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Pushkar, India

In the three+ years we’ve been together, my girlfriend, Victoria, has made no secret of her desire to visit the Pushkar Fair in India, where livestock—mostly camels and horses—are decorated, put on show, and traded. It is a crowded and colorful scene set amidst the arid landscape of the Aravalli Hills bordering the Thar Desert in the northwest state of Rajasthan. I had never been to India, so when Vic was invited to attend a conference in Jaipur scheduled for late October, we were in the perfect position to strike a few items off our bucket lists. Before long, frequent flyer miles were cashed in and travel plans solidified. We were headed to Rajasthan, aka the “Land of Kings.”

I must admit, having grown up in western Illinois, I wasn’t overly excited by the idea of attending an event based around livestock, but after a small amount of research I knew it would be a spectacle. In addition, Diwali, the Hindu festival of lights, was wrapping up and the fair coincides with Kartika Purnima, which brings a massive pilgrimage of devout Hindus, Jains and Sikhs to Pushkar. The city is home to one of the few temples dedicated to the four-faced god of creation, Brahma. Pushkar Lake, the small body of water around which the town sits, is said to have formed when the deity dropped a lotus flower. Tens of thousands of devoted pilgrims come each year to bathe in one of the 52 ghats that surround the lake, purifying themselves in the sacred waters.

My head is still spinning from all that I took in—kind, curious faces, aggressive hawkers eager to take every rupee you have, sacred cows and wild dogs meandering in the streets, potentially deadly motorcycle traffic with every step, women in vibrantly colored saris, and Rajasthani men with handsome weathered faces and incredible mustaches that would put any hipster to shame.

Our Pushkar experience is something Vic and I will be talking about for many years to come. I hope you enjoy the photos.

 A street musician with his  Ravanahatta , a single stringed instrument with an underslung, coin purse-like bag, or bells attached to the bow. He played beautiful, wailing melodies on the string while occasionally jostling the  instrument for a bit of a chingy percussion accompaniment. 

A street musician with his Ravanahatta, a single stringed instrument with an underslung, coin purse-like bag, or bells attached to the bow. He played beautiful, wailing melodies on the string while occasionally jostling the  instrument for a bit of a chingy percussion accompaniment. 

 Camel decorating contest

Camel decorating contest

 Rajasthani men discussing the festivities.

Rajasthani men discussing the festivities.

 Putting on the finishing touches

Putting on the finishing touches

 As a man in Udaipur told us: If you can love a camel, you can love anyone. So pucker up!

As a man in Udaipur told us: If you can love a camel, you can love anyone. So pucker up!

 Scene from the Pushkar fairground

Scene from the Pushkar fairground

 Colorful, sari-clad women

Colorful, sari-clad women

 Pilgrims gather around the bathing ghats of Pushkar Lake.

Pilgrims gather around the bathing ghats of Pushkar Lake.

 Children lighting lamps for  Kartika Purnima

Children lighting lamps for Kartika Purnima

 A group of boys take in the scene by the lake.

A group of boys take in the scene by the lake.

 Decorating the ghats with flowers and pigments

Decorating the ghats with flowers and pigments

 A pilgrim headed to the Brahma temple

A pilgrim headed to the Brahma temple

 At night, fireworks and music fill the air throughout Pushkar.

At night, fireworks and music fill the air throughout Pushkar.

Papua New Guinea

I am fully aware and appreciative of how lucky I am to have a job that, on occasion, allows me to travel to places many people never get a chance to see. For my most recent project, a pilot for a documentary series produced by my longtime friends at White Nile Media, I had the pleasure of filming in the highlands of Papua New Guinea—the most remote, unique and beautiful place I have ever been.

Papua New Guinea is one of the most culturally diverse and isolated places on earth; more than 800 languages are spoken there! The indigenous peoples in the highland provinces where we filmed, isolated by miles of rugged, mountainous terrain, didn’t encounter their first westerners, Australian gold prospectors, until the 1930s. During World War II, the island saw fierce fighting between Japanese and allied forces, and many locals were recruited to fight on both sides of the conflict.

Today, many of the highlanders we met still live in villages of grass huts with no electricity, running water or sewage systems. They are, however, excellent farmers gifted with wonderful soil in which any plant seems to flourish, so hunger doesn’t seem to be an issue. Although PNG has a reputation for lawlessness, cannibalism, abysmal woman’s rights, and is, without doubt, struggling with many social and health issues, the people I encountered there were among the friendliest I have ever met. We were welcomed into villages with great enthusiasm and hospitality. It was an eye-opening adventure that I will be talking about for years to come.

Elder of the Bollen village. Chimbu province

Member of a bridal party wearing a kina shell necklaces. Bollen village, Chimbu province

Bollen Village, Chimbu province

Nokondi tribesmen dressed to perform their Spirit Dance. Eastern Highland province

Nokondi woman. Eastern Highland province

One of the famous Asaro Mudmen shows off his clay mask. Eastern Highland province

Sharpened bamboo claws are an integral part of the Nokondi Spirit Dance costume. Eastern Highland province

A young Asaro Mudman in training. Eastern Highland province

A child in traditional garb. Bollen village, Chimbu province

Tribes gather to celebrate their heritage at the annual Goroka Show sing sing

Boar's tusks complete the look. Goroka