Into Incredible India

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Blessings for sale, Varanasi.

India, it really is a land of extremes and contrasts. Extreme wealth contrasted by extreme poverty, the highs of the Himalayas to the beaches on the Indian ocean, lush rain forests to bone dry deserts, chaotic cities to chilled out towns or villages and the majesty of the Royal Bengal tiger to the common run of the mill street dog. Although there are some constants, great food, great people and you can be shocked, enthralled and entertained in the same moment, it has a way of getting under your skin in ways other countries don’t. The other constant is a gaggle of fellow travellers who dress in a manner that is to say “I’ve found myself, and have found enlightenment you will never know, now if you don’t mind I have to check on Facebook and post this killer selfie on Insta” – India, as the tagline goes, really is incredible. Continue reading

Bangladesh: River Sides and Bus Rides

 

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The rare Hoolock Gibbon

Bangladesh, often over shadowed by its largest neighbour and, lately at least, in the news for the wrong reasons, is a land criss-crossed by rivers and at times strikingly beautiful is an up and coming tourist destination. We were asked many time why we were heading here, and if we are honest, mainly out of curiosity – curiosity that is reciprocated by the locals. Bangladesh gained independence in 1971 after a bloody war with its erstwhile overlords Pakistan. With a population somewhere around 168m people, it is the most densely populated country on the planet, cramming  in a remarkable 1252 ppl per sq.km! (By way of comparison NZ has just 14 ppl per sq.km). That means we’ve now been to the most densely and most sparsely populated (Mongolia) countries in the world on this trip.  Continue reading

A Khusi Beanie’s Journey

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A Khusi in its infancy

In Kathmandu, wearing Kathmandu gear and visiting a Kathmandu factory, it really was a Kathmandu inception of sorts. After Martina had been working at Kathmandu in Melbourne for the last 3 and a bit years, we were able to liaise with Tsering Sherpa, VP of Retail Operations and Business Development at Sherpa Adventure gear for an opportunity to put a face to the wonderfully warm and stylish Khusi Beanie.  Continue reading

Langtang-Helambu: A Long Walk Home

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Sun setting over Gosainkunda

Nepal’s bustling capital has it all and you can easily have fun squeezing through the hectic streets and enjoying some of the delectable street eats or the plentiful little restaurants, visiting the temples (including the Monkey temple, complete with manic macaques), and, in our case visit a Kathmandu (the outdoor brand) production house. But, after 4 days we were itching to get out and see Nepal for what it’s really known for: its nature, and in particular, the Himalayas. So after getting a few admin items off the list, we’d narrowed it down to the Gokyo Lakes trek that we wanted to walk – only it wasn’t the one we ended up on.  Continue reading

Lhasa to Nepal: In the Shadow of Giants

 

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Sunrise over the Himalayas

After a week in Lhasa it was time to meet up with the tour group that we would be with for the journey through to the Nepalese border. Thankfully, there were no rare units among the 3 Americans, 1 Dutch, 1 Dane and a Pole (Polish, not an inanimate object) and everyone got along. Although one  Indian chap quit the tour after one day as he seemingly was unaware we’d be seeing a number of monasteries , which is odd as it was clearly outlined in the program sent out months beforehand. But the main attraction was always going to be seeing the Himalayas, and Everest, they truly didn’t disappoint.  Continue reading

7 Days in Tibet…So Far

 

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The Potala Palace looms large over Lhasa

After our third 20+ hour train ride in almost as many days we were slowing chugging into Lhasa train station, in what was the culmination of upwards of 3 months planning, sourcing permits, visas and wrangling with tour companies. Thankfully on this train there was no being force fed duck necks by well intentioned locals, there were however majestic views aplenty while climbing up the Tibetan plateau into the biggest city and capital of the T.A.R, the Tibetan Autonomous Region.

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Mongolia Part 2…and Back to China

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#GERlife y’all

After 5 and a bit days of exploring the impressive Gobi desert, we were on the move North, into the beautiful UNESCO protected Orkhon Valley. After several punishing hours in the van over deeply rutted dirt roads and river crossings, the scenery got greener, with eagles buzzing the van and vultures devouring their meals nearby. Thanks to our talented driver Loya, we’d made it to our destination.  Continue reading

Mongolia: A Land of Many Faces

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Sunrise over the Gobi

“I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but I’m pretty sure we’re stranded here”. Queue a litany of ‘Tradie language. As our Taxi driver across the non-walking border between China and Mongolia ditched us, very fortunately for us a bus driver took pity on us and took us to Ulaan Baatar (UB). So began a fairly inauspicious start to our Mongolian expedition. As we waved goodbye to Jingquan, Beijing and eventually China, by the time we’d settled ourselves at our hostel in UB, we had endured 30 odd hours in transit, got stranded between the border posts, hailed a bus, Martina was called upon to mind a Mongolian baby, subjected to an array of fascinating local music, Mark had his phone relieved of him, and we hitched a ride with a local family to our lodging for the evening –  interesting to say the least. Continue reading

Xi’an and Beijing

Terracotta Warriors 2Xi’an: Terracotta Warriors and Street Food

Our last day in Chendgu happened to also be Mark’s birthday so we elected for a chill out day by having some tea and people watching in the ‘Peoples park’, situated an easy stroll from our hostel, before making our way down for what would be our first bullet train in China. 4 hours later, and some window shade wars with the people behind us wanting them down and us wanting to see the vista roll past, we were in Xi’an. Continue reading

Sichuan: Chongqing and Chengdu

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Chongqing: The City of Mountains (and Hotpot)

Yay! We were on our way after six weeks of sort of planning. As it eventuated, Tianjin airline’s food wasn’t half bad and the entertainment was better than the reviews would have us believe. The first thing to notice upon exiting the airport was the heat, leaving a Melbourne winter had left us somewhat under prepared for the sudden rush of heat. Chongqing is a sub-tropical climate, so it gets very hot and muggy at this time of year. It’s also huge, with a population hovering around 30 million it was slightly embarrassing we’d never heard of it. Continue reading