Archive for October, 2006

Dalhousie – Chamba

Wednesday, October 25th, 2006

We have endured the TERRIFYING bus ride, inches away from 300 foot drops the whole way, to Chamba, another small mountain town in the north of India.


The rest of our time in Dalhousie was wonderful, relaxing, and we celebrated our one-year anniversary there. Of course, there aren’t any nice, romantic restaurants there, but we did manage to have a good time, finding some some really bad contraband rum and drinking rum and cokes while playing some cards with the sun setting over the mountains, and then ending up at a little restaurant where about 30 people were celebrating some little girl’s birthday. They didn’t mind us being there and even gave us some of her birthday cake!

Well today in Chamba we FINALLY found pasturized milk. Now, I’ve always been a milk drinker, but since most of the milk here is ‘fresh’ (and therefore lethal for us white kids) we have not had any in almost two weeks. Today we found some safe milk for the first time, in a plastic bag at a convenience store. We snipped a hole in it, stuck a straw in, and just stood there in the middle of the hot busy street sucking it back. We polished off the hole bag in about 2 minutes, much to the amusement of our audience. It’s funny, I thought I’d miss my family and friends, clean water, and showers, but I am actually doing okay with all that (although I do miss you guys!). What I would kill for, (REALLY) are very simple things – a cold glass of milk, fresh fruit, and a salad. Other than that though we are finding that we are feeling quite at home here, its funny how the craziness wears off and everything seems more friendly and familiar!

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Also, today I have been enjoying my first real clothing shopping experience. I have decided that I need some Indian clothing because it looks so comfy and beautiful, so I bought some lovely green material today and am going to get measured tomorrow morning by some random tailor lady in the countryside near here. She will sew it up for me into a ‘shalwar kumeez’, or a ladies suit. I promise to do a photo shoot after so you can all see it!

Other than that, we are departing on a trek tomorrow for 5 days in the himalayas, staying in huts for two nights and a tent for two nights. We have a guide and a porter (aahhh the life!). When we find somewhere that has a decent internet connection (from Dharamshala in a week) we will post it all – new clothes, monkeys, snowy mountains. Until then, hope you are all well!

– Claire

To the Mountains! (and the land of monkeys!)

Sunday, October 22nd, 2006

Well the rest of Amritsar was fun but smoggy and loud! Luckily on day 3 we got a terrific deluge of rain that flooded the streets and cleaned the air. We found a smaller temple (Durgiana) to shelter us from the rain, and spent the day learning Hindi from random schoolboys and doing the ‘chai crawl’ (stopping frequently to try new foods and hot beverages). We also met another traveller and all went together to the changing of the guard at the Pakistan border (lots of boot stomping and yelling, and an Indian crowd of thousands chanting ‘HINDUSTAN’)

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Needless to say, after a few days we had had ENOUGH city time and headed straight to the foothills of the Himalayas, ending in a small town called Dalhousie. The 2nd class train ride (non A/C) and bus ride were our first tastes of authentic Indian travel. Crowded, hard seats, smell of urine, and some crazy driving near very high cliffs! Fun!

We arrived in time to check into our $3/night hotel with a deck looking over the mountains and sunrise, and then watched the Divali celebrations from there. It was magical – lights and fireworks and sounds of joy. Like Hallowe’en but way more firecrackers and no costumes. This small town, with houses and tea stalls hugging the hillsides, green terraced gardens all around, is exactly what we were hoping to find here. There are even monkeys here – big ones! We aren’t really sure if they are orangotangs or what, but they are noisy and rambunctious and about two feet tall sitting down.

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We are planning to stay here a few days, and then explore nearby villages and maybe do some trekking and horseback riding. We aren’t sure if we will have constant internet access but we plan to get a cell phone when we arrive in Dharamshala in a week or two, and will post the number and pics from there.

Finally – in India! (Delhi-Amritsar)

Thursday, October 19th, 2006

Well it feels good to have finally arrived here after such build up over the last few weeks!  I think after all of the things I have read and heard about India, the first few days haven’t been shocking as much as supremely interesting.  At any given moment on the street, there is a cacophony of sound, colours and shapes whizzing by, strange and not always pleasant smells, and the brush of wind on my skin as rickshaws screech by me.  The train trip from Delhi to Amritsar in the Punjab province, where we are now, was such an education.  The poverty here is really uncomprehensible – we spent long stretches of time looking out the window at people living in shanty tents, their washing, cooking, and defecating done in the open right by the side of the tracks. 

I have really enjoyed every moment so far, even the heat and smells and craziness, because it comes right along with so many smiles, incredible food, and new experiences that are so alien to me.  I don’t really like the pushiness of the people on the streets, but it doesn’t take long to develop a good ‘I’m ignoring you’ face…which seems to do the trick.  We are in the holy town of Amritsar right now, and plan to stay here for a few more days, take in more of the Golden Temple and the festival Deepwali, and then head north, to the cool mountains.  I can’t wait to see what else this country has in store for us!  Hopefully lots more delicious samosas.  mmm… 

– Claire

So, how to describe my first four days in India in a manner that conveys the gravity and shock of the whole situation?  I have filled pages of my journal, but will try to put some of the more tangible differences on paper here.

The India experiance started pretty much right in the Delhi airport.  The hotel had arranged a (very overpriced) driver to collect us from the airport, but thank god for having someone who knew up from down to take us where we needed to go!  The air was hot and muggy and the squat little Delhi taxis were flying through the crowd ready to kill anybody who got in the way.  We retreated to the back of a car and were whisked down a road with 3 lanes at times and 6 at others (but the actual width never changed) to the “hotel” on the Grand Bazar.  And bizaar it was!  I thought we were heading to our deaths as we pulled up, but nope, just another Monday night in Delhi!

The Delhi experiance was less than savory, but was all the same very exciting and throughly enjoyable.  I wouldn’t really call it a holiday destination as 99 out of 100 people (or more) was trying to such you for all you were worth.  You had to be on your guard all the time, but none the less, it was all new and one of the most educational 24 hours of my life!

In this city of pure, unabridged life the basics are paramount.  The search for food and water will keep you busy for days on end, rather than just the hour before a meal.  The locals were in a constant battle with each other and the elements, eating on the streets, sleeping on the streets, and peddling everything from toy helicopters to toilet paper.

Even with the extremes of life in Delhi, little could prepare me for the train ride to Amritsar.  As soon as the train left the station I was shocked by the magnitude and scale of the poverty that existed within the vast and surreal metropolis.  The ghettos consisted of mud huts and makeshift buildings where the basics of life were tended to with putrid green water and and little modesty.  Wow!  Within minutes though we were in the flat and beautiful, if hazy, farm lands that fill most of the northwest of India.  Here life seemed more simple and more tolerable than in the cities.  More normal.

There are some things that come hand in hand with the poverty that are tough to think about, much less mention on a blog, but seeing as this is a note of striking experiances, this one rates high.  From the comfort of my reclined, A/C seat on the train I saw the first, fresh corps of my life.  Lying face down on the train tracks, his head severed and about 10 inches away it was tough to tell if it was a accident or a suicide, but none the less, no one was lifting a finger to call the police or to even move the body to a more discreet location.  He was simply left for the dogs.  Literally.

Not to end on a bad note, but this is getting long winded.  Rest assured that we are safe and for the most part very comfortable in our $8 per night accomidation (large room with 30 foot celings, a vanity, attached bath and private roof top balcony) and even with the total lack of other tourists we are starting to feel quite at home…


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24 Hours in Singapore!

Thursday, October 19th, 2006

Singapore, Singapore, Singapore.  Hot, sterile, Westernized land of malls and highways.  Our 24 hour layover in Singapore was much needed after a 19 hour flight, but we didn’t really love the place.  It was so hot and humid, and the area we were staying in was really hazy and full of busy roads and malls.  So after a quick breakfast, we went straight to the national orchid and botanical gardens.  What a relief to be out of the city and in a peaceful oasis filled with amazing flowers, turtles, kimodo dragon lizards, tropical rainforest…the list goes on.  Here are a few pics!

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Goodbye Westcoast!

Thursday, October 12th, 2006

Well we’ve spent the last week or so visting friends, family, and generally enjoying being homeless and jobless on the West Coast.  We spent time in Portland, Hood River, and Victoria, doing all the ‘west coasty’ things we could think of and enjoying hot showers, good food, and relaxation while we have it – and we just have one last night in Vancouver before we fly out on Saturday.  (On an 18 hour plane ride – sounds kind of like my worst nightmare!)  Our next post will be from the other side of the world!

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Trip Starts Thursday

Monday, October 2nd, 2006

So this is post #1! I have moved out of my house and am living in comfort with Claire for three days… Then the trip starts. Destination 1 is Portland.