Monthly Archives: July 2014

You are browsing the site archives by month.

Dear India: It’s not me, it’s you.

Dear India: It’s not me, it’s you.

Okay, it’s not you either it’s actually a pesky little thing called a visa. Something I know deep down you won’t take to kindly if I was to ignore the stamp in my passport telling me it’s time to leave.

The captivating Himalayas of Kashmir

The captivating Himalayas of Kashmir

Lunch break on a trek out of Manali

Lunch break on a trek out of Manali

It’s been a strange 6 months to say the least. I could never have dreamed up the surprises you were to deliver. Arriving in Fort Kochi at midnight amongst the smell of the streets which consisted of anything from burning rubbish to delicious street food I was excited and already a little overwhelmed. In the 6 months since, your assault on my senses hasn’t stopped. I’ve been shocked, disgusted, hungry, happy, speechless, frustrated, in fits of laughter but most usually overwhelmed.

The Taj Mahal

The Taj Mahal

While I found you to be amazing in so many ways, it was often the case that you completely polarised your visitors’ opinions, while I loved one place a fellow backpacker hated it and vice versa. This is the kind of diversity that seems to attract so many of us. 

India's attempt at road safety was a good laugh.

India’s attempt at road safety was a good laugh.

Ahh yeah, about that road safety.

Ahh yeah, about that road safety.

The friendly locals.

The friendly locals.

From paragliding off the cliffs of Varkala, learning to sculpt in Mamallapuram, exploring the absurd landscapes and ruins of Hampi, riding camels through the deserts of Jaisalmer to hiking the Himalayas of Kashmir it seemed that everywhere I turned a new experience was lurking.

Sculpture in Mamallapuram

Learning to sculpt in Mamallapuram

The kindness of the small percentage of your 1.2 billion I’ve had the chance to meet has been amazing and I no longer find it unusual that someone would take the time out of their day to walk me across the city just to make sure I get on my bus safely. Sometimes your eagerness to help went a little too far and on more than one occasion rather than have someone admit they don’t know where something is they’ve pointed me in the completely wrong direction but as with all things it’s the thought that counts.

 

Udaipur, Rajastan

A local man in Udaipur, Rajasthan

Laxman from Rishikesh - a retired trekking guide in the Himalayas now spends his days meditating under a tree.

Laxman from Rishikesh – a retired trekking guide in the Himalayas now spends his days meditating under a tree.

The food! Well what can I say, it was a long way from the westernised version of Butter Chicken that had kicked off my love of Indian food long ago in fact it couldn’t have been more different but all for the better. Out of all the beautiful meals it will be the thali and masala dosas I miss the most.

Indian Food, Thali, Rajasthan

The most unbelievably all you can eat Thali in all of India

Pushkar, Rajasthan

Pushkar, Rajasthan

It’s simply not a country I could ever hope to discover on one 6 months visa which is evident from the people I met returning for their 3rd or 4th or 15th time. It’s a country where no one, no matter how long they’ve lived or travelled there can confidently say ‘I know India’.

It’s confusing and chaotic and often doesn’t make much sense even to the locals but there’s a charm in that.

Early morning fishing in Manali

Early morning fishing in Manali

With that I will board a plane to Thailand taking comfort in the fact you’re still close by.

Goodbye India!

Goodbye India!

Partially Yours Forever,

Nick

Photo Essay: Trekking the Markha Valley

After attempting to tackle the Himalayas only to be turned back a couple of weeks ago I know had the Markha Valley firmly within my sights. The Markha Valley Trek is perhaps the most popular trek in the Ladakh region and can range from 4-10 days depending on your starting/finishing point and how fit you are.

We started at Chilling and ended at Chokdo 4 days later. We had orignally allowed 6 days for the trek but we put in some serious hours of trekking each day and managed to race through the trek in time for the Kalachakra Festival back in Leh.

Guides aren’t really neccessary on this trek as it’s quite well marked but I would highly recommend  a book with a basic outline of the route and homestays available. Camping is also available. In saying this we got lost on day 1 of the trek and a leg that should’ve taken 1.5-2 hours took us 4 and had us sliding down a rocky slope, wading up a river knee-deep in water and pretending to be native trackers tracing out old footprints but we got there!

I’ll let the photos speak for themselves as the scenery was simply amazing.

The flags always meant you were close to a tea-tent. Oh and it felt like I was in an arcade racing game.

The flags always meant you were close to a tea-tent. Oh and it felt like I was in an arcade racing game.

Markha Valley Trek in Leh India

There was only one way day…

River crossings became normal on day one

River crossings became normal on day one

Markha Valley Trek in Leh India

Prayer Wheels

Markha Valley Trek Leh India

Wunderschön

Markha Valley Trek Leh India

The two Swiss girls that dragged me through the trek – Team WunderSchnell!

Markha Valley Trek Leh India

The beautiful lady of the homestay in Hankar

Markha Valley Trek Leh India

Multi-coloured mountains.

Markha Valley Trek Leh India

It snowed on the way to the pass at 5200m. Naturally my beard was good at catching it.

IMG_4177
Have you trekked the North of India before? What has been your favourite place?

Trekking the Himalayas in the North of India

Trekking in the Himalayas of India was always going to have it’s surprises. The mountains of the Himalayas is home to some of the most unpredictable and arduous terrain on the planet. India itself also has the reputation of unpredictability. No matter what you do in India, there’s always the ‘Indian Surprise’ – a little curveball to keep you on your toes – and eight days of trekking the Himalayas would be no different.

Taking a break during the trek

Taking a break during the trek

I had just enjoyed 3 weeks in Manali – a welcome to the Himalayas I wouldn’t forget and after tearing myself away I soldiered on north to Kashmir. The trek was supposed to begin in Sonamarg and finish 7 nights later in Naranag passing through some of the great lakes and mountain passes of Kashmir.

DSC01679

We were greeted with bad news on the first night. Kashmir had record snowfalls this year and was a little delayed in melting, we would have to keep an eye on conditions. The second day was meant to be a move in camp to Nichnai however the group leader had decided it would be best to leave the camp where it was and we would head towards Nichnai on a day hike as part of a reconnaissance trek.

The freshest drinking water going round.

The freshest drinking water going round.

Reaching Nichnai we saw first hand what we faced for the next few days. There was a lot of snow and no way around it. 

Returning to camp we had decisions to make – well kind of. I was happy to put my trust in the expertise of the two trek leaders, they proved to be very knowledgable and safety was clearly a priority of theirs. They had decided it was safe to go ahead for the next couple of days although they admitted at some point we may have to turn back. I’d come all this way, I was willing to give it a shot. The rest of the group – all 20 of them – were not as easily convinced. At one point it was looking as if it would just be me and trek leaders. Eventually 9 others came to their senses and jumped on board. It’s a shame the remaining 10, when faced with challenge and adversity let their fears overcome their logic.

We pushed on to Nichnai (3600m) the next day and set up camp, arriving just before a brief afternoon shower. Ironically enough, even though everyone had been afraid of the snow it was the mud that proved most difficult.

Looking back from Nichnai

Looking back from Nichnai

From Nichnai we headed over the pass – which would end up being our highest point at 3900m – and descended into Vishansar. We set up camp on a beautiful open meadow just 150m from the Lake. Vishansar Lake was still half frozen nestled in-between a horseshoe ring of mountains around one side. A semi-nomadic fisherman who had set up camp by the lake for 4 months invited me in for tea and watermelon (god knows where he got watermelon from).

Sharing watermelon with the local fisherman

Sharing watermelon with the local fisherman

The next pass through the mountains is where  we would run into trouble. The trek leaders, guides and helpers all trekked up to the pass that afternoon and set about clearing a path for the mules. They spent hours up on the pass and returned at 9:30 bearing the bad news that there was just too much snow for the mules to get through. We would have been fine but without our mules it was pointless. We had to go back.

Hiking through the snow

Hiking through the snow

We spent the next day at Vishansar playing soccer, frisbee, horse riding and I went for a short hike with one of the guides in the afternoon. It was good to relax for the day and enjoy the surroundings. We pushed through a huge day of trekking and skipped the Nichnai camp heading straight back to Sonamarg which gave us time the next day to explore the glacier across the valley before returning to Srinagar.

Sunsets at Vishansar

Sunsets at Vishansar

Although we didn’t complete the trek I had an amazing time the scenery was unlike anything I’d ever seen before and I can’t count the amount of times I stopped, looked around and said ‘Shit, this is ridiculous’. The nights were equally impressive and I thought I’d been treated to an interstellar show on the desert safari but the Himalayan skies blew that out of the water.

Have you trekked the Himalayas before? What was your experience like?