Monthly Archives: November 2014

Rajasthan, India 2014

We had one of the best experiences on our trip so far – a 12 day tour through the Indian state of Rajasthan. Rajasthan is slightly south west of New Delhi, borders Pakistan, and is mostly desert. It’s a not a big state, it’s about the size of Montana. Despite this, at different points in history, very large forts and palaces were built; forts and palaces that are indescribably huge and opulent. It’s like having a huge fort and palace built in Helena, Bozeman, Missoula, Billings and minor forts built in lots of other cities across Montana. Kind of hard for my American mind to comprehend.

We hired a car and driver to shuttle us about, it was surprisingly cheap. Our driver, Bhupendra (boopy), was a stand up guy. He was from Rajasthan and was able to share a lot of his culture and history with us, we were very fortunate to have met him.

We only traveled a few hours a day so we had quite a bit of time to talk to the locals. We learned a lot about Rajasthan and its people:
* By and large, we were treated very well. Much more friendly and laid back compared to Delhi / Agra.
* Super hard working people. It seems like life is easier for a select few but for everyone else it’s extremely difficult with really long hours. At our hotels, it was really common to see the same staff every day no matter what time it was
* We met some incredibly good business people. We took a cooking class with a woman who had never worked until her husband died. She had zero schooling because she lived out in the desert. She moved into a city to find work and, over time, she found she had a penchant for cooking and started a cooking class for tourists. She learned English, French, and Spanish from tourists. Her class is the #1 activity in her city on Tripadvisor and she now has enough money to build her own cooking studio. She’s grateful Tripadvisor helped her move from a life of squalor to something much better.
* Tripadvisor seems to be very important. Like usual, we found lots of activities through Tripadvisor and thought nothing of it. Talking to business owners, they remember who helped them set up a Tripadvisor account and a lot talked about how their business and lives changed for the better.
* People spoke a lot about their caste. In the US I had learned that the caste system no longer existed and was surprised to hear people talk openly about it. It was very interesting and educational!
* The wages are not high, we found out that our driver’s salary is about $100/mo or about $3/day. He said his wage is OK compared to other jobs.
* We hadn’t seen other Americans for about a month until we ran into a couple who ‘outsourced’ their retirement to India. They left the US shortly after the Affordable Care Act was passed because ‘the US is no longer the land of opportunity’. Both were still pretty riled up about US politics even though they’ve been gone for awhile. Until that point, Jacquelyn and I hadn’t thought much of politics and after the conversation we realized how little we missed the political scene.

Sadly, our time in India is ending. We are in Goa (a hippy’s paradise!) and will be leaving India from here. We missed a lot of the things we wanted to see (Darjeeling, Varanessi, Kerela, Chennai, Amristar, just to name a few) but we’ve decided that after nearly a month here it’s good to move on.

Enjoy the photos :).

Chris W.

New Delhi / Taj Mahal 2014

We had about five days in the New Delhi area before we left for Rajasthan. Simply put, our time in New Delhi had a hard start. From the time we entered India to the time we left Delhi we had one problem after another compounded by misrepresentation, horrible processes, traffic, pollution, and massive, just massive amounts of people.

With that said, I’m still on the fence as to whether our time in Delhi was well spent or worth a small pile of beans. We did learn one very important lesson about travel in India, something that has helped us immensely in our travel here: experiences in India are bipolar. Here’s two examples:

* On one hand: we have incredibly delicious food available to us, food unlike anything we’ve ever had before. On the other hand: both Jacquelyn and I end up with food poisoning.

* On one hand: we see an amazing site like theTaj Mahal, absolutely spectacular – it’s the Taj f&**ing Mahal! On the other hand: we have an non air conditioned seven hour bus ride full of mosquitoes and no breaks to get back to Delhi from the Taj Mahal even though we specifically booked a bus with air conditioning. There were no openable windows on the bus and the bus didn’t have a bathroom; I didn’t know I had to explicitly ask for a bus with no / few mosquitoes.

I could write for a long time about all of the bipolar experiences we encountered in a very short while in New Delhi. It was really good lesson to learn quickly and come to expect. It’s helped us plan different (make plan A, B and C), fortify ourselves physically and emotionally and make us better travelers for India.

Probably the funniest reoccurring situation presenting itself is the desire of Indians to have their photo with Jacquelyn. Whenever I notice Jacquelyn’s not at my side I usually find her getting photo taken – yup, there she is holding someone person’s baby and getting a photo. The first day it occurred, Jacquelyn happened to be wearing a blue shirt and blue pants so I figured that Indians wanted to have their picture taken with someone who had a ridiculous looking outfit. I quickly realized Indians were not interested in Jacquelyn’s fashion and just really, really, super-duper want to have their photo with her. Not even joking: the police / security at the Taj Mahal had to break up a group of guys trying to take their photo with Jacquelyn. I posted a photo of all the guys trying to get their photo with her and all the guys taking photos at the same time.

No one really wants to take photos with me but I’m OK with that.

We’re in Rajasthan now and things have been going very well, pretty much the complete opposite of our experiences in New Delhi; neither Jacquelyn nor I have any real desire to visit New Delhi again.

Enjoy the photos :).

Chris W.


Nepal 2014

The trip through Nepal was pretty incredible. We ended up staying another week and a half in Kathmandu before leaving the country. During that time we ended up getting some good R&R, visited the medieval city of Bhaktapur, our guide went to some different temples with us in the Kathmandu valley, had some great food and I had my first haircut outside of the US.

The remaining time in Nepal was well spent. We took the time to relax for awhile and recharge our batteries after the rigorous hike in the Himalaya. Much like in the mountains, the Nepali people in the city were just nice, just as hard working and just as great to be around. We traipsed through Thamel and discovered some great Western restaurants. We even found a bar a lot like would be found in the US called Tom and Jerry’s. It wasn’t until we found Tom & Jerry’s in Thamel that I realized how much I missed home – western music was playing, the beer was delicious and Jacquelyn greatly enjoyed her margaritas. It was weird to think that we’ve only been on the road for about two months and already I was starting to miss some of the things I enjoyed at home.

It was fun to see all the people from Europe and North America dress up in Nepali clothes and walk around saying “namaste” while bobbing their heads and holding their hands together. It seemed as though white women in their 20s to early 30s were the most susceptible to acquiring the local’s identities even if the locals didn’t really wear the traditional Nepali clothes or walk around bobbing their heads and saying “namaste”. Overall, it was pretty hilarious. It’s akin to the folks I used to work with that would drink the corporate kool-aid  and become “Mr. or Ms. Corporation” but instead of corporate speak and buzzwords these travelers would speak horribly mangled Hindi and look like idiots. At the very least, I hope their traditional Nepali clothes were comfortable.

It was great to see our guide again and we were really happy he brought us around to different temples in Kathmandu. We really like Sandesh, it’s too bad he had tragedy befall his family but the Nepali people are an incredibly strong bunch and if anyone can handle it, it’d be the Nepali’s.

At the end of the day, we weren’t quite ready to leave Nepal. It was such a wonderful country and we had such a great time there.  Someday, it’d be great to go back.

Enjoy the photos!

Chris W.


Trekking in Nepal 2014

We spent about two weeks walking in the Himalaya before heading back to Kathmandu. We went to a region not too far from Kathmandu called Langtang / Gosiankunda so we fortunately missed the deadly avalanche.

The trek was pretty incredible: stunning scenery, great company, good weather, and delicious food. For the most part, the weather was incredibly good – good temperatures and clear skies. We hired a porter-guide, Sandesh, to help us along the way. We really lucked out, he was a great guy and we enjoyed spending a little over two weeks with him.

The scenery speaks for itself. Never have been around such incredible beauty; I hope to come back again in the future. There’s an immense tranquility at the higher elevations – no planes, no car noises, no Harley Davidson noises, no pollution, no/very few people, no cell phones, no radios, etc. It was so wonderfully awesome to completely avoid all the annoying sounds of humanity, I was quickly brought back to the numerous times I took off into the Black Hill and found my little corner of clarity in nature. The experience was a great reminder that I greatly enjoy being disconnected and having my own tranquil space free from the pollution of others. It was also great that I was able to share this experience with Jacquelyn; she has never hiked in this high of elevation, which is an experience in itself. It’s really hard to describe hiking / walking / trekking above 14,000ft: the sun is brighter, sounds carry further, there’s less pollution, and things just seem so much better!

We met all sorts of people on the trail from many different countries. tree huggers (literally came across a group of Brits hugging a huge tree, they asked me to take a photo of them), individuals trekking by themselves, huge groups of trekkers and porters, older individuals (70s-ish), people with very little gear / preparation (no sleeping bags, no coats, but just jeans and a sweater), and people with every last accessory (including matching bandanna). We did not meet many people around our age (early 30s) and those we did meet were all in Nepal for a short time because they had to get back to their jobs. We met a new group of people we didn’t quite enjoy being around and those are Israeli tourists. Quite a loud and obnoxious bunch seemingly oblivious to those they are around.

In order to pass the time, Jacquelyn and I read books and played cribbage. Before we left, we decided to have a cribbage contest which we aptly called “the Great Himalayan Cribbage Championship”. We decided the winner of the tournament would get to spend $40 or more at a restaurant of their choosing at a date of their choosing. Here in Kathmandu, a $40 dinner for two is quite luxurious. We played during the course of the trek and I was completely victories, utterly defeating Jacquelyn with exactly one victory to her zero. It was a great victory and I will reminder her for years to come.

The biggest surprise was the Nepali people. Talk about a bunch of very strong, very tough, very friendly people. For example, Sandesh, our porter-guide, is probably 5’3″ and I think I have somewhere around a 120lbs on him, but I wouldn’t be surprised if he could bench press me. No matter what, he always had a smile on his face and was ready to go, even after eight hours of hiking misery and two family tragedies (uncle and cousin killed in Annapurna avalanche, child in ICU) during our trek.

We, at least me, didn’t have the huge, life altering, experience that many other people claim to have while trekking in the Himalaya. In fact, I feel pretty much the same as when I arrived. Sure, it was pretty, sure it was great to experience all the cultural difference, and yes it was very rewarding hard work, but it was just another awesome experience we’ve had on our trip – not a life altering experience which completely changes the way I think about life. I am OK with this, I didn’t think anything was wrong with me to begin with so there’s no reason why I needed the life altering experience :).


I broke up the photos into two groups. One group of 83 photos shows the various experiences on the trail. The next group of photos are artistic (if you can call it that) photos of the things we saw on the trail, pretty much mountain views. The second album of full of pretty stuff but no real content.

After the trek we went back to Kathmandu and hung out for almost two weeks. I’ll write about that later.

Enjoy the photos!

Chris W.

Trekking photos:

Mountain photos: