We arrive in Amritsar and to blistering heat.  After a long relaxed lunch and a planned siesta, we were told by our hosts at the home stay to hit the road early for the Beating Retreat Border Ceremony of India and Pakistan at Attari- Wagah. He has had reports of hoards of people and we may not get to see it if we delay.

So mid afternoon, in the heat,  we hit the road heading west to the border.  As predicted the traffic was heavy, there were masses of people.  Mostly domestic tourists, school children and a few foreigners all coming to patriotism at its best (Indian style).  Loud music, children, women, men running  up and back in the middle of the road with an outsized Indian flag, Bollywood dancing, a Compare (or Master of Ceremonies) giving the crowd instructions either through addressing them directly with his microphone and through a series of mimes when he wanted to crowd to cheer.   He was dressed in white clothes as if he were some sports trainer.  The people, lots of people came looking for a good show.  And it was!

Border-Ceramony1The border guards – men (and 2 token women to lead the group) doing a version of sand crabs walking, tilting their hats (not sure if that was part of it or they were just uncomfortable)…whatever they were doing it had a magnetic effect on the crowd.  They loved it, shouting Hindustan Zindabad (long live India) and Ji Mata Di (hail to the Goddess – used in the Hindu religion).   Having the tallest men in India looking fierce, brave and protecting the nations’ borders is an absolute recipe for success.

As we sat near the Pakistani end, the men protecting their border were fiercer looking in their black commando style outfits, beards and dark complexions.  The people on the Pakistani border side were quiet and it was only half full.   I somehow felt we got a better deal on the Indian side, or perhaps the Indians simply love drama more than the Pakistanis.

The finale is the lowering of the flags on each side while a fierce soldier stands at attention on each side of the gate and it was all over.  The border was closed; the main stars (the tall Police) took protection behind security gates so they wouldn’t get mobbed. We left, along with everyone else for the drive back to Amritsar.

Sharon Thrupp and Ray Baker from Back Track Adventures #backtrackadventures travelled to Amritsar courtesy of Ekno Travels www.eknotravels.com.au #eknotravels 

 

Holi is one of the most important festivals in India.  It is celebrated far and wide and is one of the most vibrant with people celebrating in the streets throwing color at each other and to anyone who dares to go out on streets.  It has an ancient origin and celebrates the triumph of ‘good’ over ‘bad’ and the people are usually happy and smiling.  The time of Holi is magical time to visit India as it is the beginning of spring and everything feels alive. Happy Holi 2017 .  For our 2018 tour visit https://eknotravels.com/tours/holi-the-festival-of-colors/

EknoTravelsHappyHoli

To get to special places in the world always require a bit of a special effort.  Ajanta and Ellora Caves in the state of Maharashtra are two of these special places.  A long way of the beaten tourist route, the nearest big town is Aurangabad which is south east of Mumbai.

Ajanta Caves is a UNESCO World Heritage site and consists of  30 rock-cut Buddhist cave monuments which date from the 2nd century BCE to about 480 or 650 CE.  There are delicate coloured paintings on the walls in some of the caves as well as finely crafted stone statues of the past and present lives of the Buddha.  Only discovered by the English in the 1920’s the caves are preserved by their sheer location

Images of the Buddha
Images of the Buddha

from the force of nature.

Ellora Caves are just as important with monuments and artwork of BuddhismHinduism and Jainism from the 600-1000 CE period. There are over 100 caves with 34 being open to the public and you are free to wonder around unassisted.  The main Hindu cave is the most impressive with its rock carvings dedicated to Shiva and the detailed carving work is impressive.

The caves are certainly worth the effort – both are in rural locations and can be reached by car or by local bus.

Take a flight to Aurangabad from Mumbai (the closest big city) or Delhi or take a train from Mumbai.  Ajanta is 95kms and Ellora 35kms from Aurangabad.  We have 3 day 2 night packages www.eknotravels.com.au

Source: Wikipedia

It’s on again!  The Greatest Show on Earth has been going since 2005 and is held at the famous Diggi Palace, owned by a royal family that now doubles as a hotel.  Our tour starts and ends in Delhi – 16-25 January 2017 and will be lead by Canadian Maggie Westhaver and Australian Sharon Thrupp, both long time residents of India and active writers.  For further details http://www.eknotravels.com or contact Sharon at tour@eknotravels.com.au.  If you want to extend your trip or simply visit other parts of India we have some great add-ons.

Ladakh is exotic, remote, stunningly beautiful and one of my favourite parts of the world.
It is no ordinary place. Leh, it’s capital is built in the rarified air of 3,500 metres. It sits in a green belt surrounded by arid and desolate and lunar looking landscape Due to its remoteness and proximity (close to the Chinese/Tibet border and Pakistan) it is a sensitive place strategically for India. There is no mobile coverage for foreign visitors and limited internet connection. It is a disconnected place, and has its roots far beyond technology . It’s history is thousands of years old. You can see it in the landscape and in its buildings – the most prominent being it’s monasteries.
One such monastery is Hemis, 90 minutes drive from Leh. Hemis is famous for its festival that is 300-year-old and features lama dancing, colour parades and ancient ceremonies. It is a showcase of how its traditions can bind people from across generations. The festival organised in the honour of Padmasambhava, also known as Guru Rinpoche, the annual two day Hemis Festival at the Hemis Monastery has become an important date in the calendars of travellers from across the world.
This year is especially different as it is the grand Naropa Festival 2016, to be held from July 1 to 31. This spiritual programme takes place once in every 12 years and one of the features will be the unveiling of the giant Thankga (Buddhist painting) of Guru Rinpoche and the display the ornaments belonging to Naropa, the 11th century Indian saint and are some of the holiest treasures of the Himalayas.
For anyone wanting to escape to somewhere completely different or simply to be part of an ancient festival, this is the place for you. As part of our festival tours we are running an 8 day 7 night package from 11-18 July 2016. Details : https://eknotravels.com/tours/hemis-festival-and-ladakh/ Contact us: tour@eknotravels.com.au