Rawness of India
Digital Imaging Ambassador
There’s Delhi belly, Bali belly and many names of getting sick around the world, but ever heard of bubble gum butt? Not really, mainly because I made it up, and no I didn’t just plug my bum with bubblegum. My first trip I spent some time in the Himalayas where I was waiting several hours for someone. With nothing to do but sit in this shop, I felt like a binge on something sweet, I’d been pretty healthy so I took a liking to these soft centre chews. I had about 50-60 that afternoon. Next day I enjoyed them so much I ate another 30 or so… for breakfast. Still killing time looking around the room, I glimpse across the words ‘bubblegum’ on my wrappers. My heart sunk, I had eaten so much of it, this amount swallowed is.. NOT.. good. Googled what I should do, yes I knew the chance of google telling me I had cancer off any symptoms were high but I needed some info, simply all advice said to “go see a doctor immediately”.
I didn’t, I figured I can sort it when I get home in 3 weeks. It wasn’t good I deteriorated badly, in those 3 weeks I couldn’t eat more than 2 crackers, few chips and some juice each day. My stomach shrunk, I lost weight, my energy levels were on an ultimate low. I was at rock bottom and this tainted my trip. Being ill everything gets to you quicker and senses are stronger. I would get up morning for a couple of hours in the good light to shoot then sleep till sunset for a few more golden light hours. So my tolerance faded with each day. The worst was the end of the trip when I was in Varanasi. My patience was very thin with pushy people asking for money, the smells, raw sights of shit and dead bodies, scammers. Varanasi was my last place to visit and left a very sour taste in my mouth for my thoughts on India. It sucked to say, but this trip was to see if I still felt the same.
A new trip, , anxious if I made a mistake coming back. On the plane to New Delhi, I was excited to take photos, many historic ruins that lay seldom in the countryside, culture so intense. But part of me was still aware of last trip here. In the streets of New Delhi, not even more like 2 steps out of the New Delhi airport really, the smell of sewage hit me. My feelings towards India all came back, still a revolting place, just a pigsty.
Next day flying into the city of Leh, 11,300ft. A very different place to set my eyes to. There wasn’t smog, no over populated concrete jungle. Raw, jagged mountains with barren valleys where rivers flowed as lifeline to poplar trees and willows. It was like an oasis amongst an alpine desert. It really felt like home with the landscapes and colours of autumn.
Exploring Ladakh by bike I got a great feel for the area, it’s something I hoped to bring my dad to but I wasn’t patient enough to wait for him building their new house. Seeing these amazing temples and monasteries tucked away in the mountains of Bhutan has always been on my list to photograph. I didn’t have much knowledge of them in India though.
It wasn’t hard to find a monastery. It was more having to pick which ones I wanted to photograph the most. They were amazing. White and maroon structures on cliff tops sitting like a crown amongst the mountains. I would sit amongst the monks for hours on end as they prayed and practiced their ways.
Ladakh being on the Silk has a tremendous amount of history behind the area of trades. Leh Palace, built in the 16th century, which I must say is stunning. The palace has many layers built up like a castle, something that interest me was the use beams of wood. Was it through the trade route or grown there. Makes me question how the wood hasn’t rotten away over that many years, is it the dryness? The government has given incentives to grow more poplar trees which I totally agree, it gives a way to live and adapt the landscape to a more hospitable and liveable environment. I do wonder how much of an affect will that have on the area. Would the trees suck the river levels and limit supply downstream. Sometimes the smallest things can have dramatic effects. It’ll be interesting to see what changes become of the area. I wouldn’t never be shy of planting foliage, but its unknown how much of an dramatic affect it can have.
I didn’t plan to go anywhere cold, I only had a few layers of merino, I didn’t expect myself to be on the side of the road warming my frozen hands on the motorbike engine. It was worth it for the first and last light in the mountains. Travelling light it did mean I only have a few layers of clothing, being on the motorbike I needed every layer possible left no time to wash them. I went weeks without washing, I lost a lot of hair from salty ocean hair to oily and dusty resulting in dead dreads. I wanted to climb this pass but it meant braving -12 Degrees Celsius at 18,000ft. For a perspective same height of Everest base camp. I knew it was best to play it smart, flying into Leh at 11,300ft, I had to allow myself several days to acclimatise so AMS didn’t take its tolls adventuring around. Letting your body adapt every 1000ft per day gained. It really leaves you faint headed and out of breath at times.
I hope to be back in Leh sometime soon. It left some amazing memories and eager to get back. I could spend a long time exploring here and never get bored.
Back to the pigsty New Delhi then straight on a hot bus for 8 hours with a spew landing on me from a passenger.. I arrived Jaipur where I met Jackie and Anne aka @dualvoyage. It was pretty frantic there, being Diwali it was far from quiet. It was only the build up too. We sat up above the city the first night watching fireworks painting the city alight.
A short drive from Jaipur took us past Man Sagar Lake to Amber fort. Our eyes lit up. Photo opportunities everywhere we looked. A giant fortress lined the hillside with many fortress walls and spires. It was sad to see elephants being ridden by tourists up to the fort what seemed like all day. After some info they are treated well with 4 rides per day 9-11am. Then taken back to their elephant sanctuary. It seems a lot more respectable to the animals compared to the likes of Thailand. I do still wonder what goes on behind closed doors and if the way they are broken in is more like torture…
India is very raw country, it will test limits. Yes you can travel there on first class tickets and ignore it all but it wouldn’t be easy to not witness it… the smell of shit, raw sewage on the street, rubbish everywhere, people and animals with limbs severed or hanging off, even decomposing bodies is a common sight. I’m not a negative person but in my opinion India is one of the most disgusting countries I’ve visited in the world. No I haven’t seen all of India but I’ve seen a good share of it to get an idea of the country. Yes, it’s a poor developing country. Yes, there’s high levels of poverty and pollution. Lack of infrastructure. Lack of education. Bursting at seams population. The population will always be fighting for survival or away from poverty, once they do they are focused to further increase their greed of success. Ok, all of the world has a problem of greed, but this is different. It all flows from the horrible judging class system India has in its nature. Time and time again I’d witness daily occasions of this class system where people are better than others due to their monetary wealth. People are proud to be better than one another, show off about it. Brag about their ‘slaves’ and how they treat them. I have no idea how far this stems back but its hard to bare. With a nation that each person knows too well the struggle of poverty yet can treat people like that. Comparing to other developing countries and the human nature behind the Indian culture isn’t one I would be proud of. Every country has its own variations of problems but this is what I took away from this visit. It hurts to see the waste and disrespect to the earth but a country with that population and struggles it is understandable where survival on a day to day comes first. But when you see the wealthy side of the Indian public blatantly throw their rubbish as an every day thing despite a bin within arms reach, or spit or ignore other people in need sucks big time. Thats maybe why India again left a bad taste in my mouth. I know its ‘cultural’ difference but it can be frustrating, even more when they bring whats ingrained in them to my own country. It’s taken me some time to figure how try express this in words and write what I mean, hoping its expressed in the correct manner.
Walking through the streets of Jodhpur after the blue city I came across this donkey smacking its head of the ground, twisting and kicking. Blood was coming from its mouth and nose, covering itself. It had been hit by a tuk tuk but nothing was being done about it. Locals were standing around like it’s some sort of funny game and laughing as other people got a fright walking past. Absolutely horrific. I stood around knowing something would be done soon, surely. I stood around for a hour, thats when I stepped in to put it down. I could do it very cleanly and in a quick manner. They were very confused at my determination to put the animal out of its misery but by no means would they let me. Asking “why, what does it matter to me”. I was disgusted and held back, all I could do was watch it’s teeth crunch on the concrete as it smacked its head while they tied it to a pole. It lasted for an hour and a half before it it slowly choked on its on blood. As they walked around smirking and laughing at the animal kick and struggle there was another dog with two broken front legs convulsing from starvation under the seat. That day by far the was the worst cruelty I’ve ever seen in my life, already we had seen dogs walking around with their head split open and a man crawling along the ground with his foot gashed that trip. I know we travel to experience a different culture and religion but I’m left in total disgust to the lack of sympathy they have towards living things. Someone later explained ‘its a cultural belief that people/animals deserve what ever happens to them’. With that I don’t think i’ll ever have compassion to those that think that.
Udaipur, I was quite excited about. I had saved all these amazing photos of white walls and domes ornamented with niches, decorated with arabesques of coloured stones. Was gutted to find pretty much all of them were shot at the Taj palace which is this very expensive hotel in restored palace on the lake. I was ready to be gutted having high expectations. After some exploring I found other spots that pleased the eye even greater than what I had planned. I spent some time around the lake edge as it gave some some down time to edit and get away from the hustle bustle of India.
Having not swum in 3 weeks it was all getting a bit too much. I was getting needy. I could have just snuck into a hotels pool but last time I did that my shorts turned pink so I wasn’t risking that with my only pair of shorts. Being around the lake was very peaceful but just not enough, exploring a local village nearby I found myself sitting in pool of water on the side of the road. It was the clearest water I had seen in all of India, I was done. Soaking in the sun for several hours I was back to my myself. Felt rejuvenated.
With a week of India left I figured I would just relax the rest and hang near the lakes of Udaipur. Unless it was a small trip, it was just chillin. My pace had been go go go since I got there. I had seen the Taj Mahal last time so I wasn’t too fussed. Back on road I changed my mind, I wanted a change of plan and be a lil a bit closer to New Delhi for my flight. Agra was the destination, so yup I was back to Taj Mahal.
India blew my mind once again. So many things I love about india. So many I really don’t like at all. A common travel destination it’s fair to say many would agree it tests your limits. In no way do I want to discourage you from exploring India, just be prepared for the rawness of India, every countries’ cultures and peoples are different. Look at it with an open mind and try come away with an understanding. It’s not just a place made out to go to become one with earth and well being, there’s a lot more to it.