Sunday, December 26, 2010

Merry Christmas

Merry Christmas to all of you. This year Christmas Eve I am spending in Bangkok. This will be very exotic experience for me.
All the best to all of you.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Beloved Laos

Lao children.
I was a bit afraid of going to Laos. On the way I had heard lot of amazing stories about Lao people, and unfortunately in my mind I created many expectations. I try to travel without expectation and try to appreciate what I come across. But somehow I was expecting to find in Lao great people. I was afraid that I will get disappointed... but finally in one month in Lao I experienced  much, much more than I could ever expected.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

iLisu – the smartest bicycle

Me and iLisu.
Lisu is a beautiful bicycle (if you do not remember why Lisu has this name, go here). Some of its part are not the best quality, but I came to the conclusion that it has to have certain intelligence, it is just a really smart bicycle.
I did not know how long I would have been bicycling, so I decided not to buy any tools to repair Lisu. I just got the spare inner tube. Now I know that Lisu deserve to get his name upgraded to iLisu and here are the reasons:

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Tubing and almost bar fight...

I also spent one day in Vang Vieng. I did not really plan to go here, but it happen to be on the way. Vang Vieng is a chill out place design for tourist. There is whole quarter of pubs and restaurants that are looping friends episodes. I had a feeling that this place completely does not fit to Lao and was very artificial touristic bubble. One of the main attraction of Van Vieng is tubing. One is renting a car inner tube and floating down the river in between amazing mountains. Nowadays this river is also surrounded by the bars for "tubing" tourists. We tubed with Stefan, Vik and another Malaysian guy and stop at one bar where we played mood volleyball. Mood volleyball is just simply a volleyball played on the mood field. Before we start a game we grabbed a beer.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Sticky life, sticky rice

Cutting sticky rice.
When we were enjoying Beer Lao with Vik and Steffan, Kong Ma, local person approached us. He told us briefly his life story:

When he was young his parents died and partially he was  brought up in a monastery. Than he joined American army where he was trained as a nurse. When Americans left, he was arrested as a traitor and spent 3 years in the prison. Now, he has a farm where he grows sticky rice. He invited all three of  us to visit his farm. It happened that his farm was on our way, so we joined.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Religious festival - Vientiane

Local festival in Vientiane.
I reached Vientiane the day before the last day of festival. Many Lao people came for this festival to Vientiane, but for me it was not particularly interesting. But the day after this big festival finished I came across another local and much smaller festival at the Wat very close to my guest house. And this was beautiful. People walking around temple, monks chantings. Also in Vientiane I met again Vik who started to travel with Stefan, French that lives in Barcelona. We started to hang out and together we attended Vientiane festival. When we were enjoying best beer in Southeast, beer Lao, sitting on the grass among many local people. One man approached us. He's name was Kong Ma and he spoke very good English but this is already the beginning of the next story, Sticky Life, Sticky Rice.

Friday, December 10, 2010

River under the monutain - Konglor Cave

Konglor Cave.
I survived fishy and bricky hitchhike and I got to Kuon Kham, the city on the main road 40km before Konglor Cave. I was not sure if I wanted to bicycle 40km, sightsee the cave and then bicycle the same route for 40km. This would make very long day. Luckily in the evening I met two French girls that were on two scooters and planned to see the cave next day, and they proposed that I can joined them as a passenger on one of the scooter!!!

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Fishy and bricky hitchhike...

Exploring caves.
In Thakek I decided to take one day off for me and for Lisu. After quite a few nights I got to my bed and finally there was no light on during the night!!! In the dormitory I met other travelers: Spanish and Italian that were canoeing down the Mekong, and Mr. Vik, Indian-Australian long-time traveler, who is searching for his own place around the world. Next day we went to explore neighbouring caves with Vik and in the late afternoon we split, Vik went back straight to Vientiane and I carried on in direction of Konglor Cave.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Smell of Vietnam

After amazing day in Laos I continue my trip North. My plan was to reach Mahaxai town. During the sun set I was only 10 km before Mahaxai, with the excellent road ahead. Just to make sure about the distance to the town I asked Lao shopkeeper about the distance. Instead of answering my question he organized me lift to Thakhek, much bigger city 60 km further. I did not really plan to go there but I also did not mind.
I loved the way that Lao shopkeeper organized me the lift. In his shop there were Vietnamese people going to Thakhek. He first told me that I can jump on their truck showing me their truck, and then he asked the Vietnamese people if they did not mind. Of course they did not.

I will not manage right now to go to Vietnam. I do not have enough time to visit all countries in South East Asia and I do not want to jump from country to country only after two weeks. I prefer to see less number of countries but more intense.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Amazing day in Laos

My smoking host.
I woke up just before the sun rise in the small village. When there is no electricity, then life is very much linked to the sun rise sun set times. For sure i was the biggest traction in the village and children from the whole village came last evening to see me. My host, old grandfather, was smoking home made tobacco with addition of some home made marijuana from the early morning. No one in the village spoke any word in English, so in the evening we already discussed all the issues by drawing and body language. I received some sticky rice and bananas for a breakfast.

My host was sitting in front of his home.smoking some tobacco and contemplating the surrounding. I joined him in contemplation. On the other side of other side of village there were children sliding from a very small hill on an old tire. They were really good in this. Every ten minutes a motorbike passed by. Someone was going very far, very fast. A pig walked in front of the house. My old men tried to turn on his old radio, it did not work. Probably batteries were too old. So he rolled a new cigarette and spilled through the hole in between the floor. We continue sitting. This was a great experience of "wsi wesola, wsi spokojna" feeling - idealistic calm village feeling. Basically nothing was happening, but at the same time, so many small things were happening. We were sitting like this for a while enjoying the surroundings. After some time my host had to go to his farm, and I jumped on the Lisu and left this quite place behind me.

Rubber trees

Rubber trees plantation.

I went North from Phin. I hoped that the road would be a bit better this time. In the afternoon i reached the village that was kind of surrounded by jungle. I missed my way and had to come back some kilometers.

On the way back I had to cross huge plantation of new trees. This initially made me very happy since

Young hunters.
I thought that this is sort of re-foresting project in Laos. Later i got know that this was the rubber tree plantation and the jungle was cut in order to plant those tree. I got completely lost on this plantation... to many roads. I was about to return and to try to find the way back to Phin, but luckily again I met road builders that pointed me a correct road and in the evening I arrived to a small village.

Village in the middle of jungle.

Friday, December 3, 2010

Lisu, the Explorer of Laos

With Lisu we are doing fine STOP we are heading north STOP today we reached Phin STOP we have many stories to tell STOP but internet is very slow and expensive STOP hope to be able to update you in few days STOP
Miku & Lisu

Ultimate Jungle experience

From Salavene to Phin it is about 160 km on the road 1G, which I mentioned in my last story. I expected that I would be able to cover this road in 2 days, but at the end I needed three very long days for it. As always it was a bit challenging to figure out where to stop for the night.

Children of my host.
At the first dusk, I stoped a small truck. One of the guys on the truck spoke some English. I asked him about the possibility of accommodation for the night, and he definitely advised me to come back few kilometers because in front of me there was only jungle for next 30 km. The truck was full so I could not jump with Lisu at the back. When we finished the conversation, it was already dark, so they told me to bicycle before the truck and they used their lights to lighten the road in front of me. Great experience to ride a bicycle with such a lights. After twenty minutes of crazy ride, we reached the hospital. They advised me that I should search for a shelter in a hospital. I was not very keen on staying in village hospital, but for sure I did not want to stay in the jungle. None in hospital spoke any English, but they showed me that I can not stay there for a night. But they pointed the house of the local doctor, surgeon. The surgeon was a young guy, he spoke only few words in English and he invited me to stay for a night at his place. I am not sure if I understood him correctly, but he apparently had studied only two years to become surgeon... We ate together dinner and breakfast and in the morning I continued my journey north.

Map of Laos - Quiz!!!

In Laos at Don Det I bought a road map of Laos. It was a map printed in Germany in 2004 on a very good paper and seemed to be very detailed and original. On this map I have chosen the road that I wanted to bicycle.

There is a main road going parallel to Mekong from South to North of Laos. It is a very nice, new asphalt road not too busy and I biked on this road for one day, covering the record distance of 135 km. But still this is the main road in the country. I wanted to experience a bit more quite Laos. So I decided to follow other road that was 100 km more east and was parallel to the main road. I chosen the road going from Salavan-Nalangngen – XeLanong–Phin-Xethamouak–Phongsavag-Namon-Mahaxai - Thakhek. This road on the German map was also marked in red like as a National road, the same as the main road, but I hopped that it will be a bit less busy from the main road.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Bolaven Plateau – Land of Coffee and Waterfalls

Coffee, coffee, coffee...
Do you know the taste of condense milk? This taste always reminds me my childhood. You know long, long time ago there were no sweets and no chocolate in Poland and almost the only sweet thing available was the tube of condense milk. There was also an upgrade of condense milk with the taste of chocolate. Sometimes on Saturdays we were going shopping to Rynek Balucki in Lodz with my mother and sister, and from time to time on the way back my mum.... bought us a tube of condense milk each. Of course there was a temptation to eat the whole tube of condense milk straightaway, but usually I was dosing the milk for days. Hhmmmm, condense milk is sooooooo good.

Four Thousands Islands - marvelous sun set and touristic bubble.

Marvelous sun set over Mekong.
Finally I managed to cross the border to Laos. On the boarder I received visa on arrival, but unfortunately I was forced to pay additional two dollar “stamp fee”. Two stamps in the passport - two dollars. This was my first bribe during this travel.

I was a bit tired of my Cambodian off the beaten tracks and I was happy to get to the Don Det, the most touristic island in Four Thousands Islands (Si Phan Don). Next day I bicycled around the Don Det and Don Khon and I went on the boat to see the Sweet Water dolphins – they are very rare, and indeed very sweet animals. In the evening I have seen one of the most marvelous sun sets in my life. Additionally to the great sun set.... there was a rainbow on the other side!!! Amazing. I am not carrying with me the polarization filter, so you have to believe me that the rainbow was bright and spectacular.

Lisu, You made it to Laos. Congratulation.

Lisu is relay very reliable bicycle. We manage to get through Cambodian jungle to Laos. Hope to update you about Lisu adventures when I manage to fine internet for reasonable price :) which might take some time....

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Cambodia – following the border

Clarification: I am already more than three weeks in Laos, but this is the last story from Cambodia. I did not have access to internet beforehand.

Lisu on Cambodian road.
After leaving Prasat Vihear me and Lisu headed in direction to Laos, East, with the aim to first cross the Mekong and then a border to Laos. The order of this action metered a lot since the official border crossing is on the other side of the Mekong. I tried very much to get the best Cambodian map available, but I was not too lucky. There was no publishing date on my map but it had to be old. Half of the time I was biking on the roads that were not marked on my map... I tried to follow the advices that I received from local people, but it was challenging. In Cambodia people were completely not used to maps and they knew they neighborhood only in the radius of 40 km. They usually also did not know till which city or town the road is leading, they only knew to which province is going. And the province were not marked on my map. Luckily I navigated quite a bit with my small pocket compass – I knew the direction East.

Monday, November 22, 2010

No Men's Land - The Boarder experience

Preah Vihear
I did not really plan to get to Preah Vihear but I was misdirected and I was lucky enough to meet again Cambodian Easy Riders in Sra Am.

Preah Vihear are the Khmer ruins on the Cambodia and Thailand border and for many years Thailand and Cambodia is arguing for the ownership. In 2008 it was listed as the UNESCO World Heritage Site, which caused some increase tension in this spot including some shooting and military troops movement.

Abandoned gun.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Łódź in the middle of Cambodia

Josephine and Cambodian Easy Riders
When you are traveling, usually the first question that one gets: "Where are you from?". Majority of people are satisfied with the answer: "I come from Poland." But next to the main temple in Koh Ker I met Josephine, American women that was not satisfied with this answer. She asked from which city I come from. "I come from Łódź" - I answered. And if someone is not a film freak (in Łódź there is famous film school), one never heard this name before. But Josephine instead smiled and said unexpected that she loved this city!!! She said that it was one of her favorite cities around the world and that her dream was to retire in Łódź. I was astonished to hear it in the middle of Cambodia.
Josephine is an English teacher and journalist and she usually stays one year in one country and than she moves to other place. She stayed one year in Tarnów (not very far from Łódź) and spent almost every weekend in her beloved Łódź. Apparently one of her favorite place in Łódź is Dętka, underground water tank that was recently transform into exhibition hall. I have to admit that I have not been there yet, but I promise that I will use first opportunity to go there.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Power of Nature

Jungle cables.
How would Eiffel Tower look like if it would be left alone for several centuries? How would Dresden Zwinger and Warsaw Palac Cultury look like if the nature could overtake it? Those buildings could look even more impressive.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Mine the step

Two years ago there were mines here...
On every step one can see that the war in Cambodia ended quite recently. Only 20 years ago Khmer Rouge ended.
Till today Cambodia is country with the highest number of land mines laying around predominately in jungle. I was shocked that the area around one of the temples was clear out from mines only two years ago.

Land mine are very cruel. They are designed to seriously injured the soldier and not to kill him, since injured soldier is more expensive for the enemy army than the killed one. Land mines are also not retracing and surrounding like the soldiers. They can stay in jungle and fields for years waiting for its victim.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Lisu, how far will you go?

Lisu is the name of my new bicycle. I really enjoyed exploring the temples by bike and I thought that it would be great to explore a bit Cambodia also by bike. It was not easy for me to find big enough bike. Lisu is the biggest bike I could get in town but still Lisu could be a bit bigger. Lisu is an city bike with three gears. I paid for it 38$ and I plan to try biking in direction to Laos. From Siem Reap it is a bit more than 500 km. It is quite likely that Lisu or Lisu rider will not cope with this road and then they will have to separate. We will see.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Biking Indiana Jones

Angkor Wat.

"The Temple stands solitary and alone in the jungle, in too perfect order to be called ruins, a relic of a race far ahead of the present in all the arts and sciences"
D.O. King, 1860, French explorer

Angkor was a capital of Khmer empire in 9th-13th century. It is hypothesized that this was the largest preindustiral city with a possible population of one million. The temples were build from sandstone and are still standing.

Ta Prohm.

I got to Siem Reap by the boat from Battambang. On the way we crossed quite a few small villages situated on the lake. Kind of water-land experience. Our boat was also delivering mail to the local people. You can find few photos from this trip here.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Bamboo train in Cambodgian jungle

Bamboo train driver.
Deep in Cambodian jungle there is single track rail line, which the local people are using for local transport goods to and from the market. But there is a need to use this track in both directions and few people can use train tracks in the same time.... so what to do if two trains meet? Easy, disassemble one train and assemble it afterward. It is possible if the train is ultra-light and is built from bamboo.

I heard about this train on the bus from Bangkok to Siem Reap and immediately I decided to make a detour in my trip and see it, and I went to Battambang.
I wanted to ride this unique train for the sun rise. I did not manage to find any other traveler to join me, so I had to rent the whole train on my own... for 10$. I guess this was the only time in my life when I rent a train for myself.

Saturday, October 23, 2010


There are many gold Buddha in Bangkok.
For some people Bangkok is ultimate party place, but I was exhausted after my stay in Kolkata and I did not feel like jumping into night life of Bangkok. I had to set up few things for my future travel, I wanted to sight-see a bit and hit a road for the my next destinations.

My hiking boots got completely ruined so the most important aim in Bangkok was to get a new ones. I had looked around a bit in India already... but there was always a problem with the proper size for me. Since most of people in Asia are on average much smaller than me, I expected that finding proper shoes size might be a challenge. In Bangkok I went to a first hiking shop asking for the biggest boots and surprisingly, they were too big! So I manage to solve the shoe problem very fast. I hope that they will last a bit longer than my previous ones.

There are quite a few striking differences between Bangkok and Indian big cities that I visited. First of all it was quiet. No one was using horn on the street. Bangkok is also much cleaner, no one is throwing trashes on the street and there are some dustbins around!!! Also the street food in Bangkok is brought to another higher level than in India. Very tasty, one can not resist.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

My Incredible India

I spent in India two and a half months (I could not stay longer because of short visa) but now there are more places in India that I would like to see than before my travel. I have a feeling that I only had a small bit from this oriental tasty cake. I started my trip from spending few days in Kashmir. This region is very difficult to travel. Many Kashmir people are dreaming about their own independent country. The day that we left Kashmir serious riots started and are continuing all the time.

The longest time I spent in Ladakh, breathtaking Himalaya region, and still I hope to go back there one day since there are few things that I did not see and few others that I would love to see again. From there I went east (Rishikesh, Agra, Varanasi) but I omitted the colorful Rajasthan, which for sure I would love to see. Finally I stayed in Green Part of Himalaya, in Sikkim, where I redefine the definition of green and got completely soaked.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Party Kolkata

Party Kolkata.
I was not looking forward to staying four days in the big Indian city. I have already stayed 3 days in Delhi... and it was 3 days too long there. I was told that Kolkata is poorer than Delhi, so I was not expecting to enjoy it at all.

Luckily in Ladakh I met Kamil who was motorbiking around, and he was doing long term internship in Kolkata. He invited me to stay at his place if I would be in Kolkata. He lives in AIESEC student shared flat with people from all over the world who come to Kolkata for the short time internship. Those students spend most of their free time parting together. I spent in Kolkata four nights and three nights were for sure the most party evening in India for me. Kamil, thanks for hosting me.

Searching for Rhinos.

Wild elephants and rhino in the night
I have heard that India is also great place to see animals in it's natural environment. I decided to try to spot some rhinos in the Jaldhapara Wildlife Sanctuary. It is a National Park which is very rarely visited by western tourist in the North-East part of West Bengal. Without previous arrangement I reached the neighboring city to the park and figured out that it is not easy to get inside the park. One can enter it only for 2h long Jeep Safari or which gives much greater chances to see Rhino - for 1h long elephant Safari. Theoretically there was only one place inside the park where one could stay overnight but was very small (only 6 rooms) and is usually booked by Indian tourists months in advance. Luckily another western tourist show up - Judy, an Australian women, who is backpacking and hitchhiking all over the world for 30 years already. Now she retired, but she said that she does not have too many places that she have not seen already... I wander if I will be able to say like this in 30 years.

Wild rhino at sun rise.

After few hours waiting and some additional Rupee, finally it was possible that we would spend the night in the park in this only guest house. The house was placed really in the middle of jungle and on the side there was a forest opening to which wild animals are coming from time to time (sometimes they are putting a bit of salt on this opening). The house was separated from the opening only by a very small river, which is for sure not a problem to cross for charging rhino or elephant. Basically from the front of our house we could appreciate wild animals in the night and at the sun rise time.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Tea time

Tea picking.
After Sikkim mountain experience I took a break in Darjeeling - the Indian capital of the finest tea. Early in the morning I walked down the hill through "The see of the tea plantation" observing how local women are picking up three youngest leaves from the tea plant. Apparently one of the reason for the excellent quality of the tea is the fact that females from this region have especially delicate hands. Of course no men is allowed to pick up the leaves.

"Super Fine Tippy Golden Flowery
Orange Pekoe Number 1" tea testing.
Afterward I walked back and in front of the local factory "Happy valley" I met a very lovely old lady who has a nickname "The 5 second lady" (she is lucky not to be five second guy). She invited me to taste the tea produced in a local factory "Super Fine Tippy Golden Flowery Orange Pekoe Number 1" and give me a short education about the quality of the local tea. Apparently this tea is the finest in Darjeellin. "Super Fine Tippy Golden Flowery Orange Pekoe Number 1" is a black tea that you have to brew only for 5 seconds, and you can reuse the same tea three times. I also tried the first quality green tea and yellow tea. And I have to admit that "Super Fine Tippy Golden Flowery Orange Pekoe Number 1" was very delicious.

Friday, October 1, 2010

Which way? To and from Holy Lake.

Kechopari Lake
I really enjoy traveling with my traveling mates, but I sometimes it is great to hike on your own. I decided to go to Kechopari Lake, which is holly lake. The road distance between Pelling and Kechopari Lake is 27 kilometers and I wanted to hitchhike in one direction and trek in the other. There were also some significant trekking shortcuts but there was a problem to find them.... In Sikkim it is impossible to buy any kind of the trekking map, non of the route is marked. So the only possibility is to constantly ask local people that one meet on the way, hopefully next to the crossroad. The problem is that local people here... seems not to hike so much like the local people in Ladakh, so sometimes they do not know the trekking shortcuts, and they do not have any clue what is the distance.

I wake up early in the morning and before 7 o'clock I was on my way. I planed to get any kind of the lift to the lake but unfortunately in the morning all cars (meaning 10 in total) were going in the opposite direction and I was told that there will be vehicles going to Kechopari Lake but in the afternoon. Finally, I manage to reach my destination in 5h getting two short lifts for 5km and finding few of the mysterious shortcuts.

Green Monastries

I wanted to see few monasteries in Sikkim to compare with the monasteries that I had came across in Ladakh. When I finished my first trek I met another Dutch person - Bas and a Tibetan girl - Pam and we decided to spend four days trekking together. For me Sikkim is kind of small Netherlands since... by chance I came across 6 dutch people and with 3 of them I went hiking.

Bridge that we managed to cross.
Bas managed to travel to India from Netherlands mostly by hitchhiking on a very low budget, and Pam escaped from Tibet 10 years ago and now she misses her homeland a lot not having a possibility to go back.

We managed to hike together to Dubdi, Tashiding, Ralang, Rabongla and Pelling Monastry.
We slept predominately next to monasteries.

Young monk in Ralang Monastery.
Once we did not manage to reach our destination before the sun set so when it was getting dark we looked for the home stay in the small village in the jungle on the way. We had hard time to communicate with the locals since the locals could speak only Nepali, but finally we manage to find a Bhutias family that spoke a bit of English and Tibetan and they offered us a very good meal and a place to sleep. That day the hike was very challenging. We had to walk down to the bridge on a very steep and slippery road. I slipped quite a few times there, and once... my rainbow umbrella that I was using as a walking stick, broke down. This same time Himalaya claimed my nail that I injured on the Toll Bridge (see the Under the bridge story). The new nail was growing all the time under the injured one and more than a half of nail is back already :)

Friday, September 24, 2010

Green, Greener, Sikkim

As well as wet, wetter, Sikkim.

Last few days I was experiencing Sikkim, really tiny part of India's Himalayas squeezed between Nepal and Bhutan. Almost 80% of population here are Nepalis that were brought by British in 19th century, the minority of the population are the Bhutias (come from Tibet in 14th century) and Lepchas (come first, probably from Far East). According to my local guidebook, official languages of the province are: Nepali, English, Bhutia, Lepcha, Limboo, Magar, Rai, Gurung, Sherpa, Tamang, Newari, Sunuwar. I wonder if there is any one that knows all official languages of this small province... Unfortunately only part of the Sikkim is open for tourist, it is very difficult or even impossible to explore North of Sikkim.

Rainbow umbrella in wet Sikkim.
For the first four day trek I joined Wiet and Koen. We wanted to explore 'tourist' restricted areas, so we needed to organize a local guide. The day before we started I decided to buy my first ever umbrella. My first choice was not very good... umbrella got completely ruined after first opening. So I went for my second possibility - rainbow umbrella. And this time it was an excellent choice. The first day of our trek we experienced rain for most of the time. For 6-7h we were hiking almost constantly in rain. Initially I wanted to wear my rain jacket, but it was so warm, and so humid that I was getting wetter more from the sweat than from the rain.... so for whole day I was hiking with rainbow umbrella trying to convince sun to come out. The biggest problem I had with my hiking shoes that got leaking and were "drinking water" like crazy. At the end of the day my shoes triple their weight!!! Despite of the rain, for the whole time of our trek the dog Rodos, which was very similar to my parents dogs, was accompany us. We hiked through a jungle, crossed four big rivers and many small and big waterfalls.

Taj Yoga

Taj Yoga
After few days travel I arrived to Rishikesh, which is claimed to be 'Capital of Yoga' ever since Beatles came here in '60s. Here I met Aneta, my old friend from university and she convinced me to try Yoga for the first time . I have to say I like it to certain extend and I hope I will try it more in future.

Wondering around Rishikesh we come across the ultra beautiful waterfall under which one could swim. The scenery was almost like from the paradise maybe except.... to refreshing temperature of the water. No photo of this scenery, since I did not have my camera with me that time.

Monday, September 6, 2010

Surfing the Himalayas from Leh to Manali

Lift at the back of army car.

From Leh I wanted to go South to Manali. After the floods the road was open but it was much longer than the old road, since the floods destroyed 20 km of the old road. There was detour which make the road much longer and much more bumpy.
This would mean two days for 12h/a day in a "roller-coaster" bus (instead 16h by the old road). I almost decided to go by this bus but on the way to buy a ticket I met Maciek from Poland. We immediately agreed to try to hitchhike together to Manali, preferably on the big lorry - TATA next morning, which would be a bit slower than the bus, but would be more comfortable and I would have for sure more space for my long legs.

Dall on our shoes.

Next morning we met shortly after the sun rise and tried to go in the direction of Manali. Unfortunately none of the big trucks was going in this direction. I guess the the quality of the detour did not allow the big lorry to go this road. But nevertheless we decided to go and with 4 different cars: with Tibetan Monk, bus, with solders, on the lorry full of sand (which was like surfing in Himalayas),

Missing road.
we managed to get to Upshi to the place where the detour to Manali starts. Than we changed our plans and decided that it is much nicer to hike around the old, destroyed road to Manali than to drive so many additional hours in the bus. So from Upshi we departured in direction to Rumtse (around 31km). The road was very beautiful and for the first 5 km we were lucky to get a lift with the army truck which was bringing the food for the road workers. Well... they did not manage to get all the food, since quite a bit of dall, which was in a simple bowl end up at the floor and our shoes because the road was really bumpy. The work on the repair of the road was in

This was luckily not our TATA.
progress, and if in India someone says that there is no 20km of the road, this literally mean there is no 20km of the road. In our case in the place where there supposed to be a road there was a river. So the way involved quite a bit of climbing around the non-existing road, over the river. Luckily at the end of the day we manage to reach Rumtse.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Julley, Julley, Julley

After quite a few weeks I am finally leaving Ladakh. Julley is the key word in Ladakhi language, which serves the most of the purpose word for hello, goodbye, and thank you. So Julley Ladakh, but especially Julley to all Ladakhi and Tibetan people that I come across on my way.

Tomorrow I will try to get to Manali by the Roller coaster - road, which can take 2 or 3 days.

Smell of Tibet

My monastry map.

Around Leh I visited quite a few monasteries. For the last trip I received from the local guide a hand drawn and very detailed map of the most interesting monasteries West of Leh as well suggestion about the best home stay in every village. Every monastery was located in the distance of one day hike from each other.

The second night of the trek I stayed in Mangyue with the family that was taking care about the very monastery and they had keys to some additional monastery rooms which are usually not available for tourists.

Books, very old books.
In one of the rooms I came across amazing collection of old books. This was the first time that I was exposed so closely too old books. I could smell their age, I could fell them with every of my senses. I really imagine that Tibet has to smell a bit similar. I hope I will manage to visit Tibet one day.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Leh (3500m) to Khardung La (5359m) - bike race

I am Polish, and last years I was living in Dresden. In both of those places the floods happened. More over all my knees doctors were saying that biking is the best sport for me. I guess those two reason convince me to participate in the FIRST ever bike race from Leh to the highest motorable pass - Khardung La. The way is 39 km and constantly is ascending for almost 2000m. The race was organize in order to help the flood victims.

So I decided to joined.

Start line.
My own aim was to get to the pass on the bike, no matter how long this would take. The day before I manage to find big enough bike for me - which I named Khar (from the place that we were suppose to go together). It was not spectacular bike, but the lower gears worked properly, and it had working V-breaks. On Sunday 7-o'clock in the morning 32 participants gather (both locals and tourists). Apparently I was the only participant from Poland. There was quite a bit of media coverage of our race, there were three different film craws.

Before 8 o'clock we started. The first 20 km were surprisingly easy. I was going with my own speed and did not have to stop for the breathing breaks. There was not many cars on the road, but soon I realize that i do not really see anyone in front of me or behind me.

On my way up.
Every 10 km there were people standing and were providing some basic refreshment. It was really organize like a race!!! Than the tiredness kicked in a bit and after 25th km the quality of the road decreased, there was no more asphalt, but predominantly sand and stones, more over the road got a bit more steeper. But the most tiring were the last 10 km. The road got really bad, I was getting really tired and the concentration of the oxygen in the air dropped a lot. The closest to the end, the most often I had to make some breathing breaks. And finally there was the end, together with my Khar we manage to climb to Khardung La.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Stok Kangri (elevation 6137m)

, For two days I was searching for people to join the amateur Stok Kangri expedition. And the second day indeed I managed to find in the internet cafe Marcin and Wojtek who were also considering to climb Stok Kangri. Together we gathered the necessary equipment (tent, food, water purification tablets, crampons, ice axes) and information. It was supposed to be an relatively easy summit, but due to heavy recent rain/snowfalls it could have been more challenging than usual.

We departure to the village Stok, we got the permit for this peak, and started to climb slowly to the base-camp. Most of the other tourist rent donkeys or horses, but we decided to be tough and to do it in Polish way and we carried all the gear in our rucksacks. We reached the base-camp (at 5000m) and we still decided to spend two more days for acclimatization. During this time I got the most sever diarrhea in India till now.

Half past midnight at 22nd of August (still with diarrhea) we decided that the weather was good enough to get to the summit and we started our trip.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Back to the mounties

The weather condition in Ladakh is much better now, so we decided to go back to the mountains. In guess I will be back in 5-7 days back in Leh.

Unfortunately my mobile decided to take different traveling route than I, so we kind of split. It is a bit of pity, but on the other hand there was no network coverage for my mobile network in North India.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Floods in Ladakh

In the night of 5th-6th August heavy floods and mood avalanches hit Leh and neighborhood villages cousins the death of around 400 local people and several tourists. One part of the city was completely washed away.

That night there were very heavy rainfalls. It usually does not rain in this region, that night the monsoon manage to get over High Himalayas and withing one hour there was more rain.... than the half YEARLY rainfall in this region. The soil is not used to absorb those amounts of water, so there were massive land slides and mood-stone avalanches in the region. Whole province was disconnected from the world. The huge mood-stone avalanche destroyed the airport and nine bridges were broken off on the only two roads leading from the region (in direction of Kashmir and in direction of Manali). It took five days for army to clean up the airport and then most of the tourist flew away as fast as possible. It took around two weeks to repair the first road connection to Kashmir and the road to Manali is still not repaired.

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Under the bridge

Beginning of the trek.

For our trek in Ladakh we have chosen to go to Markha Valley. We were four (me, Wojtek, Olga and Asia) and decided to rent a tent for three people which was big enough for four people and was also very light. It was a low quality tent, but the price was also very low and in Ladakh it never rains, so it should have been fine. We also organized some food.

Unfortunately after the first one and a half day of trek Asia got sick (stomach problems) and we decided to split for few next days. Wojtek and Asia chosen to do shorter track with home-stays on the way, and me and Olga wanted to complete Markha Valley trek for which we needed the tent.

The second night of the trek, on the 4000 meters altitude.... it started to rain and of course our tent started to leak. We managed to survive it till the sunrise without getting our feather sleeping bags wet.

GandaLa (4950m) my first high pass.
In the morning we departure for our first ever high pass GandaLa (4950 meters). The weather cleared out. The last 500 meters before the pass were very difficult. I needed many breathing breaks on the way, but we reached it and enjoyed beautiful views. Then we went down through beautiful valley crossing one river at least twelve times. We reached Skiu for the night, set up our tent hoping that it would not rain that night. Unfortunately that night it was raining even more than the last one.

Crossing the river after
In the morning we started walking
to Markha but on the way few people discouraged us from this idea. There was a need to cross the Markha river without the bridge, but the level of the water raised so much that it was currently impossible. We did not wanted to wait for unknown number of days for the water level to drop, so we retracted and we decided to go back other way to Chiling. On the way to Chiling we needed to cross much bigger river - Zanskar river, but there was a toll bridge there. I did not really now before what is a toll bridge.

Toll Bridge over Zanskar.
Basically there is a metal rope connecting two sides of the river and below there is a small wooden basket in which one have to go. In order to get to the other side you have to pull the rope, or alternatively the rope is pulled by someone on the other side of the river. Sounds easy... but it is not so easy, at least not in the windy and a bit stormy conditions that we experienced. We were on the side of the river where there was no one. After few minutes of waiting and waiving we were spotted and two men released the wooden basket from the other side. I helped Olga to get to the basket together with her rucksack and she safely arrived to the other side. Now it was my turn.

Furious Zanskar.
The wind was getting stronger and I had to get to the basket. There was no one to help me on this side of the river, I was holding basket with one hand and the metal wire with the other, but I did not know how to jump to this basket without risking falling to the river. It took me quite a few extremely long minutes to find out a way, and finally I managed to get inside getting only one small injury to my fingernail (i did not manage to remove my hand on time from the metal wire). But I was safely in the basket which was going on to the other side, and suddenly it STOPPED!!!

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Leh - deep in Indian Himalayas

For the last three days we are already in Leh (Ladakh) adapting to high altitude (3500 m). Today we visited few breathtaking Buddhists monasteries. In one of them four monks were working on beautiful Mandala for three days already. When they complete it, they will destroy it.

Saturday, July 31, 2010

Srinagar, Kashmir

We are already in Leh and I did not keep updated the blog for few days. Unfortunately I can not post any photos from here. The internet connection is very slow from here.

Shortly to get you updated. We managed to get overnight train from New Delhi to Jammu. Trains in India are great. They can be very cheap (depends on the class of the train that one is traveling) and they are on time. From Jammu we managed to get on the jeep to Srinagar and in the evening we were already on the beautiful houseboat on the Dal lake (I will post the photo of the houseboat later). The next day we enjoyed the shikra tour on the Dal lake. Beautiful city on the water built by British. We stayed only one day there since our aim was Leh.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

First impressions

My first impressions about India, or rather New Delhi: it is colorful, people are very friendly and the smell of spices is everywhere. And for sure New Delhi is the loudest city I ever visited. Everyone is using horn all the time: bip, bip, biiiiiip. Crossing the street is a life threading experience and taking a riksha or moto-riksha is an unforgettable ride. It is amazing how the drivers are maneuvering in between pedestrians and other vehicles. Complete chaos.

Tomorrow evening we departure North, to Kashmir. Hopefully we manage to reach Srinagar in twenty four hours.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Saved by a Towel.

Finally. I manage to get the trip started. And as expected the initial days of the trip were very interesting. We departure from Warsaw according to plan on Wednesday morning. And we were supposed to change in Moscow for the flight to New Delhi. Unfortunately we missed it. This resulted that we had a pleasure to appreciate beautiful airport in Moscow for next 48h. Since we did not have Russia visa, we could not leave the airport...

Before I went for the trip I got many advices. One of them was to keep towel always in a hand luggage as the most useful item for traveling. Now I am sure that a towel is not only important for the travel to Galaxy, but it is important for any type of travel.