Projets rando 2024 [en]

Depuis l’année dernière je fais des projets. J’organise les choses que j’aime faire. J’ai une liste des randonnées que je souhaite faire, et je bloque des dates dans mon agenda pour ça. Banal? Nouveau pour moi.

Et là, on va un cran plus loin, parce qu’avec un emploi stable, je peux même planifier mes vacances!

L’ascension du Kilimandjaro, ça peut faire rêver, mais comme je suis pas prête je vais me contenter de faire le Tour du Mont Blanc. Avec une copine, on s’est dit un peu comme ça “allez, en 2025!” Défi lancé. (Si ça te fait rêver dis-moi, on s’est dit qu’on pouvait y aller à 4-5 si on avait des copains-copines qui voulaient se joindre à l’aventure.)

Actuellement, je fais des randonnées sur une journée, avec pas trop de dénivelé (1000m c’est déjà “pas mal” pour moi). Les deux cabanes que j’avais prévues cette année sont malheureusement tombées à l’eau pour des raisons indépendantes de la volonté de tous les acteurs impliqués: La cabane de Plan Névé (objectif Col des Chamois, dont le nom me fait rêver depuis des années) et la cabane des Marindes (Vanil Noir). La fin de saison approche, donc il va falloir réagender ça pour 2024. Parce qu’en 2024, il faudra effectivement que je m’habitue à aligner des jours.

Projets, donc:

…En plus de mes envies déjà en place d’aller voir un max de glaciers tant qu’ils sont encore là, de mettre le pied sur des chemins blanc-bleu, et de profiter des occasions qui se présentent spontanément à droite et à gauche. Il va falloir réserver des plages dans le calendrier.

Cette année je me suis remise à la via ferrata. Enfin remise… j’en avais faite une, il y a quinze ans. J’avais adoré. Quand l’occasion s’est présentée cette année, je n’ai pas hésité! L’année prochaine, j’achète le matériel et je continue sur ma lancée.

Un autre projet pour 2024 c’est d’aller faire le Dales Way (récit et photos pour rêver). C’est une randonnée “douce” d’une semaine environ dans le nord de l’Angleterre, là où j’ai mes racines britanniques. C’est magnifique. J’avais envie d’aller cette année mais j’ai finalement changé de plan. Et là, je me dis que ce sera une bonne façon de marquer mon demi-siècle (si, si, amis et famille: save the date du dimanche 7.7.2024, je vais faire “un truc”), et d’aller faire ça la deuxième ou (plutôt) troisième semaine de juillet.

Et vous, vos plans rando, c’est quoi? Ou si c’est pas la rando, votre truc en plain air dans la nature, c’est quoi?

Mastercard Visa [en]

Pro tip: if you’re booking flights online, make sure using your Mastercard doesn’t cost you an extra 50 for your flight ticket price.

It happened to me earlier this morning as I was booking a flight. I went on Kayak, found a flight I liked, clicked the link that sent me over to eDreams to book it. By the time I was ready to buy, the price had silently hopped up 50 CHF. I tried other sites. I tried the airline site directly. I couldn’t find the flight at the price Kayak advertised.

I made a last-ditch effort to book the flight, starting over from Kayak and keeping an eye on the price. I saw it had jumped as I filled in my credit card details. I looked closer. I saw a discreet notice advertising “best price using Visa credit”. Switched my Mastercard for my Visa. Bingo.

Arc-en-ciel, ICC, kitesurf [fr]

[en] In Torrevieja. Saw the most impressive rainbow I've ever seen (only iPhone photos, sorry). About to start my Day Skipper course, and interested in taking up kitesurfing.

Bon, article bateau, je sais, mais avant-hier, je crois bien que j’ai vu le plus bel arc-en-ciel de ma vie. 180° d’arc, double arc tout le long, luminosité magnifique, indigo visible. J’avais bien entendu laissé mon bon appareil de photo au bateau, alors je n’ai que des photos-iPhone.

Torrevieja After The Storm 4

Torrevieja After The Storm 2 Torrevieja After The Storm 3

Après l’orage, il fait beau ici à Torrevieja. Environ 20°C dehors (plus au soleil), nuits fraîches, bateau qui tangue juste ce qu’il faut. Demain, je commence mon cours de voile de 5 jours (Day Skipper) à la fin duquel j’aurai mon ICC. Le ICC est le papier qui est généralement demandé pour naviguer en mer dans les eaux territoriales. (Après, il y a ce qu’on est capable de faire, et c’est une autre histoire.)

Déjà en octobre dernier, j’avais remarqué de nombreux kitesurfs dans les parages. Le kitesurf, ça me fait toujours penser à Loïc, avide kitesurfeur. Je me souviens d’ailleurs d’une époque où une photo de lui faisant du kitesurf illustrait son blog (ou son compte Facebook? son blog, je crois).

Bref, ça me fait extrêmement envie, et je vais profiter de ces prochains jours pour me renseigner. Je suis sûre qu’il doit être possible de prendre des cours de kitesurf pour les jours où il y a tellement de vent qu’on n’a pas vraiment envie de naviguer!

Random Notes About My 2012-2013 India Trip [en]

A few random notes about my Indian trip, which I was sure I had published, but just found sitting in my MarsEdit drafts.

Health-wise, it was “interesting”. It started off with itchy knees that I carelessly brought from Switzerland. A nice dermatologist near Pune University helped me get rid of it (cream, antihistaminics, and even anti-scabies stuff — it was my big fear). In Kerala, I awoke after a first night of sleep to tons of little itchy bites on my forearm. Bed bugs? Fear, yes, but it seems not: thorough examination and repeat nights with no incident thankfully ruled that out. The bites disappeared, but I’m still curious what caused them.

In Mysore, I carelessly dropped a hearing aid — which promptly died. With three weeks of holiday left to go, it was worth thinking up a solution to get it fixed before my return to Switzerland. I ended up testing Fedex in India for you. There is an office in Mysore, and I’m happy to say it was quite painless: 2800 INR, an announced shipping time of 4 days which they managed to keep. My audiologist was able to change the 70 CHF piece that needed it and send the hearing aid right back again. 140 CHF of shipping! I’m not sure how many days they promised him, but the package took longer to reach me in Kolkata than on the way out. Looking at the tracking data for both packages shows that some parts of the shipping process in India are still big black holes. 48 hours at Delhi airport? Heck. Probably lying in a pile somewhere while people had tea (yeah, I’m probably unfair).

Anyway, the package did reach me and I was very happy to have both ears again for the end of my stay. So, success.

Around the time of my arrival in Kolkata, one of my teeth started reacting really painfully to cold and hot. I’ve always had sensitive teeth (to cold), but this was beyond anything. It got worse and worse, to the extent that I just didn’t want to drink anymore. I needed a dentist. Knowing I have a bunch of 15-to-20-years-old fillings that will at some point need replacing, I figured that if I found a good dentist, I might as well do the work in India. Which I did. A two-session root canal treatment on a molar cost me about a tenth of the price it would have in Switzerland. The dentist in question did part of his training in the UK and worked with Somak and Aleika’s dentist in Birmingham, who recommended him and sent their files there. So, there we go. My first root canal, in Kolkata. The result is magical, I can tell you: no more pain. I think that tooth had been hurting me for a very long time, actually, but I didn’t really notice it until it got really bad.

Aside from the medical stuff, I experimented properly with radio-rickshaws in Pune — After a couple of successful trips, I booked an auto to bring my parents back after New Year’s Eve party. That was a disaster. Whereas for my previous bookings I had received a call from the driver about an hour before to check the pick-up point, this time around we hadn’t heard anything 30 minutes before. We called. The driver said it would take him at least 90 minutes to get there as his auto had broken down. We called the booking centre to ask them to find a replacement, and we were told that there were no available cars and that we had to “find an alternative”. Try finding an alternative in the university campus around 1am on January first. Well, the Shindes made a bunch of calls, and the son of a neighbor left his party to drive my parents back to their hotel. In the meantime, I left a pretty upset note on Autowale’s Facebook wall. We were really pissed off. The happy ending to this story is that the incident did finally get internal attention at Autowale — they asked me for details and I got an e-mail apology from the CEO, saying this was indeed completely unacceptable and that they needed to find a solution so this kind of situation didn’t happen again. Well, I’m willing to give them another chance next time I’m in Pune. But they better not mess up again: when you book a radio auto it’s usually specifically because you know it will be very difficult to find a ride. Leaving you stranded is just disastrous!

In the “new things” department we also did quite a lot of “day trip with car” outings. Most of them good experiences, some of them a tiny bit sour when it came to payment. No huge disasters, though. Two memorable rides were those to and from Mysore. We took a car from Kannur to Mysore, through the mountains and the national park. Crap road but beautiful scenery. And then, from Mysore to Bangalore, that was more memorable in the “dreadful” category. One of my family members was sick (first part of the trip went OK, but by the time we reached Bangalore we were stopping the car every 10-15 minutes). We got stuck half an hour (thankfully not more) on Mysore road because a car had hit a school girl and killed her, we were told. (I saw an ambulance go by after, though, so I like to think that maybe she did make it after all.)

Indian roads are deadly. Those close shaves we sometimes admire are sometimes too close and end up shaving off a life. I think I had looked up number last year: something like 100’000 deaths per year on Indian roads. 4000 in Pune alone. (Check those numbers somewhere if you’re going to use them.) To compare, Switzerland (roughly the population of Pune): 350-400 a year. In Kolkata I saw quite a few ambulances go by (Akirno’s school is near a hospital). People don’t even make way for them — or worse, they cut them off. Last year when I was stuck in Bangalore traffic to go and take my bus to Kerala, there was an ambulance stuck with us. If you need an ambulance to get you fast to the hospital to stay alive, you’re probably dead. You’d better not need one.

In Kolkata we had a car with a driver at our disposal. I have to say it makes a world of difference when it comes to going out and getting stuff done. Having to find taxis and rickshaws is stressful, even when you’ve become used to it. Don’t get any grand visions about the car and driver though. Boot bashed in, screaming belt, and over the last days we had to push it to start it quite a few times. This did result in a change of cars, however.

In addition to Loki the annoying puppy, I got to meet Coco, the baby African Grey parrot. My first bird contact, really! Let me just say that bird feet are warm (was sure they were cold, silly me), and that I had a great time interacting with Coco and getting to know him. Birds are not boring at all and need a lot of attention! I was there for his first flight across the room — took us all by surprise, him too, probably.

To wrap up I’ll leave you with this article that appeared in Metro during my stay, about Presidency University and some of the infrastructure problems there. Sadly Somak forgot to tell the journalist about the giant rat that fell from the ceiling onto the instrument the students had spent a good long time calibrating so they could run their experiment, or the guy who was sitting hunched up on his chair in his office the first day he met him, because there was 10cm of water on the floor.

Back Home [en]

[fr] Rentrée. Choses familières.

  • two cats, both happy to see me
  • a snack of crispy bread, cheese, and spanish ham
  • familiar things
  • a hot bath, “unlimited” hot water
  • the winter air smells nice and fresh
  • my luggage is unpacked
  • a couple of pansies I planted this autumn are still flowering
  • my indoor plants all survived
  • I have a valid British passport again
  • no dust, no noise
  • a stable internet connection
  • drinking tap water
  • my bed

Enjoying Bangalore [en]

This year, I spent just two and a half days in Bangalore, at Anita’s. And this year, unlike two years ago, I was ready for the way in which Bangalore is different from the India I’m used to (understand: Pune in 99-00 ;-)).

Prestige Shantiniketan, Bangalore 1

Prestige Shantiniketan, Bangalore 7

I enjoyed staying in a modern housing complex which is pretty much a self-sustaining village (coffee shop, pharmacy, swimming pool, tennis courts and probably many other things), eating in nice restaurants (pizza and delicious lettuce, at Chez Mariannick, vietnamese food, at Phobidden Fruit), going to the cinema (Life if Pi with totally scratched 3D glasses you had to hand back before the credits finished rolling), the huge mall, even though we didn’t do any shopping (complete with bomb-check of the car as we entered the parking), having a driver to take us to the girls’ karaoke night out at Opus — and more importantly, back.

The mall

Cinema security in Bangalore

I had a little “hero moment” at Opus. The menu cards there are a piece of paper surrounding a candle, like what we would call a “photophore” in French. One of the women of the table below us (we were sitting at the floor tables) was leaning against the empty take next to ours. She didn’t notice that she was also leaning against the menu card and candle.

I smelled something burning, burning hair actually, looked around, and saw the menu card had caught fire just behind her. I move it away, and saw there was a patch of burning hair on the side of her neck — flames and all, maybe the surface of half a hand. I swatted it repeatedly with my hand — hitting her, in fact — and the put out the flames.

I think it took her a little while to figure out what had happened (from her point of view, somebody was suddenly hitting her quite hard on the neck) — but she thanked me profusely afterwards, of course.

Being in Bangalore also gave me a chance to see Ranjita’s beautiful pottery, after meeting her for the first time in Goa a few weeks ago. Check out the My Artitude India Facebook page if you like her stuff. She’s very talented and there is a lot of demand for her pottery.

Ranjeeta's beautiful pottery 1

Ranjeeta's beautiful pottery 2

I definitely plan on visiting her in Pondicherry next time I come to India.

At Anita’s also were of course Kitkit and Tikki — first cat in my lap for weeks. I miss my cats!

Kitkit 2

Tikki 2

It was nice seeing you, Bangalore. I’ll be back for longer next time I have a chance.

Nouvelles d'Inde [en]

Les jours filent en semaines. Il paraît que c’est le week-end, mais je ne l’aurais pas su. Hors du temps et reliée “au reste du monde” par la fragile connexion 2G de ma carte SIM indienne, la Suisse et ses préoccupations me paraissent bien lointaines.

Nous sommes à Mysore en ce moment, à Hillview Farms, petit coin de paradis où je loge pour la troisième année consécutive. Avant ça, le Kerala, Goa, et Pune. J’avais prévu d’écrire plus régulièrement, bien entendu. Ce n’est pas grave.

Cette année, j’ai fait plus de “tourisme” que jamais. Et c’est une bonne chose. J’ai assez facilement tendance à me laisser gagner par l’inertie ambiante, à me laisser décourager par les difficultés probables. Pas mes compagnons de voyage. Nous sommes donc partis un jour visiter deux temples des environs de Pune, Jejuri et Bhuleshwar, et le lendemain grimper sur un des “hill forts”, dont j’ai oublié le nom. Chaque expédition a fait l’objet de nombreuses photos qu’il me reste encore à trier, et mériterait un article dédié. On a aussi visité le Parvati Temple de Pune, qu’en une année sur place je n’ai pas trouvé l’occasion d’aller voir, alors même que notre vétérinaire avait son cabinet au pied de la colline.

Dans le même ordre d’idées, nous avons pris avant-hier une voiture pour aller voir une réserve ornithologique (très chouette) et un temple (j’ai écourté, me retrouver tel le bétail pour aller dire bonjour à la divinité résidente, pas trop ma tasse de thé). C’est bien de sortir un peu. L’oisiveté, il en faut, mais trop, ce n’est pas bon non plus. J’avais déjà remarqué ça en Suisse: pour être heureuse, il me faut un certain degré d’activité.

Que raconter? Que l’eau de la Mer Arabe au Kerala a une température comparable à celle de nos bains thermaux, que les lampions-étoiles et autres décorations de Noël à Goa sont féeriques, que le “homestay” est décidément un moyen extrêmement commode de loger en Inde? Ce sera peut-être plus facile quand j’aurai des photos à vous montrer.

En attendant, ici au chaud-pas-trop-chaud, tout va bien. J’ai prévu de revenir dans deux ans. Ce sera peut-être avant.

Welcome to India! [en]

[fr] Arrivée en Inde!

“Welcome to India!” is a phrase I often use somewhat ironically. Like, when the Indian Consulate General sends back your visa application paperwork with a note saying “please apply in person” because you didn’t see that applications by post had been discontinued (despite the instructions for applying by post still being on the website), and so you end up on the train to Geneva with those very papers they had in their hands the week before, yes, because they stuffed them in your return envelope to send them back to you so you could bring them back to them in person… Yeah, welcome to India, indeed.

So anyway. All this to say that I’ve arrived. After a little airport adventure (a flight that didn’t exist, flying through Zurich instead of Munich, arriving nearly two hours before we were supposed to!) we made it to Pune. I managed to have a decent number of hours of sleep and still wake up before lunch (methi, Nisha knows I love it).

Sandy, house guest 1 Bruno, house guest 2

I got to meet the two canine house guests, take note of the advancement of the building works in Akashganga since last year, and this afternoon, was faced with the evisceration of the road leading up to the house. I hope nobody needs to take their car out these next days.

Construction works in IUCAA

My plans for the week? Not many:

  • make sure our waitlisted train tickets to Goa get confirmed
  • a couple of trips to the jeweler’s (one to drop off orders and stuff to repair, one to pick up)
  • pick up a SIM card *fingers crossed*
  • meet up with a few people, old and new
  • maybe go to the cinema for the latest Amir Khan movie
  • eat nice food
  • see if I can buy a pair of jeans (a challenge given my size and shape)
  • leave enough space for reading, writing, photography, chatting with my hosts, learning to cook nice food, and general unpredictability of Indian life!

Two hours later: the power is back, I can publish my post! (We’ve been without pretty much all afternoon and Nisha has been cooking by candlelight.)

Off to India [en]

[fr] Départ pour l'Inde. Programme.

My bags are packed, all is set, the plane takes off at 8.50am tomorrow morning.

The Painter of Signs

Why India? The short answer is that I have lived there, have friends there, enjoy the food and the place. And like a sunny warm break in winter. And a good break in my working year — no e-mails for me during my trip.

What’s the plan?

  • Pune (25.12-02.01)
  • Madgaon (Goa) where I’ll be going back to Arco Iris (03.01-06.01)
  • Kannur (Kerala, 06.01-09.01)
  • Mysore, back to Hillview Farms of course (09.01-15.01)
  • Bangalore for a couple of days with Anita (15.01-18.01)
  • Kolkata (18.01-01.02)

Off I go!

My Trick for Paris Metro Tickets [en]

If you’re traveling to Paris, you probably have to deal with those pesky metro tickets. Here’s what I do to stay sane.

  • I buy 10 tickets at a time. They’ll still work next time I come if I don’t use them all.
  • I hold them together with a paper-clip.

I store my current metro ticket on top of the stack with the same paper-clip. No drama if I bump into a ticket check, because I know where to find it.

Tickets de métro

This means that each time I go through the ticket doors, I:

  1. take the stack of tickets out of my bag (!)
  2. remove the ticket from the last trip and throw it in a bin (or in my pocket so I’m ready for the next bin
  3. take a new ticket from the stack and use it to go through the door
  4. immediately place that new-used-ticket on the stack with the others, and back in my bag

You can identify a used ticket because it has something printed on it (often illegible, but still). With this technique finding my “last used one” is easy, as it’s either the top or the bottom one. And I avoid the drama of stray tickets in my bag or pockets, used or not.