We decided to rent scooters in yangshuo. With our new friends Nate, Alex and faith,
And the cheapest price was through Alex and faiths guesthouse,for some electric ones.
We were brought down an alley to see our steeds and show our commanding skills to show our vast experience to the renter lady.
Alex went 1st and wobbled his way round in a circle, I zipped around in complete professionalism beeping my horn,
And Nate well... Darted straight for the side of a house, turned on his feet and came back to a stop,
Impressed with our skills the lady let us go driving on the mental roads of china.
We went in search of a decent swimmable river and also a bit of exploring,
Although soon enough we discovered our map was outrageously not to scale, and a mere imaginative doodle
Of what yangshuo would be like if all the sights and landmasses people and shops all huddled together in harmonious proximity.
Faith, our Chinese speaking girl asked a random. Yangshuoian person of the whereabouts of a river, and off we went.
Zipping down country lanes, across busy intersections, Sinead on the back holding on for dear life.
Soon the roads an paths disappeared and we found ourselves negotiating the ridges between paddy fields. Unfathomable water to the left, muddy wattery paddy field to the right,
On a ridge, of loose rock and dirt 6inches wide beneath,. We made fierce progress into the unknown ducking and diving swerving and reversing, flooring it and lifting it. up and over rocks, down and around twists and bends,
Eventually this hardcore off road paddy adventure took its toll on Doris, nates bike.
She was pronounced dead on the scene. She was completely out of battery and had to me coaxed by hand.
We eventually came to a path, an to charge nates bike we must find a shop of any description and plug it in for a few yuans.
Soon we seen a shop, however it lay directly across a large river and with no bridges around we where f*cked.
Until a couple of locals floated along on their bamboo rafts.
They usherd us to roll the bike down the embankment and onto their raft, sail it across the river and plug it in across the way.
We expressed our concerns about rolling someone else's bike down a hill onto a boat made of sticks, traversing the river, and getting it up the other side, but they were all for it. Even fetching a second bamboo raft to put on the 1st , after some time hesitating, mulling over the pros and cons of this voyage we decided to decline their offer and we carried on soon finding a little tea shop ahead.
We decided to plug all of our chariots in in fear of more Doris's happening.
The charge would take about 2hours, so we walked the river to have a look and see if it's clean enough to swim.
There was a few locals swimming the far side, the water was moving quick enough, we deemed it grand and took a run and jump through the 37degree air into the cool river making sure to clench all orifices mouth nose and whatever else to prevent unauthorised water/ inhabitant entry.
The bikes got a 2hr charge and we set of back to town..about 500m Down the road Doris died again, she did not charge.. And neither did ours,
We rang the lady we rented them off, she said she will come and collect the bike,
What she ment was, she was coming out to tow our bike with her bike with a piece of rope. The canadian afraid of certain death declined on taking part. I mean it is hard enough driving a bike on Chinese roads, nevermind driving a bike that is tied to a Chinese person weaving around the traffic
Alex the English guy took Betty and got towed (and survived)
It was now beginning to get dark,
We had to follow the lady to find our way back to town, and the closer we got we lost her in the 100s of other bikes,
But it wasn't far
Now night, Giant bugs were slapping into my face and eyes as we drove.
With each acceleration the light in front would go out
Any hill brought our bike to a crawl, she was dying too..We just made it back before she died
An awesome day was had by all!
Lessons learned here
get a petrol bike:D
First week working in 14 months! We started a job working on behalf of the Victorian Government, handing out free energy saving electric adapters/ powerboards. The VEET scheme. It sees us calling to peoples homes and offering them free energy saving multiplugs for Televisions/DVD players. The multiplug turns the tv off standby when you are not using it.
Normally $87 but yours for free!
Alot of people don't want them an some that do have high mounted tvs with the power cables hidden in the wall.
To get paid you must, take a picture of the Tv, and installation of the adaptor..do some times if you can't install properly,
You must do some creative photography , involving lamps and such...
Ourselves and a Spanish couple sat on top of each other in a tiny van. Bags resting on the roof.
I occasionally reached up to see if they where still there as we raced to border from Lumbini, Nepal, Avoiding cattle and rickshaws and playing chicken with oncoming traffic. Arriving in Sunali, touts popped up immediately, taxi sir?bus sir? Money changing sir.
We went straight to a small resteraunt for a drink and toilet break. Bathrooms typically disgusting, insects falling from the ceiling to certain death, either by drowning in the piss soaked floor. Or being gassed by the toxic fumes they descend through.
After refreshments we changed our Nepalese funds to Indian and went for the exit of Nepal. Marked 'Welcome To Nepal'.
We entered did the formalities and strolled somewhat queriedly over the border weaving through trucks and motorbikes, shit and piss.
'Hey friend Jeep?' 'very good price' Hello Rickshaw? hello!? Varanassi bus?where you going?' 'Hey?!'
Immediately over the border, touts galore, Our white pasty faces, sticking out like a lighthouse in the night, We struggled to find the Indian immigration. As we were in fact walking down a high street, but further investigation down the road unveiled 4 jovial men sitting around a table. Paper work done we said good bye to our Spanish friends and found a bus to Gorakhpur.
After 6 leg compressing hours on our 60 rupee bus we emerged in dusty dark mosquito filled Gorakhpur. We went straight to the train station to find out the story with our train. Avoiding the hundreds of people lying on the ground we qued up and were told to come back in 2hours or so to find out our bed numbers. Outside the station, I, strangely observed men selling sheets of what 1st thought was wrapping paper. But turns out they had rolls of unused packaging from kitkats snickers etc, to be used as mattresses/bed sheets by people sleepng and waiting on the station grounds.
We met a polish couple on the bus who needed train tickets So we all went to an agency beside the train station after some haggling and a very generous self appointed commission to the agent, tickets were bought and we went looking for the least disgusting eatery and had some local Thali.
Time approaching we bid farewell to our new friends with possibilities of seeing each other in Varanasi.
We sat on our bags at the platform fighting off thousands of flies, Mosquitos and weird crawley things. Soon a very long train pulled in at about 21.45, We were due to leave at 22.30, wondering if this was maybe our train, we asked the nearest man, 'no no this is not the one, it will come after this one, I am on the same one'.
Grand so, sat back down, swung at a few more flying disease bags. After 15 mins looking at the train, concerns grew, we asked a 2nd person, 'Yes yes this one hurry' Okaaaay let's ask another person 'yes yes you are in this carriage' Ok so let's get on this one Man on Train: no no you are down there, After multiple "helpful" people we got in to our 1st class cabin.
After a small killing spree of things hanging around we relaxed, As the train pulled off I kept an eye out to see the 1st guy we asked...
We arrived at Rat infested Varanasi Junction at 4.40. Rats popping out of every conceivable crack and hole around.
Weaving between people's legs, scurrying up, down, left and right!!!!!!!
The racket going here is, You get a tuktuk to your hotel, only to find they will drive all over the place bring you to a different hotel, tell you yours is full, closed, burnt down, dangerous, manager is not nice bla bla as they will get commission with the hotel they bring you to.
So to Avoid these shananagins, I went to a quiet corner of the station, creeping around the human sweets and human chocolate bars asleep on the ground. I rang our hostel with only the 4 legged rats listening to our conversation and got them to send a tuktuk for us and ask for me by name, to which they did, and to which we arrived.
After few hours sleep, we set off on a day long adventure to find Sinéad new anti malarials due to the Pokara incident.
After trying at least ten million chemists along the main St and 1 hospital pharmacy we where directed to go to Lanka just south of the assi river in Varanasi.
So after haggling with some tuktuk people. We got the right price and zipped off to Lanka. Once there we found a whole street of chemists, Jay our tuktuk man said he would wait for us no problem. Tried all the shops to no avail, we where told to try in university hospital across the road but it was getting late we would have to go through the emergency dept.
Right so...jay dropped us off at the entrance to the emergency dept. Showed us inside then went to park his tuktuk.
Hands in pockets 'don't touch anything' I thought to myself and told Sinead. People everywhere, place filthy, people coughing and moaning all over the place, Afraid I mite slip on some random bodily fluid on the floor and catch my lip on the syringe being tossed around beside me, I stood against the wall trying to defend myself from a few Mosquitos that where probably feasting on various debilitated people surrounding me and the corridors.
Sinead paid a few rupees told a doc the story, 'need this, can't take that, allergic to this and so on' Doctor just writes prescription for proguanil the one we need and tells us to go to Lanka, 'we did already and they told us to come here!?' Bout 20 mins later we had enough of the doctor who just kept prescribing everything we didn't need or want and went to the chemist in the hospital. To which the head chemist said 'no we don't have it,But you are young, and if you believe in god, you will be fine...'
'Right Jay let's go we'll try in Delhi when we get there..'
Next day, We decided to find the Ganges and have a look around. Krishna who works in the hostel, and sounds and acts alot like Eddie murphy said he'd try find the tablets for us. No shortage of touts here. The 10 min walk to the main ghat from our place at least every 15 seconds you will be asked into shops and followed down the street., Rickshaw friend, pashmina sir, tuktuk? And random crap shoved in your face for sale. We got to the ghat, wallet intact passed some cows through the randomly placed unmanned bodyscanner, and within microseconds. 'boat?' 'special price' 'you want postcard?'candle?'photo?boat?tomorrow?where you from? Some one will shake your hand then try give you a hand massage, and look for money. We then stumbled across Karolina, one of the polish girls we met in Lumbini.
When we arrived in Varanasi the water level of the Ganges had dropped alot after the monsoon the months before.
So all along the banks were big piles of sand, muck ,shite, piss,rubbish and the odd animal corpse. A leisurely stroll along the holy river will have you slipping and slidding, hanging from barriers for your life and negotiating water buffaloes getting "cleansed" in the Ganga. After while the 3 of us came across a burning ghat, which are always surrounded by touts, 'would you like to donate to the family to help pay for the wood?' 'hello sir..there is a great view of the burning from here follow me...' 'burning in Learning and Cremation is Education' There is a hospice nearby who need your help and DONATIONS.' are just a few we got, but there is more, Like 'I seen you take pictures you need to pay and apologise and so on. We had a quick look at the burning and after probably breathing in half of their beloved one we soon headed back towards the main ghat, and bumped into Demonica, the friend of karolinka, who missed her train to somewhere and we all went for dinner down an alleyway in the old town. Karolina got a horrible chicken Burger, so she squashed it into a cup and saved for a dog with loads a puppies she found earlier.
The following day we got up at the crack of dawn to do a boat trip and tour with Scott and Elizabeth an American couple from our hostel, We were on the boat and sailing away at 6am for sunrise.
All the locals where out, washing themselves, their clothes, their teeth in the Ganges, and hotels washing their linens, that's your bedsheets all in a river full off poop, piss, dead animals, dead people and the ashes of the just cremated.
As our voyage came to an end our captain told us how all the money's goes to his boss and bla bla.. give me a tip. We disembarked, dodged a few 'free massages' got offered a few boat rides and made it back to the hostel for some breakfast.
A few masala chai's later we went on a tour of the surrounding temples and the Mughal area where all the silk stuff is handmade. No cameras or shoes allowed in the temples, must me left outside where you pay to get em back.
Did see a snake in the grass at one of the temples which is supposed to be goodluck.
As part of the tour we were sat in a showroom of sarees, silk bed covers and scarfs, shown one after another after another, 'so which do you like to buy?' which colour you like? Want to see more? and so on, a few more minutes of this passed so we got up and left, Cheers to Subh Laxmi for sorting that out for us... Tried to find the lotus cafe in the afternoon but got lost near Assi ghat and spent a while talking to kids selling flowers and candles, and other people. Sinead got henna done by Gupi's wife in the afternoon, owners of the guesthouse.
We got the afternoon train to Delhi from Varanasi. Leaving at 2pm arriving 5.10am. we boarded train and found our cabin no problem this time, except we found a woman in our cabin saying it was hers, but out she went.
Got some tea and Thali along the way, Some cleaning and pesticide people burst in eagerly cleaning and squirting stuff around as I had my dinner. But I suppose at least they tried.. We where to be picked up at exit of platform one, which we eventually found and were met by a possibly happy, moustached taxi man. After being sent back and forth to different exits by the parking attendants our driver floored the gas powered van out the exit/entrance, not paying. The attendants hit the van as we zoomed by.
Driving through Delhi in the early hours, it was dark, smokey and grouped with people sleeping in doorways, on their rickshaws and other such places, gathered around the smoulderings of burning rubbish adding to the pollution. We booked Mystic Moments in pitampura area, as recommended by our Amerian friends we met in Varanasi. They had stayed here just prior to meeting us. Run by Manu and his daughter, Mystic moments was a nice place to stay. Manu a retired doctor, somewhat converted his clinic/ home into a Guesthouse. He has travelled all over India and was a great help in planning the next couple stops for us.. After checking in and paying we got into our room, killed a bunch of mosquitoes and got some sleep! Next morning at breakfast we met An English/ south Korean couple, Simon and Jayoung.
They had just left South Korea to do some travelling starting in India, and as we all shared plans, and were heading the same way we agreed to travel the next few stops across Rajasthan together.. And also the one we where currently in, Delhi.
So after breakfast, safety in Numbers we made way to the city centre. We asked the Price of a Rickshaw to the metro before we left, 20rs. After some haggling outside from 50 to 40 we eventually got the right price. When they cycled they brought us a much longer, roundabout cross crossing kind of way as to confuse us so we would have to use them again.. Once in the metro station we tried to find the ticket window. We had to pass the mounted machine guns and sandbags and go through some bodyscanners and get the tickets. Heightened Security due to Diwali Festival coming up.
Simon, a professional freelance photographer, Mosque Red fort met Daniel twigg. Diwali!! Qutub minar. Lotus temple. First time starting tuktuk Pikwik
Tibet border to Kathmandu,aug 26.
Crossing the friendship bridge and into Nepal our clocks went back 2.45hrs.
The Security much more relaxed here than the Tibetan side, we got 2 90day visas, mine with several wrong dates scribbled across it.
So with visas in hand The 8 of us went to find a jeep to bring us to Kathmandu. The best price was $100 for all of us.
The 8 of us squashed in, with 3 in front 3 middle and 3 in the back,Michael with the gear stick between his legs in front.
The road from the border winds around mountains, through ravines and over landslides, surrounded by waterfalls and raging whitewater rivers. Added to this, is our adolescent driver with a heavy foot and no depth perception, over taking on coming traffic, on bends and over fresh landslides, as the jeep tilts 45 degrees! The sky is on the left and the raging torrents a few seconds freefall to the right.
After an hour and a half or so of gritting teeth we stopped for lunch. First round of daal baht in Nepal for Sinead. Soon we were back in the suicide jeep for NEAR DEATH EXP No_2!!
Completely oblivious to the proximity to death from all sides, our unphased Colm macrae to be, hurtled on, throwing caution and brakes to the wind! Blindly spiriling through the twists and turns of the himalayan foothills, on whatever side suits while picking his favourite songs on the radio to accompany the terror gripping us all.
He casually sailed down one of the most dangerous roads in the world, at the best of times, never mind landslide season!
Soon we arrived in the craziness of Kathmandu driving straight through political protest on the street with armed riot police everywhere. He got us to Thamel just about alive so we reluctantly paid him the money he nearly didnt get several times as a kamikaze driver.
My friend from Nepal, Jigmie booked us into a hotel in Thamel for a few days where we caught up on Facebook and hung around with friends. before we left for Chitwan.
We got a yeti airlines flying pencil to bharatpur. Met by man driving a shell of a jeep clinging on to life. Driving past banana trees and mud huts we arrived at the national park. Shown to our room by two very eager over helpful men, showing us the room the bathroom the wardrobe, the bed,AC, AC remote,the mosquito thing, the various light switches, sockets and so on. To end this financially motivated charade I gave a small tip and they left. We went back outside to check what activities we will be doing and met our guide with huge huge nails! We where paired up a hungro-Italian couple from Qatar for the duration on our programme. Which would start by elephant safari at 16.00... Washing elephants and a Near death with rhinos
Drinking Yak Butter Tea with The Tibetan Nomads of Yunnan. Shangrila. China
Zhongdian, was renamed in 2001 to the fabled lost utopia 'Shangri la' by the Chinese in an effort to boost tourism. It lies on the borders of Tibet, Sichuan and Myanmar amid rolling hills, mountain peaks, plateaus of colorful wildflowers, rare herbs and many wild Animals sitting at an average altitude of 3000 meters. The whole area was once part of Tibet and although the Borders have moved, the Tibetan people and traditions have remained. So if you cannot manage to jump through the hoops involved in getting to Tibet itself, getting here is a good effort.
Getting here usually involves an ass numbing 4ish hour bus ride from Lijiang passing Tiger Leaping Gorge on the way.
The rainy season in is from May to July and September to October, the roads aren't great as it is, so when the rain comes it might be very hard to reach places in the area, and when winter comes around many roads can close.
The old town itself is oozing Tibetan culture, old winding cobbled streets, stupa's lined with prayer flags, and some good old traditional Yak Hot pots. The 300 year old Songzanlin Monastery is well worth exploring, not to mention the giving largest prayer wheel in the world a spin. Each evening the town square comes alive with dancing and music for about an hour or so.
Many people are attracted to the area for its excellent trekking. Treks can go on for as long as you've got time for. A simple not to strenuous day hike, leads from the Shika mountain summit,down through beautiful valleys, forests, colorful meadows, sky blue lakes and past the always watching eyes of a big hairy Yak.
The summit can be reached by the best looking cable car station i have ever seen, all traditionally done up in Tibetan style, complete with prayer wheels!
on our descent we passed some small huts & old log cabins, built by Tibetan nomads who travel with their herds.
Our Tibetan guide met a local nomad and got chatting. The nomad was seeking out his Yaks on his motorbike through the forest. He then invited us back to his cabin for some traditional Yak Butter Tea with some freshly made Yak cheese & Barely bread. Meandering through the long grass, avoiding big Yak bum cakes, we got to a small number of fairly basic and not so element proof, one room shacks.
In the middle of the floor, there was warm burning embers, surrounded by various pots and utensils.
A couple of shelves where home to batches of Yak Cheese, destined for the towns market.
He chatted with our guide, as he brewed our tea and served up lashings of the Yak Cheese.
I peeled it up and opened wide. My face tried to turn itself inside out, like eating the bitterest lemon ever, dipped in sour milk. Although sprinkled with some sugar it went down easier, and i was then offered another plate!
The Yak Butter Tea, was sweet, salty and creamy, and tasted slightly smokey from the fire.
The curious peeking eyes of the nomads little child came around the door, he was trying to figure out who these aliens where. We soon left, thanking the man and made our way back to the cable car station.
Fingers hovering over the confirm flight button.. Passenger details entered. Credit card number in
‘If we click that means we are off to China in 7 weeks ye’. ..aaaaah!
Some more finger hovering, some almost clicking and after some time, in a joint effort we clicked the confirm flights and our plane from London to Beijing on the 10th of July 2011 was booked!
Shit shit shit shit..we are going to China in 7 weeks and nothing is planned!
I tried to keep it quite in work as I wanted to tell the boss before he heard from someone else..
meanwhile I was sneaking off getting travel injections every now and then..
However knew the jig was up when he called me Philleas Fogg and wanted a word..
‘Nigel I heard something there about you wanting to do a bit of travelling?
‘Eh.. yes maybe for a couple of months..ya know while im still young…’
‘Yes that’s great..in the near future?
‘Nah not really maybe in about…Eh.. 6 weeks..’
‘That is the near future ya bollox! Lol’
‘yes I suppose it is lol’
‘alright we’ll talk about it later’
And with that work was sorted. Only 6 weeks and I’ll be homeless in Beijing I thought..
Even the big daddy, the owner of our store,
came into work to say farewell
YOU..are you the one leaving? No im Eoin that’s Nigel over there
The next few weeks was spent looking at maps of the world. Plotting potential routes through countries and continents, by season, transport and by price(all this planning goes out the window when you are on the road)
I booked a tour leaving Lhasa for the 21 of Aug and that was the only thing solid at the moment. That and being homeless in Beijing the 11th July
The date approaching, we got our new backpacks, which would be our new homes away from home for the next few months or even years.
Slowly but surely more packages arrived to fill up or backpacks, sleeping bag liners, travel clothes, adaptors.
The last day of work came as did the last weekend of living with my friend Andrew.
We had lived together for almost two years, had two 37” hdtvs two PS3’s and surround sound in the sitting room all side by side to play games together.
Our neighbours would have hated us except they were travellers and made more noise than we did.
We had a going away party in the local pub and all the friends and gang from work came down. Either to see me off or to make sure I went! After a great night and large amounts of Jack Daniels I awoke in an awful condition with a loose grasp on gravity and a similar grasp on the contents of my guts. I began the arduous task of packing boxes, moving all my crap to my mams house and giving the apartment a clean!
I was to spend the next and final week in Ireland staying with my mam..back in my old room, playing with my dog and having the last home cooked meals for a long time to come!
We Landed in London, hopped on the tube and were met by Sinead’s Uncle Matt, where we would be spending the night.
Sineads camera was shite so we did a little looking around for a new one but didn’t get anything
had a BBQ and a beer and chilled out..
We Boarded our plane the new A380, big on the outside normal on the inside.
first stop Dubai for a couple hours, then Beijing.
About an hour from Beijing, as were nibbling away on our breakfast/lunch or whatever it was…
WWOOOOOOSSSHhhh…the plane dropped about 500m..Sineads can of sprite hit the overhead storage spilling everywhere, people falling and people getting sick..flight attendants trying to get people to stay seated as they strapped themselves in..the captain saying something about damage control….people still trying to walk around..i can only imagine what the toilet situation was like considering the height Sineads can of Sprite got to…
The worst turbulence ever!
After gathering our bags and converting our last Euros and Pounds to Yuan we set of to get a taxi to our Hostel. I knew the price should be roughly 250Y after checking with the hostel
We went to the taxi Q and asked the attendant how much roughly to the area we were going
We asked a taxi ourselves..’700’
We walked down from the main exit and found a taxi for the right price..
The closer we got to the city the darker it got, and as we arrived at our hostel it was night
Tucked away in a dark laneway off a main road behind some tiny local rundown shops..wondering ‘oh god is this the right place..i GPS’d myself continuously..and yes I was in the right area..
We pulled up beside our home for the next week, The Happy Dragon.
Shown to our bed room, quick look around for bed bugs, and a joke or two about the hole in the ground toilet we had a well deserved sleep!
A Free Range Cabbage originating in Ireland.