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Drie


54 Blog Entries
1 Trip
176 Photos

Trips:

Adventures in Hindustan

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http://blogabond.com/Drie



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one last trick

Denver, United States


India pulled her final joke on me flying from Bagdogra back to Delhi. Waiting in the airport for my plane to get in I started to feel chilled and exhausted. As I hunched over in my plane seat--regretting that Indian airlines don't provide blankets like their trains do--I knew I must have a fever. And stumbling into my hotel seeking the best air conditioned room they had, I knew it must be a bad one.
After checking in, I collapsed onto my gratefully clean and airconditioned bed, and went into a semi-delirious sleep, forgetting until later to check my temperature (it would hold steady around 103.5 for the whole night) or take any medicine. I rose once around 9 PM to stumble into the hotel restaurant to buy a water bottle.
As morning rolled around, I realized I had some 12 hours until I had to be at the international airport and a fever that was still making me woozy. With little money left (I wanted to leave the country dead even), little minutes left on my phone left, a heavy bag, and 100 degree weather outside, I called Nick (a family friend who had stored my extra bag for the last couple weeks) and begged to crash at his apartment for the day. And that's what I did.
Arriving on a rickshaw that didnt give me change because I lacked the energy to insist on it, I collapsed onto a friendly expat's mattress for the next 5 hours. In the end the fever broke and I had time for one last dinner and swimming pool visit with Nick and his roomate before heading out.
But what a last day in the country. Oh, India what a bitch you can be. Oh, well. In the end, I got to the airport and THIRTY hours later (filled with a few BA red wines and the first real sandwich in monthes) I arrived back in sunny Colorado. Here I am, four days later, back home. And not a cow in sight.


permalink written by  Drie on May 14, 2008 from Denver, United States
from the travel blog: Adventures in Hindustan
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quality

Darjiling, India


A few more days in the quaintest of towns. Several fantastic days (and one not so fantastic day) with quality group meals, and lots of walking about. We all decided to visit one of the more 'quality' tea plantations recommended to us by local tea experts so we headed out one early morning. Turns out quality equals very far away and hard to get to. We began walking down a road...and kept walking all the way down the winding path into a deep valley for some 4 hours. The views were beautiful and the company good, which made it worth it even though when we finally got there the factory was closed and we had to get a tour of the empty place.

The trip back up turned into quite a humorous debacle. Not thinking things through, we had not confirmed that there was a way back OUT of the valley that didn't not involve walking back up the same hill for 10 hours. But after several cars refused to give us a lift and about 20 minutes of uphill battling we were starting to realize the danger of incomplete planning. Luckily (as I was confident of the whole time, though not most of the girls) we were picked up by a taxi for just 20 ruppees a head. phew. A very relieved trip back was followed by some tasty momos and quality cup of Darj tea.

permalink written by  Drie on May 5, 2008 from Darjiling, India
from the travel blog: Adventures in Hindustan
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the last ventures

Kalimpang, India


My final few days were spent in a town called Kalimpong. Lacking the romantic heights of Darjeeling (its in fact several thousand feet lower in altitude), this cute town makes up for it with wonderful nurseries and Tibetan shops (both are wholesale centers for the larger region). Kalimpong is also unique, according to all guide literature, for its cheese (yep real cheese, not paneer) and lollipops (more like milk tootsie rolls).
We went searching for all these things, and found them (in some cases after much walking).
One especially spectacular find was a beautiful hotel up the hills with its own planted grounds. Stretching onto the side of a hill and with the feel of a cloud forest, we wandered amongst orchids, lilies, honey suckle and a thousand other flowers I couldn't name. The hotel had cute little cottages amongst the plants and overgrown bouganvillea. My Bible (ie lonely planet) informs me that these are $60 a night. When I come back for the honeymoon I'll stay here.
On these sightseeing ventures we were accompanied by Teresa's aunt who is in the Navy and flew in to visit her. It was interesting trying for the first time to introduce India to someone new and come to conclusions about our experiences. It was more difficult to do this than I had thought and I sort of dread having to try and answer questions about my experience once I get home.


permalink written by  Drie on May 5, 2008 from Kalimpang, India
from the travel blog: Adventures in Hindustan
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the highest peaks

Darjiling, India


Many of the girls moved on today, but Betsey, Teresa and I have stuck it out another day. We had planned to get up before dawn (4 AM) to take a jeep to viewing point called Tiger hill. When I woke at 5:07 there wasn't time for the jeep but we viewed Sunrise right from our own porch and it was spectacular on an unusually unclouded day.

Enough so that ,peaking out the clouds on the edge of grey, was a whiter crest, the tip top of Khangchendzonga--the 4th tallest peak in the world and the highest mountain in India. We decided that a trip to the top of the hill might be worth it even now. So we went, and it clouded over more, but the way back down brought us a thousand prayer flags and two fantastic monastries to view. At one of the latter I was able to spin prayer wheels, fulfilling a long held child's fantasy from my parent's stories of Nepal.

We came back for a breakfast of Nepali bread (a slightly leavened round bread) with jam and honey and some rockin mashed potatoes. That was followed by an afternoon nap.

To top off a day of monastry viewing, Teresa and I walked the town (munching on coal-cooked corn with lemon) until we reached the Bhudia Busty, a gompa perched on the side of a hill facing the hidden crest of Everest.


permalink written by  Drie on May 2, 2008 from Darjiling, India
from the travel blog: Adventures in Hindustan
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quality

Darjiling, India


A few more days in the quaintest of towns. Several fantastic day (and one not so fantastic day) with quality group meals, and lots of walking about. We all decided to visit one of the more 'quality' tea plantations recommended to us by local tea experts so we headed out one early morning. Turns out quality equals every far away and hard to get to. We began walking down a road...and kept walking all down the winding path into a deep valley for some 4 hours. The views were beautiful and the company good, which made it worth it even though when we finally got there the factory was closed and we had to get a tour of the empty place. We did learn the process of tea making though, which is rather fascinating. Fist comes drying, then comes rolling/crushing, then there's fermentation, followed by more drying, sorting by leaf size and type, packaging, and finally testing for quality.

The trip back up turned into quite a humorous debacle. Not thinking things through, we had not confirmed that there was a way back OUT of the valley that didn't not involve walking back up the same hill for 10 hours. But after several cars refused to give us a lift and about 20 minutes of uphill battling we were starting to realize the danger of incomplete planning. Luckily (as I was confident of the whole time, though not most of the girls) we were picked up by a taxi for just 20 ruppees a head. phew. A very relieved trip back was followed by some tasty momos and quality cup of Darj tea.

permalink written by  Drie on May 1, 2008 from Darjiling, India
from the travel blog: Adventures in Hindustan
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tea for me..

Darjiling, India


A sweet day in Darjeeling. Morning at the botanic gardens (lunch of momos), afternoon at the zoo (the highest in the world). We saw gorgeous orchids and red pandas at each respectively.
Then there was 4 oçlock high tea at the Windsor hotel. I spent 7 dollars for a cup of tea and crumpets but I got to a Victorian British woman in an old Victorian tea room right out of Pride and Prejudice so perhaps it was worth it.
Let me re-emphasize that Darjeeling is not part of the India I have come to know. Things here are beautiful, quiet, basically clean, and there are no lewd stares or even much attention from Nepali-speaking locals. There aren't even and any rickshaws--they can't cope with these hills-- so no honking and we walk everywhere...on SIDEWALKS. Wow, if that aint different I don't know what is. I forgot to mention the small bakeries everywhere.
No Everest sightings in the cloudy distance yet, but I'm holding out hope.


permalink written by  Drie on April 29, 2008 from Darjiling, India
from the travel blog: Adventures in Hindustan
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a reunion day

Darjiling, India


After nearly missing the train last night--I made it due to the small kindness of other travelers I was talking about as a British couple I'd approached briefly found me and led me to the train platform-- I got on the overnight (3AC) to NJP a station in Siliguri a town below Darjeeling.

There, I wandered about briefly until I figured out to find a share-jeep that would take me at last into the hills of the Himalayas. I got help again getthing there from a Scotsman who'd spent the last 9 monthes studying in monastries in Nepal.

After a beautiful, winding and cramped jeep ride up the hill for a few hours, I made it to my last major destination: the fine tea capital of the world. I can't gush enough about the quaintness of this old British hill station. This might as well be a different country. The people here look like Chinese in sarees. And indeed, they are mostly Nepali in origin and there's a movement to have their own Nepali speaking state called Ghorkaland. While here, we've seen a number of protest marches to that effect.

Right after arrival, my lone travels came to an end. I walked to a nearby hotel discussed earlier and met up with friends who had just arrived as well, easy as cake. Reunited with Meghan, Colleen, Emily, Erin, and Betsey (who flew in an hour later) we ate some tibetan food--namely momos which are fantastic little dumplings-- and reveled in the sweet cool air and beautiful sights of the green hills.

permalink written by  Drie on April 28, 2008 from Darjiling, India
from the travel blog: Adventures in Hindustan
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thank god their holy men not women..otherwise we'd have a whole bunch of commemorative dug holes

Varanasi, India


After a day in Varanasi, I headed out to the nearby other holy city of Sarnath. Sarnath is where the Buddha gave his first speech/sermon/insight (whatever you call it).
As befits all holi...whoops holy... men, that spot in a Deer Park is now commemorated by a stupa: a giant pile of stones shaped into a phalic symbol. Supposedly the inside also contains something of the Buddha within. Maybe its a hair or a tooth, I'm not really clear on that point.
In any case, I'm afraid to say that the Buddhist idea of a holy sight appeals to me more. Here there are giant trees and quiet spaces, compared to the dirt and crowded bathing spots back on the Ganges.
After a walk around the Deer Park I retreated two a restaurant where I bought and downed a 2 liter bottle of water in less than an hour. I guess that's what walking in 105 F does to you.
I rickshawed it back to Varanasi to pick up my baggage stored in the train station there and rickshawed again to ANOTHER train station out of town to my next stop DARJEELING!


permalink written by  Drie on April 27, 2008 from Varanasi, India
from the travel blog: Adventures in Hindustan
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traveling by lonesome rail

Varanasi, India


Well, its my first day traveling on my own. Originally there weren't supposed to be any of those but long kept plans went to pot when my travel companion Betsey got a very tenacious fever that she couldn't seem to shake. So the day before we were to leave I treked out to the train station to make every possible attempt to change our tickets a day later or two. Unfortunately its summer break in India and every one goes home, which means no free seats anywhere.
Finally, it came down to me taking off all by lonesome while Betsey stayed back to recover in the comfort of air conditioning and and a few friends still around till the group flight. Vague plans were established to meet up again in Darjeeling in 3 or so days.
So here I am, all by my lonesome. I wanted to know what it was like to travel alone. Here's the lowdown (at least for me). Its not as scary as you might think but its not as exciting either. For me traveling alone tends to involved greater stress and less to laugh about.
The interesting thing about traveling alone is that you are more susceptible to bad behavior and more often the recipient of people's kindness. Crooks and touts target you (which I avoided thanks to my intellegence and logic and...) kindness from other travelers does too.
Well, enough cognition, let me tell you that I made to Delhi safely by wonderfully air conditioned bus and then booked it to my friend/acquintance, Nick's, house where I was leaving my extra bag for the remainder of the journey. Then I as off again to the Delhi train station (the biggest and most hectic I've ever seen). I ate at a little tiny joint with two tables, greasy food and no other white folks (or women). But it was good enough and no one stared.
The train was absolutely pleasant (class 3AC for you those you are curious) and my car had a nice international feel. With me were a yound Indian man, an elderly business man, two Japanese girls, and another American expat who I ultimately learned was named Dana! The train was on record time as well...only half an hour late.


permalink written by  Drie on April 25, 2008 from Varanasi, India
from the travel blog: Adventures in Hindustan
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between a rock and a hard place

Abu Road, India


4/22/08

Time flies in the heat. After a very trying train journey I’m back in Jaipur for my final week of ‘classes.’ Before that, we spent a wondrous three days in our personal retreat of mount Abu. The most fun thing about the place (besides the cooler temperature and mountain beauty) was the fact that it was chalk full of Indians, Indian tourists that is. Mt. Abu is less visited by foreign tourists because of its out of the way location, but functions as a giant resort getaway for Indians. It was highly enjoyable to be just another one of the crowd of tourists, treated differently only when people wanted to take pictures of us with their babies.
We had an incredibly characteristic experience of India when we climbed to Sunset point to, surprise, surprise, see sunset. It wasn’t even a remotely relaxing or romantic experience though, since several hundred other Indian tourists were making the same treck. The whole thing was like a festival, with men selling corn on the cob, blackberry cups, horseback rides and cart rides. (Rickshaws aren’t allowed on the mountain so the absence is filled by horse wallas and wallas with ‘helicopters’--as they told us--which are essentially shopping cards with little wooden seats inside for two people and are then pushed by some poor old guy up the hill.) At the top of the hill, we all bustled to find appropriate seating followed by a very noisy sunset experience and then a mass exodus back down the hill. It’s the Indian way.
By far my most favorite experience of the resort weekend was our half-day trek into the hills. On the way we saw the old dam built by the British and which still supplies the whole town with its water. We were told we would be given a chance to go caving on this venture as well. Caving, it turned out, involved squeezing along on my belly under a boulder for approximately two minutes. Yep, pretty much crawled under a rock. Literally. I guess I should have known it wasn’t the best idea when our guide told us he would meet us on the other side…
We were accompanied on the hike by a young Canadian named Curtis who entertained the way with stories of festivals in the US I’ve never heard of, including the rainbow fest which occurs each year in a changing and unnamed national park (so authorities can’t prepare to stop it from occurring) and apparently involves a very large hand-holding circle in valleys and excessive ooohming.
The last leg of the trek involved a 750-step climb down to see the guy muksh (or cow face) spring fountain and hindu temples. Speaking of leg, it was my legs crying out in pain for the next few days. And to think I used to do 750 steps on the step machine back in Houston without too much problem.
On Thursday, Betsey and I will be off on our final journey. We will take an air-conditioned train (I know, air conditioned, isn’t it exciting, and that’s class 3 AC for those who are interested) to Varanasi for a few days--you know, to the see the dead people. From there it will be on to Darjeeling. I’m torn which is better…loads of good tea or views of the Himalayas. Hmmm. I guess I’ll found out soon enough.


permalink written by  Drie on April 23, 2008 from Abu Road, India
from the travel blog: Adventures in Hindustan
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