Posts By: Josh Thomas

Dudes in the Everglades

The American alligator is a rare success story of an endangered animal not only saved from extinction but now thriving.

On Sunday, April 7th, Florida will celebrate its first official “Everglades Day.” Established by the Florida Legislature, Everglades Day honors South Florida’s unique wetland ecosystem, the wild inhabitants who live there and all the passionate Floridians working to conserve this magical place. JJ traveled down to the Glades for a week to film the spots for PBS.

It was a week of sweat, mud, guano, more mud and salt water. I loved it.” Recounted JJ after returning home.

As a tribute, WLRN will run a month-long TV and radio series entitled, “Guardians of the Everglades” which will profile people from a variety of different backgrounds but who are bound by a common desire to save our state’s national treasure for future generations.

These Guardians include an energetic conservationist working with roseate spoonbills in Florida Bay, a worldly environmentalist with a passion for parks, a dedicated water expert focused on Everglades restoration projects and an airboat guide with a unique take on what makes the Everglades special.

The series was produced by our good friends at Everwild Media in association with Dudes on Media for WLRN Miami.

The American alligator is a rare success story of an endangered animal not only saved from extinction but now thriving.

The alligator is a rare success story of an endangered animal not only saved from extinction but now thriving.

Varanasi

The Dudes float into Varanasi

The team has arrived in Varanasi! Ten days and 400km after purchasing our small tin-boat, we’ve finally rowed into the holiest of Hindu cities. The ghats—steep stone steps which lead worshipers to the Gange’s waters—continue along the banks for over three miles. It’s sensory overload as we watch families burning the bodies of their deceased loved ones in public, dhobi wallas washing clothes against stones, and people performing their bathing rituals beside them. Masonry steps climb high above the commotion and disappear into a labyrinth of narrow alleys that make up one of the oldest inhabited cities of the world.

Our boat trip came abruptly to an end when we sold our boat to the first person who made an offer. We paid 5,000 rupees (100USD) and sold for it 3,500 (70USD). We all felt pretty good about the deal and quickly spent the money on a nice hotel and some cold beer to celebrate.

Beyond a couple of rashes on JJ’s and our camera-man Dave’s feet, we are in perfect health. I don’t know how I avoided the rash. Maybe it was my insistence on not touching the water and demanding to be carried to shore… Sorry fellas.

The boat was a real contrast to the rickshaw, where it felt like we were on a parade through rural India, and we were the zoo bears. On the river we experienced a peace I didn’t know was possible here. The people we encountered— fishermen, farmers, and cow herders—cared little about a few white guys in a boat.

Josh’s now calloused hands work the bamboo oars

Everything is somehow coming together; we’re following the Ganga by any means possible and seeing India as the locals do. And the reward is huge! We are seeing a side of the river that few people know. It is surprisingly meek; giving almost all of itself to the people who worship and depend on it. Between temples and holy cities its waters are pumped for irrigation, tanneries dump their toxic waste into it, and cities dispose of their garbage and untreated sewage into the river.

Amazingly, it still supports wildlife. Besides our dozens of unexpected encounters with the endangered species, the Gangetic River Dolphin, we also saw hundreds of turtles, catfish being pulled from fishermen nets, and innumerable shorebird species finding their meals along the polluted shores. I do not know how the Ganges survives, but she does. She is a god, after all. With our rowboat sold, we are back to being “tourists”. We will be moving on in a few days, but we’re not sure how. And we like it that way…

The Dudes Do Yoga

Chandrakant Yogi helps JJ and Josh find their third eye

Rishikesh: Our guidebook tells us “It’s the Yoga capital of the world.” It looks that way too. Nearly every building in town offers courses in Yoga, massage therapy, herbal healing—any type of new age medicine you can imagine. Walk into any restaurant, and you’ll see the place filled with bohemian youth sipping pressed juice or drinking lattes.

Rishikesh is not like the India we’ve seen so far, and I like it!The Beatles came here in the 60’s finding inspiration for their famous White Album, and people still flock here seeking enlightenment.

“Yoga is for everyone,” Our instructor, Chandrakant Yogi tells us on the rooftop of an ashram overlooking the river. “There are 88 different styles.” JJ and I signed up for private instruction earlier that day. It’s my first session, but I’ve always thought I stretched with moves inspired by this body and mind philosophy. The first five minutes have got us sweating, and we’re still just warming up. The sun is setting over the Ganges River. It feels great!

We told our instructor that we’re naïve in the ways of Yoga, and we’re looking for an introduction, but if he feels inspired, to go ahead and lay some big moves on us. He does lay some big moves on us, but not until the end; like balancing on his hands with arms locked between his legs. A lot of the poses are named after animals, like the “Crow” pose, where we walk around on our toes while our butts or resting on our heels. Things shift in difficulty as soon as he takes on the “Lotus” position. Tucking our feet on the top of our thighs, near the crotch, is beyond JJ and I, but it’s interesting to see what our Yogi can do, and where nearly a decade of practice can lead. He practices “7hrs a day, everyday,” he says. When we asked him what his profession was, he tells us, “Astrology is my profession and Yoga is life.”