Sunday, December 20, 2009
Next stop after our backwater adventure was beautiful Varkala. This beach town is small and touristy. With shopping, both Indian and Tibetan, any type of restaurant you want, and tons of accommodations, its no wonder it’s a hot spot for tourists of all ages.
Upon boarding the 7am train from Alleppey, we were bombarded with Indians also catching it (must be a popular time). This 2.5 hour train seemed much longer as we were standing crammed in for the duration of it. But it didn’t matter once we saw what we would be swimming in for the next few days.
What a gorgeous beach Varkala is. Based in a cliff, surrounded by rock and palm trees, this was heaven.
Saturday, December 19, 2009
The next venture on our trip (and one that we would definitely recommend to those visiting South India) was exploring the backwaters of Kerala. We chose to start in Alappuzha (Alleppey). Arriving via train, we were bombarded with rickshaw drivers all wanting us to go to the same Guesthouse (Johnson’s Guesthouse). This is one in the lonely planet, and although we went and got suckered into looking, I would not recommend it. The rooms were far too overpriced, the owner pressured me upon walking through his doorstep to book with his houseboat, and it’s far from the main city centre. After rejecting his offer, we were lucky that he was nice enough to suggest another guesthouse. We stayed at a place called Brown Guesthouse, we were the only tenants, and there wasn’t a family there, just a nice lady who owned the place. We were located on Cullen Road (the main road) and were an easy walking distance to everything we needed.
The backwaters are the main reason most people come to Alleppey, so don’t think the Indians don’t know this. They will swindle you in any which way to get you to book with them on their houseboat/canoe. Make sure you check out the ride you’ll be taking before you book and especially before you pay. Look back onto the old saying, “If some things seem too good to be sure, they probably are”.
As for our experience, we decided it best to take a canoe adventure; cheaper and more in-depth with backwater communities. Canoes (unlike the huge houseboats) can fit down the small backwaters and get up close and personal with the small villages. We had such a nice driver, for breakfast he brought us into his home (he lives along the backwaters), where he fed his plenty and introduced us to his charming family. Its crazy how many people can live in one tiny house. For the duration of the trip (we chose an 8 hour adventure), we saw many beautiful things; palm trees swaying perfectly in the wind, birds flying along the water, snakes swimming along side us (don’t worry they are harmless), women doing the daily chores on the backwater steps, children playing in the fields, and the farmers at work in the rice paddy fields.
This city is also located on a beach, a non touristy beach, but a beach none the less. It was definitely different than Goa though, I didn’t even feel comfortable wearing a 1 piece bathing suit due to all the Indian men staring and constantly trying to take sneak photos. Jeffery loved the waves though, so an impressive beach for him. Also, what was interesting was when the sunset, the beach came to life! There was live music, food vendors, games going on, kids running around, everything and anything.
For this stop along your trip 2 things I’d recommend:
1) Make sure you get the proper houseboat/canoe that is right for you. *check all options
2) Stay at a home stay or real guesthouse. The Keralan hospitality is unlike many other states in India. Especially try a nice home cooked meal (the coconut rice here is absolutely brilliant!).
Friday, December 18, 2009
Bangalore is the hub of India's booming IT industry, which is shows through its crazy traffic, rising pollution levels, and civic congestion. Although its a large city on the rise to get even bigger, the garden scene here is surprisingly amazing. We stayed there with Jeffery's family friend, Walter, who in fact is working there (from America). The neighbourhood we stayed at was nice, easily accessible to small things like gyms, supermarkets, etc, and also near by to a park.
The city itself isn't very touristy, and we found ourselves walking around a beautiful park, Cubbon Park, and then went to one of the huge malls to hang out in Crosswords (the common bookstore). While at the mall we were enlightened by a surprise excitement called the. "Scare House". WOW! I have never screamed so loud and grabbed onto the closest human beside me so hard in my life (or at least paid for it). I don't want to spoil the excitement so you'll have to head to Bangalore's malls to see for yourself.
From Bangalore we flew to Cochin, something that had to be done to get to our West Coast destination in the short time we had left.
Another interesting part about Bangalore is for the most part we felt like we fit into the general community... as in we didn't get as many stares and questions. The Indians in Bangalore are fairly advanced and have grew more accustom to our Westernized ways.
Thursday, December 17, 2009
The market is well known for its oils and incense. Marsha bought many oils that smelt very good and were very authentic. Moving through the market we saw goat brains and hooves being chopped up for Indian family dinners, we saw fish and dead hanging chickens. It was an amazing thing to witness because we hadn’t seen anything like that back home, we were right in the action. After the crazy wild market we ended up at this great south Indian restaurant. It had the best south Indian thalis I had ever tasted. I was so happy that I ate the thali with my hands (Indian style of course only using my right hand). I had read in the LP (lonely planet) that there was an amazing garden outside the city. We took the city bus to the gardens which were 45 minutes away. The gardens are a popular back drop to many Bollywood films which we didn’t know until we got there. Accompanied with the beautiful garden were wonderful fountains that were illuminated with colours which shot up and down to the music. All this was happening with thousands of Indians everywhere; they seemed to really enjoy the fountain and the music.
The next day we went to the Mysore Zoo. The Zoo has so many amazing animals, including the majestic Bengali Tigers. The tigers had a descent sized habitat which they roamed freely. We didn’t realize the sheer size of the beasts. In small cages beside the roaming beast was a white Siberian tiger. The Siberian tiger was circling in his small cage and we felt bad for it. The Maharajas Palace was next on the list and we couldn’t take any photos of it. The Palace was a cacophony of colors and had amazing detail. The floors of the Maharajas Palace were made of Italian stone. The Palace was built in the 1900’s by an English architect that replicated the old Maharajas Palace that burnt down.
Wednesday, December 16, 2009
Back to the grind that is India. Two weeks on the beach has been relaxing and a much needed break from the fast pace of Rajastan and Mumbai. We get on the train headed to Mangalore a city on the coast known for its spice trade. The train is a first come first serve policy meaning there are no arranged seats, therefore, if there are no seats when you arrive, you stand. This creates pushing, shoving and the occasional elbow to the face. The Western Ghats train route is beautiful and filled with rice paddi fields, wide rivers and lush landscapes. The trip to Mangalore was slow as usual but we have found two 21 year old Indian Girls to chat with. They are nurses who have finished there training and now work full time. The discussion gets on the topic of religion. They wanted to know if we celebrated Easter and Christmas and other various religious Holidays. When we told them of our Easter celebration where we find chocolate eggs scattered around the house they became very confused. It took several minutes to describe to them what we meant, but I’m sure they were still very confused.
Once we got to Mangalore we looked at the Lonely Planet and decided we should look around at the various accommodations around the city. Most of the places that the book gave were very disgusting and overpriced, so we decided to ask the rickshaw driver for suggestions. He brought us to a very nice place called Park Place which was very nice and clean. (Usually we don’t go with rickshaw driver’s advise because they will most often rip you off with commissions etc). Upon arrival we decided to go out and find food. We found a little omelet shop outside our place, total bill; 30 rupees. Cheap, convenient, and delicious.
The next morning we were off to the Coorg region of Karnataka, to a little city called Madeikari. There were no trains so we had to take a 150km bus ride. The roads were terrible. The monsoon which lasts for 3 months and ends in September destroys the roads. The 150 km took a grueling 6 hours through narrow and windy one lane roads meant for 2 lane traffic.
We went to Medeikari because of its plantations; which grow coffee, rows and rows of fruit, make spices, as well as the beautiful picturesque country side. This region is popular for its homestays. Homestays are guesthouses that are connected to the plantations. We opted to stay in the city instead. The city is nice and peaceful but power is a problem and it often cuts out every 2 hours. We had read in the LP ( Lonely Planet) that there was a little Tibetan town close to Medeikari. Since McLeod Ganj we had both been in love with the people and the religion. We decided to take a city bus to Bylakuppe which was among the first refugee camps set up in South India to house thousands of Tibetans who fled from Tibet. We saw the golden temple which was remarkable and stunning. Inside were faboulous paintings with amazing detail depicting stories from the past. There were also 3 huge Buddha statues that were approx 65 feet tall.
The next day we visited the Dubare national elephant park. There was no bus to the park and we had to be there at 8 30 in the morning so we took a taxi. When we got to the park we had to take a little boat across a river to meet the elephants. The elephant park cost 200 rupees each which was very cheap. The first order of business at the park was elephant bathing!! The elephants came down to the river and were washed by around 10 tourists including us. The elephants were well trained and seemed to enjoy the scrubbing by all of us. After the elephants were all scrubbed and cleaned we fed them. They seemed to really enjoy watermelon and coconut. We got to touch their tongues and watch them eat which was an amazing experience. After the elephant park our taxi driver brought us to a plantation. He took us for a walk around the plantation which was very nice. We saw coffee beans drying, banana trees, mango trees, fig trees, orange trees, chili pepper plants and various other plant and trees which we forget. It was very impressive and we loved the tour. From there we went to a waterfall called Abby falls which is raging during the monsoon but lackluster during the fall months. We then proceeded to the spices store where Marsha went wild buying every spice in sight. It didn’t matter because the spices were fresh and about 1/10 the price.
Thursday, November 26, 2009
1 week in Goa is definitely not enough. I say that not because I love beaches (although I do), but because it is a state to be discovered! Our number 1 pointer for those travelers heading to this paradise is to see it all, and the best way we found possible, renting a scooter of our own.
We thought best to recap each beach/area through our Goan adventure.
Baga Beach: This was our fist stop and place of residence in North Goa. A busy touristy feel, full of middle age Russians who love Vodka and small speedoes. The nightlife is crazy, if you like that I'm on spring break in Cancun kind of feel. The beer is super cheap (Rs 60-70, $1.40), with 2 for 1 deals from 6-11pm. There is a great beach, lots of beach shaks, and friendly Goan people trying to sell sell sell on the beaches.
Calangute Beach: just south of Baga Beach (5km or something), very similar but with less nightlife. The beach shacks have more variety in terms of food and drinks, but fairly similar to its northern cousin.
Ajuna Beach: This place is amazing for Wednesdays of the week. Ajuna Flee Market!! What a place to see, even if you don't like shopping, there is live music, tons of food, and people galore to watch and hang with. Back to the shopping, it is great if you need to do it all in 1 place. Bardering (haggling) is easier then it looks... because everyone has the same stuff! So you can say to one guy, Rs100, and if he says no, move to the next one, and eventually they'll crack and be fighting over business for Rs50! Very fun indeed. OH, and the beach here is great, a lot smaller than Baga, but very nice in its own way.
Vagator Beach: Our favourite by FAR! Now although we were only here for a day trip (via our amazing scooter), we loved its relaxed chill vibe, cheap and delicious restaurants, and amazing beach/rocky scenery. The sunsets here are absolutely stunning and it should be a must visit when in Goa.
Morjim Beach: Ahhh beautiful Morjim, home to my lovely Olive Ridley Sea Turtles. We didn't get to see too much of this beach in the day, but made a night of it, searching for the turtles to come to sore. They tend to lay their eggs in the month of November. Unfortunately we didn't see any, but being there was so surreal. The only thing is that the beach was full of garbage! For being a secluded beach, especially one with endangered creatures using it for breeding grounds, I wish there was more of an effort to clean it up!
Old Goa: Full of churches and cathedrals, this place is full of Portuguese history. Beautiful buildings and lots to learn.
Panjim: The capital of this state, we just ventured through it. The one neat thing is, it has a night casino, one you can only reach via boat... because its in the harbour! Casino Royal. We didn't end up going, 1 because it left at 930pm (and it was around 6pm when we were there), and 2 because it was $80 just to get on (each). But if you have the time and money, definitely a place to check out!
Wednesday, November 18, 2009
What a happening city. This is a place like no where else in India (or anywhere we've been to yet). The city seems 10X more developed and organized than Delhi, and there aren't cows parading around.
The place we stayed, Colaba, also where the famous Taj Mahal Hotel is, has the majority of sights to be seen, along with all the happening restaurants and bars. Colaba also hosts The Gateway of India, a ferry getting you to Elephanta Island, and many bustling street stalls, markets and lodgings.
We arrived in Mumbai late at night via plane from Udaipur. We went straight to the pre paid taxis (Rs 350), and headed straight for Colaba. We didn't know where we were staying, but knew the area in which we wanted to room (near the Taj Mahal Hotel). So after haggling and running around the streets, I found a nice hotel (way over our budget), Appollo Hotel, Rs 3500/night, down from Rs 5800.
The following day we knew that there was no time to waste in this huge and expensive city, so it was off to Elephanta Island. Luckily, our hotel was a mere 10min walk to the Gateway of India (where the ferries for the Island are). They run every 20min and cost Rs120. The boat ride is around 1 hour 20minutes, and can get quite sleepy at times. We enjoyed sitting rooftop, with the great view of the harbour and the city behind us. Make sure to wear SUNSCREEN here though! Especially as this has been the furthest south, the sun being the strongest yet!
Elephant Island is made up of rock-cut temples in dark gloomy looking caves. Entry fee is Rs 150 for tourists (not too bad). Something we found interesting, this being a part of the Unesco World Heritage Site. These cave temples are carved into basalt rock of the island (pretty cool), and we were told that these carvings represent some of the most impressive temple carving in ALL of India. These temples were are thought to have been created between 450 Ad and 750 (super old).
The next day we decided to be more adventurous and took the local city train (so many people jumping off and on) North of the city. We went to Sanjay Ghandi National Park (so weak and I wouldn't recommend it), then to the biggest laundry spot in India, also called Dhobi Ghat (so many people washing and drying thousands of clothes, for households and businesses), Haji Ali's Mosque (this immaculate building is a sacred mirage off the coast, looks like its in the middle of the water), and to Mahalaxmi Temple (the busiest and most colourful temples in all of Mumbai).
Mumbai is also known now as a place where terrorists attacked, Nov 26, 2008. We went to the Taj Hotel (the very place they were aiming), also to Victoria Train Station, and to Leopold's Bar and Restaurant (the bullet holes still in the walls).
And to top it all off, Jeffery and I also partook in a Bollywood Commerical. We were approached by a 30 year old man on the streets of Colaba, who asked us if we would be interested in doing a commercial (he originally said chocolate or sunscreen but it ended up being life insurance). We said yes and away we went, 2pm - 2am. A long ass day, full of ups and downs, but in the end, we were Rs500 richer (each) and met 5 other really nice people (Australians, Kiwis and another Canadian). If you are in Mumbai, you may get luckier than us and be in the background of a movie, dance dance dance!
From Mumbai now to Goa... bring on the beaches...
Monday, November 16, 2009
When we last wrote we were in Jodhpur heading to Jaislamer on a 5 hour bus through the desert to the small little town on the border of Pakistan. Jaislamer had the feel of Risikesh and Mcleod Ganj in one, right in the middle of the Thar Desert. The city surrounds the fort which sits high on the mountain side looking over the town and the surrounding area. The fort has lost much of its grandeur due to enviromental problems, it is slowly sinking because its built on unstable soil. The fort is small and has little to offer. The reason most tourists visit Jaislamer is to do the camel safari. We couldnt do the Safari because I (jeffery) was terribly ill.
We left Jaislamer sooner than expected because I was so sick and the Thar desert was not a hospitable place for someone to be with my condition. We took a 15 hour sleeper bus to Udaipur, supposedly the most romantic place in India. The ride to Udaipur was bumpy and very long. I would not advice anyone to take the same route as it was all backroads and we went an average of 40 km the entire trip. If i was going to Jaislamer again i would first go to Jaislamer then go to Jodhupur because the road is a highway, therefore, its a much better route.
Udaipur was great we arrived at 6 in the morning and jumped into bed and fell asleep until the afternoon. When I awoke I was shivering terribly so we decided it would be best if I went to the Hospital. When we arrived we were told to go to the Emergency room, right away I was looked after. I told the doctors my symptoms and they acted quickly. They took my blood and gave me an X Ray within 30 minutes. I was admitted and given a huge room for myself on the top floor. The doctors first thought I had malaria, then they changed it to severe bacteria buildup in my intestines. My liver and spleen were inflammed and I had a 102 degree fever.
Needless to say the doctors were great and everyone in the hospital thought I was Brad Pitt. The doctors would come in and chat with me and then leave it was some what of a circus at times. I was hooked up to an I.V. and given liquids for my sickness. In all I was there for 3 days until I was better. The experience was better than i expected and Marsha really helped me out with everything. She went through many weird instances such as; the antibiotics that were used on me we had to purchase before hand. Marsha had to push and shove in line to get the medicine, IVs, everything, because Indians dont understand lines. She said it was a really intense situation.
Udaipur was the best backpackers city in Rajastan that we visited. The whole city seemed to be tailered to us. Octopussy played at every hotel at 7 pm. The hotels overlooked the lake and the floating hotel. It was a really amazing scene. The only problem was that we were in the middle of a low depretion as cyclone pythan moved through the area making Udaipur very cold and wet.
We then took a flight from Udaipur to Mumbai which was an hour and a half. The airport was very nice, but as I mentioned before the cyclone was causing havoc in the area. All the flights before ours were cancelled. At one point a guy working for the airport was told to go outside with a huge balloon. All the tourists laughed as the man let go of the balloon. The guy worked for the airport and was testing visibility and wind direction!! We finally took off that day luckily and arrived in Mumbai in one piece.
Saturday, October 31, 2009
The last time we wrote was about a week ago and we were enjoying our time in Agra. Much has happened since then; we have visited Jaipur and now are in the middle of the biggest camel fair in Pushkar.
We stayed for 4 nights in Jaipur which was more than enough. We visited many sights and walked through countless bazaars while there. The most notable sights where the Iswari Minar Swarga Sal which stands 140 feet in the sky in the middle of the pink city, and the Amber fort. The views from Iswari Minar Swarga Sal were impeccable and you can see the 3 other forts in the distance.
Marsha and I have been slowly transforming into the budget travelers we set out to be. In Jaipur the rickshaw drivers were way too expensive so we took the city bus to Amber fort 30 minutes away from Jaipur. The bus was 5 rupees each and extremely packed. We really enjoyed the city buses and used them often. The Amber fort was magnificent, and if visiting Jaipur it’s a must go. The fort sits atop a strategic hill 15 Km outside Jaipur. Amber used to be the capital of Rajastan before it was changed to Jaipur. The fort is huge and really fun to just explore its several rooms and chambers.
We also decided to go off the beaten path and travel 2 hours and a half to a town called Balaji. This town which sees almost no tourists has a temple that exorcises bad spirits. There were hundreds and hundreds of devoted Indians lining up to send their prayers at the temple. People were in a trance in line and were humming together. It was really an eye opening experience. The exorcisms happen at around 7pm and can be viewed on TV screens outside the temple. (Buses come ever 30 minutes to Jaipur. )
We are now in Pushkar and it’s a mix between Risikesh and Delhi/Agra. I would estimate its half tourists and half pilgrims. It’s a very interesting mix, with a scenic desert backdrop. This is the first time that either of us has been to a desert so it’s a really amazing experience. We walked through the desert and into a maze of unhappy camels. Its really a different side of India that either of us has encountered yet.
We are now going to meet my parents which have also traveled to India and just arrived in Pushkar. They seem hesitant on eating local restaurant food but we are going to try and get them to dive into India budget travel style!!
Friday, October 23, 2009
Upon arrival our eyes met hundreds of Indians, all of which were camping outside the train station, a dramatic picture to say the least. As we made our way in, we were told by the "superior" train people that our train was 2 hours late. This was mainly because of the accident that occured the day before, so the trains were moving extra slow and taking extra precautions (lucky us).
After meeting a friendly guy, Javier, from Spain, we quickly taught him the card game crazy eights (loco ochos), fed some bananas to the monkeys, and watched the busy people jump from track to track.
Once on the train (AC 2 Tier), we were sitting with 2 Babas. (babas are a religious master, or a father of religion). They were very quick to stare at us, and quickly moved to the seats behind (I guess they weren't amused with our talk-a-tive-ness). On the 3rd stop (and this train stopped a lot) we were joined by a nice old Indian couple. The woman didn't speak any english, but the man spoke broken English/Hindi. They were super nice, giving us homemade Indian food that they brought along, on many occassions.
Throughout our 12 hour train journey Jeffery and I slept, ate many cookies and Indian food, killed cockroches, watched mice scurry around, played cards, read, and watched the countryside pass by. An overall fun Indian experience. Although I've heard many bad train stories, we lucked out with a great one. And although it was a dirty dirty train, we kept an open mind and made it a great memory.
Until next time...
Saturday, October 17, 2009
Our third destination in India was Risikesh, the yoga capital of theworld. The city of Risikesh lies peacefully on the winding gangesriver, the most sacred river in India. Millions of pilgrims arriveevery year. Here they visit the banks to bathe and send off peaceofferings to the gods, in the form of floating candles and variousother gifts. The bus left from Dharmsala which is a 10 minute taxi ride fromMcleod Ganj. We chose the luxury bus which was 600 rupees, the onlyupgrade was that you could recline your seats. The bus station made usnervous, we had read and heard horrible stories of tourists losingeverything to scammers. Marsha got two seats on the bus, while I stoodand watched our bags like a hawk. In the end it was just parranoia,and we were off. The bus was nice and it was about 1\5 full, which wasamazing because we could lie down and sleep through the 14 hourjourney. To get a real sense of the bus ride i think it would best bedescribed as a maniac on wheels. The driver seemed to not care foranyones safetly not even his own. He would fly around corners, wherethe valley floor was several hundred feet below. He didnt understandthat when there is a turn you should slow down well in advance andtake the turn nicely. He would just put the petal to the metal andwhen a turn came he would put on the breaks at the last second like hewas trying to avoid a moose. The breaks by the 3rd hour were makingterrible noises i had to hold my ears because it was so loud. We were told there would be stops for a bathroom break and to getsome food. I knew that the food would be terrible and disgusting andthe bathrooms would be less than satisfactory because of my Thailandtravels. Marsha was not on the same wave length and was horrified tofind such appauling conditions at the stops. The bus made anunexpected stop in Manali and picked up 40 or so roudy 20 orsomethings from the bus stop. Its crazy because in North America wehave working hours of 9 -5 and airports and bus stops die down around8 30 -9. In India the bus stops are at full capacity at 12 at nightand people are still working deep into the night. Its a totallydifferent way of life. We arrived at Dera Dun 1 hour and a half from Risikesh at 5 in themorning. We then had to take a city bus to Risikesh from the busstation which was a close walk from where we were left off. It didnttake long for people to show us where the bus to Risikesh was leaving.We hopped on and took the city bus with locals. It was a really greatway to see how locals get to work. The doors open as we are moving andpeople jump in, famlilies pack the bus city workers everyone justjammed on one bus. It was a really eye opening experience. Risikesh has lived up to the expectations as a beauiful yoga town.Yoga lofts and massage centers are a dime a dozen. The ganges is awonderful backdrop to the foothills that surround it and to thetemples that line the city. Its a wonderful place and a greatdestination to just hang out and meet new people. Yestersay wasDiwali, the biggest festival in India. Diwali is the festival oflights, basically its a time when firecrackers and fireworks dominatethe air and sound waves. Last night amazing firework displays werebeing viewed all across Risikesh. It started at around 7 pm and endedat 2 am. Imagine a fourth of July firework show times 1.1 billion.Thats no exaguration either. The sky was filled with fireworkseverywhere, and it lasted for 7 hours straight. We bought 35 dollarsworth of fireworks and went to our roof. We shot off around 10 hugefireworks, while others were doing the same thing. Its indescribableand a wonder to us why India wouldnt promote Diwali more. Its totallyamazing no words can describe what we saw last night.
Tuesday, October 13, 2009
We had heard on twitter that Eagle Heights trekking in Mcleod Ganj was the company we should use if we wanted to go on a trek through the Himalayas. Eagle Heights had many options for us to take. We chose the 4 day trek that would take us to the Idrahar pass. This pass was above 4000 meters and half of Everest.
We started off the first day with tea which was a reaccuring theme on the trek and climbed to Triund. Triund was the first stop and the resting place for our first night. The view was spectacular and you could see the Himalayan range we were going to climb and the valley where we just came from. We slept in a tent, the temperature was hovering around freezing and needless to say we were freezing.
The second night we set off early in the morning and hiked to the snow line. This used to be the snow line in the 1990’s but climate change has now changed that and the glacier does not go down that far, but it is still refereed to as the snow line. Our guide and porters stayed in a makeshift cave that Shepherd's sleep in. We got the tent, and this time we put a 1 foot rock fort around the base of our tent so the wind wouldn't come in. That night it was negative 5 degrees. The rocks did their job and we were not as cold as the night before.
The third day was the hardest of them all. We woke up at 2800 meters and were climbing to 4250 meters approx. Our guide Paul told us that it would take us 7 hours to get up and 3 to get down. When we started the sun hadn't come over the mountains , we hiked for close to an hour with no sun which was really cold. The hike was hard and snow which had fallen 2 days prior was still on the rocks making it difficult and slippery to climb. The last 300 meters was brutal and breaks were taken every 50 meters or so. The air was thin and a deep headache set in. We both had a minor case of altitude sickness.
We finally reached the top and the view was spectacular. You could see the valleys on both sides of the mountain range and the next range in the distance. It was well worth the 4 hour hike. We rested at the top totally exhausted, and ate snacks and chatted about Sheppard's and merchants who had to pass through indahar. The indahar pass is the hardest and steepest pass in Himachal Pradesh.
One fact that may be interesting is that shepherds who pass with their livestock have a rather gruesome ritual. Once they get to the top there is a little temple where the shepherds and locals prey. The Sheppard's have a ritual where they cut off one of the sheep’s heads and put it in the temple for the god. Then they carry the body to the bottom of the mountain. Our guide didn't want us to see that so we descended before the livestock, but they caught up!!
All in all the trek was an amazing experience and we would do it again in a heartbeat. Use Eagle Heights Trekking they are a little more expensive but totally worth every penny.
Monday, October 12, 2009
Mcleod Ganj became popular in the mid 1900's for tourists because of the Dalai Lama. Richard Gere supposedly used to travel frequently here because of the tranquliety and beauty of the area. The little city is nestled on the foothills of the Himilayas, the largest mountain range in the world.
Monks line the streets wearing their red robes, buying local produce and talking on their cell phones. Free Tibet stickers and clothing are littered everywhere, and the Tibetan people are peaceful and extremely friendly, the complete opposite of New Delhi.
We visited the temple of the Dalai Lama, our Australian friend accompanied us as well. The temple was beautiful and full of monks walking peacefully around. We were told their was a mile walk around the temple called the CORA. The CORA is used for monks to prey and worship in the nature. It is truly a world apart from anything we have experienced.
Mcleod Ganj and its surrounding areas are breath taking. Words cannot describe the Himlayas with their snow covered peaks at 4000 meters or the peaceful culture of the Tibetian people, you must visit to fully comprehend the serenity and vibe of Mcleod Ganj.
Friday, October 2, 2009
Arriving very late at night (after midnight) there wasn’t much to see, but as soon as the staff of Ajanta Hotel greeted us with a bindi being marked on our foreheads, we knew we were in India.
The follow morning, we woke up to the busy sound of New Delhi. Hustle and Bustle was already happening on the streets of Pahar Ganj. We ate a quick breakfast and were off on our first TUK TUK adventure. Wow and what a crazy experience those means of transportation are. In and out of traffic, almost crashing every 5 seconds. Our first stop was Connaught Place; a common spot for shops of all kinds. Thanks to our Lonely Planet book, we were well aware that almost 99.9% of TUK TUK drivers would take tourists to the same shops where they make a small commission (and funny thing, each time we’d ask to go somewhere for authentic clothing, we were brought to the same 3 places). And they were all over priced for us “tourists” of course.
Day 1 and first stop we were brought to a nice carpet shop where they say us on comfy sofas, brought us delicious Kashmir green-cinnamon tea, and explained the making and history of each different type of carpet. Once we came to the prices (he of course left this until the end of the speech), we kindly got up and left. Had we stayed, I’m sure we could have bargained for a much lower and more affordable price. But our first day in India on a 78 day planned trip, dropping Rs 13000 (approx $330 Canadian) wasn’t part of our budget plan.
We also saw the Red Fort (located in Old Delhi), and had dinner at an OK touristy/Indian restaurant called Splash.
On our 2nd day, the 2nd of October, Gandhi’s Birthday & National Holiday in Indiam we set off to Raj Ghat. This is the exact location to where Gandhi was murdered on January 30th, 1948. Although we missed the ceremony, there were still many people there praying and paying their respects.
Having the full afternoon free while in Old Delhi, we bumped into a very nice girl, who is actually the vice president of Delhi University. She asked us if there was anything she could do to help us. (We were hungry at the time so we asked for a good place to eat). We then headed by TUK TUK to a busy place called Karim’s Restaurant, which was right in the heart of a Muslim Bazaar. It was so busy in there Jeffery and I didn’t know which way was up or down. After sitting beside a nice Indian couple from Mumbai, we were off to see what the side streets had to offer. Even with this day being a holiday, the streets were still so packed and crowded. I don’t even want to imagine walking down there when all the stores are open. All and all, Delhi is overwhelming but very interesting. You have to come with an open mind, being ready to experience the unknown and to try new things. Constant noise, dust, people and culture, I still need to take it in small doses.
Sunday, September 20, 2009
So before you leave, concentrate on training both for strength and cardiovascular health.
MORE TO BACKPACKING
Most people who backpack carry somewhere between one-sixth and one-third of their own body weight on their backs. Regardless of how much stuff you decide to carry, you'll have a much more comfortable hike if you increase your physical fitness before you ever set out.