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26 October 2016 / leggypeggy

A good look at India’s oldest stone structure

Main gate at Sanchi stupa 1

The main gate at Sanchi’s main stupa

Stupa 1, Sanchi, India

Approaching Stupa 1 at Sanchi. The heat is already setting in and the glare is intense

The Great Stupa at Sanchi is the oldest stone structure in India and we were lucky enough to visit it on a day trip from Bhopal.

Buddhist emperor Ashoka, often thought to be India’s greatest ruler (more about him another time), commissioned the original stupa during the Mauryan period in the 3rd century BC.

The core was a simple dome-shaped brick structure built over relics of the Buddha. It was topped with a parasol-like structure (a chatra) that symbolised high rank and served to honour and shelter the relics.

History says that Ashoka’s wife, Devi, oversaw construction of the stupa. She was born in Sanchi, and it was where she and Ashoka married.

We headed to Sanchi early in the day, so arrived well before the hottest part of the day and the arrival of most of the visitors. The place gets a lot of traffic. It is considered sacred, plus it has been listed as a UNESCO World Heritage site since 1989.

Stupa 1 from the monastery

The view of Stupa 1 from the monastery

Stupa 3, Sanchi

Stupa 3 just near Stupa 1

During the Shunga period (2nd century BC), the stupa was expanded (or possibly vandalized and rebuilt) and the bricks were covered with stone. A century later, four elaborately carved toranas (ornamental gateways) and a balustrade encircling the entire structure were added.

We walked around the stupa on the upper level and visited all the gates, which mark the cardinal points of north, east, south and west. The main gate is on the north.

Although made of stone, the gateways were carved and constructed as if they were made of wood. They are covered with narrative sculptures.

These show scenes from Buddha’s life integrated with everyday events that would be familiar to onlookers and make it easier for them to understand the Buddhist creed as it applied to their lives.

At Sanchi (and many other stupas), the local population donated money to embellish the structure and to gain spiritual merit. There was no direct royal patronage.

stupa gate with monastery sanchi

South gate at Stupa 1 overlooking old monastery

Main gate, Stupa 1, Sanchi

Detail at the main gate

detail, Main gate, Stupa 1, Sanchi

More detail at main gate

Devotees, both men and women, who gave money towards a sculpture would often choose to have it done as their favourite scene from the life of the Buddha and then have their names inscribed on it. This is why there is often repetition of particular Buddha episodes on the stupa.

But with the decline of Buddhism in India, the Sanchi monuments went out of use and fell into a state of disrepair.

In 1818, British officer General Taylor of the Bengal Cavalry recorded a visit to Sanchi. He was the first known Westerner to document (in English) the existence of Sanchi. At that time, he found the monuments to have been left undisturbed for a long time and generally well preserved.

Unfortunately, after his discovery, amateur archaeologists and treasure hunters ravaged the site until 1881, when proper restoration work was begun. Between 1912 and 1919, the structures were restored to their present condition under the supervision of Sir John Marshall.

Today, around 50 monuments remain on the hill of Sanchi, including three stupas, several temples and the remains of a monastery.

Stupa 2, Sanchi

Stupa 2

We visited as much of the sie as we could find, including Stupa 2, which was way farther down the hill than we expected. Never mind, we got in our exercise for the day. The collage of pics above show some detail at Stupa 2 and the steps to it.

Oh, and if you’re in to numbers, the main stupa is 12 metres tall (54 feet) and 32 metres in diameter (120 feet). The others are much smaller.

Temple, Sanchi

One of the temples at Sanchi

Countryside, Sanchi

A view of the countryside below Sanchi

21 October 2016 / leggypeggy

Pench delivers—again

Leopard Pench

Romance was in the air today!

It all started this morning at Pench Tiger Reserve in central India. We’ve had numerous safaris through Pench over the last three years, but today was the first time we’d ventured to a distant end of the reserve.

That’s when we saw her, strolling along the road enjoying the solitude of a chilly morning. Within seconds she spotted us and bolted into the bush before we could get a pic. We raced forward in the Gypsy (small four-wheel drive) to where she’d vanished, but she was now just a blur in the scrub. We lingered a while, hoping she’d gather courage and reappear, but nope.

Male leopard, Pench

As we were about to give up and turn back, he came in to view, padding toward us, yet not seeing us.

It didn’t take long to figure out he was a man on a mission. He zigzagged back and forth across the road, sniffing the ground, the grasses and the air. Ah, yes, he was on her trail.

And for the next 70 minutes we watched poor Albert (I’ll soon explain why I’ve called him Albert) do his best to lure her out of hiding.

Leopard at tree

He sniffed and scratched, piddled and sprayed, and sawed. Male leopards make the most extraordinary bellowing when they are trying to call a female to them. It’s called sawing and that’s because it sounds exactly like someone cutting down a tree with a handsaw.

Anand and Deepti say it is most unusual for leopards to linger in plain view for as long as Albert did.  They are naturally skittish and a sighting of a minute or two is considered a long viewing.

But Albert had only one thing on his mind, and it wasn’t us. So we were left to follow him for as long as he stayed within view. He roamed back and forth across the road, scratched trees and sat on rocks to saw pitifully.

Either the girl was far away by now, or just not interested. His woeful sawing reminded me of another Albert, a likeable yet semi-tragic figure who graces some of the stories on Fifty Words Daily.

I hope both Alberts end up getting the girl.

As for us—it was the most remarkable leopard sighting I will probably ever see.

P.S. I took about 200 photos in 70 minutes and it’s been hard to choose the ones to share. Plus I had to rush before the lodge turned off the internet—my first connection in a week. I may be compelled to share more later.🙂

Leopard walking, Pench



15 October 2016 / leggypeggy

Apologies in advance for focusing on my travel and blogs

Adam and Eve, Baiga tribe, India

Adam and Eve of the Baiga tribe. Part of a display in Bhopal’s Ethnic Museum explaining how the earth came to be.

Today was an eye-opener for me.

So far, we’ve had four days in India. Twelve hours between flights were in New Delhi—a city we know fairly well—and three days have been in Bhopal—a city I first met in the news in the 1980s.

Too many people will remember Bhopal for the tragic chemical gas leak and explosion that happened 32 years ago, just after midnight in December 1984.

Almost 4000 people have died as a direct result of the disaster and more than half a million were affected. It’s often called the world’s worst-ever industrial disaster, and it never should have happened. Even today, there is a general view that Union Carbide has never really paid its dues on this matter.

Thankfully Bhopal has gone on to recover, grow and prosper.

But that hasn’t been my eye-opener.

After four days in India, I realised I haven’t shared anything with you.

I’ve looked, liked and/or commented on blogs I follow. I’ve plowed through several hundred emails and still have 50 unviewed and another 22 that need answers. I haven’t written to my kids except to say we arrived safely.

And most of all, I haven’t told you a darned thing about all the amazing things we’ve seen.

This is worrying, especially when the internet connection drops out regularly and each page takes several minutes to load.

Bada Gumbad Complex

Part of the Bada Gumbad Complex in New Delhi’s Lodi Garden

When I said I was heading to India, fellow blogger and excellent photographer, Vicki Alford, told me to ‘forget’ about dealing with all the online stuff and enjoy the travels.

So I’m taking Vicki’s advice seriously. I’ll try to post as often as I can about where we are and what we are doing. But just for the time being, I am going to stop worrying about liking, following or commenting on other blogs.

Internet connections in the big city have been slow and unreliable. In an hour we head into Satpura National Park and connections will get worse or non-existent. Hey, this post took about six hours to get loaded.

Hope you’ll understand that for now, I’m going focus my patchy internet time on sharing India with you.

P.S. In the last few days we seen vast gardens, multiple festival celebrations, two mosques, a fort, two museums (including the most amazing ethnic/tribal museum I have ever seen), two scenic lakes, traffic jams like you wouldn’t believe (because the Prime Minster was visiting Bhopal), and a hairdressing salon, where three of us gals got the works.

P.P.S. If you are interested in knowing more about the gas disaster in 1984, I can highly recommend the heartbreaking Five past midnight in Bhopal by Dominque Lapierre and Javier Moro.

P.P.S. Don’t forget to check out my cooking blog. Here’s a great Indian recipe for spinach and lentil dal.

Bhopal India

Overlooking Bhopal and one of its lakes

11 October 2016 / leggypeggy

Off to India for some tiger time

Tiger in India

Poor John and I are about to board a flight to Singapore, with a final destination—many hours from now—of India.

Looking forward to 45 days of road trip in India’s south with the young naturalists we have travelled with twice before. It’s mostly about the animals—lions and tigers and bears. Yes, India has all three—Asiatic lions, Bengal tigers and sloth bears. When we aren’t exploring, we’ll be enjoying the wonderful cuisines of India.

Obviously, I’ll have a lot less online time, so forgive me if I miss liking or commenting on your blog posts. I’ll do my best. We’ll be travelling remotely a lot of the time.

Asiatic lions in India

6 October 2016 / leggypeggy

A heartfelt tribute to Fred

Fred Gerber

Fred in the Asaro village, Papua New Guinea

Over the last few days my thoughts have been consumed by Fred and Ze, Fred’s wife of many years. Let me tell you a bit about Fred.

Poor John and I met Fred about two years ago on our trip to Papua New Guinea. While there, we visited the Goroka Show, an Asaro village and a selection of coastal villages.

We loved Fred’s company. He was a gentleman, raconteur, radiologist and nuclear medicine doctor.

He had many wonderful stories. Without going into a lot of detail, some years ago Fred was one of the two people in the USA who was allowed to give a go-ahead for every American nuclear test. As a nuclear medicine doctor, Fred had the second last say. The meteorologist had the final say.

Fred gave meaning to my feet. My feet are so poorly constructed. I was born this way (mostly thanks to genetics), but most people think I have huge bunions. Fred even asked, Peggy, when are you going to get your bunions fixed.

I explained, Fred, I was born this way, and he replied, that’s the worst case of hallux valgus I’ve ever seen. I was stunned. Seriously, have you seen many cases? I asked. Yes plenty, remember I was a radiologist.

But enough about the state of my feet.

Over many years, Fred has suffered from ALS (amyotrophic lateral sclerosis) or Lou Gehrig’s disease. It was and wasn’t a big issue in Papua New Guinea. Fred managed well at the Goroka Show, but it was harder for him to reach the Asaro village.

We had to walk up a huge hill to get to the village. I walked with Fred. Mostly to keep him company and also to excuse the fact I was also walking slowly.

When we got to about the halfway point, Fred sat on a rock and said he couldn’t go farther. He said he was happy to stay there until we came back down for an excursion (later that afternoon). He said he’d figure out the next steps later.

As it turned out, the locals insisted on carrying Fred to the top. Two burly men clasped hands together to create a ‘chair’ he could sit in, and carried him to the top.

What an amazing service they provided for someone they didn’t know.

Once ‘up top’, Fred stayed put to enjoy the many activities offered by the Asaro villagers.

We hoped to travel with Fred again. He and Ze were to be part of our Alaskan trip earlier this year. But it wasn’t to be. Fred was too sick to go.

So why the tribute to him now?

As far as I know, Fred died on Sunday. He died with dignity.

His ALS had advanced at such a great rate that Fred took advantage of Washington State’s euthanasia legislation. He and Ze had discussed the matter and decided together, choosing Sunday as his ‘departure date’.

We respect and honour Fred’s choice. We’ll miss him.

Fred with Asaro mudmen

Fred with Asaro mudmen


29 September 2016 / leggypeggy

Today’s special guest; Peggy

Featured Image -- 14455

I’m really quite thrilled today to have been interviewed and featured on Roberta Pimentel’s amazing blog. Hope you can take a moment to check out her blog.

Roberta Pimentel

Wow, for the first time I managed to have a special guest that has birthday exactly on the date when I publish the post. She has been a reporter-photographer and she has two blogs that you will find out about when you are reading this interview. Please give her a warm welcome and wish her happy birthday!  ♥

Hi Peggy! It’s an honour to have you here today thanks for accepting my invitation.

Q.1) What made you want to start blogging?

I didn’t really plan to start blogging, but as a former reporter–photographer for a daily newspaper I wanted to keep a record of certain day-to-day occurrences.

I currently have two blogs. The travel blog came first because I wanted to keep a diary and photographic record of our overland travels.

The cooking blog came later. I decided it was a good way to get me to use my hundreds of…

View original post 660 more words

17 September 2016 / leggypeggy

Brazil’s impressive bird park near Iguazu

Yellow and green bird

You looking at me? Not sure of the species but love the colours

I have mixed emotions about zoos and other wildlife parks. How are the animals cared for? Does the facility operate ethically? Does it have a mission beyond tourism and income?

I’m also a huge sucker for birds, so was keen to visit the Parque das Aves (or Bird Park) on the Brazilian side of the Iguazu Falls.

What an amazing and honourable bird sanctuary it is, and in such a beautiful setting.

I was gobsmacked by the number and variety of birds—there are more than 900 birds from 150 different species. I was also impressed by how the birds are housed. Most are in large aviaries, which allows the ‘residents’ to strut and fly about. There are water features and plenty of trees, too, for perches.

In addition to the magnificent birds, we also saw several species of snakes, lizards, caimans and butterflies.

A tree full of birds

A tree full of scarlet ibises

The sanctuary is privately owned and spreads over 40 acres of forest. It opened in 1994 and plays a conservation role as well.

In addition to all the visual evidence, I was impressed by park’s statement regarding its philosophy and approach. Here it is.

‘Parque das Aves is a conservation project in the Atlantic Rainforest near Foz do Iguassu, Brazil. We take in birds, which have been rescued from animal trafficking or are for some reason no longer able to survive in the wild. We give them a home in their beautiful native rainforest.

‘We love huge aviaries. We think birds should be able to fly, and have a great social life, and feed on the best, fresh, organic diet possible.

Red bird

‘We then breed a new generation of birds, which are capable of being released back into the wild (and we have a number of projects that do exactly that.) We also support projects and research throughout Brazil. We plant thousands of trees a year, restoring degraded Atlantic Rainforest.

‘The Parque das Aves thinks that education is one of our most important tasks. Sometimes it’s as simple as giving people direct contact with these beautiful birds. It’s amazing what that can do. We also educate thousands of local schoolchildren a year in special programs. Thank you for supporting Parque das Aves. We couldn’t do it without you.’

Southern screamers

Southern screamers

I’m not alone in my admiration for Parque das Aves. Reviews on TripAdvisor are highly complimentary. The sanctuary has almost 17,000 reviews in numerous languages. A remarkable 96 per cent of the reviews written in English rank the park as very good or excellent. Several reviews point out that the park is wheelchair friendly.

I have to confess that I don’t remember all the bird species, but here’s a collection of birds with a lot of black in their colouring.