26 July 2011

The Splendour of Masters

music savesI am a hyper kind of a person. Someone once said of herself - “My mind is always in constant chatter with itself in which I think about a million things” and I was like – THAT IS SO ME!!!! Only Music, especially the flute has a calming effect on me. From as far back as I can remember the Flute was always my favorite. It inspires me, stirs such emotions and even though this may sound like an oxymoron – it energizes while bringing about a greater peacefulness.

Just the thought of listening to THE Pt Hariprasad Chaurasia energized me!!! The Splendour of Masters - a brilliant coming-together of varied genres from Indian and western classical to jazz with the maestros- Pandit Hariprasad Chaurasia, Gwyneth Wentink on the Harp, George Brooks with the Saxaphone, Fazal Qureshi, Mukul Dongre, Subhankar Banerjee on the Tablas and finally Gino Banks on the Drums - what a mélange!!! Sounded very, very unusual and interesting.

Don’t ask me what ragas were played…I don’t have that kinda knowledge unfortunately. But we were treated to some mind-blowing chemistry between the Flute and Harp, Saxaphone and Drums, Flute and Saxaphone, Drums and Tabla and finally all of them together.

The Harpist - Gwyneth Wentink also explained the basic chords and strings of the Harp…not that it made any sense to me. But it was appreciated by many other in the audience – the musicians. She was excellent and reciprocated Pandit Ji with ease and what they managed to create that day was truly meditative. In the middle, a string broke in her harp, but she didn’t let that worry her too much and continued to play.

Geroge Brooke went Indian - sitting cross-legged, presenting a Western instrument in a Kurta!!! He on the saxophone and Gino Banks on drums then played some real peppy music, which left many tapping their feet.

A soul rendering solo – a lullaby from Brooks followed.

The grand finale with all of them playing together was a spell-binding experiment, playful at time, dark and brooding at others.

A Mesmerizing evening!

21 July 2011

Waitomo Caves and Rotorua – New Zealand Feb 2011

Next day saying bye to Auckland we started travelling south towards Rotorua, the Thermal Wonderland. Barry, our new chauffeur was quite amused by our group – a noisy, garrulous group of 6 women. He himself was quite quiet but every time I looked at him he would be smiling at our girly conversation!!!

As we drove along Barry pointed out some places with very Indian names like Bombay Hills and Coromandel Peninsula. These names have their origin in events like British ships called Bombay and HMS Coromandel landing there.

We had mentioned to Barry that we wanted to buy the local Wine and Cheese and the efforts he made for that was truly praiseworthy. First we stopped at a Cheese place and a little later at a Wine place. Both were closed. But Barry was not one to give up easily...he knocked on the doors, peered inside the windows, tried to look for back doors to get us inside, but no such luck.

Waikato region
So wineless and cheeseless we continued our drive through the Waikato region following the Waikato River, New Zealand’s longest river. Had heard a lot of raves about the beauty of New Zealand...the undulating green fields with cows and sheep looked very beautiful and fresh…but nothing unique. I have seen similar sights in Scotland, Europe and England. The real beauty of New Zealand that people speak about is in the South Island. But more on that in a later post.

Close to lunch time we reached the Waitomo Glow Worm Caves. The glow worm is unique to New Zealand and a boat ride under thousands of these tiny creatures radiating their luminescent light was truly, truly magical. Everyone was totally mesmerized...no one made a sound!

A cute picnic lunch in Waitomo and off we were towards Rotorua.
picnic lunch

After a short rest on reaching Rotorua we grew restless and decided to go for a walk into town till Rotorua Lake. It was a longish walk - a good 2 kms walk either way from our hotel to the lake but the light cold breeze made it really refreshing. Sitting around at the lake reminded me of a joke someone had told me – “2 women decided to go on a pilgrimage and walked from Kanyakumari to Varanasi. After several weeks they returned and as one was going to freshen up she says – you wait here only I have something to tell you. Inspite of several weeks of yapping they still had stuff to gossip about!!!
The whole day in the van from Auckland to Rotorua we had yapped and the yapping continued at the lake and once we returned to our rooms also!!!

20 July 2011

Auckland - New Zealand Feb 2011

Though the initial experience of waiting in the loooooooooong and slow queue at Auckland airport (since we were carrying some food items) was quite frustrating, it was only later in our trip that we appreciated the reason. The economy is primarily agricultural and one bug into their country can cause havoc.
However, the whole trip was so fantabulous that this was quickly forgotten by me...in fact I remembered about this long wait only when I revisited Indu’s notes on our trip.
People on the SkyWalk
Kiwis - a funny but amazing word for it can refer to the country, the people or a fruit!!! Tells something about the people though – no hassle, no ego, people who can crack a joke on themselves as Sussane our driver cum guide in Auckland demonstrated.

Adventure activities, Wine, Sheep, Cheese and Maori land...few words that come to mind when one thinks of New Zealand. We got a taste of adventure on our very 1st day in Auckland.

At the famous Sky Tower one gets to walk around in 360 degrees on a 1.2 meter-wide walkway at 192 meters above the ground. No handrails and nothing but air on either side of you!!!
Heart missed several beats as we reached the reception or Mission Control as they call it, and saw the videos and understood what we had bargained for. Only Nalini seemed totally unperturbed. As 2 of our group decided to give it a skip and a third one was in two minds, I tried to put on a brave front and encourage them, though deep inside I too wanted to join them!
Finally the four of us went ahead...what an exhilarating experience. Not to be missed I would say. We had a really nice instructor who was quite patient with us while at the same time kept encouraging us to try several things like a ‘Titanic Pose’ standing at the edge and the other way around where it was like ‘Hanging over the Edge!’ After the initial hesitation, 3 of us did try all that, though Dipti just hung on to her rope. We were quite comfortable by the end of it and just before we finished the walk, we were just standing and chatting when we hear Dipti shout – guys can we just finish this and get to the landing platform. Looked like she had had enough!
Green Crater at Mt Eden

A quick lunch and off we were for the city tour towards Mt Eden and the Green Crater! New Zealand is part of the ‘Ring of Fire’ and Auckland is considered a geologists paradise with as many as 50 dormant volcanoes - you can climb their peaks and enter their cones. Mt Eden is the highest of these from where you can get expansive views over the city, the famous Eden Park Cricket ground and the Waitemata Harbour But what was more amazing was the greenery there...not something that one would associate with a crater!
Auckland Museum Sign!
From there we passed in front of the Auckland Museum where I saw an interesting sign – ‘I AM OUTRAGEOUS I AM AUCKLAND MUSEUM’. And of course the Forsyth Barr, which is a bar for people from the Legal profession...but only MEN!!!
Tree struck by lightning
Other interesting sights included a Parking Lot for Boats, a huge tree struck by lightning lying across the park and the Harbour Bridge with its 'Nippon clip-ons'. It seems the bridge was originally built with four lanes for traffic but due to increasing traffic levels (nothing new there!) it was soon necessary to increase the capacity of the bridge So ten years after opening, two-lane box girder clip-on sections were added to each side, doubling the number of lanes to eight. The sections were manufactured by a Japanese company, which led to the nickname 'Nippon clip-ons'.
2 recreational buildings built in the shape of cruise ships were also quite unique, especially since they were on the sea front so actually looked like some ships have run aground. From the city we followed the route taken by the famous the Ports of Auckland Round the Bays fun-run around the contours of Waitemata harbor.
A stop at the Winter Garden with several varieties of flowers and fruits bought the tour to an end. A warm day, Susanne not able to get AC of the vehicle running...just the ingredients for an Ice Cream break.
Later in the evening we took a ferry to Devonport and walked along the sea, paddled in the water, posed around for snaps, collected some shells and whet up an appetite. Good for us as we had a lovely dinner at a place called Mecca …lovely being an understatement. It was the best vegetarian meal I have had outside of India! A starry sky and glittering lights of Auckland on the return trip was just the right way to end the day.