A Sea of Green

Published June 20, 2013 by jessitexasranger

Hello All! I know it’s been a while and we’ve been in three countries since I last wrote. We left India May 7th for England…We cut the trip short. Two major Delhi bellies each was enough. India won this time but we won’t be defeated…until next time India!!

England greeted us with a cold rain, big smiles and warm hugs… Greg’s cousin Jake picked us up from the airport and took us to his home situated in the lush, wet and green countryside. Here is where we set up shop and started the hunt for our future home on wheels!

Jake and Emma live on a caravan site in the woods about 40 mins from Brighton. There is about 10 families that live there along with the owners fiber glass art workshop. It’s is a great place to be..always someone around, an art project to be made, and laughs to have. We felt welcomed and part of a community…just what we love and cherish.

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The site is situated near a crematorium. An amazing place for families to spread their loved ones ashes and plant a tree or flowers in there honor…a peaceful place to be laid to rest and visited. So much more pleasant than a cemetery… sharing the road with horse farms and rolling green hills.

Brighton is a cool little city by the sea. There is lots of culture, art, music, universities and an all over good vibe. The pier reminds me of Santa Monica’s with rides, restaurants, and games. The beach doesn’t have sand it’s pebbles… kinda funny!

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After much searching we found our bus, It’s a Iveco Daily…the perfect size and big enough to transform into a home! We where so excited to find this bus we had the last owner drive it to Emma’s and we’d sort out insurance from there…well in hind site we should have researched English insurance and what we could and couldn’t insure.

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Well, as you’ve guessed it our mini bus was not on the list of what we as non UK residents can insure….It’s too big!!! We’ve tried everything and where on the phone with insurance companies for two weeks and finally let it sink in that our mini bus will not be insured in England….all is not lost, but more on that later. The only thing that we could insure is a car, and pulling a caravan was no problem. Which to us doesn’t make much since since a car and trailer are longer and more dangerous to drive.

We tried to sell it with no luck…oh well off to France….. We’ll insure the bus in Spain!

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We are really moving now!

Published May 4, 2013 by jessitexasranger

Nine cities and five states in eleven days…..you’d think it was a race or something. After a month in paradise we where ready to take India by storm and cover much ground as we did so. In the islands we made a tentative itinerary, as many of you know sticking to a schedule while traveling doesn’t always happen even though the desire is there….we’ve done pretty good so far.

We left Port Blair in the Andaman, Islands and flew to Chennai (the city we flew to from NYC) and took a train directly from the airport to the train station where we would take our first over night sleeper train that would take us directly to the tip of India…

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The city is called Kanyakumari in the state of Tamil Nadu and a surreal feeling that only the bottom of the sub continent can bring. Three oceans merge here adding to the magical experience: The Bay of Bengal, Indian Ocean, and the Arabian Sea.. how cool to see the sun set over three oceans! We decided to splurge and found a hotel with the best view and with a pool on the roof… 400 meters of shore there is a memorial and a large statue..that adds to the amazing view….we didn’t take the ferry over but enjoyed the beauty it added to the city. We did visit a temple called Kumari Amman Temple..where all men must take of their shirts to enter. We only spent one day and one night here and the next day we hopped on a train to the state of Kerela…

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Kerela borders Tamil Nadu and is famous for the rice barges that tour the backwaters and we went to a city called Kollam where we did a one day/ night tour around Kollam and the surrounding small villages. We had a private boat with a captain (of course) and our own personal chef…this was another honeymoon splurge. The whole experience was amazing: great food, views, and pictures! We also where given a tour of the small villages through the canals by a local in his canoe… we went under bridges so low we had to crouch down inside the bottom of the canoe to fit under it….this was a highlight of the trip…. that and me driving the rice barge!

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The next morning we hopped on a train close to the top of Kerela where we hopped on a bus to travel up the mountains to a town called Kalpetta…we went all the way up there because there was a Wildlife Sanctuary that we wanted to check out. Upon our arrival we discovered that the sanctuary was closed until the 15th which was 8 days away.
It was a bummer especially since we took a very long hot train ride to get there…oh well we made the best of it and went down the mountain a little bit for a day at a lake….really pretty lake with lots of Indian tourist, lots of lotus flowers in the lake and cute monkeys that aren’t afraid of humans…hehe. The temperature was so much cooler in the Kalpetta and it was nice to be in the mountains! Kalpetta gave us a little bonus cool off with a downpour…. the next day we where off again….

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We thought the train to the north of Kerela was bad….to go to our next destination…Mysore…..we hoped on a non A\C local bus….these buses are not the easiest or best way to travel but they do the job…exhausted we arrived in Mysore. We found a hotel near the bus stand and booked a all day tour for the next day…. 9am to 9pm…we learned the hard way what a nightmare being shuffled around all day with and by Indians really is.

Before this annoying lesson we went to local market. Even though the market was over crowded,like everywhere in India, it was amazing with all the colors and smells…the had stalls of flower garlands, essential oils, fruit, vegetables, and colored powder… In the essential oil stalls, they also made incense and we stopped at one that showed us how they made incense, he bought us chai, we smelled all the oils and ended up buying a watermelon flower oil…the shop was his grandfathers and it has been in their family for 50 years. It was nice talking with him and we both agreed that his grandfather taught him well. His sales tactic where subtle and not pushy..such a change from the rest of India.

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Now this leads us to our crazy tour of Mysore….we did get to see many sights and really got to see Mysore. We went to the place(beautiful), the zoo, many temples and a botanical gardens that is seen in many Bollywood movies….doesn’t sound so bad..right? Anything you do for 12hours isn’t really that fun if you think about it. Just think of the hottest, most rushed, and worse headache you can imagine in a country upside down from ours and you have our day…. we lived to tell about it and moved on the next day to another big city…with Greg kicking and screaming!

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Next stop Bangaluru also in the state of Karnataka… Another big city with big city annoyances… crowded, crazy traffic, and rickshaw drivers that tried to over charge us but we took an A/C bus this time! Nice city….it has a huge IT industry and a cool feel. We seen many parks, a cool botanical garden, a science and technology museum, and two temples. The temples are on the same grounds one is called the bull temple and believe or not there is a huge statue of a bull that the “worship”. I don’t really know the significance of the bull except that the cow is very scared here in India and has free reign of the country, but it was cool to see.
The second temple had a huge statue of Ganesh (my favorite of the Hindu Gods). Here it was very active with city dwellers doing their everyday worship rituals. Some time in these temple you feel like you are intruding on someones personal rituals and worships. Here we had a man explain what was going on and the blessings that where being given. One such ritual was the drinking of a handful of water that has been blessed and tricked through the huge stone Ganesh…. We took part and even asked Ganesh for blessings in our lives.

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For those of you that do not know who Ganesh is here’s what I know. He has the head of an elephant because as he was guarding the door as his mother bathed his father mistook him as an intruder and cut of his head. Of course when he realized it was his son’s head he cut off, he was really upset and replaced it with the head of the nearest creature…an elephant! Now Ganesh is the guard of many doorways and journeys…. Ganesh is widely revered as the Remover of Obstacles and more generally as the Lord of Beginnings and the Lord of Obstacles,patron of arts and sciences, and the deva of intellect and wisdom…..not a bad guy to have watching over you!

Bengaluru was a quick turn…and due to yet another Indian holiday we got stuck in a first class A/C train car. Well stuck isn’t the best word but we definitely had to pay more getting to Hampi than we wanted to. We ended up having our own little room and it was cool having own room and ending up somewhere we we woke up!

Hampi is in the same state as the last two cities but the train took about 10 hours to get there. we originally allotted ourselves a week here but it really is so so hot here that we had another quick turn… This city was once a thriving settlement of 500,000 people full of history, temples, and ruins.
There are 75 plus temples here….you really feel the history here…its very magical and hard not to picture how this desert town really used to be. We rented a a motor bike and where able to see enough of Hampi and get some great pictures…Its hard to explain but hopeful the picture can show you some of it’s magic!
The people of today who settled here settled right on the historical site often using part of the ruins as there own walls. a few years ago part of the modern settlement was torn down and many people and businesses had to relocated..once such business was a small barber shop…so he took his little shop and set it right at the river bank and the ghats where the locals “bathe”. A great view and Greg got a cut and a shave in the barber shop with the most amazing view….

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We where so over the heat and rushed off to Goa…another beach paradise… and here we sit on the beach telling of our crazy trip! Next stop…Europe!!!

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Planes, Trains, Boats and Automobiles

Published April 30, 2013 by jessitexasranger

Not necessarily in that order….

It doesn’t matter what country you’re from or what you think you know about traveling in India or anywhere else for that matter, expect the worst when you have dengue fever and your skin is burning!!!

This is India and and everything moves in every-which way including your stomach….Ok I don’t really know if I had the Dengue but I do believe this was the strongest fever I ever had, hallucinations or waking dreams of a little elf like creature trying to convince me, under different disguises, that i should have my fever in Auroville….??? Yeah anyway I’m all better now, the best wife in the world took best care of me.

The scary thing is that I felt ill the eve of a long journey, which meant that I could be stuck without a toilet or have really shady options for my uncontrollable body fluids. No bed, no problem…I fell asleep on a concrete bench waiting for our boat that would take us off these paradise islands.

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Apparently the worst time was that very first night, part of the next day was spent in a hammock which was relaxing as Jess checked us out of our beach hut. We called some rickshaws to get to the jetty, jumped in with three friends we had made in Havelock and headed towards the boat. Shaky rides are these three wheeler covered mopeds, made me feel nauseous but everything stayed put and i needed more rest I was feeling weak.

The thing about a lot of rickshaws is that they feed on the traveler’s hunger, exhaustion and confusion. With this knowledge, they abuse our trustee nature, triple or quadruple the faire, cry and whine about wasted precious time to raise the faire one more time, along with countless other tricks they hide up their sleeves. I’m sure somewhere in the madness, it all makes perfect sense but in the end it makes us doubt everyone of them. We had stayed on Havelock long enough to know how these guys work here and it went as smooth as I could have ever wished for, being ill and all that! Big thanx to the happy rickshaws!!!

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Now we wait for the ferry to get here. It’s still hot and i am starting to feel the fever making a comeback, i feel week and tired. While Jess and our new friends who are starting to feel their stomach rumble, wait with our bags by the gate, I found myself that nice concrete bench to fall asleep on. On the boat, we had assigned seats but we all stayed on the top deck to lay around in the fresh air which was 100 times more comfortable than the awkward stuffy room without a view and full of stares.

The ferry’s a big rusty floating steel boat that makes one wonder if it will make the two and a half hours crossing to Port Blair. That didn’t matter much to me, all I wished for was that it wouldn’t rock too much, I already was on the verge of nausea. Surprisingly the bathrooms on this particular boat were quite clean. Though I didn’t get sick, I did need to know where they were in case of much pressing business to attend to.

The ride was smooth as could be, it is a big boat after all, on a calm see. All we needed now, before I could properly rest was another rickshaw and climbing the stairs to our hotel which we had already called for a reservation.

It’s been close to 24 hours since I first started feeling ill and we were finally settled in a room. I could not go to dinner with everyone, I was still feeling ruff and needed to be in bed resting and near a bathroom…just in case! Again my wonderful wife brought me something to eat, but i did not eat very much at all until the next morning. I was feeling much better, almost normal, and I was happy because we still had a plane to get on and an overnight train after that!

There isn’t much to say about the plane, it’s a plane and it’s no different than the planes we’ve all seen… well aside from the passengers’ inability or unwillingness to follow safety instructions. The trains on the other hand are much more fun than at home!

Open windows, open doors, bunk beds and chai every 15 minutes. The sleeper trains are full of surprises but they run smooth and through the night. The family sitting across from us shared their food with us and we were unable to refuse…we tried because of my belly but they insisted by making us plates. It was delicious!!! Sleeping is a bit ruff but full of dreams because of the rocking and the many different sounds from the guy selling coffee or chai to the platform announcements at every stop to the chatter of cellphones rigging.

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We made it to the very southern tip of India from the Andaman Islands through Chennai taking a couple auto rickshaws, a boat, a plane, a local train and a night train without being all that well, but we made it and it was worth the trip. I am glad we didn’t have to travel one day before schedule…I don’t know how I would have handled it, had it all started the night my fever started!!!!!!

What a trip…

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Holi festival of colors batman……

Published April 16, 2013 by jessitexasranger

We wanted to get back to Neil Island for Holi but after being stuck in Port Blair For a few days (and Greg had a bad travelers tummy) but there wasn’t room on a ferry until Tues and we wanted to get back to the beach ASAP…so Havelock it was!

This time in Havelock we stayed on another beach….Beach 5…a backpacker’s haven. It was nice to hang with people and we meet some great ones….maybe even some people to join our caravan! (Remember The People’s Caravan we are starting in Europe?) more on that later…back to holi!

Greg and I bought lots of supplies while in Port Blair….water balloons…..color to put into them…two syringe like water guns to fill the balloons with and bags of color; pink (of course), teal, yellow, green, and purple. Holi is a religious festival but when we asked people about the origins they just said festival of color and that we could play too….but after further investigation we think that it is in celebration of Krishna’s birthday…Indian’s love festivals and to celebrate!

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We started our Holi day at the guest house trying to fill our water balloons but the where really small and hard to fill and tie…so after about 40 mins and 11 balloons later we decided that the balloons would be put to better use by children along the way….

We started our 20 minute walk into town armed with 2 2liter bottles filled with purple water, 11 filled water balloons, and six bags of powder! All along the way people stopped us with a cheerful “Happy Holi” and a gentle powdered filled hand to each cheek….followed by a hand full of candy….one family gave us a sweet rice and mint drink to enjoy with some homemade treats….such a great holiday!!!

The celebration became rowdier and rowdier the closer we got to the town….the powder started going right into the face including the eyes and mouth…and wild packs of young boys roamed the streets to “attack” the foreigners….All the Indian women stay home..and celebrate with those that pass by…and leave the Pack of Indian men\ boys to play in the town…lol

Eventually,I ended up standing on a wall throwing powder at those that walked by….. It was amazing to see all the colors and the celebration…Indian style…..after we all took a dip in the sea…..the colors bleeding their beauty into the ocean….Don’t worry the powder is made of natural materials…. no oceans where hurt in finishing this festival!!

We all need to step back and celebrate color..India sure does….color everywhere…we need to stop being so boring….

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The Hawaii of India……

Published March 23, 2013 by jessitexasranger

Since Greg and I are taking such a long honeymoon… that really coincides with our normal winter travel.. we throw in some splurges that we consider honeymoon treats! The Andaman Islands are one of them…. A 60 hour boat ride from Chennai (we chose the 2 1/5 hour flight) the islands are a lot closer to Thailand than India….. this is paradise India style!

Never before when we travel have we seen so many tourist from the country we are in…. the Andamans are full of Indian tourist!!! These Islands are pretty under developed and tourism is taking it’s toll as it often does in all paradises around the globe…. The tourists are putting a strain on the infrastructure of the islands and they are having trouble keeping up….. many of you know that as travelers in third world countries we can’t drink the water…so we have to drink bottle water..thus leading to a pile up of plastic bottles.

Garbage disposal is a common problem in countries like India and it’s not uncommon to find trash at the side of the road…..But lucky they have goats, cows and dogs to eat the trash….

I may be painting an ugly picture of these beautiful islands…but the pictures will show the beauty…

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After the port city of Port Blair we went to the Island of Havelock….and stayed on the beach less traveled….the hut above was our home for a week! Lots of Indian tourist find there way here and the fancy resorts housing the well off are on this side of the island…. India is a very conservative country and people go swimming in their clothes…women in their Saris…but the men are allowed to swim in their boxers….quite a site….. often westerners on the beach are the main attraction ….people stare at us regardless of were we are …..but if you walked down the beach a bit there was a cove that was free of the gawking eye!

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Our next stop on the islands was Neil Island….. even slower pace than Havelock! In Havelock we bought hammocks!!!! the beaches are bordered by trees…such a great place for lounging!!! So with my kindle and my hammock…I’m ready to relax…..

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And relax and read I have…I’ve read all seven Harry Potter books plus four other books since we’ve been in India…. We have had lots of time and not a lot of things going on….the school then these slow islands…. the rest of or trip will be a bit faster…and I’ll get to see the real crazy of India.

Greg doesn’t read as much as I do so he finds other ways to occupy his time…he can’t sit still that one…luckily the beach is filled with drift wood and other things for him to play with…lol!

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Neil Island Beach Horse

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The crabs on havelock…come out of the ground by the 100s and roll the sand in balls between their claws…forming such cool designs on the sand…each one unique and beautiful…we watched and drew in the sound for hours…we had Indians stop to see what we where doing…and meet a cute old couple…just as lively and playful as us…i told Greg that’s going to be us in 30 years…not the Indian part of course….

Now we are back in Port Blair to grab more money (Neil has no Atm or Bank for that matter). We’ve been here a few days getting our city fill and now back to Neil via Havelock….ready for more sun and we are preparing for India’s Holi festival…the festival of colors…pretty similar to Thailand’s Sokran festival…. Holi is also a water fight but with color powder thrown in the mix! Hope we can grab pics to show the fun!

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The smiles tell it all!

Published March 5, 2013 by jessitexasranger

We decided to start the honeymoon with some volunteer work! We where supposed to do three weeks but where only able to do two because of my stomach problem….The school is located in a small village called Kanjanur, Tamil Nadu, India.

The school is a private school that welcomes many volunteers yearly and many of the children can only attend school because of donations and sponsorship. The school is run by a goodhearted man named Bala and his wife Buna…they are very educated and have lots of love for the children’s education and success.

The school is a long room where the children are split into different classes but there are no walls in between the classes so it is very loud in there and often distracting when you teach. The kids sit on the floor but are very happy to be there and so so eager to learn!

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I taught level three which where 8-9 years old kids. I had nine students five boys and four girls…wasn’t sure about them at first but we just had to get to know each other.
Greg had the four year olds…which I think is priceless…. I loved watching him with them….they where a rowdy bunch…later they gave him back up and he settled in and enjoyed teaching the children and was excited to teach them new things!

I had a second teacher with me from England..her name is Monique and she’s very sweet…we made a good team! Every morning the kids greeted us with a salute and these words, “Good morning miss, god bless you!” What a way to start the day!!! Put the biggest smile on our faces!

We ended up separating the group to make them more manageable…every subject is taught in English…. most kids read very well but when you ask them to talk about what they’ve just read they can’t…they know the words visually but have no Idea what they mean….
So we tried to engage them in discussions….. helping them to grasp what they are saying….. trying to have conversations with them…. I really enjoyed myself and wish we had more time there…There Tamil teachers would always come around and help in explanations and one of them told me I was a good teacher! The last day the kids wrote me notes and drew me pictures as a goodbye!

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The Loch Ness Monster that lived in my tummy…..

Published February 24, 2013 by jessitexasranger

The next day after the race (the day we where supposed to go to Pondicherry) I woke up with the worse stomach ache I’ve ever had…… that was a Monday….I tried to eat but everything hurt my stomach..I was so week and fevered……the next day nothing stayed down.

I started on a plain toast and white rice diet because the rest of the food upset my tummy. We tried giving me the pills the Dr in the U.S. gave me but they didn’t help…..I knew My body was really sick because I was starting to lose weight and I was starting to get really upset and worried….

That Thursday I went to the Dr…… the hospital was a local hospital and free for locals….. it was pretty hot in there…lots of sick people and rooms with people hooked to IVs. Not the cleanest place I’ve ever been and the bathroom was so gross!!!!! The Dr is a tall women that has been there for 20years and we learned she works every day!

So Thursday she asked for a stool sample..after that was tested she told me that I had many different bacterias in my belly and needed to take blood to be sure of the bacteria in there…… she gave me 5 different pills to take that night at dinner and the next morning and I needed to come back to see how I was…… she warned me that the pills where strong and I should make sure I eat with them…..the next day…no change!!!

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We returned the next day. The Dr. was concerned because there was no change and the pills she gave me are really strong. She told me an IV was the best option because it would obviously enter the body faster and take effect faster. Little did we know we would be there for 3 or 4 hours….because I needed to do 4 bottles….one saline to start where they put a bunch of medicine in the bottle….then two smaller bottles of different kinds medicine then another bottle of saline……

She sent me home with more pills for dinner and breakfast and to come back the next day which was Saturday…. That night there was improvement but I was still not %100…but my spirits where a bit higher….we went back the next day and was upset to hear more IV treatment was in my future…. another 3-4hrs at the hospital……and sent back with the same instructions……

BUT THAT DID IT!!!!!! I was better! I Finally was able to eat food with taste…my weight was back and people in the hotel that we became friends with noticed the “life” back in my eyes!!! FINALLY!!!

We returned to the DR. and told her the good news…a wave of relief showed on her face…armed with two more days of pills and a $100 Dr bill I was better!!! The next day we where finally going to the school….looking back on what caused this I realized it was the food at the race….the fancy VIP area took me off my guard and I ate fruit salad and a green salad…not thinking to ask if it was cleaned by filtered water…..we where so careful up until then….. Greg has never been sick when traveling…Damn that race!!!

Loads of people get sick in India….I guess I needed to get it out of the way…lesson learned…stomach stronger…no more Loch Nes monster in my belly!!!