Introduction and A Week In Switzerland
The following pages are the results of a virtual travelogue that I created during a 2 month trip to India from October to December 1998. During my travels, I carried a cheap laptop, wrote a daily travelogue journal and published the transcript over the internet to a group of friends and aquaintances, utilizing an ever growing array of Internet cafes in India. This 'story' has been cleaned up for proper grammar and spelling and enhanced with relevant pictures, but remains, for the most part, intact from the original.
There are controls at the top and bottom of each page to continue with the travelogue or go back a page. Additionally, you may jump directly to a city of your choice using a link in the yellow sidebar on the left of this page.
My travelogue actually begins in Switzerland, below, as India is exactly on the other side of the world from my home in California, and I received excellent advice to breakup the 24 hours of plane travel. Since my wife Anne was not going to accompany me in India, we got to spend over a week together in Switzerland, before the long flight to Delhi.
So enjoy the story and accompanying pictures!
I've been planning this trip for almost a year, and fortunately, the Internet has been a great resource for obtaining valuable information. And having several friends who have been to India doesn't hurt either.
Preparing for India takes a bit more preparation than most other places, as one has to take into consideration health and food issues. In fact, clothes are the least important of the packing items. I've been told that you pack real light in terms of clothing, and when you get there, buy clothes there for a fraction of the cost and go native as possible. Unfortunately, since I plan on going into the Himalayan foot hills I do have to bring some heavier clothing.
But the health related items take a lot of time, money and space in the baggage. I've got stuff to prevent diarrhea,induce diarrhea, prevent vomiting, induce vomiting, Chinese herb that generate yang, Chinese herbs that generate yin, cold remedies, wash-n-wipe towelettes, a whole arsenal of vitamins, minerals and digestive aids. I've got sunblock (though I probably won't use it), natural and DEET based mosquito repellent, antibiotics (doxycycline), hypodermic needles (in case I end up in one of those off the beaten path hospitals where they wipe off the needle and say "next!").
And being an amateur photographer, I have 50 rolls of film, my Pentax camera with two lenses (I found taking the films out of the canister saves a lot of space, but it's taking a risk. I also do have a lead-lined film bag, which may come in handy if Pakistan decides to drop the bomb on India - I could put it over my head to save my precious brain from radiation). I did sacrifice my tripod, but hey, Galen Rowell doesn't use a tripod.
And I've got a whole mess of food items, like balance bars, dried miso soup, turkey-jerky and a whole mess of little candies which I am told to give out when the children beggars yell "baksheesh" - but only at the last minute, right before I take off in a cab, or else a parade ensues on foot. Curiously, I was also told to bring lots of pens -Indian children seem to collect pens for some odd reason, and this makes for very popular baksheesh. I figure all this food stuff will be gone in about two weeks, lightening my load.
And there are the security items, locks on every zipper on my bag, ski cable lock to lock the bag to the infrastructure while on trains and such, a motion detecting radio alarm clock that makes a very loud noise - just in case someone tries to touch the luggage or break into my room at night. I also was advised to bring an immersion heater, those little gadgets that make a cup of tea hot -some of the ashrams give you a big bucket for the shower facility, and it's nice to have the water a little warm. A woman who's traveled to India many times suggested I take a small dictaphone to capture the _sounds_ as well as the sights of India, and it really added to the slide show that she presents. And it doubles for the mechanism for my crash course learn-Hindi-in-just-two-weeks tape course.
And of course, of paramount importance, The Lonely Planet Guide to India, which is _the_ guidebook. I also have with me, The Rough Guide, but both these books take up some room and The Rough Guide may go back. And I have maps, my Hindi book course, phrase book, a fiction and non-fiction book (Eye of the Spirit by Ken Wilber).
So after all this, you may be wondering how many bags am I taking with me? One, besides my day backpack. A friend who sent me an 18 page personal guide to travel in India, state unequivocally to purchase a combination duffel bag/suitcase/backpack. So I got the biggest one possible, the Eagle Creek Expedition trunk, 8000 cubic inches of cargo space, with wheel rollers and shoulder straps.
So the day before I left, I packed this bear with everything possible, and it all just fits, just barely. To imagine what it looks like, imagine a C-5A US Air force cargo plane strapped to your back. And it's about as heavy -after walking around the house with it on my back, I knelt down to take it off, and fell over backwards, looking like an upside down turtle. Definitely going with the rolling method.
Sure, I've taken too much stuff, but I'll just start throwing out shit when I get fed up with lugging around all that weight. Hey, I'm a beginner in this field, and I'm gonna make beginner mistakes!