An Indian Wedding in Uttarakhand

We continue our journey to the source of the Ganges with our trekking guide. We drive on a mountain road a bit rugged, a little steep, in the foothills of the Himalayas, between Uttarkashi and Gangotri, on the heights where the Ganges has its source. Many times at the side of the road we see parties and buses that carry lots of youth in cheerful mood.

Often, the buses are stuffed and a human cluster is also perched on the roof, clinging to the luggage rack. Our guide says these are for weddings. Why are there so many today? No doubt, he says, astrologers have judged the day to be favorable. Precisely, at the edge of the road, near the Singhani village, the party is in full swing.

We stop and we are invited. The feast began the night before. This marriage takes place in the caste of the warriors which authorizes the consumption of meat but also alcohol. Some participants are a little drunk. The newlyweds, well dressed, sit on chairs. When I arrived the festivities had begun. There were more than hundred people in the course.

People were sitting on the floor sitting on mats. On a platform I saw few men waiting. And on one side, several men were in full discussion, with wads of notes in their hands. At first, I walked from group to group or the guests asked me to take pictures. What is good in India is that I do not have to ask to take pictures of people. It is they who come to me and ask me. Even if I have no desire.

Then after an hour, a man introduced me to his brother. So I found myself on the platform! I am surrounded by people in beautiful dresses, and me in a t-shirt, the same one I had been wearing for a few days already! I wear a jersey like of a football team and pants, backpack and sandals! Most importantly, I find myself talking with one of the newlyweds.

The crazy thing is that he tells me since it is an arranged marriage he does not know his wife at all! He never saw her, or never spoke to her. I am speechless to hear that and ask him a lot of questions. If he is afraid to live all his life with the same person? If he had a girlfriend before the wedding? And he answered quietly. I wondered how it could be possible to be so zen while the rest of his life is played at this moment.

As we waited for his bride, and I was in a state close to syncope, the bridegroom asked me, if I have any adult videos in my phone? What? Have I heard correctly? It is incredible, that the guy asks this to one whom he met the first time! The guy is going to marry a girl he does not know and wonder if I have these videos! Of course, there is a world that separates me from them! The phrase of the century is a moment like this.

Then come the long awaited moment, as the woman go up on the platform with her future husband. I am writing future because the ceremony has not taken place yet. And this moment is still more than surprising. She approach, eyes down, sit next to her future husband without even looking at him. Then she get up and get in front always looking at the ground!

It's crazy that they've been there for 20 minutes! They are getting married, are never seen, and do not look at each other! My emotions are galloping. At this moment, I am no longer a backpacker but a family member, attending the wedding of a loved one. I am the guest of honor!

And the long-awaited moment arrives. The eyes meet for the first time. After half an hour. I'm waiting for a smile! Nothing. The couple take part in the ceremony without any particular emotion. And yet, I must say that I am reassured for my married friend. His wife is beautiful!

The hours pass, and the time of the photos arrive. And guess what? Who is asked to go up on the platform? I find myself in the pictures of the wedding, with the couple and their families! I wonder if there is any hidden camera, and imagine that my parents will come out and go tell me, here is your wife!

Here at the end of the evening while I have been there for several hours, I have eaten countless meals, and drunk many rounds of tea, comes a rather bizarre moment. Finally I say weird because I did not understand. The bride and groom were doing drawings on the floor. It is a moment that I found quite romantic and even sensual, especially since it was not until this moment to see the newlyweds finally smile.

We arrive at a pivotal moment of the day. The bride will soon leave the house of her parents to discover that of the family of her husband where she will live henceforth. The bride also seems a little sad. From time to time, she lets out a small tear. Is it because she will leave the house where she was raised? Or is it because she marries someone she did not choose? How to know? The groom is young and handsome, though.

In Singhani, in the foothills of the Himalayas, we are in the countryside. The most likely is that this marriage has been arranged. This is, according to our guide, an average wedding. The moment we arrive, is a key moment. The bride is soon brought to a palanquin whose curtains are immediately closed.

In the process, her young husband is on another palanquin, open to the eyes. At the entrance of the house, the orchestra redoubles energy to accompany the parade that begins. Soon, the two palanquins move away on the road. Carried on her palanquin with arms of men, the bride will join the house of the parents of her future husband, the one where she will live now!

Upon her arrival, she will meet her mother-in-law as only her father-in-law has come to her parents' home, cousins ​​and other relatives of her husband. Of course, they will make her go around the house, which will be her now. The party will continue. Then there will be, of course, the wedding night.

Meanwhile, in her birth house, a woman collapses in tears. It is the mother of the bride! She loses her daughter. Of course, she will see her again but not right away. In the meantime, the women around her are trying to comfort her. And I hope one day to return to the side and see the bride and groom. And if I find them, I will offer them my photo album of their wedding.

An Indian Wedding in Uttarakhand

A Philosophical Spiritual Travel to Shirdi

We travel to Shirdi, which is about 200 km from Pune. We were in Shirdi on Guru Purnima, an important Indian festival that always takes place on the full moon in July. Unfortunately, the ride was not without obstacles. After 70 km the bus had a breakdown and came to a halt. We had to go outside, where the sun was burning at 41 degrees celsius from the sky. A tree was nearby, where it can hold about 60 people in the shade.

After 4 hours, many telephone calls and repair attempts, we board again but only for a short time. After 100 meters the driver calls another bus, which then arrived after half an hour. The new bus had a very strong AC, adjusted to 16 degrees celsius but was unregulatable. So we travel in the cold for another 3 hours. We borrowed warm jackets and scarves from the neighbors.

The atmosphere in the group was remarkable. No one complained despite all the adversities. Patience and mutual care prevailed. Thanks to the generous supply of homeopathic remedies already on the bus, nobody was ill. The real size of India is only one of the bus trips. On the plane, you fly 4 hours and is still in India, but an 8-hour bus trip is very little. This does not concern the distance. A distance of 120 km can take 3 to 5 hours, although you drive on the highway.

The number of gods in India increases per 1000km road network. This can get understood when the driver tries to undercut the above travel time by a bus without break. And one sits in the rearmost compartment of the same. We had such a driver, such a bus and such roads. To pray to a deity is no longer enough, believe us.

Those who survive this will also survive the emerging X forces of a fighter jet in the air battle. India has exactly the same reason for a big air force. All trucks and bus drivers are potential fighter jet pilots.

Shirdi is now in sight! The bus driver gives a test drive. The Tata bus starts for the landing approach, because of the last ground wave. But first, it has to clean the garage with air-ground missiles of monkeys. The conductor thanks us and later gives us chai.

Before we arrived, we asked our tour guide if we would recognize Shirdi by some suburbs. If one were to travel through the wilderness forever, a larger city would be able to imagine it. He only meant that Shirdi is a small village and so has no suburbs.

Shirdi is a place of pilgrimage. Shirdi Sai Baba has his temple here and that is why we are here. Otherwise, there's nothing to see in Shirdi. At least we would not have noticed. The streets are very very dirty and life generally very easy. The city itself was anything but small.

We reach near the hotel. As we get off the bus, half of the staff are waiting for us. Most striking is the security guard who carries a large headdress like a rooster. Our luggage gets carried to the room and we get a welcome drink. We are standing in the large hall with an aligned dome in the center to get a nice view. For the first day, it was so pretty. We take ample rest after dinner.

Day 2

We went early to the temple which is only a few minutes walk from the hotel. There are crowds of people. We take the VIP entrance to get a little faster. There are so many heads of the old and young. And many stares, laugh and nod at us. We walk, completely dressed in white and barefoot. Finally, the black blends with the whites and we find ourselves in the midst of black eyes and hair.

Step by step, we continue to a white marble statue of the Shirdi Sai Baba. Shirdi Sai Baba lived for many years as a beggar in Shirdi. At first, the village population refused him, which only changed when he began to heal cures. Then more and more people from abroad sought his advice.

Shirdi Sai Baba always left open whether he was Hindu or Muslim. His motto was all men are equal, all religions are equal in the core. The air is humid. Devotees sing, scream, cry and laugh. The highlight of everyone is the bowing and touching of his gold feet with the third eye.

We sat on the ground in one of the courtyards that surround the tomb of Shirdi Sai Baba and sing Bhajans. Immediately crowds gather around us, singing with their full throats. This gave a very nice feeling of unity and understanding. Then we continue to the back exit, where Sai Baba got buried.

There are four flames, underneath the neem tree, which has been burning for hundreds of years. Here we bow before his Lingam and then sit to meditate. People also chant mantras.

The process takes about two hours. We have some coffee nearby and then take the rickshaw to the hotel and rest. Until about mid-afternoon, then we had lunch. Later we decided to travel further into the city. Behold, we find a vegan cafe, few meters away. We are happy now and they actually had coffee beans!

But the surrounding area of the temple was not much beautiful. A round of the temple was there, then it was dark again and we wanted to go back. But there was still time for a glass of sugar beet juice with lime. We buy some souvenirs. We also made it to the temple to go to the Dwarkamai. It is the place where Sai Baba, for a long time, has lived.

We went late evening since over the day the crowds were too big. We could make ourselves comfortable when the sirens were out. We had a lovely evening in a beautiful restaurant garden with a delicious meal under palm trees. We go up and down to the hotel.

Day 3

At 5 o'clock in the morning after a short breakfast, our bus went back to Poona. This time it was without any breakdown and we reached to take the flight to Bangalore on time.

The Train to Rameswaram in Tamil Nadu

Rameswaram is an isthmus located in South India only about thirty kilometers from Sri Lanka. Rameswaran is one of the Char Dham, the four pilgrimage points. It is even called Benares of the South! There are many pilgrims. People come to perform rituals and ablutions in the temple and on the ghats on the beach. It is not in the Ganga this time, but in the sea that the pilgrims bathe.

We get up very early at 4 am because we have to take the 5:30 train from Madurai to Rameswaram. We have tea and take the toasts prepared for us! The kolam was being made in front of the entrance of the house. They are ephemeral drawings that every woman carries out carefully to welcome and bring luck. They are made, freehand, leaving the rice powder, flowing from their fingers. A taxi takes us to the station, located far enough away from the neighborhood. The train arrive 30 minutes late.

It is really worth it to come to Rameswaram by train because the arrival is fantastic. It looks like the train flies over the sea. In addition, the doors of the train are open and the tracks are only a few meters above the water! The island where Rameswaram is located is connected to the mainland by the Panbam bridge, named after the fishing village. There is a superb view of the fishing village below with all the boats lined up and men unloading fish.

After arriving, we leave in search of a hotel. There are very few tourists here. The city lives from and for spiritual tourism. Hotels and restaurants compete with the number of temples, ashrams and supposed gurus. Especially with the heat, the smell of fishing has invaded the city and a scent of fish floats on Rameswaram.

The streets are lined with ice cream vendors, small restaurants, bike rental stalls, religious souvenir displays, shell mirror shops and travel agencies. In the street, tiny horses pull wobbly carriages, while beside them donkeys run smoothly with cows who take advantage of their status to scratch bananas at the entrance of the temple.

The women, as always dressed in bright multicolored saris, chatter in front of an ice cream or a glass of hot milk. As for men, almost all in traditional dhoti doze in the shade. Most of them bear on the forehead the three horizontal gray ash strips of Shiva, the god in the spotlight here.

We finally take a room at the most chic hotel in the city after hard bargaining and getting a substantial discount. At the hotel there are only large rooms but it's clean, very quiet and well located, close to the sea and the ghats. The city center with the temple is 5 minutes walk. The room overlooks a shared balcony and, around the hotel, there is a large space that serves as parking.

After settling down we go to the hotel restaurant. The meals are served on a banana leaf, with rice, spicy vegetable curries, and a pappadam. We leave to visit the Ramanathaswamy Temple. The city is organized in a circular way around the Ramanathaswamy, the main temple. The temple is very special with its long corridors lined with columns with grimacing and colorful faces.

In the temple, there are 22 wells where the pilgrims pour water on the head to each of them. It is prohibited to take pictures inside the temple. We celebrate the baptism of the new elephant of the temple, just five years old, but who already knows very well to bless the faithful at the command of his mahout. But this devotion does not convince everyone, especially the followers of Vishnu. Many at the entrance of the temple sell the Bhagavad Gita.

We leave the temple and take the street just opposite to go Agni Theertham, a piece of sea where people come to immerse themselves to purify themselves. We find a religious fervor less oppressive than temple and despite the sacredness of their actions, the atmosphere is more joyful.

In the afternoon we decided to go in search of the famous Adam's Bridge of floating stones. I rent a motorcycle and go to the tip of the island, Dhanushkodi, the famous end of the world. After crossing a pine forest, the road ends and I have to continue on the bus which passes there. The people who accompany us in the minibus are very friendly, and they even offer ice cream! The road is very sandy and bumpy surrounded on both sides by the Bay of Bengal and the Indian Ocean.

As far as the eye can see, we see only egrets searching the sand and crows perched on shipwrecks half buried. We arrive at the end, in Dhanushkodi, a village that was destroyed by a cyclone, as well as the railway line that arrived there. The vision of the remains of the village (including the train station, the post office, the church with its altar) is quite moving. There are many tourists who do rituals on the beach. It is here that the Indian Ocean joins the Arabian Sea and the Bay of Bengal.

It is forbidden to bathe here as it seems that it is dangerous. We tried to breathe at the rhythm of each of the waves and see which one we felt most comfortable with. Sita was no longer waiting on the other side or Rama. Nor were there traces of kings or gods. There is only me and a blue sea that stretched around.

When we are back in Rameswaram, it is already 5 pm. We leave along the promenade along the sea, to the fishing village of Olaikuda. There we continue along the sea. By taking a small path in the fishing village, we reach the shore bordered by flat rocks. We can continue very far on the coast. We hear only the surf and the wind that rustle palm coconut palms. Fishermen repair their nets.

The stroll along the seaside is nice, especially at sunset. We walk beneath the full moon in the warm air of the starry night. In the evening, we go to eat at the restaurant where we feast on an onion dosa and fried rice. And for dessert, we buy some pastries filled with honey. Another big day of road awaits us the next morning to go to Kanyakumari.

The Train to Rameswaram in Tamil Nadu

Pilgrimage to Vaishno Devi in Katra

I go for a new adventure in the north of Jammu, in the mountains of Kashmir. I decided to go on a pilgrimage to Vaishno Devi temple, one of the most important in India, in the very northern part of the country in Jammu and Kashmir. First, we missed the train because we were late. My friends claimed that there was an error in printing the ticket and the truth is that it just did not look clear.

Although it was still possible to see the last coach it was not easy to wait for the next one, since there is only one train a week. So we took a taxi to reach the train in another station, two hours from the city. But halfway, we decide it was better to fly to New Delhi. So we go back to Udaipur to pay and collect tickets for a flight that took off in three hours. We finally had the tickets and ran to the airport.

We reach Jammu at 2 in the afternoon of the next day. We only had to wait for the next train leaving in an hour to finally get to Katra, starting point of the pilgrimage to Vaishno Devi, but, it was not that simple either. The train was delayed and so it arrived after 5:30 pm and left the terminal after 6:00 pm.

Long before we arrived in Katra, the trip started on the train. A newlywed couple on honeymoon shares the berth across the way. The young woman hides her face. I see them sharing a meal in complete privacy. The neighbors opposite are two young sikhs, wearing the turban.

We reach the final destination almost at 9 o'clock at night.

Although I do not believe it, we just arrived at the place and saw the lights of the road. We entered an almost miraculous energy and an unappealable and urgent desire to raise once and for all, the last effort, we thought.

Day 2

The hotel makes us drop by car to the starting point. The state of Kashmir is riddled with police security in this busy place and we have to cross many checkpoints. The road is all paved. It is practically always a slope of between 30 and 45 degrees, although there are also stairs for the most trained.

The walk begins with a long journey of 14 km climb in alleys first lined by shops of all kinds selling medals, offerings, sweets, as well as the precious bottles of water. It must be said that at this time we are accompanied by a sun at 13 degrees. Further the route is quieter and the shops give way to beautiful mountain scenery.

The first half is shared with many horses that go straight and do not take off. The city of Katra shrinks at every turn and we meet horses and porters who bring back the most tired. Many elderly or disabled people are on their way to the summit, leaning on a stick bought some rupees lower. Only testimony of the accomplishment of the pilgrimage is a red dot on the forehead. After 6 hours on this obstacle course and almost without rest, we finally arrived!

The landscape at dawn is beautiful. It is a true caress to the soul that makes it feel that it has been worth it. My mind, which three hours earlier had been issuing unpronounceable characters, was also relieved and satisfied. I have some breakfast and obviously, we had to visit the temple and queue to enter, which almost is a kilometer long!

The difficult thing was not to make the queue, but to fight against those who got involved. It is a beautiful tradition that everyone comes to the queue on all sides, but not one or two at a time, but entire families. In the end, what could have been a wait of two hours maximum, became four.

After entering the temple everything is squeezed. Here, all eager to be close to the sculptures of the goddesses of the first two rooms, people only push towards them, without allowing advance or exit. The most bruised are the children who are lost among the half parts of the people and can not even breathe.

So, literally, we swim against the current, pushing back. The main altar in this temple is of Shri Mata Vaishno Devi Ji, which means the mother who fulfills everything her children wish. We are in a cave surrounded by a huge construction.

Inside the cave is the appearance of the goddess Mahalakshmi, in the form of three small stones representing the three manifestations of the goddess of Mata Maha Kali, Mata Maha Lakshmi and Mata Maha Saraswati. This place is hundreds of years old. In fact it is mentioned for the first time in the Mahabharata.

To enter the cave there is a tunnel where the water leaks. I do not know if it is of the drain or the mountain, but that does not matter to the faithful. They accumulate it in their hands and take it as holy water.

Already in front of the representations of the goddess, the security who guard them force us to pass quickly, also at the point of pushing. So there is not much time to see and pray. The photos there are forbidden. I finally meet the priest who after a few words puts a red dot on the forehead. So, in seconds, suddenly I felt very clear one thing of gratitude.

In the end, what does it matter what the goddess or god is called. What is undeniable is the profound bliss that gives the feeling of gratitude and we left. After the passage to the temple of the goddess, there remains 2.5 km climb to a second place erected following the attempt to intrude Bhairon Baba in his sanctuary. He was brought by Hanuman and Mata Vaishno Devi Ji cut off his head in this place. The goddess then decided that the visit of this second temple would be necessary to close the pilgrimage.

Many faithful come from all over the country to fulfill the words of their divinity. On the way of the cries of joys, songs, musicians, but also monkeys who roam freely, and many other animals.

After a little rest in the hotel, a short tour in the center of Katra and already it's time to head to the station and take the train back to Delhi. We return to flat land until 9 o'clock on the night of the next day from which we left, completing with this 20 intense hours of pilgrimage.

An Evening at Wagah Border Ceremony

We could have told you about Amritsar much earlier. The Wagah Border Ceremony happens at the only land border crossing between India and Pakistan, the two countries that fought a merciless war over Kashmir territory.

The simplest way would have been to go there from Dharamsala. It was mostly me who wanted to go. At that time, Amritsar was isolated from the rest of our desires and we had not yet planned much of our trip. We put Amritsar aside saying we'll see later. We finally waited to arrive in Rajasthan to hit a tedious trip to Punjab.

Upon arrival in Rajasthan, the trend was reversed. Drunk with the discomfort of transportation, I was ready to sacrifice Amritsar. We studied all the options, that is to say the car with driver (too expensive for us) and the sleeper bus. Logically, we chose the second option.

It may be hard to believe when I get there, but Amritsar will remain one of the best memories. Yet the city is ugly. All its colors disappeared under a layer of dirt and spread over the sad walls in shades of gray. As often in India, there are two cities in the city. There is the modern city that we have just crossed with its posh shopping centers and its roads populated with horns.

There is the old city that we have more widely surveyed, with its labyrinthine streets, mangy dogs and atmosphere of another time. In fact, Amritsar is a bit the opposite version of the picture of Dorian Gray. Deep in the abyss, from the black heart of the beast sprang beauty.

Sikhs hold a significant place in the history of the country. Before meeting them, I did not know much, and I cannot wait to learn more. Rarely has religion seemed so welcoming, respectful, and benevolent. Let me explain. We went directly to a pilgrim hostel where we knew that visitors were welcomed free of charge.

A young Sikh introduced us to the place where visitors were welcomed. There are three-bed rooms, rather rudimentary but with lockers and a shared bathroom. As we had arrived at lunchtime, we wanted to go to Guru Ka Langar, the canteen where Sikhs offer a meal to all their visitors, regardless of caste or wealth.

We asked our way to a tall elegant Shikh with beautiful blue eyes, giving us big smiles and led us to Guru Ka Langar. There, he went to another Sikh to guide us inside the building where thousands of people eat continuously at any time of the day. This experience was truly unforgettable, especially as the thali offered by the Sikh community was really good.

In the process, we made an appointment with the driver of a shared jeep to return the same day after the military practice at the Wagah-Attari border with Pakistan. The driver was over an hour late and we were starting to wonder if we had been ripped off as we had paid in advance. He finally come after a vain search to find a last passenger to fill his vehicle.

We left with four others at the border post and arrived right on time for the show but at the bottom of the stands, as many, had preceded us. I will try to explain with my own eyes what the ceremony consists of. The music starts. A soldier starts to set the mood! Soldiers, in ceremonial costume, follow each other, marching at a pace to the frontier. This happens alternately on each side.

The gestures are exaggerated, in order to impress. This parade has more to do with the effervescence of some sporting events. What we are witnessing is totally improbable, when we know the tensions that can reign between the two countries. It's a real cock fight before the closing of the door, and the descent of the flags.

An Indian soldier and a Pakistani soldier shout loudly and for a long time in a microphone before lifting the leg as high as possible and advancing all the way to the door. At the end of about twenty minutes, the doors of the border open. The flags are lowered simultaneously, to be then folded and brought back each of their side. The ceremony is over.

I did not really understand the stakes of the tradition, but it was really nice to see. Everyone was totally excited about this fight, and sang and danced! It was crazy enough, and a great moment of patriotism. I have the impression of an absurd mixture of diluted military exercise ready to swing into a wrestling match.

After this big nothing, we return to the Golden Temple that we still have not had time to visit. I decide to go alone to the temple at night. The place is beautiful and it is the first time that I feel at this point the influence of the sacred.

Even Benares will not have left me so alive. The play of light and fairy contrasts. There is the calm despite the affluence, with the beauty of the religious songs broadcast outside the temple. I go back to bed amazed by what I found.

An Evening at Wagah Border Ceremony

India, Nagaland and the Hornbill Festival

Until well into the last century, Nagaland remained one of very few places that challenged the stringency of the strictest maps. It is one of those blurred areas still to be mapped. Its name did not transcend the closed circle formed by some European geographical societies, eccentric philanthropists or adventurers and explorers. The dense jungles stretched tens of kilometers. It shelters several tribal groups that were largely alien to life outside their green borders. They kept alive a heritage they could not even touch of their own cultural identity.

And the plurality and diversity of this was not small. The ethnic human head hunters exhibited the sliced ​​trophy in the morongs (the communal houses of each village). The geometric motifs were tattooed on their faces proudly for each ravished head. Even those whose elaborate cosmogony intimately related every split of the human soul with some element of nature. There are tribes whose knowledge of the healing properties of local flora continues to amaze anthropologists and other experts.

But nothing lasts forever. In the last decades, missionaries of different orders have gone into the villages of these ethnic groups. Today, the Sunday Mass is celebrated. In the settlements that I visited, they smiled knowingly that in "my town" there are also churches. Although the electric light is as scanty and unstable as the coverage, mobile phones begin to appear. The lighters help to light the fires where the kitchen is cooked and the youth wear jeans and t-shirts with messages in English. Even so, even the most adults flee in terror and the children cry in terror when they see a white-skinned foreigner among their huts.

The second time I visited Nagaland I headed to the capital, Kohima. A few kilometers from it, we follow the route that made it known during the World War II by the bloody battle that was fought in it. Here the Hornbill festival was celebrated called thus by a native bird of the zone today in extinction. It is paradoxical to think that a homologous process affects today the own protagonists of the festival. The sixteen tribes of the state participate to which the opening to the neighboring zones has entailed. They begin to evaporate several of the customs and cultural traits that shaped their idiosyncrasy.

I confess that I walked to the event with some suspicion. I already weighed that do not run those romantic times of expeditions. In which even with the moral and ethical doubts that now arise about them, I would have loved to enlist. There was a decaffeinated show for tourists, with costumed actors performing choreographies. And I was very happy to be wrong. Evidently, the festival did not have the authenticity to see some ritual, ceremony or dance in its original context.

But after some hours among its participants, whom the illusion turned into children with adult bodies, I felt the innocent purity of those who met without more reason than enjoying the legacy that they have inherited genealogically. Each tribe represented in front of the other dances, popular games or various celebrations. Everyone laughed and clapped. Not without some irony, the same Konyaks that cut the last head in 1992 now staged before the descendants of the cut-throat ethnic group the same ritual with which they were raging before. Then they would share food, drink and laughter. And that, in some way, is also evolution.

Those days I become a naga, as the extreme generosity of these people did not make me feel otherwise. More curious for me than me for them, there were invitations to try their spicy dishes. They made sure that the piece of bamboo that was used as a glass overflowed with rice beer. I watched the shows sitting among them, chanting in their unpronounceable languages ​​the songs and hymns they taught me. When it is comfortable, time flies, and thus, almost without knowing, the festival ended. Among friends, I said goodbye to Nagaland the last night surrounding a huge bonfire, dancing with tribes.

Trip to Chad - The Pala Trail

The day lights up early in this part of the world. Djoro wakes up little by little and the conversations of the people and the sound of the cows are filling the atmosphere. The objective of the day is to reach Pala, the capital of the Mayo-Kebi West region. The landscape is beautiful after the heavy rain yesterday. The negative is that the road is full of puddles and mud, so it is very difficult to drive.

We dedicate the first hours of the morning to visit the village of Djoro. There is not much to see except fields, a small medical dispensary and many cows. There is a secondary school and some sheds built with sticks and leaves of palm trees. I ask if in these conditions young people can study. They tell me that evidently no. In addition only the director of the school receives a salary from the government. The rest of the teachers are volunteers paid by the parents of the students. Many of them do not have a teacher's degree. The level is low and it is difficult for any student coming from these rural schools to pass the entrance exams to the university. It does not seem that the government has any interest in promoting education.

After the visit we start. We have to undo the path we did yesterday to go back to Sorga and join the main dirt track. We enter Moundang territory. They tell me that this group is famous for eating dogs and that on market days they sell soup made with the meat of this animal.

The spectacle that we contemplate from the car is similar to that of the previous days. There are peasants carving their fields, some with the help of yuntas of oxen or donkeys. Children take care of the cattle. There are people who walk towards the town that today has the weekly market.

Little by little there is a small change in the landscape. It is not as flat as it has been during all these days. Kilometers of plain that are lost in the distance, being the huge termite mounds the highest points of the land. Now the horizon begins to wrinkle a little. There are small undulations, apprentices of hills are drawn to the bottom of the red dirt road, breaking the monotony.

The entrance to Pala is presided by the new governor's palace, similar to the one that is being finished in Bongor. The rest is similar to any other Chadian city we have seen. There is the Independence Square with its grandstand to preside at parades, the market, some Chinese, with many people walking.

We have to think about returning to Bongor. We do it a couple of days later and we start after eating. We walk the path that took us to Pala in the opposite direction from Sorga, Djikette, Bellé, Gourou-Gaya and so on until we reach the asphalt road in Batchoro.

It starts to get dark. The lights are changing, the children collect the cattle. We pass through villages where groups of women stand in line at the mills to grind the millet with which they will prepare the family's food. Smoke starts to come out of the concessions. Some young people, with their best clothes, walk or ride a bicycle, possibly to visit brides in a neighboring town.

Along the road, there are vans that transport travelers, cars, stop and driver and customers begin to spread mats and blankets on the edge of the asphalt to prepare for the night. It does not look like today it's going to rain.

The sky begins to be plagued with stars. After the town of Ere, we can see, in one side, the star of the south and, on the other, the big bear. I do not understand any of this, but I always thought that if one was seen one could not see the other. Standing in the middle of the road, with the noise of hundreds of frogs in the background, we contemplated the firmament.

The moon starts to come out little by little. It is a full moon that reaches its full splendor when we are crossing the bridge over the Logone at the height of Djimane.

We are getting closer to Bongor. On the road we find groups that walk. The women carry pots with food on their heads, and men and young people carry long canes. Possibly they go to a funeral. They will spend all night singing, dancing and eating. If an altercation arises between clans, the canes will take care of it.

Finally we enter Bongor. It's a full moon night and people take advantage of it. We see, we can walk. We hear drums and children singing.

Trip to Khajuraho - Temples, Kamasutra and Cosmic Sex

Khajuraho is another pearl of India with buildings and finely carved sculptures. In its walls one can see mythological gods, warriors, animals but there are two recurring elements of women and sex. The erotic and even pornographic scenes appear but they are not the only ones. There are also sculptures of battles, with aligned armies, or everyday scenes and all in a very careful environment.

They have great influence of Tantrism, a doctrine by which the erotic becomes a philosophical theme whose goal is the sublimation of sexual relations or Maithuna. Women are seen as the reincarnation of divine energy or Shakti. It is also possible that the sculptures have influence of the Kamasutra, the famous treatise on erotic art written by Vatsyayana in the times of the Gupta dynasty.

Day 1

The alarm goes off 20 minutes before the stop. The train stops and I started to look at the name of the station to see if it was my destination. The neighbors tell me that the train is late and that we would arrive more or less in 2 hours. The only thing I did was to give myself a little siesta and wake up continuously. 2 hours pass and still nothing. I go asking and they tell us that not yet.

There was a stop where the train stopped for 20 minutes, and I went outside to see the atmosphere of the station. It was super gloomy, in the middle of nowhere. I fell back on the bed below, and after a while, suddenly comes the ticket checker to tell us that the next was our stop.

It's 2:30 pm and the train arrives at the Jhansi Junction railway station. There is a lot of movement, and at the exit there is no shortage of auto rickshaw drivers who offer to take us to the destination. The price offered goes down as I move away from the station. A man with a half-full vehicle offers to take me to Orchha.

The station is on the outskirts of Jhansi. I cross the city in the middle of the typical Indian bustle of people, bazaars, vehicles, honks, cows, and more people. There is noise and more noise that fades as I move away and reach Orchha. The arrival to this town is through two tiny arches, which are like the eye of two screens through which only the privileged few are allowed to pass, filtering out as much noise as possible.

The rickshaw leaves me in front of the hotel, where I stay. The rooms are basic, but very spacious. I clean myself and quickly go for a walk. It's 3:30 and I have two or three hours of light left. I walk through the village and watch the daily rural life. I see women who carry the pitchers with water from wells, man playing something that resembles the cards, and children playing cricket.

A short walk takes me to the Chaturbhuj Temple, an old building abandoned whose impressive towers dominate the skyline of Orchha. There, a boy offers me to go up to the roof to see the views and insists on to be careful with the head while we climbed the narrow stairs.

The sunsets in India are not particularly beautiful as a mist engulfs it before descending the horizon. The atmosphere seems festive, as if a great ceremony was about to take place, but I cannot understand what. After sunset, we begin to hear more and more loud noise in the neighboring Ram Raja temple and I approach to see what is celebrated.

I am surprised to see that this town with empty streets was able to bring together so many people. An immense queue waited patiently for their turn to deliver their offerings to the priest guarding the lingam. It is not allowed to take photos. There are hardly any tourists and I end up having dinner alone in a terrace on the road that leads to the fort.

I had an Indian thali with palak paneer, butter naan and paneer naan, and mango lassi. With the full belly we went to rest at the guesthouse, but not before setting up the mosquito net. We lay on the bed and it has been the hardest bed I have ever slept in. Let's say camping and in a sleeping bag would have been more comfortable.

Khajuraho - Temples, Kamasutra and Cosmic Sex

Day 2

The first thing I do in the morning, after breakfast on the terrace of the hotel, is to go to the market. I am going to visit the Orchha fort complex, where the Raj Mahal and the Jahangir Mahal are located. There are few people in the first hour. I pay the entrance and I begin to see that it has crumbs and I decide to hire a guide who explain its history to me.

He does not offer much information, but enough to stop me in places of interest and have a general idea of ​​how the Maharajas spent time in them. The fort consists of two 17th century buildings that have been fantastically preserved with sculptures and paintings of the time, made with natural dyes that remain intact. We continued and the first thing we saw was the Diwan-i-Am.

We went to the area of ​​the Jahangir Mahal with the Sheesh Mahal. The latter is now a luxury hotel. But before entering I was struck by a descent to the right of the palace. So, as an adventurer, I went down to see what it was. There was was a building in which what stood out most was an area where the roof had a sculpture that simulated a turtle. The building is the Dauji ki kothi.

The Jahangir Mahal was built in honor of Mughal emperor Jahangir, who was invited to the palace for just one night. The front wall of the structure faces east and is covered with turquoise tiles. The domes of the Jahangir Mahal were built according to Timurid customs. Its large Iwans are large enough to accommodate the entrance of the war elephants.

From here we can see the ruins of the Rai Praveen Mahal. Suddenly, our guide changes the tone, making our curiosity sharpen when he tells us the story that in one of the visits of the emperor fell in love with the courtesan wanting to take her to his harem. But she, finely, through a song explained that she was only a second before the status of him.

Next we continue our visit to Raj Mahal built in the middle of the courtyard that also has some beautiful murals inside. The Raj Mahal was a royal residence until its abandonment. Its interior was decorated with murals depicting religious, social and nature themes. Some are still preserved, although their state of conservation is not excessively good. It is said that inside it has several secret passages, although I did not find any.

Another thing I saw on the upper floors was the lattices where one could look outside without being seen, which I suppose would be for the ladies of the court when practicing the purdah.

It was a palace that became a temple more by accident than by design. The image of Ram was installed inside, while the construction of Chaturbhuj was taking place. For some reason, the image later, could not be moved from the palace and despite the towers and the decoration ended up becoming a sacred place.

Then I see the Chaturbhuj temple. It reminds me a bit of a cathedral, with its high ceilings and arches. It's nice, but it impresses much more on the outside than on the inside.

The walls of the enclosure that protected the space of what was a threatening jungle populated by wild beasts, now delimits it of green fields. As the hours pass, hordes of tourists arrive to visit the site, thus losing the tranquility of this extraordinary enclave.

After walking for a while towards the river area, we finally reached the cenotaphs. They are called Chhatris. The 5 cenotaphs are spread over a well-kept garden. We went from one side to another, entering one, then the other, until we got tired and went to see the Betwa river environment.

It is the 1 pm and I decide to get away to get closer to the river and spend the last hour watching how an ordinary day goes by in an Indian village. Just opposite there is a ghat, or what is the same, a step that overlooks the river. There people are bathing and washing clothes. Women on the one hand and men on the other. Women sing songs and bathe dressed. The men bathe in their underpants.

Although it is never a typical day and today they were preparing for the Durga Puja. Then we went for a walk around the market area and bought some samosas and pakoras. They were much better than those we had eaten in Delhi and of course cheaper. We also tried the gulab jamun.

Back at the hotel a taxi driver offers to take me to the Jhansi station. I try to bargain, but he tells me that the price is fixed. The guy is polite and his reasoning is irrefutable. I approached the hotel. I pick up my backpack and calmly crossed the countryside under a sun of justice.

The noise increases as we get closer to the city. I arrive with time and stop in the canteen of the station first. I have chapati and matar paneer with fresh cheese. At the scheduled time I reach the platform, where people lie on the ground waiting for the train. It's 3:40 and a loud honking scares the animals that roam the tracks.

I go up and check that I'm practically alone. There are few passengers. Only one railway employee goes up and down collecting the sheets and blankets. I walk and look out of the door. The sun falls and offers its best light. We arrive at night in Khajuraho, an artificial city built around the temple complex.

At the exit of the station a boy chewing paan, comes to offer me a taxi. It is night, and there is hardly anyone and the station is about 8 km from the center. While I think about it another man offers to take me. In the dark night, another passenger climbs next to the driver. From the back seat, I admire his skill as he negotiates the numerous cows lying in the middle of the dark road.

I reach the hotel and the truth is that it is very good. For a reasonable price I have a spacious and clean room. The guy at the reception recommended me to have dinner at the restaurant next door. It was a vegetarian restaurant, but since it was late I did not feel like wandering in search of alternatives. I had rice and roti with dal, shahi paneer and mixed vegetables.

One of the waiters sits with me to talk and tell me about Khajuraho, since he seems to have studied history and is fascinated by the subject of cosmic sex.

Day 3

After having breakfast with papaya lassi, banana pancakes and milk coffee, I calmly head to the west group, which has most of the temples of the region. It is famous for the sculptures in which there are many sexual figures that are carved on their walls, representing scenes from the kamasutra. Apparently the original set of temples was much larger but currently only a part is preserved.

Each of them is dedicated to a god and, although the area had more than 85 temples, currently only about 20 remain. The temples were built by the Chandela dynasty, whose capital was in the city of Mahoba about 55 kilometers away. As they say, one was built after each battle won. The materials used for its construction are from the Panna area and are blocks of granite and arsenic stone.

The towers, are Sikhara type, with cone-shaped termination, with a stone structure called Amalaka. The figures meticulously carved in sandstone, the watermarks and the Sanskrit words written at the entrance to the temples are really impressive. In a temple that is outside the enclosure, but that can be seen from within, a group of women goes down the stairs.

On one of their arms they carry containers with water and in the other hand they carry a kind of earthenware vessel with which they drop water in their path. The guide explains that they are doing a prayer and offering ritual. I love seeing them. I cannot stop photographing them. They smile at me as if giving me their consent. Once they finish we continue with the visit. The first is the Lakshmana Temple.

Built on a platform three meters wide, the temple is accessed by a finely decorated staircase. There are also some small temples in each corner of the platform. The sculptures on the exterior walls depict scenes of daily life, warriors and erotic scenes. It is dedicated to Vishnu.

One by one, the guides who guide the different groups illuminate with their mirrors the best known figures. They comment with grace about the silicone breasts of the dancers. I see one with the controlled distance with which a lover moves a monkey away from his beloved who embraces him with force and images of couples in love. The guides also comment on the use of drugs and oils to prolong the practice of different postures.

The next one is the Varaha Temple located opposite the Lakshmana and is small in size. It contains a statue of Varaha in the form of a boar. The image of the boar gives the feeling that it is made of bronze or metal but it is actually made of stone and at its base has a snake under it. We continue with the Matangesvara Temple dedicated to Shiva and the Visvanatha Temple.

I see mixed sculptures of dancers (apsaras) and women with instruments (surasundari) accompanied with the famous spicy scenes of the Kamasutra like a full-blown orgy. We must untangle the complexity of their positions, as our guide says it is almost impossible. We entered the interior and what was striking were the ceilings.

The amount of details in the images are incredible, the facial features and the body especially of women. Originally the temple had an emerald linga. One thing that caught our attention and that happened in all the temples was that the figures that were within reach of the hand had the area of ​​the breasts more worn than the rest. It must be that touching them brings good luck.

It is also worthy to admire the elephant and the lion that line the stairs. We continue to the Nandi Temple. Its roof is pyramidal. Inside there is a statue of Nandi, the bull that serves as saddle for Shiva.

Next we head to the Kandariya Mahadev Temple, the most spectacular of all the temples of Khajuraho besides being the largest. On the platform there is a large sculpture of Ganesha without a head with a rat between his legs. There are many figures of animals, gods, images of battles, but the most abundant are erotic.

We continue with the Devi Jagadambi Temple dedicated to Kali. Its decoration contains sculptures of women performing daily actions. In this there were less erotic sculptures (although it still had sculptures with orgies and risque scenes) and more geometric sculptures and flowers.

We head to the one dedicated to Parvati. In it are the figures that are better carved. I did not find it very flashy. Finally we head to the Chitragupta Temple. Inside there is a statue of Surya, the sun god, riding in his car pulled by seven horses. I had planned to spend two days there but the site can be visited perfectly in half a day.

So I have plenty of time and decide to extend the afternoon a little. It's hot, but inside the temples it's cool. I see is that inside them there are lots of bats. The roof protects me from the sun while I see the landscaped enclosure that frames the eight outstanding temples. The behavior of tourists is also entertaining, among which most are newly married couples.

After this we went to eat something at a kind of family restaurant. We ordered a lassi. As the afternoon progresses, the sky gets dark and the light does not improve the view. It's time to go out. I go to see the eastern group of temples with my driver. Most of them are conserved incredibly well. I suppose they will have been restored at some point because otherwise the state of conservation in which they are found is inexplicable.

The entry is free. First, we arrived at the Brahma temple. Then I visited Javari Temple, dedicated to Vishnu. Then I see the Vamana temple, which is directly opposite. Then I take the car again and go to Adinath and Parsvanatha Jain temple, which is the best preserved inside. In this area there are also other yellow temples that we assume are reconstructions of the temples that were sometime here, as they have parts of the originals.

We begin with the Parsvanatha Temple, which contains very few sculptures of lovers and many of women playing various musical instruments or performing actions such as makeup or bathing. It also has a sculpture of Shiva and Parvati. Here there are not so many erotic images. The images that stand out most are the woman who pampers a child, those of Vishnu and Lakshmi and the woman who writes a letter.

We continue through the Adinath Temple. When it starts to get dark, I go back to town. I take a small turn and see a large crowd of people at the end of a road. It turns out to be a market for fruit, vegetables and spices. I buy garam masala and take some pictures. The atmosphere is very authentic and here there is absolutely no tourist. Once I have finished visiting the temples, I return to the center of the city.

Then I went to see the sunset at Shivsagar Lake. Some fountains begin to pour water combined with colored lights. I stayed there for a while and a man started talking to us about love and life and reminds me of the cosmic sex discussion with the other fellow the previous night. At 6 in the evening, just as the sun sets, the Puja ceremony takes place in the Shiva temple. The priests perform a ritual with noise and candles. They touch several percussion instruments and some bells that are at the entrance of the temple.

After the ceremony I go to the hotel to shower and change clothes. Then I go out again for a walk around the center of town. It is very complicated to move forward because all the salespeople pursues me. I head to the Kandariya theater to see the typical dance show that started at 8:30 pm.

After the show I decide to dine in one of the places recommended by the guide and this time does not disappoint. I have tandoori chicken with naan and raita and a beer. While we are having dinner, tourists do not stop arriving and when we get out we understand why. In a sign they announce that they are recommended by the Lonely Planet.

Also while I was eating from the terrace I could see that in the street they were celebrating one of those weddings that last so many days, with drums, dances and all that. After this I head for the hotel to sleep.

Day 4

I decide to visit the rest of the temples that are scattered throughout the region. While not as well preserved, they have the additional attraction of having to explore, as well as being located in a more authentic location. On the way to the last group of them, I pass through the old town, which is the authentic town that is closest to the archaeological remains as opposed to the modern tourist urban network.

At the entrance, an old man with high-magnification glasses claims me from the door. He insists that I see his sample of antiques, costume jewelry and other items for sale to tourists. I decline, but the interior of the apartment looks nice and I decide to enter. He explains to me the wonders of all the items that he exposes in an orderly manner on a low table.

I'm not interested in anything except a metal box that I cannot look away from. I begin to focus on the bargaining of the box that, of course, I just bought. At the exit, a kid, offers to show me the town. I tell him that I do not need a guide, but he seems to have nothing better to do. He explains how they spread cow dung in the door of the houses as a carpet to avoid the entry of mosquitoes and as a ritual of good luck.

He also shows me the limits where people lives and some numbers that appear in the corners and indicate the date of polio vaccination. In the streets we are surprised by several vans or tractors that carry idols illuminated in a thousand colors and emit thunderous music. There dance groups of young people, throwing colored powders. I ended the afternoon watching the sunset over a lake.

Next to it, some parents complete a straw doll to which firecrackers are inserted. As its time to eat we ordered chicken korma and paneer pakodas. The truth is that it is very good. When we finish we buy some sweets and a lassi. Then we return to the hotel where the driver is waiting for us.

We're going back to Jhansi, to the train station. There are a lot of people around the station and on the platform. We thought it was going to be a lot more chaotic but it's not badly organized. They have screens with information about the trains and, at least ours arrive punctually.

We got on the train. We look for our bunk beds. These coaches have air conditioning and curtains to separate the compartment from the corridor. We do not have anything of privacy up here. So I take advantage of the fact that I have the sheet and I use the sheets that they give on the train to make me an improvised curtain that isolates me a bit from our compartment mates.

One of the guys below does not stop belching, talking in the mobile phone and making very unpleasant noises. I call his attention and, at least, slightly lower the tone of voice. Also the air conditioning is very strong and the jet hits me directly in the face. I cover it with some bags that I carry in my backpack. Afterwards, I fall asleep.

Mehndi: Travel Stories from the Thar Desert

After Delhi, we move to Jaipur, crossing the arid landscape of Rajasthan. The highway is peculiar. It is accessible by tractors, bicycles, scooters, animals, auto rickshaws, and cars. And sometimes there is a pedestrian that crosses calmly. Along the way we make a stop in Abhaneri, where we are struck by the wide stepwell and the bevy of children who descend from their school bus.

There is a trailer pulled by a tractor driven by a young boy almost like them and they run towards us. In India, every means is good to move. Then we continue to Galta-Ji, the temple of the monkeys. According to the locals, tourists are attracted to this place only for the colony of monkeys that lives there.

So they do not take care of the building. It, in reality, deserves attention for its originality and for the attention to detail. However, there are a lot of monkeys. They bathe in the pools full of water of the Ganges (so the legend says, even if the river is many kilometers away).

Jaipur is all of pink stone, like the very special Hawa Mahal, the palace of the winds, but the main attraction is the Amber Fort. After a tail made eternal by the dozens of sellers of umbrellas, elephants, bags, we settle on an uncomfortable elephant to climb to the fort. We enter the royal entrance and, as happened to the emperor, we are welcomed by the music.

The building is amazing. Inside the typical walls of a fort, there is a sumptuous and unexpected marble palace. We return to the jeep-bus, chased by sellers who have already packed special albums with photos of all of us in the elephant. To recover a bit from the heat, we holed up in a workshop (with the usual polar microclimate) to watch the carpets.

We go on a tour of the Jaipur market on a tuk-tuk ride. We are eight on a tuk-tuk for three, now we feel a bit local. Jaipur is too hot to do anything. So we slip into a store (strictly air-conditioned) and take the opportunity to buy some souvenirs. The women sit to apply mehndi, a drawing on the hands with henna. Women embellish the body on special occasions and is a souvenir to take home.

Throughout India and especially in Rajasthan, an intricate pattern of lace, a composition of floral textures and lucky symbols of great effect is painted on the skin. After photographing the sunset, it's time for the whole group to sit in a circle to have rice and vegetables and several sauces.

Once the dinner was over, they entertained us the night with chants and percussions using a water drum and a dish like a chaston. It's time to sleep looking at the stars and close the mouths so that we do not get any beetles.

Day 2

After a good sleep, it's time to pick up, load everything and return to the jeep. At 11 in the next morning, we finally arrive in Jaisalmer. The last passenger climbs and the driver forcibly close the door and we squeeze a little more. A horn honks, a cow, a group of children and an old woman, everyone runs and we finally get going.

The walled city is behind, if I try hard I can still see it in the rearview mirror. He knew how to be a strong person, he knew how to be a living and refuge in the middle of the desert. Stacked bricks and stacks of yellow sand make it look like a golden mountain. It's funny, we saw blue, pink and now yellow cities.

In Rajasthan, colors and forts are common currency. The narrow and crowded streets are an almost typical scene where vendors of chai coexist with monkeys and cows, with dogs and with clothing and souvenir shops. A temple, a figure of some God, some believer who prays and lights an incense. Women chat and cook, travelers take pictures and children play ball, all in alleys one meter wide.

We have to look up a lot to find the sky among so many balconies and windows. It is enough to bend badly in some intersection and lose yourself completely in labyrinth size. The Hindu and Jain temples are shown in every alley we take. It is magnificent both spatially and temporally. History inhabits places and it is impossible not to consider it another variable to visit.

More than looking for sites of tourist interest, we have fun looking for the history that builds each place. That the desert, that the reign, that the Maharaji, that the war, that the peace. But the fort of Jaisalmer was left behind. From the city streets, we passed an empty and arid route. Sand everywhere, we scatter bushes and camels that cross in front of us. There are no traces of the fort, of the route, either.

Electric windmills are seen in the distance. Small constructions of yellow bricks give an account of traces of human life. Finally, we reach a small dune and the car stops. It would be impossible to specify why it stopped there, all the bushes are the same, all the dunes are equal, nothing indicated that it should stop there. But he did, and the driver made us get off the vehicle. It was 9 am and the heat suffocated us.

We quickly understood the need to cover the sun, leaving only our hands outdoors and a gap to see at eye level. Suddenly, behind the dune appears a man with a scarf and tunic, reminded me of the Bedouins I saw in a documentary on television. Behind the man stand 4 tall camels. They only carry their humps, but they carry water drums, blankets, and food.

Climbing the camel was not easy. Whether one is more or less tall, the camel is always taller than one more seated than this one. Not for nothing, the cameleer insisted that we should hold on tightly with the strips and with a simple whistle, the impressive animal first raised its two front legs, leaving us in a rather inclined plane and then raise the two rear. In this way, we resume an unstable equilibrium.

Thus we begin to walk. All in a row, bending behind some dune to then get into another and so on. The heat overwhelms. The water is hot, the head is bulging and the discomfort of sitting for hours on a hump begins to feel. Explaining the immensity of the desert is not simple. Because the desert is everything.

It is each of the cardinal points, it is the horizon and what is under our feet. It can also be the despair of being trapped in an ocean of sand that has no end, or it can be calm and tranquility based on its absolute silence. The shadow that we give from the camel is getting longer and that gives us the guideline that it is starting to sunset.

The sun, enemy, and source of life of those who inhabit the desert, begins to disappear. When the windmills, the water dumps, and the bushes were left behind, when we are only in the middle of an infinite amount of dunes, the camel stops. Here we stop, here we sleep. Here, where there is nothing else, more than the sunset.

It is the immensity of the sky, next to the eternal undulations of the sand, a guideline of the minimum we are in front of such a landscape. We know nothing of the desert, of the night, or of the day. We can not orient ourselves, we can not walk in the sand, we can not recover after so many hours on camels. But there we are, fascinated with that infinity of stars that we see with only a slight raise of the head.

We arrived in the desert heart of Thar, just 20 km from Pakistan. There begins a network of invisible roads that can take us to Persia in the silk route. Just thinking about the history of the sand that slips between our fingers gives us goosebumps.

The people who lived in those ancestral times in the Thar desert covered their hands and feet with a paste made from henna leaves. From the first moment they noticed that as the color remained on the skin, the temperature of their body remained low. It helped the women who used this temporary tattoo to cope with the relentless heat. With the passage of time, the ladies began to experiment drawing a whole series of complex but very beautiful designs.

Difficult to make and very different in shape, the mehndi decorations are specular from one arm to the other. They express an artistic language in which each form has a meaning. The peacock is for beauty, the swan is for success, dragonflies and butterflies for the rebirth and change, the leaves for devotion, and the cashmere motifs for fertility.

Traditionally the mehndi is applied in various festivals, in particular at weddings. Before the ceremony the bride (sometimes even the partner) lets herself drawn in hands and feet in a real ritual. The young woman is surrounded by women of the family and friends, and tattooed with henna, while the older women reveal the secrets of being a good wife.

The tattoo accompanied by graceful movements will serve to seduce the groom during the first night of love, but it is also a symbol of luck. It is thought that the more the embroidery resists over time, the more the couple will be happy together. An integral part of the celebration of Karva Chauth is the endless mehndi designs. The henna artists were originally from the Nai, the barbers' caste.

And without being able to separate our sight of the sky we went falling asleep. On the sand, covered with blankets and shooting stars. Throughout the night we woke up to go back to sleep looking at that unpolluted and silent sky. We need to corroborate that we were indeed there, in the middle of those dunes, somewhere in the desert.

Mehndi: Travel Stories from the Thar Desert

Day 3

The first rays of light woke us. We had no other stimulus than nature and its magnificent simplicity. As if the scene were repeated, behind a dune appeared the man with the highest camels, we had to start before the heat increases. The times in the desert are marked by the sun.

Trip to Bhangarh Fort - the Haunted City of Rajasthan

I went to Alwar, at the entrance of Rajasthan. To get there, I leave with a map of north India. I took a public bus that took 5 hours from Delhi. I cross many small villages. Alwar is barely indicated in the Lonely Planet. So I searched for the hotel and got a great and cheap room in a hotel that serves food in the rooms. Before going to sleep, I check the room for any unwanted guests like frogs, macro-lobsters, and spiders.

Trip to Bhangarh Fort - the Haunted City of Rajasthan

Day 2

We went to the Sariska Nature Reserve, the former hunting ground of the Maharaja of Alwar. There was nobody except the forest guards who take care of the reserve. They offered to rent a jeep with a guide for a 3 hour safari, which is exorbitant compared to the price mentioned in the Lonely Planet guide. We see some beautiful fascinating views, both inside and around its borders, including the spectacular Kankwari Fort.

I wanted to visit Bhangarh Fort, a well-preserved, 17th century building that is famous as being haunted. I asked my way and it is impossible to find reliable information. One says it is closed, and another that it is open. I take a bus that runs through the nearby Gola Ka Bas Village.

The Bhangarh Fort was built by Man Singh I. There are legends related to the history of the fortified city, which is reportedly haunted. No one is allowed to stay in the fort's enclosures at night, according to the bulletin board presented by the Archaeological Survey of India at the entrance.

One version of the legend is that a sadhu lived inside the fort. It was his mandate that any house built in the fortress precincts should not be higher than his house and if the shadow of such a house fell on his house, it would result in the destruction of the entire fortified city.

In another version, a magician who was an expert in black magic, fell in love with Ratnavati, the princess of Bhangarh. She was very beautiful and had suitors to marry her from many royal families in the country. One day, the princess went shopping with her friends and bought ittar. The magician saw this and replaced the scent with a love potion to woo the princess and marry him.

However, the princess saw through the magician's deception. When he offered her the potion bowl, he threw it into a large rock nearby. As a result, the rock began to roll towards the magician and crushed him. Before he died, he cursed that Bhangarh would be destroyed soon and that nobody could live inside its enclosures. The current state of the fort is attributed to the magician's curse and people believe that the ghosts in the fort are those of the princess and the magician.

The entrance of what is locally known as bhoot bangla is closed by a gate and around there are the high walls of the former city. But the site is not fenced, so much so that the shepherds take goats to graze. The ruins are in fact in the thick of the vegetation.

Within the precinct I see the temples of various deities such as the temples of Gopinath, Shiva, Hanuman, Naveen, Mangla Devi, Lavina Devi and Keshava Rai. According to the inhabitants of the area, mostly farmers and marble workers, at night in the ruins they feel strange presences and noises. And nobody has the courage to approach after the sunset and before dawn.

After returning back, for dinner I ordered in my room and the owner arrived with a bottle of beer. I was very embarrassed. I absolutely did not want to drink and the price of the beer is exorbitant. So I was afraid he would bill me even if I did not drink it. This big guy insisted, trying to convince me to drink even just a drink.

I started to panic, not understanding why he really wanted me to drink. Imagine a young man, alone in a hotel in the middle of nowhere. What did he imagine? He look suspicious but who knows? Maybe he just wanted to be nice and have a drink with me as a friend?

Trip to Bhangarh Fort - the Haunted City of Rajasthan

Tasting the Paneer Tikka in Pushkar

We left early leaving behind Udaipur. This city has enchanted us. It is true that there is a lot of tourists but it has a thousand and one nooks to explore and streets to get lost. I do not know, but it seems a little like a Mediterranean city.

We arrived in Pushkar in about 5 hours. As soon as we arrive in Pushkar we see quite a lot of pilgrims going in and out, since the city is a sacred place. The pilgrims are going to bathe and pray to the ghats of this area. Some have a rather grotesque look. We do not know well if they do it out of devotion or simply to look different. Some western traveler also flittle something. Here we smell the mysticism.

We stopped to see the rooms in the hotel, a complex of villas that reminded us something of the Riviera Maya and something to Dali. The villas and the garden were similar and in the background huge mountains melted with clouds. The place is very beautiful and quiet, and not far from the center of Pushkar. They showed us the rooms and they were quite good and we accepted.

We unloaded and went directly to the town walking. The main street is called Ajmer Road, which becomes Sadar Bazar Road just when we get to the Ghats area. There were many people accessing and leaving them. We could barely look up. It is a pity that the lake of Pushkar was very dry, which was spectacular at the time.

We even went through Gandhi Ghat, from which they scattered the ashes, and here it was impossible to even look out. As we were hungry we decided to stop at a street stall where a young boy was preparing the vegetable tikka. We decided to try. He took his time and served a few who sat after us. Here what it takes is the be happy atmosphere because we decided to wait. The tikka was good. It was dry but nicely done.

While we ate some kids that came and went on the street did not stop asking for food. In the end I decided to give half of what I was eating. The kid ate it in two seconds. Anyway, the kids do not stop asking for things.

Shortly before finishing eating rain began to fall, and real rain. So we decided to spend time here and wait for the rain to slow down. When it seemed to stop we went to the Brahma Temple to visit it but we had to stop again at a few meters. The streets began to flood and finally we had to stop to wait for it to clear up. Certainly a dog came while we waited.

The street became a river. It did not stop raining and we began to be quite soaked and so we call a rickshaw that we saw and climbed as soon as we could to return to the hotel. The streets were mud holes and pools of water. We were dripping but fortunately the shoes (which was what worried us most, especially me as it was the only sneakers I carried) was saved enough.

Even so we had to get off and help the man in some climb because he could not ride on higher slopes. When we realized we had a kid up in the back asking us the where are you from, what's your name we just went up because we see him push the rickshaw. Even some vendors gave him some fruit.

We did not let them take us to the end. When we saw that we could continue without getting up to water we decided to pay them the whole trip and we gave them tips. We arrived at the hotel and we went to shower while we waited for the rain to give us a break, but every second and third it fell insistently. We finally decided to give up and stay at the hotel, upload some pictures online and have dinner at the restaurant.

We order malai kofta and paneer tikka. I became a fan of the dish, accompanied by butter naan and tried to order beer, but here in Pushkar it is difficult to get alcohol. The guy told us that if we gave him 10 minutes he would take the bike and he was going to look for beer for us.

Tasting the Paneer Tikka in Pushkar

The dinner was good, and the kofta was something strange but good. After a cup of tea we went to the room. We discussed the possibility of staying one more day in Pushkar to see the temples and the Ghats better. But we decided that we would see the ghats better in Benares and the temple did not justify one more night. So the next day we would leave to Jaipur, the pink city.

Valentine's Day Trip to Bangkok with Girlfriend

One thing was clear for the Valentine's Day trip with my girlfriend, and that was to try to fit as much as possible to our way of traveling. For this we discarded the idea of ​​organizing the trip with an agency and began the odyssey of planning. The first thing to do was to choose the destination. I have always wanted to visit Bangkok in Thailand.

The reason was not very clear to me. Maybe because nature has always called me or perhaps because of friends who have visited it and told me about its contrasts. We decided to finish the trip with the best possible dessert with Maldives and its paradisiacal beaches!

Valentine's Day Trip to Bangkok with Girlfriend images wallpaper

Day 1

The flight would leave in the morning at 10 o'clock. So we left the house with the intention of having breakfast at the airport to avoid possible complications on the way. We had 1 hour to eat something before catching the flight. According to what we calculated we would be fed at 11 o'clock on the flight so we fill our stomachs a bit.

With the emotion of the trip, time passes quickly, so fast that we are about to take off. The size of the plane is huge. So we look for our seats and prepare for the flight. The front space of the seats allowed to stretch the legs a little more than normal. Although the handicap of the three lines of seats on the sides was a real pain because we could not get up whenever we wanted.

The food was pretty good. The flight continued while we watched movies and we talked with those at home by whatsapp with the free megaphones. At about 1 we arrived at the airport. After going through immigration we get our passport stamped. No visa was required as in Thailand it is not necessary for vacations up to 30 days. With backpacks on our backs we went to change some money and take the train that would take us to the center.

Another thing that we should have done and did not do, was to take a sim card for our mobile phones at the airport. Our first hotel is in the ​​Sathorn area so we had to make a little detour until we get to the city! The truth is that these airstrips are an experience, since they allow us to pass through the city and begin to glimpse what Bangkok was going to offer us!

In 30 minutes or so we reached the Phaya thai stop where there is take the elevator to go upstairs to get the BTS to our hotel. This is the best part of the journey since we pass near large shopping centers and enjoy the city from another perspective. So almost without realizing and without knowing very well where to get off we arrived at the skywalk that would take us to our first accommodation on the trip.

We crossed the BTS skywalk and finally we entered the hotel! It's 3 in the afternoon and it's been hours since we left our house and the body is tired! The BTS leaves us on the third floor from the hotel so we have to go down to the first one to check-in. The reception of it is incredible. We do all the paperwork of scanning the passport, payment and finally we are on our way to our room!

We have one located on the top floors of the hotel assuring us a good view of this area. We really wanted to take advantage of the afternoon especially to rest in the incredible infinity pool of the hotel. The hotel pool really is as they say, amazing especially when it is getting dark and the surrounding hotels are illuminated.

After resting we went to change with the intention of going to dinner and then take something in its terrace. We started with our famous tripadvisor searches of restaurants and decided to go to one that was a few meters away. As the temperature was good we decided to go walking so we would see the area.

As soon as we got out on the street we saw how it was impossible to pass through where supposedly marked the GPS, a road with two lanes per direction. So we went walking in search of an area where to cross the road. The walk lasted 3 minutes, until we saw that drops were beginning to fall and people were running. The flood was approaching.

We spent 30 minutes in the arcades of a store waiting to see if it would drain a little (we do not carry umbrellas). The truth is that it is amazing how quickly the weather changes in the city with the rain. Many motorists stopped to put on the raincoat and continue. Others waited until a family member came looking for them.

As it did not stop we decided to abort the mission of going to the terrace because it seemed crazy to risk paying for a beer with rain pouring on us. So back at the hotel we change clothes and look for a new restaurant to go to dinner. We found one 10 minutes from the hotel. We found a junction where there were no traffic lights or zebra crossing but that seemed safe enough to cross.

After saving the first stumbling block we found little streets that did not look good (later we discovered that they were paradises next to other streets in the city). Shortly we arrived at our restaurant. The truth is that the food and the treatment of the waiters was quite good. Although perhaps for our first experience in Bangkok we expected a much lower price.

We return to the room, open the curtains and the views are spectacular. As it was about 10 o'clock at night we decided to put a series on the tablet while we entered the dream. Fortunately I think we saw only the titles of the series. The more than 30 awake hours were taking their toll.

Valentine's Day Trip to Bangkok with Girlfriend images wallpaper

Day 2

Our first day in Bangkok starts a little later than expected. The pillows have won the battle and at 10 o'clock in the morning we are still in bed. We change quickly. We remake the backpack (a constant throughout the trip) and we go to breakfast! What a surprise! It seems that we are in China and not in Thailand.

The hotel breakfast is amazing. There are pastries, dishes cooked at the time, fruit, and different drinks. We pick up the backpacks in the room, go down to reception to check-out. As we needed a taxi to go to Khao San Road we asked the same girl who was managing the departure.

We have not left through the door and our taxi is already waiting for us. It took us a while to get to Khao San, about 40 minutes since the traffic at 12 in the morning is very rush (and when not). Also, as we did not have any data, it still took us a while to find the hotel. We must admit that after having been in Kuta in Bali the Bangkok traffic did not seem half as hellish as there.

Here in Bangkok there were motorcycles but almost all cars were more or less organized but in Bali it was all chaos. Instead of entering through the front door we entered through the back parking lot. We accelerate to the reception desk because at the same time a German tourist group was arriving. As it was still early our room was not available but there was no problem. We left the backpacks and went to see the city.

The first objective immediately after leaving the hotel was to get a data card for the mobile. While we looked at a map, a lady from there approached us asking what we were looking for. The first impression was that she wanted to sell us something but the truth was that she was very nice and helped us to get oriented in the area.

We left the topic of 3G a little forgotten and a Cuban tourist recommended us to take a walk through the channels of the old Bangkok. These channels are called Klongs and from them we can see the humble life of the Thais in their houses on the banks of the river, which at the nerve center we could not have seen.

We rented a boat for the two of us. Surely we could have negotiated and lower something else but it was our first contact in the city and the truth is that it happened to us in Bali. The tour was entertaining. We went through a school, different shacks almost in ruins in which people lived. We saw giant lizards in the basement of the houses and crossings marked as roads.

The boat leave us next to the Royal Palace, a visit we had planned to make. We had plenty of time. With the map in hand, we enter a huge enclosure! The map also served as a fan because of the heat! I put on long trousers and short shirt. My girlfriend covered her legs with the sarong she had in her backpack, since her shoulders were already covered.

Just outside the palace there were some stalls that sold pants for those who did not know there was a code to follow. Here it was not like in Indonesia where in most places they left a pareo (sarong for them) for free. Inside we can see different temples, all very colorful. At the entrance, warriors guard it. Most have colored crystals embedded in the facade that we thought were very beautiful.

The truth is that the site is quite good but perhaps between the heat and the fatigue of the trip we did not enjoy it too much. We leave the palace and we go in search of a store to buy water. After freshening up a bit we continue our journey in search of Wat Pho, a temple well known for having the reclining Buddha. It is very easy to get to from the Royal Palace. All we have to do is skirt the palace and cross a couple of streets.

On the side of the Royal Palace we find a group of taxi drivers. As we imagined we were offered their services and one of them approached to chat a little about the typical questions to tourists, where are you from? where are we going? When we had already gained his trust and we told him that we were going to Wat Pho, he said Wat Pho is closed and he offered to show us the best shops in Bangkok.

Fortunately my girlfriend had read the scams about the closed temple business. We continue our way and in 5 minutes we were inside the temple. From the outside it looks like another temple but when we walk in it really impresses because of its size and because it is completely covered with gold leaf.

The temple has little else but my girlfriend wanted to perform a small traditional Thai ritual, the Seam-si. The ritual consists in taking a small cup in which inside there are different numbered sticks. The idea is to remove it until one falls to the ground. We pick up the stick and see what number it has.

Near there are some numbered drawers in which our future is written on a sheet. The next stop would be the Wat Arun. On the way to where we thought the pier was that would take us to it we could buy a SIM card with 3G to be able to guide us more easily. In theory and according to what we understood the saleswoman it was for 7 days but interestingly lasted much longer but at a slower speed.

With the GPS running we went to the Tha Thien pier to cross the Chao Phraya River and reach the aforementioned temple. It is a Buddhist temple that measures around 80 meters. It has a very nice view. We took a walk inside. The facade is more in line with what we had seen in the Royal Palace, with colored stones, and guardian figures. Some Buddhist monk walk inside.

We take the boat again and set off towards the hotel. We had a huge desire to take a shower and wander for a while in the pool before going to Khao San. We took a bath in the infinity pool and went upstairs to take a shower with my girlfriend.

We decided to give priority to the dinner and we booked a restaurant on the internet, a place to dine with local food in pure Thai style. We ordered several dishes including a crab with a spectacular sauce, the best we ate on the whole trip without a doubt.

We took a walk through Khao San Road and as good crayfish workers we fell for the temptation to give us the first massage! The truth is that we did not have to look much. In that street there are massage parlours at every two steps. The funny thing is that the foot massages are given in the middle of the street.

Finally after all the day walking in the city we decided that it is better to give each other a massage in the bed. And with a full belly and well-rested feet, we finished the day. The hotel was new, with good rooms, full breakfast and the best thing of all is that just by going out the door you were in the thick of it.

The street (Rambuttri Alley) is just the one behind Khao San Road. It was what we wanted to be in the street most famous for backpackers but at the same time be able to rest at night. It was possible since there was hardly any noise other than the one of my girlfriend only.

My Trip through Mysore and Gokarna during Diwali

Mysore was not in my plans as my intention was to travel to Goa, an area with beaches. But when I started looking at trains, I saw that they were all full and my only option was to take a bus. So we decided to spend the holidays in Mysore in Karnataka. I had heard many things about the beautiful Mysore, a city that treasures a palace of an exquisite and unusual design, and that made me agree to the stories like the one thousand and one nights.

We took the plane from Cochin to Bangalore at 10:30 in the morning. In the airport we find a taxi to take us to Mysore. It's 170 kilometers and 4 hours of travel. On the way, we have stopped to eat a special Diwali thali offer for 180 rupees.

In the evening we arrived in Mysore and as always a Tuc Tuc took us to what would be our new home. We stayed in the most luxurious hotel of our entire stay, with beautiful views of the palace and the city. When I arrived, I was greeted by the rain that had been falling all night. Diwali, the festival of lights was being celebrated and some also celebrate the New Year. People were burning the firecrackers everywhere.

We rest for a while in the hotel and at 6 o'clock we leave for the Amba Vilas Palace. We were expecting a quiet city like Hampi, with gardens, tranquility, yoga centers, peace, and serenity. But, the reality was different and so we returned again to authentic India. For us it was more like a transition destination, close to what everyone considers of the uninteresting Bangalore. However, we would be pleasantly surprised at each step.

Mysore Palace really was spectacular. It was illuminated, with thousands of light bulbs from the palace itself, the walls that surround the square, the three entrance doors and a temple that is in the same complex. Towards 8 we return to the hotel. At the hotel restaurant, I eat the best Biryani I have tried so far, and that is well worth a visit to fill the stomach.

Mysore images

The sunrise in Mysore was special. When I felt that a ray of sun was coming through my window, I could not help it. I jumped from my bed excited. I put on my robe and opened the doors of the large terrace of my room. It was 8 in the morning and there was already an intense sun and a great movement in the city that was sensed by the noise of the intense traffic that reached me. There was no time to lose (I travel every second). So we had a quick breakfast and started our tour in a city that would make me fall in love forever!

We stayed in the theoretical center of the city, near the Royal Palace of Mysore. From here we could move walking to visit the city. Probably after the peace of Hampi, everything seemed chaotic. And Mysore seemed to us the most chaotic city in which we had been. The half-broken streets, the traffic of cars, the noise through the streets, the dust in the air, people everywhere, the Tuc Tuc bent on taking you anywhere. It cost us to find local places with a minimum of condition to eat, and there was no way to eat not spicy or little spicy. On the first few days it took us a bit to adapt to Mysore, but then we managed to reconcile with the place and open our corner of peace in this chaotic city.

We begin by visiting the great Mysore Palace, where the Wydebar Maharajas have lived. This is one of the most imposing royal buildings and one of the most visited monuments in India. The old palace burned down in 1897 and it was the English architect Henry Irwin who took care to finish it as it can be admired at the moment. They do not allow to take pictures inside, a pity because I would have loved to share with you images of the spectacular salons. This is another place where it is not allowed to wear shoes, in order to keep the floor in good condition.

Inside we can see several rooms with impressive decorations. The visit was a little overwhelming because of the number of people there were. We were in a queue and they pushed us to keep going. Then we take a walk through the gardens and it strikes me that they do camel and elephant rides. The elephant is sad because it is loaded with a family and some members are obviously overweight.

After visiting the palace we went to one of the places where I enjoyed the most in my journey. It is near the palace in the famous Mysore Devaraja Market. I remember reading in the India travel guide that this market, that of Devaraja, is one of the most colorful, photographed and picturesque in India. It is famous for its essences and incenses, especially Sandalwood.

I went crazy, not so much for what I could buy, but for the photogenic of what my eyes saw. I found the spectacular tints of bright colors, the garlands of flowers. I see the process of creation of sandalwood sticks, the exotic fragrances, and bangles, that there were thousands. We loved the market full of fruits, vegetables, flowers, colors, people, and stands of incense and essential oils. It was like breathing again.

As it was the time of Diwali, everywhere stalls sell oil lamps or diyas. They are containers made with clay in which oil or butter is made and a twisted cotton thread is placed that acts as a wick. In the Diwali thousands of these lamps are used to light the houses, temples, and altars dedicated to the gods. In one of the stalls, we taste the Jalebi, Kaju Katli, Mysore Pak, dry fruits ladoo and Murukku.

We stand in a basket of essential oils. A very nice guy took care of us and we bought one 15ml of pure oil. There are also sellers of paan, which is a kind of chewed tobacco prepared with betel leaves. These leaves are usually arranged in green piles placed on top of each other. Then we had a good time walking through the colorful and lively market. Another interesting place to leave the chaotic Mysore is to take a walk on the lake. It is a huge park with a lake where we can see even people jogging.

Mysore images

Here we were able to isolate ourselves from the noise of the city and we managed to get in touch with people who did yoga. Mysore is the city of yoga, but it is not easy to find schools, and most offer training courses for teachers.

After a pizza stopover at a coffee shop (Amsterdam style), we go to the St. Philomena's Cathedral, surrounded by schools and children playing.

And as I am one of those who like to squeeze the day to the fullest, to enjoy the sunset, we climb to one of the sites with the best view of the city. It is the Chamundi Temple where lies the famous statue of Nandi (bull of Shiva) of 5 meters high and carved in rock. To get there you can take a bus that takes you to the top of the mountain, and then you can go down to Mysore by more than a thousand steps. Once we arrived at the esplanade of the temple, we took off our shoes. We finally entered the temple that was really very small. We begin to turn around, unlike the people.

While returning back for the last time, we arrived at the Royal Palace. There are hundreds of people walking briskly towards the main facade. Suddenly they light it with thousands of light bulbs. Not only the palace, the whole square and the entrance arches. It is a show that seems unreal. It seemed like Christmas. We toured the entire area to admire everything that was illuminated. Many take selfies and some ask us to take their family photos.

For dinner we visit a popular restaurant, located in the hotel where we can enjoy a fun atmosphere and an exquisite Indian food at a good price. I would never forget the naan and the gulab jamun. Outside is the hotel pool illuminated by a blue light, but we do not give up. It is time to sleep.

Day 2

What exactly is celebrated during Diwali? It is an Indian festival that lasts five days and marks the start of the Indian New Year. The third night of the festival is one of the most important. During the festival, the people clean their houses, buy new clothes, and share sweets with everyone and there are always fireworks shows. For several days, the houses and shops are cleaned in a special way and decorated with flowers and candles, called "diyas", which are lit at dusk. Fireworks and firecrackers transform the streets into a burst of lights and sound.

Do you think Diwali is celebrated in Gokarna in a big way? I asked my friend as we bought the train tickets that would take us that same morning from Palolem in Goa to the coastal city in the state of Karnataka. I do not know for sure, but Gokarna is one of the sacred cities. I wanted to enjoy Diwali in some of the offbeat destinations to enjoy the festivities.

During the train journey, we looked at the map and saw that there were five beaches. There is the central beach of the town, Om Beach, Kudle Beach, Half Moon Beach and Paradise Beach. Then I saw another beach on the map, a little further away from the rest, which caught my attention because of its name: God's own beach. But that was ruled out by time and distance.

I read in Gokarna there are lot of accommodations. They are cheap and, in addition are close to restaurants and bars. But I wanted a less crowded beach. We came from the tourist beaches of Goa and opted for Om Beach.

From the train station, we take a bus and then two rickshaws to the entrance to Om Beach. There are a restaurant and a parking area for rickshaws and as it has enough vegetation it is not uncommon to see many cows roaming the area. From there we had to descend more than 100 stone steps that made their way through the thick vegetation to touch the sand. The sun began to hit hard and the backpack became increasingly heavy.

Om Beach owes its name to the shape of the beach seen from above, which they say has the shape of "Om". So after following the foam on the seafront and delineating the first part of the "Om" drawing, we found some rocks that divided the beach in two and we had to cross them on foot. The tide was low, so it was not a problem to get to the other stretch of sand where two or three lodgings can be seen and very few people on the beach.

We consulted prices in all the hostels and opted for one that was just half way. After leaving the belongings in the rooms we sat in the hotel restaurant, facing the sea, and while we ordered our food I asked the waiter if that night Diwali will be celebrated on the beach. The boy told me that in Om Beach it is hardly celebrated.

There are few people and the few who spend the night there are mainly foreign tourists. The locals stay in Gokarna beach. So our only option to live that experience was to go to the city that same night because it was the last night of celebrations!

A little disappointed by his response, I asked how we could get to Gokarna from there or better yet, how to return at dawn. The only option was to go by rickshaw and return by taxi at an astronomical price, of course. My colleagues at first were enthusiastic about the idea of ​​going, but with the passing of hours the fatigue and laziness (yes, there is also laziness in travel) won the pulse and, the truth is that I was myself hesitant to go. Actually, I was more worried about going back alone at night to this area, that I had to go down some dark stairs, to cross a dark beach and then half of another one.

That's how I was left wanting to enjoy the Diwali festival in Gokarna. However, there was a rumor through the outdoor corridors of the hostel that many tourists, especially a large group who had the hotel and part of another that was a few meters away, had bought kilos of fireworks. They would make them explode that night on the beach. I settled for that. We had dinner and we all went to the beach. There were two fires burning, several meters away from each other and around each one there was a group of travelers.

Suddenly we hear the first roar. It's already beginning! Most were quite drunk and that made them little agile, and uncoordinated with kilos of fireworks. Then I saw the attempt to light another two firecrackers that did not explode, another one that ignited and shot off to the side, near where I was. This night of fireworks was a real fun. After a while, after bursting a lot of firecrackers, I went to bed.

diwali decor

The next day we went to spend the day in the city of Gokarna, that owes its name to the shape of the ear of the cow formed by the confluence of two rivers that mark Gokarna. We could still see the remains of the festival of the previous night left behind. We saw cows painted, marked and adorned with colorful flower necklaces. Locals were in a festive mood with many enjoying a day at the beach. There were more people than usual and offerings and flowers decorated the small temples.

I was about to return to the hostel when a torrential rain began to fall with great force. It fell with such intensity that I decided to wait for it to subside. Others also did the same. The rain seemed to give no respite. A middle-aged woman sat next to me and offered me a sweet. She was curious. Happy Diwali! She told me. And before I could realize it, I was with that woman buying other sweets and snacks for what seemed like a special celebration.

Thus, the distance from North India was not an impediment to celebrate Diwali. And the magic of the festival of lights does not understand borders.