Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Hello Nepal!

Nepal has been a whirlwind of a trip so far with nonstop planning and prepping for our trek. I suppose that's what happens when you arrive after 3 months of traveling in tropical places. We came empty handed and now are fully geared up and ready to go! It was quite painful purchasing everything... as we have it ALL at home. Hats, gloves, fleece jackets, shirts... you name it, we had to buy it! So frustrating. Not to mention the hiking boots I had to buy and break in! Ahhhhh. I will finally be able to relax tomorrow when we are on the trail... or will that be relaxing?? Probably not... have I mentioned how out of shape we are? Thin but without much muscle - not good! Wish us luck :) 

We did manage to escape to Chitwan National Park for a few days where we did a full day jungle walk, bathed elephants and saw some rhinos from atop an elephant! It was action packed but so much fun and we have some great pictures. The bathing of the elephants was hilarious. We rode on top of the dirty elephant and it was shooting water through it's trunk all over us. Then it rolled over and dumped us into the river. It was a blast!

During our first week in Nepal, we were always late no matter where we were going. It was never by a lot, maybe 5-20 min each time but enough to make us almost miss buses, etc. We were amazed at Nepal, thinking this country was always early for everything. Finally, a man in Chitwan said to us, "I think you are still on India time." We both stared at him wondering what he was talking about. For some reason, unbeknown to us, no one bothered to tell us that Nepal and India have a 15 minute time difference. 15 minutes! We had never heard of such a thing and there was certainly no announcement on our short flight over the border. Thank god he told us or we would have missed a bus or flight eventually!

So we are off tomorrow to begin trekking. We are headed to Annapurna Base Camp (12,500 ft) with a detour loop to Poon Hill on the way. We have heard that it takes anywhere from 9 days to 14 days to complete the route so who knows! We are in no rush and just want to enjoy our time. We won't have internet for the trekking so I will be sure to blog as soon as we return!

We will be seeing you all shortly... possibly as early as December 7! 

Love, Al & Nate

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Nate's Birthday Bash!

Nate has spent his last 3 birthdays away from home so he is quite used to it. However, I think this one was a little different... We weren't sure where we would be for his big day and it turns out that we ended up in a very small town called Bodhgaya. This village is where Buddha received his enlightenment and is the most important pilgrimage site in the world - quite religious and a difficult place to enjoy a birthday beer! I wanted to make his birthday special so I of course stressed about this for weeks! We ended up having a terrific day together hanging in Buddha's temple and skyping with our families. 

I took Nate to the fanciest place for dinner and we gorged. We had two delicious chicken dishes with the usual roti and rice, followed by apple crumble. With all this food and 6 beers, it was just $30! It was by far the most expensive meal we have had while traveling but worth every penny. Check out the birthday boy below after licking his plate clean! :) 

We traveled from Bodhgaya to Agra to see the Taj Mahal which was amazing in person. Due to all of the pollution, there's a bit of a haze over the city but it was still spectacular at sunrise. We are now in Delhi and enjoying the big city feel. It's off to Nepal for us tomorrow which is exciting but also very sad. 6 weeks in India was not nearly enough time but we will surely come back again. We are looking forward to some serious exercise in the Himalayas! 

A few things we will NOT miss about India: 

1. being called Madam and Sir constantly
2. being harassed by auto-rickshaw drivers
3. paying for toilet paper
4. mosquitoes
5. smelly, dirty, overcrowded train rides
6. sketchy bars
7. pollution
8. men peeing in public

However, we will miss a lot of things from this country! Obviously the food, you all know that by now... but so much more. It's truly an amazing country to travel through and we are so lucky to have had this opportunity.

It's just one month now (to the day!) that we return home. We are looking forward to moms' cooking, snow, hot showers and seeing family & friends.

See you all soon! 

Love, Al & Nate

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

The Holy City

It feels as though it's been awhile since I last blogged so I must catch you up on our happenings and whereabouts! From Hampi, we took an overnight train to Hyderabad which was a rather over-priced, bustling city with AMAZING food. I realize you may think we talk about food a lot... but the food in India is just simply delicious and must be acknowledged! Hyderabad is known for its chicken biriyani and it was to die for! We did do things other than eat in Hyderabad, although that was our main focus.. We saw a few famous monuments, walked and shopped in the bazaars and went to the impressive Golconda Fort.

From Hyderabad, we hopped a 28.5 hr train to Varanasi. I was very nervous for this journey, thinking how will we possibly entertain ourselves for that long? What about food? And sleeping? Will we kill each other after that long in such a confined space? Well, it was quite the opposite of all my fears. We don't know where the time went but it flew by and was actually enjoyable! We had a good time and neither of us were dying to get off the train when we reached Varanasi. I was so relieved to have this trip behind us!

Arriving in Varanasi was a shock. It's the real India. Smelly. Dirty. Over crowded. Fascinating. It's a holy Hindu city along the River Ganges and it is like no other places we have ever been. The river is unbelievably polluted yet the people believe it to be so holy that they bathe in it each day. You can spend hours walking along the river just watching the people.

When people die in Varanasi, their body is burned and the remains are put into the river. There are six kinds of deaths that don't permit burning and these bodies are dropped with rocks into the middle of the river. During our stay in Varanasi, we saw two dead bodies floating in the river and were told that these were bodies of the homeless who cannot pay for the wood to burn their bodies. Again, this place was so different than anywhere we have been. One of the best aspects of this country is how different each state or region is from the rest of the country.

After a very busy week, we are happily relaxing in the little town of Bodhgaya, which happens to be the world's most important Buddhist pilgrimage site. Next stop: Taj Mahal in Agra!

We are both finally healthy and free of any and all rashes, which is a huge relief as we head to Nepal in a week. I am having a hard time parting with India as we still have so much to see. I suppose that just means we will have to come back :)

We will be home in about a month and are looking forward to seeing our families and friends. Miss you!

Love, Allison and Nate