After half a year of “unbelievable” natural beauty, we found ourselves lost among the surreal and seemingly endless cascades of the Plitvice Lakes in Croatia. We walked non-stop all day, and with the aid of a well designed network of trolleys and ferries, we managed to take in virtually every lake in the park. This excursion was certainly worth the extra hassle of discount bus travel (we did hop off a bus in the middle of the woods, after all). Our only regret is that we didn’t allow more time.
By the time we arrived in Rome itself, we were hooked on Roman Antiquity. I was already several hours deep into the LibriVox audiobook of The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, and Rachel was taking an Open Yale Course on the rise of the barbarians. Our budding fascination with Romans obliged us to pay our respects to the Colosseum and Forum. They rang the bells to herald our arrival.
The first several days of Nepal were spent in a haze of smoke. Not the normal yellow haze that hangs over every square mile of the subcontinent, but the dense sinister murk of seasonal wildfires. I was already consumed with a second bout of bronchitis, and I reeled at the cruel cosmic irony that drew me ever deeper into the smoldering Nepalese lowlands. We spent a couple of days at the Royal Bardia National Park, where we had been promised the chance of seeing wild rhinoceros and endangered tiger. Our jeep cheerfully bounced along through the burning jungle as if everything were completely normal. The staff were gracious, spirits were high, and it never occurred to anyone to protest. Our guide had to change our itinerary slightly when we discovered that a bridge on the route had burned completely the previous night. We couldn’t help but laugh. Ha ha. Get it?
Bundi is a regional capital in Rajasthan, one of our favorite stops in the whole state. It felt much less densely populated compared to Jaipur (let alone New Delhi), but it was still teeming with over 100, 000 souls. We managed to escape the hardcore bustle of small-town India by taking an auto rickshaw out to a nearby village. Our young driver took us to visit a friend of his whose family runs a brisk pottery trade in this corner of the desert. We were treated to a demonstration. Low tech and no frills, this kid could effortlessly produce a clay vessel with a few offhanded flicks of a finger.