Tag Archives: Travel Solo

Video: Rock Climbing in Manali

Manali is home to a whole different bunch of adventure sports, something I didn’t quite expect to see in the calmer Himalayan region of India. Although I’m using Manali as a place to rest up after a chaotic 4 and half months in India (not to mention the ride here) I figured a little bit of adventure wouldn’t hurt. Walking into the booking office, I had a choice of of canyoning, trekking, white-water rafting, snowboarding, mountain biking, and paragliding. I’d already taken on paragliding in Varkala and White-water rafting in Rishikesh so I decided to tick off another item off my Bucket List – Outdoor Rock Climbing!

I had done a little bit of indoor before but that’s a whole different ball game. I ended up in a group of 6 plus our two instructors Ravi and Vikram. They seemed very experienced and took the safety side of things very seriously which was re-assuring as some of the rock faces were as high as 30m.

They ran us through a few warm up climbs and gradually stepped up the difficulty teaching us different techniques along the way but they were clearly saving the biggest climb until last.
Check out the video below and see just how big it was for yourselves (there’s a language warning on the video).

If you’re considering taking on any adventure sports in Manali I would highly recommend Himalayan Caravan, their guides were excellent and they even let us climb for 2 hours longer than we had paid for. (I’m in no way sponsored by them but was so happy with the service that I thought I’d share it).

Have you rock-climbed before? What was your experience like?
Is it something you would consider doing?

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

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.
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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