From South to North, Spices, Beaches, Tigers and Trains


I woke up this morning  in Delhi…again.  In the last week I have contacted 8 customs brokers in Kyrgystan, visited 4 foreign embassies in person and called several more, met with two shipping companies, completely disassembled Bala (rebuilding the entire engine), and visited more motorcycle parts stores than I can count…the Logistics & Planning Phase  of  THE PLAN  has kicked into high gear, a westward departure anxiously looms on the horizon.  But what have I been up to between Sri Lanka and New Delhi?

I acquired a passenger…and so “I” has become “we”.  One who has proven to be a true intrepid traveler, and who was ready to sign on for the big trip, Central Asia to Central Europe.  You have met her before… Magdalena


Click on map to see it in GoogleMaps

We traveled by moto from Madurai to Arambol almost 1,250 miles (2000k)  This was our route:

We visited 5 mechanics in two weeks time (luckily no major problems)

We drove through spice plantations that never seemed to end.  Beautiful mountain roads draped on each side by rows and rows of cardamom, black pepper, coffee, cinnamon and other fragrant plants and trees.

We passed through little towns and cities that never see westerners.  While suiting up to get back on Bala after stopping for a cup of chai and a samosa we would sometimes be surrounded by 30 pairs of curious eyes.

We visited 1000 year old Hindu temples with carved sexual scenes from the Kama Sutra and wondered how the Hindu culture today has come to be so conservative.

I loved the food up north, then discovered South India food and fell in love all over again.  Dosas, uttapam, parrota, coconut chutney, and “meals” served on banana leaves.


We bought fresh red snapper from a fish market in Goa and made Mexican style ceviche in the bathroom of our guesthouse.

In the state of Karnataka, West Coast of India, we spent several days in a hut with mud floors and no electricity on a beach that could only be reached by hiking through a jungle.


We spent more than a week driving through the Western Ghats, the second largest mountain range in India.  And we survived

We spent a few nights in a small mountain town where 4 miles (7k) away….just two weeks earlier, a man eating tiger that had killed 4 people was shot.

We visited the cashew capital of India, ate lots of cashews and bought some of the local liquor, made from…yep, cashew fruit.

We drank too much rum and suffered the next day.

We took a 41 hour train ride (With Bala as our baggage) from Goa to Delhi.


We visited a sacred temple of the Jain religion.  The Jains do believe in a strict code of not causing unnecessary harm to any animal.  They don’t use leather, are strict vegans, and they don’t even eat potatoes, carrots, or other roots because harvesting them it may harm insects that live in the earth.


We stumbled upon a cattle market in a small town where DEFINITELY no other westerns have stopped before.  We stole the spotlight from the cows for the 15 minutes or so that we walked around the market.   We got some strange looks from a lot of people, but also a few big smiles from guys like this

In Arambol, Goa we met a dear old friend of mine, Safira, who is a recurring character in my cast of travel partners (she was with me for two weeks in the days of Coco back in Brazil and I spent Halloween with her in Amsterdam couple years ago).

Sometimes in a single day we would pass through lush high mountain climate zones with COLD weather covered in greenery and tea plantations, then into dry and rocky mountains, then flat and hot acacia covered desert “à la” Africa, only to end up back in the mountains putting on our sweaters.


We celebrated Holi, the festival of colors.  Anyone who walks outside on that day will end up looking like they got pooped on by a rainbow.  We did.

We saw the second largest waterfall in India, Jog Falls, whose torrents, once attracting tens of thousands of visitors each year, have recently been stifled by the building of a big dam upriver L

We tried relentlessly to spot a GIANT flying squirrel (the image I had created in my mind of what this super-animal might look like was fantastical), native to the mountain area we were in, but we failed L

We did see crocodile though…big ones.


We walked 8 miles (15k) along some railroad tracks to reach some waterfall…to get back we took the advice of the station master in a tiny rural station and jumped onto a moving cargo train.  We ended up chatting with the brakeman at the rear of the train and then jumped off it when it reached the town where Bala was waiting for us.

We spent some days in Panjim the capital of Goa which, until just 60 years ago, was a Portuguese colony.  It was amazing how European it seemed in its architecture, food, and cultural differences.  We celebrated Carnival, drank beer in the streets, and ate beef in public.

What’s next?  Nepal for some weeks, a stopover in Varanasi, then return to Delhi where the journey West will begin.  Unfortunately we could not get access to Pakistan (in February a Spanish cyclist and his armed military escort of 12 people were ambushed by Taliban, 6 of his escort were killed…so the government clamped down on people crossing the country with private transport).  So unfortunately the only other way to do this (aside from paying $6000 in permits to go through Tibet) is to airfreight Bala to Kyrgyzstan and to begin from there.

PLEASE don’t forget about my fundraising mission.  If you like readings about this journey, and seeing the pictures, please consider donating to one of the charities I am supporting.  Here is a link to the fundraiser (Donate in a friend’s name and I’ll send them a postcard from some faraway place!) CLICK HERE TO LEARN MORE OR TO DONATE

To see many more photos and read some more commentary from the last 6 weeks CLICK HERE.


The People of the Kathputli Slum, Delhi…A Photo Album

Greetings from Goa.  As I write this the sun is setting into the Arabian Sea just beyond a beautiful white sand beach.  Life is good.  A little vacation from the full-on adventures of life on the road.  (Just completed 1,500k (1000 miles) )  I will post stories and photos from those adventures soon.  But in the meantime I thought I would post some pictures from the time I spent while working in the Kathputli Slum in Delhi.


Many foreigners would come to visit the free schools and other projects that the NGO I worked for runs in the slums.  Local residents of the slums are not shy and would Kathputli-slum-new-delhi-india-artist-slumoften ask to have their picture taken so they could see it on the digital viewfinder of the camera afterwards.  I thought that they might appreciate actually having a printed copy of the photos so after a couple people asked me to take their photos I later printed them out, found them in the slum days later, and delivered the pictures to them.  It wasn’t long before word got out and I became the unofficial family photographer of the slum.  I couldn’t walk through the slum without being swamped by people, young and old, who wanted their picture taken.  Within a few weeks I had printed and handed out nearly two hundred photos.


This is a collection of some of my favorites. (CLICK HERE TO BE BROUGHT TO THE SLIDESHOW)

The organization I worked for is called PETE (Providing Education to Everyone) India.  To learn more about them and how you can help with their projects you can visit their website or email Shiva, the director at


From North to South, Sri Lanka, Madurai, and beyond

This morning I woke up in Colombo, the Sri Lankan capital, and I finally went to pick up my new Indian visa.  Since being in Sri Lanka, I have visited the Indian Consulate and Visa Center 12, yes TWELVE times.   Why did I need a new visa?  Because I lost my passport which had my old one in it.   A seasoned traveler once said “Travel is glamorous only in retrospect.”  But I am not complaining…

…In the last 5 weeks I have been on 6 islands in two countries and have swam in the Bay of Bengal, the Indian Ocean, and the Laccadive Sea.

I celebrated New Years while on a 46 hour train ride from Northern India to Southern India.  We passed fields of cotton, rice, and sugarcane, banana plantations, kids playing cricket in dusty dirt fields and nuclear power plants.

On the first day of 2014, I watched the sun rise as I drove Bala towards the Island of Rameshwaran in Southern India

I tried to make friends with the cows in the old Danish fort in Jaffna, Nothern Sri Lanka.  I did not succeed.


Magdalena next to the Lake in Kandy, Central Sri Lanka
Magdalena next to the Lake in Kandy, Central Sri Lanka

Seven months ago I spent some days exploring the Tibetan region of China by motorcycle with a Swiss girl named Magdalena.  We reconnected in Sri Lanka to resume our mutual desire to conquer the world, two wheels at a time.

We rented a scooter we named Joggeli (Swiss-German for ‘Little Idiot’…pronounced Yogalee) in the Hill country of Sri Lanka (Bala, who is waiting for me back in India, doesn’t know this and I would like to keep it this way so Sssshhhh!!!).  We drove him 500k (315 miles), often on horrendous (= adventurous) roads past beautiful hills and mountains, endless plantations of tea, and lots of smiling Sri Lankans.

With Sweet Lime on the island of Karainagar
With Sweet Lime on the island of Karainagar

We rented a scooter we named Sweet Lime and drove her 200k (125 miles) through the Northern region of Sri Lanka past coconut palms, deserted coastline, wild peacocks, hindu temples, and…. lots of smiling Sri Lankans

I spent 4 days in a fishing village almost devoid of foreigners where I stumbled across a Hindu wedding ceremony at a temple that sat right next to the sea

Temple next to the sea in Trincomalee, Eastern Sri Lanka
Temple next to the sea in Trincomalee, Eastern Sri Lanka

I celebrated my birthday in a small town in the Sri Lankan Hill Country with some rare treats (rare at least on the Indian Subcontinent)…A bottle of red wine, some Swiss cheese (imported by Magdalena), some Spanish olives, bread, and in lieu of Italian Salami which evaded us…a can of mackerel.  And of course candles and cake.

I searched for the casino that my great-uncle owned in Colombo, back in the 1970’s  I found a vacant lot

I drove Bala across the Indian Ocean.

Bala on a one kilometer long bridge across the Indian Ocean to the island of Ramashwaran
Bala on a one kilometer long bridge across the Indian Ocean to the island of Ramashwaran

I drove through the Indian Ocean on a bus.  Don’t believe me…check it out:

I crossed the Andaman Sea on Sweet Lime 3 times by bridge and once by boat.

Abandoned house, island of Karainager, Northern Sri Lanka
Abandoned house, island of Karainager, Northern Sri Lanka

For the first time in my travels I explored part of a country that is recovering from a recent war.  Four years ago Northern Sri Lanka was a war zone…sadly it is still quite evident.  Military presence is everywhere, certain areas are still off-limits and while driving through the islands I saw countless (literally about one in four) houses that were either abandoned, bombed out, or both.

I ate LOTS of mangos

Completely captivated and hypnotized by the sounds of chanting, the sights of bare chested Hindu pilgrims sprawled out in prayer on the floor, and by the smells of burning incense, I wandered barefoot through the 400 year old Meenakshi Amman temple in Madurai

With Kingsly in Madurai
With Kingsly in Madurai

I made my first new friend in the South of India, Kingsly, who helped me with all sorts of things and was nice enough to give Bala a safe home while I went off to Sri Lanka

I paid a whopping $25 entrance fee to get into the “The Worlds End” national park in central Sri Lanka.  The main attraction is a cliff that drops over 1000 meters straight down and offers views all the way to the ocean 100 kilometers away.  This was my view looking straight down towards the 1000 meter drop:


This was my view looking west towards the Indian Ocean:


While lost in the Hill Country in Sri Lanka I stumbled across a tea plantation and got a full tour of how the tea is processed.

I was surprised by how developed Sri Lanka is, where I went to my first real supermarket in months, where the streets are clean, and where people actually follow the traffic laws.  I missed India, where life, at its most raw and gritty, is thrown in your face with a “like it or not” attitude.  Lucky for me I seem to like it.  🙂

I missed Bala

Tomorrow I get on a plane and return to Incredible India, to Madurai, and to Bala.  There we will begin the next big leg of our journey, from South to North.

To see more pictures and stories from this leg of the trip you can CLICK HERE

The Maiden Voyage

I spent Christmas Eve at the Pakistan Embassy and Christmas day alone but happy in my guesthouse back in Delhi.  I had something for dinner that didn’t have curry in it…that was as close to home as I was going to feel.  I had just gotten back from a great adventure.  Here is a peek of what I have been up to in the last 5 weeks:

Click on mp to be open it in Google Maps.
Click on mp to be open it in Google Maps.

I found Bala, my motorcycle

We completed our maiden voyage, 1250 miles (2000 kilometers) in about three and a half weeks through the Himalayan foothills

For hundreds of miles I drove on roads like this:


And this:


It was amazing

I spent Diwali, one of the biggest Hindu holidays, with my friends at their family’s home in Delhi.  I almost blew my finger off with a firecracker

In my journal I came across a message written in handwriting other than my own that said “Check out Bedřich Smetana” So I did.  Turns out he was an 18th century Czech composer.  I instantly fell in love with his music.  That journal has been with me in 3 continents and 10 countries.  I can’t for the life of me remember who wrote that.

With the help of my mechanic(al engineer) Rahul, I put a new head cylinder and piston in Bala.  It was the beginning of my lessons in motorcycle mechanics

Looking across a valley from the foothills of the mountains I watched this sunset:


Three hours later this was the new view from the same place:


I learned to ride a motorcycle with the brake on the opposite side from what I’m used to AND with the gears in reverse order AND on the opposite side they normally are, I did this at the same time as I had to get used to driving on the left side of the road…And I did ALL of this while driving in crazy New Delhi traffic.  I survived

I learned the proper way to make Indian chai tea

Carmen, getting a lesson in making chapati
Carmen, getting a lesson in making chapati

I acquired a travel partner, Carmen, who joined me and Bala for 500 miles, I will be lucky to find more like her along the way.  Never complained, lots of smiles, top-notch navigator, and with a healthy appetite for life, rice and dahl

I was invited to a traditional wedding in a tiny mountain village of a few hundred people.  The bride and groom sat decked-out in colorful traditional clothes in two throne-like chairs without cracking a smile while everyone in the village took their picture standing behind them.  Carmen and I were treated as the guests of honor and took almost as many pictures with the locals as the bride and groom

Bala got two flat tires within an hour

Flat tire #2 in less than an hour
Flat tire #2 in less than an hour

I created a fundraising campaign for charities, people who contribute get a postcard from me from somewhere in my travels.  PLEASE consider donating or at least share the link on your Facebook page.  It only takes one minute.  Here is the link:


I met a couple Pradeep and Rubina, who started a Christian school in a small village on top of a mountain overlooking snowcapped Himalayan peaks and a beautiful lake.  They became dear friends and spent several days showering me and Carmen with hospitality

Two days and 200 kilometers after leaving Pradeep I met his cousin who happens to be a mechanic and helped me fix a problem with Bala

One week and 500 kilometers after meeting Pradeep’s cousin, I stayed with his mother at her home near the Pakistan border.  I discovered where Pradeep learned to be so kind and hospitable

One day and 1oo kilometers after meeting Pradeep’s mom, I had breakfast with his sister Jyoti, a nurse at a Christian hospital


I saw a bunch of Indian military guys with ridiculous mustaches and outfits parade around in an absurd spectacle cheered on by thousands of flag waving people at the Pakistan border…the same thing was going on the other side of the border.  This happens EVERY SINGLE DAY

I drove across the sacred Ganges river in Rishikesh

I spent a few days climbing in the Himalayas…only made it up to about 4,300 meters (14,100 feet)…just a taste of what I’ll see in Nepal


I watched for days women as young as 16 and as old as 70, walking into the forest at 9am every morning.  8 hours later they would return with HUGE bundles of foliage that they would carry for 2 miles (3.5 k) to their village.  The foliage was to feed the cows.  One day we brought them some water and cookies.  I picked up one of their bundles to see how much it weighed…at least 75 pounds (35 kilos)!  On the other hand, the men of the villages seem to spend a lot of time chewing tobacco and basking in the sun


In the last weeks on the road I dodged cows, chickens, dogs, goats, pigs, horses, monkeys (LOTS of monkeys), squirrels, sheep, donkeys, cats, and thousands of potholes the size of craters.

I met a couple at the Pakistan border who are driving a Ford Escort from Australia to London

I met a couple who showed up at the Syrian Refugee Camp in Jordan and spent 3 weeks conducting music workshops for the refugees

I spent 4 days helping to build furniture for a school at Nirvan Commun in a tiny village of about 50 families on top of a mountain.  This was the view we woke up to:


I found myself in a mechanics workshop 5 times in 3.5 weeks on the road

I met a guy named Dinesh on the side of the road.  He invited me to his village of 400 people in the mountains to have breakfast with his family

I discovered that Indian mechanics can amaze you with their knowledge and efficiency…then, several minutes later, the same mechanic can amazing you again…with baffling displays of negligence smothered in a heavy dose of confidence and assurance.

At Pradeep’s school, we took a group of 60 school children, divided them into 4 groups and taught them how to sing row Row Row Your Boat in “round” style


I learned to hate driving on the “highways” and vowed to only take small roads whenever feasible

I swallowed so much exhaust that my breath would probably fail an emissions test

I spent a week hanging out in Dharamsala, a peaceful town in the Himalayan foothills and the home of the Dalai Lama.  It is full of Tibetan refugees.  It was like taking a vacation from India

I visited The Golden Temple, basically like Mecca for Sikhs.  A holy site and pilgrimage destination for Sikhs all over India and the world.


I will ring in the new year while gliding through the Indian night with Bala on a 46 hour train ride to the far South of India where I will be making my way to Sri Lanka and the next sea of adventures.

This is all just half of the stories…CLICK HERE to see more pictures from the last weeks along with the comments I left with them setting the scene.  To read more about the plan to drive Bala all the way from India to Spain, click here: Delhi to Barcelona, the Scenic Route

Happy New Years to everyone!

The Scenic Route to Making the World a Better Place

IMPORTANT UPDATE!!! PLEASE READ (…And great last minute Christmas gift idea!)

For those of you who don’t already know, I am in India, have bought a vintage motorcycle, and am driving it 10,000 miles to Spain …but that’s not the meaning of this post, please read on.

If you like the idea of my crazy transcontinental moto adventure and want to show your support, here is how you can do it.  You can help me reach my goal to raise money for charities.  Consider making a donation in someone’s name as a Christmas or birthday gift and I’ll send you (or them) a postcard from the other side of the world!  You can give me a personal message that I will write on a postcard and will send to them…imagine their surprise to get a postcard from you from Turkmenistan or Sri Lanka, or some other country I pass through!

Here is a link to my fundraiser: (

So, PLEASE consider donating.  If you can’t donate or want to help even more SHARE THIS ON YOUR FACEBOOK WALL, post it on your blog, email it to friends and businesses!  Here again is the link to the fundraising site:

If you want to know more details about the moto trip check out this page on my blog:

Merry Christmas to everyone from the Indian Subcontinent!