Goa & Hampi

Nick and I spent 4 days and 3 nights in Goa. Our guidebook described the beaches we visited; Palolem, Agonda and Patnem as hippie backpacker chill outs with cheap bungalows, drugs, and silent (headphone) dance parties. That is the definition of what Nick and I try to avoid, however everyone talks about Goa and we figured we should go.

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Agonda, Goa

We arrived in April and to our pleasant surprise it was dead. Visiting during off-season we enjoyed abandoned towns, quiet beaches and spending time doing absolutely nothing. We hadn’t realized it had been months since we just stopped and relaxed, and it was needed. We met up with our friends form Angola and spent our time eating mediocre tourist food, playing Uno, setting off fireworks, swimming in the ocean and just hanging out.

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After taking a sleeper bus to Hampi it reaffirmed our love for India’s rail transit. In the 2 months we’ve spent in India we will have spent 6 overnights on trains. The system is cheap (subsidized), efficient, and comfortable. We’ve met so many wonderful people on the trains and at the stations. Nick and I have a blast arriving to a city and figuring out the train, tuktuk, Uber, plane and bus systems.

Visiting India during the off-season has been wonderful, however the heat was hard. It’s been on average 105-110 degrees and we haven’t had ac in 3 weeks. We wake up in the middle of night sweating; try taking a cold shower, only to find that the water is turned off. It feels like my clothes are consistently damp, however the perks of the off-season outweigh the heat by a hundred fold.

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Hampi

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We spent time in Hampi exploring the ancient ruins dating from the 11th – 13th century. In the 16th century, this now World Heritage Site was once a thriving capital home to 500,000 individuals. My favorite artifact was a large granite Ganesh, while nick liked the elephant stables in the Zenana Enclosure. We saw many young females with shaved heads and learned that it’s common when traveling to Hampi to offer your hair to the temples. The town was quant, empty, meatless and alcohols free. Every morning locals painted the street in front of their home with cow feces and water to welcome guests. We were told that Hindus believe cows resemble their mothers as their provide nourishment to their fields, thus cow fertilizer is sacred.

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Stone Chariot

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Elephant Stables
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“Take my family’s photo.”

 

The ruins were thought provoking but what I thought made Hampi magical was its landscape. A sea of round granite boulders with beautiful cracks engulfed yellow planes with palm trees. It resembled a scene from Jurassic park. Nick and I spent 2 days bouldering, as it is world famous for its problems. However, since we seem to have lost most of our climbing strength and the blistering sun made it difficult, we didn’t spend too much time on the rocks. It is obvious why travelers (climbers specifically) could spend months in Hampi.

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Bouldering in Hampi
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Crashing on crash pads

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We met our friends from Angola again and it had been nice seeing familiar faces throughout India. We rented bicycles and were told to bike 3 km along the river to spend the afternoon swimming in waterfalls. Needless to say, the next few hours we wandered around banana plantations, got lost in the desert, cooled off in a lagoon (thankfully no crocodiles were spotted) and we reached the falls only to find rocks. It seemed like the bike rental shop and all of the locals along the way forgot to mention the water dries up during the spring. After flipping over the handlebars of my bike and scrapping up my hands we ended the evening with some Uno before taking a sleeper train to Bangaluru.

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Goan Eats:

The Cafe – set veg breakfast, amazing.

New world – expensive organic/veg restaurant, we enjoyed a delectable paneer steak

Little world – cheap tourist food

Feni (cashew liquor) – try the local cashew nuts, cachew fruit or alcohol made from the fruit

Hospet (Hosapete) Eats:

Udupi Sri Krishna Bhavan (across from the bus stand) – impeccable. The set dosa cost 45 R (70 cents) or try some idlis (spongy round fermented rice cake) and vada (fried dough) for breakfast.

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Breakfast Idly and Vada
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Breakfast Puri
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Half eaten set dosa with coriander coconut chutney

Hampi Eats:

Mango Tree – the special thali is huge (130 R)

Laughing Buddha – great hangout overlooking the river

Camel Trek

From Pushkar, Nick and I took a bus to Ajmer, a train to Phulera, and another train to Jaisalmer. Although 18 hours of transit and feeling ill we made the best of our situation and made a friend at 2 am in the station. As we approached our destination, we peered from the window of the train and watched as a massive fort emerge from the sand. It resembled a life-sized sand castle sitting in the middle of the desert, overlooking a gold city below. The inside of the fort was extravagant, however different from the many other forts we’ve visited in Rajasthan. Built in 1156, it holds 3,000 residents and resembled more of an ancient city with crumbling infrastructure than a well preserved historic site.

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Jaisalmer Fort
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The Gold City
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Homes inside of the fort

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Outside of the fort, Nick and I enjoyed good views and, of course, impeccable food. The streets were more quant in Jaisalmer, however as always, honking motorbikes and cows eating trash roamed the lanes. The desert heat was extreme as temperatures reached 110 F and observing nomadic life in the desert was unfathomable.

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Haveli

The next morning, Nick and I began our camel trek. You may be thinking, a little hypocritical, I often write in my posts to do research before riding elephants. Nick and I have looked into riding camels and with Sahara Travels in Jaisalmer the camels are very well cared for.

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Goat escape in a desert village
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mud home

Our guide, Napu, Nick, and I rode our camels in a line for a few hours and visited a desert village. The camels had 1 hump and were taller and more slender than the camels we rode in Mongolia. However, this made sense due to their environment. When the sun became too strong, we relaxed under a tree, what seemed like the only shade for miles. A nearby goat herder joined us, and he and our guide must have had a deal as he gave us fresh milk for chai and in exchange we all drank tea and ate lunch together. Providing fresh milk for our tea entailed taking my empty water bottle, squirting milk into it from 3 goats utters and pouring it into our chai.

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Goat herder, providing us fresh milk for chai

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Over lunch, Nick and I had some touching conversations with our guide. As I was reading, Untouchable, I had many questions about India’s caste system, Hinduism, and woman’s role in society. Napu told us that in the villages, the caste system is still very much alive. It determines your job, friends and who you’ll be arranged to marry. Speaking in perfect English, we were shocked to learn that he never attended school. He could not read or write and this seemed to trouble him. Some of the other boys in his village were able to get an education (none of the females) but he began guiding camel trips at the early age of 14 (he is now 20). He had never left Jaisalmer and said that sometimes when he sleeps, he prays that he wasn’t born in India. We asked him why and he said, “Because Indians follow and change isn’t happening quick enough.” He heard that in China, years ago, they had a similar caste system and arranged marriages and that gave him hope because if a China had changed, India too could change. Nick and I often find individuals that work in tourism have it tough as they idealize Western culture, however are stuck in the confinements of their own.

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After lunch and some deep discussions, Napu let us “drive” our own camels, although they knew exactly where they were going. We spent the next few hours riding along and enjoying the sandy landscape. A dog that had been following us the entire trek was running ahead of us, laying in shade, then catching back up to us. We were told he was a “wild” dog but had recently began following treks. As we passed through a village, 3 dogs attacked the dog following us and had him pinned to the ground. They were going to kill him. When he finally got away there was blood all over his neck and head. Again, they tried to attack but Napu chased them away on his camel (this was a sight!) The dog was persistent and followed us in the heat and hot sand to the dunes where we camped for the evening. When I tried to give the dog water he was extremely uncomfortable, as he had probably zero positive human interaction. However, he soon let me poor water into his mouth.

That evening, we enjoyed sleeping under the full moon on the sand dunes among the dung beetles and mosquitos. We were only 55 miles from Pakistan but all we could see was desert. I woke up several times just to take in the view, and unconsciously check on the dog. The dog got attached again as he obviously was in another dog’s territory. After that, he slept next to Nick and I. I was so concerned for this dog that it seemed silly. Sure, have compassion for all sentient beings and if you can prevent a death, obviously do so. However, I don’t think I was as fixated on this particular dog, rather what the dog represented.

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Sleeping beauty

I felt as if this dog represented all of the street kids in India. I have the ability to give some food and water, enough to survive for x amount of time, however by doing so I habituating a behavior. I am ultimately making the matter worse only to feel like I’ve helped. There are so many people that need help, support and compassion and I don’t have enough for everyone. I felt conflicted. The next morning, I gave the dog a little more water and he patiently waited our group to pack up before eating the scraps we left behind. He had enough energy to hunt a small desert antelope, however was unsuccessful. We rode the camels for a few hours back to Napu’s village where we said goodbye to our guide and the dog.

Nick and I would have loved to do a longer trek, however since we had to buy our train tickets in advance (as they fill up quickly) we were on a constant schedule. India is a large diverse country and 2 months is not nearly enough time to explore it.

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Local Recommendations:

Chandan Shree Restaurant – serves spicy Rajasthani, Punjabi, South Indian, Gujarati and Bengali dishes.

Hotel Fort View – cheap and clean rooms (250 R) with friendly staff and zero pressure to book a camel trek.

Sahara Tours – great camel treks, cheaper than other companies in town, ask for Napu.

Try breakfast from a street cart across from Sahara Tours. It’s similar to a large papadam covered in curry with fresh red onion.

Bhang Shop – This government authorized shop sells a variety of bhang lassis, juices, cookies and candies. It also appeared on Anthony Boudain’s tv show and there are photos plastered on the walls to prove it.

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Jaipur & Pushkar

We arrived to Jaipur, the pink city (although I thought more peach) by train. We ate delectable masala paneer dosas at the train station before catching a 45 R ($0.69) Uber to our CouchSurfing host’s home. Nick and I love Couchsurfing as we meet local people and learn about a city from the inside. Our host’s wife, a professional cook, made us delicious homemade meals and we enjoyed spending time on the rooftop, watching kites litter the sky.

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Jaipur, the pink city

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CouchSurfing at Joshi’s

Our first full day in Jaipur, we visited Jantar Mantar, an observatory built in 1728. This UNESCO World Heritage site included “instruments of calculation” and the world’s largest sundial. After, we visited Hawa Mahal and walked up an ancient tower for a view of the city. Next, we visited Tiger Fort.

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Hawa Mahal, 1799
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The world’s largest sundial

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Tiger Fort

On our second day, we woke up, drank creamy lassis and headed to the Amber Fort. This expansive fort with secret alleys and rooms was built in 1599. It was amazing to see how many tourists were interested in riding elephants when there are warnings in our guidebook and on the internet that suggest not to encourage the poor condition in which these animals are kept and treated. When elephants are being jabbed by their owner, ridden along city roads with honking motorbikes, and have open sores, maybe you should considering walking. Outside of the fort, Nick and I walked to an old stepwell. After, we visited the Albert Museum before running some errands and heading back to Joshi’s, our Couchsurfing host. We spent the evening hanging out with a couple from Angola and discussed hip-hop, corruption and exchanged travel stories.

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Lassiwalla
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Amber Fort

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Panna Meena Baori (stepwell)

After 3 nights in Jaipur, Nick and I packed our bags and headed to Pushkar. Pushkar is known by locals as a Hindu pilgrimage town with a holy lake and over 52 bathing ghats. No meat, alcohol or eggs were served in this town. It is also a touristed hippie backpacker oasis that offered cheap accommodations and food. The town was extremely friendly and Nick and I found that the western influence seemed to have positive influence on the local culture rather than negative like we’ve seen in other parts of Asia. Most travelers seemed to spend 1 week to 3 months there, when we asked some foreigners how they filled their time, they simply said, “drink chai.” After 2-days of exploring and meeting up with our friends from Angola, Nick and I avoided the tempting trap to relax and continued on our way.

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Pushkar
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3 of 52 bathing ghats

Delhi

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India’s capital, Delhi, is home to 25 million people. It’s an enormous city filled with fresh fruit stands, western influence, delectable cuisine and rich culture. Overall, Delhi was less chaotic than I expected and the people were friendly and helpful. Delhi lacked the aggressiveness that I experienced in Kolkata and not only did I feel comfortable, a man told me when I should cut the 50 person metro line, because I was a lady. The smells, colors, and tastes made the city fascinating.

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Hindu Alter
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Flowers drying on the rooftops of Delhi

The first two nights in Delhi, Nick, Dan and I stayed at Mr. Charan’s apartment, through AirBnB. Young guests were in and out and he seemed to be making a pretty decent business from his apartment. He generously took us to a Sikh Temple, Gurudwara Bangla Sahib (as he is Sikh) and was able to give us the behind the scenes tour. First, both genders had to cover their hair and wash their feet before entering. We entered the temple where many people were praying then walked around the enormous pool located behind the temple where individuals splashed water on their heads. It was a beautiful complex and we learned a lot about the religion. We learned that the Sikh religion is a rather new religion and started from a holy war. Sikhs accept every religion; they never cut their hair and most avoid consuming alcohol and meat. Later, we accepted an offering, which tasted like a ball of sticky sweet flour and continued on to the kitchen for dinner.

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Our Air B&B Oasis
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Gurudwara Bangla Sahib (Sikh Temple)

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Hundreds of people entered the kitchen and sat crossed legged in rows. Volunteers handed each person a silver plate, threw us chapatti, which we accepted with both hands, and spooned us dhal (lentils) and potato curry. It was mandatory that we finish all of the food and it was an experience, we were thankful to be included in. This temple served dinner everyday from 5pm- 10pm and anyone, Sikh or not, would be served. Rooms were available and individuals could spend 1 night to 1 month there. It didn’t feel like Dehi’s street community took advantage of these services, and walks of all life, joined together.

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Eating dinner at a Sikh Temple

That night, we spent the evening hanging out with a both locals and foreigners at Charan’s. Charan joked about Sikhs having receding hair lines due to their turbines and a recently married coupled joked about weddings in the north of India being better than the south. We exchanged travel stories with a German, Chinese and Canadian who were also staying with Charan. In this moment, I felt thankful for all of the people that have shaped my travels and added to my global perspective.

The next morning we joined Street Connections on a walk of Old Delhi. Salaam Baalak Trust ran this program, a non-profit supporting street kids. Not only was our money helping this non-profit, our guide was a young beneficiary who spent 14 years with Salaam Baalak Trust. This trust has been working with street kids in Delhi since 1988, and was recently recognized by Michelle Obama. They have contact points where they provide medical care and education to street kids, and 6 centers where they home a total of 6,000 boys and girls. They perform sting operations in factories that rescue child laborers.

We spent the morning wandering around crumbling mansions (homes with windows facing the interior) and embroidery factories. We walked through Muslim, Jain, Buddhist, Hindu and Christian communities. We learned a little about Jainism and how the religion is similar to Buddhism, however more strict. Jains are not only vegetarian, however they will not eat root vegetables as they believe when they are removed from the ground it kills a plants life. A sect of Jainism is nudist and wears masks to avoid inhaling micro insects. We realized that the nude individuals we saw hauling goods on a highway in Kolkata must have been Jains. Later, we visited the largest spice market in Asia and although pleasantly aromatic, we coughed and sneezed the entire time. I learned about the health benefits of various teas, long pepper, black salt (which smelt like eggs), saffron, Indian cinnamon and turmeric. We ended the tour at the shelter home where our guide was raised.

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Embroidery factory
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Asia’s largest spice market
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Sneezey spices
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Drying papadums on the roof

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When he was 5, both of his parents died and him and his sister moved in with their aunt, and only living relative. She treated them as servants and he eventually ran away. He caught a train and that brought him to Delhi. He joined other street kids picking up plastic bottles in exchange for money and got hooked to hard drugs at the age of 5. Drug dealers try to hook children as it guarantees lifelong customers. When a police officer caught him picking up garbage, he sent him to Salaam Baalak. The non-profit gave him the option of returning home or joining their program. He joined, and is now a guide for Street Connections and studying theatre. He had his first feature in a Bollywood movie and will move to Germany to marry his fiancé. An unbelievable story and when we saw the movie feature, awe-inspiring. This program seems to be doing a fantastic job housing, educating, nurturing and mentoring children.

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Salaam Baalak Trust kids

After visiting Ladakh, Nick, Dan and I returned to Delhi and explored the Red Fort and took a cooking class. We eventually said goodbye to Dan, and Nick and I explored Delhi for one last day. We woke up early to meet some locals at Jama Masjid, a calm mosque that sits in the middle of Old Delhi (25,000 person capacity). Later, we visited the  Lodhi Gardens and India Gate.

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Cooking class at Nitin’s home.
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Jama Masjid
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Making friends at morning prayer

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Old mosque at Lodhi Gardens
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Old tomb at Lodhi Gardens
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India Gate

Eats:

Haldiram’s – The most delicious cafeteria-style food and sweets I’ve ever had.

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Haldiram’s tikka paneer and sweet lassi

SodaBottleOpenerWala – A hip and an outstanding authentic Persian restaurant.

Jalebiwala – Best jalebis (syrupy fried dough sweets) in Delhi.

Karim’s – Meat mecca, Nick loved Karim’s roll.

Rajdhani – MUST TRY! Rajasthani vegetarian thalis.

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Rajdhani’s thali

Ladakh

Within a half an hour of departing Delhi we were flying above the Himalayas to Ladakh (land of passes). The snow-covered glaciers were astonishing and soon we were descending through the clouds. All we could see was white until we were eye level with jagged mountains. My heart skipped a beat as I remembered the number of flights that had crashed in Jomsom. I remembered flying next to the remnants of a plane that had crashed a week prior and knew how often accidents happened. However, luckily this flight was in a larger aircraft and anytime that I’m nervous, I put my faith in the universe.

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Landing in Leh, Ladakh
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Leh, Ladakh

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The plane landed at 11,500 feet and we took in our surroundings of white peaks and sandy desert hills. We spent the next day acclimatizing and exploring the town of Leh. There were virtually no other tourists and the combination of Tibetan culture and Mongolian dress made me reminisce. We visited the local monastery where locals practicing Tibetan Buddhism were spinning prayer wheels and reciting “om mani padme hum” (a compassion mantra to relieve all sentient beings from suffering) on their mala beads. We noticed the many closed shops and guesthouses and were thankful we came during the off-season. We were told that in the summer, it’s so busy that it’s hard to even spot locals at the market. As long as we could put up with the cold (high of 40s and low of 10s) then we would be rewarded with authentic interactions and pristine views. As we walked through town we were greeted with smiles and “tashidelay” (hello in Tibetan) or “julay” (hello in Ladhky).

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Tibetan Buddhism
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Mountain Monastery

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Leh is an interesting city. Hunting and fishing is illegal in Ladakh and the town is powered by hydropower. Due to the heavy snowfall in the winter, the town lacks Internet access. The affects of tourism and global warming are very real. It is positioned in between the border of China and Pakistan, which results in a high military presence. There are many Tibetan refugees living in Ladakh who seek independence from China and nearby Muslims in Kashmir who have the support of Pakistan are fighting for independence. This area is rich in diversity and is politically complex.

We passed the Dalai Lama’s vacation residence and explored Thicksey and Hemmis Monastery. We felt lucky to be the only tourists as it made our experience more meaningful. We listened to the monk’s morning prayer and were perplexed when we saw monks with dreadlocks. We were told that these monks recently spent 3, 6 or 12 years meditating in solitude in caves in the mountains. They had no human contact and would only leave the cave at night to relieve themselves. A younger monk would deliver food, and the other monks idolized their sacrifice. I learned about this idea when I visited Nepal, however had never seen any monks who recently achieved this hardship.

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Hemmis Monastery

Later, we visited the nine-story Leh Palace built in the 17th century and Tsemo Fort.

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View of Leh from palace

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We spent the next 6 days trekking, 4 of which were in the Sham Valley. We had some breathtaking views of the Himalayas and starry night sky. The 2 feet of snow and freezing temperatures made for an adventure. We were the first tourists of the season and enjoyed empty campsites and welcoming locals.

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14,500 ft.
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Indus River
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Prayer wheel in Yangthang Village
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“Most villagers are vegetarian, but in the winter it’s hard. We prefer to eat larger animals so we only have to kill once and can feed many.” – Pasang

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We drank butter tea (butter, salt, Darjeeling black tea and water), ate tsampa (ground barley) and enjoyed chang (local barley beer). The royal castles dated back to the 1550’s and a Buddhist monastery to the 11th century, and all had been kept in impeccable condition. On trek, we came across a deceased golden eagle that must have weighed 25 pds. Our guide carried it all the way to the next village where he gave it to locals to use the feathers on their bow and arrows.

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Trekking into Hemis Shukpachen
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Visiting a government school

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On our last day of trekking we were extremely lucky as we saw over 20 ibex. Our guide said that it was rare to see ibex in groups of more than 3 and it must have been mating season. We felt lucky to see them so close and watched the enormous elk sized animals traverse the rock face.

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Ibex

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Trekking to Skindeyang Village
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Hemis Shukpachen
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Tsermangchen Pass

A quote from, The Paradox of Our Age, written on the city walls of Leh:

“We have bigger houses but smaller families; more conveniences, but less time; we have more degrees, but less sense; more knowledge, but less judgment; more experts, but more problems; more medicine, but less healthiness. We’ve been all the way to the moon and back, but have trouble crossing the street to meet the new neighbor. We built more computers to hold more information to produce more copies than ever, but less communication. We have become long on quantity, but short on quality. These are times of fast foods but slow digestion; tall man but short character; steep profit but shallow relationship. It’s a time when there is much in the window, but nothing in the room. – The Dalai Lama

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Indus River

The Coast

Mirissa

After enjoying the tea hills of Sri Lanka, Nick, Dan and I headed south towards the coast. We spent a few days enjoying the prestigious beaches in Mirissa. Although touristed, the sun, sand and breeze were magnificent. The ocean was especially lovely in the morning when there were less people. I found myself hypnotized watching the clear turquoise waves form as tan sand overtook the blue color, then curling and eventually crashing into white froth.

We spent a day exploring nearby, Galle, pronounced, ‘Gawl’. This was a historic fort built by the Dutch in 1663 and a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The colonial buildings gave it a similar feel to Hoi An, Vietnam, however less developed and still had a thriving local community. The 36 hectare fort was surrounded by ocean on 3 sides. We walked along the colonial bastion observing old light houses, churches, and mosques. On our way back to Mirissa, we passed a cricket stadium and watched fishermen floating above the waves on wooden stilts.

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On our last full day, we went whale watching. We joined 20 other foreigners on a double decker boat. As we watched the dark horizon, we saw white towers of water shoot up from the surface (up to 30 feet tall). Finally we spotted our first whale which glided to the surface 50 feet from our boat. In total, we saw about 4-5 blue whales over a dozen of times. We watched as they shot water, slowly moved their bodies, then flip up their tale and dove 1,000 feet, eating krill and shrimp. On average, blue whales are 109 ft long, weigh 180 tonnes, and live 80-90 years. They are the largest living mammals in the world and larger than any historic dinosaur. Did you know that when whaling ended in the 1970s only 5,000 whales or 1% of the population just 200 years before were left? There’s a LonelyPlanet guidebook fact for you!

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Colombo

Before heading back to India, we spent some time exploring the capital, Colombo. Our favorite activity was wondering around the Pettah Markets. The people were friendly and the colorful fruits and vegetables filled the market.

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Ceylon Tea

I originally became interested in Sri Lanka when I noticed one of my favorite black teas, Saint – James, was grown there. Although Sri Lanka has more to offer than tea, I’ve learned more about black tea than ever before.

Sri Lanka’s colonial economy was originally built off of coffee, however in 1869 blight destroyed the crop. Now, Sri Lanka is the world’s 4th largest tea producer (behind China, India and Kenya). The annual value is $1.5 billion dollars. The combination of high altitude, a warm climate and hilly terrain makes it a perfect place for growing tea. By the 1890’s Lipton’s tea plantations were exporting over 30,000 tons of tea from Sri Lanka to London. Today, the majority of Ceylon tea is exported to the Middle East, North America and Eastern Europe. Although Sri Lanka is famous for it’s black tea, it has started producing and exporting green tea and white tea.

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Nick, Dan and I toured the Ceylon Tea Museum outside of Kandy, The Bluefield Tea Factory, and Labookellie Tea Factory outside of Nuwara Eliya. Walking through the 100+ year old factories was fascinating and it was neat to see them still active. The smell of black tea radiated inside of the 4 story tall buildings. The industrial process was very interesting as the only other tea plantation I’ve visited, the process was done by hand.

Regions

Nuwara Eliya- Delicately fragrant, 6,240 ft. above sea level, and known as a smooth tea

Uda Pussellawa- exquisitely tangy, known for it’s medium body and flavor

Dimbula- Refreshingly mellow, plantations located at 3,500 to 5,500 feet above sea level, the monsoon rains and cold dry weather produce a range of teas from full bodied to delicate

Uva- Exotically aromatic, grown at 3,000 to 5,000 feet above sea level, it has a unique flavor and is often blended with other herbs and fruits

Kandy-Intensely full-bodied, plantations at 2,000 to 4,000 feet, this tea is strong and flavorful, it’s often served with milk

Ruhuna- Distinctively unique, platntations 2,000 feet above sea level and known for it’s soil

Sabaragamuwa- smooth and full bodied, plantations ranging from sea level to 2,500 feet above sea level, this tea is known for it’s unique leaf appearance and large particle size

Grades of Black Tea

OP – Orange Pekoe, a whole leaf, delicate brew that varies in taste according to region, biggest leaf, light flavor

FBOP – Flowery Broken Orange Pekoe, a semi-leaf with some tip, mellow

BOP1 – Broken Orange Pekoe 1, a well twisted semi-leaf generally from the low country, malty taste

Pekoe – A curly leaf, light and delicate taste

BOP – Broken Orange Pekoe, a popular leaf size, balance of taste and strength, often mixed with other fruits and herbs

BOPF – Broken Orange Pekoe Fannings, smaller than BOP, popular in higher elevations, tastes stronger than BOP, cheap, drank with sugar or milk, used in tea bags

Dust 1 – Fine granular particles, strong, ideal for commercial brewing

FBOPF Ex. Sp – Flowery Broken Orange Pekoe Fannings Extra Special, a whole leaf tea with many long tips, mildly caramel and sweet

FBOPF1 – Flowery Broken Orange Pekoe Fannings 1, a low country sem-leaf, full bodied, and sweet.

BP1 – Broken Pekoe 1, a larger lead, full bodied, and bright.

PF1 – Pekoe Fannings 1, a smaller size leaf, ideal for tea bags

The Process

Pluck – Tea pickers on average pick 20 kilos of leaves per day and make $4 per day. The tea industry employs 5% of the entire population and mostly consists of women.

Wither – leaves sit and are tossed for 12 hours on a sunny day and 18 hours on a rainy day, 5 kilos of fresh tea leaves turns into 1 kilo of tea

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Withering leaves

Crushed & Roll – self explantory

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Ferment – ferment for 2 hours, similar process to leaving out a cut apple, the tea leaves turn black, gain aroma and flavor, green and white teas are not fermented

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Fermented leaves

Dry – a machine dries leaves for 20 minutes, machines were over 100 years old

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Separate – machines using static electricity separate the stems from leaves, the stems are then used for fertilizer

Grade – see the various grades above

Taste – self-explanatory

Pack & Dispatch – It only takes 24 hours from the time the tea is picked to shipped. Most tea is sold at the Colombo auction held twice a week. The companies that buy the tea flavor it with various fruits and herbs depending on the country in which they are selling.

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*I learned that the difference between golden tips and silver tips (white tea) is that golden tips are sun dried for 1 month, whereas silver tips are only sun dried for 2 weeks.

*If you are into tea, check out another tea post, Tea Tips, from my travels in China.