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Saturday, 26 November 2011

India to Nepal

Ok time for a quick update on what's been going on. Last post we were just about to leave Jaipur for Varanasi. We spent a little longer there than originally planned due to a strain of food poisoning that only India can provide! It turns out the doctors in India are more than happy to provide hotel visits via motorbike, with nurse riding side saddle, through a maze of tiny alleyways often blocked by passing cows and goats. You wont find many English doctors with such dedication! Insult was added to injury when I had to bear my bum to both doctor and nurse (both male) for a cocktail of drugs that knocked me out for the following two days. Gemma was of course amazing and played the nurse role perfectly. Bloody good job Varanasi was by far our favourite place in India. Our hotel overlooked the Ghats on the Gangees, with holy men wandering all over the place on too happy to have their photo taken for a small fee and some good humoured bartering. We absolutely loved walking through the back streets of Godowlia and enjoying all the little shops and cafes.

After a very interesting bus ride, local style, where we got extremely up close and personal with our fellow passengers, we got to Nepal. Passports successfully stamped we took what we thought was the safe tourist bus to Chitwan National Park. The concept of 'safe' is somewhat different in Nepal. Not even Jenson Button could have got us there any quicker! So many occasions we nearly drove head on into other buses and lorries on mountain passes. Our bus driver, no older than 23, took corners so fast that its a miracle we didn't go over the edge. At least death would have been quick! Having become rather more accustomed to near death experiences we thought a two day jungle safari trek was in order. We came to within 10m of a grazing Rhino, and even closer to a sleeping one. Our guides Lashmi and Rumu were more than a little worried, even though they were safely up a tree whilst the poor tourist were left dithering on the ground completely unaware of the looming danger. Saw numerous crocodiles, some more interested in us than others, deers, dive bombing monkeys, a tiger (well only one of our group actually saw it, the rest of us had to be satisfied with a fresh footprint!), and most exciting and dangerous of all jungle creatures, the fearsome and deadly jungle chicken!
We are now in Thamel Katmandu which the guide book describes as a bustling noisey and crazy. In contrast to what we have become accustomed to, we are finding it absolute bliss and love it. Two very happy travellers! We can see the Himalayas from our hotel room, our tour is booked and can't wait to get stuck in.

Sunday, 13 November 2011

Hello from Jaipur

Much less ranting in this post. We promise! India, unsurprisingly, is still noisey and smelly but we're properly settling into the way of life over here.
The bird sanctuary in Bharatpur was actually pretty impressive, although the locals did think we were a little strange for insisting to walk 16km through the midday sun, but you know what they say about mad dogs and Englishmen. We've seen plenty of amazing sites over the last few days including the Taj Mahal and the Red Fort in Agra (we actually, and rather controversially, preferred the Red Fort), Fatehpur Sikri just outside of Bharatpur, and the Pink City and the Amber Fort in Jaipur. We also attended our first Bollywood film in a 1500 seat cinema, which was completely full to the brim. We've have never experienced anything like it! The whole cinema erupts into applause, whooping and in some cases crying. It's as if the audience were actually inside the film. It was very funny. If you're interested the film was called 'The Rockstar,' and we thoroughly recommend it, at least we think we do having not understood absolutely all of what was going on.
We have a 19hour train journey out of Jaipur tomorrow and just under 1000km after departure we will be in Varanasi, possibly India's most spiritual city. Things could have been worse, as getting tickets has been a complete nightmare and we had started to consider getting a bus instead. But alas, we managed to get some last minute release tickets yesterday morning. The only tickets they had left were first class. We're totally gutted! According to the Rough Guide Varanasi has India's second most accomplished group of touts and con-men, but after settling in we're definitely up for round two and are feeling much more confident.
Gemma's got some last minute shopping to do in the Pink City tomorrow, which means that Ben also has some last minute shopping in the Pink City too!
We tried to upload some photos, but that only proved to crash the computer (this is in fact the second time we've written this blog) so we will attempt this another time. Hope you are all well.
Ben and Gem x

Monday, 7 November 2011

Delhi and onwards

Delhi Looking Slightly More Poluted
Delhi Under Normal Conditions

Mafia Hang-out Site
 Well we're finally in India and found our way to an internet cafe. The average speed of the internet over here is similar to that of a turtle with a broken leg! So far we have been introduced to the joys of Delhi. Quite the eye opener! Never been anywhere as noisy smelly dirty and unpleasant in our whole lives. Suddenly that one bedroom flat overlooking Kilburn High Road doesn't seem that bad. We've already enjoyed the pleasantries of New Delhi touts and had to break in through the rear of the train station building after being escorted off the premises for not believing that the tourist office had moved due to construction work/fire/flooding and any other excuse they could come up with. If any of you intend on visiting Delhi beware of the park area leading up to India Gate. This is apparently a prime mafia hangout spot. We didn't see any mafia there unless they were all disguised as 11 year old Indian school girls, but be on your guard!!!

We finally made our way out and are now in Agra. We have an amazing view of the Taj Mahal from our hotel rooftop and did all the touristy things today. 
Taj Mahal From Our Roof Top
I thought something smelled!

Definitely settling into Indian life, well at least Gemma is, Ben won't stop going on about the return of British rule. We have a train booked tomorrow morning at 05:10 (that's not a typo) to the reportedly greatest ornithological national park in the whole world. We await with baited breath. The guide book promises leafy gardens and an abandon hilltop fort, which will be a nice change of scenery. As you can imagine we are getting our fill of curry and are by no means fed up yet. 
The Beautiful Taj Mahal
Polution Destroying the Taj Mahal


Keanu our travelling mascot, donated by Caroline, is hogging much of the limelight and looks like he may have his very own photo album when he gets back to Blighty.

Keanu Likes Thali
Enjoying India Gate
Doing the Accounts

Off for dinner. What do reckon? Curry anyone.

Lots of love Gem
Manly back slaps Ben