Some thoughts to share from the end of the world

[26/1/2002 16:15 Kanyakumari, Kerala, India]

Hi friends!

Yes, I'm at the end of the world.
Well… close to it – I'm at the end of the Indian sub-continent, at Kanyakumari.
Check the map attached, if you look up close you can see me waving.

Anyway, I wanted to share with you some stuff:
First, you should know that I bought the newest Lonely Planet guide for 200 Rupees. Now, bare in mind a new one costs 1,200 Rupees.
Mine is used but in excellent condition.
Not only that I saved 900 Rupees, I sold my old LP Guide for, who much?
You guess! 210 Rupees!
So that made me happy for a day or two.

Second, I wanted to share with you something I noticed about the local currency:
Most of you know by now that 10 Rupees equals 1 Israeli Shekel.
But that does not mean that something you buy in Israel for 4 Shekels you would buy here for 40 Rupees.
Oddly enough, many items are 1/10 of the price, so if you buy a cup of tea in Israel for 5 Shekels – you would also buy it in here, for 5 Rupees.

The third thing I wanted to share with you is that I was a model for my friend who is studying Ayurevedic massage. She needed someone to practice on.
Silly me, I said "Okay" before I was informed an Ayurevedic massage includes a butt massage.
The things I sacrifice for my friends… I tell ya…

Fourth insight I got from staying too long under the Varkala sun is the Indian way of saving money:
An Indian clerk at a shop will turn on the lights and the fan when a customer comes in, and when he comes out, he will turn it off and sit in the dark.
I met a driver that never tried the Air-Conditioning at his Boss's car.
I saw Indian people, sleeping at their desk offices, waiters sleeping at their restaurants, drivers in their cars.
I saw plastic drinking straws being re-used, and wooden ice-cream spoons being washed and served again.
Sheesh…

Fifth update, is close encounters in my served food. I won't elaborate more than this:
Fly in the sugar, glass in the spring roll, human hairs in the Palak Paneer.

Last thought from the Varkala Beach – India is so polluted!
Every human organ is affected:
Lungs – with the unbareable Rickshaws and cars polluting the air,
Ears – with the industrial noised and drivers honking their horns for no reason,
Eyes – with the over putting up signs everywhere, so much that it reminds me of an army base.

Hope I didn't occupy too much time off your busy schedule with my rambling…
Love you all from the most Southern point I will ever reach in this trip,
Shahar.

Beware of Elephants Crossing

Hi everybody!

I have been spending the last couple of days in Varkala, on a very nice beach in South-India. I plan to stay here for a couple days more and then move on to Kanya-kumari – the end of the Indian sub-continent (the shpitz).

Prior to Varkala I was in Cochin. It is a very nice place, but the weather was a bit unbearable. I went to the Fort Cochin synagogue on Friday night and it was a sad scene:
only 4 local Jews were there. Apparently there are now 14 (fourteen) Jews left in Cochin. All the others immigrated to Israel.
Thank God there were 30 more Israeli travelers so we had a Minyan and could pray.

Me, and two Israeli friends, Ziv and Oren, went from Cochin to a 3 days safari tour near Munnar, east of Cochin. It was an amazing experience.
We visited a rain forest, then we saw vast tea plantations, and so many other things. The state of Kerala is so different from others I have visited.
I think I went a little bit overboard, because I used up 9 rolls of camera film.

Attached are three pictures:

The first is of me and Oren in a small hut in some distant village in the state of Kerala. The family is making brown sugar out of sugar canes.

The second is of me in the jeep we rented when we visited the Chennar wild life sanctuary. We had a very experienced guide with us, called Benny. He was fair
enough to warn us that there is no guarantee on seeing any wild animals, because it is not a zoo – but the real animal habitat.
In spite of the warning, we saw so many types of animals: wild elephants, deers, wild boars and many kinds of birds. Benny would just tell the jeep driver to stop, and would stretch his hand out the window, point and say:
"See this branch, a small elephant just passed here a couple of minutes ago, we will wait here" – or
"See this elephant dung, see how fresh it is? We will wait here, because the entire family must have cross here ten minutes ago to take a sip of water from the river".
So we just waited each time, and BAM! Elephants! Wild elephants, the kind you should be scared of.

The third is just a picture of two monkeys.

Love you all and miss you much,
Shahar.

Sweatin’ in Cochin

Hi everybody!

I am still in Cochin in Kerala state, having the time of my life.
It was so hot these last couple of days but now it's much cooler – and I am in an internet cafe with AIR-CONDITIONING!
Imagine that!

I know I have been slacking with the personal emails, but you cannot say I do not put the extra effort with the general emails.
So here are some more pictures, just in case you are missing me.

The first is of me driving a Rikshaw in Hampi. Rikshaw drivers are a unique form of human beings. Every time you hire a Rikshaw you need to be prepared. A Rikshaw driver will always know how much to charge you for a ride, even if he has absolutely no clue how to get to
the place you want. Many times he will demand a different price than what you agreed at the beginning of the ride, and of course the Rikshaw-meter has one price for Indian citizens and another for tourists (we pay four times as much).
A sense of humor is obligatory.

The second picture is me sitting with some Babas at Hanuman Temple in Hampi. You need to cross the river on a tiny tiny raft, that reminds you of Moses from the Bible. Then you need to climb some 600 steps (590 to be exact, we counted) to get to the temple.
When we arrived, all the Babas, dressed in orange, were having lunch and smoking Chillums.
The view from the top is a-m-a-z-i-n-g.

The third picture is from Sera village south of Mysore in Karnataka state. As you know, many Tibetians immigrated to India after the Dalai Lama fled the country. Sera is one of the villages where these Tibetian refugees live.
The difference between Indian and these villages is astonishing. The streets are so clean there, the people smile and they don't talk to you (i.e. "Rikshaw, Rikshaw, you need a Rikshaw?").
Heaven.

As always, I have put more pictures at my cyber photo
album at:
[…]
Some pictures are also at much better quality, and the map is always updated.

Lots of love from South India,
Shahar.

Heading South…

[10/1/2002 Cochin, Kerala, India]

Hi everybody!

Just a quick update for those of you keeping track:
The last couple of days I have been to Mysore, keeping on track and heading south.
Mysore is a big city so it is way too noisy to stay in.
I went to a village called Sera, which is actually a Tibetan refugee village.
It's amazing to see the difference between the Tibetan people and the Indian people.
The village looks like another country.
So clean, so quite, so peaceful.
It's difficult to comprehend this is still India.

Anyway, This morning I arrived with two friends, Ronit and Oren to Cochin.
My neck is killing me from the 10 hours bus drive – nothing that a good shower wouldn't fix.

Those of you who smoke cigarettes should know that there is actually a fine here if you smoke on the street.
But that's just for Indian citizens. Go figure.

Anyway, I plan to spend here a week or two and then continue south. Apparently, there's a lot to see here, so I'll explore and report to you.

By the way, if you have no idea where all those places I'm telling you are located, and you are too lazy to open an Atlas – go to:
[…]
I have put there a travelling progress map.

Lots of love from sunny India to cold Israel,
Shahar.