Tag Archives: adventure

First day: flights and Delhi!

So, here we go again. Flying off into the unknown with apparently not a care in the world. It’s all a carefully orchestrated illusion of course as you cannot avoid some level of trepidation when embarking upon a month-long trip into India and Nepal.

The flight over was relatively uneventful with the exception of encountering my first burger king that served no beef burgers. I have a feeling I’ll be sprouting feathers by the end of this trip! Eating nothing but chicken every day!

The monotony of the fight to Delhi was broken by a group of screaming old Italian ladies that spent a big part fo the trip complaining loudly in Italian to fellow passengers that did not speak a word of Italian. They also routenly ignored the fasten seat belt sign and one even got up to chat with her friend just before the plane started accelerating for take-off. Esther and I found it very funny, a feeling clearly not shared by the flight crew. Once we landed and spent the mandatory hour in the queue to get our visas, we stepped outside where our patient cab driver was still waiting for us, in spite of the fact that we were almost 3 hours late.

The drive over was either a lot of fun or nerve-wracking, depending on which one of us you asked. I have a feeling that by the end of this trip, Esther will either never want to get in a car again or will be one more of the crazy drivers that you find in these latitudes.

After getting some food and refreshment at the hotel, we sat down with the hotel’s travel agent to book the trains over to Varanasi. We knew that finding spaces on those trains could be challenging so we had to book the in advance. Somehow after a few minutes talking to the agent we found ourselves breaking my cardinal rule of my trips, No planning!

We now have a driver for the first week or so, as well as hotels, trains and everything booked until we are due to leave India on the sixth. I’m not sure how I feel about this yet.

On the one-hand it’s nice to have a driver to take us around, avoid the hassles of looking for transport and ending up stuck in a local bus. On the other hand, I kind of like those hassles and buses. In any case, I saw Esther’s look of relief when everything was booked and at the end of the day, that’s what matters. We are travelling together and if she’s happy, That’s all I need.

Now all that was over, we could begin our exploration of Delhi! Our driver, Kundeep, turns out to be a great guy. He’s been doing this for 24 years, has a solid FB following and books full of raving comments from past clients. He took us around to the best known sites of New Delhi and it was a mixed bag.

Some sites are amazing and we feel like we should have stayed a little longer. Places like the Lodi gardens and the Qutab Minar deserve time to see properly.

Other places were not so great. The Laxmi temple, Indira Ghandi memorial and the government building are ok if you have time to spare but I could have done without them.

Overall it was a good day, by the time we got back to the hotel we were wrecked and ended passing out on the beds and waking up at 6 am the next day. We’ll see what tomorrow brings!

New trip: India and Nepal!

It’s been a while since I posted on this site but I think now is a good time to let you all know that in just 3 weeks I’ll be heading over to India and Nepal for a one month tour through these two beautiful countries.

This will be my second time travelling to Nepal which is exhilarating for me as it is one of the countries that reignited my passion for travelling and where I really fell in love with travel photography. It’s also going to be a shock to go back to Nepal after the tragic earthquake they had in 2015.

Not all of these beautiful temples are still standing

As usual I’m not 100% sure of what I’ll be seeing and when but I’ll be keeping you all up to date on my progress. We will be landing in Delhi on the 23rd of September and flying back from Kathmandu on the 20th of October. All we need to figure out is how to get from one place to the other.

For this trip I’ll be taking the wonderful X-Pro2 and a small selection of lenses instead of the X100S. I feel like I’ll need a little more flexibility on this trip so the X100S might be a little limiting. I ahve also recently obtained the new 23mm f2 lens for the X-Pro2 so I’ll still have my trusty 35mm POV.

These are the kinds of views for which I’ll be needing my trusty lenses.

 

In my next post I’ll try to compare my travel setup on this trip compared to my last Nepal trip and see how my travelling has changed in the last 4 years! If you’re interested in reading my packing list from 4 years ago, you can read it right here. You can also read through my posts from that trip my clicking on the link to posts from September 2013.

So, here’s how I ended up on a plane to Tehran…

I’m a lucky guy. I work for a tech company that gives us an extra month of vacation every five years so we can take a “sabbatical”. As you can imagine this means that everyone spends their first five years counting down to this magical month. Plans are made, discussed, debated and refined down to the smallest detail.

My plan was to go to New Zealand. It had been a dream of mine for many years to go and rent a camper for 4 weeks and drive around the North and South Island.  I had even planned and additional 2 weeks in Australia to see Sydney and maybe Ayers rock?

As I said, this plan was pretty much researched and decided upon since I joined the company back in 2010. In the meantime, I developed a passion for travel to places that were more off the established tourist track. By this I do not mean places that are hard to travel in, rather places that have not been taken over by the tourist horde.

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No Thanks!

So In early 2015 I heard of the opportunity to take a 2 week trip curated by Nate, a photographer I had been following for a while(http://www.yomadic.com/) . He had previously done a similar trip through the Balkans and I was very excited at the idea of joining a trip through Iran!

When you mention Iran, many things come to mind. For many people I encountered the first thing that came to mind was: “DANGER”!! Our media likes to keep a simple message, Iran is evil. A lot of people expressed concerns about my safety and joked about me not coming back. I must admit, I made a joke or two as well.

On the other hand, I thought of the wonders of the great Persian empire, of Persepolis and the grandeur of its past. I thought of the people of Iran and their legendary hospitality. I have learned some time back to separate my feelings towards a country’s government from my feelings towards a country’s people.

At this point it’s pretty clear that I changed my 5 year plan on a dime. Gone were all thoughts of New Zealand and I focused on Iran instead. I contacted Nate, sent him my information and a very reasonable fee and I had booked myself on a 12 day trip from Tehran to Shiraz in Iran! It all sounds easy now that I’ve done it but it was one of the most impulsive decisions I have ever made.

I booked the remaining flights, did my visa paperwork a couple of months later and proceeded to go into procrastination mode. You know that feeling when you know you have something to do but you have months to do it? Well I’m an expert at wasting every precious minute up to the very end. For example, my new backpack arrived 2 days before I was supposed to leave., I finished packing at 1 am, when my flight was at 11 am.

By some sort of miracle, I always manage to get to the airport in Dublin with time to spare. I checked in my brand new bag and went through all the usual procedures to get on the plane and to Istanbul. The plane was delayed due to weather in Istanbul and by the time we landed we were 2 hours late. It was raining cats and dogs and my luggage was nowhere to be seen. After an hour of waiting, a baggage handler appears with my backpack, dripping water; apparently it had been forgotten on the tarmac. Did I mention my backpack is not waterproof?

With a sigh I get into a taxi and give him the address for my hotel. I hope it’s easy to find as I have had mixed luck with taxis in Istanbul in the past. Of course, all my hopes are dashed when he leaves me stranded in a cul-de-sac with a soaked backpack, a torrent of water flowing down the street and just the hotel name to guide me.

Long story short, I find the hotel and find my room, I then spread out all my clothes around the room to get them to dry out and go get some dinner and then sleep. I had  booked a shuttle in the morning to the airport so I could get to my flight on time.

The next morning the rain has stopped and I thought I had everything nicely planned to get me to my flight. I get on the shuttle( which was late) and am happily on my way to the airport when I see we cross over to Asia. I ask the driver and of course, the staff at my hotel had gotten me on a shuttle to the wrong airport! Luckily the shuttle driver was able to flag down a taxi for me and I got to the airport in the nick of time. I had to skip the security queues but I made it!

Nate and the rest of the expedition were waiting at the gate and I felt I had achieved something! All of this of course in what was supposed to be the “easy” part of the trip!

And that is how I ended up on a flight headed to Tehran. Please come with me on the trip of a lifetime through the wonder that is modern day Iran!

 

The adventure continues

I hope everyone likes reading long posts because that’s what you’re getting today too!

In Kathmandu many things depend on what they call load sharing. This isn’t people being good and helping other carry heavy bags, it’s a rotation they have of the city’s electricity. You will generally have about 6 hours of electricity in any given day so you need to make sure to have everything ready to charge as soon as the power is back. I almost got caught with no spare charged battery for my camera because of this and it is also the reason I was up and moving at 6:30 am. You see, the fan in my room depends on there being power in the hostel. So I woke up at 6 am covered in sweat and thought I might as well get up.

After a refreshing cold shower, I decided to walk to Swayambhunath or, as we westerners call it, the monkey temple. The Nepalese people are early risers, so there were already plenty of people around at 6:30. I was the only tourist I saw, which was kind of nice. The walk to Swayambhunath is not the prettiest but I got to see a bit of the real Kathmandu. Also, not being hassled by rickshaw drivers, flute sellers, hash dealers and tour guides was a great relief. There are a couple of nice temples along the way. That is the surprising thing about Kathmandu, where you least expect it you suddenly have these huge pagoda style temples and beautiful little shrines.

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I arrived to the monkey temple around 7:30 and I realised I had made it to the pilgrim’s entrance. This is the traditional way of approaching and there are a lot of stairs to climb! Also, if you have any food on you, the monkeys will harass you until they steal it. I had half a bag of crisps which I thought were well hidden but I ended up losing them to an entrepreneurial monkey. The climb was tough but with calculated stops along the way it is manageable. The effort is well worth it as the views from the top are spectacular and the stupa and surrounding temples are excellent. I was lucky enough to be the first tourist there so I got to see a morning ritual (no pictures allowed, sorry) and enjoy the peace and quiet.

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I went back down the tourist side and crossed the first groups of tourists arriving at the temple. Have I mentioned how lucky I was to be the first tourist there? I imagine the experience would have been very different with 2 busloads of Korean tourists milling about and taking pictures of the same things.

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I decided to jump on a taxi to Patan. Patan is one of the oldest cities in Nepal and has its own Durbar Square which is also a World Heritage site. I paid my taxi fare (around 3 euro) and a short 35 minutes after I was there. It was now 9:30 in the morning and there were still no tourists to be seen! I decided I had earned a breakfast (still being annoyed about my lost crisps) so I popped into the only place near Durbar Square that I found open. The place was nice but the breakfast was most definitely forgettable. (Café de Patan in case you’re curious)

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I then paid for a guide to show me around. The guides are reasonably expensive (around 10 euro for a one and a half hour tour) but I felt like I needed someone to show me the ropes. I ended up getting a great guide and I highly recommend him. I have all his information if anyone needs it, just send me a message or post a comment below. He showed me all the temples in and around Durbar Square and some others that were not on my map. He then dropped me off at the Patan museum. I would highly recommend the museum to anyone going. I takes a couple of hours but the information is really good. For example, did you know that Hindu gods don’t always have the same number of arms? Each arm and face of the figure represents a different aspect of that particular incarnation of the god.

By the time I was done it was lunch time so I went in search of food. I had wanted to take a bus back to Kathmandu and it turns out there was a nice Malaysian place on the way from Durbar to the bus station. I headed off into the middle of Patan and I  loved it. I felt like the only westerner in town. Patan is an ancient city and much like Kathmandu has beautiful temples where you least expect them.

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I had a lovely meal of mee goreng at the Sing Ma food court and then caught a bus into Kathmandu. Buses are quite an experience and I highly recommend them as they are one thirtieth of the price of a taxi and just as fast. The way they work is that the fare collector keep shouting out of the window to see if anyone wants to go where the bus is going. If someone does, the bus slows down a bit and they jump on. Luckily I got mine at one of the bus stops where the minibuses slow to crawl to let you get in(but don’t actually stop).

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I got to Kathmandu safely and walked back to the hostel to take a shower. I had drank about 4 liters of water so far and had not gone to the bathroom once. I felt a bit sweaty and hot so a cool shower is just what the doctor ordered. As soon as stepped out of the shower it started to rain heavily and has not stopped since. I am now sitting under a small roof on the terrace writing this blog. I shall attempt to upload it as soon as I am finished. If you’re reading this, I have succeded.

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Tune in tomorrow for more crazy adventures and my trip to the ancient city of Bhaktapur where I plan to spend the night.