tickets for the “attractions”. Entrance is free but the displays cost, but the cost is really very little and more than reasonable. He has been to this temple so many times with various couchsurfers, it is his introduction to India to which he takes all visitors. I have to say it was wonderful to be with him. I had my own personal guide and translator and I suspect I was told things about the complex and creed that the normal visitor would never learn.

akshardham_animatronic
Animatronic display
The first thing that we did was take in the 3D animatronic and film display of Swaminarayan. Now I do have to be honest here, while it was very very good I did get the feeling that conversion was the point. Those that know me know that I’m not good with religions and especially when I feel that I am being lured into conversion. That said, all the values put forward were humanitarian and absolutely sound in behaviour and moral code and I enjoyed it very much indeed.

Nilkanth Varni on IMAX

akshardham_Nilkanth
The IMAX film
The next attraction was an IMAX film produced by BAPS Swaminarayan Sanstha on the Life of Nilkanth Varni, the name Swaminarayan adopted when he left home at 11 years of age to start a 7 year pilgrimage around India. I found the film fascinating. Unfortunately the print jumped quite a bit but the scenery and imagery were stunning. The film is in hindi but english translation is achieved through headphones. This isn’t really as successful as it sounds as the volume of the original hindi soundtrack tends to bleed through the headphones making it a bit difficult to follow. Nevertheless once you get past that, the film was educational and informative and good to watch. The Akshardham website has more info and I’ve linked it here. I’d watch it again and I have found it online if you choose to google it.

The Water Show.

By now it was dusk and the lights had come on. This is apparently a particularly spiritually important part of the day. I have to say this show blew me away! It is a combination of water effects, lasers, and projected animation an I’ve never seen anything like it. I dare say that there are theme parks with similar but I’ve not been to them. The first part of the show is water and laser. I have seen similar, in fact I went to the Royal Academy’s “Light Fantastic” show in the late 1970s which was stunning in it’s time and left a mark on me.

The second part of the show is a story. It was here that Virender really helped with his translations. The story starts with the Gods of Water, Air, Fire and the Sun who have become complacent and proud of their defeat of the demon hordes.

One day four little boys are playing by a river. They make a flower of the water in the river. The fountains in the pool are used to create the flower. The noise of their play and happiness disturbs the Gods. The Water God arrives on the scene. This is where the animation starts. He berates the boys for disturbing him. The boys talk back to him in the same condescending manner that the God uses and they task him to destroy their flower. Water combined with laser and animation makes the amphitheatre come alive and at the end of the God’s displeasure the water flower is more beautiful than ever.

The second God on the scene is the Fire God. He talks angrily to the boys and they reply in kind and challenge him to destroy their flower. The flower remains and again even more beautiful than before. The God of Air comes next and jokingly tries to wheedle the boys who joke back and again the challenge is raised with the expected result. The Sun God then arrives and… well you have the drift by now. The Gods, unable to understand what is going on appeal to Lord Indra who intercedes on the demi-gods behalf with the Creator. The Creator tells them that this is a punishment for being prideful and the display ends.

Akshardham-Watershow
Water and laser
Akshardham Watershow
Lord of Water

It was absolutely fantastic. I can’t begin to say how much I enjoyed it, and to me, it was the best part of the already brilliant day.

A boat ride to the past at Akshardham

But we weren’t over yet. The last spectacle was a “boat ride” through the Akshradaham’s view of ancient India’s past. Make sure to tell the guide you are english speaking. You may have to wait a short while for the twenty or so seater boat to be filled, you are then whisked away on an “underground” tour of India’s ancient past. It is super interesting but the boat goes too fast to process all the facts being thrown at you. I will have to do some research on this and maybe put up a post at a later date when I have all the facts.

The Aksardham Temple

akshardham garbhagruh
The Temple with the statue of Swaminaryan
I took off my shoes and went into the temple proper. The decoration is exquisite. Again every inch is covered and defies description. Now I have seen some beautiful decoration in my time, after all it was my job, but I have never seen anything quite like this! I’ve seen the Alhambra in Granada which is so beautiful and I’ve seen the little known Watt’s Chapel and I’ve seen the Mezquita de Córdoba. But nothing I’ve seen in my 60 years (so far) compared to this. It is quite literally a labour of love sculpted from what looks to be carrera marble. Yes I found some faults. Slight cuts where there shouldn’t be and faults in the marble itself that had been filled. But the scale and depth of this masterpiece defies imagination.


It is a must see if you are in Delhi.

Other beautiful places I have seen.

1st) The Alhambra, 2nd) Watts Chapel, 3rd) Mezquita de Córdoba.
Watts Chapel photo by Nick Garrod on Flickr


The Horn

white rhino varieties

The beer with the horn

white rhino beer the beer with the hornI went out with another CouchSurfer called Imran last night. Imran is the same age as my son (27) and a super-nice guy. He works advising tourists what to do in Delhi (he also works with his dad in the spare time – or maybe that’s the other way about). How lucky is that? He likes advising backpackers and helps out as in tonight where a Canadian guy has lost all his travel documents.

We went to the local market square and had a couple of beers in a bar. Unfortunately for me the bar was pretty westernised and was playing boom chick music that you hear in any bar in UK or Spain and probably the rest of Europe too. I tried a White Rhino beer. The beer with the horn? It was ok but nothing to write home about. 4% by volume makes it average. They tried to sell me Coronita. Why would I want that? You can get it anywhere.

Use your horn.

Walking up the road was an experience. You walk in the road. The pavement or footpath either is nonexistent or has traders on it. There is a little man outside the hotel with his sewing machine. Tomorrow I’ll try and get some photos of him. Lights on bicycles and rickshaws are optional as are crash helmets. No one worries too much about parking diagonally across the on-coming lane of traffic and it seems that the use of the horn is mandatory. Vans, tuk-tuks and the like have signs on the back saying PLEASE USE HORN.

Crossing the road junctions: well you are a vehicle too so just do it. Don’t bother looking, they don’t. But they do seem to have a knack of avoiding you. Motorcyclists and bicycles ride the wrong way down the lane of traffic.

Back to Imran. He has invited me over to eat curry with him when I’ve got my feet under the table. Tomorrow was suggested but I declined as I’m not sure what’s going on yet. I did buy 1 litre of water for 30 rupees which translates to £0.36 or €0,40. I’ve been advised to drink bottled water 🙂 When I’m ready Imran will send a taxi down to me that will cost me about €15 or £13.50 for the day to take me round the sites and drop me back at the hotel. He also invited me to go up to the Himalayas in the middle of August to a friend’s wedding that will last 3 days.

Like most youngsters Imran is addicted to his phone. But he apologised frequently for it 🙂 He also explained that he was phoning his brother to get a chicken for supper as they don’t do frozen supermarket stuff here.

When we split up he offered to get me a rickshaw to take me home. It would have cost about 20 rupees (24p or 27¢). I felt like the walk after the flight. I was tempted to buy a barbecued corn on the cob but decided against it tonight, plenty of time for that tomorrow.


CouchSurfing

couchsurfing india-with.me

Couchsurfing is a site I joined when I was in Costa Rica in 2012. I never had a chance to use it. This trip to India seemed like a good time to test it out. So I made out a new profile and uploaded a few pics. They charge €19 a year which, as you will see later is a bargain.

CouchSurfing applications

Well I applied to 4 people for a couchsurf and had 2 positive responses. I was a tad disappointed. That said, the two that responded have been in contact and one was Mickey mentioned in my second post Satya Dhaam Farm. As you’ll know if you read that I’m going to stay with him for a couple of weeks on his organic farm. The second guy will be away travelling himself but we’ve arranged to meet up when I return to Delhi. So far so good.

CouchSurfing mobile app.

Three days ago I was lying in bed going through the Couchsurfing site on the android mobile app (yes they have an iOS one too), just checking out how it worked in detail and seeing if there were people in the towns that I’d like to visit. One of the things that I noticed was a link that said something like “publish and up coming trip”. I thought about it a while and decided that I’d do it. Since then I have been overwhelmed by the kindness of Indian Couchsurfers offering hosting, help, meet-ups and more. In fact on guy a little more my age called Virender is going to collect me from the airport. How good is that?

Photo: www.jaipur.org.uk

I have been contacted by Vishal who lives in Jaipur. Jaipur is a must for me. The Pink City. I really hope that Vishal and I can hook up when I go there. He’s an artist, photographer and a model and way too good looking for his own good. 🙂 Just now I was contacted by Another Virendr (he spells it slightly differently) who lives in Khajuraho. He’s a student of english in Delhi but he’s home with his folks at the moment. I’ve been invited to stay and he’s up for showing me the Kama Sutra temple there.

missing
Kama Sutra Temple in Khajuraho. (image from Tripadvisor)

Am I going?
Is the pope a catholic?


It may be that I don’t get there before he’s back studying but let’s face it folk, my visa is for a year. I’m pretty sure that I’ll get to meet him in his home town.

Couchsurfing contacts

Shubham wrote to me in impeccable spanish! He’s studying that. Of course I want to meet him. He’s 21 years old but what do I care? I can talk to anybody. He offered hosting. Sujata works for Barclays (oh the irony – I’ve had so many problems with my Barclays’ account) and she’s up for meeting at the weekends to show me around and having a coffee. So far to date I have had 11 offers of one sort or another.

So all I can say is: if you’re travelling check out CouchSurfing. Granted, as yet I haven’t met these friendly people, but there is absolutely no reason to assume that they are anything but interested, helpful and friendly.