Desert Days in Jaisalmer

Jaisalmer, India’s gateway to the Thar Desert sits in Western Rajasthan about 130km’s east of the Pakistani border, it’s India’s capital for camel safaris. Stepping off the bus you are engulfed and a little overwhelmed by two things – the stifling heat and hot winds rolling in off the Thar Desert and Jaisalmer’s touts, rickshaw drivers and camel safari operators, given that it’s off-season both the heat and the people are as pressing as ever. It’s a whirlwind of people offering cheap rooms and cheap safaris and just 22 hours later I found myself on a camel 70 kilometres outside of Jaisalmer with a Polish couple, our guides Hokum and Salem, and our camel convoy – Johnny Boy, Sonia, Mr. Bean and Papu.

Johnny Boy and I

Johnny Boy and I

 

Camel Safari in Rajasthan

The camel convoy


The camel safaris have long been considered a must do of India (like Hampi) and I can now see why.  The days start early with chai, eggs and toast around the campfire. As the sun peaks it’s head over the horizon we began to pack the camels for the long day ahead. After loading them up with 75 litres of water and all our other rations for the 2 nights in the desert we make our way out into the blistering sun – I should hardly complain I make the journey on the back of the camel and apart from keeping myself on the camel there’s not much I have to do for the next few hours. At around 11 o clock, after 3 hours of riding we stop under the shade of a tree and cook lunch – this is more for our sake than the camels.

‘Camel Kitchen’ – a few pots and pans over a campfire – as the drivers call it cooks up a delicious mixed veg masala with endless chapati’s as well as the obligatory chai (it happens to be the best chai in India). We eat more or less the same meals for lunch and dinner on the 3 days and there was no complaining there – the food was tasty, filling and endless. All of us except the camels followed this up by a nap under the tree.

Camel Kitchen - serving up India's finest Chai

Camel Kitchen – serving up India’s finest Chai

We rest and let the camels wander for a few hours while the sun is at it’s most extreme then our turbans go back on and we venture off in search of a campsite by sunrise. It’s worth noting that for some reason fluoro pink and orange turbans are somewhat of a ‘thing’ out here, even among some of the locals.  The days end in much the same way they start, with chai and dinner as the sun goes down this time over Pakistani border. The air instantly cools and we spend the nights sitting around the campfire drinking desert whisky, telling stories and listening to Salem’s renditions on classic songs. If you’ve never heard an Indian camel driver belt out ‘Hotel Camelfornia’ while playing the water container as a tabla then I seriously suggest you book your camel safari today.

Our camp for the night

Our camp for the night

The long day in the sun and desert whisky take its toll and I retire to bed, a blanket on top of a nearby sand dune. As the campfire burns out the cosmic light show comes to life. The Milky Way spans the sky and I can’t remember the last time I had seen this many stars. As I lay there I remember reading that there are more stars in the universe than all the grains of sand on this Earth and lying in the middle of 200,000 square kilometres of sandy desert is a timely reminder of just how small we are.

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This escape from the chaos of India was exactly what I needed. It was an amazing way to tick off another item on My Bucket List.

Have you done a Camel Safari or a trip into the desert somewhere? What was your experience like?

theboywander

Vipassana in India

What is Vipassana

Vipassana is a Sanskrit word from ancient India meaning ‘to see things as they really are’ and this is the aim of the Vipassana meditation retreats. It’s a 10 day journey that will completely change your life but it is by no means easy. The course itself is donation-based and includes your accommodation and 2 vegetarian meals per day (No dinner!). Vipassana was originally a Buddhist teaching from 2500 years ago but has been adapted as a secular program that’s open to anybody. They only ask that you cease all other practices of religion, yoga and alternative meditation for the 10 days as to give fair trial to the Vipassana technique.

During this time you must abide by the very strict Vipassana Code of Conduct. One must abstain from killing, stealing, lying, all sexual activities and all forms of intoxicants as well as this you must follow the daily timetable. You must observe complete silence, and all forms of external stimulation including reading, writing, music and strenuous exercise. You’re basically left with meditation, eating, sleeping and showering from 4am-9:30pm for 10 days. Okay, so maybe retreat wasn’t the right word for it but it was on my Bucket List and being in India, I was committed now.

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The Vipassana Centre and Accommodation

I did my course at the Bhopal Centre in Madhya Pradesh, India. The centre was situated 20 minutes out of town and the first thing you notice upon arrival is the absence of traffic and beeping horns, I instantly began to relax. The first step is to register and hand in our electronics for the 10 days – Goodbye phone, laptop, headphones, books and writing materials. My already light backpack now consisted of nothing more than clothes and toiletries.

We were assigned our rooms and from what I’d heard from friends who had completed the course elsewhere, you usually share a room with someone. I turned up to my room and noticed there was only one bed. Yes! Either I had my own room or Vipassana was going to be weird! It was a small fanned room with an attached bathroom (western toilet too, this place was ticking all the boxes).

Meditation Begins

Noble silence had begun and we were awoken at 4am by a bell with the implied message that we were to be in the Dhamma Hall for meditation by 4:30. The days consisted of 10 hours meditation and a 1 and a half hour lecture in the evening. In between sessions of meditation we had breakfast, lunch and some free time to shower and rest.

The first 3 days you spend focusing your attention on the sensations of your breath entering and exiting your nostrils, the idea of this is to sharpen your attention for the real part of the technique. Although we were sitting for well over 12 hours a day, the mental side of it was exhausting and I took every opportunity to sneak a nap.

On the second night I had started to question why on earth I was here. I remember lying in bed that night struggling to fall asleep, thinking I might be losing my mind. The revelation soon came that that was the point, you were meant to lose a part of your mind and ego.

On day 3 I was feeling more energised and started taking less and less naps during the day. I needed something to fill in my free time and decided to start exercising (only allowed inside your small room), I had a choice of push-ups and sit-ups. While doing sit-ups that afternoon I was laughing to myself that this was how I imagined prison to be, it was at this point I looked up at the wall and saw the numbers 1-10 on the wall with the first 4 crossed out, someone obviously hadn’t made it past day 4. This gave me a little bit of motivation and laughter and I made it a personal goal to see out the course not just for myself but also for the random stranger who hadn’t.

Day 4 brought a change of technique where we started to focus our attention on the natural sensations of our body, this was the actual practice of Vipassana and the technique we would use until the completion of the course. We learnt to observe all sensations as impermanent and to neither crave or develop aversion to the positive and negative sensations. The key here is to accept everything as it is. Through extended sessions of practising impermanence your old patterns of aversion and craving bubble to the surface and disappear layer by layer.

On Day 6 I had a few very profound and positive sessions of meditation that left me feeling euphoric and the next day when I walked into the 4:30am session I assumed I would instantly get back into this zone. I had forgotten the most important lesson – impermanence. I had developed a craving for the positive feelings and aversion for anything less and this stuck with me until Day 9 when I realised this. Day 9 was equally as profound as the earlier sessions but was also the last full day of meditation. I feel like I might not have made the most of days 7 and 8 because I hadn’t fully grasped the technique.

Our Vipassana group with our teacher.

Our Vipassana group with our teacher.

 

The morning of Day 10, silence ended and that afternoon we received our phones and laptops. After chatting with the other students and trading experiences, I found the idea of long conversations a little arduous and retired to my room, I was hanging to listen to some music (first up was The Story So Far followed by Ben Howard). The next day we would return to the real world.

What I Gained from the Course

It’s going to be different for everyone but for me I left feeling much lighter, happier and completely stress-free. I feel much more positive when confronted with adverse situations. 3 months of travel in India had started to tire me out and these 10 days – probably the hardest 10 of my life – left me feeling reenergised and ready to take on the world again. I think if I was to do another course I would gain a lot more out of it as I now have a more complete understanding of the technique. What I found hard about the Course For the first 3 days it was definitely very challenging to sit still for so many hours. My knees and hips ached and most people limped away from the meditation hall very stiff. After a few days your body adjusts and then it’s just the mental side. It was frustrating to realise how little control you have over your brain, it’s nearly impossible to switch off your thoughts and while trying to still your mind for meditation your mind seems to wander constantly. I got extremely homesick and a couple of times I was ready to pack my bags, walk out the door and fly home.

Preparation

I think I would have had an easier and more successful experience if I had taken the time to prepare myself properly for Vipassana instead I spent the week beforehand discovering Mumbai’s pubs and bars with a good mate from home. I would recommend trying to ease yourself into the experience. Try to meditate daily in a cross-legged position for at least 2 weeks before the course even if it’s only for 15 minutes. A couple of massages or yoga sessions leading up to it would also make the physical side of it much easier. Apart from that, the only advice I can offer is to surrender yourself to the experience and focus on the meditations session by session, forgetting about counting down days and forgetting about the positives or negatives of your previous sessions.

It might be difficult but it’s definitely worth it.

theboywander

Don’t Worry, Be Hampi

I’m not sure if Hampi is best described as an alien landscape or a prized photograph from the National Geographic collection but I certainly felt as though I wasn’t meant to see it. It’s one of those places where photo’s just seem far too surreal to ever picture yourself amongst it.

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After 13 hours by train and bus over flat and relatively dry land, huge mountains of boulders appear out of the plains in the distance. The roadsigns read Hampi 12 kilometres and as it counts down the stacked orange boulders seem to surround the road, the bus is now following the road that winds in and out of these huge formations and excitement wells amongst Hampi’s first-timers and return visitors alike.

Although the boulders are all naturally formed it appears as though they’d been carved and stacked by a giant master sculptor and each piece glued into place to stop them rolling down the mountainside to the surrounding villages and rice paddies.

After a short stroll through the bazaar and a river crossing you come across the dirt road that’s home to a group of guesthouses with very little to distinguish amongst them, almost all of them have an in-house restaurant with cushions on the floor surrounding low-lying tables serving local Indian food as well as an Indian take on Italian, Chinese and Israeli food.

After you’ve stuffed yourself with as much Malai kofta or ‘Italian Lessange’ the real adventure starts. Cover yourself in sunscreen and start walking in just about any direction and you’re sure to find yourself at the foot of one of these boulders. A laborious hike over cacti, thorn bushes and boulders will have you stumbling upon ruins that – excusing the proximity to the town – would have you believing had been unseen since the day the Vinayanagara civilisation collapsed some 400 years ago .

Atop the mountain of boulders opens up to 360 degree views of Hampi and the surrounding lie of the land. It sprawls in all directions with similar mountains of delicately stacked boulders and you can trace the run of the river by the coconut and banana trees and rice paddies that surround the fresh water. The paradoxical play between the greenery surrounding the river and the orange/reds of the boulders reminds you of something out of a Dali painting.

That look of thanks at the end had me.

That look of thanks at the end had me.

Perhaps Hampi’s most famous mountain top temple is the Hanuman Temple or Monkey Temple. It’s a 5 kilometres out of town and upon reaching the foot of the boulders you are met with 600 dauntingly uneven steps that snake around and under the boulders before opening up to a small temple surrounded by 50-100 monkeys and on a busy day, an equal number of tourists, backpackers and devotees. It offers a 360 degree view of the land around and the boulders, sunset and monkeys make for amazing photo opportunities. Bring some bananas for the monkeys but keep them well hidden until you’re prepared to part with them-they’ll quickly disappear. You’ll split your sunset between here and the sunset jam, a drum circle on top of boulders just outside of the main street (ask around and people will be able to tell you where it is). Check it out here.

I must warn you though, Hampi is a trap. You’ll roll into town with the intention of a 4 or 5 day stay and wake up 2 or 3 weeks later still wandering if you really need to leave. The only thing that dragged me out of Hampi was that I had a friend waiting for me in Goa and that didn’t take long before I convinced him to come back to Hampi.

Don’t Worry, Be Hampi

theboywander

Walking with jaguars.

We’d just spent the night camping in hammocks in the middle of the Colombian jungle – Tayrona National Park to be exact. Tayrona National Park is 34 kilometres from Santa Marta and only a few hours by bus from the main city of Cartagena.

Tayrona National Park is an absolute must-see if your travels take you as far as Santa Marta or Cartagena. It’s 150 square kilometres of pristine Colombian jungle with the refreshing waters of the Caribbean Sea running along the northern coastline. It is home to over 500 species of birds, animals, bats, reptiles and a hugely diverse sea life. Among the creatures that thrive on the forest floor, nothing tops the king of the South American Jungle- The Jaguar.

Jungle accommodation

Jungle accommodation

There is accommodation spread throughout Tayrona National Park which usually consists of hammocks under an open hut exposing you to the cool jungle breeze, this also means insect repellant is an absolute must. The main area for accommodation is a 45 minute hike in from the entrance. Entry will cost you $22AUD and you can expect to pay between 5 or 6 dollars for a hammock.

We stayed one night and spent the day exploring the jungle and coastline before stumbling upon a little beach called La Piscina (after hearing the name my mind was cast back to the book Marching Powder but luckily enough this was a completely different kind of ‘La Piscina’). La Piscina is a beautifully calm beach secluded from the notorious currents that menace other parts of the coastline. We spent hours under the sun with regular trips to the juice stand at the end of the beach for freshly squeezed jugo de naranja.

La Piscina

 

We ran back through the jungle to our camp and noticed the fallen coconuts all over the ground from the trees above. We attempted to treat ourselves to coconut milk in the most primitive fashion, we scoured the surrounding bushland for anything that could help us tear open the hard shells of these delicious coconuts. We found a metal bar and some rocks, brought them back to camp and set about opening out afternoon treat. The 3 of us spent the next hour on rotation trying to crack one open. As a survival method, I’m sure we burned more calories in opening the coconut than we actually received from eating but it was by far the most delicious coconut milk we had ever tasted.

Fresh Coconut Milk

Fresh Coconut Milk

The next morning we had two choices for the return leg of our journey – a 45 minute walk back to the entry we had come from or a 6 hour hike through the jungle to the closest town. Of course, we chose the 6 hour hike. We strapped into our standard issue hiking thongs, packed away our 6 litres of water, nuts, tuna and bread and went to thank the owners for an incredible stay. We told them of our plan to take the 6 hour hike and they told us without a hint of humour in their voice ‘Be careful of jaguars’. We walked towards the exit of our camp, laughing off what we thought was the joke they played on every backpacker that came through. We were joking around and doing our best to imitate jaguar roars to each other when another group of backpackers walked past and asked us whether or not we had also heard the roars this morning. We stopped dead in our tracks and realised maybe this wasn’t just a big local joke. They explained there had been reports of two jaguars roaring not far from our camp early that morning. We decided to make the 6 hour hike out anyway.

We spent the first hour or so on edge, with our ears wide open for signs of a lurking jaguar. We soon came to accept the fact that the chances of seeing one were pretty unlikely and we allowed ourselves to become distracted by the beauty of the surrounding jungle. We stopped for lunch perched on top of rock overlooking the jungle and coastline, made our lunch and soaked in the Colombian sun, it was completely silent.

No sign of jaguars yet…

The remainder of the walk led us through ruins, caves, rivers, waterfalls and a family living deep within this jungle. We made it jaguar-free to the nearest town, some 6 hours later and got a bus back to our hostel where we succumbed to exhaustion in the pool. This is not a trek I’d want to do solo!

theboywander

The Ten Year Holiday

 

Ten years of holidays almost sounds too good to be true and well out of reach to your average human. I thought ten years of holidays was impossible unless you had some sort of location-independant income or you were an incredible travel blogger (Take WanderingEarl as an example, he’s been doing it for 13 years). This post isn’t about showing you how to travel non-stop for 10 years because realistically that’s something we’re going to have to learn together.

What I’m trying to do is show you how you can get 10 years of holidays for the low, low price of just 9 months. I’m warning you though the discovery of this logic was the turning point from me considering long-term travel to biting the bullet and making it happen. It’s simple and rather obvious once it’s explained and a very powerful reminder of how just one 9 month trip will change your life.

Spanish school in Puerto Escondido

Spanish school in Puerto Escondido

In January of 2010, a mate and I decided that we’d set off for a bit of snowboarding and travel at the end of the year, with no money in my bank account 10 months of an insane amount of overtime and second and third jobs followed before we hit the tarmac for Canada. This began a life-changing journey from the ski-fields of Canada, down the West Coast of America, through Mexico, Guatemala, Costa Rica and Panama to the jungles of Colombia. An unbelievable 9 month trip filled with memories I wouldn’t trade for the world, people I’ll never forget or hesitate to offer a bed when they’re in my town, and a very strong case of the travel bug. It was decided, this is what I want to spend the next few years of my life doing, if not my entire life.

What I’m getting at here is that those 40 weeks were absolutely incredible and I want to put into perspective just how hard it would be to get 40 weeks of holidays in the alternate fashion-working hard every year for a 4 week vacation at the end of the year.

The average worker gets around 4 weeks of paid holiday per year (varies a little depending on your country) but statistics show that the full 4 weeks of holidays are often not taken putting a realistic estimate of annual holidays between 2 and 4 weeks a year. You also have to take into account that included in this time is the rush to pack and unpack, the relentless jet lag before and after the trip and the stress of organising a trip. It seems that in a two week holiday you hardly get time to relax before you’re back at work saving for the next trip.

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At this rate, to get same amount of holidays that a 9 month trip would give you, you would have to spend over 10 years in the workforce and as we just explained those trips might not always be that fulfilling.

I strongly urge everyone to travel before they do anything else. You’ll come back a more complete person with a richer character and priceless experiences some of which you may find help you strengthen your relationships, passions and careers. When you think about it, you might put yourself ‘behind’ by a year in terms of career progression but over a 40 year career that will dissolve pretty quickly and what you get in return is a 10 year head start on holidays, experiences and relationships you wouldn’t trade for the world.

Just remember, no one ever regretted that time they went travelling….

 

theboywander

 

Tickets booked!

After months of contemplation about when and where to go exactly, I’ve booked my flights! I’m locked and loaded with my sights set on Kochi on the 4th of February. The reason I chose this Kochi in India’s Southern state of Kerala was pretty simple in the end. I had toyed around with the idea of flying to Delhi or Mumbai first and starting from there but the fact was that flights to Kochi were at least a couple of hundred dollars cheaper than any other destination in India. If flights to any other city or even Nepal or Sri Lanka had been cheaper then my plans might have been a little different. At the end of the day, I’m a backpacker with limited funds so Kochi just made sense.

I plan on getting all around India so the starting point wasn’t too much of a problem. As soon as I booked flights, the whole concept of actually going to India became dauntingly real. It was always going to happen but to have a definite date gives life to the dream, it’s also made me re-double my saving efforts. My advice for you if you’re thinking about going somewhere…..Take the plunge, book the flights, and then watch as you make the rest happen.

I’m absolutely pumped for the 4th of February and now have less than 5 months to get my gear together and hit the tarmac.

Stay tuned, I feel a rush of writing coming on!

theboywander

Why Travel Solo?

Why travel solo? It’s become one of the big questions I seem to hear over and over again; Won’t I get lonely travelling solo? Wouldn’t it be easier with some one else? Is it dangerous to travel solo? Are you worried about being able to meet people?
Fresh Coconut milk!
As a human being with my own wandering mind and natural anxieties all of these questions had crossed my mind. Sure it would be easier and probably cheaper to travel with some one and I’m sure there would be a slight increase is safety but safety isn’t something that bothers me. For the most part I’ve found even the so-called ‘dangerous’ third-world countries like Mexico, Colombia and Guatemala to be some of the most friendly and inviting communities I’ve come across.
For all of the benefits of travelling with a friend there’s an equally big and inviting list of travelling solo.
Freedom: Is there anything as freeing as waking up in a new place filled with endless opportunities for exploring the sights, culture, people and cuisine? I have endless opportunity for exploration and it’s not marred by the usual indecision that comes between people trying to decide what to do. This allows me to go with the flow, ran around town guided purely by my own energy and desires.
This is why I travel.

This is why I travel.

Meeting New People: As I found out on my last trip, when you travel with friends from home it becomes far too easy and comfortable chat with them rather than getting out there and meeting people. Travelling solo you don’t really have a choice; either you meet new people or stay in your room alone. I met some fantastic people on my last trip, people that I will consider friends for life but I feel I only met a fraction of the people I could have met had I made more of an effort. At the end of the day, it will sound cliche but backpacking is as much about the relationships you form as it is about the actual destinations.
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Stepping outside the comfort zone:  This is a big one for me. It lies at the core of my backpacking philosophy and it’s the stand-out reason I’ve picked India as my next journey. Travelling for me isn’t about 5 star hotels and first class flights, I want something that will challenge me. It could be anything from skydiving to trying to order food in a foreign language, both these things and everything in between give a great sense of achievement . All forms of backpacking are going to come with moments where you take a trip outside your comfort zone and this is only multiplied when you decide to rock it solo.   Adversity goes hand-in-hand with travel, inevitably you’re going to miss flights, check into a dodgy hostel, maybe have something stolen or trek around a town trying to find accommodation. It’s not all doom and gloom though because it’s when you get forced outside your comfort zone that the next point really takes place.
Tarantula's in Guatemala
Character Building: I learnt more about myself in 9 months of travel than I had in any other period of my life. I feel as though from the moment I left to the moment I got back I had completely transformed myself as a person. I gained an entirely new perspective on the world around me and discovered passions I wished to pursue, one of them being further travel.
I don’t think you’re ever quite alone when you’re traveling, the backpackers trail is so full of amazing people that you very quickly forget that you got there alone and often end up on adventures you’ll never forget with friends you made over a beer at the hostel the night before.
theboywander

Fusion restaurants – yay or nay?

Fusion restaurants – the idea of mixing the best of different cultures and their cuisine. I love Thai food and I love Indian food, they both are very flavoursome and as I’m discovering – very, very spicy. When I stumbled across a Thai/Indian Fusion restaurant in the back streets of San Cristobal, Mexico I thought I’d hit the jackpot. They share a lot of spices between the cultures including; cinnamon, ginger, chilli, tumeric, coriander, cumin and a bunch of others. I had barely eaten that day and was prepared to treat myself to a few dishes. The American couple who had recently opened the restaurant bought out our first meal and I think I’d had 3 spoonfuls before the plate hit the table. I was bracing myself for an explosion of fusion flavours and was left terribly disappointed. It lacked spice and it lacked flavour. Thai and Indian rely very heavily on flavour and spice, in fact, that’s what they’re known for the world over. Fusion had left me unsatisfied but not completely done with fusion restaurants.

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Inside the fusion restaurant in San Cristobal was a very comfortable layout of low tables and cushions. As well as paper and crayons for a drawing competition…I lost, as you’ll see below.

In Panama, after eating chicken and rice for one too many nights in a row we went out in search of a south-east asian restaurant and found another fusion cafe. We were skeptical but the place looked very inviting and we were hungry. We found ourselves similarly underwhelmed. That was it, I was completely done with fusion food, if a restaurants name or menu had the word fusion in it I wasn’t going anywhere near it. This was all well and good, I stuck to strictly Thai or strictly Indian or strictly Chinese, etc and was rarely disappointed.

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The portrait I ended up with, Do you think it’s close?

Cut scene to Cartagena, Colombia a month later I was checking into the hostel and the lady at reception picked up on my Australian accent. She said I absolutely had try The Australian Fusion Cafe – here we go again. My homesick heartstrings were tugging at my chest and I knew I had a duty to my land of birth to at least try it – besides I hadn’t had vegemite on toast in months, something I had eaten religiously since I was a pup.

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Finally! Vegemite on toast

Lunchtime the next day I walk in the door and am greeted with a ‘G’day mate’ from Ian – the chef and owner, originally from Perth. Ian wasn’t in the kitchen though, he was sitting down at a table under a sign that read ‘Kangaroos – Next 5kms’, across the table was a mate of his who just touched down in Colombia. It was 11am and they were catching up over a beer, this was starting to feel authentic. I ordered vegemite on toast (it was almost obligatory for me) as well as the Stockmans Pie. The servings were huge and delicious and I only just got through my meals. Fusion was scoring some points. In a week-long stay I visited 3 times and tried the sausage roll, the fish and chips and the nachos as well as my fair share of lamingtons.

I have since had amazing meals that you could call south east asian or european fusion. I’ve come to the conclusion that when done right it allows for some delicious experimentation between cultures but when done poorly you’re left halfway in between nowhere. While I’m not completely back on board with them, I’ll keep the options open if someone recommends one.

What are your thoughts on fusion restaurants? Are you a fan? Or still slightly skeptical like?

 

Indian food burns

Indian food. It draws a fine line between a blissful kick and choking back tears as you drown yourself in a glass of milk. As far as how much I can handle, I probably fall somewhere in the middle….by Australian standards. I realise this puts me way behind the ball in terms of Sri Lankan, Nepalese and Indian food. How was I ever going to fully appreciate traditional dishes if they left me in tears, sweat and a state of delirium. I mentioned in my first post The Boy Wander Begins I’ll be heading to India in late January/early February so it was time to become acquainted with Indian food.

It was time to kick my tastebuds into gear. I planned to build some resistance to the fiery Indian curries. I set about tracking down some more traditional Indian recipes and found some at a local market. I had a choice of a few curry recipes ranging from 1 to 5  chillies on the spice recommendation. In my ignorance I laughed off anything under 3 chillies and settled on a lamb Madras that weighed in at 5 out of 5. I picked up the recipe bag which contained the seeds and spices, the 5 dried chillies and curry powder. I head off to the local shops and grabbed the rest of the ingredients (it’s worth noting I didn’t buy any sour cream or yoghurt).

Three hours later I had cooked up a huge pot of the world famous Indian dish – Lamb Madras and was quite pleased with myself, my whole house smelt delicious and I sat down to eat. First mouthful goes in and I spend the first 3 and a half seconds disappointed by the lack of spice, and those 3 and a half seconds were the only time I spent fooled by that though. As chilli seems to do so well, it lulls you into a false sense of comfort and then hits you in the face with flavour. Two mouthfuls in and I looked like I’d run a marathon, my face was red and sweat was welling up on my cheeks and forehead. I checked the fridge knowing full well we had no yoghurt or sour cream that I could mix through to knock back the heat a bit but it was worth a hopeful search.

At about the halfway mark I actually started to get a little used to it and it turned out to be one of the best curries I’d made. The rest of it is currently being re-heated and awaiting my attention; this time I have sour cream in the fridge though. Indian food certainly got the best of me the first time around but I’m feeling better prepared for my next meal.

As I said in Travelling at Home, travel isn’t only about getting to a new country to explore the culture, you can also explore your own countries take on a foreign culture or with a bit of research explore Indian food in your own kitchen.

How do you handle spicy food? Are you cut out for the heat of Indian food or like me do you need some training?

theboywander.

Travelling at home

Itchy feet are starting to set in which has led me to thinking in the last few days about how I would treat my hometown of Manly in Sydney, Australia if I was to arrive here on my nomadic journey. What I began to realise was that while I have this insatiable desire to explore the world, I’ve really been a very poor traveller of my home town.

While its one thing to look at my surroundings through the familiar eyes of local knowledge, it’s quite another thing altogether to appreciate it from a travellers perspective. What you start to see is the beauty in the simple things you’d overlooked a hundred times before.

Countless times I’d jogged around the path that joins Manly Beach and Shelley Beach but only on a handful of occasions had I ever stopped and fully appreciated it. It was late afternoon last summer that it fully dawned on me just how beautiful this part of the world is. I had stopped halfway along the track and glancing back towards Manly I could see the entire pine-tree lined promenade.

It made me think back to a time in Colombia when, after the promise of ‘the most beautiful beach in the world’ I’d agreed to spend 3 hours on a boat to go see it. Having barely slept the night before it made for a rather unpleasant boat trip and I couldn’t help but be underwhelmed. That isn’t to say Colombia didn’t have beautiful beaches, it’s just that this wasn’t one of them. Coming back home to Manly Beach, I was confronted with the irony of it all. I had been on the other side of the world, in search of an oasis I’d previously disregarded at home.

Over the next few months I’ll be exploring Sydney with an entirely new perspective, so stay tuned for a local travellers view.

The Boy Wander

What has travelling taught you about your home town?

The Boy Wander