Amsterdam - cool, grey, and considerably more ordered compared to India.


Varkala, southern Kerala. At the end of the road is the papanasam (the place that delivers one from sins). Thousands of Hindu pilgrims come together to perform religious rites to purify the souls of their departed relatives.


Villa Jacaranda, Varkala, India.


Jaisalmer and Jodhpur. Next stop Varkala, Kerala.


India : day 14 : Jodhpur 
Today is our last full day in Rajasthan. The past two weeks have been incredible - we've visited a lot of cities, and seen oodles of temples, forts, palaces, plus lots and lots of cows. In fact we are all a bit templed-out. Some of the highlights were the 15th century Jain Temple in Ranakpur made entirely from intricatiely carved marble; the Mehrangarh Fort in Jodhpur which is over 500 years-old, utterly stunning, and overlooks the blue-washed houses of the Brahmapuri village; and our evening boat trip across Lake Pichola to Jag Mandir Palace for dinner. In Jaisalmer the monsoon arrived (on it's 'official' arrival date) complete with lightning and thunder, and it rained so much our room was flooded. The shopping has been fantastic - we've picked up lots of textiles, and bits'n pieces, and found several really good antique shops. Two of the best were: Ganesh Handicraft Emporium in Udaipur which is tucked away down a non-descript narrow passage that opens out into a large courtyard. Housed in a 300-year-old haveli (mansion) this place was stuffed to the brim with wonderful antique handicrafts and textiles; and in Jodhpur we stumbled across Maharani Art Exporters - an Aladdin's cave of treasures with a basement full of dusty treasures. Just as well we have a spare suitcase to carry our purchases home! We've spent the past two days in Jodhpur at a great hotel (complete with pool) which the boys have loved. They both have coped admirably with the heat, constant travel, and a couple of bouts of tummy bugs. Tomorrow afternoon we fly south to Kerala.


Jaisalmer, India.


Jodhpur to Jaisalmer.


Mehrangarh Fort, Jodhpur.



Jain Temple, Ranakpur, en route to Jodphur.

Jag Mandir Palace, Lake Pichola, Udaipur.




Jaipur, India.


India : day five : Jaipur
We landed in Delhi just as the sun was coming up. The drive from the airport took us through chaotic streets filled with bicycles, tuktuks, trucks, cows, dogs, people, cars and the odd camel pulling a cart. Our hotel Shanti Home was an oasis of calm amongst the madness and heat. If you ever find yourself in Delhi this place is really really amazing, and has a great rooftop dining area. A brief trip to visit Humayan's Tomb and Lodi Gardens, before quickly retreating from the heat and crowds.
Thursday morning bright and early our driver (Sohan) arrived and if was off into the madness of Delhi's rush-hour traffic. Cars, trucks, cows, people, bikes, all heading in opposite directions, with horns blasting continuously. Sohan weaved through back streets and down dirt lanes, past markets full of caged chickens and tropical fruits, and safely made it to the 'highway'. We travelled all day, through tiny villages full of brightly clad women, past trucks festooned with colourful decorations, and overladen bicycles, before arriving in Agra. Our hotel was large and non-descript, but the Taj Mahal was stunning. So much more impressive in real-life, with the late afternoon light highlighting the delicate marble detail, making it appear like a mirage.
Friday morning (after another yummy Indian breakfast) we bid farewell to the tourist laden Jaycee P and headed off toward Jaipur. A brief stop at the utterly serene open mosque Jami Masjid, where we made wishes in Salim Christi's tomb, then it was on toward Jaipur. Once in Jaipur (Sohan's home town) we visited a traditional jewel polisher and a block-print textile shop both of which proved interesting. Then it was on through Jaipur's old town to our home for the next three days the Royal Heritage Haveli. Owned by the royal family and managed by the affable Pradip, this is a complete sanctuary on the outskirts of Jaipur.
Yesterday, we rode elephants up to the Amber Fort and spent an informative, albeit very hot and sticky, hour touring the fort. The mirrored Jai Mandir was one of many mind-boggling and impressive aspects of the fort. Late afternoon saw us wandering the heaving streets of the Tripolia Bazaar. Hot, crowded, pungent (not in a good way), and noisy we abandoned the crowds after an hour and made for air-conditrioned comfort of Sohan's car.
And today is day five - it's late in the afternoon, thunder is rolling in, bringing with it a cooler breeze, the promise of rain, and the melodic chanting from Ayyappa Mandir. Tomorrow we head to Udaipur.
ps: we've put extra images up on flickr if you're interested. 


Travelling Agra to Jaipur.


Enroute Delhi to Agra.


Delhi, India. Hot, dusty, chaotic. Thank goodness for quiet the oasis of the Lodi Gardens.


Flying over the Northern Territory en route to Singapore.


Our last night in Wellington - next stop India!


After a really nice week catching up with family (including a scrumptious mid-winter Christmas dinner), we said our goodbyes and headed south to Wellington.