Tuesday, 25 December 2007

My Third Diwali in India

Outside our house, GK-1, New Delhi

As I write this I am sitting in my parents' kitchen enjoying a lovely Christmas holiday in Europe. But, as always, my blog is lagging behind so now it's time to continue my posts from the festive season with November's Diwali celebrations. This was my third Diwali in India. I won't write much about Diwali (If you want to read what it's all about you can check last year's post here), but rather just show some pictures of all the lights and fireworks you see in the streets on Diwali night. All pictures were taken in our own colony, GK-1.

Saturday, 15 December 2007

Visitor no. 20.000

Just reached my 20,000th unique visitor. This was a (most likely male) visitor from Trivandrum in Kerala in India. He found my blog by searching on google for "nude pictures from nagaland" - honestly! I don't actually have any such posts, what he found was this old post in my archives.

The Triumph of Good over Evil at Dussehra

Crowds gathered for Dussehra celebrations, New Delhi.

In India the season of celebrations is in fall. Usually the festive season is kicked of with the celebration of Dussehra (this year on 21st October), which commemorates the mythical victory of Ram and his allies, over the demon king of (Sri) Lanka. On this occasion the triumph of good over evil is re-enacted by burning effigies of the demon king, Ravana (and occasionally some of his allies). Along with Nitoli and Danish Embassy Intern Andrea I took a rickshaw to one of the city's big Dussehra events at Kalkaji, seen in the picture above. There were thousands of people, but unfortunately just as we arrived and before we had gotten into place for a good view they set fire to Ravana. So disappointed we jumped on a bus back to Greater Kailash...

...only to discover to our great joy, that Dussehra celebrations were also happening in the park right next to our apartment and that the demons were still standing here. It's Ravana in the middle watching the fireworks give word of the upcoming battle.

The first of Ravana's cohorts has been set on fire...

...and exactly 27 seconds later the fire reaches his demonic stomach setteng of an explosion of rockets, crackers, fire and deafening noise.

This tradition of burning demons, is somewhat similar to the Danish custom of burning witches at Midsummer (yes, yes I know - it's a horrible way of honouring one of the most horrible customs of the dark ages, but it's just tradition and doesn't really mean anything). However our witches tend to burn slowly, whereas these Lankan demons are filled with such a massive quantity of fireworks that they tend to explode rather than burn.

And predictably, one of the rockets flew into a nearby pile of old branches and leaves setting our park on fire.

Luckily the well prepared arrangers had taken all eventualities into account, so they had one (1!) bucket and a garden hose ready to combat the fire. I don't know how they did it, but they managed to kill the fire before it spread, so the celebrations could continue.

The second cohort of Ravana goes off. The intensity of light and heat from the climax of the explosion was so intense that I was fearing damage to my camera. It seemed to get through without any permanent damage though.

Finally attention turned to Demon King himself. Doesn't he look evil? Time to get him vanquished until next year...

Here Ravana gets lit...

And in the biggest blast of the night Ravana gets sent back to hell, good triumphs over evil, and everyone goes home happy.

Here you can see how loud the explosions were. Nitoli and Andrea had to cover their ears. But then again, this picture was taken after the event, so they are actually just posing.

Wednesday, 5 December 2007

Road Trip, part 4: Lunch on Top of the World

Tsokar View restaurant near Taglang La pass, Ladakh

Leaving Rupsu Valley was an amazing experience as it took us to higher altitudes than I have ever experienced. In fact we had our lunch up here at 5300 meters altitude in the restaurant you see in the picture.

Same restaurant seen from the opposite ridge, gives some perspective on its location.

The kitchen inside the restaurant.

Marc and Lasse relaxing while waiting for their cup noodle lunch. It was really simple fare, but under these circumstances it tasted heavenly. At this point I was slowly recovering from my altitude sickness, which had taken my appetite and stopped me from eating for almost 24 hours. So I was very hungry.

The very friendly owner of Tsokar View restaurant. What a weathered face. It is a hard place to do business here, but at least he has a monopoly on lunch in the area.

A really nice bird outside the restaurant. It's a male white-winged redstar.

View of the valley below from the restaurant.

After lunch we drove the few hundred meters on to Taglang La, which is supposedly the second highest motorable pass in the world at 5328 meters. A colourful tablet marks the spot. "Unbelievable is not it?"

At the top I got my hands on the first snow in years. On this picture I am making a snowball to throw at Lasse. Unfortunately I missed.

The view from the pass towards the south. At first it may not look like much, but in fact this is my favourite picture of the entire trip, if not the favourite of all the pictures I have ever taken. I love the play of the shadows of clouds on the valley and how the rocky outcrop with its faded and blackened prayerflags add depth to the picture. In the background you can even catch a glimpse of Tso Kar lake. Click on picture to enlarge.

View to the north side of the pass. A truck has just started it's long descent towards the Indus Valley.

A little bit after the pass, we were forced to make a stop as some men were busy clearingthe road of fallen rocks. They quickly got the job done, so we could move on after 5 or 10 minutes.

Wrinkly hills further down the road.

This concludes my series of pictures from Ladakh. I hope you enjoyed them, because I sure enjoyed taking them. Ladakh is an absurdely photogenic place, and perhaps the most beautiful place I've ever been. There is a grandeur to the landscapes and the life here, despite all the hardship. I cannot recommend a trip here strongly enough. It's simply just amazing.

Tuesday, 4 December 2007

Road Trip, part 3: Lakes and Rivers of Rupsu Valley

A marshy area near a lake, Rupsu Valley, Ladakh.

Firstly my apologies for not updating for a while. I have been busy servicing a Danish delegation here in Delhi, so other priorities had to take a backseat for a while. But now I am back to go on with my Ladakh pictures. Last time I focused on the dry steppes of Rupsu, but there are also some lakes, streams and marshland giving some variation to the landscape. At this point I had become rather sick with altitude sickness, so in my delirium I was unable to keep track of which lakes were which. I just took pictures whenever I saw something beautiful. So I post some of them here without any caption:

On this last picture it is worth noting that the white stuff is not ice or snow, but rather salt. I don't know why, but this lake has salt rather than fresh water in it.

Finally a nomadic camp shot through the jeep window. I guess it actually belonged in my previous post but I forgot to include it, so here it is.