What lies around the bend… we know not!

During its journey, meandering through three states, the Colorado River, cuts through Marble Canyon. Driving over Navajo Bridge, you see this mighty river from way above — almost 142 meters (616 feet) above — the water level. Looking far yonder, one wonders what lies around that bend… but few can tell, just as in life, it’s hard to foretell what the next bend has in store for us.

The Colorado River cuts through Marble Canyon, Arizona. We never quite know what lies around the bend, do we?
The Colorado River cuts through Marble Canyon, Arizona. One rarely knows what lies around the bend.

Today, once again, my thoughts are veering west… towards what was home for some time. Maestro Ennio Morricone’s haunting ‘Harmonica’ reverberates in my ears. Memories of majestic California Condors flying high above Vermillion cliffs, and around Marble Canyon in Navajo country over the Colorado River, sweep across.

Majestic California Condors flying high above Vermillion Cliffs and Marble Canyon, Arizona.
Majestic California Condors flying high above Vermillion Cliffs and Marble Canyon, Arizona.

But minutes before approaching the site above near Navajo Reservation area, we were driving along US Route 89 (perhaps just before it turned into 89A). I recall my first glimpse of Vermillion Cliffs… simply out of this world. But these don’t appear pink as I remembered them from my first trip there in April 2000. Nevertheless, it’s also a function of time of the year, time of the day, weather, so on and so forth… but the long winding roads, free of city traffic, are a refreshing change at any time especially in late spring — May 22, 2010 — still make for the perfect time to visit. (No, I take that back — not during AZ summers!) There was snow I remember, as we reached higher altitudes… but Arizona is dotted with mesas that stretch for miles and miles… it’s also a great time to listen to Robert Miles. For us, “Children” is often set to auto play…

Approaching the Canyons and the Cliffs, along US Route 89 & 89A
Approaching the Canyons and the Cliffs, along US Route 89 & 89A

Many travelers visit the South Rim of the Grand Canyon, but with time on hand, and our personal inclination to see the grander view, we’ve driven to the North Rim on a couple of occasions, enjoying every moment of the arduous journey through snow et al… (Can’t say our guests were equally delighted to sit through the extra three hours for an additional 123 miles). As the crow flies, the distance from South Rim to the North Rim is merely 11 miles… but if people were crows, can you imagine the cawing (not to mention the clawing)! 😉

Standing by the Navajo Bridge, I was transposed into another era.
Standing by the Navajo Bridge, I was transposed into another era.

Just past 6 p.m. on May 22, 2010, standing by the Navajo Bridge, I was transposed into another era.

PostScript: I often share my posts from here on Facebook. Today, I first wrote separate snippets on my timeline and then compiled it together, making it a mini travelogue. (Thanks to a comment from a kind soul.) 😉

Explosions at Bodh Gaya!

My tympanic membrane is tired, and hardened from the continual onslaught of explosive news. Not only tired of the terrorism, I’m sickened by the endless rapes that women suffer mercilessly. Add to that the helplessness one feels, reading about the pointless deaths of hundreds, thousands – en masse!

Now, worse, am defeated by the mindless attempt at destruction of something sacred… not merely from a religious perspective; but it’s the sanctity of a brick structure that withstood the test of time, and weathered the elements for over two millennium – The Mahabodhi Temple! By using explosives, miscreants shook the foundations of an edifice that is symbolic of ‘ahimsa’, non-violence, and is sacred to millions of people across the globe.

A while back I posted photographs from a visit to the ruins of Nalanda, not far (56 miles) from Bodh Gaya in Bihar; also an institute of higher learning in Ancient India, particularly for Buddhist monks. I dread to think of the damage that depraved minds are capable of doing… and shudder at the thought of the pain they are causing those who are perhaps the few among the peace-loving people remaining in this world.

Buddhist Monks at Nalanda

Buddhist Monks at Nalanda
by chitralekhan

Modern day monks… at the ancient center of learning, in Bihar, India.

When I visited Nalanda in November of 1996, it was the Chinese Year of the Monkey… 4694 Bing-Shen! So, “What’s the context?” you may well ask… well, among the Buddhist Jataka Tales, is also a delightful but profound story about The Monkey King, stressing upon the importance of self-sacrifice.  🙂

Much of what we know today about Buddhism can also be attributed to the accounts written by renowned Buddhist monk, Xuanzang (Hsüan-tsang)… scholar & traveler sans camera! 😉 🙂

The Ruins of Nalanda University

The ruins of Nalanda University
Originally uploaded by chitralekhan

The excavated remains of an ancient center of learning… from over 2000 years ago!

I may not be able to visit Taxila (now in modern-day Pakistan) in this lifetime, but was very fortunate to be able to walk around on the very same grounds of Nalanda where, at one point in history, Buddhist monks and scholars had meditated. Steeped in history, this site is truly fascinating!

Soaking under the blazing hot sun – even in early November ’96 , with a basic camera loaded with 35 mm Extachrome slide film (alas, transparencies in this digital era are now relegated to photography history), I clicked as many pix as possible in a matter of a couple of hours.  Oh yeah, at the time,  it was fun… even without Flickr… 😉  Just a low-end camera, with amateur photography skills, but the joy of travel surpassed all other pleasures… the pix were so I could view them at leisure… even much later!

(Oh no, no plagiarizing… besides, in the pre-internet, pre-broadband era you’d have to contact a photo stock agency, and they’d charge what seemed then like an arm and a leg… I know, we used a lot of those in our ad campaigns!) 😉

Plan of excavated ruins: Ancient Nalanda University

Plan of excavated ruins: Ancient Nalanda University
Originally uploaded by chitralekhan

Layout of Nalanda University, (Bihar), India: one of the ancient higher-learning institutions, particularly for Buddhist monks from near & the Far East… think 5th & 6th centuries B.C. Alas, it still remains among UNESCO’s tentative lists of designated World Heritage sites:  Excavated Remains at Nalanda

I took this photograph in the pre-digital era, in November 1996… while on a tour of Jain & Buddhist pilgrim centers in Bihar… Samed Shikharji, Pavapuri, Rajgir, Kundalpur, etc.


Yesterday was one day when the whole world seemed to drive me a tad mad. I’ve got over that now, and was determined to reproduce my article, which was published several years back…

Hampi is one of my most favorite travel destinations, and I often search for new websites and updated information regarding the ongoing excavations there. ‘Romance on the Rocks‘ was my attempt in 2001 at documenting what I saw, learned and photographed during a 1997 visit to Hampi, Badami, Aihole and Pattadakal.

Although it’s bitterly cold out here, we have to thank the sunny skies. But more importantly, out there somewhere on this planet are places and people that are bright, warm and marvelous! A chance visit today, to  Laya & Pratheep’s “amateur attempt”, was inspiration for me to get proactive. I believe theirs is a superb effort to bring to light India’s historic destination. Thanks, folks.

It’s Friday the thirteenth…

Does it actually freak out many people?

The National Geographic published an item under its News section, a few years back about how the US lost almost 800-900 million USD on this day only on account of people’s superstitions and phobias related to flying or doing business on Friday 13th.

If anxiety builds up due to beliefs, phobias, and folklore, the probability of something bad occurring is bound to increase. When that happens, chances are such people are more likely to meet with an accident, or, are prone to all ‘bad luck’. The phobia feeds on itself. So folks, remember, think good thoughts, think of the weekend, think of the warm summer, think of all the fun activities you can indulge in… and today, on Friday 13th you will find yourself sailing along happily, humming happy tunes and singing, “Thank God it’s Friday”!

After you’ve had an enjoyable weekend, come back to share your joy with me. Who cares then about its roots in ancient history.