Thursday, December 11, 2008

India: Final Leg

So after Allepey we headed up into the mountains to Munnar. It was a nice little town surrounded by thousands of hectares of TATA Tea Plantations. We spent a few nights here walking around, watching people pick tea, drinking tea, smelling tea leaves and generally enjoying the cooler tea atmosphere.

Tea Pickers and lots of Tea

From Munnar we took a long bus all the way to Ooty. We stopped off in Coimbatore... had my wallet stolen and couldn't find anything cheap... so we were happy to get out of there and on to Ooty, which was another nice mountain station. Established by the British, so there was a surprising amount of Pine and Gum trees. 

Pine trees and fresh mountain air... just like home, aside from the Monkeys!

From Ooty we went to Mysore for a few days, mostly just eating coconuts and eating our last meals. Mysore is a easy town to navigate and has a big pretty palace in the middle... our last taste of India really. From there to Bangalore airport and 47 layers of security. Apparently a direct threat was made against a major airport in India for the time we were flying, lucky we got to the airport 6 hours early.

Our last taste of Rickshaws and general Indian-ness in Mysore.

So, contrary to what others say, we have now got India done.... done in the sense that I understand that its a massive country with many, many different cultures, languages, tastes and  types of monkeys. It took two months to see what we saw, and we barely scratched the surface. 

Now we are relaxing in Singapore. Tonight we go to Melbourne, then Auckland to spend some time with the extended family... then home to WHITE ROCK to be with the family for Christmas. I am looking forward to getting back to New Zealand...

Saturday, November 29, 2008

India: Down the middle

So we carried on to Mumbai after Ahmedabad. Mumbai was a massive city with a few nice bits. I am sure you are all familiar with the main sites after watching the news recently. We were there a good 2 - 3 weeks before all the current action.
From Mumbai we went to Aurangabad and spent some time exploring a type of cave city that was carved out of a hill side about 800 years ago. It was neat exploring the caves, seeing massive Buddahs and having bats run into my chest... it was a really hairy bat.

'The Cathedral' - One of the larger caves in Ellora.

From Aurangabad to Hyderbad. Another cool indian city. Here, with the help of couchsurfing, we managed to see a more contemporary side of India. We went to a sports bar and an english style pub for some beers, meat snacks and sports. Was a nice break from all the culture we have been getting.

We then hit Hampi. An old Hindu town that is now in ruins amongst some cool looking boulders, it was pretty darn incredible. We went off the track a bit and almost lost a jandal, but it all turned out all right... must have been the blessing we got from an elephant the day before!
The river running beside Hampi.

From Hampi to Goa. We stayed 4 days on Agonda beach. It was rather idyllic really. Just sitting in the sun (well, for the first 2 hours of the first day... then I got so sunburnt I hid under coconut trees, in the hut, in the sea or at a bar). Got a scooter and explored the coast too which was nice.
View from out palm leaf hut, right next the ocean... and an ants nest.

From Goa by a 16 hour train to the town of Alleppey in Kerala. On the train we got our first (second, third and fourth) taste of deep fried bananas... I love some indian food. Here we got ourselves a guide and a canoe and explored the backwaters behind the town. Lots of canals, coconuts palms, women washing clothes, water snakes... it was nice and relaxing.

View from the canoe in the back waters.

Right now we are in Alleppey, my feet are getting bitten by mosquitos and we are excited about getting out of this crazy humidity up into the mountains tomorrow to see some tea plantations. 7 days left in India before we head to Singapore... these last two months have flown by. Bring on Christmas with the family!

Monday, November 10, 2008

India: Deserts and Camels

After Agra we hit Jaipur in Rajasthan. The team consisted of Steph and myself, Andy, and Dan and John. Through those two links you can get more accurate accounts of what went on I guess, but here is my attempt at the facts also.

A secret garden at the end of one of the hill forts / palaces in Jaipur

Rajistan is a state full of Forts, Camels, colourful saris and deserts. A fun state to explore. Jaipur is the pink city, with a average palace in the city and some cool forts on the hills to explore.

View from Johdpur fort.

Johdpur was a similar, smaller and cooler city and is a bit more blue. We saw a cobra being released into the wild by a local guy who caught it in his house (his bed?) which was pretty neat, made us keep to the beaten track just a little more diligently.

Train stopped in the desert.

From Johdpur to Jaisalmer which is right on the edge, or in, the Great Thar Desert. Perfect place to find a camel and got get heat stroke. It was hear we got ourselves some baggy trousers and head scarves and set out for 4 days in the desert, sleeping with the dung beetles under the stars and ambling through scrubby somewhat populated desert during the days.

The evenings were spent hanging out with our guides, eating and making jokes about Pakistan.

Head Scarf, Baggy Pants and a Maharani, what more does a man need?

After Jaisalmer the team broke up and Steph and I hit Bundi for a few days which was really nice. Hired ourselves a scooter and went out into the country side and found a water fall and river to swim in, first swim in frickin' ages.

Monkeys on Bundi fort, we barely got out alive.. seriously!

From Bundi to Udaipur, the town used in James Bond: Octopussy way back in the day (Roger Moore! Oh no....). A not so exciting town really... good place to relax and get a room with a TV to watch the US election coverage. Historic.


Now we are in Ahmedabad, about to catch a train to Mumbai. Life is still sweet and no tropical diseases caught. Oh, and this town is quite Muslim so there is plenty of meat... I am stoked. Right.. time for street meat.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

India: MONKEYS and TIGERS!!!

From Delhi we took our first train (Indian trains are fantastic) up into Uttaranchal to find a mountain. We stopped off in both Almora and Bageshwar for a night looking for information on some trekking but were unable to find anything. So eventually we got to the start of a 94km trek to Pindari Glacier up at 3500m (we were at 1200m). Steph and I both agreed that after many months in London with too much beer and fried chicken (well, for me at least) we were not up to this task, and we only had two blocks of chocomass and no map.....

.. so we started it and it all turned out for the best! It was hard work but super amazing.

A view very near the glacier (the actual glacier wasn't so impressive)

It was mostly a donkey trail used to supply the villages in the valleys on the way so was easy to navigate and we were able to get meals and beds in guest houses all the way along. The perfect trek.

A small village with the HIMALAYAS behind it.

Of all the super amazing sights for me the most exciting was coming across a troop of monkeys! not once, but twice! Hundreds of monkeys swinging around, running about and, well, just being monkeys! I have never really seen them in the wild before and it was a really cool experience. We were unable to catch any.

From the trek we went to Ramnagar to the Jim Corbett Tiger reserve and went hunting for tigers. We got really really lucky and not only saw some wild elephants exploring but we spotted a real live wild tiger strolling across a river bed. It was quite surreal. The best part for me was its growl, it wasn't 'roaring' loudly, just kind of purring, but it was so so deep and loud it echoed around the trees. Below is the shot of the tiger we hunted... zoomed in a little.

From mountains, monkeys, jungles and tigers we took a train or two, met up with Andy and hit the Deserts and Camels of Rajistan. Right now we are in Jodhpur exploring forts, and about to head out on a 4 day camel trek... more on that next time.

India: Rickshaws and Wonders

So here is my first report from the sub-continent. We landed in Delhi on the 3rd of October rather early in the morning and were hit by the heat and touts almost immediately. A short taxi ride through a bunch of chaotic streets till we arrived in the outer suburbs where we were to stay. First impression: its hot, busy, crazy and has cows on the streets.

We spent 4 days in Delhi enjoying the fantastic hospitality of our couch surfing host, trying to stay out of the hit and have moral dilemmas over where or not we should eat the oh so tasty looking street meat... (for the record: I did not eat the tasty looking meat but do regret not eating it and if ever in that situation again would eat it). Instead I opted for a not so tasty looking triangle bread curry deep fried treat from a guy standing in a drain surrounded by a rat. Enough about food.
Jama Mashid

From Delhi we headed to the mountains (next post). We then came back through Delhi and went to Agra and saw the Taj Mahal. We opted not to go inside but instead got a a boat across the rived to watch the sun rise over the back of it. Frickin awesome. Its pretty darn wonderful....

Not so many pictures or stories. But at least you now know we are still alive. More to come soon I think.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

London Update

Just a sneaky post updating you lot on where I am at. I am still living in East London (Bethnal Green) within walking distance of Brick Lane and Old Street, where all the cheapest curries and coolest bars are located. I am working in the heart of Soho in Central London, which makes me feel very cosmopolitan. Life is pretty darn sweet really.

Canary Wharf at night. Not my work place at all, I couldn't wear jandals to work if I worked here.

A few weeks back Andy, Val and Myself went to Hurricane Festival in Germany which was very cool. European festivals are quite an experience, I am surprised I had never heard of them before I got here. I have some pictures on my phone but have no means to put them up here sorry. Saw the Foo Fighter, Radiohead and The Chemical Brothers among a whole lot of other great music.

One thing I really love about London is the music snene. There is always some cool band playing, some open mic night somewhere, or else there is the Johnny Cash impersonator who plays at a kebab shop in Camden from 11pm - 2am Sundays - Thursdays. I have fallen in love with a couple of groups in particular, Dan le Sac vs Scroobius Pip and Queens English.

Dan le Sac (left) vs Scroobius Pip

So I am really enjoying my time here in London and have met some very cool people, seen some very cool things and done some pretty neat stuff. I am in the process of thinking about what to do next... a few things on the cards are a sneaky weekend hitch hiking mission to Wales, a week long music festival in Hungary, and some other even more exciting adventures.... all in all, I am living the dream and looking forward to living it some more.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

UK: Manchester

I should stop following New Zealand sports teams when they come to Europe. My trip to Paris didn't help the All Blacks cause at the Rugby World Cup, and I don't think I helped the Black Caps in the test against England in the Cricket. Oh well, I had fun.

The weekend just passed Andy, Sam and I went up to Manchester to spend a few days exploring and watching Cricket. We took the zing-zing super speedy Tilt Train up there, on which we had an intriguing conversation with an old man about Cheese. Did you know Chedder is actually a place? I didn't.

The Cricket was very cool actually, at Old Trafford. The day we were there Taylor and Mills were smashing the English all over the place. The English fans are fantastic too.

Manchester itself is a very cool city. I think most of the cool stuff was built when it was the centre of the industrial revolution a few hundred years back.

I spent the day after the cricket looking forward to another curry on the Curry Mile, exploring with Sam. We got lost along one of the many canals, had a pint in a pub and watched some cricket, then on the advice of our fantastic host popped into a street festival.

The street festival was very cool, a bunch of European hip hop, acoustic and indie acts playing in a string of bars and underneath railway archers, along with street artists painting the walls. It was a very organised and mainstream way to showcase what is traditionally an underground sort of thing, but I really enjoyed. We cut shapes here till the early hours...

.. once we got back to base we stayed up to 5am hanging out with the fantastic people at Percy Palace (a massive old flat where they have many eclectic people staying all the time... couchsurfing at its finest).

Two un-Manchester related things I would like to finish on. Firstly, I am living in a new flat! Andy, Val and I have separated ways and cease to house the many fantastic couchsurfers and friends we have over the last 7 months. Goodbye Leytonstone.. hello Bethnal Green! I am still East London Hard Core. Although my room is rather small, I still have room for a few of us to sit round and smoke a shisha, so feel free to invite yourself over.

Second thing: A quote from a novel I just finished. The book is call "Of Human Bondage" by my new favourite author W. Somerset Maugham.
Life was before him and time of no account. He could wander, for years if he chose, in unfrequented places, amid strange peoples, where life was led in strange ways. He did not know what he sought or what his journeys would bring him; but he had a feeling he would learn something new about life and gain some clue to the mystery he had solved only to find more mysterious.
I like this quote as it justifies not working for a long time. Its also interesting in that 3 chapters later this guy get married and settles down in a small town by the sea. Just got to live the dream I guess, no matter what dream it is and how frequent it may change.

That is all.

Thursday, May 08, 2008


So Lucas and I went on a sneaky long weekend away to Budapest (its in Hungary). We stayed with a couple of American students who we had met in London a few months previous and ended up appreciating a lot more of American college life than we did experience what it was to be Hungarian... which is not a problem as it was a whole lot of fun and we are both cultured enough I think. So aside from the beer pong, mexican parties and excessive use of the word "awesome!" we got a reasonable amount of exploring done.. no fine art though... next time I guess.

View from Castle Hill toward the Danube and Parliament

One of the fanciest thing in Budapest is the parliament buildings, which are the biggest on the continent (smaller than the British Parliament buildings in Westminster though). Information courtesy of a German tout/guide... he had a cool moustache. Also told us the Danube goes through 8 countries... I love touts.

Parliament up close.

Up on the hill is a castle, its a pretty cool Castle with vines growing up it (I love plants which climb walls and building, just a little more than I love box hedges).

My average sized companion with some walls and vines, looking in a hole which may or may not fit an elephant.

A handsome man inside a castle courtyard. You would almost mistake him for royalty.

We did some good exploring around the city. My favourite thing about old cities like Budapest (and most others in Europe) is the streets with lines of buildings all about the same height which all look very similar but up close and all very different.

A street in my favourite style.

Up close these building are fantastic.

Also saw Heroes Square which had some cool statues. Apparently the most detailed and beautiful has been put on a 6 story column, so appreciate the fine details was a little challenging for us.

Heroes Square

So we saw some pretty sweet sites, the weather was pretty darn fantastic and we had a fantastic time. Budapest is indeed a city worth a visit, not sure how you would get a Hungarian experience here though.

The sun, the cloud, and Buda (West back of the Danube)

Something else also happened in Budapest that I would not normally write about, but I feel I should share this with you as it was so special. I have a man crush. I love you Zach.

Zach. Half man, half beard, all awesome.

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Morocco: Marakesh, Azrou, Fez, Casablanca

I love North Africa. I know its not too fair on the 200 million people who live there to lump them all in to one, but the vibe I get when I go there is amazing, and I absolutely love it. Being in bustling markets, quiet mountain villages or arid landscapes in the generally dry and hot conditions of these places is probably the places I most want to be right now (ignoring the fact I am at work at the list of places I would rather be is very very long). Morocco was no exception. From the moment I hit the airport... no, from the moment I boarded the plane in Madrid to go to Casablanca with the Muslim folk and Arabic being spoken, I got excited. Enough talk:


Marrakech: After meeting my travelling companion (Fi from Cairo) we took a train straight to Marrakech, with a quick train transfer and cheese toasty on the way. Marrakesh is a pretty cool city, and I was pleased to find it was stilll very real and raw even though it is so touristy. We stayed in a nice (£8 a nice for a double room) hotel which a friendly tout introduced me too. I was lucky in that Fi had no time for touts, which nicely balances my naivety in following them all. They are still people, and local people at that, so it was good following this guy to the hotel. We spent a few days in here, did some exploring, eventually found some shisha and generally just relaxed. This was not going to be a stressful trip.

Our nut and date guy.

A few days later we took a bus to Khenifra then a Grand Taxi (That's French for Big Taxi.. I am so cultured) to Azrou. The bus ride took us past some really diverse scenery: deserts (almost), olive groves, wheat fields, sun sets on rolling hills with villages and scattered trees and sheep.. pretty much everything. In Khenifra we discovered a really good feed and a Taxi. The Taxi ride itself was an adventure... long story short: we stopped in the dark and the middle of nowhere and the driver demanded more cash, but it all ended nicely when we swapped hats and he asked to stay at our hotel. I love to travel.

View from the Middle Atlas mountains near 'Ain Leuh, near Azrou.

The Taxi took us to Azrou. Azrou is a small berber mountain town famous for its carpets (I actually almost bought one...). We had an amazing day here: starting at a massive local market, then a walk up some mountains for some stunning views (above), sifting through an village and seeing a real snake charmer entertaining a big crowd of locals, finished with a tasty Tangine (Lamb of course.. dads is still the best though). Best day ever.

Fez city wall with some people selling there wares.

From Azrou to Féz. Spent three nights in Fez drinking mint tea, exploring the crazy medina, enjoying sweet views over the city, sampling as much street meat as I could and generally enjoying the heat. Less words and more pictures this time as I actually have some photos (my camera broke in Marrakech, so I stole Fi's for a bit, Fez was my turn).

Some dude posing in front of the court yard leading to the Royal Palaces massive brass doors.

One of the best parts of any Moroccan city is the Medina. The narrow winding streets with local kids running around, food sold in every second shop, street meat vendors and elaborately carved doors at every turn. I love North African towns and Islamic Art, the mosaics and geometric patterns (even on the footpaths) and hard not to appreciate.

Fez Median by night.

From Fez to Casablanca (Casa to us locals). Just one night and one day here before flying home. We spent most of our time checking out the Grand Mosque, which is the 3rd largest in the world and holds 25,000 people (80,000 incl. outside standing). It was pretty big.

Me with my new favourite door.

Casablanca had a very colonial French vibe, but was still a very real city. With people sifting about and the usual tasty city smells (and street meat... kind of... not the kind where a dude just puts a BBQ on the side of the road and put meats in bread for you... but still, a kind of street meat).

Casa street market with the Grand Mosque.

So that was a quick run down on my little trip to Morocco. It was a little unsettling to learn we could get a visa for Mauritania and the border... had I not committed to working (and needed the money) I would have been very very very tempted to sneak on down there... and perhaps on to Senegal.. then... Oh how I love to dream. Mark my words: I will return to North Africa, and for far more than a week.

Next stop: Budapest for a long weekend... in 4 sleeps! Life is indeed sweet.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Europe: All over the place

This is one of those posts that are pretty much only here for completeness sake. To keep this blogs time line relatively accurate. So, here is a collection of short stories and photos from my last 4 months of adventuring:

Dumfries, Scotland (via Hitch Hiking): Andy and Val vs Lauren and Myself... two teams, one winner. Red card was on the line.. it was intense. Lauren and I started by over sleeping (alarm was set for 5am.. eventually got out the door at 8am..). We then met the opposition at the first Service Station on the M1... we then proceeded to get the first ride and zing ahead... in the end Andy and Val won by 30 minutes... not too bad a margin for a 14 hour race where Lauren and I started 1 hour after. We got to Dumfries and had a fantastic Christmas with a mate and his family, they even gave us stockings. Best Christmas outside NZ ever. No photos as forgot my camera.

Stockholm from a boat

Stockholm, Sweden: Ok, I am a pretty arrogant traveller ("I don't pay for transport.."), but being in London there are many cheap flights all around Europe which lead to us flying to Stockholm for the weekend. Stockholm was pretty cool and I had a good time exploring but I came away with no real appreciation for what it is to be Swedish, or with any real knowledge of Stockholm. It wasn't even that cold either!

Pretty Canterbury

Canterbury, UK: the real one, not the fake one I spent the first 24 years of my life in. My first real English experience (London is not England). We had tea and scones and saw some big cathedrals. My appreciation for England and all things English begins.

Yep, thats in Brussels!

Gent - Brussles, Belgium (via EUROSTAR!!!): Lucas, Andy and I did what I had been excited about for quite some time.. taking the EUROSTAR under the sea to the continent! After work on Friday we jumped on the train and less than two hours later were in Brussels (then another train to Gent). Gent was a very cool little town, and Brussels a pretty cool (and surprisingly diverse city. Then Monday morning for a 1hr48min commute back to work, enjoying a croissant as France rolled by.

Andy on the EUROSTAR!!!!

Sorry to Belgium for talking more about the train than the country, needless to say it had culture, very tasty food, European capitalness and really tasty beer.

Lucas on an ESCALATOR!!!!

Bath - Bristol, UK: Andy, Val and I went on a Easter Escape to Bath and Bristol which was very cool and did well to continue improving my attitude towards England. Bath was cool to look at (Heaps of massive Georgian houses and they use the same rock for all the buildings) but the town itself didn't really have much of a vibe.

Bath in the Snow.
Bristol on the other hand was very cool. Admittedly we were there only one night and almost two days, but it had a really cool feel about (very real..) and the history of the place is very cool (Slavery, exploring, pirates). The Commonwealth and Empire Museum that we went to there made it to my top four best museums of all time.

A pub in Bristol where BLACKBEARD the PIRATE drank at. So did we.

Milton Keynes, UK (via Hitch Hiking): Not too much to report here, went to meet up with an old mate from Uni and had some great times at pubs and university student associations and walking back 12 miles through the country side. Very good times. Most adventurous part was hitching up there (hitching in the UK is awesome) and almost getting a ride on a boat! Did you know you can take a boat in canals all the way from London to almost Scotland? And Birmingham has more canals than Venice? I do now, thanks to a friends canal boat captain.

Part of Englans extensive canal network. IWA Forever!

Football, UK: Caught a very cool game at Emirates Stadium a few weeks back, Sweden vs Brazil, 60,000 people! Heaps of crazy Brazilians. I am now beginning to understand why everyone else in the world loves the sport. Also went up to Bolton to watch the Wanderers take on our boys, West Ham. It was very cool to see the English fans in action.

Brazil vs Sweden with 60,000 people.

That's all for now.... time for me to get away from this computer screen for a week. I am of to Morocco! Just need to go home and pack my bag (and perhaps a quick shisha before I go), a sleep at Heathrow tonight to to Casablanca via Madrid. Life is sweet!