The end of the big T

Tanya cycling through India

T is for Thailand, but it is also for Tropics. As our time here in Thailand end, so does our trip. For the past 10 months we have spent all of our time in the tropic, from the northern Thailand, northern Vietnam and middle of India. We have also been in the far south, in Singapore nearly straddling the equator. We have seen the season (hot, hotter and wet), and although hot season was hot when we arrived, it is now cold. Hotter is still hot and wet is wet. Torrential downpours have caused small streams to fill paths, make roads more like river instead of roads, and have transformed the landscape from yellow to bright green. The lethargic hot weather makes any task difficult.

Learning at the PDC

Taking our PDC in Malaysia during the hot season was tough, I remember laying on the cement trying to cool down. I also remember working on Grassroots farm during this hot period, hoping for rain just to keep cool. I also remember when it would get cold at night in Hampie and Dalat, having to wear a sweater and a toque (who knew?)

New tastes, Durian, the King of Fruit

We both embarked on this trip in hopes to see something different, and experience something different. Riding a bicycle through India was a great way to achieve this goal. We also wanted to get inspired, thanks to places like Sadhana forest and the Panya project we are inspired. But also to our PDC teachers and everyone else we have met along the way. We have learned so much on this trip. We have learned:

  • How to build with mud

  • How to make kimchi

  • How to make wine

  • How to live in a community

    Learning about biodynamics

  • The best way to find ones way around rural India

  • How to grow food

  • How to cook without a cook book

  • How to cook for a hundred people

  • How to make various Biodynamic perperations

It was damn cold in Dalat

I know there is so much more as well. I never thought that I could get sick of traveling, and although I’m not sick of traveling, I am ready to come home. There is so much I want to try, there is so much I want to do and I’m looking forward to doing it.

SE Asia is full of culture and history

I want to thank all the loyal readers of this blog, we appreciate you dedication and patients. The last couple of months have been pretty inactive (in terms of blog posts). Since the beginning of this trip there has been more then 16,000 views on grannygear, which is pretty amazing, so we thank you all for your support. For those that we met on the road, maybe one day our paths will cross and we can catch up. For the rest of you back home, we are looking forward to meeting up people we haven’t seen in about a year and just chillin. See you soon.

Best of India

During our mulit-hour wait to catch the bus to Mysore, we came up with a list of some of the “Best Of” our trip:

Best Scenery

Riding into Hampi (image above)

Best Riding Day

Cochi to Alleppy

Best Dal

Hotel Raya’s in Kumbakonam

Best Temple

A taste of the Sri Ranganathaswamy Temple in Trichy

Best Pizza

New Creation Pizzaria in Auroville

Best TV show

No Reservations

Best Ice Cream

Richy Rich in Auroville

Best Indian Food discover

Parotta is amazing, white flour covered in oil and fried, great for eating right there or saving for the next day.

Best shot from inside a temple

Inside the Pattadakall temple

Best Photo taken

Us, taken somewhere along to the temple route.

Best Cycling equipment

Brooks saddles

Best Weather

The cooler weather at Kumily hill station

Best value accommodation

guesthouse in Mysore around Lakshmipuram

Best cycling energy food

peanut chikki

Best Entertainment

Open Stage nights at Sadhana Forest

Best fresh juice

Grape juice from Mahesh Prasad in Mysore

Best city not in the guidebook

Belgaum

Best Masala Dosa

Mahesh Prasad in Mysore

These were amazing, I probably had at least one a day for 30 days.

Best City

Pondicherry

Best Luck

No flat tires

Best Chocolate

Baker Street – Pondicherry

Best cycling road

The road Into Pudukkottai was quite, calm and enjoyable.

Best 10 Rs ever spent

A massive bag of basil at Nilgris market in Mysore

Best TV commercial

The Diet Sugar commercial

”Aba dabi di be” (we have not idea what this means or how to spell it but we say it all the time because it’s always stuck in our heads)

Best newly acquired skill

Discovering the very efficient way to get the seeds out of pomegranates

Best season

Mango season

Best State

Kerla with its backwaters, chilled out scene, rainforest, and diversity, it is easy to see why this is our favourite State (especially if you only have a short time)

Best Decision

To stay in India despite the terrorist attacks when we arrived

Sadhana Forest – Tanya’s Perspective

I thought I’d write another post about our time at Sadhana Forest. Kelly, as you’ve read, was busy everyday working on a specialized project because of his mad Forestry skills.  I, on the other hand, got to learn and do a wide variety of different tasks:

  • Developing an irrigation system in preparation for the upcoming monsoon (aka – digging trenches!)
  • Working on the creation of new garden beds and plots (aka – digging dirt from one location and moving it to another)
  • Helping to create organic, vegan meals in the kitchen (aka – peeling and chopping 100 cloves of garlic or de-seeding 30 or so pomegranates at any given time)
  • Maintaining the composting toilet system (aka – poop scooping)
  • Processing mulch (aka – breaking branches and twigs)
  • And more….!

Working

It has been so much fun though doing this work and I’ve learned a lot!
Our day basically went like this:
Wake up call at 6:00 am
First work is at 6:30-8:30
Breakfast from 8:30-9:30 which is usually porridge with fruit salad
Second work from 9:30-11:30
After that it’s time for a nice bucket of cold water to wash up, then its lunch, which is typically Brown rice, Dal (lentil stew) and one or two salads.
After lunch is mostly free time (unless you’re helping to cook dinner), in which there are often activities you can do if you want to.  A few times a week we’d go into town on our bicycles to use the computer or get additional food.  Dinner is at 5:30 which varies, but is usually something like a soup, a grain, and a salad, sometimes a desert!

After dinner there is always something going on, often there will be a movie or even an open-mic night which is really fun.

Alternative Power

Oven

Washing Station

The Kitchen

We’ve met so many great people and had a fantistic time at Sadhana Forest!

Posted from Pattanur, Tamil Nadu, India
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Making a Map

In forestry, I couldn’t imagine working without a map. For the past five years, Sadhana forest has had no detailed map, it has all been pretty much all in Aviram’s head. Which is amazing, and it really shows you don’t need a map if you know the land really well. That however didn’t stop me from making a map. Using free aeral photos, and open source software, I was able to create a map for Sadhana forest that they can post on web, print off on very large scale, or to give to some one who is interested in the project.  Click Here for more informatrion

On top of that, I was also showed a few of the long term volunteers how to do a very simple PSP (permanent sample plot). Although the plots were not randomly or systematically chosen (not enough time for that), they were set up in the areas that were planted in the past couple of years. The plots were done with a 5.65m plot cord (made from some rope that I had), a steal steak and a measuring tape. There were over 150 different species planted in the past, and there is no realistic way to identify them all, so we did a very rough species ID (Planted, Natural or Acacia). We also took some more photo points (N, E, S, W, Up and Down). The idea is to visit these site once every 1-5 years and gather some data on planted survival rates, growth rates, success of different planting techniques and to update the photo points. In 20 years, there should be a very complete and interesting collection of data that will paint a neat picture of this ecosystem. Too add to this, a handful of these volunteers will also be headed to Senegal to start up a similar project from the ground up, being able to start sampling at year zero would also be great, and part of the reason why I trained 6 volunteers how to do this. It is pretty neat when you can show a group of people who are interested in this sort of thing. My stay at Sadhana Forest has been very enjoyable, and I would recommend it to everyone (a chance to see that you can live on $3 a day and have a great time being part of a community).

Posted from Pattanur, Tamil Nadu, India
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Surveying the forest

After one shift of work at the forest I heard of someone who needed some help getting GPS points of the forest. My head perked right up and I met up with a guy named Yoav. Yoav is an American who got a scholarship from the US gov’t to make a book on landmark trees in India. He has done a lot of research in the forest before and had some really good ideas of he wanted to contribute to Sadhana. After a few minutes of talking (in which he asked me a bunch of questions) we got off to do some surveying of the forest.

Erosion

The surveys were simple, probably not statistically significant, however they do paint a picture of what is out there in the forest (which happens to be a whole lot of introduced nitrogen fixing pioneer species from Australia). We had a small crew and some crude tools, and we measured the trees that landed in our systematically placed 100m2 plot. It was cool, both Yoav and I could breeze through this process. After work was over we went walking in the forest geeking it up, talking about different species and land formation. I learnt a lot about ecology from Yoav.

A Forested Area

We also took some GPS points, took some pictures and got some data for making a rough map for the area. Which was also cool. I was using a borrowed computer though, which complicated things, but I got it nearly completed. With only using 2005 aerial images from Google earth, I was able to construct a pretty good map, all that is missing is some information from Aviram (and he is a very busy man).

Next week I am going to show one of the long term volunteers how to set up a PSP and do some simple sampling (like tree planting plots, with a plot chord). I am also going to pound some steel into the ground and take pictures of those places, and make a SWP (Standard Work Procedure) so that anyone can come back and take pictures of the this forest as it grows (every 5 years). Aviram is pretty excited about this and it is neat that I am able to contribute to the project like this.

In the canyon

Spider

A young Acacia

Mistletoe?

Watering Hole

It looked cool

Also looked cool

Watering hole

We have really enjoyed our stay here, it has been a lot of fun. We are planning to stay a little bit longer and then it is off to Mysore.

Posted from Pattanur, Tamil Nadu, India
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Sadhana Forest

I realize that the sound of going to forest in which you work for you room and the food you get is vegan doesn’t sound like the most popular tourist destination. That is because it is not a tourist destination. The minimum stay here is two weeks, and everyone works for 4-5 hours in the morning. Without really knowing what we were getting ourselves into, Tanya sent an e-mail to say that we were coming.

There are more people here then ever, over 100. Which may not seem like a big number, in the monsoon, there is only about 20 people here though, and this place is starting to swell with the tourist season. The community is going through some growing pains, infastructure is being build encredibly fast accmodate the extra people.

Tshere is a couple that started this forest, their names are Yorit and Aviram Rozin, fueled by a dream, the community was build around non-violence, whole foods, and clear minds (no drinking or drugs while your stay here). There is also a forest (the main focus of the project). The whole area is about 30 ha which is tiny, but it contains a rare ecosystem that is nearly deforested.

Life at the forest is simple, you sleep in simple huts, eat simple food and you do simple tastes. Not that technology is forbidden, quite the opposite, there is wifi Internet access for everyone (if you brought a laptop), the workstations are dotted with iPods and speakers, which play familiar music. There is a projector in the main hall in which movies are played twice a week.

Like I said before, the food is vegan, which has been a lot better then expected. I often finish lunch thinking I could eat more, but I don’t and I’m not super hungry when dinner is served. There is no refined food allowed, no oils or sugar. The food is actually pretty good.

We plan to stay another week or so, and then it is off to Mysore to do some yoga. The posts for the next two months are going to slow down. As we start to spend more time in the same place, we just won’t have that many things to write about. This is a heads up, I will send out another e-mail when we start cycling again. Our ticket to leave India is near the end of April, so some time in May we will be back on the road cycling.

The landscape, this used to have no plants on it, but in the last five years, water conservation has brought the introduced Acacia seed bank alive

Moon Cocoon (or Ecodome), was an experiment to see how packed dirt can make a structure.

A different way to plant, y ou just can’t plant trees like you can back in the forests in Canada

Posted from Pattanur, Tamil Nadu, India
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