60 km northeast of Delhi
we came to a bridge over a large river.Spanning the river was a bridge with about a 3 ½ foot guard rail.The concrete guard rail was solid and was around
¼ mile long.About 100 ft. from the
south end of the west side of the concrete guard was a man in a turban.He was fully squatted on his haunches
painting the wall white with a paint brush.Based on the height of the wall, its length, and the area he had
painted, my estimate was that he had covered about 350 sq ft of a 47,000 sq ft
job.It is hard to guess how long he had
been painting, but it is likely that the completion of this job will be passed
on to the painters children.It is this
type of long view approach to tasks that made the building of such wonders as
the Taj Mahal possible.
a small, but very busy town north of Delhi,
on a single motorcycle, traveling at a good rate of speed, was a father in a
white robe and skull cap. Behind the father sat a young boy of 6 or 7.Behind the boy a woman in a black burka sat
side saddle.The woman was holding a
baby about 1 year old.The ultimate in
family togetherness and motorcycle pooling.
way between Delhi and CorbettNational Park
we stopped for lunch at a road side restaurant.Our driver warned us that it was not 5 star.Outside of the cities there are really no
enclosed shops or eating places.Everything opens up to the road and is generally on the road.The temperature was around 32oC or
90oF with high humidity.The
air was smoky from cooking fires.There
was also a very strong and familiar smell I had encountered on a few occasions
near home in Steamboat.It was the
unmistakable smell of a land fill, better known as a trash dump.The reason for this soon became clear.Stepping around the right side of the
restaurant was an open area that was serving as one of the community trash
disposal sites.I soon figured out that
waste disposal was done at the beginning and end of town and any open places in
between.Except for a few areas in the
cities, there are no trash trucks or formal disposal sites in India.
While our driver dug in to his
meal, which looked like a raw onion covered in a sauce the color and
consistency of French Dressing, Mo and I ordered a Fanta soda, in the bottle,
and no ice please.
In to this oppressive haze entered
apparitions.Bright colored, almost
luminescent pinks, reds, blues and yellows.They moved smoothly through the crowds and along the roadways by themselves,
in pairs and small groups.Their bright
clothing was printed with repeating sharp contrasting designs.The apparitions stood straight, moved
gracefully and calmly and brought a certain cleanness and welcome contrast to
an otherwise gray and turbid world.These are the woman of India
in their saris.
The woman of India are in
general beautiful and exotic.Their
bright flowing saris and jewelry have something to do with the image.It is interesting that there seem to be three
ages groups of females, young smiling girls, young smiling woman and old
serious woman.I got the feeling that
once a woman reached the age of eligible reproduction she aged rapidly or just
disappeared for a few decades.
Last night went on an elephant safari into CorbettNational Park.We had an elephant driver and were
accompanied by two Swiss girls from Zurich.Because of some recent out of season monsoons
and flooding we four were the only visitors in the park.The Swiss women were at Corbett for the 4th
time. They had fallen in love with the elephants and the jungle and had
advanced beyond being tourists.They had
learned passable Hindi, could mount an elephant by stepping barefoot on to his
trunk and then stepping up to his head and back, and had become certified
elephant safari in Corbett National Park
Corbett is the largest Bengal Tiger reserve in the world and
we hoped to see a real in the wild tiger.Unlike many wild life refuges, Corbett is thick jungle rather than open
planes or savanna.We rode until after
dark, but other than seeing languor monkeys and possibly hearing a tiger we
struck out.Still the ride was fun and
the company interesting.
We spent the entire morning today with Gayon Safin, the
director of the Corbett Foundation.He
is a remarkable man who has led regional and country wide efforts to conserve
land and to protect natural resources and endangered species.Considering the environmentalist challenge we
have in the US
where we are “enlightened”, Gayon has to create ways of saving animals and land
in a country where people struggle to feed themselves and find space to live.
The solution has been three fold, ecotourism, ecocoalitions
and find a poster child (Bengal Tiger).
Ecotourism has become a multi-billion dollar industry world
wide and India
is one of the leaders.As natural
habitat and animal populations shrink around the world, people flock to places
that can conserve these environments and species in roughly their natural form.
In spite of India’s
large land mass, its population is challenging China for #1 on the planet.This puts huge pressure on efforts to
conserve land.India has only 5% of its land in
pure conservation, designated “National Parks”.That means no human activity other than travel permitted.There are several millions of acres of land
that are in “Sanctuaries”.These areas
tend to be remote and include populations of people who have lived in these
regions for 100’s of years and who carry on agricultural work as a means to
Ecocoalitions in India have overcome some of the
problems we have faced in this country when conservation confronts local
runs through Corbett and a popular edible game fish called the Masheer or
Golden Tiger, lives in this river. It is renowned as the hardest fighting fresh
water species in the world and reaches as much as 100 lbs.It just so happens that a large pool in the
river, that sits about 200 meters below our bungalow, contains one of largest
concentration of these fish that exist on the planet.The fish had almost been hunted to extinction
by local villagers using dynamite and electrical current, and visiting sportsman.Efforts to just block off this section of the
river led to local hostility and poaching.Gayon went to the local town and had them select a committee of town
leaders to work on the problem.Corbett,
along with the town council, hired 8 unemployed fisherman and youth and trained
them to be guards.
They started classes in the local school on the importance
of conservation.The village board was
able to give out a limited number of fishing permits.The guards now are on duty 24 a day every
day. When you look down at the river from our railing you can see them standing
on the river edge.They make more money
from guarding than from fishing.There
is a community pride about what they are doing and the sport fishing permits
bring additional money in to the community.That is what we call a win-win.
Drove from Corbett to Ranikhet today.We were told that the week before our arrival
there had been a severe out-of-season monsoon type rain that had caused road
and bridge damage on our route.In
retrospect I would say that under the best of conditions traveling this road
would be an adventure and post flooding it was near epic.Where small streams or gullies crossed the
road there could be 1 to 6 feet of rock and debris piled up in the road.An occasionalbridge was completely washed out, which required a short detour on a
makeshift path through the forest.
The word “road” is used in its most liberally definition in
this description.The road ranged from
7-10 feet wide, ran continually along precipitous cliffs and alternated between
paved and dirt.Our driver negotiated
the road, the debris, other cars and objects with near heroic skill.He did loose points when he hit a small
monkey that ran into the road.
National tree of India, Banyan tree,Ficus
bengalensis, whose branches root themselves like new trees over a
large area. Because of this characteristic and its longevity, this tree is
considered immortal and is an integral part of the myths and legends of India. Even
today, the banyan tree is the focal point of village life and the village
council meets under the shade of this tree.
There is a Hindu
shrine on the left hand side of the tree.
A short (by geologic time) 7 hours later, with only one
episode of getting lost, we arrived at the Rosemont Lodge in Renikhet.Renikhet is at only 6,000 ft, but it sits by
itself near the top of a hill that looks unobstructed to the Himalayas, a mere
50 miles (as the crow flies not as the car drives) away.We were met at the lodge by the owner who
took us around the back of the lodge and pointed northeast, saying “look, there
are the Himalayas”.
Even 50 miles away, my first view of the high Himalayas was spiritual.It stops you in your tracks.The
sun was just setting, which enhanced the effect even more.The summits of Trisul (24,395 ft) and Nanda
Devi (25,643 ft) werecaught in full sun
light while the rest of the valley was fading in to darkness (see picture).Trisul was the first high Himalayan peak
climbed.Shipton and Tillman climbed it
in 1936.The Nanda Devi Sanctuary is
what is called a World Biome.It is a
region surrounded by a continuous wall of mountains with no point lower than
19,000 ft.This has effectively cut it
off from the rest of the world.
all goes well, in a few days we will be standing high on Trisul at Rook Kund at
View from Rosemont
Lodge of Trisul (center left) and Nanda Devi
(right, I think) at sunset.