Sunday, October 4, 2015

Ganesh Chaturthi - Mumbai, India

It's been so long since I've blogged that I've almost forgotten how.  But my free day in Mumbai was definitely a blog worthy experience that needs to be shared!

So, this one time, in July, my work asked me if I could go to India for a couple of days...  I said yes and a week later, I was in Mumbai!  I was so totally overwhelmed that I didn't think about spending any extra time in Mumbai so I left Zurich on Monday morning at 8am, arrived in Mumbai at 9:30 that night, worked Tues and Wed and I was back in Zurich on Thursday morning at 6am.  I wasn't really comfortable enough to go out by myself at night plus it was monsoon season anyway so unfortunately, I didn't see anything besides the hotel, the airport (which to be fair, is a gorgeous airport) and the office.

So this time, when my work asked me to go back, I was a little more prepared and managed to arrive a day early so I could see some sights!  As luck would have it, my free day in Mumbai happened to coincide with the last day of the yearly Ganesh Chaturthi festival.  To make a very long and very interesting story short, the Ganesh Chaturthi festival is a 10 day festival that hours Ganesha (the elephant headed God) who is the god that removes obstacles.  At the end of the festival, all of the statues that have been made for the year are walked down to the Chowpatty beach and immersed in the Arabian Sea.

There are thousands of Ganeshas that are walked down to the sea each year.  Some of the Ganeshas (see below) are neighborhood Ganeshas.  Months before the beginning of the festival, donations are taken up from the neighborhood businesses to fund the Ganesha and then once built, the Ganesha belongs to the neighborhood and is available for all in the neighborhood to come to and worship during the 10 day festival.  

Before the neighborhood Ganeshas are walked down to the Arabian Sea, the neighborhood gets together to celebrate by dancing, decorating the Ganesha with flowers and generally having a good time.  We happened to arrive just as one celebration kicked off and this lovely gentlemen brought us all into the center of the dance party!

My dance partner (right)
busting a move

He kept waiving money around my head and passing it out to the band.  He even stuck one to our guide's head!

Our really really awesome tour guide - Pranav!
The neighborhoods build temporary structures for the Ganesha.

Temporary Structure
And the local residents can go into the structure to worship the Ganesha and make offerings of flowers, foods and songs. 
Neighborhood Ganesha #2
Neighborhood Ganesha #3
the party has started!
In addition to the neighborhood Ganeshas, there are also Family Ganeshas.  Here is an example of a Family Ganesha.  They are generally smaller but still amazing and well taken care of and decorated.  These guys all get walked down to the Sea as well.  This family wanted us to come over and take a picture with them. 
Family Ganesha
We stood and watched the parade for about an hour and saw soooooo many Ganeshas!  The crowd got bigger and bigger and bigger.  It was unreal.

After about an hour of watching the parade, we joined in and headed toward the beach.  There were unbelievable numbers of people on the beach.

Every time we turned around, we would see more and more Ganeshas appear on their way to the Sea.

If you'd like to see me busting a move with my new friend and various other short clips from the festival, check out the video that Pranav put together.  

So that's the festival.  The next adventure was getting home!  As you can imagine, with that many people out in the streets celebrating, the traffic was a nightmare.  And traffic in Mumbai is already an experience in and of itself!  But I made it!  I still haven't really seen anything in Mumbai but I'm ok with that.  Be able to see and participate in the festival was such a fun experience and the most culturally different thing that I've ever been able to participate in.

If you guys ever find yourself in India, I can't recommend enough calling up Pranav and doing your tour with him (Grand Mumbai Tours).  He is a local resident with a wonderful passion for his city and he made the day such an enjoyable and stress free experience.

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Trift Bridge - eek

After two days at Engelberg and the Gelmer Lake hike, I was pleasantly surprised to find that I could still walk on day 3!  Let's head 'em up and move 'em out!

Today's destination - the Trift Bridge!
uhhh - where's the trail folks?

go Sophie go!

Swiss wildlife!

checking out Andre

getting sophs ready for her bridge crossing
I don't Sophie thinks this is such a great idea

Ellen and Alan holding on for dear life

i need practice at taking selfies


Come visit!

Hiking (aka suriving) around the Gelmer Lake

Discussion with the Hotel Dude:

Me and Ellen:  We're planning to do the Crystal Hike tomorrow.  Can we get there by bus?
Hotel Dude:  Yes you can but the bus only runs 4 times a day.
Me and Ellen:  Huh.  Well then.  Is there another hike you can recommend?  That's mega cool but easy?
Hotel Dude:  Totally.  You should should take [the world's scariest ever] furnicular up to the Gelmer Lake and hike around that.  It'll take you about two hours [and possibly cost you your life].
Me and Ellen:  Okay great!

First of all, the Gelmer Furnicular is at a 106% gradient.  Yikes.  It was originally built to haul materials up for the dam.  Now, in true Swiss fashion, you can pay some money and take it up for fun!

here are the tracks up the mountain

and here's the furnicular that takes you up!

The Swiss do not mess around with their hiking.  Here's the description on the website regarding the hike we did [with commentary added]:  Trail is not necessarily fully visible [no kidding]. Some parts maybe secured with ropes or chains [thank goodness]. Maybe [definitely] you need your hands for balance [or you will die]. Some parts with exposed crash hazard, scree plots, trackless [what the heck is a scree plot?].

Here we go!  Follow the white-red-white markers!

we just started and i can barely see the trail

even with the fog, it was still amazing

one wrong step and splash!

seriously?  this is the trail?

white-red-white - and under the rock we go!
thank goodness for the cables!


coming down the mountain

That was just our morning adventure!  In the afternoon, we headed to the city of Meiringen to see the Reichenbach Falls where Sherlock and Moriarty met their ends.

Sophie enjoying her hike

the falls
looking back toward town from the top

Andre hiding from the spray   
couldn't resist
  Come visit!

Summer activities in the snow? totally possible!

We had friends visit!  Which always makes us way more fun than we are by ourselves.

For our first stop, we headed to Engelberg to play in the snow!

For future reference, I recommend that anyone that goes to Engelberg do the activities in the following order:  Ice Flyer Chair, Glacier Park, Cliff Walk and/or Glacier Cave.

The Ice Flyer Chair is just a fancy name for riding a ski lift during the summer for which you have to pay an extra 12 CHF.  As it happens we shared our ride with a man, his wife and son and we got to talking and I mentioned it was a bit of a rip off to pay the extra 12 CHF just to ride a ski lift during the summer.  Apparently he's one of the owners of the company that runs the whole place.  Open mouth...insert foot...  :)

It was fun to be up in the snow during the summer.  There were tourists slipping and sliding everywhere.  The ladies in their sandals were particularly entertaining.

It was a gorgeous day.

We stopped halfway up to have lunch with an awesome view of a lake in the middle of the mountain. 

the view at the top
Enjoying the Ice Flyer Chair!

The Cliff Walk is at 9,900 altitude and it's totally awesome

Ellen and I surviving the Cliff Bridge Walk

Solo selfie at the top!

Group Selfie!

I don't even know.