Frankfurt, Germany | August 21, 2005
Nürnberg, Germany | August 22, 2005
Füssen, Germany | August 25, 2005
Graz, Austria | August 26, 2005
Pliskovica, Slovenija | August 28, 2005
Maribor, Slovenija | August 29, 2005
Ljubljana, Slovenija | August 30, 2005
Zagreb, Croatia | August 31, 2005
Split, Croatia | September 4, 2005
Korčula, Croatia | September 7, 2005
Dubrovnik, Croatia | September 8, 2005
Sofia, Bulgaria | September 10, 2005
Plovdiv, Bulgaria | September 12, 2005
Istanbul, Turkey | September 14, 2005
Selçuk, Turkey | September 20, 2005
Samos, Greece | September 25, 2005
Naxos, Greece | September 27, 2005
Santorini, Greece | September 29, 2005
Crete, Greece | October 3, 2005
Rome, Italy | October 7, 2005
Ales, France | October 10, 2005
Chamonix, France | October 18, 2005
Paris, France | October 21, 2005
Delhi, India | October 27, 2005
Mcleod Ganj, India | October 30, 2005
Rishikesh, India | November 7, 2005
Varanasi, India | November 12, 2005
Agra, India | November 15, 2005
Bharatpur, India | November 17, 2005
Delhi (Paharaganj), India | November 18, 2005
Bangkok, Thailand | November, 20 2005
Chiang Mai, Thailand | November 22, 2005
Pai, Thailand | November 25, 2005
Amed, Bali | November 30, 2005
Canberra, Australia | December 6, 2005
Holidays Point, Australia | December 14, 2005
Port Maquarie, Australia | December 15, 2005
Noosa Heads, Australia | December 18, 2005
Coolangatta, Australia | December 28, 2005
Sydney Airport, Australia | December 30, 2005
Nadi, Fiji | December 31, 2005
Boulder, CO | January 4, 2006

Varanasi, India

November 12, 2005

We arrived in Varanasi this morning, not really knowing what to expect. We've been traveling since 5am yesterday morning -- 1 hour taxi from Rishikesh to Haridwar, 5 hour train to Delhi, an hour layover there, then 17 hours to Varanasi. We're not as exhausted as you might think. We lucked out on the long train from Delhi by getting the end berth, so we had an upper and lower bunk to ourselves. We both slept quite well, and even enjoyed Indian style dinner of rice, vegetables, tofu, nan, soup and a bag of water.

We're both starting to get into the mindset and rhythm of India. It's a good thing too, because Varanasi has a lot of the characteristics that can be hard to get used to. There's open sewage in the streets right next to the vegetable market, hordes of people, rats scavenging in the waste along the train track, more trash than you can imagine fills every gutter, stream, and empty space. The air is brown and thick with pollution, and real poverty is everywhere. A press of noise, sights and smells confronts you everywhere you turn. The few escapes are welcome. The hotel and the internet cafe are quiet, clean refuges from the chaos outside, but more and more we feel comfortable out there.

There's amazing beauty here too. Women in brightly colored saris ride bicycles through the narrow streets. Kids play cricket in any open space bigger than your living room and fly homemade kites in the downriver wind. Orange robed swamis meditate along the river banks, and there are colorful temples almost everywhere you look.

We are already counting ourselves very lucky here. Nichole called ahead and secured us a room and a pick-up from the train station. We had heard horror stories of people being taken everywhere but the place they want to go by commission-seeking rickshaw-wallahs. Instead we were met at the train platform by a nice Indian man named Ravi, holding a sign saying "Welcome Ruke Miller". He carried Nichole's bag, ushered us through the throng of touts and rickshaw-wallahs to his microvan, and gave us the lowdown on Varanasi.

Varanasi is a sacred city in India, and hundereds of thousands of people come here to bathe in the Ganges - Ganga, The Great Mother. Even though the river is extremely polluted here - full of sewage, trash, industrial waste, and worse. Varanasi is the birthplace of the Hindu god, Shiva, and is also one of the oldest continuously inhabited cities on earth - about 5,000 years old! (though it's been sacked so many times, few of the buildings here are more than 300 years old.)

Ravi also warns us about the many varied scams people try to pull on the tourists here.
"Don't accept food or drink from anyone" He says. "They are only being friendly so they can lure you into their shop." People will charge you 5x as much because you are a tourist, and frequently, you don't even get what you're supposed to. What is sold as real silk is often nylon and polyester, "pure" oils are cut with vegetable oil, and handmade crafts are mass-produced, and given a once-over by hand to make them look authentic.

So, now that we're safely settled into our room, showered, fed, and rested, we're ready to venture out today. Ravi has offered to take us out this afternoon to the Ghats (docks along the Ganga) to see the evening Puja ceremony as the sun goes down. We have seen the sunset Puja ceremony in Rishikesh, but here it promises to be much more grand.

We'll be here for three days, and have a lot planned, so I'm sure you'll be getting more stories.

Love to everyone!

November 14, 2005

Well, we sure had an amazing day yesterday! We were up at 4:30am to go have a boat ride on the Ganga to watch the sunrise and the morning puja ceremony. Our boat-wallah Dubji was very cool, and the beauty of the morning was undescribable! We saw dolphins swimming in the orange glow of the sunrise - yes, dolphins do live in the hyper-polluted Ganges!

After returning to the hotel for some breakfast, we went with Ravi for a tour of some of the main temples here in Varanasi. The Shiva temple is the most impressive since Varanasi is the city of Shiva. Nichole and I both recieved blessings of marigolds. We also visted the Monkey Temple or the Temple of Hanuman - the Monkey God, and the Durga Temple - the Great Mother. Nichole can tell you more about all the meanings and stuff. All I can say is they're really beautiful.

After a mid-day nap, we had the very fortunate opportunity to visit the silk district. There's a long history of silk in Varanasi. Currently the whole industry is controlled by the government. All of the legitiment silk weaving shops are set up as apartments and work space. On the first floor is the giant loom, all the supplies and large windows that open to allow vistors to see the silk being loomed. Upstairs are the private living quarters of the weavering family. The Indian government also trains young boys, who are orphaned, as weavers, giving them a skill which they can make a living by.,br>
Instead of buying silk on the street markets, Ravi got us the insider connection to buy from the source - we spent 4 hours buried under mountians of silk, drinking chai, and eating fresh piping hot samosas. Nichole got wrapped up in a traditional Indian Sari, and we both picked some cloth and had some clothes made for us. We'll pick them up today!

That's a pretty brief sum-up of one of our more amazing days in India, but we're leaving today, and still have more to do. Overnight train leaves at 5:30 for Agra where we'll watch the full moon come up over the Taj Mahal tomorrow night.

From: Nichole

Great update Luke! Your the cutest husband I've ever had!

From: mcfly

wow. sounds absolutely amazing... in both good and bad ways. thanks for the update and for keeping us with you on your travels! (p.s. the basin is a madhouse right now. HUGE crowds every time i have been up. i am skiing like a champ though, which is a plus. and have managed to hook up with someone both times up to duck lift-lines.)

From: pops

Hi kids: We are just back in Canberra after a week in Melbourne and Tubbut (Chateau Magee). Before we unpacked we had to get the latest update on your travels......and it does sound like you are REALLY travelers now..... very impressive journey through India.... I can almost, but probably not quite, imagine the mix of sights and sounds and crowds and aromas that you have been experiencing. It is a different world, and probably a mix of wonderous things and the dreadful, all at the same time. Will be great to hear some of it first hand in a few weeks. Love, Pa

From: Heather

Loving you from afar and adoring the stories. So glad you are safe and thriving in India, especially. What an intense place of beauty and spirit... the two rarely mutually exclusive. Huge hugs and prayers your way my loves. - H

From: Mom

Look you are quiet the writter. You should take it up when you get time. Sounds like you are doing great and becoming experienced travelers. MOM

From: mum

searching the net for a readable map of India.....I might have to go to a book store today. I didn't bring my world atlas to Australia with me! Colorado and Michigan are going to look very different to you when you return. Your arrival here is quickly approaching, we are very much looking forward it. Tho still a long 3 plus weeks for you. We await more stories. luv.... mum

From: obie

Mom, I almost laughed outloud about you looking for a map. Midra the Map Queen. Luke, how many times do you have look the names of these places when you type them? The words look like you passed out and head hit the keyboard. Things here are good, Cooper get bigger by the second. But no snow. Last year I had over 7 days in already. Today there isn't even a drop of snow on the ground. Happy 34th Wedding Anniversary "Mum & Pops"!

comment ability disabled to prevent spam until I can figure a way to block it. Sorry.
Email us if you want to leave a message: rtw (at) elevation9600 . com