Golden Triangle

Journeys of a Lifetime in October

journeys

I welcome you to a new monthly series on Nomadderwhere, one which highlights the incredible trips one could take in that current month - thanks to a vibrant book called Journeys of a Lifetime by National Geographic. Every month I will pick out a couple adventures from each section in the book in order to provide you inspiration for 365 days from now. Read the brief description to whet your appetite, and click on the trip name for further information (links provided by National Geographic...of course you could be a gritty backpacker and make it on your own).

Across Water

Yangtze River Trip to the The Three Gorges: A trip in early fall through some incredible, mountanous landscapes could coincide with October 3rd and the Chinese Harvest Moon Festival.

The Mangoky River: Madagascar's baobabs and the "slowly-slowly" mentality of the land give me two reasons to desire floating in an inflatable raft across the tip of the big island. October is the last month of reasonable weather before the ghastly heat sets in.

By Road

The Fall in Vermont: Does my longing to going on a fall foliage drive make me an old lady? Either way, I don't care if it means I get to log miles around a beautiful chunk of America and potentially camp out in the cool nights between drives.

The Dolomites: Northeastern Italy gets great weather and less tourists than usual in October, which is perfect if one desires to see sky-splintering peaks, Alpine pastures, and still speak l'Italiano all the live-long day.

By Rail

The Reunification Express: After reading Catfish and Mandala, making the 1,000 mile jaunt across Vietnam seems like a trip worthy of filling numerous journals and marking off loads of "once-in-a-lifetime" experiences from the list. This train would make this trip possible, that is if you're not a crazy/cool cyclist relying on your two wheels.

Trans-Siberian Railroad: Fall colors, warm days, and cool nights - that's quite a list of benefits for traveling from Moscow to Beijing in October via a world famous train ride. The trip takes one week

On Foot

Greenwich Village: True, this area can be enjoyed any time of year, but the crispy atmosphere of fall makes pleasant a couple days of perusing galleries, visiting Edward Hopper's house, and eating at former speakeasies, like Chumley's. Maybe you'll get inspired to "keep moving" while taking in Figaro Cafe, a hang-out of the "beat generation".

The Inca Trail: Dry weather meets the hearty soul that wants to trek through the thin air of the Andes in October. Machu Picchu, Huayna Picchu, and loads of misty sights are calling you...

In Search of Culture

Treasures of Jordan: October is just as great a time as any to hire a car in Amman and hit up some ancient relics of the past in the Middle East. Fancy yourself an Indiana Jones as you bound around the ruddy sandstone of the Treasury of Petra.

India's Golden Triangle: I can attest to the fact that going on this trip in the heat of summer is just plain mean to your boiling spirits, but alas, the relief that comes in October! Agra's Taj Mahal at sunrise, Jaipur's Amber Fort and Rajasthani culture, and Delhi's urban jungle are real experiences to be photographed, reflected upon, and absorbed into the mind forever. Read my blogs from the Golden Triangle here.

In Gourmet Heaven

Bourbon Trail: Another prime opportunity to see good fall color while sipping some classic American spirits. Even though we Hoosiers are supposed to make fun of Kentucky, I've always been a fan of the horse farms and Appalacian foothill country, and I'd imagine pumping some whiskey into the equation wouldn't hurt it!

Central Valley Wine: Go from fall to spring, harvest to planting season, with a trip to Chile for some grape guzzling. The Andes are supposedly visible from every vineyard in this region, which has a unique climate sure to cause some exciting fermentation to occur. Go skiing, walk along the beach, and then go find some good wine in the hills.

Into the Action

Polar Bears in Canada: October marks the start of a great bear-watching season annually, and Churchill is known for their outsized bears. Not as elusive as the tiger, but apparently just as easily camouflaged into their surroundings; a couple days looking for polar bears sound like thrilling days well spent.

Sea Kayaking off Baja: I know I'm going to be taking full advantage of being around Baja in October by partaking in a gorgeous and exciting activity: sea kayaking. Rocky cliffs edging an ample marine world in the blue Pacific waters; it's the stuff of dreams. Check back for upcoming blogs on this very activity.

Up and Away

Flying High in Paradise: Take a heli for a spin (don't worry, you're not driving) around the volcanic islands of Hawai'i, where you'll be dumbfounded by how green and undulating the converging ridges appear. Great weather and better prices will please you in October. I've experienced this flight and loved it.

Fly the Coral Route: Tahiti, Rarotonga, Samoa, Fiji, Auckland, Dreamland - it sounds like purging your wallet for an aerial island-hopping experience in the South Pacific couldn't disappoint if it tried. And with October providing some drier conditions, you'll be able to see the blue silk in 360 degrees around you.

In Their Footsteps

On The Road after Kerouac: Though my opinion on Kerouac's instant classic novel is still unformed, I can't deny the pulsing urge inside me to hop in a car and take I-80 as far as it will take me. Maybe that makes his work a success in that it instills the desire to move for the sake of moving. From New York to San Francisco, such a road trip would be quite a thrill to take while reading the novel and hitting up Denver and Chicago along the way, not to mention the great weather October would bring across the entire stretch.

The Silk Road: Avoid the extreme weather conditions by traveling in October through western China to Turkey and some of the world's oldest inhabited cities. The spanning cultures are sensory-linked with landscapes that could slap a yak with amazement.

How's that brain? Spinning with innumerable desires to traverse continents and climates? Pull out a pen and prioritize your life by putting one or more of these trips at the top of the list. And by planning a year in advance, you'll be quite able to save, prepare, and anticipate the rigors of your adventure in every way. Check back in November for the Journeys of a Lifetime you could partake in next year!

As this is a new series, I'd love to hear your feedback on the effectiveness of this concept. Leave a comment and be my new friend.

India Travel Photographs Galore

See the true beauties from India. Also check out my blogs on India for some insightful musings.

Step in the Name of Water: Day 25

Camel Cart in Rural India

Camel Cart in Rural India

There are many perks to being in India during the off-season, a.k.a. the blistering heat of summertime. I walked into some nicer, yet empty restaurants and mentioned the items on the menu looked quite expensive. This usually got me at least at 20% discount because they needed the business. However, the heat is inescapable and takes a toll on your body, whether you’re baking in the sun directly or lounging in an air-conditioned bus. Therefore, anytime we were in transit from one fantastic city to the next, I was fast asleep across two seats, bouncing around while unconscious with every pothole and corrugated stretch of road. I awoke, sweaty and groggy, when our bus stopped in the middle of rural India. We had reached our destination of Abhaneri where we were to have lunch and a tour of something called a step well. We all anticipated something akin to a circular well with some spiraling steps down to the water. Whoa, baby, were we wrong.

The Step Well in Abhaneri

The Step Well in Abhaneri

It looked like the world’s biggest Tetris game, a gaping square hole in the Earth where people used to descend to the water level and receive buckets of heavenly H20. The steps zig-zagged down meters and meters on three sides, and the noon sun revealed every nook without the hint of a shadow. I could barely stand the heat, but this step well was something that could overcome that discomfort.

Some of our tour passengers stood out on the diving boards, from which people used to plunge into the cool waters. I was nearly certain Lara Croft would soon swing out of the palatial-looking structures that made up the fourth side of the well. Everything about this place, aside from the bats, was magnificent.

Little Boys at the Step Well

Little Boys at the Step Well

We could only weather the weather for about an hour and then returned quickly past the tiny shopping area of town to bus’ AC. But had we not stopped on this tour in Podunk, India, we would have missed seeing this feat of incredible innovation and creativity.

That evening, we all eagerly jumped into the pool at our luxurious hotel in the middle of nowhere, and even though it was warmer than my normal bath water, it was relief to be surrounded by liquid and relax my buoyant muscles. And it only took a somewhat painless rickshaw one kilometer away to find a cheap place on the side of the road to eat (instead of the overpriced hotel restaurant). I, along with four other travelers, ate a simple plate of incredibly spicy vegetables and chapatti for a mere $0.50.

Super Cool Step Well

This day was Indian satisfaction. We saw the extent of India’s untold greatness: incredible rural constructions and fulfilling, cheap meals alongside real Indians. We had both the tour structure and the small discoveries of lone wandering. Perfection.

Bollywood's Kal Kisne Dekha: A Quality Laugh

Best Worst Bollywood Movie Ever

Nihal was a simple boy, bright and charismatic. He moved to Mumbai to go to his dream college and befriend the sweet women who liked him dearly and charm the spoiled ones who didn’t. He pulled some Matrix moves on the bad boys in school (who fittingly wore leather jackets and rode motorbikes) then saved the pretty girl from exploding as she stood over a bomb in a shopping mall. Nihal can see the future…did I mention that? The film is translated from Kal Kisne Dekha as “Who Can See Tomorrow?”

He envisioned the bomb going off and his lady flying into the air, Mafia style. He then goes on to build bombs for his professor, who pretty clearly had evil intentions all along, and then only finds out at the end of the movie that the bad guy was his mentor all along. The movie ends with a car, containing both a bomb and Nihal, bursting out of a building and landing about a half mile away ON TOP OF the bad guy’s boat, who is out on the deck watching the whole things transpire in binoculars. Nihal managed to emerge from the water unharmed, in slow motion, cologne commercial-style.

Believe it or not, I downplayed the details of this High School Musical turned Matrix turned 007 flick. And the entire time, Chris and I were barely hanging onto our seats, curled over in laughter, and video taping the absolute best part out of necessity for later viewings, bootlegging be damned.

The movie was so bad it was brilliant. It was completely worth the $2.30 ticket to get out of the Rajasthani heat and leave with a belly sore from laughter. Don’t take this movie review to mean that all Bollywood movies suffer from poor scripts and extremely skewed views of American cinema. Many of them are pretty top notch. But I appreciated this one even more than I would have a quality flick, and I welcome any laugh lines that come from watching movies like this one.

Great Wall + Indiana Jones Movie Set = Amber Fort: Day 24

A Gorgeous View from Amber Fort

Outside of an intriguing city called Jaipur sits a massive sprawl of buildings that seldom leave people unimpressed. We approached the area and got out on the side of the road to take distance shots of the entire panorama. Brushing off the hats that hawkers placed on our heads for purchase, we clicked the crusting landscape in our viewfinders and prepared for an enlightening, yet steamy day. There are two ways to ascend the hill towards the Amber Fort: walk on foot or hire an elephant to get you there. Seeing as it costs $13 for five minutes on an ellie that gets horrendous care and maintenance, I silenced my desires to roll around on the back of a pachyderm and employed my boots. A couple boys on the way tried to sell us postcards of the site, but never have I been inspired to write a postcard and send it even if it were free…so I moseyed on with them still calling me in my wake.

Touring India on Foot

Touring India on Foot

Our tour leader hired a guide that explained in great detail why we were wandering around on a mountaintop under a blistering sun. The structures boasted both Hindi and Muslim architectural elements, intertwined with a level of craftsmanship not found too often in today’s world. Mosaics caused the palaces to bling, and the intricate stone carving made it possible for the old Mughal inhabitants to develop such things as air-conditioning and one way windows. There were perfume fountains and wheelchair ramps for the royal ladies who couldn’t walk with all the layers of clothing they had to adorn. Every factoid this guide threw at us wowed us, even as our heads were slowly baking in the sun.

Ridin' Dirty...Elephants

Ridin' Dirty...Elephants

Both tourists and Indians wandered the grounds. It wasn’t packed but was easily scattered with interested minds and clicking cameras. It was one of those miracle destinations where the hype doesn’t surpass the reality of the site, and the aspect of tourism doesn’t take away or inhibit the experience from being awe-inspiring. Way to go, Amber Fort, you did it.

In the dead heat of the day, we dropped into the chaos that is Jaipur’s jewelry market, a strip of infinite shops and outdoor informal gem trading that had me thanking my lucky stars I don’t wear jewelry. It’s well known and apparently worthy of hype, but I saved my money and moved on to lunch and the most hilarious movie I’ve never witnessed in a theater. Bollywood, you complete me…

Feeling Balmy and Looking Skyward: Day 22

Chowing at the Sikh Temple

The extent of my knowledge on Sikhism stops at the turbans. That’s pretty sad, which is why putting on a headscarf, washing my feet, and walking up the steps to Bangla Sahib, the Sikh temple in Delhi, was an experience I happily embraced. Red, beautifully woven rugs covered the marble floor completely, and we slinked towards the back, attempting to be discreet, our backpacks bumping into shoulders and blocking the views of those behind us. Within seconds, we were offered a silver bowl filled with a brown, slick, floury, sugary substance that the man scooped into our open hands. It was an offering to be consumed. It wasn’t half bad. Every once in a while, I feel unwelcome and bothersome when checking out a foreign religion, thinking they find this intrusion either disrespectful or amusing and certain that I’m breaking about twenty-nine rules of their godly law. Fortunately, the practicing Sikhs in the room didn’t seem to really care we were there. It could have been over-exposure and the fact that they get lots of tourists following their motions every day. Whatever the case, I basked in the breeze of a hundred ceiling fans and enjoyed the peace of the room that overcame the chaos of the city outside. I couldn’t understand a thing, but being among so many calm presences was satisfying.

A little volunteering of your time in the temple’s kitchen scores you a free meal of lentils, vegetables, flatbread, and other goodies from the Sikhs. And so, we enjoyed. With full bellies and soggy fingers, we then headed to the massive mosque adorning Delhi’s skyline: Jama Masjid.

It was at this religious destination that we felt we were wrong for being there. It was our bad for hanging out in the open prayer area, but the stares were ceaseless and intense. A thick line between them and us was evident. The architecture was imposing and magnificent but hard to appreciate when hawkers nearby were more interested in making us pay for various services and goods than letting us be a part of the moment. And it’s probably necessary to add the heat of the day made us ever-so sticky, which isn’t conducive to a positive attitude towards being a spectacle. But we remained there, with our borrowed coverings billowing in the subtle breeze, hoping to reap from this monument a feeling of awe. If I had any visceral knowledge of Islam at all, I’m sure it would have been a moving experience. I’m not putting Sikhism vs. Islam here, as I really love both followers, but these were two very different experiences and ones I found amusing as an onlooker.

A Friend Among the Hassle

Mudi, a righteous dude

Upon reaching our luxurious hotel in Delhi, I practically sprinted for the area I know best, the backpacker district…Pahar Ganj Main Bazaar. This one stop shopping/lodging/dining/etc. paradise for budget travelers was the first place I planted my feet and bags during my India visit last year, thinking this would be the perfect launching point for both the mountains as well as the iconic Taj and Ganges stops. Surrounded by fellow, like-minded vagabonds, I figured I’d be in good company.

Instead, I befriended a shop owner on the street, while looking ever-so confused during a roti purchase, who convinced me to go on my incredible Kashmir trek. With this connection, I experienced an enlightened perspective on Pahar Ganj and India in general that surpassed what I could have wrangled from a late night conversation in a hostel’s rooftop restaurant.

And so, with our arrival to Delhi, I made an effort to find my old friend and reminisce in the comfortable squalor of the Main Bazaar, which is the main drag where one could buy fruit, internet minutes, a new cheap wardrobe, lodging for $1.50 per night, and I’m certain a slew of unspeakable things. Immediately, I received a cold drink, a quality lunch, and all the insider information I could hope for.

In a place like Delhi (and tourist India in general), it truly pays to know someone without an agenda. To get anywhere or anything in this country, one must understand the art of the haggle, know who to ask for recommendations for anything, and realize (and accept) that everyone has connections for potential commissions on their end. An unbiased opinion hardly exists.

Enter local friend. Making a local friend with no personal agenda is a treasure to pamper, enjoy, and maintain for years to come. I credit my comfort with India to befriending these people who want you to know the real charm of their complex country.

India, Shock with Awe: Day 20

DSC_0047

The last time I left India, just eight months ago, I related the effect the country had on me to a scruffy, irritating, acidic kiss from which I recoiled…and then later longed for. As the horns screamed around our taxi from the airport, I turned to Chris and said, “Home Sweet Home.” He nodded.

This place, upon first impact, is not exactly this easy to embrace and appreciate. In fact, the heat radiating from every passing vehicle and the sun was blistering. Dust already covered my face. The passing vistas revealed some atrocious living conditions, but having already been here on a combined three trips, we were aware of what to expect and how things work in the Subcontinent.

I asked Chris, “If this were your first time in India, what do you think you’d be in shock of right now?”

From this started a sporadic conversation of things that described the crazy differences between our American understandings and the realities of India.

  • The modes of transportation spanning from cars, bikes, and auto rickshaws to camels, horses, and the occasional very hot elephant.

  • The near absence of road rules and the organized chaos of traffic flow.

  • The smog that covers the entire city and reflects back in the eye as blinding light.

  • The smell: a mix of feces, incense, flowers, chicken coups, dirt, trash, spices, delicious food, bonfires, and a few other things indiscernible.

  • The brightly colored sarees, Sikh turbans, and fully covering clothing in +40 degree Celsius heat.

  • The red, rotting teeth edging most open mouths.

  • The roughly one inch space between our taxi and all vehicles surrounding ours while moving at 40mph.

How is a place so rough to our senses so lovable?

India. Over one billion people can’t be wrong.