Sunday, March 27, 2011

Kanheri Caves in the Ghandi National Forest

Beginning in the 1st century B.C. Buddhist monks worked on the excavation of the Kanheri Caves for over 1,000 years.  The grandest of these caves, the Chaityagriha has an inscription from the 2nd century.

This was the place of worship for the monks.

Two identical Buddha's flank either side of the caves entrance.

You pass between these Buddha's before entering the main chamber.

These caves are very different than the Elephanta Island caves that we visited previously, primarily in scale.  The caves at Elephanta Island are generally grander in scale, but there are many more caves at Kanheri,

and the caves at Kanheri also give a much better glimpse into the lives of the monks.  The monks excavated more than 100 caves during the 1,000 years that they inhabited this site.  With many of the caves being relatively modest dwellings, although quite a few of them have very elaborate carvings.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Goodbyes are hard

The time has gone really fast and Madelyn and Gracie have to return to the U.S. because their visas are expiring.  Although they are excited to see their mother and friends, they are leaving some new friends behind, which is never easy.

Their last day of school was Friday so I took some treats to school and took some photos.  Gracie was one of four children in Senior Kindergarten.  Her teacher was taking it pretty hard that she was leaving.

Gracie made this for Holi Day which is a Hindu holiday where there are lots of bright colors and they throw water balloons full of colored water on unsuspecting people.  Someone told me it is to represent leaving anything bad or dark behind and starting anew, thus the bright colors.  I don't know, but Jeff keeps saying Happy Holi to people and they crack up.

Madelyn was the only one in second grade so had the teachers all to her self which she said was "awesome".

She became good friends with the seventh graders and wanted to be a teenager in the worse way!  The seventh graders cried that she was leaving and gave her a box of chocolates and a small parrot figurine.  Madelyn took it the hardest leaving her friends behind.

Goodbyes included saying goodbye to the apartment buildings' resident dog "Carlo".

One of the guards....

The bus driver and bus aide....

Their Spanish tutor Delfina......

And, our beloved housekeeper and occasional kid sitter, Olivia

The girls were loved by all that met them and there is not time nor room to show all the people that touched their lives during their months in India.  They will be missed!
Alavidā alavidā अलविदा


In early March we traveled to Kerala for a 5 day - 4 night vacation. Kerala is the name of the Indian state on the west coast near the southern tip of India. India has 28 states and 7 territories.  The travel magazines said that the beaches in the City of Kovalam are among the top ten in the world.
I think the travel magazines were right.  We spent a lot of our time on Lighthouse Beach.  I kept thinking I'd bump into Jimmy Buffet.
A big part of the charm was that as this area is so isolated, and the Indian visa process is so difficult, that the beaches are relatively undeveloped.  There are no large resorts right on the beach and I felt it was as the Mexican beaches must have been in the 50's.  Everything is pretty low-key.

The girls learned how to ride boogie boards on Lighthouse Beach,

We sat out on the balcony of our hotel room each morning and watched as the local fisherman pulled in their nets 100' away.

We spent one day on a tour of an elephant rehabilitation center, again the sights from the car on the way there were pretty unbelievable.

After the horeback riding at Matheran, Deb wasn't up for riding an elephant, but the girl's and I gave it a go.

We stopped on the way there and bought 8 pounds of banana's from a roadside stand,  everyone then got a chance to feed the elephants.
The elephants then gave us a blessing
The next day we went on a 'backwater' tour, which basically means you hire a boat who takes you on a tour of a tropical freshwater swamp.  It was really too spectacular for me to put into words, so I'll just post a few of our photos.

Sunday outing to Matheran

On February 12th, we went on a day trip to Matheran, which is a 'Hill Station' approximately 70 miles east of Mumbai.  A 'Hill Station' is the Indian term for a retreat/tourist destination/nature park.  Matheran has been a popular retreat to escape the heat of Mumbai since the 19th century.

As always the trip through the countryside is a big part of the adventure.

Several years ago the road into Matheran was closed as traffic was overwhelming the village.  Access is now via foot, a narrow gauge railway which was unfortunately already sold-out , or by horseback - which we ended up doing and it was a big hit with the girls.

So we spent about 4 hours riding horses, getting off frequently to take pictures of the monkeys,

riding a bit further, getting off the horses again, and getting our pictures taken.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Sunday outing to Kihim and Alibag

On February 5th, we went to a couple of beaches approximately 70 miles south of Mumbai.  We first went to Kihim which has a very nice beach.  There is a dense coconut grove between the road and the beach with a long strip of primitive palm leaf roofed canteen's under the coconuts.

After playing in the sea and sand, the girls rode a horse along the beach, we ate fresh coconuts at a canteen and the girls relaxed in a hammock.

We then traveled south to Alibag.  There is a fort in Alibag which is on a island about a 1/2 mile out from the beach.  

The fort was built built by Shivaji the Great, in 1680 to fight the Abyssenians, British, and Portugese.  I hadn't known that!

At low tide the sea between the beach and the Fort is only a few feet deep and you can walk out to it. 

Or for about $11 RT you can rent an ox drawn cart with driver.

Preservation work is underway on the island,and the food for the workers must also be brought out via Ox cart.

There are temples wherever you go in India, so I wasn't to surprised to find one within the fort.

Unfortunately, Madelyn had on flip flops, and our trip got cut short when she cut her big toe on the rocks.  At least I got a life action shot of it happening.

Jeff's Birthday Bash

It turns out that Jeff and his Rigging and Crane expert Tony Murphy have birthdays within 2 days of each other in the same year.  Tony was born in Ireland, grew up Australia, lives in the Phillipines and works in Mumbai.  I found a great rooftop venue to have their joint party, with a DJ and Indian and Asian food.  It was a fun night with lots of dancing.

Essel World

We spent New Year's Day at an amusement park AGAIN (last year it was Magic Mountain in L.A. & 2000 in Disney World) called Essel World, on the outskirts of Mumbai.  There are amusement rides as well as a water park.

We stuck out not only because of our blonde haired, blue eyed kids, but because of our western swimsuits.  We did not know that swimsuits were so different but the women wear long swimsuits that go to their knees and the men wear those little bitty bikini bottom type.  I wore my most conservative suit which is a modest one piece but felt like I was walking around naked.  Jeff had his shorts type suit that goes to his knees, so he was overdressed and didn't fit in either.  The girls had a blast!