The End of the Road


There I stood, feet soaking in the confluence of 3 seas, at the land’s end of the country, at the tip of my indian journey.

Kanyakumari is a small simple village located at the South tip of India. It is situated at the junction of the Indian Ocean, Bay of Bengal and the Arabian Sea. They say that for most people travelling to the tip, is the end of a self-discovery journey, a feeling of accomplishment. 

We tramped the Sub Continent from the North border, down to the end. We travelled hundreds of kilometers through the Indian roads learning about people, their culture and their every day life. We got taught the colonial influences on the cities and its people. We’ve seen poverty, richness, and the difference between the castes. Weunderstood that for some there is hope, but for most, there is none. We’ve seen hundreds of homeless, orphans, beggars, disabled pan-handlers (I saw a leper man with nothing else than bones sticking out his stubs). We saw chaos, overcrowdedness, disorder and injustice. We’ve seen a world that needs to be saved.

But despite that dark cloud that floats over India, there is, somehow, the goods. Like the beautiful beaches lined by palm trees on each coasts. Like the amazing constructions of historic and contemporary temple architecture. Like the love for the diverse religions. Like all the delicious food cooked with fresh ingredients. Like the pride of the citizens for their national sport: cricket. Like all the timid smiles on each faces.

So here I am, at the tip of the country, facing the 3 seas. This is the end of a journey of reflection and understanding, of admiration and compassion. Thank you India for making this trip the most highlighted of all.


Now it is vacation time. Follow me on my next blog in Sri Lanka.

Under a Keralan Sun


It is peaceful, calm and relaxing. Cruising down the backwaters of Kerala is a soft treat deserved while travelling through India. Onboard a traditional houseboat designed like a rice barge, we step in the tender moments of serenity and quietness.
The backwaters of Kerala are a very popular attraction in India. With its 900km network of waterways that snake through the coast to the inland, the state adopted a very unique way to travel the canals with the use of houseboats. The trip consists of a cruise through the quiet canals with delicious authentic Keralan food cooked by the captain, and 1 or 2 nights aboard, sleeping on the water.With this burgeoning business, Kerala now counts 700 houseboats on its backwaters. Mostly visitors from the South of the country and Westerners are found partying on the 10 bedroom boats, or simply cruising for romance on a single bedroom. Our cruise is a 22 hour trip around Alleppey. We slowly cruise along lines of palm trees, rice fields and villages. We glimpse at a man shaving his beard, a lady washing a load of clothes, a woman finger brushing her teeth, kids splashing each other and a man washing his cow. Everybody shares the waters of the canals for personal hygiene, fun and care. The little houses and their villagers that used to be happily isolated, are now betrayed by our voyeurism. The clouds cover the skies and empty themselves of multiple little molecules of H2O. Heavy rain cleans the air and refresh the atmosphere. Drops are falling vigorously, like a thunderous anger. The sound of the falling rain fills my ears, the freshness of the air cleans my lungs and caresses my nostrils. There’s no where else I want to be…

After the houseboat, we jump on a local bus and make our way 4 hours down South. High cliffs surround the sea, the waves are strong and aggressive, and the sand is black. This is Black Sand Beach in Varkala, a quieter alternative to the Varkala’s main beach bustle. Hotels and restaurants mushroom here every year and make this destination an attractive option if you’re looking for good food, relaxation and breathtaking views. Restaurants line up along the cliffs and each of them offer a wide selection of fresh fish. Presented on a table at the front, the choice is there and in big quantity. And so cheap! Altough the wine is pretty pricy, the fresh cocktails are a good alternative and a mojito always pairs well with fish.

Keralan people are such a nice kind. Very friendly, smiley and welcoming. Born and raised in the most ”social advanced state in India”, most of them went to school and learned to speak English. Marriage is by choice and is proven with the love found in the air: couples cover themselves of tender kisses and soft words. Their generosity is as contagious as their head-wobble (they have that strange habit of moving their head like a bobble head. Yes, No, Maybe… Who knows what they really mean).Kerala’s communism’s hammer and sickle brought a more equitable distribution of land and income. A focus on infrastructure, health and education brings a promising future for this successful and beautiful state.

After a last seafood dinner watching the sun go down in Kerala, we prepare ourselves for an other departure. This time, we will be travelling down South to the tip of the lands end of the Indian subcontinent: Kanyakumari, where the 3 seas meet.

A Goan Retreat

Our 15 hour train ride from Mumbai to Goa was great, but then it was late. We arrived to our destination very late at night, tired and looking desperately for a place to sleep. I open my travel Bible (Lonely Planet) and spot a place on the beach for pretty cheap. A rickshaw gives us a ride and stops, pointing us at the sand: ”Walk, walk”. We paid him the 150RPS, put on our packs and start to walk. The darkness hides the surroundings and the waves secretly sing along our sides. After 5 minutes of sandy massages under our tired feet, we arrive to our cocohut in Benaulim Beach, Goa.

A peacefull sound of morning transitions from my dreams to awakening. The melody of the waves washing on the shore makes my eyes open to a new day. I open the door of my hut and admire the scenic view that is sitting in front of me. Finally, the beach and its sea! The mode vacation is here. A time for relaxation, beaching, swimming, tanning, snacking on some fresh food from the sea, sipping on tropical drinks, or simply, doing nothing. After travelling for a month riding local buses, running after trains, being jammed in big city traffic and holding on to our life while crossing streets, it is nice to finally be able to let go of any possible stress, and rest.

Goa nests on the West side of India, along the Arabian Sea. The sandy beaches, cocohut culture and laidbackness of its residents make this state a perfect destination for everyone. A mix of Hinduism, Islam, Christianity and Catholism are found here, along with a Portuguese colonial architecture that reflects a rich history. Purple, orange, green apple, yellow and bright blue are among the colours of many of the houses. Lines of palm trees hug the beaches and the waters of the sea are warm and inviting for a good swim. In the mornings, fishermen arrive on the beach with their humungous net full of small fish, crabs and sea snakes (yes, 4 foot sea snakes). The women fill their baskets with the creatures and carry them on their head to where they will be driedand then sold at the market. My eyes are amazed by this morning work and this team effort, both males and females putting force and energy in every detail.

An other way to work towards this relaxation time, is to get involved in some yoga. I booked a place in a yoga retreat and dedicated my mornings and afternoons to meditation, yoga and really good food. At Ashiyana Yoga, in Mandrem Beach, they offer you accommodation in a Mango Tree House, 2 yoga classes a day and buffet twice a day (which was some of the best vegeterian food I’ve ever tasted). A retreat consisting in draining bad energy, rejuvanating mind and body and purifying soul.

After these relaxing days at the retreat, we make our way back down to Benaulim where we enjoy some drinks with some canadian tourists to celebrate Halloween. Our customes evolve question marks on the other guests, being the only one dressed up for this occasion.

After a couple days of chilling and simply doing nothing, we decide to migrate South and explore an other area. So we make our way to Palolem Beach where we spend  a few days enjoying the tropical sun. One morning, we meet with a fisherman and his son in their 21 foot wood outrigger. We cruise along some islands and explore the surroundings. When suddendly, our captain spots a dolphin and starts signing of joy and excitement! ”Mary had a little lamb, little lamb, little lamb”! There it is, this beautiful aquatic creature gently caressing the surface of the water. And an other one! And more! And a dozens! They are everywhere! 50, maybe a 100! ”You lucky my friends, you so lucky”! This is amazing! With a beating heart and shaking hands, we leave the fear in the boat and let our excitement jump in the water. I am so damned scared, but it is a great feeling. These wilddolphins are not very curious about us, they are more preoccupied by their search for breakfast. But the sensation of swimming if the middle of a large pod, in the open Arabian Sea under the light of the sunrise… wow, a 5$ well spent indeed!

We spend our last days in Goa watching the kids getting ready for their annual festival. Diwali is a hindu event celebrating the festival of lights, but everyone is welcomed to participate. People exchange gifts, sweet treats and light candles and fireworks to guide Lord Rama home from exile. The houses are cleaned and believers are dressed well, waiting for Lord Leksha (Goddess of Wealth), to come visit their house and hopefully brings good luck (money). Our last night in our hut in Panolem is noisy and very explosive. We yawn to the next day and pack our bags to Kerala.


The Growling City of Mumbai

Gates of India

After a 26 hour train ride crossing India East to West, we arrive in Mumbai. the largest city of the country with its 16 million residents. Here, be ready for some action: with its 40 000 taxis in downtown and its 120 000 tuk-tuks in the suburbs, Mumbai growls day and night in a chaotic lifestyle. Open your eyes and let them explore the fascinating change of the castes: from the orphans playing by their slums on the side tracks of the train to the wealthy business man working to perform in his real estates.

We walk in the streets of Colaba to find some corner restaurants filled with tourists, both Westerners and South Indians. In the streets, very young and skinny children tap on your leg to beg you for some rice. ”No money. Just rice please”. How can you resist. Dinner left-overs are gently put beside their sleeping bodies, at the end of the night. Some very young ladies come with a tiny doll in their arms, asking you for some milk. You don’t quite understand why they show you a doll. after you realize that this miniature creature is actually a real baby.

We took the opportunity of being in a big city to loosen up and enjoy the attractions. Walks in the streets, shopping at the multiple stands along the sidewalks, we even spent a day at the largest water park in Asia, the Water Kingdom of Mumbai (which was soooo busy but lots of fun. For the ladies, you must cover yourselfbywearinglong sleeve shirts and long tights, a very different thing for us, butwe sure indeed do it). At night, we cruise along the streets, finding a nice place to eat. Jess and I got approached by an agent offering us to be part of a Bollywood movie. A tempting invitation that we eventually turn away, deciding that a nice dinner between friends with some good seafood and cheap wines was what we needed. 

A couple days seem enough in the big city. We pack our bags and leave towards the beaches of Goa.

Varanasi: Holy City

Pinch me to wake me up. This must be a dream or I’m on a special effect movie set: corpses floating in the river, fires burning deceased bodies, people bathing in and drinking a disturbingly filthy water that they call divine… But the smell makes it real and brings me to reality. A shocking meeting with a culture that is far beyond similar to what we know. Our ignorance squeezes our facial emotions with antipathy. Our mind is confused with a mixed of feelings and emotions. However, our eyes are wide open, strangely intrigued by what we see. Here we are, in Varanasi, one of the world’s oldest inhabited cities and the most holiest place for Hindus.

Varanasi is a city located on the banks of the Ganges River in northern India. This popular pilgrimage destination draws over a million pilgrims each year. They come to pray, wash their sins in the sacred waters and die on the banks of the river. For all, it is a journey of a lifetime. Shrines, temples and palaces are built on the water’s edge while nearly 100 ghats formed by a series of steps of stones lead to the river. 

We rent a rowboat to cruise along the Ganges and our 15-year-old oarsman briefly describes each ghats that we pass. Our voyeurism feels invading but seems tolerated. We catch sight of families, Hindu pilgrims, Sadhus, buffalos, dogs and goats all bathing, purifying their bodies and washing away a lifetime of sins in the sacred waters of the Ganges.

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While I am holding still in the boat, hands tight on the sides, I feel a hairy carcass slightly touching my hand. I look down and see the inert body of a dog, eyeballs out and white, floating free to decompose. My heart stops for a moment. I close my eyes, take a large breath. I look up and look around again. On one side, a man is washing white hotel linens on the muddy shores. On the other, a lady is sweeping trash and waste from one ghat in the water. We approach the burning ghat where we see a boat rowing towards the middle of the river. A father drops the lifeless bodies of a child and a baby. They are both separately wrapped in a white sheet, bounded with ropes, attached by a rock. On the same side, a man is washing his body with the ashes of a person lost.  A spectacular and unbelievable ritual of death and life, of black and white, where death meets purity.

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The moon is at its fullest, and here I am, cruising in the middle of the Ganges, astonished by the abundance of dead bodies, spirits and energies. I light my candle, make a wish, and let it float on the river. Amongst others, it will make its way to its destiny and disappears in the moonlight. Some children are singing prayers and clapping bells on the stairs of a ghat while a Sadhu is performing a ritual ablution towards the moon. The Burning ghat offers a very intimate spectacle of death by cremating a dozen bodies in front of our eyes. Strangely, I am not scared, but embraced by a unique moment of darkness. Pure bliss.

An experience that will live long in my memory. 

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