A Travellerspoint blog

Kathmandu (revisited)

semi-overcast

8th - 9th Kathmandu

After arriving back from my hike, I met up with the O'Malleys at around dinnertime, having hauled various bags of my junk through Thamelian backstreets to get there. Nah, I don't want a taxi, autorickshaw OR bike autorickshaw, or porter, ta. The O'Malleys had somehow just spent a whole day travelling, despite their flight being less than 2 hours long. None of them knew how 2 hours took up 12 hours, but that's India for you.

It was Susan's birthday, so she got to pick the restaurant (blind finger-stab at book was her method of choice), so off we went, across Thamel, to some hilarious little dingy place. Dingy, maybe, but also YUMMY. We ordered a big 6-person (yes, there were only 5 of us, but we were hungry... we THOUGHT) assortment of dishes type deal, and the blokes lit a heater behind Sue and myself. The food was great. Top few meals for all of us. Too bad we couln't eat half of it because it was SO MUCH FOOD. Hopefully all those waiterish blokes got a good feeding from the leftovers that night.

... 9th ...

Philip and Susan had visited Kathmandu some twenty-odd years ago, but it had changed quite a lot since then. So I somehow assumed the role of City Guide. We did the North-of-Old-Town walking route marked in Lonely Planet, which took us past a whole series of temples hidden down little alleys, opening up in big courtyards, surrounded by old women watching us from high above, basking in the morning sunlight.

5P1094514.jpg
P1094524.jpgP1094537.jpg
P1094543.jpgP1094546.jpgP1094552.jpg

After about 2 hours of exciting little secret passageways and backstreets, 6th century Buddha statues and unexpected untouristy hidden plazas, we arrived at the much-awaited Durbar Square. Durbar Square is, essentially, Temple Central of Kathmandu. It is a series of 3 temple-dotted plazas diagonally linked at the corners, opening up a length of temply goodness, in amongst the sprawls modern/old/leaky/grotty 7-storey city life. It was 300 Nepali rupees each for entry, which Philip wasn't too happy about (it was free last time!), and that only let you into half of the complex. We wandered around, being a bit freaked out by some of the beggars chasing us, and then retreated to the rooftop of a nearby cafe for some seriously less-than-exciting cheese-toasty type luncheon. The plus was that we could watch from safety as a procession of protestors/demonstrators? marched into the square with all manner of banners and chants, followed by a herd and a half of motorcyclists, and then army men with big sticks. Apparently it was a holy day. No blood shed, as far as we could tell.

P1094555.jpgP1094556.jpgP1094557.jpg

Partly because I didn't know what else to do, and partly because I quite enjoyed it the first time, I went with the O'Malleys back to the Monkey Temple. It was nice to catch up with old mates monkey, monk and salesperson again. And yes, the two adjacent shops were STILL playing the same song on repeat, but in different keys. NOT OKAY.

P1094573.jpgP1094576.jpgP1094580.jpg

Dodging the salespeople and beggars, we walked back into Kathmadu, passing over the Nepali holy river that is more junk than water. There were some seriously obese pigs staring into the rubbish-filled waters, having a bit of a zen moment as crows danced on their backs.

Back at Durbar Square (nope, no more peaceful yet), we decided to take the South-of-Durbar-Square LP walking route, which was far less temply than the other one, but far more everyday-life-for-locals in feel. I accidentally led us into the wrong little secret-passageway-to-a-courtyard, resulting in the 5 of us scurrying out, chased by a particularly shouty resident hound.

After being jammed in a mash of humans, autorickshaws, cars, dogs and vegetable stalls, scurrying along with the locals through a bazaar of pots, pans, brooms, tiny shoes and incense holders, we finally found refuge in the quiet, but loudly colourful, streets of Thamel.

That night we had a pretty fun meal at a place where half locals, half tourists hung out, that we found down a very narrow hall off the street. A rock band was playing classic hits next door; an interesting juxtaposition to the low lighting and pretty authentic food in front of us. Susan and I had a dellicious sort of momo soup, as recommended by the Oracle (i.e. Lonely Planet). Philip was staring at the Nepali blokes in there drinking something in a huge aluminium glass, with a huge aluminium straw. He asked a waiter, who explained that it was fermented millet, which you poured hot water into to suck out the alcohol. It got stronger as you went. I thought it tasted like mould + vodka, but Philip seemed to enjoy it.

10th Kathmandu – Pokhara

Early morning. Frosty bus. For 8.5 hours through windy mountains. Berk. At least the mountains were pretty. We stopped at TWO places along the way for food, obviously because the bus driver was being commissioned to drop hoards of wealthy tourists off, not because we were actually hungry.

In Pokhara, we enjoyed the usual hoo-ha of being picked up from the bus station: nice little mans carried our bags all the way to the van, but then we had to wait for a THOUSAND HOURS because we couldn't pay by card because the MAN IN THE BANK HAD GONE TO LUNCH. I don't understand how there can be so many men doing a one-man job, but then you end up waiting for AWOL blokes half the time anyway.

That afternoon, we just wandered up the lakeside road, enjoying the peace and quiet after the smoggy noisy mayhem that is Kathmandu. We had cake for lunch, because it was cake o'clock by that stage, and then, I don't know, wandered home again. We didn't do much. It was nice.

Posted by hazelnutty 20:27 Archived in Nepal Comments (0)

Mountains, blisters and... really cute kids.

sunny 18 °C

6th - 8th – Trek in the Himalayas

I'M BACK IN KATHMANDU! AND ==ALIVE==! Added bonus.

What an experience. It wasn't Annapurna, but it was fantastic nonetheless.

I got up at 6am (which is not the coziest time of day here) and was taken to the end of the road up some little valley. There was a sort of hamlet there; a couple of houses and a place too buy chips and pepsi. What more do you need?

We started with a pretty steep ascent, basically a couple of kilometres of stairs, up, up, up into the forest. There were some gorgeous waterfalls. A Nepali family walked past us, obviously going for a hike, too. Before long, we reached the edge of Shivapuri National Park. Unlike Australia, people (and domestic animals galore) are allowed to live in national parks, the catch being that no new clearing can occur. There are actually pretty strict rules, which surprised me, and you have to pay an entry fee. After my entrance pass was checked (I waited on a seat while a bunch of chickens the size of eggs scurried around my feet), my guide and I headed into the park, the 'jungle' as he called it. I guess it was kind of jungle; there were vines and moss and all the rest of it, I'd just always thought of jungle as... warm.

6P1064413.jpg5P1064417.jpg8P1064420.jpg

4/5 of the day was spent climbing. Firstly, we passed through a whole heap of hamlets, scattered up the hillside. There was a school, and for an hour after the school, we saw kids running down the steep steps in uniform, obviously a tad late. Women washed clothes in the ruuning stream, goats nibbled at whatever was around, and buffalo sat in straw. Shyam, my guide, said that pretty much every house here had the same things: chickens, goats, buffalo and a corn crop. Most of the land had been cleared to make way for terraced fields, where corn was grown. Being winter, it was now all pretty bare, so goats were just cleaning up the scraps.

We stopped for lunch at a teahouse, where 5 of the most adorable children in the world were mucking around. They were toddlers up to 5 year olds. Shyam said Nepali children are natural-born mountaineers- obviously. Even the toddler was scrambling up and down the steep slopes that were his backyard. They have to be strong. We watched the spinach for our Dal Bhat lunch being harvested from the vege patch on top of the teahouse that was built into the hill, and were soon enjoying a supremely fresh, gazing down a hazy valley towards Kathmandu.

9P1064421.jpg1P1064424.jpg3P1064425.jpg

Up,up, up. I thought we were near the top, and the another horizon would present itself. Farmland became 'jungle' again, where little red and blue berries glinted in the sunlight. The grass was all dead, obviously frostbitten by the wintry cold nights, as were all the wildflowers- left brown and dry, standing tall like they were still stretching up towards the sun. A couple of local boys started following us, playing all the pop songs that I've grown so used to. I know more about Indian/Nepali pop culture in 2011 than I do about Australian music! They were carrying a single Made-in-Japan doona, still in its packet, which is apparently a two-boy job. One wasn't actually carrying it at all; his shirt was way too nice.

5P1064426.jpg9P1064430.jpg

Finally, we reached the top. We had started at an altitude of 1300m that morning, and had climbed to 2500m. At the pass, Shyam showed me how you throw two rocks onto each pillar on the sides of the track- and make a wish of good fortune.

We had been in the blasting sun all morning, but now, we were on tracks that hadn't seen sun all day. They were really icy from last night's frost; within half an hour I had slid down the hill on my bum, hurting my hip, blood everywhere. But it was okay, because I was in the Himalayas.

We heard a woman down the hill shouting something. A rustle in the bushes beside us. She shouted again. And then, onto the track leapt a goat, and bleated back at her. She shouted. It shouted, and ran towards her. She shouted again, it replied. All the way down the hill, they shouted at each other, until goat and mother were together, a whole pack following out from the undergrowth.

We soon reached a little hamlet, basically a hotel plus a couple of shacks ans a garden. It isn't big enough to make it onto Google maps, but I know that the Nepali translation for the name of it is 'Cold place'. A well deserved name, I'll say: After a super-quick shower, I got into my sleeping back, and only regained consciousness two hours later when Shyam knocked on my door. SO COLD.

After watching a gorgeous sunset over the Langtang ranges and Ganesh mountians 1, 2, and 3, I leapt back into bed, ready for a pre-dawn getup.

Day 2

Alarm. The power was out. By the light of my dying phone, I got dressed (5 layers all up) and headed down to watch the first glows of sunrise.

The whole valley, country, well, the whole of Asia, it seems, is just constantly covered in a layer of smog. Apart from mountaintops, everything is covered in a dirty layer of air, which, if nothing else, makes for some lovely rosy sunrises.

P1074455.jpg
P1074445.jpg

After a quick classic Nepali-version-of-Western-dishes breakfast, we were off, traversing the forested mountainsides, still covered in frost. Owy. Marvelling at the little miniature ice scenes beside the track, and the gorgeous tall grass heads glowing in the morning light, we headed up, along, down, along, up, and up, through some truly exquisite and foreign forest. Shyam showed me the paper bush- a little shrub that has really stringy bark- apparently most of the local paper is made from it. I don't know where they get enough shrubs to make any decent amount of paper from.

There is also the tree-tomato, which I don't think I've ever seen before. Weird. It has tomato-looking fruits... on a tree. Apparently it's a bit of a staple here.

We stopped for lunch in another little roadside village with even cuter kids than the previous day. One little toddler decided it was a good idea to throw the tennis ball from the second storey of their house- his older brother then spent a good ten minutes trying to throw it back up successfully. A grandmother lay in the sun with a baby, the mother came and changed its nappy, the grandmother carried it around, while the mother did the washing. Little kids bolted up and down the hill, screaming and making a whole heap of fun out of not much.

The sun was getting really strong by this stage. And we were in open farmland, and I had no sunscreen. Goose. The afternoon was more or less spent walking up, down, and then UP through terraced farmland, with some seriously gorgeous views, until we reached Nagarkot, our final destination. On the final ascent, we shared the path with local women carrying huge loads back down the hill from the forest (no, we weren't in the National Park anymore), of wood and leaves. Basically they were using every part of the tree they had cut down; the wood for fuel, and the leaves for goat fodder.
1P1074452.jpg4P1074458.jpgP1084490.jpg

Our hotel was on the VERY top of the hill. As in, panoramic views. Again, I had a shower, collapsed into bed (we had walked solidly for over 8 hours) and didn't get up until about 4pm. The view from our hotel roof was incredible. 180 degrees of huge mountains: in the far east, Macchuppichu and Annapurna, then Ganesh 1,2,3, Langtang, and then on the left side, a whole series of peaks, among them, Mt Cho Oyu. I don't remember the others. Several of the ones we could see were over 8,000m tall.

Nagarkot is a pretty big tourist attraction, mainly for Nepali and Indians. Being a Friday night, the place was absolutely bombarded by couples and families of screaming babies and children, and parents shouting 'chii, chii!' when they misbehaved. It made for some pretty good night entertainment. Shyam and I sat there for a couple of hours, just watching the fairly interesting family interactions and so on.

Day 3

6am. Hotel rooftop. A tiny slither of rosy glow, and a crowd of shivering tourists.

I was wearing my sandals. I didn't realise it was going to cause so much horror.

The glow grew, and grew, Ganesh 1,2,3 lighting up, and the little clouds hanging over Cho Oyu turned bright pink. And then, 'AAWOOOO!!!!' the sun poked a shoulder out from behind a mountain, and soon a whole red circle was rising up. So much excitement. A lot of noise for 6:45am.

P1084491.jpg6P1084493.jpg1P1084495.jpg

The mountains started glowing brightly, happy snaps were taken, and everyone rushed down to breakfast. Silence.

We were picked up at 9am and taken back to Kathmandu. From lush green terraced fields, we plummeted down into Kathmandu valley, where it was impossible to see more than a hundred metres ahead. Through Thamel, and here I am. Back safe and sound.

I'm going to find the O'Malley family at some point today (the Philip, Susan, Bron and Joss part of the family), and after that I don't know what's going on!

Keep in touch!

Posted by hazelnutty 00:01 Archived in Nepal Comments (0)

Big colours, huge smiles, little monkeys, freezing nights.

Yep, that's Nepal in a nutshell.

sunny 20 °C

4 Jan: Delhi - Kathmandu

How long does it take to get to the airport? Will my taxi break down? Which airport am I going to? What if my ticket doesn't work? What if I miss my plane!!? India's inconsistency combined with my need for control does not merge well when combined with a flight.

But everything ran very smoothly. I didn't think I was going to cry. Honest. But then I did. Oh, lame. I did the classic wave as the taxi rushed off, sobbing, Michael standing behind a window, watching solemnly. Or maybe he then did a little dance. Who knows.

We didn't crash, no cows started eating the car, we got the right airport and they even gave me a boarding pass! After getting a truly awful berry milkshake, I went to lounge 4A, caught a bus to plane, and... sat on the landing strip for about 40 minutes. It was probably the most terrifying takeoff of my life, purely because the smog was so thick that we were zooming into filth for the first 3 minutes in the air.

Up above the clouds, things looked pretty normal, until I realised that those pointy clouds on the horizon weren't clouds at all. They were MOUNTAINS. Mountains that didn't seem that much shorter than us, mountains like I have never seen before.

9P1044363.jpg9P1044364.jpg

As we approached them, I started seeing little terraced patches of farmland below, more and more, until all the hillsides were covered in these gorgeous layers of garden, rice, or something else, with little houses dotted between them. Just gorgeous.

Kathmandu wasn't much further along, in a fairly grey and smoggy valley. All the grass was dead for winter along the riverbanks, and all the rest was 4-storey houses, growing closer and closer together as we descended...

I told some blokes that I had a booking for Tibet Guest House (I didn't really) and they ushered me into a car. A Californian bloke soon joined me (if this ended badly, at least i wasn't going to die alone) and we were taken to our hotel, through the suburbs of Kathmandu, and into the crazy, colourful suburb of Thamel, where tourists hang out.

See: Tibet Guest House. Power cuts for several hours at a time because there isn't enough hydroelectricty in winter for the whole city.

All settled in, I didn't have much time to go for a wander, but did explore Thamel, bewildered by the concept that SO MUCH colour could possibly exist. I had dinner at a place Mike and Sammy had recommended, which was hilarious but lovely- garlic bread is bread with garlic on it, and lasagne is sheets swimming in white sauce, but they did a fine job of momos and masala tea.

When I got back to my room, the power went out, so.... lights out, then.

5 Jan – On the streets of Kathmandu

3P1054366.jpg8P1054382.jpg8P1054384.jpg

After a delicious 12 hour sleep, I woke wondering where on earth I was, and where had Michael gone. Oh, yeah... First up, walked down streets, across a river and up a rather steep hill to Swayambhunath stupa and co, a gorgeous collection of religious monuments that tower above the rest of the city on a very pointy hill. I spent a couple of hours up there, laughing at the ridiculous monkeys, marvelling at the crazy trinkets in the little shops dotted around, and smiled at the monks watching everyone else do their thing. I wonder if the stray dogs up there benefit from the good vibes?

As I sat on the temple step, a bloke was setting up the prayer flags on the stupa- he tossed them down in a big bundle, but they were so light, they looked like they were going to stop mid-air. Some Bollywood-looking dance scene was being filmed at the front of the stupa with lots of over-the-top smiling men and women shaking their booties in amazing costumes.

P1054376.jpg
3P1054400.jpg

Down the hill again, I wandered past some military base to the National Museum, which LP had highly recommended. I think it would have been more impressive if there wasn't a blackout- I couldn't see half of the exhibits.

Nepal is funny. The men are still a little bit annoying sometimes, but unlike India, the women really watch and smile at you. They say hello, but in a nice way. I guess I just didn't see many women in India, and when they were out, their eyes weren't wandering far. Nepalese people in general, are so kind. When they smile at you, it's like they are smiling right into your eyes; they see the best in you and are clearly happy to be in your company.

Walking up Freak Street, which seems pretty tame these days, I hit Durbar Square, trying to keep my eyes shut, because I want to save it up for when the O'Malleys arrive. It's pretty. And old. More on it later.

I wandered around Thamel a bit more after lunch, but it got really cold really quickly once the sun had gone down. Wowee.

So.

I've just booked a 3-day trek (just me and one guide) in the area northeast of Kathmandu. Apparently it has a good view over Annapurna and some lovely sunrises and sunsets. Should be good! I'll let you know how it went in a few days!

Take care. Love to you all.

(6th - 8th – Trek in the Himalayas)

Posted by hazelnutty 08:21 Archived in Nepal Comments (0)

Delhi (and my belly)

overcast 17 °C

2 Jan 2011 - A Day in Delhi

We arrived at the hotel we had booked, which was down a back alleyway in a leaky bazaar, decided that was unlivable, and bolted to a much nicer one that had both heating and hot water. Amazing.

After a rather epic scrubbing-off of travel grot, we headed out into Delhi, one of the saner places we've visited in India. In New Delhi, the streets are so wide that traffic jams are not assumed, and there are more trees than beggars. New Delhi is the Englishman's ideals drawn out on Indian soil. There's a golf course, huge gardens, forest, polo field, yeah you get the picture. We went to the National Museum first, which definitely held up to my expectations. Starting from Merhgargh culture around 7,000 years ago, (with our friend the English audioguide showing the way) we walked through 9,000 years of the Indian subcontinent's history: little stone figurines and tools, through to the intricate miniature Buddhist paintings of only a century or so ago. There were rooms full of the beautiful bronze statues created by the 'lost wax' method, where the figurine's disposable 'blueprint' was made in wax, the clay mold pressed onto it, the wax melted away and liquid bronze finally poured into the void. They were amazingly detailed.

6P1024349.jpg

I quite enjoyed the traditional textiles section, while Michael was keen to visit the armoury, the best one we've seen yet, I reckon: rather than just oodles of punch-daggers, they had alll kinds of intriguing things, like pony face shields, bommy-knockers and tiny tiny canons that I think would have been fairly useless in an emergency situation.

After that, we went to the Lodi Gardens, which, after my last few experiences of 'garden' in India, I had fairly low hopes for, but no; it was amazing. The entrance was gorgeous; a big avenue flanked by huge trees, leading up to a mausoleum, architecturally similar to the Taj, only made from redstone. It was dusk. We found the herb garden, the bamboo forest, and then found all of the butterflies on the big sign, on the big sign. Where do butterflies go in winter in Delhi? Goa?

See Wikipedia entry for Lodhi Gardens

We found some fairly out-of-place gumtrees, a scrub-patch, and then another lovely big walled mausoleum temple thing, which Michael walked into (pitch black) and shouted 'cucoo!!'. I was far too spooked out. He then proceeded to climb onto the huge wall surrounding it, ran along, realised he was stuck and some Indian blokes enthusiastically showed him how to get down... now. Freezing, we wandered home, and for the first time ever, couldn't find an autorickshaw! We tried to wave them down and they just rolled on by! Autorickshaw drivers of India: you need to balance out ignoring customers with chasing customers.

Back into our cosy hotel to skype mum and dad, and we hit the sack. And our bed wasn't leaping about over the speed bumps and screeching around corners.

3 Jan 2011 Delhi

Michael had an orientation course for university (Oh, right, we're actually students, I remember now) til about 3pm, and I had Delhi belly, so I just chilled out in the hotel. Exciting, huh.

When the boy got back, we caught an autorickshaw to the Red Fort. Halfway there, our driver performed the most over-acted melodramatic lie I ever did see, slapping his leg and shouting 'Oh, no, the Red Fort is closed on Mondays!'. As if he didn't know that when he drove off. His solution; drive us to another sight about 10km away, thus earning himself some sweet sweet moneys... We said no. Take us to the fort anyway.

With oodles of bazaars beside the fort, and Michael being stupid enough to come to India without a jumper, we decided to go jumper hunting. First, we landed in the electrics section, with everything from torches to cables to batteries to I don't know. Through the part that sold only clocks and fake flowers, we stopped to read LP. A bloke on a bike-autorickshaw with a red and black beanie rolled up, and tried to get us on his bike. I told him to get nicked.

We found the jumper section, but the problem is, Michael is not the size of your average Indian. In fact, he is about twice as tall and wide. We tried all kinds of things (everything except the mustard-coloured grandpa jumper which would have been perfect), even vests, but they were all about as loose as corsets. The shopkeepers were actually laughing, and stopped trying to help us.

That night, we had a last supper with Sammy and Tom, who was a little bit under the weather. He stuck to orange juice while Sammy and Mick drank beers. I eavesdropped on the beautifully spoken Japanese couple next to us. Japan, I miss you. After a chilly farewell on an empty bazaar street, we headed home once more, for our last night together in 2 months. (Insert sad violins)

Posted by hazelnutty 08:14 Archived in India Comments (0)

More"J's" - Jaisalmer and Jodhpur (and Udaipur)

More fun in Rajasthan

For photo gallery India

24 Dec: Silence, sand, and... sandstone.

Silence. Complete silence. Not like at home where you can't hear cars, but the trees still rustle and a cow moos occasionally. I mean, no noise, whatsoever.

As the moon glided across a purple dawn-lit sky, Michael and I lay there, watching the stars fade, listening to the booming silence of the desert. An orange sunrise brought a family of little brown birds to life, and soon, that former silence was unimaginable as baby birds squealed and our guide led the camels over with a huff and a snort. My nose was frozen.

We had masala tea in bed (heaven), and wheat porridge for breakfast, before getting up and heading off over the dunes. Over the course of the morning, we saw a fair bit of sand, some rocks, some watermelon relatives, a lot of goats and sheep, a straw hut, and some more rocks. I am forever amazed by the universality of the human desire to pile rocks into towers.

PC244198.jpgPC234191.jpg

After a couple of hours, a jeep rolled into view and took us back to Jaisalmer. Just like that. Goodbye camels. Getting anywhere by camel takes days; cars are really cheating, aren't they? Back in town, we walked to our hotel through the main bazaar, where men worked their magic at getting us into their shops of bags, tablecloths, dresses and pants. Michael was less than keen to buy the pink hippy pants.

That afternoon, sore behind and empty in the middle, we found some yummy samosas, had lunch at a rooftop restaurant as autorickshaws, tourists, cows, dogs, motorbikes and locals all weaved through the narrow golden streets below. We then decided to just have a wander down back streets, to see how the locals lived (well, we were actually looking for a haveli, but got lost). The area we walked through was one of the most wealthy communities I have seen in all of India. While they lived in a very confined space (houses came up to the street; no front or backyard, and narrow but vertical) the facades of most of them were spectacular. They were all the same sandstone colour with intricate, unique carvings into the stone, with matching golden wooden shutters on their windows. Some had fancy metal handrails, or huge doors fit for a king.

Christmas Eve. Christianity isn't huge in Rajasthan, but they do know what Christmas is. Most of these backstreets, where children played hopskotch and ballgames, had huge nets of tinsel hanging like a silver ceiling from the second storeys of houses. But then some bloke asked us what day Christmas was. He thought it was today.

We finally found the haveli (a sort of inner-city mansion/small palace) by some odd stroke of luck. I don't know how many floors it had, but it was quite a climb to the rooftop. All the rooms of the home were left intact, with musical instruments, cooking pots, carpets, beds and wardrobes left the way they were. It really was like a step back in time.

25 Dec: Christmas Day in Jaisalmer

Christmas morning. Where the hell am I? No jumping into mum and dad's bed, no singing Christmas carols at church, no family roast with all the cousins and puppy dogs... But hey, we did have a whole album of Peter Combe's Christmas songs. And we had decked out our room in tinsel the night before, and bought a tiny tiny tree. Listening to Christmas songs, I opened Michael's present for me, an absolutely beautiful peachy silk scarf, while he opened presents from his mum- Christmas lights with spare batteries, a flashing Santa badge, and lollies. Oh, win.

We met up with Sammy and Dreamer for lunch, swapping stories of camel and beer genies with those of sneaking into an opulent wedding in Udaipur. Ask Sammy about that one (only those two would do it!). That afternoon, feeling quite full, we headed up to the fort as a four, wearing matching Santa hats. The locals bloody loved it. We looked like such tosspots. But in an awesome way.

PC254208.jpgPC254214.jpgPC254223.jpg

The fort is described in Lonely Planet as a 'living museum', which is true. It is the only fort around that is still in use (Carcassonne being the only other one I've seen), which is also causing problems. While in earlier times, the only water used in the fort had to be carried in buckets; the introduction of taps is causing it the whole thing to sink. Being made of sand, water is literally washing away its foundations; an issue that will be quite difficult to tackle I suspect.

Inside, beyond all the stalls of beautiful fabrics, was the royal palace, where we did an audio tour. Headphones over the Santa hats. The palace is huge, mainly in vertical direction. It took us two or more hours to get around, the view from the top being spectacular. At the very top, I had a rather sudden kick of food poisoning, which sent me bolting down steep staircases and along passages to nowhere in search of a toilet. I ran straight past it, not realising that by 'He' and 'She', they actually meant 'Male' and 'Female'. I assumed it was another language.

After Michael got his shoe fixed (involuntarily), we caught an autorickshaw to a flash hotel out of town for a Christmas dinner. Sadly, I couldn't eat a heap. The others made up for me, well and truly. All three of them. Outside, there was a gorgeous traditional dance and music performance going on, with a woman in red dancing solo, a gorgeous male singer, and a variety of bizarre puppets which leaped around to music. Sammy got up and danced with the dancer. Tom and Mick continued eating at the buffet inside.

Autorickshawing home again, the only thing stopping me from freezing to death in the cold desert air was laughing hysterically. Yep, Jaisalmer is definitely cold at night.

26 Dec: On the road again...

The next morning, Mick and I packed up, and went for a walk to the lake southeast of town, where there is a rather impressive gateway. The story goes that it was built by a famous prostitute, positioned as it was so that the king had to pass under it. The king, of course, would never approve of going under anything related to the prostitute, so she had a little temple built on the top of it, rendering her monument invincible. And so it still stands.

We hired a paddle boat on the lake for 'half and hour' (I wanted to argue that this is in fact ninety minutes, but we would have been pretty bored after ninety minutes of paddling around). The bloke gave us the swan boat, which Mick reeeeally didn't want. Puke.

PC264246.jpgPC264263.jpg

After that, we went to a place that I thought was the famous one about 15 km out of town. This one was 15 km out of town, but it wasn't the one I was thinking of. It was a temple more or less exclusively visited only by Indians. Awkies. It was nice to say hello to the desert cacti again.

PC254228.jpgPC264244.jpg

Exhausted from food poisoning, much walking and general Indian mayhem, we spent our last afternoon in Jaisalmer in a restaurant that looked up at the fort. We drank chai, ordered coffee ice cream that was definitely strawberry ice cream, and chatted to two blokes who didn't know where Australia was but did know that they played cricket. Our train was at midnight, so we then migrated to another restaurant, where we sat for 3 hours, passing the time by eating, people watching and being fairly stupid.

We shared our 3-tiered train compartment with 2 Australians who didn't talk to anyone but themselves, and a couple from Delhi, who were lovely.

5 hours later (5:30am), we arrived in Jodhpur, and fell into bed.

27 Dec: 5:30am, Jodhpur: The Blue City

This was our one real day in Jodhpur. I was excited to see the word 'garden' on the Lonely Planet map, and thus dragged Mick over hoards of homeless people, across fuming roads and through wee patches to this much-awaited garden. Anticlimax. It had some trees. And some grass. And a few boys who watched us. A police car rolled through at one stage, and a group of boys who had been doing handstands on the grass all bolted out, scrambling up 4 metre gates and walls to get out. What on earth was that about?

From there, we caught an autorickshaw up to the fort, the main attraction in Jodhpur. From there, you can see why it's called the 'blue city'; every second building in the old town is painted the same warm, soft blue colour, which creates a gorgeous feel of unity over the sea of houses.

The fort was pretty cool, with a puke-ishly complete armoury, the compulsory 'pearl room' and lovely views, but we have seen quite a few forts. The architecture was really quite gorgeous.

PC274286.jpgPC274299.jpgPC274304.jpg

Walking back into town, we got attacked by a bloke who welcomed us into his house, and a few minutes later, my left hand was being dotted with floral henna designs while he told me how fortunate I was going to be now. I felt like such a tourist. The design was quite beautiful though. He did seem pretty intent that Michael and I were going to have lots of healthy children together, which was a bit weird. I was more keen on the bit about being academically successful. Anyway.

We met Sammy and Tom for a rooftop dinner, which was lovely, but my mango milkshake tasted garlicky, which isn't what you want in a milkshake, generally speaking. Michael liked it. Weirdo. It started raining for the first time since I'd arrived, and Sammy and Tom danced on the rooftop to the beat of the little traditional music bunch playing in front of us. Naww.

How many different kinds of ice-cream can be made with mixed fruit and ice cream? 4.

28 – 29 Dec: Illness strikes

Another beautiful day in paradise? Not really. Michael didn't get out of bed. I did, but then got back in. We were going to get sick somewhere along the line; it was inevitable.

For two full days and nights we lay there, groaning, and doing nothing but sleep and stumble to the toilet. Oh joy.

By the end of the second day, I was desperate to get out of the bloody stupid city that made us sick.

30 Dec: Udaipur: Indian Venice

Seven am. Bus to Udaipur. Something like 8 hours, in the end. The bus driver drove so badly that speed bumps made all the Japanese tourists in the back row hit the ceiling, squealing.

We passed through good old dusty farmland, and then into a beautiful mountainous forest. From there, we rolled into terraced patches of crops with villages, and then more barren hillsides. The last 2 hours were spent passing huge yards filled with marble tables. Thousands upon thousands of marble tables. Michael thought there was maybe a quarry somewhere nearby.

Picking our hotel minutes before arrival, we put-putted in an autorickshaw across town, up a steep little hill (broke the autorickshaw), and reached our hotel, and... wow. Udaipur is like Venice. In India. But lakey. With no canals. Ok so it's not really, but the buildings do come right down to the water and it is really pretty.

By the time we had washed all the illness and bus grot off, tried out the wifi-stealing options, and summoned up some energy from our low-battery bodies, it was heading to dusk. We hadn't eaten in over two days. After a quick walk through backstreets, where locals smiled with beautiful, earnest smiles, wanting nothing from you, we reached a bridge that crossed the river, and watched night fall down on the world. And I appreciated the perks of having a really tall, male travel companion in India. Like in Granada, hanging out with the tough-as-nails Polish and Moroccan travellers, I felt invincible. Muahaha.

With slight hesitation from my bodyguard, we agreed to an aruvedic massage each, which Lonely Planet recommended, and I thought might help kickstart feeling healthy again. It was actually really nice, very refreshing, but I think Mike was a little concerned about where his masseuse' hands were going...

Tried to eat some dinner. Sort of sucked at it.

31 Dec: City Palace Udaipur

Mike was feeling okay the next morning, but I wasn't so sure. We really, really struggled to get up. We got to the City Palace, the main attraction of Udaipur, after lunchtime, and I sort of spent the whole time collapsing on whatever seating options were available in each room. The Palace really is quite spectacular, again, being left largely intact, with more rooms and courtyards than you can poke a stick at. Most of the rooms had a gorgeous view over the glittering lake below. Quite magical. It would be an appropriate place to wear a flowing dress and spin around while singing 'A Whole New World'.

PC314327.jpgP1014345.jpg

I felt miraculously better at about 5:30pm, so we had a drink each at the Palace Bar, and did a bit of good old people watching. The Indians also did a bit of people watching. Everyone had a great time. A bunch of schoolboys walked past at one stage, and all crowded around two white girls sitting at a table, both laughing hysterically with embarrassment. Michael (the legend) ran up to the front of the crowd and frantically started taking photos of all the boys. I don't think they got it.

New Year's Eve. Wrapped in my sleeping bag, we sat on our rooftop, one of the highest roofs around, pretty much alone, and watched, and listened to, the celebrations beginning. At about 8pm, the first fireworks went off, glistening reflections in the lake below, and it all escalated from there. Fireworks going off all around us, people singing and laughing, pumping out the dance music, and on the other side of the lake, people were letting of lanterns into the sky, which floated towards us, before fading out into darkness.

PC314333.jpg

The midnight celebrations were the best I have ever seen. Every man and his dog had fireworks in store; the whole city was an explosion of light. Some of the explosions didn't come with light- sounded like something went wrong in a tin shed behind us. Maybe they were just really terrible fireworks.

Noses frozen, unable to wipe the smile off my face, we headed down to bed. It was 2011.

1 Jan 2011: Cooking, wild goose chases and 15-hour bus rides...

We had arranged the previous day to have some cooking classes - an exciting change from sightseeing. We were welcomed into our teacher's house, where her nephew was cheekily answering her back all the time, which was quite a cute touch. First off, she showed us how to make masala tea, and then pakoras, which we ate. She massaged me (on her married son's bed, awkward), then she showed me how to massage on Michael. Her daughter-in-law is 8 months pregnant, her daughter is 2 months pregnant, and I'm pretty sure there was a third baby in there somewhere. I asked her how old she was when she got married - she said 15. Fifteen. She said that every time her husband came near her for the first two weeks she would squeal and run away. She cracked me up. And didn't understand why we weren't married already. And did we have babies. No...

All covered in oil, and getting hungry, we were shown how to make pappadum curry, mixed vegetable curry, rice with peas, chapati bread (awesome!) and a dessert she called 'halva', but is a lot softer, darker and oilier than the white stuff my dad eats. After sitting on her marble stairs to soak up some sun with her, we went off on our ways, rice packed for the bus that night. Thanks, Indian mummy.

...

Both having studied In the (novel) Lake of the Woods in year 12, and with a lake looking very LOTWish, we really wanted to hire some sort of boat and go explore the far side. 'Maybe he killed her, maybe he didn't'. No one killed anyone in our case, because we couldn't find the boat take-off point. As with the restaurant in Jaipur that we really wanted to go to, and the street that totally didn't exist in Jodhpur, Lonely Planet had yet again been making stuff up. We had a lovely wander around town nonetheless. I tried to weasel our way past the Palace security guards but they didn't really buy it. We got some delicious sugarcane juice off the street, like the good old days in Mumbai, and watched the lady pushing a wooden wheelbarrow full of sewage slush past us, most of which was falling into the road, and her shoes. Why...

P1014339.jpg

Illness struck me again, so we took refuge in a cafe. I had a slushy (yes, made from most-likely contaminated ice and water) because eating safe food wasn't working anyway.

And then onto another bus. With no toilet. How did I survive?

Posted by hazelnutty 06:05 Archived in India Comments (0)

(Entries 6 - 10 of 41) « Page 1 [2] 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 »