Saturday, September 28, 2013

Lucky to Have Gone When We Did: A Trip by Bus to Kashmir and Ladakh (Part One)

1.  Bus Trip to Srinagar

I'm trying something new.  Prompted by the time of year, these next four postings (see below*) will illustrate a trip my family and I made in late September 1980 to what is sometimes considered the back of beyond ... an extension of a much longer, wider-ranging trip that took us thither and yon, a trouper 8-year-old in tow.  We'd been in India several weeks doing agricultural research, but before extending our work into Nepal (and on), we wanted to visit Kashmir, that storied Vale where the Mughals retreated during the hot summer months, cooling themselves in their shalimar-gardens that featured water channels and tall shade trees.

I must add that we were fortunate to go when we did because, though already disputed territory between India and Pakistan, Kashmir was then safe for tourists and Ladakh had only recently opened so had not been impacted by much tourism.  I have no idea if one can make these two overland trips now, but I suspect military prohibitions require a different route, at least into Ladakh.  

We began by taking a train from Delhi north to Jammu Tawi, the end of the line.  For the equivalent of $3.65 each, we then proceeded by bus up to the Kashmiri city of Srinagar.  A 12-hour, 300-kilometer trip that averaged 15 miles an hour.  But we were hearty souls, even if, after being away from home now for four months with another four to go, we were wearing down.  We were also land-travelers who stayed in indigenous accommodations, not air-travelers who booked into 5-star hotels.  Seeing the country en route was as important as reaching our destination.

At our first stop, we got onion pakoras fried in a big vat of hot oil and served on newspaper.
Our A-class bus, as it was called, was slow and plodding.  (Hearing glass break early on, we found we'd just lost our rear-view mirror.)  As we climbed up and up, highway beacons lined the roads with such signs as "Always Alert, Accidents Avert."  "Keep Your Nerves on Sharp Curves."  Later in a forested area, "Do Not Cut Any Tree Until It's Mature" and "Wood Is Good But Tree Is Better."  At a tea stop, our scruffy Sikh driver, an enormous man in a scraggly maroon turban that trailed down one side, lay sideways on a bench as if a figure out of the Arabian Nights.  The driver's helper, on the other hand, had short hair, a square jaw, and a British airman's mustache that he liked to curl.

View of our road from Udampur.

Another view of the road just taken, near Pantitop Pass.

Lunch stop at Kud where we got rice and peas pilau for the equivalent of 55¢ each.

Continuing to climb, we found apple orchards, golden corn in tassel, conical corn-straw stacks, resin tapped from bushy pines being deposited in old kerosene cans.  A man in the seat behind us smoked and sang.  Long-haired goats and nomads camped at the edge of the precipitous road.  A truck had toppled over the side, spilling apples down the hill.  I wondered how the Mughals had made the trip.  By elephant?

Example of erosion and deforestation.

At 5:00 the Chenab River lay in a shadowed canyon still 140 kilometers from Srinagar.

By 6:00, the sun was gone so that when we stopped an hour later for tea, coercing a guest house proprietor into letting us use the toilets, we had to feel our way since everything was pitch black.  But then, in moonlight, we made the final ascent to the top of Banihal Pass where, on the other side, feeling a bit as if we'd entered Oz, we looked onto luminous silence beside moonlit rice fields and dark silhouettes of sturdy, three-story wooden houses, the people inside long since asleep.

(Since we'd entered the Valley of Kashmir at night, the following photos were taken a week later on our way back.)

A water mill.

A first village on the Kashmiri side of Banihal Pass.

Basket market at Gagizano not far from Srinagar

* For the next four weeks:
Part 1.  Bus Trip to Srinagar
Part 2.  Srinagar, Kashmir, India
Part 3.  Bus Trip to Leh
Part 4.  Leh, Ladakh, India

Saturday, September 21, 2013

Gallery of Photos: Maine

This past weekend, I joined family members on a trip to the Maine coast.  It's not that far away, but it isn't that close, either, some175 miles to its southeastern corner by way of (mostly) back roads.  We chose the last weekend of summer and stayed at a pleasant motor inn right on the water in Old Orchard Beach (or OOB) with its wide, handsome stretch of sand.  The town was full of tee-shirt shops and eateries with lots of fries and seafood, plus a closed-for-the-season Playland.  My favorite occupation was simply gazing at the waves, walking along the beach, and taking in all those good negative ions.  Also having a splurgy dinner on Saturday night.

After a big storm, Old Orchard Beach awoke to an overcast dawn. 
The closed-up Playland

Coffee-break temptations in nearby Biddeford.  (We picked non-frosted blueberry muffins instead.)

Some distance from Biddeford Lighthouse, we visited Biddeford Pool thinking we'd find tide pools.  Instead, we found wonderful sea foliage.

These reminded me of somnolent furry sea mammals.
This particular rose loves the sea air and soil.
The perfect place to pick up lobster rolls for lunch with picnic tables out back.

Back in OOB with the sun now out.
The OOB Pier mid-day.
Morning light next day on the path down to the beach.

Saying goodbye to the ocean just before we left for the drive home.  As one of our party quipped, "The ocean waved back."

Friday, September 13, 2013

More Beads

I love working with beads and have done so for years making my own earrings and, more recently, necklaces.  These are almost exclusively semi-precious stones, glass beads, some vintage, plus an occasional plastic bead now and again.   

After finishing (and blogging about) a first set of necklaces last year, I expected that batch would satisfy my bead-stringing interests.  But another spurt hit me recently.  For one thing, I'd made two green and turquoise strands--a combo I liked but never wore.  So I turned them into one yellow-green, one turquoise, and (adding a few new beads) one with darker shades of blue and green.

The new yellow-green, now a favorite.

This includes some real bits of turquoise.  Another favorite.

Here I've incorporated small Japanese blue beads between each larger bead. 

Then, realizing I needed a string of black beads, I collected them for awhile, then turned them into a necklace.  I followed that with a whimsical strand that I call The Candy Cane Caper (after a prom I went to in high school) with beads resembling cinnamon red hots, gum balls, and licorice.  Finally, I gathered what remained into a string that features black, pink, and blue beads, plus a hint of green.

The black strand with bronze, silver, and cream accents.

The Candy Cane Caper

The last of the last, but it seems to work.  The owner of one of the bead stores where I go even commented on it.

Saturday, September 7, 2013

Whatever That Thing's Called ...

Because my grandmother was born not that many years after the Civil War ended, she did not begin life with the word, "car," as part of her regular vocabulary and so, throughout her later life when I knew her, she referred to it as a "machine."  As in, "You'll need to take the machine to the store."  Granted, she mixed in "car" and "auto" as well, but "machine" often popped out.  Okay ... just a bit of background.

The machine in 1921

So the other day I was in our local family-owned hardware store--the sort with squeaky wooden floors and plenty of clerks to lead you through the maze of aisles to find just the right floor wax, light bulb, or weed zapper.  I'd gone for a tube of household glue to mend a sandal.  Glue in hand, I went to the check-out counter in the back of the store where a clerk at the computerized-unit-where-financial-transactions-take-place was busy keying in a price for another customer.  As I stood waiting, a second clerk, a tall greying man, approached, ready to check me out.  I acknowledged that, yes, he could do that but, glancing over at the other transaction, I said, "I'm waiting for ..." and then I realized that I didn't know the name for that thing, so I said, "... the machine."

Even if I hadn't completed the sentence and just pointed, I would have been better off because the man gave me the most amazing (even startled) look and said, "The machine!?"

What was that thing called, I asked myself?  It wasn't a computer.  Those were for getting on the internet, cleaning out your recycle bin, keeping your files in "My Documents," and using as a word-processor.  I couldn't call it a cash register.  Those were the old ca-ching, ca-ching things that went out some time ago.

But even as I left the store, household glue in hand, the image of my grandmother filled my mind as I made my way home again.

So, I began asking around.

The clerk in a toy store called his "the point of purchase."  He seemed a tad hesitant about that but claimed it was good for both the check-out place as well as the unit that rang up the financial transaction.

Someone in an electronics store called his a "terminal."

Another clerk, "the register."

Finally, a fourth clerk, after thinking about it awhile, said, "It's a point of sale terminal."  And there, sure enough, at the top of her monitor screen were those very words, "Point of sale terminal."

At least, in the end, I had a good laugh about it when I told some friends, noting how disconcerting it was to begin a sentence that I then realized I didn't know how to finish.  I know I won't call it a "machine" ever again.  I'm probably still old-fashioned enough, though, to stick with "register."