CraSh Williams' Blog

Posts Tagged ‘kashmir’

Goodbye Delhi, hello Athens

Posted by Cool Your Jets IV on September 7, 2011

It was time to leave India, not only was there a terrorist attack earlier today, it also just being reported on CNN that there’s been 4.2 magnitude earth tremor in New Delhi! As for us moving on, I’m not sure whether the epic train journey from Varanasi back to Delhi played its part, but I was ready – for the first time ever, Delhi was starting to overwhelm me; too much noise, the constant beeping of horns, people barging past or pushing in front of you and general grime synonymous of India – it was beginning to wear me down.

Don’t get me wrong, this time around was probably my most favourite time in India – we certainly got to see a few more different places with Ladakh and Kashmir being truly memorable and riding the 1st and 3rd highest motorable roads in the World will live long in the memory. Seeing Amritsar and visiting the Golden Temple, to witnessing the Border Crossing at Wagah – a couple of days following both Pakistan and India’s independence. Varanasi was amazing – having heard so much about the place I really was expecting to be whisked back to the 15th century, true, the place was absolutely filthy (but so is every other old part of any Indian city) but the spiritual side was amazing and getting to swim in the Ganges was a great experience.

But there comes a time when you actually stop seeing what’s around you, losing the motivation to drag yourself out to experience something new – after ten months on the road there’s always an excuse to pass something by and over the last few weeks our thoughts are starting to return to friends we’re missing (and a particular cat,) food we wish to cook and eat plus getting back to the ‘real-world’ and the rat race!

Having no plans since being away, we made the decision to fly to Europe; choosing Greece as our stepping stone back to London, flying from Delhi via Bahrain before arriving in Athens – the difference between India and Greece is marked, whereas India has growth of 7%, Greece is having a nightmare with huge austerity cuts, protests almost every day – there’s tough times ahead for everyone.

We’re here for a good few weeks (no doubt adding lots of euros to the economy through quaffing lots of great wine) and planning to visit several of the Cyclades Islands. Tomorrow we take a ferry from Piraeus to Sifnos, a tiny little island with just over 2000 inhabitants. The holiday season is pretty much over and we’re hoping for a relaxed couple of weeks and seeing one or two more places before returning to London…

 

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On the road again – Leh to Srinagar

Posted by Cool Your Jets IV on August 11, 2011

Arriving back quite late and feeling a little subdued, we quickly found a hotel and grabbed a much needed shower. We’d now been in Leh for a good week and had the feeling that whilst it’s a great place to be, we were ready to move on, so quickly set about making plans to move asap. We’d been told that it’s possible to fly – via Delhi or Jammu as theres no direct flight, take a local bus, share a taxi or hire our own jeep. We quickly dismissed both flying and taking the bus thinking a taxi would be the better option, at least doing it this way means we could stop off en-route should something appeal. The distance between Leh to Srinagar is only 432km, not really that far so I was very surprised when told that the journey would take two days, overnighting in a small town called Kargil along the way!

Taxi drivers were quoting us 10,000 rupees to undertake the journey – we’d have the whole car to ourselves and if we left at 7am they guaranteed we’d be in by 7pm, the same day. Feeling a tad despondent, we wandered back into Leh centre and noticed that one of the tour companies had a jeep leaving the next morning and to enquire within… It transpired that their vehicle was going to return empty and we were offered two seats for 1700 rupees each and overnight they would see if they could fill the jeep up.

We took the plunge and thankfully for us we had the whole jeep to ourselves though the journey was epic. In total we were travelling for 14 hours – the roads were a total nightmare and to top it all, on the final mountain a truck coming towards us had broken down on a single track causing at least 200 trucks and cars to be jammed behind him. We really did think that we’d be spending the night on the mountain, possibly the next day. Our driver though had the sense to back up as soon as he saw the situation and reversed back to an even smaller ‘road’ and try our luck there. The ‘road’ being the ‘old road’ our driver laughingly told us it was closed previously as it was ‘…too dangerous…’

I’ve friends who’ve ridden the Worlds most dangerous road in Bolivia and having come down this particular mountain I’d also like to nominate this ‘road’ – in places it was barely 8 feet wide, the road being either very loose sand or rock with large fallen boulders in your way – at one stage we had about 200 goats and two shepherds blocking our way. Eventually we found a way down, utilising a track used by the road maintenance guys which they use to ferry supplies and equipment to the top of the mountain. It was a great adventure though not one I’d like to repeat!

After fourteen hours we arrived into Srinagar, absolutely shattered and ready for bed.

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A Jewel in the Desert

Posted by Cool Your Jets IV on August 1, 2011

City Views

On a whim, we decided to jump on a train and head to Jaipur, the capital city in the State of Rajasthan a semi desert area some 300 km south west of Delhi. Jaipur has just over 3 million people  and only slightly less forts and palaces, though only just and is all the more stunning because of it. Yes, it’s noisy and chaotic, theres elephants and double-humped camels wandering around but it has a nice feel and within is a beautiful old walled city which is fun t0 wander around, It’s also very hot!

Unfortunately, I managed to pick up a dose of Delhi-belly before we left which saw me laid low for the duration of our time there!

However, being able to self-proscribe at the chemist, I managed to pick up some antibiotics and immodium, which was very much needed! Because of my DB it was onlyon our last couple of days we were able to do some sight-seeing starting off with Hawa Mahal – the Palace of Winds, which like most places was built several centuries back and was the place where ladies in Purdah were kept. It was pretty cool (though we later realised the view from outside is better than the one within, which we now know is typical of any palace) and we spent a good twenty minutes(!) wandering around and looking out at the old city.

On our last day we finally got to see Amer Fort, located about 11km outside of Jaipur. Covering a huge area, the fort was built-in the 16th Century and is very imposing – all the hills surrounding the fort have a defensive wall, very much like the Great Wall of China only smaller! We could’ve spent hours there though only managed a couple as we were seeing family later that afternoon so just checked out the man sights – by all accounts there’s a tunnel linking the lower fort to the Jaigarh Fort (which is even higher up,) looking down upon Amer Fort.

We had a great lunch with the family and it was good to catch up with those guys and more family later in the afternoon. Later that evening we went out for dinner early as we had to be up at 4.45am to catch the train back to Delhi!

Tonight we’re heading to the domestic airport to pick up our flight to Leh and at the moment we’re too sure if we’re going to get any internet connection up there – we just tried to buy a pay-as-you-go phone and been told theres no network in Kashmir…

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