Reflection…

It has been just over a year since Jo and I got back from travelling around the world. It doesn’t seem that long ago and yet the memories feel very very distant.
We pretty much landed on our feet as soon as we got back….worries about being able to pay our mortgage were eradicated very quickly; I got offered an IT contract within a week of being back.  Luck? Maybe – but Jo and I prefer to believe you get what you focus on.

Positive attitude leads to positive results – I think that’s probably one sentiment that got cemented during our travels.  Jo and I have always been pretty positive but now I think it’s on a higher level….the glass isn’t just half-full – it’s more than full enough thank you very much!

Maybe acquiring the knowledge that you can bounce back from a double redundancy has removed some of the “what if?” demons that can plague one’s mind.  Either way it doesn’t really matter – we know we’re extremely lucky and we work hard to stay lucky.

We aren’t the only lucky ones – to be honest the vast majority of people in developed countries like England are lucky.  My luck changed before I was born….my parents decided to give me an easier life by emigrating to England.  I guess that was what angered many hard working people during the London riots recently.  People complaining that they have no jobs, no opportunities, no youth centres, etc were just making excuses.  Education is free in our country – if you are willing to make the most of that considerable luxury then there are many opportunities and jobs out there.

Yes some people do have to work harder than others to get what they want – but that’s not a case of being disadvantaged.  Some people are more advantaged than others (maybe because their parents worked hard to put them in that position of advantage or they studied hard at school/college).  That’s a fact – get over it and work smart and hard.

Working harder for what you want is the norm around the world.  So most of those rioters making excuses for their despicable behaviour aren’t disadvantaged – they’re still better off than most people around the world.

Anyway – moving on….I promise to focus on more of the positives in life in future posts (but just needed to get that off my chest!!) ;)

Two years ago, pretty much to the day, we were boarding a flight to India, after spending a week there we would be heading to Nepal….to do our epic trek to Everest. In the coming weeks and months we’ll be doing posts that reflect back on those momentous days.  Better late than never, right!?  Count yourselves lucky – it’ll make for better reading this long afterwards….trust me, people tend to only remember the good bits….but at the time we were suffering….daily!

Now you get to read all about our adventures through rose-tinted glasses and think “ooh, I want to do that”….and then when you do….you’ll be cursing us ;)

 Talking of epic and suffering – today myself and my two brothers, Satpal and Jag will depart from Trafalgar Square in London for an epic bicycle ride to Barcelona. Satpal turned 50 earlier this year – this seemed like the right way to celebrate the milestone.  One thousand miles (give or take a few dozen) over 14 days via Mont Ventoux in France.  Hmm – what was wrong with just having some cake!!?    (We’re hoping we can take inspiration from Nelson’s Column to conquer the French (landscape)!! ;)    We leave Nelson’s Column at 3:30pm (probably 4pm considering Jag’s timekeeping!!) and head 95km south to Newhaven.  We catch a 10:30pm ferry to Dieppe in France….arriving at some ungodly hour (3:30am springs to mind).  I’m not looking forward to the lack of sleep – I get grumpy (yes really….so I wont blog about that!!).  I’m expecting to be considerably more cheerful after Saturday’s ride….I think!

I’ll endeavour to blog about our ride as we go – short sharp snippets via a mobile phone.  I’ll focus on the good stuff….so the posting will probably be very short!!
In other news….Jo’s getting heavily involved with volunteering for next year’s Olympics and I, yesterday, entered next year’s Comrades run (56 miles within a 12 hour time limit).  So there’s a lot going on that we hope to share with you all.  (Hence the reason I brought this blog back to life).

Apparently what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger…right?

Catch up with you again soon….

Sat 


There’s no place like home!

A very long overdue update but needless to say we are back in the UK after completing our round the world trip. There’s so much to tell you about but I’ll keep this posting short as I suspect we’ve lost most of our readership since we haven’t posted since the beginning of the year.

During this year we’ve been to Vietnam, Malaysia, Singapore, Australia, New Zealand, the USA and Canada. We’ve met up with various extended family members and friends – providing some of the main highlights of our travels.

We’ll post more specific stories and photos in the coming weeks. In the meantime, it’s so good to be home again. We’ve missed some of the basic creature comforts, like waking up in the same bed every day (for more than a week!), fresh food deliveries and more clean clothes than you can shake a stick at! Getting all our gear out of storage was like returning from one mammoth shopping trip, opening boxes and discovering all the outfits, shoes, bags and accessories we’d easily managed without for over a year. Plus seeing all our own family and friends has been fab, and we still haven’t seen everyone yet.

Now it’s back into a new routine of work and play – so far we seem to have found a good balance. Anyway, gotta go as Sainsbury’s are due with our shopping any minute now!

There’s no place like home!


Happy New Year!

Just a really quick one this time as it’s nearly 6.30pm in Vietnam and we have some partying to do. Well, its more like have a couple of beers sitting on our balcony in Nha Trang and then have dinner in one of the hundreds of restaurants which are just a stone’s throw from our guest house. Whether we stay up for the strike of 12 remains to be decided.

Anyway, what a year. During our lounging on the beach today, I had time to reflect on the past 12 months (while Sat was busy with chapter 18 of his book) and when I think back to what we were doing this time last year, I have to pinch myself as we’re actually travelling around the world, just as we planned! Suppose I wouldn’t be much of a life coach otherwise – you have to focus on what you want and do everything you can to make it happen.

Not that you need a reminder but here’s a quick zip through 2009 month by month:

January – Sat’s on gardening leave (aka playing on the x-box as much as possible). We spend a week in India with Sat’s parents to determine whether we can spend a few months with them once we start our travels. The weather’s pretty rubbish and we miss our flight back to London! The next time we come to India it’ll be for 4 months – gulp.

February – Sat’s still on the x-box and he starts to make progress on the book he’s spent 15 years planning! I spend most of my time at work career coaching colleagues.

March – An enjoyable weekend in the Lake District for Liz’s 40th birthday. It’s Sat’s birthday the same weekend and Liverpool gift him a 4-1 win over Man Utd! Plans for our great escape are in the final stages and I finish work at KSF.

April – We rent out the house, pack our bags and leave on the first of our 3 stints travelling just after the Easter weekend. We treat the first couple of weeks as a holiday and then it’s in at the deep-end for both me and Sat: me teaching English at the local village school, Sat living with his parents for the first time in 20-odd years!

May – teaching comes to an abrupt halt due to the riots in the Punjab. The weather’s getting hotter and the carpenters making the kitchen cupboards are taking an eternity.

June – a welcome visit from Jag goes by all too quickly so we jet off to Goa for a week. Just in time for the monsoon! At the end of the month Sat and I leave for the very northern region of India called Ladakh. A relief to the incessant heat of the Punjab at 54 degrees!

July – spend the month enjoying Leh and the surrounding areas. Our 4 months in India come to an end and we fly back to the UK on the 31st.

August – the month is spent enjoying time with friends and family plus consuming all the food and drink we’ve missed while we were away, this is particularly evident at the Molyneaux family BBQ and at Satpal & Parm’s 25th wedding anniversary party. The month goes all too quickly and soon we’re packing our bags yet again.

September – a short fortnight with mum back at the farm in the Punjab before going back to Delhi to catch our flight to Kathmandu. We’d been looking forward to trekking in Nepal for ages. Even investing in camping gear (tent, stove, waterproof matches, the lot!) – pity we didn’t use any of it! The decision to trek in from Jiri seemed a good idea at the time – we didn’t think that way 8 days later when we were knackered and desperate for some tasty food!

October – our trek in Nepal continues for the first 2 weeks of the month. We finally get to see Everest and we make some more good friends along the way. Fly back to the UK for the second time on the 21st – countdown to Gill & Andy’s wedding! The 10 days prior to the wedding fly by and the day itself is one that will stay in our memories for a long, long time. Everything was perfect. Then we had to figure out our plans for stage 3 of our travelling – the big round the world trip.

November – This was an odd month for us. Felt a bit in limbo because we hadn’t got anything planned at this point and we were relying on the generosity of family to stay with since our place was still rented out. So we bit the bullet and decided to leave at the end of the month and with flights booked our first stop would be Bangkok on 1st December.

December – a quick skip through Thailand and a week in Cambodia brought us to Vietnam. We’ve been away one month exactly and it’s been a time full of adventures and experiences.

It’s New Year’s Eve and when we look back on the last 12 months, we can certainly be satisfied with our achievements. Sat wanted to write a book (it’s virtually complete), I wanted to spread the good word on life coaching (I do at every opportunity!) and we both wanted to travel around the world (we’re in Vietnam today with many more countries still to visit).

So all in all, a pretty good year in a time where many might not have seen the opportunities that we did. We’re having a great time and enjoying life. We wish you a happy, healthy and successful 2010, and look forward to sharing more of our adventures with you in the months to come.

Love & hugs

Jo & Sat


Good Morning Vietnam!!!!!!!!!!!!

OK, so the title of this one gives our location away. We are in Ho Chi Minh City in the south of Vietnam. We’ve been travelling for just over 2 weeks and I think we’re in the swing of things now.

We arrived in Bangkok, Thailand, on 1st December to beautiful sunshine just as the weather turned bitterly cold in the UK – great timing! :-) A few days in the Thai capital just wandering around and looking at the odd temple (wat in Thai) was all the culture we wanted at that point. We’d seen a lot of the sights there on our honeymoon 8 years ago. The main event was Sat getting his hair cut in a Thai barbers shop for the princely sum of £1! (and this included a head and shoulder massage at the end too!)

This is also an opportunity to introduce Larry. Larry is a llama and he’s from Argentina. Gill and Andy brought him back for us from their honeymoon and thought he’d be a good companion on our travels. Here’s Larry enjoying a beer in Bangkok.

He could never just have the one though!

Until then we’d been uncertain which direction we’d take from Bangkok but decided a beach would be a good idea. The usual locations of Phuket and Krabi were too far south for us so we headed east to an island called Koh Chang.

We’d arrived there during the celebrations for the King of Thailand’s birthday on the 5th December. It’s a massive event and a national holiday so everyone was in high spirits and everywhere was busy. To get to the island we took a 30 minute ferry ride and at the other end jumped onto the back of a pickup truck with benches in the back (aka a taxi) for the ride to the other end of the island and the resort of Bang Bao. We’d selected one of the Lonely Planet choices to stay and had phoned ahead to make a reservation for 4 nights. Luckily they didn’t have the reservation (more on that in a minute) but they did have a little straw thatched bungalow we could stay in.

Cute on the outside but pretty basic on the inside

Cute on the outside but pretty basic on the inside

There was a pier with many souvenir shops and restaurants along it but not much else in this resort, and definitely no beach (OK so we didn’t research it well enough beforehand but we’re learning!) so after 2 nights we went back to the north of the island to the resort of White Sands, booked ourselves into a nice room and stayed there for the next 5 days.

The beach was lovely and the water great for a cooling down paddle

The beach was lovely and the water great for a cooling down paddle

Koh Chang isn’t too far from the Cambodian border so that seemed the next logical place to go when we decided it was time to move on. We did our due diligence and checked with several tour companies before we bought our tickets (that’s important to know, bear with me). So at 7.20 am we were picked up in a minibus and headed for the ferry. So far so good. When we landed on the mainland we got going but ended up at another of the ferry terminals picking up more passengers and then waiting for ages at a roadside cafe for more people. So far this has taken the best part of 3 hours and it should only have been one hour! Anyway, it’s given us the opportunity to get to know some of the other people on the bus. We chat for a long time with a Dutch couple, Ivo and Angela. They too are on a world tour. They’d packed in their jobs and were just over a week into a year long journey so we had plenty to talk about.

The bus finally gets going and stops just short of the Thai border. We’re told to disembark and enter a building where forms are handed out and we’re instructed to fill them in. It’s then we realise we’ve been on a scam bus. Basically they expect you to fill in their forms and they’ll get the visa for you but at a much inflated price. If you don’t go ahead with this, you’re stranded at the border. After a bit of a fraught altercation (there are now 8 of us standing our ground and insisting we are not paying the scammers) they burn the forms we’ve filled in (since we refuse to hand them back given they have all our personal details on them) and we get a refund of about $4 each. We all walk over the border together and fill in the same forms for a second time and pay the correct amount. It hasn’t exactly gone to plan but at least there’s a bus waiting to take us to Siem Reap which had been our original destination.

We’d already been aware of these “scam buses” but they operate from Bangkok so we didn’t think we’d be affected. Clearly we were wrong. Of the 8 of us ‘mavericks’ 6 of us decided to stay at the guest house where the bus dropped everyone off. At $8 a night it was a bargain. A little foray into town for dinner ($2 each) and a few beers seemed just reward for a stressful day!

In case you’re wondering about the $ prices, some of the countries in South East Asia operate a dual currency system so you can pay in dollars for virtually anything.

Anyway, Siem Reap has a really nice vibe to it and we spend a few days there. Our time was spent getting to know the city but more importantly, seeing the ruins at the ancient site of Angkor Wat. There are many temples built several centuries ago and are the main reason people visit Siem Reap.

Sat and I enjoying a moment of shade in one of the ruins

Sat and I enjoying a moment of shade in one of the ruins

Once we’d visited Angkor Wat we were quite keen to press on as Vietnam was high on our priority list of places we really wanted to visit. Another 6 hour bus journey to Phnom Penh would enable us to get our visa for Vietnam quickly. Phnom Penh is the capital of Cambodia and although it has a riverside location, it just didn’t grab me like Siem Reap did. However we did visit the Killing Fields and the interrogation centre/prison of S21 where many of the atrocities and murders took place during the reign of the Khmer Rouge. The stories of what happened are truly horrific and it’s hard to understand why the west didn’t intervene when mass genocide was happening. At least some of the leaders of the Khmer Rouge are now being prosecuted but for many it’s too little too late.

A trip to the National Museum sealed our visit to Phnom Penh and with Vietnamese visas in hand, we boarded yet another bus for yet another 6 hour journey to Ho Chi Minh City. And here we are. We arrived yesterday and did the customary arrival ritual of lunch and a beer! $5 total for the 2 of us! The food is excellent, far tastier than the blandness in Cambodia. They know how to use chillies to good effect here!

This morning we went for our first run since leaving the UK. There’s a park just across the road from where we’re staying and it was full of people exercising – many doing martial arts or T’ai Chi and things like that. And most of them were between the ages of 60 and 80.

Lunch today was at a place called Pho 2000 (pho means noodles) and it’s famous because Bill Clinton ate there in 2000. There are pictures of his visit all over the walls. The food was superb, particularly the Vietnamese spring rolls. Think we’ll be going there again while we’re here.

So that’s the story so far. It’s likely we’ll stay here until Christmas as we hope there’ll be a nice atmosphere here. We sat in a cafe this morning by the river drinking coconut juice and listening to traditional Christmas carols sung in Vietnamese! It’s hard to feel Christmassy when it’s so hot. Especially when you know the UK has ground to a halt because it’s snowing.

Vietnam celebrates 65 years of communism on the 22nd and there are festivities and events being organised for that. Should be interesting to be around for that.

If we have any readers left, then we wish you a wonderful Christmas and a very happy and healthy 2010.

Lots of love

Jo & Sat
xxx


Round the World in more than 80 days

I know we’re long overdue an update on our blog so assuming we still have some readers out there, then this is just a quick one to bring you upto speed on what’s been going on over the last few months.

We spent our final couple of weeks at the farm in India at the beginning of September. The monsoon was still ongoing and everything was lush and green and wet! Our long-awaited trip to Nepal got off to a tricky start as our flight to Kathmandu was cancelled when we arrived at the airport. Soon got that sorted and we were put on another flight the same afternoon.

Our month in Nepal was a mixed bag of experiences and I wouldn’t be able to do them all justice in this short post so we’ll do that another time. We came back to the UK towards the end of October just in time for Gill & Andy’s wedding on Hallowe’en. Both the bride and groom looked stunning and everyone had a fabulous day, even the weather was perfect for the photos afterwards. Will add some of our own photos here at some point.

So, what’s next? I hear you ask. Well, we finally get to do the round the world trip which we’ve been planning. We leave in 10 day’s time for Bangkok and plan to travel around South East Asia, Australasia and North America for the next 8 months. Back just in time for another great UK summer!!!

As well as getting organised to go travelling, the last couple of weeks have been spent fine-tuning the synopsis and first 3 chapters of Sat’s book so that he can send it off to editors/publishers before we leave. It can be a lengthy review process so it’ll be good to get the ball rolling. Watch this space…

So, that’s about it for now. We’ll post our full itinerary in the coming days and hopefully we’ll be back in the swing of blogging very soon.

Jo & Sat
x


Leaving on a jet plane, don’t know when we’ll be back in India again….

Sorry folks, it’s been waaaayyy too long since our last posting at the end of July.  We were quite busy when we were home in the UK in August; what with house-sitting for Satpal and Parm whilst their kitchen extension got built, visiting friends & family, eating and drinking all the lovely stuff we’d missed while we’d been in India, plus we’ve discovered Facebook (shame on us for neglecting our blog!!!).  Highlights of our UK trip included Parm & Satpal’s 25th wedding anniversary party which was great fun, meeting up with Jane from school after 20-odd years and having afternoon champagne tea at Harrod’s together, my matron of honour dress fitting for Gill’s wedding and, of course, the start of the 2009/10 football season!!!

So we have no real excuse for not finishing our stories about Ladakh.  Sat reckoned he’d get it finished before we went to Nepal but given we are currently sitting in Delhi airport waiting to check-in for our flight to Kathmandu, I don’t think that’s likely to happen.  BTW – we stayed at a hotel called Hotel Paradise here in Delhi which must be one of the bigger misnomers we’ve come across in India.  No photos I’m afraid but a pink-tiled bathroom, a broken toilet seat, just one English-speaking TV channel (news only), light blue and pink painted artexing and the scuzziest looking towels and bed sheets give you an better idea.

Well, our bags are packed (again) only this time it’s two big rucksacks we’re living out of for the next month. Our time here in India has come to an end. Mum and dad have looked after us very well, Sat has made great in-roads with his book – he’s on chapter 13 as I type (but is moaning right now as he’s just been outside for a couple of minutes and returned with 7 insect bites!!!) and I really enjoyed my time teaching at the school.

But all good things must come to an end and our next adventures take us to Nepal.  We have a whole month to explore the Himalayas.  A day or two in Kathmandu is all we need before taking a 10-hour bus trip to Jiri (fingers crossed our rucksacks make it with us as we’ve read a lot about theft on this particular trip. Great!) and then we start trekking from there all the way upto Everest Base Camp and around Gokyo Lake.  No time for slacking on this trip. We have a lot of ground to cover and there’s so much to see.  Ladakh provided some good training for us and I think we’re well prepared for this trip. So that’s the plan.  We bought a tent in England as we’d planned to use that along the way but chances are we’ll use the tea houses as they are much more plentiful there than in Ladakh but having the tent means we always have options if we decide to get off the well-worn trails for a while.

We’re both really looking forward to this part of our trip and I’m sure it won’t disappoint.  You can be sure there’ll be plenty of photos as a result (as Gill rightly stated, it’ll all be blue skies, lakes and snow-capped mountains which will bore everyone else rigid) but we don’t care!!!

So that’s about it for now.  We’ll blog when we can and if we bump into a Yeti, we’ll let you know!

Love & hugs

Jo & Sat

xxx


Yak Yak Yak Ladakh

Well it’s been a few days since we’ve left Leh and I’ve finally got round to sorting out some photos for this posting. We’re back in the Punjab – it’s much cooler than when we left it….around 38C (instead of 47C) but with the severe humidity it actually feels worse!!!  (Yeah I know – you just cannot win).  But at least the monsoon has finally started.

Anyway – back to Ladakh…I know you’re all itching to know all about it.  We were there for just over a month – I wish I could say we trekked all over the region and conquered many of the 5000 metre passes, but we all too easily got into the Ladakhi way….relax and unwind!!!

Leh (the capital of Ladakh), where we stayed is at 3500 metres altitude…we actually stayed on the outskirts of the town, at a place called Changspa (maybe up to a 100 metres higher).  The altitude took some getting used to – it actually felt worse than the 4000 metre pass we crossed while doing the TransRockies last year.  Maybe it was the lack of training or maybe the drier air in Ladakh had a bearing (the dry barren land sucks any moisture out of the air) but it really took some getting used to.   We stayed at the friendliest place in town, the Oriental Guest House.  It’s a family run affair, mostly we had dealings with brother and sister partnership, Dawa and Phuntsok, who were amazing….very friendly and going out of their way to help wherever possible.  We didn’t do much for the first week – just getting to know some people at the Oriental Guest House, especially Nigel, from Bournemouth in the UK and David from Vancouver (although his accent gave him away as really a Brit too – actually a fellow northerner as he was originally from Lancaster).  We also did the odd walk up the 500+ steps to Shanti Stupa:

Four hundred steps and counting!!!

Four hundred steps and counting!!!

Shanti Stupa

Shanti Stupa

But the views at the top were well worth the effort.

Worth The Effort

Worth The Effort

The little patches of green in amongst the sand in the picture above (left and right of Jo’s legs!) is apparently the highest golf course in the world – I’m not a golfing man but I suspect this golf course would provide plenty of bunker practise!!!  Also the larger of the two peaks in the above photo is Stok Kangri, a trekkable 6000 metre mountain.  Over the month of our stay at the Oriental we had several schools (from the UK) come to stay.  They were there with World Adventure – their itinerary included projects at village schools in the area as well as a trek to the summit of Stok Kangri.   Lucky kids – all we had when we were at school was a day trip to London Zoo!!!

Anyway we got chatting to the kids from Stamford High School…they seemed like a great bunch – far more switched on than I was when I was their age (but that’s not saying much!).  We made friends with several of the teachers and World Adventure organisers, especially Sue and Carl from Stamford High and Mr Bolton (erm – I mean, Stuart) from World Adventure….hopefully we’ll be catching up with them again soon.

One downside of Leh was that Jo and I did seem to take it in turns being ill.  Jo started with a cold and I took over with severe heart burn…all in all I think we had a total of about a week each of illness during our stay.  I think it’s the altitude – although we didn’t suffer from altitude sickness we did suffer due to the body having to work harder at altitude, hence in our weakened state we picked up several bugs over the month.  Anyway, once we’d recovered from our first illness phase, we decided to stretch our legs by going for a small hike from the village of Spituk.   This is where the Markha Valley trek (a very popular eight day trek) starts from – we were keen on checking out the start since we were considering doing it.  It turned out to be a hard day – hot and dusty, but it was good to stretch the legs.

Bridge Over The Indus

Bridge Over The Indus

Buddist prayer flags can be seen all over the region, hanging from just about anywhere.  Write your prayers and let the wind carry them – what a great idea…and they look great.

Prayers In The Wind

Prayers In The Wind

We walked along the Indus river for a couple of hours, although the terrain was unchanging we did have some great views across the valley.

View Across The Indus

View Across The Indus

We also got chatting to a very friendly Pony Man – we should have asked him his rates as we found later in the week that local firms charge silly prices for organised treks.

Back at the guest house we made friends with some Canadians, Alison, Ali and Heidi…and I can safely say that we still haven’t met any Canadians that we have not got on really well with.  It was the Hemis festival so we shared a taxi with Alison, Ali and Heidi, visiting the festival as well as several other gompas (monasteries).  The Hemis festival is a very famous annual event in the region.  Every 12th festival they unfurl, what is reputed to be, the world’s largest thanka (Tibetan Buddhist religious painting on cloth). The last time it was unveiled was in 2004 and so the next time this is revealed will be in 2016, i.e. we didn’t see it!

The weather was a bit strange that day, we basically had everything – sunshine, rain, hail and snow all in the space of a few hours but (once I purchased some warms socks) it was a great day.  The Hemis Festival itself wasn’t really my cup of tea – it was just chaos.  It was horrible seeing so many westerners impose themselves on what is effectively an important day for the local Buddhist population.  The prime seats around the square were predominantly taken by westerners, while the locals fought to try and get a place to sit (typically on the floor while westerners blocked their view).  Also most of the “press” were westerners and they thought it was fine to stick their massive cameras into the faces of the priests – I’m sure they got superb photos…not!

Crowded Hemis

Crowded Hemis

The VIP section – used by army officers and their western guests – was pretty empty.  There was also a sub-VIP section, consisting of a dozen empty chairs.  This was on the ground – in the way of everyone wanting to sit on the floor and watch proceedings – when I asked the soldiers guarding the empty chairs to shift the chairs or let people use them they said “they’re coming” (meaning their guests)….and an  hour later their reply was the same….another hour later they finally got rid of the damn chairs and freed up some prime seating space!!!

Ignoring the crowds though, there were some great sites – just wish I knew what was going on!!!

Hemis Priest

Masked Priest At Hemis

Masked Priest At Hemis

Dancing Priest At Hemis

Praying For Calm!

Praying For Calm!

Best Seat In The House

Best Seat In The House

After the chaos of the actual festival we headed off to see the inside of some of these great gompas.  It was a refreshing break from the crowds as most of the gompas were deserted – guess everyone was still at the festival.

Tranquilty

Tranquilty

Buddhist Deities

Buddhist Deities

Another Buddhist Deity

Another Buddhist Deity

In the Matho gompa we (the men that is) were allowed in to the oracle room (no not a database room – an all-seeing, questions answered type of oracle!).  The Room Of The Oracles is strictly men only – apparently women would ruin it – I think that’s a great idea….they just needed to put an Xbox in there and a fridge full of beer!!  As it was, the room was dark and ancient – the floor was covered in grain taken from every field in the village to ensure a successful harvest for the next year.  Unfortunately no photos are allowed in the room – shame, as it’s walls were covered with grotesque masks and weapons (no doubt to keep the women out!!).

Architecturaly most of the gompas are pretty impressive – being built on mountains and rocky outcrops (long before they had access to machinery to help them).  Sorry I cannot remember which gompa was which – after a while they all blurred into one.

Gompa

Gompa

If it wasn’t for Allison and Ali I think the tours of all the gompas would have been a bit tedious, but because Ali’s Hindi was so good and Allison’s knowledge of all things Buddhist was very impressive the monks really warmed to us when they showed us around.  Let’s just say I think we were treated to a better level of service by the monks than I think most other tourists.

The next day (being about a week and a half into our stay in Leh) we decided to do what they call a mini-trek.  We wanted to do a trek under our own steam – and the Likir to Temisgam trek can be done from guest house to guest house,  so no need for guides, ponies, tents etc.  In the end it turned out to be quite a mammoth trek – let’s just say I’ve never been so knackered in my life (and that includes the TransRockies last year).

So rather than hack a write up quickly I’ll leave that for another day – I’d do another posting (or two) on our Ladakh adventures.  Hopefully this little write up (and the photos) are enough to whet your appetite for the moment.

We’re off to Delhi tomorrow – flying to London the day after…so I guess we’ll be back in the UK when I get to complete the Ladakh write-ups.  I’ll try not to keep you waiting too long for it ;)

Regarding my book – I’m stuck on chapter 11 at the moment.  Having been away from my baby (aka laptop) for a whole month I haven’t been able to make any progress on the book…Jo’s netbook’s keyboard is a nightmare to work with.  Ladakh did however provide me with plenty of inspiration so it’s all good.  Looking forward to making some real progress on the book in the coming weeks.

Thanks for reading and hope you like the photos – I’d like to think that it was worthwhile me lugging several kilos of camera equipment around in the Ladakh mountains….guess it’s good training for Nepal (incidently we’ve booked our flights to Nepal – we depart, from Delhi, on the 16th of September!!) :)

Take care

Sat


This cannot be India!!!

This is just a quick posting to let you all know we’re alive and well and that we haven’t falled off the world…

We’ve been in Ladakh for just over a week and we love the place. The region (in the north of India) is nothing like the rest of India…it is relaxed, peaceful, clean and beautiful.

The mountains around Leh (capital of Ladakh) are huge, several sticking their heads up beyond the 6000 metre mark.

Leh is at 3500 metres, so it took some getting used to…the air is pretty thin and very dry.

We haven’t done much trekking as yet, just getting used to the altitude and also getting into the Buddist mentality…nice and slow!!!

Tomorrow we’re off on a four day trek – it’s what they call a baby-trek around these parts. It’s pretty easy as it’s around many villages and we’re able to trek from village to village staying at guesthouses (so no hard core camping as yet). After that we’ll see which way the winds blowing…

The weather here is great too – very cold at night (hence sleeping great) and a blazing hot sun during the day.

Taken lots of pictures but since the wireless broadband card isn’t working here – as there’s very poor mobile phone reception around there – so unable to upload them yet.

You’ll have to wait another 3 weeks before you see the pictures – but take my word for it, it’s awesome!

Jul-ley
Sat


It’s difficult to sleep…

It’s difficult to sleep when you’re angry.

The power keeps going.  Most nights we don’t have power.  On Sunday night the power came back but was not full power (!) – it was only 180 volts (instead of the 240 volts it is supposed to be)…hence it was insufficient to drive the air-conditioning unit in our bedroom.  Last night the power went an hour after we went to sleep, even with the power the AC was struggling to get the temperature in the bedroom down below 32C (90F) but once the power goes, you can feel the temperature creeping up….now I know how a lobster feels!  As it gets hotter, while I try to sleep, I just cannot help thinking about the men in charge of the power grid….and it makes me angry.  The temperature is not much hotter than the unseasonal hot weather we had in April but the power worked fine back then – my father, it appears, was correct (there’s always a first time!) when he said it would all change after the election.  It now appears that the power supply was only consistent because someone was worried about being re-elected, hence made sure all the service providers did their job – now that the political process is over no-one cares.

We have a generator, but it is designed to switch off as soon as power comes back…starting it up is a manual process, hence if the power flicks on and then off, then effectively it switches the generator off.  And that is precisely what the power has been doing around here for the past week – bouncing around like Tigger from Winnie The Pooh.

Also the power has been sending a few surges down the power lines – we’ve blown quite a few fuses lately.  Indian plugs aren’t designed to have fuses but my father keeps insisting on using UK (fused) plugs….his new pastime is “changing the blown fuses”!!

Apparently a whole (neighbouring) village had it’s entire electrics fried the other day when instead of 240 volts they had 500 volts supplied to their appliances!!!

This highlights the two “I”s in India…incompetence and ineptitude.  The incompetence of the power company workers, because I am certain they are aware of the problems but are too busy sitting around in their air-conditioned offices to bother getting these issues fixed in a timely manner, and the ineptitude of the people for accepting it….personally I think the power issues are worth rioting over, rather than the death of a man in Austria.  We are lucky, we have air-conditioning and a generator for backup….I’d hate to think how the people less well off are managing.  They rely heavily on the power to run their pumps to get water out of the ground (the only source of water around here) – so no power also means no water.

People are suffering, maybe even dying but no-one does anything – they simply accept it….actually they like doing something…they like complaining (a bit like I’m doing at the moment).

Complaining is a national pastime around here.

It’s getting hotter and hotter….normally by now nature’s self-regulator kicks in and we have some rain, but the skies are clear blue…..not a sign of a cloud to be seen anywhere.  On the news today they said the monsoon is delayed by 10 days in many parts of India – people need this water now.  Today we hit a record – this picture is for real…in the sun!!!!!

54 Celsius (130 Fahrenheit)

54 Celsius (130 Fahrenheit)

In case you don’t know what you’re looking at – that is 54 CELSIUS (130 FAHRENHEIT) in the sun!!!!!!!  (It actually got a little hotter later – going up to 54.7 Celsius!!)

Incidently the world record is about 51C in the shade…think we’re hitting 47/48C in the shade on a regular basis.  I’m always amazed when we see the world weather forecasts on CNN or BBC World – Delhi is consistently the hottest place on earth.  It’s only recently that the Middle-East has started to match it.  It wasn’t always like this – global warming, pollution and deforestation have taken their toll on the Indian climate.

A good friend of ours, Alan (he’s a Kiwi but we won’t hold that against him!!!), recently sent us this link…it’s an article on how India wants to push the use of solar power.  India is already apparently a world leader in the use of solar power – all the hot water around here is solar heated (though in fairness even the cold water tank’s water is hot at the moment!).  Anyway – solar power is definitely the way to go around here…I’m hoping to do some research on the matter and see if  we can get a grant for installation at my parent’s farm.

http://www.greenpeace.org/international/assets/binaries/national-solar-plan

One important fact highlighted by the above document is that Indian land receives around 4 to 7 kWh of power per square metre.  Wow – that’s incredible…this house uses about 6 kWh at the most.

Moving onto something completely different…I’ve made passing comment about the corruption of the English language around here.  Here’s an example which should raise an eyebrow…
A whole different meaning!

A whole different meaning!

At least they still spell “welcome” as “wel come” (yes they do use the space!)….at least this makes me a little more relaxed about the Americans spelling colour without the ‘u’ !! ;)

Laters

Sat


Phase One Almost Complete!

We’ve been at my parent’s farm for just over two months.  It’s been an “experience”!!  I would not be exaggerating if I said it feels like we’ve been here a year.

I’ve had two main goals while I’ve been here and unfortunately I’ve failed terribly at one and haven’t got quite as far as I wanted in the other.

Goal one was to get fit…since the TransRockies I’ve gained a few pounds and I had hoped that with the healthier eating and plenty of exercise that I would lose that weight.  Unfortunately that hasn’t been the case – I actually found it easier staying healthy while I was working because then I had a routine.  Some time ago I wrote a blog posting about the worst thing for training and general wellbeing – inconsistency.  Inconsistency has been the bane of my life (as far as being healthy is concerned) since being made redundant (just before xmas).  When we first got here the weight was slowly coming off, though not as fast as I would have liked (because it is just way too hot to get long runs in – the maximum you can do here is 5km – and for fat-loss that is just inadequate), but I have regained some weight in Chandigarh and Goa.  Also, the food here isn’t as healthy as one would hope – most of the time it’s healthy but my mother has a tendency of making parathas, which are pretty unhealthy, but also too delicious to turn down (yes I take full responsibility for my lack of willpower).  I’ve lost some weight since being here – but it’s insignificant, at least I have stopped gaining weight.

Early Morning Run

Early Morning Run

It’s funny, my brother Jag arrived a week ago, from the UK.  On the way here in the car, while he was sweating buckets, he said “It’s great, I’m burning so many calories.”  If only it was that simple….sweating doesn’t mean you’re burning extra calories.  Sure the heart rate might be ever so slightly elevated in really hot weather but that’s about it.  If burning calories was as simple as sitting in a very hot place then saunas would be the key to sheding the pounds – sadly it isn’t!

The second goal; a  lifelong goal to write a book (which has been rolling around in my mind for the past fifteen years) hasn’t been a total failure.  It’s just that my target was to finish the book before our return to the UK.  I’m on chapter eleven, out of twenty.  The book’s turning out to be bigger than I anticipated – which is probably a good thing – instead of my original estimate of 400 pages I think it will be about 500 pages.  I was actually making good progress, doing about two chapters a week but, again, inconsistency (interruptions from my father, brother and travelling to Chandigarh and Goa) has got the better of me.  I’ve uploaded the prologue and the first three chapters onto HarperCollins’ website.

http://www.authonomy.com/ViewBook.aspx?bookid=9306

If you fancy reading it then please do – if you like it then back it.  If enough people back it then the editors at HarperCollins will look at it.  That would be a big step in getting it published.

My brother, Jag, leaves today.  He’s a “little” strange but his company has been a refreshing change.  It’s funny how people’s expectations can be so different based on what they know or have experienced.  Jag mentioned to one of his American colleagues that he was going to spend a week at his parent’s farm in India…she replied “I love horse riding!”  Horse riding is definitely not on the cards around here – it’s as far removed from an American style ranch as one could expect.

It’s difficult to describe India – you really have to experience it.  But for those of you who have more sense than time, hence aren’t likely to come see it for yourself, here’s a collection of pictures to show you what you’re missing:

Dustproof Riding!

I dont even know where to begin describing this one!!!

Safety In Numbers!

Safety In Numbers!

Did Someone Say Horseriding?

Did Someone Say 'Horseriding'?

Luxury Travel

Luxury Travel

India looks nicer on photos – trust me!  To fully appreciate these photos you need to throw a bucket of sand on yourself, while sitting in a fan assisted oven (gas mark 9 for 2 hours should do it)….oh and don’t forget to have a backing sound track of animals, traffic, people and horns!
There is, however, also a tranquil and beautiful side to India:
Sunworship!

Sunworship!

Kamal (Our Farmhand) Off To Fetch Milk

Kamal (Our Farmhand) Off To Fetch Milk

Morning Rush - The Binman!

Morning Rush - The Binman!

See The Wood From The Trees

See The Wood From The Trees

One thing I don’t think I have mentioned – because I don’t want all the drug cartels setting up shop around here – is that Weed (capital W is intentional) grows wild around here.  It is after all a weed, so it had to grow wild somewhere, didn’t it.  Often you see uncultivated fields with loads of the stuff growing in them.  The farmers eventually clear the weed and burn it (!) and plant crops, but it remains growing by the side of fields all over this region.

Bloody Weeds!

Bloody Weeds!

To be honest I’m surprised my brother, Jag, hasn’t just set-up camp in the middle of one of these fields and smoked himself to oblivion….he’s that way inclined!

I finally managed to spend a bit of time star-gazing the other day (another one of my ‘hobbies’).  The night sky is not as dark as it once used to be, but still it’s far better than what we get in London.  I was, however, hoping for a power cut so that the surrounding villages would go dark.  We’ve had a lot of power cuts lately, but unfortunately none came when I needed it.
The Milkyway

The Milkyway

Looking ahead, we are off to Ladakh on Friday.  Yippeeee!!  I’m really not sure what to expect – we’ve been let down by our other expectations thus far, hence we try not to build our hopes up too much.  Even so – the mountains should be awesome.  We’re going to be there for about one month – we’re aiming to get lots of trekking in…that should help me shift some weight.  The thing I look forward to most – and I hope it happens – is interaction with other westerners.  We are craving ‘western’ conversation – the limited interaction we’ve had with Indians has not been anywhere near as stimulating as we’re used to.

We’re not sure whether we’ll have internet in Leh but we’re taking Jo’s mini-laptop (so that I can continue working on my book) and a mobile data card, so hopefully we’ll still be in touch and able to post some pictures on the blog….so watch this space.

Once we get back from Ladakh we’ve got one more week at my parent’s farm and then we’re back to the UK for one whole month…..so put the beer on ice and fire up the bbq!!  Awesome :)

Thanks for reading.

Sat