Wednesday, October 16, 2013
Thursday, May 22, 2008
After days, weeks and months travelling more than 100,000km, over 800 hours on the road in more than 10 distinct forms of transport, using more than 20 currencies, sleeping in over 100 new locations, in five different continents, reading more than 30 books, writing over 100 posts in two blogs plus a mountain of emails and hand-written letters , getting to know hundreds of people and taking thousands photographs whilst visiting new locations, villages and cities that we didn’t know and had previously never visited, picking up where we left off is proving impossible!
We have returned to our home, family, friends, neighbours and surroundings , but it is not the same, it is now different, we are different. Neither better nor worse, just different. We now know each other so much better, indeed we know ourselves much better. Taking off the pressure, the lack of expectations and the new experiences of each day, made it possible to take in everything that was happening both outside us and within. And tomorrow, if circumstances allowed, we would all do it again, without doubt, but as we have already done it once, the next time, if there is a next time, the experience will surely be something else.
I should have liked each of us to have written our point of view now that we have returned, as I tend to idealize everything and always see the glass half full, but part of our return has been returning to our old ways. Diana has started work and the girls, as they have no commitments whilst waiting to restart their education after the summer and meanwhile are looking for temporary work, have caught up with friends as much as possible and have enjoyed themselves, especially their nocturnal selves. Thus a month has passed without us writing any posts for either blog, for which we apologize.
This post will appear on both our blogs, so don’t bother checking the other one for a different welcome note. Yes, a welcome note, as this is not a farewell but our return to the life we thought was our reality, although now we wonder if this is the case.
With our love,
Manel, Diana, Ella and Blanche
Ja ha passat un mes des de la nostra arribada a casa... com passa el temps! Aquestes quatre setmanes hem intentat reprendre les nostres vides on les vam deixar fa ara deu mesos i, la veritat, no ha estat fàcil. Per a uns més difícil que per a altres, però per a tots, un canvi amb què comptàvem però al qual potser mai dediquem gaires pensaments. Algun amic ens ha dit "que no us agafi una depre postpart" -per allò dels nou mesos i viure'ls amb un objectiu molt clar, que ara ja no hi és... Doncs gairebé ens agafa.
Després de dies, setmanes i mesos recorrent més de 100.000 quilòmetres, durant més de 800 hores de viatge, en més de 10 mitjans de transport diferents, a través de cinc continents diferents, usant més de 20 divises, dormint en més de 100 llocs nous, llegint més de 30 llibres, escrivint més de 100 posts en dos blocs i un munt de correus electrònics i cartes manuscrites, coneixent centenars de persones i fent milers de fotografies mentre visitàvem llocs, pobles i ciutats que no coneixíem i on no havíem estat mai, tornar on ho havíem deixat tot no és possible. Tornar a casa, amb la família, amics, veïns i entorn sí, però ja no és el mateix, ara és diferent, nosaltres som diferents. Ni millors ni pitjors, diferents. Entre nosaltres ens coneixem moltíssim més, així com cada un a ell mateix, perquè aquest temps també ha estat un viatge cap a nosaltres mateixos, on la falta de pressió, la falta d'expectatives i la novetat diària ens ha permès absorbir-ho tot, el de fora i el de dins. I demà, si poguéssim i les circumstàncies es tornessin a donar, ho repetiríem, sens dubte, tots i cada un de nosaltres, però com que ja ho hem fet, doncs la pròxima vegada, si hi és, l'experiència ben segur que serà una altra.
M'hauria agradat que cada un de nosaltres escrivís sobre la seva visió ara que ja hem tornat, perquè jo tendeixo a idealitzar-ho tot i sempre que hi ha un got el veig mig ple, però part del retorn ha estat tornar a rutines anteriors. La Diana s'ha reincorporat a la seva escola i les noies, com que no tenen "obligacions" mentre esperen reprendre els estudis al setembre i busquen feina per a aquests mesos, han recuperat tot el "temps perdut": han vist les seves amistats tant com els ha estat possible i han disfrutat de la vida, sobretot la nocturna. Així, hem passat un mes sense escriure cap post nou per als blocs, de manera que us demano mil disculpes; a més aquest serà compartit entre les dues "https", o sigui que no fa falta que busqueu si en l'altre bloc surt una altra versió de la nostra benvinguda, perquè és la mateixa. Dic benvinguda, ja que això no és cap comiat de res, sinó el nostre retorn a la vida que pensàvem era la real, i evidentment ara en tenim molts dubtes.
Manel, Diana, Ella i Blanche
Friday, April 18, 2008
Ahir varem arribar a un Londres assoleiat pero bastant fred, a les cinc del mati nomes hi feia 6 graus, i es clar, venint del tropic ens va xocar una mica, encara que a Londres, si hi fa sol, tant li fa el fred ja que es quan la ciutat es mes bonica. Despres d'un bon esmorzar a un cafe tipic del centre i de deixar la majoria de les bosses a casa uns amics varem anar cap a Cardiff en autobus, un viatge d'un xic mes de tres hores que ens varen passar volant, al cap i a la fi anavem a veure la familia, i a mes el sol ens va acompanyar tot el cami. Diumenge tornem a la capital i dimecres havent dinat, cap Barcelona! Si tot va be arribarem la tarda de Sant Jordi, com haviem previst. Deixarem enrere molts llocs nous, molta nous coneguts, molts amics, molts llits i moltes hores de viatge, i esperem emportar-nos els records, els bons moments que hem passat, tot el que hem vist i apres durant aquests mesos. Tornarem a casa coneixent-nos bastant mes que quan varem marxar, amb ganes i energia per emprendre una nova etapa, cada un de nosaltres la seva nova etapa, amb un record comu que nomes nosaltres quatre compartim. A partir d'ara, en les nostres vides, sempre hi haura un abans i un despres d'aquest meravellos, unic i especial, i tambe privilegiat, molt privilegiat viatge.
On Wednesday we left Singapore after having spent some days there getting to know Max, Patricia and Mahesh's son, and visiting the Lothgrens and Chloe. In fact the girls stayed at Chloe's whilst we stayed at the Lothgrens'. After so many months of mostly sleeping in hostels, we have really appreciated staying at friends' homes, especially as they have all treated us so well. We visited lots of shops in Singapore and even did some shopping, we also went to the cinema to see 'The Other Boleyn Girl' and walked a lot, despite the heat and humidity. The Botanical Gardens, which include the Ginger Garden and the Orchid Garden, are home to an extraordinary collection of tropical flowers and plants and it is a really pleasant place to spend some time. The city combines modern buildings, its banks and large corporations, with neighbourhoods like Chinatown and Little India where you find replicas of those places including temples, small shops and restaurants. It's a city full of foreigners who work there, other foreigners who work for the foreigners who work there and a number of descendents of the original population who often don't have access to the same opportunities as the foreigners (who work there). It all seems to work very well, although criticism is not permitted and so it's difficult to know what really functions well and what doesn't.
Yesterday we arrived in sunny London, although it was cold. At five o'clock in the morning it was only 6 degrees and obviously, coming from the tropics, it was a bit of a shock although when the sun is out in London, even if it's cold, it's at its most beautiful. After a hearty breakfast in a typical cafe in the centre, we dropped some bags at a friend's house and headed to Cardiff by coach, a sunny journey of just over three hours which sped by, to see the family.
On Sunday we return to London and on Wednesday afternoon we head to Barcelona. If everything goes according to plan, we'll arrive in the afternoon of St Jordi. We'll be leaving behind many new locations, new acquaintances, new friends, many beds and hours of travel and will be taking with us many memories, goods times we've had, everything we've experienced and learnt over the last nine months. Arriving home, we'll know so much more than we did when we left, with an enthusiasm and energy to start the next phase, each one our own, but with a common experience we four have lived together. From now on there will always be a 'before and after' in our lives marked by our marvellous, unique, special and also privileged, very privileged journey.
Monday, April 7, 2008
Having recently spent 3 days in a city in China does not give me any authority on the Tibet and related Games' issues. However, having been following the news and reading specialized press as well as keeping my ears and eyes well open whilst in the region, allows me to have formed a strong personal opinion on China's reality. On our visit to Chauzhou the first thing we noticed was lots of investment in infrastructures, mainly on roads; we also noticed a constant agression to the environment on both sides of the roads we traveled along, consisting of several dumping sites and rubbish landfills. Whilst some city centre areas, both in Shenzhen and Chauzhou, seem to have been recently developed, this has been done on a large scale, with only buildings of gigantic proportions, leaving no space for leasure areas. New housing developments seemed to lack any "luxurious" access to natural light and buildings were piled one next to the other, becoming just functional. As we did not visit any inside, I cannot coment on their living spaces. Walking the old town we saw how individual businesses struggle to generate a sizeable income and from seeing the population's daily activity, I suspect they live a very basic way of life. Cycle richshaws share the road with new luxury cars and many, many buses. My first impression was that of a fast developing capitalist state without any of the freedom or rights we enjoy in the west. Judging by China's economic results, I can only think of a very agressive capitalist system using two sets of rules: free competition towards the outside and strict state control of production and its means towards their people. On account of the luxury vehicles we saw, I can only suspect corruption as a well established system to obtain special rights or privileges. China's economic success is their own doing, but also the result of western companies -and their share holders- greed, and eventually could cost our economies dearly; perhaps it is time we reconsider where we want our goods produced. Because of their favourable prices we have become complacent and often turn a blind eye, and now, with the Olympic Games around the corner, we are once more prepared to close both eyes, as long as we can buy their goods cheaply. But, are they so cheap? China's abuses aren't limited to the occupation and continued masscre of Tibet since 1950, they also involve the constant displacement of their population, sending Han people into the region in order to dilute the Tibetan feeling, forcing anyone the government wants, to move to other regions, in a clear show of disregard for people's basic rights. Nothing has changed for the Chinese since the students took Tiananmen, except perhaps that their economy is growing at such rate that the government can, when they want, buy each and everyone of its citizens, often stirring nationalistic feelings to gain support for big international issues and playing victim. We have recently heard the Chinese president say he is "prepared to discuss anything with the Dalai Lama, as long as he does not question China's integrity, as both Tibet and Taiwan are inseparable parts of it".
Tuesday, March 25, 2008
Per ara, avui hem enviat mes de 30 quilos d'equipatge cap a casa en un intent de viatjar un xic mes lleugers (ara nomes portarem dues motxilles!), i dema, ben aviat, canviarem de decorat i, amb sort, portarem el bon temps cap al sud de la Xina... ja us ho explicarem.
Tomorrow we'll catch an early plane to Hong Kong, and although it may seem we are moving away, we'll have started our return. Once we have left India we'll certainly be on our way home, even if we'll be traveling east for a while. Our journey starts to end, we have been saying it for a while, but before going home we would like a taste of China - despite their attitude towards Tibetans and our contradictions - and to visit some friends both in Tokyo and Singapore. The weeks we've spent here have been full of different flavours and lately many colours. Before our arrival we really wanted to discover bits of this intriguing and different (and mistakenly belittled) continent. Now we know some of its places, traditions and even had an introduction to its religions. Occasionally some days have been hard, to live among "accepted poverty" has not been easy, and some of the local habits continue to surprise us (spitting being one of them) and we have not grown used to them (although we have had to "adjust" as they say), other ones we'll take home and make them our own. Many days have been great, meeting very generous people and surrounded by venerated rivers, very special seas, amazing dawns and sunsets and dramatic mountains. Perhaps of all the places we have visited these last months, India is the first one we'll come back to, who knows. We have left behind the girls from Moolamatton, the impressions from Bombay, the rural life of the south and more recently the extraordinary Himalayas. We have also a visit to Nepal pending, and maybe, one day, we'll even make it to Tibet. For the time being, today we have shipped 30kg of things back home, trying to travel a little lighter, with only two rucksacks, and tomorrow, early in the morning we'll change scenery and maybe even manage to take the weather with us, to the south of China... we shall see.
Friday, March 14, 2008
Since our last blog, amongst other things we've been lucky enough to see three tiger cubs in their natural habitat, free and wild, from an observation tower a few metres away. It was an extraordinary morning which we'll remember for a long time; it was out third day in Dudhwa National Park and even though we'd seen rhinos the day before from the back of an elephant (about 3 or 4m away!), we were hoping we'd see a tiger .... and so three the following morning means we were very lucky and we were thrilled. As well as Dudhwa, we've visited Gorakhpur, Lucknow, Orchha, the famous temple at Khajuraho (known for its erotic carvings, although there are many more that are of other subjects that are as or more impressive) and now we are in Agra. Obviously we had to come here, to visit the Taj and the Red Fort, although we were worried about visiting one of India's most touristy and commercialised places, however the two monuments didn't fail to impress. Until you see the Taj, you can't appreciate its beauty and size, and even though there were lots of visitors yesterday, it was impressive.
There is, of course, a sad and romantic story behind it of a man who had lots of money and who, when travelling, liked his favourite wife to accompany him and who had her accompany him to war where she went into labour (their 14th child!) and died .... and so, on his return he said that before she passed away she asked him to build a monument to show the greatness of their love ... and whoever saw it would know. Twenty-two thousand workers participated in the construction of this monument over a period of many years, and many must have died. The coloured stones set into the marble were brought from far and wide and the marble itself was brought by 2,000 elephants from over 300km away.
Here in Agra they hassle you to buy all sorts of reproductions and junk somehow related to the Taj all the time. Today we fell (actually it was Manel who fell) for a known scam by local rickshaw drivers in cities like this. They agreed to take us where we wanted for a reasonable price and once we were near where we wanted to be, they convinced us to go to another area and visit some shops where they would receive a commission even if we didn't buy anything, thus helping them earn some extra money. What they didn't warn us was that this would turn out to be a three hour tour of uninteresting parts of the city as they need to take you to at least 5 shops to get reasonable commissions. What was going to be a relaxed day wandering in the old town had by then become a long and annoying succession of visits to shops where they sell things you don't want at inflated, tourist prices. At the end of the journey, as they had cycled many kilometres and as it is a very tough job, especially for the elderly drivers we had, we ended up paying double what we had agreed and obviously more than we should have paid to go to where we had originally wanted and back, even in a motorised rickshaw!
Saturday, March 1, 2008
Com heu notat anem alternant entre aquest espai i el blog que fem a http://elperiodico.com/blogs/blogs/rutafamiliar/default.aspx per mantenir-vos informats, o sigui que ja sabeu que hem canviat un xic els plans i no visitarem el Nepal, com teniem previst. Les darreres dues setmanes hi ha hagut una vaga generalitzada i s'els va comencar a acabar el fuel i a fallar la distribucio del menjar, en algunes ciutats hi havia toc de queda establert i bastantes manifestacions. Abans d'ahir el govern i l'oposicio varen arribar a un acord i van acabar la vaga, i encara que la situacio ja s'esta normalitzant, ens va semblar raonable postposar la nostra visita fins a la propera vegada que siguem per la regio (esperem que hi hagi una propera vegada), tant per seguretat com per respecte vers els Nepalesos, ja que com extrangers segur hauriem tingut (el seu) menjar i (la seva) gasolina. Malgrat aquest canvi encara esperem avistar les muntanyes dels Himalaies i fins algun pic important, si podem visitar el park de Dudhwa, al nord de Lucknow, on ens dirigirem aquesta nit, com ve sent habitual, en tren.
Avui hem anat a Kushinagar, una ciutat a 50 quilometres (o dues hores en bus) a l'est de Gorakhpur a visitar temples budistes, ja que n'hi ha mes d'un, doncs es la ciutat on va morir "el Buddha" i sembla que encara s'hi conserven algunes cendres (que no hem vist). El trajecte, com sempre que et mous per carretera a l'India, ens ha aixecat els cabells , encara que com que el cami es tot en linia recta, aquest cop els adelantaments mentre venen cotxes i (pobres) motos de cara i la circulacio de tres vehicles en paral.lel per una via de dos carrils, no han estat tant esgarrifosos, i aixo que hem fet tota la tornada drets ja que l'autobus anava ple - en algun moment fins hi havia un parell de passatgers al sostre i tot!
Des que hem arribat al nord del pais s'ens fa mes dificil trobar llocs per menjar seguint la dieta vegetariana que portem fent els darrers mesos, ja que sembla la poblacio es mes mixta i no hi ha la majoria vegetariana que haviem trobat als estats del sud. Com que intentem menjar en llocs on facin nomes cuina vegetariana, ara hem de buscar-los durant mes estona, i com que les poblacions estan escampades al llarg de forca quilometres, a vegades porta mes estona, i com que des que varem deixar Madagascar no hem provat ni el vi ni la cervesa - ni altres alcohols- tampoc podem parar a fer una birra i reposar un xic quan no trobem un lloc per menjar. No es que haguem fet cap vot especial ni ens haguem convertit a cap religio, simplement ens va semblar que era una oportunitat massa facil per "fer vida sana" per deixar-la passar.
Avui a l'estacio ens hem pesat i seguim en el mateix pes que quan varem marxar, o sigui que l'alimentacio esta funcionant, encara que aquests dies a vegades ens hem sorpres conversant sobre el menu ideal per un apat per a cada u, o intentant debatre quines coses -de menjar- son les que cadascu troba o ha trobat mes a faltar en aquests mesos de viatge... poster com que la tornada es va acostant s'ens fa inevitable comencar a pensar en com seran els primers dies despres de retorn i sobretot, que menjarem!
You will have realised that we try to keep you up-to-date with our movements alternating our news via this blog and our other one at http://elperiodico.com/blogs/blogs/rutafamiliar/default.aspx and so you will know that our plans have changed a little and we are not visiting Nepal. In the last two weeks there has been a general strike there , fuel is running short and food distribution is becoming difficult, in some cities curfews have been imposed and there have been demonstrations. The day before yesterday, the government arrived at an agreement with the opposition and the strike ended and stability is being restored but we thought we'd postpone our visit until our next trip (if there is a next trip) both for our own safety and out of respect to the Nepalese because as foreigners we would be sure to get (their) food and (their) fuel. Despite this change, we should still be able to see the Himalayas if we visit Dudhwa Park to the north of Lucknow, where we are headed tonight by train ... as always.
Today we visited Kushinagar, a city about 50 km away (2 hours by bus), to the east of Gorakhpur to visit Buddhist temples - there is more than one. It is the city where " Buddha" died and it seems his ashes are still there (although we didn't see them). The journey, as always when travelling on Indian roads, was hair-raising although this time as the road was straight overtaking, creating three lanes of parallel traffic on a road designed for two, wasn't so scary when cars and (poor) motorcyclists were hurtling towards us. We had to stand for the whole of the return journey as the bus was packed with even a couple of passengers travelling on the roof.
Since our arrival in the north, we have been finding it difficult to find places serving the vegetarian diet we have been following for the last couple of months, as the population here is more mixed and the majority are not vegetarian as they are in the south. As we try to eat in places that only produce vegetarian food, our search is taking longer every time, and as these towns are really spread out over several kilometres, sometimes we walk a long way, and as we haven't drunk wine or beer (or any other alcohol) since leaving Madagascar, we can't even stop for a beer and rest a while when we can't find anywhere to eat. It's not that we've converted to any religion, it just seemed like too good an opportunity to pass up to live "a healthy lifestyle".
We weighed ourselves at the station today and we are all the same weight as when we left last year and so this diet is working although over the past few days we have surprised ourselves by discussing our ideal menu and which food items each one of us has missed most on the trip ... maybe it's because the end is in sight and inevitably we are thinking about our first days back and above all what we are going to eat!
Tuesday, February 19, 2008
Wednesday, February 13, 2008
Friday, February 1, 2008
When we awoke the landscape and vegetation had changed. We were now traveling through palm plantations and crossing picturesque, early morning river estuaries. The temperature had also gone up.
The train arrives in Ernakulam and from here we got a ferry across to Cochin– a lovely way to arrive in any city. After the energy of Mumbai, Cochin is a surprisingly slow–paced city. Yesterday we wandered through
Today we took a 'backwaters' tour. This involved driving, at breakneck speed, to a small jetty about 30km south where we boarded a houseboat. We then sailed along waterways, across a lake and around a group of islands, stopping off on one where we shown how they collect 'natural juice' from the flower of the coconut palm in ceramic bowls and where we were also shown some of the many spices that grow in this region such as cardamom, arrowroot and all spice, which is a plant not a mixture of spices as I'd always thought. After a really delicious lunch, we then set off in narrow boats through the backwaters, getting stuck on various occasions as the water level was so low, and this time we stopped in a village to see how they make coir string from coconut fibre. We saw a number of kingfishers as we travelled through this beautiful place.
Despres de gairebe una setmana a Mumbai, ara hem viatjat cap al sud, a Cochin (Kerala). El viatge en tren va durar mes d'un dia, 27 hores. Malgrat que fos llarg, al nostre voltat sempre hi havia molta activitat amb que distreure's.A cada parada colles de venedors pujaven al tren oferint-nos delicioses pastes acabades de fregir, te, mapes i diaris, i a mes sempre teniem el personal del vago restaurant "fent passadis" i constantment oferint-nos coses similars per menjar. El vago estava dividit en seccions amb kilometres de cortines i velcro i a cada seccio hi havia 4 llits disposats en dos nivells. Nosaltres viatjavem en segona classe hi hi havia una tercera "llitera" de costat al passadis. En aquesta part de la nostra seccio, hi havia una elegant senyora de 71 anys que vestia un sari i que va xerrar amb nosaltres. Mai hauriem endevinat que era una cirujana plastica retirada que havia estudiat a Edinburg i ara anava a a Cochin a bussejar en una illa protejida amb un grup de la Societat d'Historia Natural de Bombai.
Varem despertar en un nou paisatge amb vegetacio diferent de quan havien anat a dormir. Estavem travessant plantacions de palmeres i estuaris pintorescs i la temperatura havia pujat molts graus.
El tren arriba a Ernakulam i d'alla varem anar fins a Cochin en un ferry, una manera molt agradable d'arribar a la ciutat. Despres de tota l'activitat de Mumbai, Cochin es una ciutat sorprenentment lenta. Ahir varem passejar pel barri jueu on hi ha centenars d'anticuaris especialment dirigits al tots els turistes que hi passen, i despres per Bazaar Road, on hi ha molta gent de la zona i dotzenes de magatzems plens de sacs d'especies i llegums i petites botigues venent olis essencials.
Avui hem anat a fer una passejada en barca per les"backwaters". Aixo ha implicat anar en un autobus, a una velocitat exagerada, fins a un petit "amarre" uns 30km al sud de la ciutat, on hem pujat una casa-barca. D'alli hem anat per canals, travessant un llac i voltant varies illes, desembarcant en una d'elles on ens han ensenyat com recullen el "suc natural" de la flor de les palmeres cocoteres en unes olles de ceramica penjades de l'arbre, i tambe ens han mostrat varies de les especies que creixen a la regio, com el cardamo, l'"arrowroot" i el "allspice", que es una planta i no una barrejad'especies comhavia pensat sempre. Despres d'un delicios dinar, hem cntinuat la passejada en una barca estreta pels canals mes petits, quedant-nos encallats a la sorra varies vegades, ja que la marea era baixa, i aquest cophem desembarcat en un llogaret on fan corda amb les fibres del coco. Mentre descobriem aquest precios llloc hem vist diversos martins pescadors.