22/40-1 Sonobuoys

28 Nov

Tomorrow is another travel day and we have an early flight so we decided to get a hotel close to the airport for the night. Sarah found this one online and she must have been thinking about me when she chose it because it’s located about a hundred metres from the Indian Naval Aviation Museum.

I think I can honestly say I’ve never been in a museum this interesting. What’s cool about it is that it’s not generic to the army or navy or air force, but it’s focused on a specific aspect of warfare (naval aviation, basically doing army stuff but over water).

They had a tonne of great anti-submarine warfare (ASW) stuff and my favourite would have to have been this RGB-48 sonobuoy – the type that would have been used when the Red October was detected while navigating Red Route One. I’d never seen one before. Very cool.

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Also tonight, instead of dogs barking we have the actual sounds of actual fighter jets actually taking off and landing. They are doing this literally a hundred feet from our room, three or four sorties per hour – the Naval Aviation Museum happens to be right next to an actual, operational naval aviation military base: INS Hansa, Goa – the home of Indian naval air squadron NAS 551.

Also some dogs are barking now.

21/40-1 Duckie

28 Nov

Sarah and just I spent a mostly relaxing two days in Goa India at a place that is not Goa but is actually Agonda.

Back in 1978 when my uncle visited in his VW van that he drove down from Amsterdam, Goa was a resort town for hippies where they could go and drink beer for cheap. Then like all good things the corporations moved in and built many hotels and many waterparks.

Because most of our Spring Breaks! are now behind us, Sarah and I were more keen to visit the Goa of Olde, the one the hippies used to go to. So Sarah figured out that we could just go a little further south where the corporations had yet to take over. We ended up in a place called Agonda Beach at a resort called The Duck N Chill.

Now the most remarkable thing about this beach was the dogs. There were lots of strays and (while I was expecting this) I thought it would make me sad. But most of the dogs look pretty well fed. I imagine that there’s a lot of leftover food in a resort town geared towards westerners – we’re so wasteful. And also Indian people seem to be very kind to animals (in general).

Last night around 02:30 one of the beach dogs started barking, and wouldn’t stop. After about an hour of trying to go back to sleep, I went out to see what the hubbub was about (beachfront is nice but all night you get the crashing of the waves and, apparently, the barking of the dogs). Nothing was wrong (Timmy was fine) and bunch of the dogs came over to greet me, wagging their tails. I asked them to quiet down and they actually did. As I returned to bed I felt good, like the dog whisperer must feel, when he’s ready to sleep.

There was this one good girl who would come around our resort all the time – the people who worked there said one of the guests named her Duckie. She reminded me of someone from back home. She’s a good girl.

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20/40-1 Passage to Ride: India

27 Nov

According to Sarah, our overnight train was about one hundred million times better than the train we took the other day. I asked her, “are you sure about this number?” and she responded, “Yes. Yes I am sure”.

I had to ask her this because I promised a friend I would write about our India train journey without any hyperbole – “No exaggerations or superfluousness” I told him, that I did. So without any funny business, here is the straight talk: Train Ride to India (within India).

I normally don’t experience motion sickness. In March when I was out on the boat with my aunt and uncle I was fine. The Africa train: didn’t affect me at all. But remember from last night’s post where I said I was up on the top bunk? And do you also remember when I mentioned I stuffed my belly with five naans and six different bowls of chutney right before going to the station? Well it turns out that I made a mistake: they were mostly curries – one hundred percent not chutneys. And also the side-to-side rocking motion of the train had the effect of acting like a force-multiplier on my GI system.

About two hours after going to bed I woke up in a cold sweat. Something was wrong. Something was terribly, terribly wrong.

I had a feeling I was about to experience… the dreaded double-ender. We’ve all had those feelings but they mostly happen separately. “My stomach is not feeling fine” you’d say if your stomach were not right. You’d also say the exact same thing if your “other” stomach were acting up. But you’d say it with a bit more urgency so the people around you would be clued in without you having to go into too much detail about what the actual problem is. For me, they were happening simultaneously.

So around 0200 last night I sat up in my bed. It was dark. There were now two extra people in our cabin. I had no idea where the WCs were located in this carriage and I felt like it was going to happen. Then I looked over at Sarah who was sleeping peacefully, like an angel, if angels required sleep (they don’t). Then I remembered that Sarah had almost the exact same meal as I did but she seemed fine.

And then I also remembered that earlier in the day she took a couple of those chewable Pepto-Bismols our doctors suggested we bring. I grab my purse and search frantically for the pills. I found them at the bottom of my bag and I somehow managed rip off the plastic safety packaging! There was no time to read the instructions but then I remembered Anna telling us that Peptol-Bismol is banned in Germany. I defeated the child-proof cap, dropped two tablets into my hand and paused to think:

Why are children and the Germans not allowed to have these? What do they know that the rest of us don’t?

But there was no time to wax philosophical! I could feel the rumblings of a curry volcano building inside me! I popped the two tables in my mouth and I chewed like I never chewed before!

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Cherry, nice.

And then things calmed down and I went back to sleep. The end.

…or was it?!???

19/40-3 Where are we heading?

25 Nov

Here’s a clue.

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Also I still can’t get over the size of this platform. Here’s another perspective.

Internet tells me this train has twenty-four carriages. This has gotta be some sort of record. Incredible

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19/40-2 Goodbye Mumbai! We hardly knew Ye!

25 Nov

I think that’s because we only visited you for like one full day sandwiched between two travel days.

Yes, we are on the move again. It seems like that’s all we do these days. But this time, it’s different. Instead of embarking on a 475 km overnight train ride that is supposed to take fourteen hours, we’re heading off on a 552 km overnight train ride that is supposed to take ten and a half hours. It’s totally different!

Sure we could have flown and it would have cost us only $100 more and saved us about eleven hours of travel time, but as the old expression goes, when in Rome, travel with Trenitalia.

I booked these tickets months ago and I (smartly) forwarded them to Sarah two days ago and she read all the fine print. We had to go to the counter and confirm our tickets and then two hours before our departure time the rail people were going to post a printout with our names and berth numbers. The lady at the counter said we were all good, but an hour before our departure time, the posted list contained not our names!

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In a panic I asked some Indian guys to help me and they totally came through.

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So this time our cabin door is a curtain, the train left almost on time (23:07 two minutes late), and the berth sleeps four. The AC works almost too well, some dude just took our order for breakfast, and we have blankets and pillows. It’s pretty quiet.

Once more this time when we got to the station I felt a little rumbling – supper consisted of a huge platter of naan bread with about five different kinds of chutney and it was staring to have an effect. But the chaos of the station surpassed any hint of an uprising.

The kingdom was safe once again.

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19/40-1 It Begins… Again

25 Nov

We are off on another travel day. Sarah is confident. I am nervous. Here’s a preview

Someone look up “world’s longest train”. The video captured about half. No joke. The train above is over twice as long as captured in the video.

Pray for mojo.

18/40-4 I Umm… I Screwed Up. Bad.

25 Nov

I think I was involved in some sort of time-travel event this week. Look at the photo I took yesterday of this dog.

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Based on my calculation we have about three days before the old timeline is completely gone. This gives me 72 hours to solve this mystery and save my life (also Neo’s life).

Yes. You heard me. Save. My life. Also, the dog is named Neo (if that wasn’t clear). He’s a good boy.

See after I noticed the picture of Neo, I was going through my phone I found this other photo (that I can’t upload for some reason) that I took at the same time as the Neo one and in it my feet have disappeared (I guess because in it I’m doing a handstand?).

Is this evidence that the future is being changed and we’re living now in the past? I don’t know, but what I do know is that my non-photo feet are still here and none of this slowly-disappearing-bodies-in-the-photo thing makes any sense once you think about it for more than five seconds.

Sarah appears unaffected at this time. I will keep you posted.

18/40-3 Some Other Stuff in Mumbai

25 Nov

I have a feeling that these are standard spots to visits here in Mumbai. We went to a place where they do laundry by hand. That was pretty interesting to see. I asked our driver/guide what they do when it rains and I didn’t really understand his response. Was something about using heaters, but I couldn’t figure out where they would dry these clothes – there’s no way they could all fit inside. And using heaters would increase the cost immensely!

We also visited the Mumbai home of Mahatmah Ghandi. I really should pick up a book on this guy – if anyone has any recommendations, please leave them in the comments. He lived an amazing life and defeated an empire by adhering to some pretty counterintuitive principals (his advocating for non-violence).

And finally we went to a Jain religious temple where they had some interesting rules of admission and/or conduct. Man, the world is a wacky place.

18/40-2 Elephant Island or No-Elephant Non-Island?

25 Nov

In the midst of all our driving around we did some sight-seeing on our one full day in Mumbai. There is lots to see here and I recommend everyone visit at least twice.

The absolute first thing you have to do is visit Elephant Island. It’s an amazing place but I have to warn you, the name is a bit of a misnomer – Elephant Island is actually a peninsula… that’s been also overrun by monkeys. There are no elephants anywhere.

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You have to take a ferry to get there at a cost of TWO locomotive cards and you get to see lots of cool things out there in the bay. My favourite was this massive oil tanker. I know we have to get off the fossil fuels, but gd this thing is awesome! Look at the size of it! And I think she’s almost empty (she’s riding pretty high in the water).

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So on the island there are a bunch of caves that were carved out of the walls by some ancient people.

It’s pretty remarkable because the island is pretty remote (was about an hour boat ride) and the caves and the sculptures are pretty big. It would have taken a lot of human power to carve everything out.

18/40-1 Driving Conditions

24 Nov

I’ve been to some places with crazy driving before. Beirut. Athens. Bangkok. But where we are right now,  I think this city takes the cake.

And when it comes to awarding driving cake, the criteria I prefer to use is inventiveness. In Athens I saw drivers actually aim their cars at pedestrians crossing the streets. It’s also an old city with lot of hills and narrow streets – the only speed limit: the drivers’ imaginations. Basically it was just plane bonkers. In Beirut the traffic would take over any space it could. The shoulder of the highway going out of the city (fast lane side) turned into a lane of traffic for the morning commuters going into the city. This was back in ’98 and they might have changed things since then, but personally I think that’s a clever exploitation of the asymmetrical properties of traffic patterns at different times of the day (but also incredibly dangerous). Bangkok had millions of tuk-tuks operated by fearless drivers.

The cool thing about the drivers in the city we’re in right now, is that they use their horns in a sonaresque kind of way. At first it sounded all random but then after spending about four hours over the past a day and a half driving in (and walking around) the local vehicular traffic, some patterns began to emerge. Short quick beep for warning pedestrians. Double beeps for other drivers (blind spot warnings). Long honk for “you can go now, assface”.

I think this is really cool because instead of driving being in three dimensions (like back home), over here they employ the fourth dimension.

The fourth dimension is sound. Which these videos lack. But I feel they do convey how chaotic and close everything is over here. Also, see if you can guess the city!

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