Monday, November 28, 2005

Beer chasers

So I'll first tell you where we are and then I'll complain about the crappy computer I'm on and then I'll tell you about beer and the crazy things we have done to drink beer.

First we left Birkaner and went to Jaisalmer where we rode camels and checked out the cool fort there. The camel ride was only 20 minutes but I figured we should get the most out of it. Well actually it started when Rob passed me on his camel (our drivers were in the seat behind us) and gave me a little shove. Well I don't like to be passed and I hate it when Rob pretends his a tough fisherman and can pick on the little computer guy. Lets not joke here his hands are twice the size of mine. So I'm a little pissed so I tell my camel driver to drop a gear and get this hunk of camel movin. Well all of a sudden Rob and I are climbing up sand dunes and running around in the desert. Those camels can move if they have to and they sure beat the hell out of you when they do decide to move. I have some great pictures of us on camels but sadly I can't seem to get them online because the computer that I'm on is a piece of camel poo. One night after a long bus ride from Bikaner to Jaisalmer, where I didn't eat lunch, we decided to get some grub. Well when I'm hungry and haven't eaten in a while I can really throw back the food. So we order food and beer and more food and more beer then finished with that restaurant (650 RS). I look at Rob and I'm like "dude you still hungry".
Rob laughs and says "No but I'm sure you are"
Off to the next restaurant so that Glenn can eat again. Like I said when I'm in eating mode I sometimes don't stop. More beer and more food and pop another 400Rs on food. So after two days in Jaisalmer we header to Jodphur. We arrived yesterday and let me tell you this whole desert thing is hot. I don't mean hot I mean really really hot. I can't imagine what it would be like in the summer. Yikes.
The fort here rules, in fact it hasn't been defeated/broken into in the whole 500 years that it has been around. Its massive and massively impressive. Tomorrow we hope to do a village safari where we go into the middle of nowhere and see some buddists that are supposed to be uber eco freaks. Should be nice after we have seen the exact opposite for the last month. Oh we have been in India for almost a month now so I guess I'm 1/3 of a way through my trip. Man time flys.

OK so Rob and I like to drink a beer now and then. Hey if you have to be in the middle of the desert at least you should have a cold beer. Man my dad will love that line. So while we were in Bikaner we ate at every restaurant in Robs book and every single one of them didn't serve any beer. This is actually normal when we go to restaurants, most are totally dry. Well after a day of not having any beer and only eating veg food we decided to hunt down a nice cold one. So we wonder around until we see this ally that has a faded sign that says "Bar and restaurant", the restaurant part was more faded. So Rob and I wonder in. Ok I'll first describe this for people who have been in Campbell River and then I'll let the rest of you know what I'm talking about but since Rob and I both agree the CR version fits nicely we'll use it instead.
CR version- This place was like JJ's but without the women. Same hardcores and run down bums all there drinking the beer and not thinking about the food.
Normal version-The place was where the hardcore drinkers in the city go. Not clean but it still serves food yet I don't think people actually eat there. We were the only whities in the area and I think they were shocked that we would actually be in there. So we sit down and Rob trys some of the whisky and I start by trying the beers I had never heard of. My review is as follows:
-It just proves that the British mess everything up, they didn't leave behind one solid beer after they left this country. The Kingfisher is the king beer here and it sucks! I've tried 5 different brands and I'm still glad when I have a Kingfisher because it doesn't make me ill.

Ya we seems to have adventures everywhere we go and things seem to be crazy and yet very laid back at the same time. Rob and I have no idea where we are going from here but we are thinking of going to Mt. Abu but we aren't sure yet.

I've attached a link to a map of Rajasthan for all those people who don't have any clue where we are:


Thursday, November 24, 2005

Ok Random dudes if you see the picture then you came to the site

Rock Garden, Chandigarh
Rock Garden, Chandigarh,
originally uploaded by Glenn Saqui.
This is for the random dudes that we met at the Rock garden. They really wanted us to send them the picture instead I told to go to our blog. So here is the picture for our random friends at the rock garden. Click on the picture to see it enlarged.

Rob went to get a massage and came back with these

originally uploaded by Glenn Saqui.
So we have new pictures on the website so all you should have to do is click on the picture of Rob flexing and you should be able to see all our new pictures.

Rob has some crazy dude work on his back and the dude used some type of sucktion cups on his back and left him with these cool marks. There are only a couple of pictures of his back so everyone doesn't have to be grossed out by him. The rest are from our trip to Bikaner and the rock garden. Hope you enjoy.

Bus and a Train and finally we arrive at our destination

So we have these crazy plans like trying to see India. Wow thats crazy dude you shouldn't even think of crazy things like that. Well we wanted to leave Dharamsala and make our way into the desert. So the plan was the following get a bus to Chandargh and from there figure out if we could get a train to northern Rajistan to a place called Bikaneer. So we get on our bus at 7am and we start our travel. Buses aren't like the ones back well nothing is so what would you expect. The bus isn't that clean and every corner it stops to pick people up or drop them off. At one point in our bus ride there are bums of people we don't know in our faces and people are shoving to get more people aboard. Its totally crazy so we drive through the day. The drive is actually nice if you were in a comfy sedan with the normal amount of people in it. We drove through the mountains and had some amazing views of the mountains and valleys. Cool I guess if you weren't fighting to stay on your seat.

Awesome we arrive in Chandargh without dieing, always something to be happy about. Seven hours of our trip is done. Next we stroll over to the train info place and line up in the handicap, old people, and foreigners line. Get to the front of the line and ask if we can get a train from here to Bikaner. "Yup"
"When does it leave?"
"10:25 tonight"
"Rob you want to continue our trek tonight"
"OK we'll take the ticket we want a sleeper"
"Ok that'll be 250RS each" (thats like 7 CAN)
"Sweet when will we arrive in Bikaner?"
"lol no"
"Oh thats going to be a massively long train ride"
So now its 3:00pm and we have some time to kill so we head out to this famouse rock garden, the only thing this town has to offer. You can see the pics of it on the blog. Its pretty impressive and it kills an hour. We meet these random dudes who can barely speak english and want so badly to speak to us. We spend half our time in the rock garden telling them about our families and asking them about theirs.

We catch some grub and have two hours to kill at the train station. I would have gone for beer except that if I had had a beer I would have fallen asleep right away as Rob and I were totally zonked from the crazy bus ride. Finally the train arrives and we get on. The sleeper is three cot sized beds stacked ontop of each other. Not really that nice because we are close to the toilet so use your imagination on what we smelt through the whole night. I was in the middle bunk and as soon as I had my sleep sheet out and my eyes covered I was totally asleep. Rob wasn't as lucky as me as he was on the top and he froze the whole night. Oh let me through in a comment here that I'm to big for this country. Everything is for people under 6 feet. Everything is exactly 6 feet long so I barely fit in. I have to bend myself in some crazy ways to get to sleep most nights.

The train rocks us to sleep and we attempt to sleep as long as possible as this train is 15 hours long. Oh and it only cost us 7Can so I don't think you can complain to much. We finally arrive to our destination after a long trek. We are totally wiped but its a cool city.

The city is part of a desert and has sand everywhere and is totally hot. There are camels everywhere and they are used like horses to pull carts. We arrived on Wednesday and we plan on leaving tomorrow morning (Friday) to head out to Jaisalmer where we plan on riding camels. Jaisalmer is a city that just grows out of the desert so it should be cool.

Hope this was a good update.

Sunday, November 20, 2005

In Dharamsala, from Rob

As Glenn mentioned earlier, Dharamsala is the home of the Dalai Lama. Its also full of backpackers, monks, and Tibetan refugees. Its a base for trekking and you can take courses in massage, hindi, raiki, yoga, cooking (Tibetan and Indian), and other things I cant think of because Hotel California is playing and its so distracting suck a buddha i hate that song.... Anyway, this is very much a tourist town but because there are so many unemployed refugees here things are actually quite cheap. There are stores everywhere selling cool hand made clothes and jewelry and things and they really cater to the tourists. You don't have to worry about getting sick from the food here. Restaurants have signs saying things like, "Food is prepared with the strictest standards of western cleanliness," and "All vegetables are washed with boiled water." Its nice, but it we know its only temporary till we go back into the chaos of India. This is not really India. Its more like Tibet.

I just came back from a Tibetan museum and it struck me that this place should not even exist. I mean I knew before, and I am sure most of you people know as well the basic history of Tibet. Before 1950 Tibet was its own country when China invaded Tibet and called it "peaceful liberation". Tibet was overrun and the Dalai Lama as well as thousands of Tibetans fled to Nepal and India. Since then China has brutally persecuted the remaining Tibetans and more still make the trek over the Himalayas all the time. I even met one boy who just arrived. In the meantime China has encouraged their people to relocate to Tibet which has made the Tibetans a minority in their own country. They have also used Tibet to dump nuclear waste and have caused much environmental damage. Its one thing to know about the history but when you can actually meet the people and put a face on it, it affects you more deeply. Its also interesting to see the Tibetans make the best of it. They are not just sitting here feeling sorry for themselves. With the help of the popularity of the Dalai Lama they have created a great resort town. Most are not rich, but they are working. This place is full of tourists and its the off season right now. They work hard to educate themselves, learn English and gain a career. But anyway, I have to run, I am doing a cooking class on momos (Tibetan dumplings) in 8 mins. Sometimes this place reminds me of university because there are all the people drinking coffee and going from class to class.

My Lost Icecream Cone, from Rob

No I didn't drop it on my pants or something like some of you have probably already guessed. Glenn and I were in Amritsar, had lunch and were walking to a park with some damn good icecream cones. Out of nowhere came a couple of beggar kids. A girl about 6 years old was tapping my arm with her hand saying, "Hello. Hello. Hello...." I don't know why but from some reason I have yet to understand they are so beautiful in a strange way. They are also persistant, haunting, and numerous. I don't usually give them any money for a few reasons. One, its just not responsible. There are different groups that try to help these people, so the best thing to do is make a donation to a charity. In Amritsar for instance anyone can get a decent meal of dal and chaptis 24 hours of the day at the Golden Temple. Glenn and I both made a sizable donation when we left. The second reason is if you give to one then more will appear out of nowhere and you will be mobbed. I could see more children in the direction we were walking so I knew pulling out any coins would be a bad idea. Sometimes I try to have some food in my bag but this time I did not. I decided I would eat a bit more of my icecream and then give to the girl when out of nowhere she snatched it out of my hand! I couldn't believe it, and I dont think she could believe her fortune either. She ran away laughing hysterically and her smile was worth a thousand times the price of my cone! We kept on walking when suddenly at the entrance of the park when we were mobbed by children. One boy ran up to me and grabbed on with two hands. Aghhhhh! What am I supposed to do, start shoving kids out of the way? "Glenn, we have to get out of here!" I turned and flagged down the first rickshaw I saw. Its the one of the picture of the old man with the big ears from behind. I think he was about 97 years old, weighed even less than Glenn if you can believe that and his rickshaw was a real piece of crap. I never would have asked him to take us all the way to the Golden Temple, 4 Kms away if I had thought out the whole situation but there hadn't been time for such business. We passed by the girl who stole my icecream and she waved and was still smiling. At least it made her day. The rickshaw ride took a long time and we had to get out and walk up a hill because there was no way the old guy was going to make it up. When I get back to Canada, I am going to get my brother to build me a cycle rickshaw out of lightweight titanium with disc brakes, suspension, clipless pedals and of course gears. I will then be outfitted with spandex shorts, gloves and an aerodynamic helmet and I will return to India and be the fastest cycle rickshaw driver in the whole country, and maybe the world...

Saturday, November 19, 2005

50 new pics from the end of Kashmir to the home of Dalai Lama

Mongul Gardens, Kashmir
Mongul Gardens, Kashmir,
originally uploaded by Glenn Saqui.
Ok all you have to do is click on the pic and you should start to see all the pictures we uploaded today. The first couple are of Kashmir and the pictures show the Golden Temple (Sikhs holiest place) and the last bunch of pictures of our time in McLeod Ganj were the Dalai Lama Lives. Hope you enjoy

Friday, November 18, 2005

Dalai Lama, monkeys, and one heck of a view

What do all the things have in common? Well we are currently in the town of the Holy Dalai Lama, we went on a hike and saw monkeys playing in the trees and we have an amazing view from our hotel and it only costs us 6CAN a night. I would post a picture of our view but Robs got the gear for that stuff and he isn't here right now. Rob has taken off to get a massage so hopefully I'll hear how that went later in the hour.

We spent the 3 days in Amristar hanging at the Golden Temple, google it for pictures because it is amazing. We just happen to arrive on the birthday of the founder of Sikhism so there were piles of people there and a huge fireworks display. You can stay a the temple for a donation and like all Sikh temples they give away free food. This temple serves over 50,000 people a day! 24 hours a day you can go in and get dal and a roti and its as much as you can eat. Good dal too let me tell you. The temple is amazing the actual temple is in a middle of a man made lake and is covered in 750kg of gold. Its pretty impressive. The whole complex is the cleanest I have ever seen. They have people constantly cleaning and people entering the complex have to wash their feet and hands. Rob and I both thought the city was really nice and you could tell that there was more money in the Punjab state then the other ones we have been at. We weren't sure what the heck we were going to do next so Rob chatted up this french canadian girl and found out McLeod Ganj was a cool location. We decided to head up here but before we did that we went to the closing of the border cermony between Pakistan and India. How this works is both sides have huge stands that they fill up with people from there country and they hell at each other from each side of the border. There was a good couple of thousand people on both sides of the border and they do this every night its crazy. Totally not what we expected but well worth the hour to get out there and the hour to watch the closing of the border. Both sides have flag waving and marching and they lower their flags at the same time to show that neither country is superior. You have to wonder who the heck would make this a tourist attaction but we went and we really enjoyed it so I guess it was a good idea. We saw a dude with an awesome mustache, something Rob is attempting to grow right now. I think Rob has a couple of years before he can really complete. Once again you'll have to wait to see the pic of this dudes stachee.

We did some hiking today and went to the home of the Lama himself but he wasn't around. Something to do with being busy trying to free a country or something. I think its an excuse myself. I did go to the Tibetan museum and it was really sad to see all the images of the destroyed holy places in Tibet. Something like 90% of all their holy sites have been destroyed by the Chinese, really sickening to see.

Our plan? Hhahahaah thats funny because we haven't had a plan since we came to India is maybe to hang out here for a couple of days and take some yoga classes, I was hoping to maybe take an intro to buddism since I don't know that much about it but who knows what we will actually do. There are some nice hikes here so we may go hiking for a couple of days.


In an ealier post I said Sringar was safe well I think Rob and I left at the right time because there have been two major bomb blasts in the downtown part in the past couple of days. One of the bombs was pretty close to where we were staying. I don't think we would have been a target because we were staying on the houseboats but who knows. I'm just glad we left when we did.


Monday, November 14, 2005

Finally out of Srinagar, from Rob

It was a rough jeep ride, but we arrived safely in Jammu. It's great to have our freedom back, we felt like prisoners in Srinagar. Not to mention it was damn cold there. Last night we were finally able to sleep without socks, pants, 2 shirts, a sweater and a touque. After arriving in Jammu and securing a very nice hotel room for 500 RS (about 14 CAD) we decided to treat ourselves. For almost our entire time in Srinagar Glenn and I would take turns naming meals we would love to have, trying to one up each other.

The greasiest meatlovers pizza from Athena's (in Victoria) washed down with several cold beer
Marc's or my own lasagne with a mountain of organic greens, garlic bread and wine
Huevos rancheros
My own chicken enchiladas with black beans and sour cream
Blueberry Pancakes with maple syrup, and a mound of bacon, ham and sausages
Stir fry with lots of fresh veggies
My mothers turkey dinner

So after a week of watery dahl, mushy overcooked veg, rice, very little meat and no beer we had worked ourselves up to have quite a feeding frenzy. We asked our hotel manager where to go, but we didnt fully understand the directions through his thick accent so we just wandered in the general direction that we thought he said. We passed up many ok looking restaurants till we came to one with a doorman. We had good experiances at restaurants with a doorman in Delhi so we decided we would give it a try. It also had a neon sign saying Restaurant AND Bar which in English means grub and beer. Our waiter's English was not so good and our Kashmiri was worse but eventually what arrived on the table was one of the most enjoyed meals I have had. We started with a Kingfisher each which are large sized (650mL) Indian beer, and complimentary peanuts. We gobbled those down quickly and the dish was soon refilled. One "problem" we have had is when we order food, sometimes we end up getting a lot more than we expected. When our tandoori chicken came out we were a bit surprised. I thought it was supposed to be an appetizer but they brought us an entire chicken. It was easily more than twice as much meat as we had eaten in the last week and a lakh (100000) times more delicious. I am not usually super carnivorous but I felt I had some catching up to do. After that we had more beer, rice with stuff in it, a dish of mixed veg, 2 butter naan each and we got our waiter to bag us 2 more beer to go. In the end the meal with tip came to 800 rupees, or about 23 CAD. Not bad and way cheaper than Athena's. After that we wandered back to our hotel. We got lost and eventually gave up and asked a rickshaw driver to take us to our hotel. He basically drove us around the corner to our hotel where I had a real shower (not a bucket) and watched Hot Shots on tv until I passed out.

Jammu Jammu Jammu

Just keep saying the title of this blog entry and see how many people you upset, its kind of fun I do it to Rob all the time. So I guess you can guess the name of the place we are at right now, yup Jammu. Jammu is the second biggest city in Kashmir and is really the place where people come to go other places in India. Robs guide has nothing on Kashmir and my guide just says that Jammu is a city to pass right through. Normally the guides will give you a place to stay or something to see but my guide had nothing other then a paragraph about how you should just keep on moving through this city. Oh I forgot to mention something in all our blogs before this one and thats the situation up here in Kashmir. The Kashmiry people think that it would be best if they were there own country and don't want to be part of India, well India doesn't like that and Pakistan wants Kashmir so you can image there is some crazy stuff going on. Rob has blogged about how there are solidiers everywhere in Kashmir and that freaked us out when we first came here but now we are used to it. Well here is a funny story for you.

Wednesday we bought our tickets to Sringar in Delhi (almost 10 days ago)
Thursday while eating breakfast I pick up a paper and what is on the front page? Yup you guessed it, a bomb blast went off in Sringar. Now Rob and I had to decide what we should do. We of course went to Sringar and we didn't have any problems but it was freaky none the less. I guess as long as we just follow the blasts it will be fine. Anyways back to Jammu, Jammu, Jammu.

We got a Jeep like thing that had three seats in the front, three in the middle and 4 seats in the back facing each other. Rob and I got the front two seats with the driver. It was a super tight fit in fact if you were the guy in the middle you had to put one foot on each side of the stick shift (lol) and the driver would shift in between your legs. As you can imagine we were wishing we had a jock for the whole 10 hour drive. Ten hours to go 262km, you do the math because it isn't fast at all and man was that a crazy drive. We drove up and down mountain passes, really nice scenery but it wasn't ICBC aproved. We spent most of the time passing people on the right hand side of the road (they drive on the left)while going into a blind corner. Sounds safe doesn't it? Well the only way they can sort of be safe is they hammer the horn going into the corner. You have to remember the people going the other way are only going 25km/hr as well so you can sort of get out of the way. It was a crazy drive but the other option was taking a bus which would have taken at least 12 hours and the buses in this country isn't something to write home about. We passed many people in buses with their heads out the window feeding the pavement their dinner. So it may sound crazy but I think it was the best option, well I'm not really sure but I'm not going back to test the other options. Note to self if I'm ever up there again fly out of Sringar.

So how much did the trip cost? Well the jeep cost Rob 350 RS and it cost me 450. Why did it cost me more you maybe asking? Well its simple really the Jeep driver had a thing for Rob as Rob was the first to sit in the just kidding thats not true. When leaving Sringar you have to pass through the army and if you are a forign national they want all the info from your passport. Ok fair enough right, we stop at this army checkpoint and Rob and I get out. I'm thinking that our luggage is gone with the Jeep but thankfully the driver stopped and waited for us. Well we go into this little hut and there is this army dude with a pen and paper, he doesn't speak very good english so Rob and I are always saying "pardon". Well Rob travels under the Canadian passport and I travel under my British. Rob gives him his details and leaves while the guy tells me to sit down. He gets this little smile on his face and says "So......(something I don't understand)....British", I respond with "yup". Now a dude with a gun walks in. The passport guy says "You give me British present". I play dumb...."pardon". He fills out some info about my passport and says again "YOu give me a British present". I play dumb again..."pardon". He gets up with my passport and says again "You give me a British Present", now I'm worried because the dude has a gone with him, I'm not in danger but I'm not feeling so safe with whats going on. So I play dumb again and I say nice and loud "Oh you mean you want money". He looks at me and gives me what I gave him "yup". I had over 100 Rs and hope thats ok. He gives back the passport and we leave.

The plan was to hit Jammu and head right to Amritsar that night but I was totally bagged and I didn't want to travel any further after we got off the jeep. We wondered around Jammu at 7pm not knowing anything about the city. We looked near the bus station for some rooms and we found some super budget rooms for 100-150 Rs but they were just a bed with dirty sheets, we have sleep sacks so we could have roughed it but I just wasn't in the mood so we continued to walk. We ran into the hotel that we stayed at and it was really nice and not a bad price so we dropped our bags and decided to stay at this place. We caught some dinner and headed to bed. Today we just wondered around the city as we didn't know what there was to see here and now we are just killing time waiting until our sleeper train leaves at 10:30 pm tonight.

Hope I was able to keep people in the loop.

Saturday, November 12, 2005

G chillin in the sun

G chillin in the sun
G chillin in the sun,
originally uploaded by Glenn Saqui.
Check out our new pics from our time water treking

Click on the pic to see all the images

Delhi Belly 2 Rob and Glenn zero

Before you start reading this be warned that it is about our movements and nothing else. I'll speak about what we having been having and things we haven't been having.

You were warned so if you think this is sick and you don't want to read this post please skip over it and I don't want to hear any complains from any of you.

OK that being said lets "Drop it like its Hot"

The first couple of days in Delhi Rob got some serious stomach pains whenever he ate and he had some serious runnies while I was meaning I was golden no problems. Then we came to Kashmir and things started to change for me. I went almost 5 days without anything. I mean the one was coming but the 2 was a no go. I was solid in the belly and it wasn't coming out. I was a little worried because I needed something to move but I wasn't having any luck. I mean "shit" it should be easy to move come on gravity have some fun here and help out. While I was shit out of luck Rob was doing enough for the both of us. Everytime he ate about half an hour later it was go time. Full fledge poop shoot. It was killing me watching him get stuff out of himself and I'm sure he was hoping he would be able to hold something in.

Well on our second to last day on the water treking it hit me hard. The night before I wasn't doing to well, I mean I had some stomach aches and stuff like that but I was sure it was because I hadn't crapped in a long time. Well it turns out it was because I had Delhi belly and the next morning it was time for my body to remove everything that it had saved up. It now became a contest between my body and my brain on how many times I could actually stop and crap. Well I'm on a boat without a toilet so you can imagine I wasn't pleased and neither was my body. We both agreed that I should do some walking while the boat paddled up river (we meaning my body and my brain). I hit the shore and well so did some other things pretty quick. I spent the next hour walking on the shore stopping with massive cramps, poop breaks, and the occasional up chuck. Ya it wasn't much fun.

I went back to the boat at noon and we picked up some drugs from the chemist, which I didnt take as I wasn't sure what it was. Rob hooked me up with some Gravel and I was out like a light. 5 hours later we reached out destination and I ate very little for the rest of the trip. Since then Rob and I have been blowing through the TP as its a contest to see who can drop more in one day. Robs still way ahead.

The funny thing is one of the first things one of the other travellers we met said that "You'll end up talking about your shit alot on this trip" The dude was totally right.

I've posted more pics so please have a look.

Best of luck to the boys going to CIS this coming weekend, could someone please email their times and how we placed. Thanks

Kold Krappy Kashmir

from Robinder:

Ok it's not all that bad I guess. But the way our guides pumped this place up was very misleading. They tell us things like when we are visiting India later we will be remembering how beautiful and how much fun we had in Kashmir. This could not be further from the truth. I can see Indian tourists coming here and having a good time, because they live in disgusting cities like Delhi or in very hot climates. But for Glenn and I, who grew up in BC, it was definitely less than breath-taking. At about noon on the second day of our water-trek we were asking our guide, Muneer, to turn around and take us back to the HB asap. It was cold, the first day was spent paddling thru garbage dumps and creeks full of sewage (see pictures), and we were just thinking about how we still had another 3 days before we would be back. We did not want to waste anymore time. I am not sure how, perhaps by full on ignoring us, Muneer kept on with the trek and we did 5 days as originally planned. We hated it so much, we very nearly were going to sneak away in the middle of the night and walk/hitch hike 28 km back to Srinagar. I find it quite funny that we came to Kashmir, to relax, have a good time and we are leaving, more bitter and cynical than ever!

So here briefly is our water trek. We started in the shikara from the houseboat. The majority of the first day was spent getting out of the city of Srinagar, heading downstream. We tried to play criket but on the second pitch Glenn hit it and I ran into a big mud puddle. See picture. We stayed the first night at a Baba's (Muslim priest) place in a small village called Sand Valley. These people have not seen very many tourists and the children hung around Glenn and I staring, with their mouths open. The second day we stayed at another village further downstream. At the village many of the people make a living by digging sand out of the bottom of the river onto large shikara's which they then shovel into trucks. It is very hard work! The third day we checked out Manezbal Lake, which I am sure is very beautiful--in the summer time. The last two days we paddled upstream which was a lot of work. Mostly our guide and the shikara driver paddled, but I joined in a bit as well, and I pulled the shikara by hand too. I think Glenn wouldve helped but he got quite ill on the fourth morning right after breakfast. The fifth day we had to go back through all the garbage and sewage which was even worse because this time it was slower to go upstream. At one point we had to take everything out and lift the shikara by hand and push it up over a damn which was probably 3 feet high.

Today is the end of our first full day after the water trek. We spent it with Muneer, touring around the city. We let our guide take us to a place where they make fine things out of wool, and we plan on buying some Kashmiri tea and spices tonight. The highlight of today though would have to be riding on top of a crowded city bus with a dozen other friendly Kashmiri, holding on for dear life. Glenn and I have decided to skip the mountain trek altogether, because we just want to get the hell out of here. It is all paid for, and we are not getting any money back, but we are just so tired of this place that we cannot wait to leave. I could not imagine staying for 20 days like they had originally suggested. It felt more like we were hostages, rather than tourists.

Tomorrow, hopefully, we will get out of here and head first to Jammu for maybe a night, then Amritsar where we will stay for probably 2 or 3 days. In Amritsar is Sikhs most holy place called the Golden Temple. We will stay in the temple itself for at least one night. It is free to stay and you get dal and apparently thousands of people stay there every night. Glenn and I have not shaved for at least a week, and we don't plan to until we get somewhere warm again.

Sunday, November 06, 2005

Krazy Kashmir

From Robinder

Here we are in Srinagar, Kashmir now. It was looking like coming here was a mistake at first but we no longer regret it. We arrived on Eid, the last day of Rammadan. It is a big celebration because Muslims had been fasting for a whole month. All the shops were closed so when we found one that was open we ate alot and figured we would just have to go without till the next day. So when the hotel manager called at about 6pm and told us there were shops open we were very happy! Not quite as happy as the Muslims maybe but still. We walked down the road 5 minutes and found 4 "restaurants" open, chalk-full of people. This is our first time where there are NO foreign tourists around and we wanted to eat but didnt want to make asses of ourselves. The restaurant we chose had 5 or 6 huge pots full of different dal and vegetarian things. Alongside you could get chapati(flat bread) and rice. We ordered 3 dishes, with one rice and several chapatis. It ended up being A LOT of food. We didnt want to look like fat Americans but thats exactly the sterotype we were filling. This was also the first time where we really had what Indians regularly eat. "This is the real shit!" I mumbled to Glennjit with a full mouth. He knew exactly what I meant.

While Glennjit was ordering, a well dressed Indian fellow in his 20's asked me where I was from and other small talk. He asked if he could join us and I said of course. He asked where we were staying and I knew exactly where this was going. In Srinagar there is a Lake where tourists stay on House Boats. Everyone in Srinagar either has a houseboat or knows someone who does. Glenn and I DID want to stay on a HB, we just didnt want to have it pushed on us, or to be ripped off. I learned his name is Muneer. He was different then most of the people who approach us because he was not pushy. Perhaps because he know he had our attention for at least the rest of the meal. He also showed Glenn and I how to eat properly but making little spoons out of pieces of chappati. There was no silverwear but Muneer helped us fit in--a bit. Everywhere we go people stare at the white guys but as long as we can avoid being total morons we are happy. We agreed to meet Muneer at that spot the next day.

After freezing all night and not having hot water in the morning, we walked down to the same restaurant and had dal and chapati again for breakfast. We met Muneer and he was very friendly and he took us to there HB in a canoe they call a shikara. We met Muneer's brother, Gulzar at the HB and just talked for a while. We decided we were staying the night there instead of our cold place so we went back to our hotel with Muneer and checked out. He did not walk right in tho because he didn't want the hotel people know who stole their business. Whatever, it was too damn cold there anyway. I tell people that Kashmir is cold like Canada.

I have to run. The owner of the internet place wants to go home. Very fast. We are staying on Hb for 12 days, doing 5 days water trekking, 5 days mountain trekking. Kashmir is very safe despite what it sounds like on tv. Bye for now....

Safe in Kashmir

I think I'll start this one off by saying that where we are right now is very safe and everyone should not worry about us. That being said the minute we stepped off the plane we saw so many soliders with guns it was totally scary. I think we freaked ourselves out a little as I think neither of us knew what we should expect. We walked out of the airport and we knew we had to go to the prepaid taxi counter and thats what we did. We beat off the touts like they were flies and we cruised to the prepaid area without any troubles. lol thats where the fun began.

We arrived in Kashmir on the end of Rammadan which meant everything was closed. Yikes that can't be fun and it wasn't. The prepaid taxi counter was open and we had no problem paying the 300 rs to get into town but when we went to pay they didn't have chance for us. This sent off alarm bells, we thought dam this is another scam but we didn't see anything around so we decided that we would go into town and pay the dude when we got to the location that we were going since we knew how much it was supposed to cost. We cruised into town and we wanted to go to the tourist info place because we wanted to stay in a house boat. As soon as we arrived at the tourist info place we realized that we were going to have a long day because the tourist info place was closed because of the massive holiday. Great we were super pumped now we have to figure things out by ourselves. We were attacked by touts "You stay in house boat?", "Come with me I show you", "I have boat house...come..come...very cheap", "you need taxi?"

As you can imagine we were totally put off by these people and we told them to leave us alone because we weren't going to use them. We started walking around the town but everything was closed so we just went town a random road and tried to find a hotel. We knew that we wouldn't get house boat today because of the holiday so we thought might as well spend one in a hotel and figure things out the next day. We found a hotel without much problem but let me tell you the lonely planet map I have for the town that we are staying in is useless so I guess we had an idea of where we were. The hotel that we got had a tv which was good but it only had two blankets one for rob and one for me. Hey we are in India why do you need more blankets? Why do you need blankets at all? Well let me tell you the hotel as well as the town gets super cold at night and the hotel didn't have heating. What no heating? Ya thats correct, picture this Rob wearing all his clothes and me wearing everything I have hiding under our blankets watching tv. We were freezing. Rob told me in the morning that it was the coldest he had ever been. He later retracted that statement but I'm still holding that against him because he was grumby for the first two hours in the morning.

More fun with the hotel. Rob fell asleep at 9pm so I decided that I would read for a while because I totally hopped up on chai tea and wasn't ready to sleep. Well at 10pm the power was out in our hotel and it didn't come back on until 8am an hour after we got up. Oh how was the nice warm shower since you were in a hotel? Today is Sunday and we arrived on Friday and we haven't had hot water since. That is correct we have not had hot water in three days so as you can imagine we haven't showered and Rob stinks (just kidding) I don't think I would be able to smell him since I'm sure I smell just as bad.

A missed out describing walking to the hotel the first time. Think of a fortified city with solidiers outside of every important structure and these solidiers have guns are scary looking. There is razor wire everywhere and you are told not to take any pictures of any solidiers or anything fortified as they don't like it to much. It is a crazy city because of the solidiers and the kashmirry people don't really like the army being here. They talk about them being Indian and themselves being Kashmirrie. (check pics because as I'm writing this I"m uploading more pics)

Thursday, November 03, 2005

Pics from india

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

Assault of the Senses, written by Robinder

Today is my 3rd day and Glenn's 2nd. I cannot even begin to describe this place. It is a total assault on the senses. Every moment is filled with scents, sounds and sights, many good and many not so much. We are starting to get a little bit used to Delhi, but it is so crazy.
Everyone drives like a maniac. They never use signals but they honk at everything. Cars, buses, motorbikes, auto rickshaws, cycle rickshaws, bikes and pedestrians all share the road. Lines are a suggestion only. Riding in an auto rickshaw is very exciting, but quite nerve racking.
The smog here is terrible. There is rarely any blue sky. I can feel the dirt and polution in my skin pores and the grossest black stuff comes out my nose.
We have been all around the city in the last 2 days. In one area, called Connaught Place we made the mistake of opening up the guide book after we were dropped off from a rickshaw. Immediatly a friendly fellow asked us what we were looking for, and we told him a place to eat. Himself and a friend who appeared out of nowhere proceeded to take us to a restaurant because they are "fellow human beings". Basically Connaught Place is full of touts who want to lure you into travel offices and sell you trips at inflated prices. It can be quite frustrating! You just want to be left alone but everyone wants to sell you shit you dont need. A local Indian told us to say "Chello" which means "go away" and "bus" which means "stop". Now everytime someone approaches we just say "Chello" and they disappear. Its great! Also, if we are lost now we duck into a store before looking at our book/map.
Today I had a touch of Delhi Belly. We were away from our hotel about 30 mins after some pizza I had some serious pangs in my guts. Glenn was supposed to have the TP but he did not. I suffered through it without anything to serious but it was looking like I was going to have to use the toilet Indian Style. Ugh. It is ironic that the only thing that has made me feel sick so far was the only bit of western food I have had since I was here. I actually think it had more to do with riding the bus and forgetting to use the hand disinfectant first. DOH!
So I bet this all sounds really bad eh? Some of you are maybe thinking, why did you ever want to go to India anyway. Well despite all these bad things it is really amazing. The people are so nice and friendly (the ones who aren't trying to rip you off that is). The food is great. Everything is cheap too. We have spent our time seeing all the sights as quickly as possible so that we can get out. We have seen the Red Fort (a big fort that is red), Jama Masjid (the largest mosque in India, it holds 25000 people every friday). Mahatma Gandhi Memorial, and Qutab Minar (a big tower built about 1100 CE).
Also Diwali, the festival of lights happened the last two days and it was a blast. Its basically India's Christmas. Last night, after dinner(which was wicked) and several beers, Glenn and I wandered the streets of Paharganj. Children everywhere were lighting firecrackers. Fathers would stop cars in the street so their child could set off a bottle rocket. Boys would run up to us and shake our hand to say Happy Diwali. It was a blast until a few very loud firecrackers (I call KFB's) went off close to us. We decided it was best to head back to our hotel but we could not remember the way. It was a war zone. Trying to watch out for lit fireworks and negotiate our way throw the narrow streets took another 30 minutes.
On the plane over I broke my glasses! Can you believe that people told me to bring a spare and I said no way and I broke them before I even got to India. Well I am very glad that I never listened to anyone, because it took me only 24 hours to get a new pair almost exactly the same AND a pair of priscription sunglasses for 11500 rupies or about 330 CAD.
But in all honesty, Delhi is wearing on us. That is why we are getting out asap. Friday we fly to Kashmir to Srinagar and will slowly work our way south to the province of Rajasthan and to the aforementioned Camel Festival Nov. 15th.
I could have easily written 3 times about this place but this is all you get. If you have any questions, I will do my best to respond.

First night....lo what a gong show

11:30 arive in Delhi
12:30 Clear customs
1:30 Get my pre paid cab ride bought from the police to keep anyone from scamming the travellers
1:45 Get in the cab and he asks for the piece of paper that shows I paid for the cab, he needs this because its the only thing that will allow the govn't to pay him. I let him see it but won't let him hang onto it (Thank you lonely planet and the ten minutes I spent reading about delhi before I got off the plane). He doesn't like the fact that I wno't give it to him.
1:46 Asks where I'm from and is it my first time in India (Lonely planet warns people that if you say its your first time they will try to scam you)
1:46.3 I realize that its going to be an interesting cab ride and I"m glad it was only a 8 hour flight and its 5pm back in London so I'm wide awake and ready to roll. I'm freaking out and I now its game on.
1:47 He tells me my hotel isn't safe because of the bomb and that it may have blown up. (Lonely planet says "Your hotel hasn't burnt down no matter what the cabby says" guess they use the bomb now) I ignore and ask if he is married.
1:50 after small talk about his family and him asking me if I had a job in canada (I respond that I'm a very poor student with no money) he starts telling me that "bomb very bad, your hotel not safe. Police won't let me get close"
-I ignore (super freaking cause I know he is scammnig me and I can't do anything about it)
2am after him speaking to me and me not understanding he stops outside of a "Tourist Information" place. Safe in most countries but not in india.
2.01 he knocks on the door and this dude opens it up and I can tell that they are going to try something. I'm thinking I'm a dead man. I have already moved one credit card from my money belt and hid it down my pants. I figure if they take everything at least I"ll have stinky visa.
2.02 They sit me down and ask if I have a place to stay. I tell them I do and I would like to go there. I am very polite for now. They say its not possible for me to get there and the hotel isn't taking anyone in right now because the bomb blast was 20m away, which is true by the way.
2.03 I tell them my buddy is already staying there and that I got an email from him today this morning before I left London.
2.04 He says that it isn't possible and the cabby can't even get there because the police have a massive road block and no can get through
2.05 I start to get pissed because I know I can get there
2.10 they try to call the hotel then get me to call. I can't get through for some reason, they think I'm bluffing, I'm not.
2.11 I stand up and look at the cabby and tell him he has two choice we call the police or he takes me to my hotel.
2.12 I realize this was a bad move beacause we walk outside and there is a police officer sitting there. I know whats going to happen so I call them scammers and that I want the driver to take me to airport.
2.13 "Why do you want to go to the airport? Its not safe to travel at this time of night"
2.14 "You take me to the airport or my hotel or you don't get the piece of paper from me and you get no money. I'll find another cab that will take me there"
2.15 The cabby points to the cab and I get in. I have no idea what I've done and if I'm gonig to the airport or the hotel or what. I think he is taking me to rob me now that I have called his bluff. You have to understand everything looks like its a ghetto here but I didn't know that at the time so I just thought I was in the uber poor area and he was going to take me around the corner and leave me there with no money.
2.45 (I think I messed the time up a little bit) We pull down this road and its crazy cause there are cows and shops that are closed but at least there are lights and stuff like that so I think it could be semi-safe.
2.47 Driver asks the name of the hotel, I give it and he drives me to the hotel. It was one of the happiest days of my life to see robs ugly mug smilling at me when I came into our room.

Rest of the day was spent with people trying to rip us off, eating awesome food, drinking some beer, and checking out the sights in Delhi.

On Friday rob and I are off to Kashmir a place I have always wanted to go. Don't read anything about how bad it is there because its not true and its not where we are going. We are giong to the Dal Lake or something like that and we are going to chill on a house boat and relax, maybe do some hiking we'll see.

Speech Recognition