Posts tagged ‘India’

March 5, 2017

Kicking back in Kerala

by backpackingbongos

Every now and then Mrs Bongo takes me off to a far-flung exotic place where I am strapped to a sun lounger and force-fed spicy food. There I pretend that I would rather be on a cold and windswept hill, alone and shivering, looking for a sodden spot to pitch my tent.

A cheap flight took us to Kerala in India and couple of beach towns which we last visited on long backpacking trips 13 and 18 years ago. One of these was Varkala, which on our last visit was a string of bamboo huts along the cliff top. It is now a concrete jungle strung along the cliff top. The traveller vibe still remains, although nowadays that vibe is yoga and smoothies rather than cheap drugs and booze. Even the backpacking scene has become gentrified.

India has both rapidly modernised and remained in the past since our backpacking days. Just about everyone is staring at the screen of a smartphone, even whilst weaving their rickshaw through the chaotic traffic. Domestic tourists now heavily outweigh foreign tourists as people have more disposable income. Posh cars jostle for space with battered three wheelers and painted trucks belching fumes. However out in the sticks India remains as timeless and beautiful as ever.

Some photos taken away from the tourist spots:


Goats, auto-rickshaw and the usual piles of rubbish.


Fishing boats and mosque at the Muslim end of the village of Vizhinjam, half an hour walk from Kovalam.


Fisherman carrying the motor from his boat at the end of the day.


Mosque in Vizhinjam village.


Fishing boats in the Christian part of Vizhinjam village. This side of the village was much busier.


Fish market, I asked if I could take some close up photos but got a very firm no!


Big Jesus overlooking the harbour. I think that the women thought I was taking a photo of them as they stood and posed for me!


Jesus and crisps taken from the church at the top of the hill in Vizhinjam.


We escaped the coast for a couple of nights and headed inland to Neyyar Dam. There is a tiny little temple on a rocky hill overlooking the surrounding forest.


The hill is literally a giant rock with a few steps cut into it and handrails to lead the way. Some sections were very steep.


Neyyar dam holds back a very large reservoir with some wild surrounding forest. Being India you are not allowed to simply wander into the wilds which is a bit of a shame. Anyway it was far too hot to do very much.


Our bungalow near Neyyar was very secluded and we got visited by a large troupe of monkeys one afternoon.


Colourful rickshaw in the evening light.


Cooking up a treat outside a temple.


Balloon man pulling a pose!


Temple snacks.


Kathakali dancer inside the Manthara temple near Varkala.


Temple elephant.


Waiting for the temple procession.


No idea what this chap was selling inside the temple. People were buying these bundles of herbs though!



We were lucky to visit the Manthara temple during the Shivaratra festival. The temple was crowded with people to watch this giant tower be carried round the temple three times. Hundreds of men were involved and it was both awe-inspiring and a bit frightening. There was the possibility for lots of people to get crushed in the scrum!


Sunset from the cliffs above Varkala beach.


Lifeguards on Varkala beach. Their job is basically blowing their whistle at people in the sea and waving a red flag. It was pretty random when they would do this.


Sun and cloud at Varkala beach.


Sign opposite a restaurant.

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February 16, 2014

South Goa

by backpackingbongos

It can’t always be freezing mountains and boggy moors.  Sometimes you have to kick back and relax whilst feeling the sun on exposed flesh.  We got back yesterday from two weeks in Goa, vitamin D levels suitably topped up to keep us going until summer.

A few photos and words:

Colva beach is a popular spot for Indian tourists, the local cows also appear to enjoy it.


Betalbatim beach was the nearest stretch of sand to our hotel, nice and quite on week days.


You can’t go to Goa and not take several hundred sunset photos.


Farmland between the beach and our hotel, teaming with brightly coloured birds.


We decided that we should give this place a miss……………..


If you look towards the sky anywhere along the coast of Goa you are guaranteed to see a raptor circling overhead.


We splashed out and spent twenty four hours at an exclusive tented resort on Cola beach.  An amazing place.




Rice paddy fields just behind the beach.





These guys spent ages first blessing their boat and then hauling it down to the breakers.  For some reason they then changed their minds and hauled it back up again.




The beaches are full of dogs, you are guaranteed to have one sleeping under your sun lounger or giving you a hungry look whilst you are eating.  I wanted to take them all home.



The tents at Cola beach.  Camping does not get any more luxurious than this!



Whilst taking photographs it is easy to make an area appear to be some sort of paradise.  Goa is very beautiful but it is also covered in rubbish.  With the exception of the areas in front of the beach shacks, garbage pretty much covers every public space.  I have to admit that it really began to piss me off……………



April 10, 2009

The big trip 04/05 – India part 2

by backpackingbongos

My travel tales continue………………….

Ladakh – 27th September 2004

Hello everyone once again from Dehli!

We flew to Leh in Ladakh what now seems like years ago. An amazing flight over the Himalayas, a little cloudy but stunning views of snow capped peaks and glaciers.

We stepped off of the plane into cristal clear air and the most amazing deep blue sky. The airport in Leh was a breeze and emerged to the most relaxed place yet in India. No touts etc waiting for us at the airport!

We felt very strange on the first day due to the altitude which was at 3500 metres. Very spaced out and sleeping was a bit scary – felt like we were going to suffocate. But after 3 days we were up and running (slowly). Always felt like walking in treacle.

Leh town is set in the most amazing mountain scenery with huge rocky peaks and a Gompa and fort perched over the market place. Things were winding down as we arrived. Nice and warm in the sun which was so strong that we still burnt with factor 30 – we now feel like prunes!

Some one managed to get their way and a four day trek was booked at the end of the first week. Spitok to Stok via the Stok La pass which stands at 4820 Metres (about 15,800 feet in old money). $30US each got us a guide/cook, 3 ponies and a ponyman plus all food and transport. Our guide was a local Tibetan man called Tashi whilst ponyman (only ever known as ponyman) was a Tibetan chap in his sixties with a face that could sell post cards.

Because it is India and the power could fail at any moment – will sent part two!

Ladakh Pt2 – 27th September 2004
This email and pictures have already been posted here.
Ladakh Pt3 – 28th September 2004
Hello again!

We got back from our Trek in the mountains and then spent a week getting cabin fever whilst James decided to spend a long time in bed ill. This meant that unfortunately we missed the opportunity for lunch at Tashi’s house in the Tibetan settlement. We saw him most days though whilst he waited for work at the local cafe – he then went and got sick (horse poo water?). He was a very happy man when we donated our sleeping bags when we left.

Leh towards the end of our trip began to get very very quiet. The temperature began to fall and the leaves turned yellow. We did manage a weekend away in Alchi (on the Srinigar road). A very scary road trip through the mountains on the bus with huge drops to the river below. Stayed in isolation due to all tourists having buggered off home. Lovely monastary built in 1020 AD – very old Thankas and Mandalas and Monk.

Prior to our trek we went for a day trip to Thikse gompa perched impressively on a hill side (like a little Potala). Slogged up the hill only to find that we had picked the day in the year that it is closed! Monks gone on a picnic! Ho hum.

Old flaky skin and James decided that Ladakh began to become ‘Same same but different’ and left a few days early to come back to smelly Dehli. We popped to the zoo today to buy train tickets for our next 3 journeys. Off to Agra tomorrow to see the Taj. Today went to Pizza Hut for a treat and shopped for pants (you need something to soak up the moisture). It’s only James who needs new pants! (Corrinas penny).

Our plan is to travel slowly to Mumbai in the next few weeks via Agra, Gwallior, Orcha, Khajuraho, Sanchi, Bhopal, Pachmari then either Mandu or Ajanta. Then Mumbai and then BEACHES!!!!! Yes BEACHES!!!!! till BORED!!!!!! yes.

Anyway packing to do, 6.00am posh train tomorrow from the zoo.

Photos hopefully in next email.

Let us know whats going on in UK and stuff.

Dont complain that its too hot cos thats our job.


April 2, 2009

The big trip 04/05 – India part 1

by backpackingbongos

As well as backpacking my other passion is travelling (often also called backpacking).  I can remember Cameron McNeish getting his pants in a twist a few years back in a TGO editorial about when the terms get confused.  Anyway the title of this blog has got backpacking in it so I thought I would write about both!

I have been lucky enough to be able to do 3 big trips since leaving university.  The first was a 3 month trip to India, I was hooked on travelling after that.  After working for a couple of years I packed up my job and spent 9 months travelling through India, Nepal, Thailand and Malaysia with my partner.  I thought that I had got the bug out of my system but 2 years later we found ourselves once again handing in our notice, renting out the house and jetting off for another 9 months.  We visited India, Sri Lanka, Thailand, Cambodia, Vietnam, Laos and Indonesia.  We kept a travel journal via email and it is that which I will over time copy onto this blog.

The tone may sometimes be negative, but it was much easier writing about the hassles we were having rather than saying everything was lovely!  There will be a section from our emails followed by photos.  Anyway here goes……………………………………………….

Hot and sweaty in India – 6th September 2004

Hi guys,

After all those months of saving, we have finally made it!

Gulf Air managed to eventually get us to india after two very hectic changes. One involved getting off the plane in Muscat, being herded around and shouted at and then being put back on the same plane! Plane full of very excited Indians returning home after working in the Gulf for a year.

Dehli was very hot sweaty and smelly as usual (36C and 83% humidity) we always forget just how hectic and filthy it really is. Good to see that the cows are still there though. Spent two days being curry buckets and buying train tickets.

On friday we got a posh train upto Haridwar, then a local bus to Rishikesh. Times have changed in India since our last visit – even on the local buses there are mobile phones ringing!

We now find ourselves at High Bank about two miles above Rishikesh with a stunning view of the Ganges. Corrina has been doing Indian Toilet Yoga (not very spiritual) whilst James has had a nice fever. May try and leave our hotel soon! Watching the local monkey wrestle with their pet dog. Unusually both are fit and healthy.

We have our flight booked to Leh in Ladakh on the 10th – looking forward to cool mountain air. Trying to get ourselves nice and healthy because we land at 3500 metres – going to be an experience!

Will email later


Rickshaw and Thali

Outside our hotel in Delhi in an area called Paharganj
Looking up the Ganges towards the foothills of the Himalaya – Rishikesh
A cow crosses the Ganges
Off to the Mountains – 9th September 2004
Just a quick one whilst we pass the time waiting for our flight in a few hours.

Rishikesh was a nice break despite the fact that we were both a bit ill. Our last night was enlivened by a troup of very large Langurs who played havoc with our hotel – large male came within inches of where we were sitting – we quickly retreated! Rishikesh is a laid back temple town, lots of cows, sadhus etc with the river Ganges flowing down from the Himalayas.

Came back last night on one of Indias posher trains. We got fed every five minutes till stuffed. First time in air conditioning for a week. A 200 mile trip with food cost all of five pounds.

Dehli has got much hotter – now 38C and very very humid. Our room is like a sweat box – effort to do anything. Just had another lovely curry (big fat curry buckets) in a very good restaurant.

Must go, need to be up for our flight at 2.30am – both very excited but nervous at landing at such high altitude. Will email when we get back to Delhi in a few weeks.

Take care

Paneer and Chutney

PS does any one know who Rick Shaw is? He always seems to be behind us!

January 23, 2009

Trekking in Ladakh – Spitok to Stok via the Stok La pass (Sept 2004)

by backpackingbongos

Below is an extract from an email I sent home after doing the Stok La trek in Ladakh India, photos at the end:

Some one managed to get their way and a four day trek was booked after being in Leh for a week.  Spitok to Stok via the Stok La pass which stands at 4900 metres (about 16,000 feet in old money).  $30US each got us a guide/cook, 3 ponies and a ponyman plus all food and transport.  Our guide was a local Tibetan man called Tashi whilst ponyman (only ever known as ponyman) was a Tibetan chap in his sixties with a face that could sell post cards.

The first day of our trek followed the Indus river down stream through a stunning rocky gorge.  The river was a deep shade of green far far below us.  We eventually came to the camp site which was shared with several other trekking groups.  We had our own tent plus a kitchen tent was set up.  We were surrounded by about 20 ponies with their bells clonking away – lovely sound with the river roaring in the background.  Shame that the ponies were also standing and crapping in the stream which was also our drinking water!

The next day was up up up!  Following the river through a narrowing gorge we came to Rumbuk village which is meant to be the best place in the world to spot snow leopard. No such luck but we did see very rare blue sheep (half sheep half goat).  By now it was like being in a national geographic film, the village was like entering a time warp.  The crops were being harvested by hand and by Yak.  We trudged on up to the Stok La base camp at 4200 metres to spend the night.  Tents put up in a boulder field with Stok Kangri Mountain rearing up at 6000 metres plus, all covered in snow.  A very cold and tough night was spent at high altitude – going for a poo was like running a marathon!  Our guide cooked us Tibetan Tukpha and made us Ginger tea and then in bed by 8.00pm.  Had that strange sufforcating feeling again along with very odd dreams.  Both nervous for the next day.

Woken up at 6.00 am with tea in bed – nice but not at 6.00am!  Then very very slowly up.  Counting to four then stop – repeat.  Both very breathless but no AMS so guide happy that we continued.  Views getting bigger and bigger.  A couple of hundred metres from the top of the pass the path vanished into loose scree and then the ponies caught up.  A nervous few minutes whilst they tried to scrabble up, one nearly fell. We both felt responsible for putting them though that ordeal.  Then at the top at 4900 metres (16,000 feet!).  Surrounded by prayer flags and stunning views – both very very knackered.  Horses also looking knackered (this made us feel miserable).  Ponyman at 61 looked fresh as a daisy!

Then down down down for a day and a half.  Through another gorge with huge rock spires and another campsite all to ourselves.  Our guide manged to cook a six dish curry on one stove!  All along we declined the salt butter tea!  Toilet in the night involved finding the best spot and squatting.  A scary moment when a pair of eyes get picked up in the torch beam (there are dangerous animals out there!).

The last day was easy down hill to a jeep and back to Leh.

Corrina crossing the Indus at the start of the Trek


High altitude desert


The Indus again, this time deep in a gorge


First nights camp with the ponies


The mountains are opening up


Rumbuk village


High camp at 4200 metres


Cairn just outside camp


Breaking camp with Stok Kangri 6,123 metres behind


At the top of Stok La at 4,900 metres (about 16,000 ft).  Wow!



It was a long long descent!


Our final nights camp