Why I love India

Did I ever mention how much I love India?  
It's the best travel destination.

It's not the easiest.

In fact - it's pretty crazy.

This is their everyday attire. At the Pushkar Camel Fair, Rajasthan.

It's exhausting, exasperating, energizing.
But it is certainly - the most rewarding.

It's colorful and chaotic and totally over the top. 
A complete feast for the senses.

The flowers - the fabrics - the food.
The sounds, the smells - the spices. 

And the COLORS -!

But what impresses me most is - the people.

They pay attention to everything going on around them. 

And those smiles -

The fellow with the red turban is just holding back a huge smile that erupted just after I took his photo. So many Indians are so surprised that we'd want to take their photographs.

Hard to believe, but - we seem exotic to them.

India is just so FULL of LIFE.

Sometimes I wonder why we travel.

It's challenging, uncomfortable, uncertain.
Things are beyond your control - or even your understanding.

Often, you can't read anything (India has 22 official languages, with 13 different scripts)

And you only have a basic idea of how things work.

Everything has to be constantly figured out.

In some places, you really don't even trust yourself to cross a street.

It's dirty and confusing and - the noise!

Barreling through chaotic Delhi traffic in a decrepit tuk-tuk.
The decibel level is amazing. 

And yet - I remember thinking: there's no place I'd rather be.
(At least for a while.)

Even in incredible traffic, there's a rhythm and an awareness of those around them.

It's almost like a dance. 
It feels totally chaotic.

Yet - everything (including the odd camel or cow or elephant) weaves in and out. 

No road rage. Nobody bumps into you. 

They're all in it together.

The women - are so beautifully dressed.

Even in small villages, they wear necklaces.
Bracelets. Scarves. Saris.

On a public bus, a woman beside me was traveling with her 2 young daughters. 
(Of course, we stirred a bit of attention, riding on a local bus.) 
She leaned over and said kindly,

"Excuse me, but - you really should decorate yourself a bit more."

The lady making the bangles - which I bought.

She reached into her purse and gave me a dot on my forehead.
A string of jasmine for my hair.

Her daughters looked pleased.
Then she told me to buy some colorful bangles in the next town.

Which I did, from the woman above.
Who made the bangles there by hand. From scratch.

Once, someone handed me a goat as I walked through a village. 
Nobody ever handed me a goat before.

At least, before we were introduced.

Like women all over, she asks me how many children I have. 

Another fellow invited us to eat his fresh pakoras.

(We did. They were super delicious.)

The odd discussions we had.
The abstract conversations.

The brief connections with people who normally never meet foreigners.

It's magic.

A dentist waiting for patients explains his tools.

The markets!

How can you resist - all this color and incredible attention to detail?

And the vehicles-?

All the myriad weird and wonderful ways things and people are transported in India.

Handpainted trucks.
Handcrafted tuk-tuks.
Motorcycles with sidecars.

Buses and bikes and oxcarts and "head transport".

(That's when people carry thing on their heads.
They even have their own union.)

It can be very creative.

Handmade truck. Completely - handmade. 

I didn't mention all the animals.

Monkeys walking along city walls.
Oxen pulling carts.
Elephants and camels in the streets.
Peacocks and piglets.
Eagles, kingfishers, crocodiles and cobras.

  Like this wonderful camel at the Pushkar Fair.

There were another 30,000 camels there.
Although I'm not sure who counted them.

Are we in India now? No. 
We're still in the south of France, on the boat. 

But - I spent over 20 years working with weavers in India.

It was often frustrating, maddening, difficult. Like India.
But still.

And after a business trip, there was usually time for a bit of exploration. 
It's a huge country.

I've only visited a few corners of it.

Stan and I were sitting on the aft deck of "Maggie May" last night.
Here in the south of France, on the Canal du Midi.

I pulled out the photos of one of those trips.
Over a glass of wine, we went through the folder.

From the northern border with Nepal - down to the tip of Tamil Nadu.

I've only ever done one small blog post about India - this one.
About the Pushkar Camel Fair. And it's pretty minimal.

I mean - where do you even start on the stories?
Or the thousands of colorful photos? The many experiences?

It always seems impossible to explain.

What impressed me was - how happy I felt there. 
Yes, it was exasperating. Exhausting. And yet - so exotic, so different.

Truly another world.

Surrounded by ancient culture.
Gods and spirits and cows and camels.

Music and musicians.
The crazy electrical wiring and such confusion.
And in the photos - 

I look just - delighted - to be in the midst of this whirlwind.

There's something odd and wonderful about travel.
It keeps you marvelously off balance. 
The world feels fresh and new.

There's just no better way to gain perspective. 
Empty your mind. Learn about the world. 

Maybe just learn to appreciate our fortune at being born into the lives we lead. 

And - I haven't even mentioned the whole "spiritual" side.
 Thousands of temples. Shrines, festivals.

Or the architecture.
Intricate palaces and unbelievable ancient stonework.

But - that's enough for one post. Another day.

"And at the end of the day, 
your feet should be dirty, your hair messy 
and your eyes sparkling."

– Shanti

Baja California - by Small Plane

I owned a small plane for many years.

A 1958 Cessna 175.

(4-seater. Tricycle gear. Franklin engine. Good for short runways.)

Bought it used in Liberia, West Africa in 1982.
I learned to fly there.

Built in 1958! 
A couple of missionaries flew it to West Africa. 
From the US. Via Brazil. Yikes.

Every landing in Liberia had a welcoming committee of small boys. Especially for a "missy" pilot!

I learned to fly over the jungles of West Africa.
Serious "bush" flying.

Yes, that's the runway. Straight ahead. 

Flying in Africa - is a very cool story. For another day.

But it made me comfortable flying into short fields and dirt airstrips.

Landing strip - by the beach. Handy - if that's where you want to set up your tent.

And - it brings us to to Baja.
It's relevant.

Because - the best parts of Baja are visited by small plane.
I kept that plane from Africa.

Flew it from Liberia to Switzerland when I worked there.
Then brought it along when we moved to New Mexico.

(My company, Pan Am, said I could ship a 'vehicle'.
They probably didn't expect it to be a plane.)

Where's Baja?
Not everyone knows.

Baja California is not in California.
It's in Mexico.

It's the long lean peninsula off the western coast of Mexico.
Between the Sea of Cortez and the Pacific Ocean. 

Below California.
Thus the name "Baja".

"Lower" California.
But not part of the US.

(Of course, that doesn't bother us.
We're from New Mexico. 

Which is not in Mexico.)

Mulege. The landing strip is to the left. See it?

Baja is remote and crazy beautiful.

Not Cabo San Lucas, down at the far end.
Not Ensenada, up near San Diego.

But the thousand or so kilometers in between.

The Fish Whisperer?

 It's a dry, dramatic, desert peninsula.
Amazing coastline and craggy mountains.

Wonderful for flying.

And the water is the perfect temperature.

There's wildlife:
Birds. Dolphins. Reptiles. Fish. Whales. Corals.

Amazing plants.
Ocean life.

With hardly anyone around.

It's not real easy to get to some parts of Baja without a small plane. 

So one time, Stan and I flew down to a tiny airstrip over Christmas.
I'd been there before, and wanted to show it to him.

Yep -  that's the runway. To the left. 

We'd brought our tent and a couple of sleeping bags.

Stan always brings his guitar. Even to the beach. In a very small plane.

We set up camp on the beach, under a straw palapa umbrella.
About 100 yards from the airplane.

It was parked on the sandy airstrip.

The view from our tent.

No one else around.

But there was a place nearby that sold fish tacos and cold beer.

That'll do.

For Christmas, they made pumpkin tamales.


View of our 'home' from an early morning swim in the sea.

Landing at Punta Chivato. Nearby. Easier than at San Francisquito.

When my kids were small, we'd pack them into the back of the plane. 

Mikey and Erik, collecting shells at Punta Chivato.

Head across the Sea of Cortez - to Baja California Sur.

We could make it in a day from Albuquerque.

Crossing the border into Mexico at Nogales.
(You had to stop at both sides of the border to clear customs.)

Kilian and Trish

The beach - the Sea of Cortez - is calm and shallow.

Perfect for small children.

Someday, they'll finish paving the road.

Maybe they have already.

The place may become wildly popular.

Another Cabo San Lucas.
High-rise hotels. Hip bars. Mega malls.

Who knows?

I'm just glad I had the opportunity to experience it - for many years - like this.

Welcome to Baja.