Wednesday, February 1, 2017

Hampi to Kerala

After Gokarna, we took a sleeperbus to Hampi, arrived early in the morning, had breakfast and found a place to stay.

As we were tired from a night on the road, we decided to just walk around town and see what is where.

Boulders everywhere. Giant stones just balancing on top of each other in all directions, some broken old temples and ancient crumbling spice and diamond bazaars here and there.

During our stay in Hampi, we took a guided bicycle tour, where we learnt about Hampi and how it had become a forgotten empire for 300 years, until the neighbouring sultans finally came and took the city and destroyed the temples. Hampi, or Vijayanagar (city of victory) as it was called then, was the capital of south India in its reigning days.

After Hampi another adventure started. We took a sleeperbus to Mangalore, from there changed to a local bus to Madikeri where we had a quick tour of a coffee plantation. They also had 2-3 pepper-vines and one dry cardamom plant, which was nice, because we asked for a spice farm and not a coffee plantation.

We bought locally grown spices to take home and took another public bus to Mysore where we spent the night.

Morning came, and a bus to Kalpetta was up next. In Kalpetta we met a couple who left Hampi a day or two before us, with them we went on a disappointing jeep ride through a wildlife sanctuary. Only deer and a peacock to be seen. One bison as well, "just another cow"..

After Kalpetta - Kochi! Or Fort Cochin, where we stayed two nights. Saw a local old palace, the Dutch palace which was given to the Keralans by the Portugeese to make the Keralan King happy and secure future trading privileges.  Fort Cochin was a relaxed part of the city located on an island (got there with a ferry). While there we enjoyed oolong and darjeeling tea for two in a marvelous teahouse called Teapot! After which we moved on to Munnar!

Tea plantations covering hills all around us. So green, lush and beautiful. We took a tuktuk tour with a French guy for half a day, saw a garden with many interesting plants, a few viewpoints covered with local tourists and fog at the Top Station which supposedly was the nicest. All we could see was fog and what was directly in front of us.  On the way back to town, to avoid traffic, we took a more scenic route on a local bumpy road. This unplanned detour proved to be the best part of this sightseeing tour.

Kumily came after Munnar, we tried our luck again with another National Park, but this time instead of a noisy monster of a jeep, we walked and (slow) rafted instead.

We had a three hour trek, breakfast  and 1,5 hour bamboo raft trip. It was a nice walk. Saw FRESH elephant poop and prints on a path, but sadly, no elephants. We saw a herd of bison, the ass of a boar who ran away and monkeys and lots of cool birds, including Keralas state bird, the Great Indian Hornbill.

We stayed two nights in Kumily, the second morning we travelled on to Alleppey. We will write about that in the next post. 

Monday, January 9, 2017

Christmas Break

Our vacation from travelling is now over and we are on the move again. 

The past month we've been in Arambol in Goa, relaxing on the beach and in cafes. 

It's very warm this far south and we still have more south to go, but the beach is a nice place to cool off. 

We were there during the very peak of the season, so we noticed the prices of guest houses going up for Christmas and New Years more than double the price they have normally. 

Christmas on the beach was very different, but we had our own little traditions that made things feel a bit more like home. 

We woke up Christmas Morning to stockings full of candy, and some gifts aswell! We went for a swim that day and did everything else we wanted to. Had the best dinner followed by dessert and a nice walk to our home at the time, a home bamboo hut! We saw some Christmas trees and other decorations scattered among a few different houses here and there.

Suddenly it was New Year's Eve and we found ourselves on the beach at midnight watching fireworks and lanterns being lit. Had dinner and walked home. 

Arambol is full of palm trees, eagles and hippies in the jungle. Also, people from Russia and other places in Asia go on their "syden" holidays here, like people in Norway go to Spain and Greece.
Menus were available in Russian, written signs in shops and sellers yelling at us in Russian. Kind of like Hebrew in Himachal Pradesh.

We did some shopping in the sun and sent a package of goodies home. 

Right now, we are in a small place called Gokarna, in Karnataka, one state south of Goa. We are still by the beach, but won't stay for as long. 

We are starting to feel our journey is coming to an end and we need to get moving to make sure we see everything we want to. 

We wanted to explore the area, so we hiked south from the beach we live. Climbed some cliffs, up through the jungle, across tiny beaches and over rocks. First big beach we found, Half Moon beach, was sprinkled with a few restaurants and some houses with farming fields. Puppies was definitely the best part of this beach.

Another half hour hiking and we got to Paradise Beach, and what we found made us want to come back to live there for a while. People were living in hammocks and tents just off the beach, cooking on open fires and playing around in the jungle and on the beach. Living peacefully in a well hidden beach. 

Gokarna is almost like Goa, except it's smaller, less expensive and has a much more quiet and relaxed atmosphere. Great place, but we have to get moving!

Tomorrow we will check out Gokarna Town before we head off to Hampi. 

Monday, November 28, 2016

Rishikesh!

Meditation, Beatles, enlightenment and yoga capital of the world! We did none of that even though we stayed there for almost a month.

Instead we did river rafting on the Ganga, Diwali celebration, learned how to do beach-day on MiniGoa Beach from our southern friend and went hiking up through the jungle to reach a Hindu temple where pilgrims bring water from the Ganga to offer for the gods.

We kept calm while the nation was thrown into chaos when the prime minister announced that the highest value money notes (500, 1000 rupee) were to be taken out of circulation in an effort to combat black money and corruption.

After which most of our time was spent going to and from different banks and standing in ATM lines that took two hours for a single withdrawal, limited to 2000 rupees per person per day. 

We kept a low profile for a few days , chilling with yummy ice teas in our favorite cafes or on the beach while saving up to get moving onward, and finally we had the cash to pay our rent and book our sleeperbus to Jaipur. 

It was our first time on a sleeperbus, we have no proper words. We will definitely go by sleeper bus again when the option presents itself!

After 24 hours in Jaipur, we've visited a world heritage site, been to the pink and old city, rode electric tuktuk, eaten at McDonalds AND had our most expensive dinner in India so far! Super fancy delicious Little Italy (nesten 200kr). We've been to Central Park, seen kids play with kites and we've been stopped and talked to every 10 seconds.

Enough of the hectic city life... Next stop, Pushkar! 

Thursday, November 24, 2016

Capital

After an eight hour bus ride from Dharamsala, we arrived in Shimla at 6am. Tired and hungry yet again, not knowing where to go, we took a taxi up to the ridge, which is where the main streets are located. Having great views down both sides of the hill!

We walked around, looking for a place to stay before whipping out our Lonely Planet and walking 10mins to the city's one and only YMCA, just behind Christ Church.

We went to bed straight away, slept  a few hours and were ready to take on the day!

At 4pm we had dosa and French toast for breakfast at a café called Indian Coffee House. They did not have tea. After eating, we walked up and down the streets, noticing global corporations like Sony and Panasonic and designer brands like Levis, Nike, Puma among others had stores there.

When there were no more shops along the street we were on, we decided to keep walking uphill and see where the road took us. There was a big statue of what we assumed was Buddha overlooking the city, and decided to check it out. The further up the hill we got, the more monkeys we came upon. A man sold us monkey snacks and we fed them. Very rude fellows!

The statue, appropriately enough, turned out to be one of Hanuman, the Hindu monkey-God. A definite sign that we're moving more south and away from the mainly Buddhist regions of Ladakh and Dharamshala that we've so far enjoyed. There has been splashes of the different religions (small shrines, temples) all the way, but the different areas usually have one that's more prominent.
Along with the monkey statue was a monkey temple. Temple was cool enough but sunset view was better!

The next day, we took the train to Mussoorie, a very similar city on top of another jungle-covered ridge with monkeys aswell.

Breakfast at the Lovely Omelette Center was very lovely. Nice guy working there!

We went on a jeep tour to see some sights around the area, a huge waterfall, two temples and one lake with small pedal boats, 50 rupee 15minutes, very fun.

After another night in Mussoorie the journey continued on to Rishikesh.

Friday, October 28, 2016

A Home Away From Home

The day we moved to Upper Bhagsu, we ate breakfast at a place called Zula Cafe, which was right outside our room in Dharamkot. We liked it so much that even after moving 20mins away, we ended up walking to this cafe almost every day, sometimes spending the whole day relaxing in the lounge there, eating, playing cards and talking to new people.

It was also much easier taking the shortcut to Dharamkot, than taking the stairs down to Bhagsu and knowing that we have to walk back up in the evening(opposed to a little up and down on the shortcut).

The first thing we did in this place was go to a teaching by his Holiness the Dalai Lama himself. We had to have a radio to listen to a translator, since Dalai wasn't giving the lecture in English. It was very interesting listening to what he has to say, since his words have such huge influences, and there are so many people looking up to him. I(Sofus) particularly enjoyed the positive things he as a spiritual leader said about science and how he tries to unite it with traditional Buddhist beliefs. After the teaching they brought the biggest casseroles we've ever seen and were preparing to feed everyone there, and that's when we left. It was surely an experience we will always remember.

With our new Australian friend and Tomas, we took a hike to a waterfall about two hours away. Climbed up the waterfall a bit, saw a baby goat kindergarten(just a bunch of babies in one place) and climbed back down. We also stopped in the forest on the way back to town, where Sofus was filmed as a Druid!

Dharamsala is a place for learning, and there are classes for everything. Cooking, massages, yoga, jewelry, wood carving and plenty other crafts.

Lisa went to a soap making workshop, and found out that how she makes soap back home in Norway was exactly the same as how this lady does it. Cold processed natural hand made soap. Just with a few different Himalayan ingredients not available in Norway.

Together we went to a cooking class with the famous Ms. Rita Kapoor and learned how to make aloo ghobi, malai kofta and chapatti. Delicious.

We went to a class of mindfulness meditation finished with Tibetan singing bowls. Incredible.

Once we started to get settled in, had a few favorite restaurants and lounges, things were also starting to close, people were going home or traveling to somewhere else. The season was slowly but surely coming to an end.

Tomas eventually left to do volunteer work and we were left to be all by ourselves.

We stayed a week longer and just relaxed in Zula and walked up and down stairs and shortcuts.

We started backtracking this blog while in Zula, but have since then moved to a few different places.

Next stop is Shimla, the state capital of Himachal Pradesh. 

Manali and Parvati Valley

We arrived in (old) Manali the 23rd of September tired and hungry. We walked around looking for a guesthouse with food, since we couldn't wait much longer to eat. We met up with Tomas again, he'd taken the bus the day before us, and we ended up living in the same building.

Manali was more used to tourism and travelers than Ladakh, that was easy to see. Shops along the street squeezed into every little corner where there was some extra space. Restaurants with lounges where you could sit on the floor with low tables and eat. There were of course pillows and mattresses to sit on. And adventure-booking agencies! Rafting, rock climbing, paragliding are some of the things people who come to Manali usually do, though we did none of that.

We had a day where we walked around in a forest close by, accompanied by Raj, the big fluffy dog who followed us for hours. Inside the forest was something I've(Lisa) never seen in the "wild". Monkeys!! Big monkeys,momma monkeys and BABY monkeys!! Baby monkeys hugging their moms belly and clutching on for dear life while she runs around or away from us. I don't know what type of monkeys they were, but the biggest ones were maybe as tall as a first grader. We took pictures and filmed a little before going back up to Old Manali.

This is also the first place of our trip so far that has had tuktuks! Also called auto rickshaws. Three wheeled mopeds with seats in the back and a roof over your head. Also called meep-meeps (by Lisa's brother). Cheap and efficient, able to pass swiftly through traffic and some jams cause of their relatively small size.

On our second day in Manali we went to see Manu Temple which is a Hindu version of Noah's ark, and rumor has it that Manu's Ark "landed" in the mountains in Himalaya, more specifically in Manali, when the flood was over!

We only stayed in Manali a few days, as we were eager to move on. Our next stop (still with Tomas) was Pulga. After a 4 hour drive and about 30mins walk up along the mountain and up from the road, we finally reach the outskirts of the small village. This was a proper village with local people farming. Everything they get from the outside world is carried with horses up to the village, because there simply are no cars or roads, only footpaths and narrow trails.

We lived in Forest View Guest House, which has a view over.. you guessed it, a forest!
People call it the Fairy Forest, (here you can probably sense the longing for green, trees and the nature that we're used to) it had big pine trees, with the most massive and strange pinecones I've ever seen. The trees stood tall and far apart, so it was easy to see and navigate, even though everything was pretty much uphill. The cricket sounds were unfamiliar and captivating and the air was fresh with a memory of home. A good old forest.

Pulga, which is in Parvati Valley is where we started to notice that most of the other travelers are all from the same place! Israelis are everywhere! Not a bad thing, but they tended to stay in groups and talk Hebrew which made it difficult to connect. I would say maybe 5 people out of 25ish who lived in the guesthouse (including us) were not from Israel. Just an observation. We learned that in Israel almost everyone goes traveling after their mandatory military service, because they get a lot of money when finished their 4 year service. Also they have their summer holiday around September-October. So that's the main reasons.

From Pulga, we went on a two day trek, or rather a hike, to Kheer Ganga and back the next day. Kheer Ganga, it is said, is the place where Shiva meditated for around seven thousand years. While he was there, his kids needed to take a shower and voilĂ ; suddenly there was Hot springs, warm water flowing from the mountain.

After a about a week in Pulga we took a taxi to Kasol, ate dinner there and took a shared taxi to Dharamsala where we stayed 3 whole weeks.

Arrived in Dharamkot (upper Dharamshala) at 4am and took the first and only room we could find at that hour. We stayed for two nights before we moved to Upper Bhagsu, a 20min walk up and down some paths.

We'll write more about Dharamsala, Bhagsu and Dharamkot in the next post!

Stay tuned!

Friday, October 21, 2016

New Chapter

So we're currently sitting at Zula Cafe in Dharamkot, Himachal Pradesh. We've managed to travel one state south and been a few different places here already. And I'm sorry to say we don't really feel too bad for not updating the blog. It just means that we've had fun, and not made time to sit down and write! I'll try to remember what we've done and tell you all about it.



It seems like ages ago that we were in Lamayuru, but I guess it's only been a month. The village was pretty cool! Houses scattered along one valleyside and having the view over the other across the river. Kids barely old enough to walk running up and down the narrow and steep mountain paths, nothing to catch you but stones and rubble.

We stayed 4-5 days in a nice guesthouse run by a wife who does everything. Great cook, and some of the best teas we've tasted! Our last day there, we met a Portuguese guy while eating breakfast and he happened to need people to share a jeep to Leh, because he felt sick and didn't want to ride his scooty back.

We helped load the scooty in the back of a pickup truck, and joined in the backseat. Not knowing we would all travel together for almost a month.

Back in Leh again, we stayed a couple days before going on a roadtrip with Tomas(the Portuguese) and an Indian woman and man.

Our first stop going from Leh was Kardung La. It is claimed to be the worlds highest motorable pass, at 5602meters above sea lvl(moh). We looked around, took a few first group photos and continued the bumpy ride to Turtuk.

Going down the other side of Khardung La we were descending into Nubra valley, another dry and desolate place with an almost dried out river along with real desert sand dunes.

We arrived in Turtuk after dark so it wasn't easy to see where we were going on the small footpaths of the roadless village. We found a guesthouse, had dinner and went to sleep.

The morning after was the highlight of the place. Small "gardens" turned into fields for growing vegetables, or for keeping a few animals. Women were working everywhere and the men were not to be seen. Except in our guesthouse, working the restaurant garden.

A short walk through the village and up a hill we stopped at a small temple where word had it that K2, the second highest mountain in the world, could be seen from there! We saw a majestic high snow covered pointy peak far in the distance behind all the other mountains, and we believe that to be the claimed K2. The mountains surrounding the village were also the border to Pakistan.

We played cards before lunch and taught Raj(the fellow Indian traveller) how to play since he'd never played cards before, obviously. (??!)

Around midday we drove to Hunder, where we saw camels on sandunes, tourists riding them and taking pictures. It was strange being surrounded by sand dunes and the first time we've seen camels live and up close, in the Himalayas! Felt a little out of place, but what do I know. The camels had much more fur than expected and they stood up tall and proud with their colorful saddles and blankets. We learned that the camels were previously used for making the difficult journey that went through the area connecting east to west, providing silk and other fine goods to trade.

That was what we did before eating dinner, playing more cards and sleep.

The next morning we stopped in Diskit on the way to Pangong Tso. The stop in Diskit was to see a big and colorful statue, (around 30 meters in height) of Buddha sitting on top of a temple.

The road to Pangong was very varied. Sometimes it was amazing with asphalt with NO holes and other times it wasn't really a road, just rocks and gravel and some places we had to cross wide but shallow rivers. 8 hours drive.

We saw wild horses for the first time, some yak, Eagles and other normal wild beings. A reserve for marmote was also pretty cool to drive through, seeing the creatures running to hide in their tunnels.

When we arrived at Pangong, we stopped at the beach first, walked around until it was sunset. The colors on the mountains and water was changing and dancing with the sinking sun, beautiful place. Then we found a guesthouse, had dinner, played cards and slept.

Next morning we had breakfast and drove 6hours back to Leh. We stayed a couple of days in Leh before going to Manali. A bus ride that took 17 sleepless(for Lisa) hours. A scary at times ride that took us up and down mountain sides and over several passes. At night we drove on roads stripped of asphalt, pitch black sky and snow coming straight at us, making it impossible to see. Steep way down, narrow roads and wide buses and trucks passing us with less than an inch clearing, honking to let us know they're there before blinding us a few moments and then back to pitch black snow clouds.

A few hours later, it took about ten minutes for it to be sunny and full of daylight again.  Everyone was waking up, though some trying to sleep more and grunting at the sun and hours of bad shaky sleep.

From one mountainside of sand, stone and desert like in Ladakh, over a mountain pass and down on the other side with sparse trees bushes and grass. GREEN everywhere, for the first time since we left Norway. It was beautiful, amazing and filled with sights we will never forget. Red rocks, falling rivers and more bumpy roads...

Manali came fast after that. Having passed (what is claimed to be) the worlds 3 highest motorable passes it didn't take long to be in "city" chaos. Minibuses, cars, pedestrians, motorcycles, mopeds and tuktuks all honking and yelling to pass each other.