Group pic at the summit

Climbing Mount Rinjani in one day – Lombok, Indonesia (June 2016)

After a cool friend’s real cool wedding party in Bali, we decided to climb Mt Rinjani in Lombok, Indonesia. Here’s our preliminary research on attempting to climb Rinjani.

The prep:

“Details on how to get there: get to Lombok by ferry or bus. 
 
Fast ferry (8am to 1.30pm) takes 2 hours and slow ferry (operates 24 hours) takes 4.5 hours. Port in Lambok is called Lembar. Takes about 4 hours to get to Senaru or Sembalun from Lembar by taxi. 
 

Then there are two options to climb Rinjani:

  • Senaru at an elevation of 600m close to Western side resort area Sengigi
  • Sembalun Lawang (1150m) eastern side. Closer to summit (we chose this route)

From Senaru, it takes 6 hours to reach the crater rim. 

 
From Sembalun Lawang, it takes 8 hours to the Plawangan II and 2638m via Posi 1/2/3. Stay at the campsite and leave at 3am for the summit”
 
And, here’s a photo blog of what transpired.

The beginning:
We decided to climb to Rinjani from Sembalun (1500m elevation) and return the same way. The very friendly owner at Rinjani guesthouse in Sembalun (where we stayed) told us that “this was not possible” and that it was normally a “one night two day” trip. He also told us that we had to have a guide. We hired a guide called Hasan for 400k (it became 650k later on when we told him at the crater rim that we wanted to summit). He told us that it would take us 8 hours to get to the rim and another 6 hours to get back. He had an athletic build and looked very friendly but didn’t really seem to believe or understand that we wanted to attempt to summit Rinjani in one day.

Landing in Lombok

Landing in Lombok

View of Lombok from the plane

View of Lombok from the plane

The bumpy ride to the start:
We paid 150k per person for the permit at the tourist guesthouse for the climb (we were told that they increased the price to 350k for visitors from the next day onwards) and then came a very bumpy 15-minute ride to the start of the trail.

Selfie at Lombok airport

Selfie at Lombok airport

Rinjani guesthouse

Rinjani guesthouse

In the pick up truck to the start

In the pick up truck to the start

At the tourist place for the permit

At the tourist place for the permit

Here’s a video:

Pos 1, Pos 2, Pos 3, Pos 4 … Base camp:
The start of the trail went through this green meadow which eventually lead to a little “hut” called “Pos 1”. It was not a hut where people could stay, more like a marker in the shape of a hut.

The meadow at the start

The meadow at the start

A selfie with Hasan

A selfie with Hasan

Hasan told us that it would take around 2 hours to reach Pos 1 but in reality it took only about 45 minutes. All the times quoted by the guide were “grandma” times, even at our walking pace.

The conversation Ollie had with Hasan at the start was classic:

Ollie: Hasan, is Rinjani’s someone’s name? What does it mean?
Hasan: Yes, it is someone’s name
Ollie: Really, who?
Hasan: Rinjani
Ollie: (What a great answer!)

Reminds me of an old joke.
Teacher: Who can tell me what John Smith’s wife is called?
Student: Me, me!
Teacher: Great! What is it?
Student: Mrs. Smith

A handsome guy going to Pos 2

A handsome guy going to Pos 2

Climbing up to Pos 3

Climbing up to Pos 3

Monkeys of Lombok. Different to their Shing Mun cousins with the pink butts

Monkeys of Lombok. Different to their Shing Mun cousins with the pink butts

The Base Camp

The Base Camp

Clouds, Clouds everywhere

Clouds, Clouds everywhere

Posing near the Base Camp

Posing near the Base Camp

Nice colours

Nice colours

The trail was relatively easy until Pos 3 after which there was a pretty sharp incline all the way to the rim of the crater, aka the Base Camp. The Base Camp was literally a big row of tents flanked by big piles of garbage on either side. From the rim of the crater, we were suposed to see a spectacular backdrop of a volcanic lake but our view of the lake was instead replaced by white clouds. But, not ones to be perturbed by the uncontrollable forces of nature, we still imagined the lake in the backdrop and took ample selfies! After all, doesn’t beauty lie in the eyes of the beholder?

Base Camp to the Summit:
Our guide who quoted 7 hours to get to the Base Camp, i.e., the rim of the crater, was pleasantly surprised to find out that it only took us 3 hours to get there. We told him that we wanted to summit which is when he said that our “program” at 400k didn’t involve a guide service to the summit. 250k more did it! (Our 650k -guide fee for the three of us- plus 150k -each person at the tourist center for the “entry ticket”- was still way cheaper than the 2M it would have cost to do the boilerplate “one night two days” tour). And about that “one night two days” Rinjani tour, I don’t think the money would have been so much a dampening factor for me, instead staying at the Base Camp amidst the smell of garbage, pee and you-know-what would have flushed that idea!

Our guide said it would take 3.5 hours to get to the summit from the Base Camp. Judging from recent experience, we thought it would only take a fraction of that time as the summit was only 3kms away from the Base Camp. But, this time he was right – it took us 3 whole hours! Why? It was like walking on quicksand at 3500m above sea level! Ollie’s Oreo package suddenly popped because of the increase in altitude. Imagine climbing up slushy 20cm thick lose gravel and mud in thin air! It was like a bike spinning on its wheels in desert sand. Also, quite frequently, a little detour from the main trail lead to a “tour de feces” and a “tour de tissue”. Yup, dried human excrement is what I’m talking about! So, imagine you’re a fast guy trying to climb up Rinjani and you take a little shortcut by the side of the trail, lose your grip and fall face down in the mud. Now, normally that would be a-ok and even good fun BUT if that side of the trail had dried human feces on it then that wouldn’t too much fun, would it? Now, I am not saying that that happened to me… (Or am I?)

Anyway, amidst this discussion of human feces, garbage, quicksand and slushy terrain, I want to make it clear that this was still a very enjoyable experience! The views of the ridge, the dance of the clouds, the pyramid shaped volcano, the jagged terrain with distinctive volcanic features were all highlights of this experience. And, when the clouds suddenly cleared at the summit, that was the biggest highlight of them all! Anyway, so back to the story…

Posing before getting to the summit

Posing before getting to the summit

Climbing this wasn't easy

Climbing this wasn’t easy

The volcanic terrain

The volcanic terrain

This is what we found on the summit

This is what we found on the summit

Group pic at the summit

Group pic at the summit

Views from the summit

Views from the summit

Views from the summit

Views from the summit

Dance of the clouds

Dance of the clouds

More cloud dance

More cloud dance

The Summit:
Our guide was much slower than us. Dom had some jet lagged moments where he slowed down and Ollie was using her poles like a cruising machine to get to the top. Not wanting to go astray on another “tour de feces”, I went steadily up the beaten path, one foot in front of another using Ollie as my metronome. I was also playing DJ and had Robin Schulz’s “Sugar” playing in the background. I also added my own vocals to it which I’m sure Dom and Ollie didn’t appreciate – although they were either too polite or too busy focusing on the climb to comment on my great voice. Speaking of which, I still don’t know what “sugar, how you get so fly” really means. I get “high” but “fly”?

Anyway, we plodded on and reached the summit, only to be welcome by more and more clouds. It also started drizzling. We took selfies holding a little sign that was on the summit which read “Ringani – 3726m”. We then high fived each other to celebrate our 3-hour walk through that quicksand like terrain. After that, Ollie started to walk down. Just as Dom and I were about to follow suite, the clouds started to clear. The sun then revealed its power and the majestic views no longer needed to be left to mere imagination. It was amazingly scenic – yet another wonder of Mother Nature.

The Summit

The Summit

You're looking at the crater

You’re looking at the crater

Summit back down to Base Camp:
The descent was such a memorable experience. It really felt like we were skiing on fertile mud! The shoes took in several ladles full of volcanic soil as I leaned backwards, spun my legs around in a cycling motion and let gravity do the talking! What took 3 hours to go up, only took 40 minutes on the way down! That’s the power of momentum on that trail!

And, nature had its little surprise waiting for us at the rim. Those clouds that begged us to imagine the views from the rim on the way up, dispersed gracefully to reveal that stunning lake in the backdrop. Some of the clouds danced around and artistically lingered in the air adding to the serene setting. Beauty didn’t really have to be in the eyes of the beholder. It was literally everywhere! The lake and the setting was yet another wonder of nature!

My shoe had plenty of volcanic mud in it on the way down

My shoe had plenty of volcanic mud in it on the way down

Coming down

Coming down

More Cloud Dance

More Cloud Dance

The beauty of the lake finally revealed at the crater

The beauty of the lake finally revealed at the crater

With the lake in the backdrop

With the lake in the backdrop

Admiring the beauty of the lake

Admiring the beauty of the lake

 

Video of the descent:

 

Back via the meadows to Sembalun

Back via the meadows to Sembalun


Base Camp back to the guesthouse:
I enjoyed this so much! It was a fab trail run down (quite technical at times with rocks and tree roots) all the way to Pos 4. Our guide was definitely getting quite an unanticipated workout. After Pos 3, however, I managed to twist my ankle not once, not twice but thrice! Luckily, other than some swelling, it was okay enough to permit jogging to the finish!

After clocking something like 25km of distance and 2600m of accumulated elevation for the day, we reached the village where our pick up truck was waiting for us. At 6pm, we were back at the guesthouse.

All in all, it took about 11 hours for the trip to the top of Rinjani and back from Sembalun.

At the finish! Back in the pick up truck

At the finish! Back in the pick up truck

The verdict:
I know I say this about pretty much every hike or climb I’ve done but this was also awesome! Friendly people, great views, solid exercise, amazing scenery and awesome company!

I hope the tourist office does something about all the rubbish on the trail and that nature takes cares of all the human waste near the campsite!

My biggest advice to everyone attempting Rinjani, follow your nose, stay on the trail and enjoy Tour De Rinjani, not Tour De Feces. Yup, no shit. That’s the way to go my friend.

Kick Ass vacation to Annapurna Base Camp (April 2016)

The prelude:
  • Switch on the news and you would hear *THOSE* times being mentioned over and over again. What times? Bad markets, bad economy, etc, etc, etc. All this pointed to one thing. It was time to climb a mountain
  • Enter my friend Milos. We sat down for hours together and plan. (Read: have two Tsing Taos by Mui Wo Ferry Pier)
  • The Annapurna idea is born
  • We immediately call in a favour and found ourselves a CPO (Chief Planning Officer). Enter Ramesh.
  • We created a whatsapp group where millions and millions of messages are exchanged. (Most of them irrelevant and junk, especially the ones from Roger)
  • Enter the final list of participants. Roger, Hannes, Dominic, Milos, Tilly and yours truly
Ramesh sends us the itinerary: 
 
  • 15 Apr – Arrive Kathmandu
  • 16 Apr – Depart for Pokhara By Road 7 hrs Tourist Bus or By Air 25 mins Flt and Arrange Trekking Permits
  • 17 Apr – Trek to Banthati 2000m
  • 18 Apr – Trek to Ghorepani 3500m
  • 19 Apr – Short Trek to Poon Hill Sunrise Breakfast and Trek to Chomrong 2500m
  • 20 Apr – Trek to Dovan 2700m
  • 21 Apr – Trek  to Annapurna Base Camp 4000m
  • 22 Apr – Trek back to Chhomrong
  • 23 Apr – Trek Back to Ghandruk Base and By Road to Pokhara
  • 24 Apr – By Road or Air To Kathmandu
  • 25 Apr – Sightseeing in Kathmandu morning and afternoon . Depart Kathmandu for Hong Kong
 
RECOMMENDED KIT :
  • 1.   Trekking Shoes
  • 2.   Walking poles
  • 3.   Light Down and Light Jacket
  • 4.   Track Suit – 1 pr
  • 5.   Thermo T Shirt/Inner
  • 6.   Basic medicines
  • 7.   Camera
  • 8.   Medium Thick Socks
  • 9.  Medium Carry Pack
  • 10.  Water Bottle
  • 11.  Energy Bar
 
RECOMMENDED START/END TREK TIMINGS :
 
  • 0600-0630 – Breakfast
  • 0700 – Trek Start
  • 1100-1200 – Stop for Lunch
  • 1300-1700 – Afternoon Trek
 
  • Trek to Ghorepani/Poon Hill Upfhill
  • Trek to Chomrong Uphill/Downhill
  • Trek to Annapurna Base Camp Uphill
  • Trek from Base Camp – Downhill
 
SCENERY :
  • From Ghorepani Poon Hill – Mount Dhaulagiri-Annapurna Ranges
  • From Chhomrong – Annapurna Ranges and Fish Tail
  • You will also see the national flower of Nepal Rhododendron blooming
As you can see from the strict schedule, Ramesh is an ex military guy. After we agreed on this itinerary, a million more of whatsapp messages were exchanged. Most of them (again) are useless and irrelevant. And, yes, many of them from Roger. (History repeated itself). Suddenly, we were there and it was April 15th 2016.

 
15th April 2016
  • I got a text from Milos: “Vince, I checked the bags from John, you want the bag with bras or the bag with bras ? your pick :-)“. Our man John Ellis form Gone Running sent us a bunch of used sports gear to carry to Nepal to donate to the community there. I got handed the bag with the most bras
  • Meanwhile we had news from Ramesh that our 5th member in our Nepal expedition, Tilly had successfully arrived in Kathmandu from Geneva. “TILLY COLLECTION” read the subject of the email. With Dominic already in Nepal on a “pre-vacation” vacation, our team was complete
  • Kathmandu airport was crowded and it took us almost 90 minutes just to get our luggage. The conveyor belt started and stopped and looked like a meandering river. Eager passengers starting crowding around every visible edge of the belt in keen anticipation of their luggage
  • Kiran, our guide and Ramesh’s tail running student, waited for us outside the airport to take us to our hotel. Unwanted helpers carried our luggage to the van and demanded a tip. We mistakenly thought they were Kiran’s friends. We departed with 120 HKD. Roger giving away 100 and I gave away 20
  • Ramesh called Kiran who passed the phone onto Milos. He made sure we had arrived safely
My artistic photo of the wing

My artistic photo of the wing

4 clowns leaving Hong Kong for ABC

4 clowns leaving Hong Kong for ABC

Kathmandu airport baggage carousel

Kathmandu airport baggage carousel

16th April 2016
  • 0540 was the assembly time at the hotel reception
  • Tilly bought some bananas and apples on the way to the bus stop and got ripped off. 50 HKD for some bananas and oranges. Even more expensive than Hong Kong. She really amazed me when she went back to the vendor after realizing this and got her money back after returning the apples and oranges. I would have been too scared to do that!
  • Bus journey was spent yapping a lot and boring Tilly. We saw a gruesome sight of an accident which made me recall how fickle life can be. One really needs to cherish every moment of it
  • Upon reaching Pokhara, we met Ramesh who took us to Hotel Pokhara where we were briefed. We got permits done for the upcoming Annpurna trek and enjoyed a warm dinner reception which Ramesh hosted for us
Taking an evening walk in Pokhara to the park

Taking an evening walk in Pokhara to the park

We are smarter than we look

We are smarter than we look

17th April 2016
  • We assembled for breakfast at 7am after a good night’s sleep – well, all except for Milos, who inadvertently happened to volunteer to be dinner for mosquitoes. He woke up with many mosquito bites on his hand and face
  • We bid a temporary goodbye to Ramesh and boarded our team jeep at 7.30am to get on our way to Birethanti (1050m)
  • Then came a steep stair climb all the way to Banthanti. Hannes, despite experiencing hip pain, converted some of his Swiss pride into muscle power and made it all the way to our humble abode for the night – The Green Hill View lodge. Which by the way isn’t a misnomer. Not like our Hong Kong style naming of buildings. Think “Chung King Mansion”. Mansion?
  • Hannes’ pain dwindled to the point where he even enjoyed locking me out in the bathroom
  • The view from our lodge was scenic. Very green and soothing
  • We had a sumptuous dinner in the lodge with ample servings of ginger tea. There was even an intense (and heated) debate about Hong Kong politics which took our sleeping time to 1030pm
Mint plant in Banthanti

Mint plant in Banthanti

Milos has some biting friends

Milos has some biting friends

Met Mr. Horsey in Banthanthi

Met Mr. Horsey in Banthanthi

18th April 2016
  • Ghorepani, I.e., “white water” at 2820m was the destination for the day. It took us less than 3 hours to reach this place. Our residence for the place was a cleverly named guesthouse called “See You” guesthouse
  • Having reached Ghorepani as early as 10am we took a little side trip upto Poon Hill at 3100m. It took less than an hour to reach
  • We saw a sign that read “Poon Hill” which reminded Roger of his most favorite topic – “poo”. Springing into action, he immediately hid the ‘N’ in “Poon Hill” to satisfy himself
  • We were back at our guesthouse at around 12pm and decided to order food from the menu. Roger had to warn Tilly about refraining from “outward expression of affection” as instructed by the last page of our menu
  • Dom and Tilly went for a bit of a walk afterwards while the rest of us decided to spend the afternoon taking it easy and relaxing. Their timing was a bit off because a thunderstorm wasn’t too far behind them! Fortunately, they made it back before the skies exploded
  • After yet another sumptuous high altitude dinner (I had rosti but Hannes told me with great conviction that his homemade version of it would put this one to shame), I went to bed while the rest of the gang played cards. The clouds cleared up revealing the bright moon and stars which meant that our 6am sunrise viewing plan from Poon Hill was back on
Nice tree in Ghorepani

Nice tree in Ghorepani

Our Ghorepani hut

Our Ghorepani hut

Hannes' suffers toe issues

Hannes’ suffers toe issues

Tilly has a new friend - Srijana (guesthouse lady's daughter)

Tilly has a new friend – Srijana (guesthouse lady’s daughter)

Started raining all of a sudden

Started raining all of a sudden

Beautiful rhododendrons on the way to Poon Hill

Beautiful rhododendrons on the way to Poon Hill

Met this guide on the way to Ghorepani

Met this guide on the way to Ghorepani

View from Poon Hill

View from Poon Hill

Swiss lady brought this Alphorn to Poon Hill

Swiss lady brought this Alphorn to Poon Hill

Group Pic on Poon Hill

Group Pic on Poon Hill

19th April 2016
  • Got up at 5am after close to 8-something hours of sleep. Felt like I was back in boarding school – the sound of someone yawning in another room, creaking of beds, shuffling of plastic bags and so on
  • I switched to military precision for my upcoming dump sequence. I was expecting a dirty toilet but it was surprisingly clean so I could put down my guard. I’ll stop describing the rest of the processes here
  • We went up race pace to the top of Poon Hill. The views were majestic – Annapurna 1/2/3, Daulagiri, Fish Mountain (Macchapuchhere). Spectacular
  • After a heavy breakfast (pancake with peanut butter), it was time to walk to Tadapani. Initially, it was a downhill course but boy did that change. The stairs we climbed put Lantau Peak and Sunset Peak to shame
  • Our lunch spot was another spectacular scene. And the lunch (macaroni with cheese) was yummy
  • Then came a longish walk to Chumrong. “Five minutes” was the theme of the day. Our next stop was always “five minutes” away. We left at 8am in the morning, reached Tadapani at about 12pm and it took us until 5pm to reach Chumrong which was at 2050m. Kiran suggested that we add another “5 minutes” to our day which meant that our stop was at Sinuwa, also at 2050mhumrong. “Five minutes” was the theme of the day. Our next stop was always “five minutes” away. We left at 8am in the morning, reached Tadapani at about 12pm and it took us until 5pm to reach Chumrong which was at 2050m. Kiran suggested that we add another “5 minutes” to our day which meant that our stop was at Sinuwa, also at 2050m
  • On the way to Sinuwa

    On the way to Sinuwa

    Flowers everywhere!

    Flowers everywhere!

    Roger suddenly borrowed my camera to take this great selfie

    Roger suddenly borrowed my camera to take this great selfie

    Want a hit man?

    Want a hit man?

    Poon Hill becomes POO HILL

    Poon Hill becomes POO HILL

    Walking through many green villages

    Walking through many green villages

    Our scenic lunch spot in Tadapani

    Our scenic lunch spot in Tadapani

    More beautiful rhododendron trees

    More beautiful rhododendron trees

  • Hannes’ pain got worse but he still managed to do the whole route without  any external help
  • During dinner, the conversation mainly revolved around Roger’s favorite topic again – poo. Tilly tried desperately to have the topic changed many times but invariably, as Milos put it, “all topics lead to s**t”. Roger’s need for a clean toilet outweighed his urgency to go for a dump
 
20th April 2016
  • The original plan was to hike up to Duerali (3100m) but Kiran was told that they had no rooms there. So, insead, we decided to go to Himalayan (2800m)
  • After a 7am breakfast (Muesli with fruits), we started making our 4-hour journey to Himalayan
  • The poo experience that Roger was after continued to ellude him until the afternoon, but soon after an intense hailstorm, Roger proudly announced that he had successfully relieved himself of some unnecessary cargo
  • We played poker in the afternoon and watched out the window as the rain continued its onslaught
  • After a heavy dinner (macaroni with cheese) it was time to retire for the day
Carpet of leaves

Carpet of leaves

We crossed many of these suspension bridges

We crossed many of these suspension bridges

While Hannes was stretching, bad boy Roger tripped him

While Hannes was stretching, bad boy Roger tripped him

Our humble abode

Our humble abode

Express mule

Express mule

Mary had a little lamb...

Mary had a little lamb…

Taking a pitstop

Taking a pitstop

First sight of snow

First sight of snow

21st April 2016
  • We were hoping for some bright skies after the intense rainfall the previous day
  • I woke up at around 5.30am and went outside. Fortunately, the skies were an azure blue. Roger woke up shortly after and greeted us with a morning fart. (When Milos farts he fondly refers to it as his “jet fuel exhaust”)
  • Today was the highlight of our ABC base camp expedition. The scenery was simply mind blowing. We left around 7.30am and reached Machupuchere Base Camp (MBC – 3700m) around 10.30am
  • The skies continued to be blue so we made the 1.5 hour trip to Annapurna Base Camp (4130m). Awesome. Magnificent.  Pick your adjective
  • On the way back to MBC (Fishtail Mountain), it looked like it was going to pour down but we luckily avoided the rain. At around 2.30pm, it rained cats and dogs. Great escape!
  • Lunch was a heavy rosti and post lunch it was time to play poker again and retire for the day
Wild flowers on the way to ABC

Wild flowers on the way to ABC

The beauty was amazing

The beauty was amazing

Stunning

Stunning

Had to cross this glacier on the way to ABC

Had to cross this glacier on the way to ABC

The view was spectacular

The view was spectacular

Majestic mountains

Majestic mountains

Dark side of mountaineering - Anatoli Boukreev is remembered

Dark side of mountaineering – Anatoli Boukreev is remembered

On ABC. Japanese expedition attempt to climb the south face of Annapurna

On ABC. Japanese expedition attempt to climb the south face of Annapurna

The high altitude hut

The high altitude hut

Unbelievable landscape

Unbelievable landscape

The remote hut

The remote hut

22nd April 2016
  • The plan was to descend all the way to Chumrong at 2800m
  • The mountains were beautifully illuminated by the sun as I woke up and stepped out at 5.30am. Part of me wished I had gotten up at 4am and made it back up to ABC for the view
  • We made the 24km walk back to Chhumrong beginning 7.30am
  • As we made our way, the skies behind us blackened. We got lucky again with the weather. It felt like we were taking the sunshine with us wherever we were going
  • Roger, while talking about an Australian guy who had fallen off Annapurna while attempting to change his camera battery, ironically, also fell down a slope when attempting to change his camera battery. Luckily, all he had was a minor scratch
  • The final stage from Sinuwa to Chhumrong was a tough stair climb but otherwise, it felt like a pretty easy day – especially as we are going from a freezing 3700m in elevation to a balmy and green Chhumrong at 2100m
  • The view from our guesthouse “Kalpana guesthouse” was lush and green! Cabbage plantations grew below and potato farms were planted all around
  • It felt amazing to note how a mere 20km of waking changed everything. From the views of tall, towering mountains to that of green and lush valleys, from frigid temperatures where you need several layers of clothing to that of balmy weather where a tee shirt and a pair of shorts would suffice. It felt like a journey from survival mode to living comfortably. Mountains are majestic but living there is another cold matter!
  • I thought about those guys attempting to climb Annapurna (apparently one in ten die). They must feel like what we just did (the hike to ABC camp) was pure baby stuff
  • Milos came out of the squat toilet (the only option we had) and declared that “he wasn’t sure where he was aiming”. Which made me conclude that I would defer jetissoning my excess cargo by one more day until we would reach Pokhara
  • The rest of the day was spent in a Swiss bakery shop and playing poker. Hannes was close to winning the game in the MBC hut but we found an excuse to stop the game before he could win it all
Morning view from MBC

Morning view from MBC

Eating at a bakery in Chhumrong

Eating at a bakery in Chhumrong

Mountains are beautiful but hostile terittory

Mountains are beautiful but hostile terittory

Great green views (and Roger)

Great green views (and Roger)

Chhumrong valley

Butterfly hovers around

Butterfly hovers around

From 3700m to 2500m in Chhumrong

From 3700m to 2500m in Chhumrong

23rd April 2016
  • Woke up to the sight of the beautiful Machapuchare (Fishtail mountain) at about 5.45am for our last 4-hour day of walking. Thought to myself how magnificent it looked from the comfort of our guesthouse in Chhumrong but as you go near it, the discomfort of being there rises with the altitude
  • We left the green Chhumrong at about 7.30am and reached Birethanti at about 11am, just in time for our taxi pick up back to Pokhara
  • Leaving Chhumrong and arriving at Pokhara felt very different. Difference between heaven and earth! It all meant one thing – our holiday was coming to a close!
  • The afternoon was spent eating and shopping. We went to a Tibetan market where Milos was pointing at a photo of the Dalai Lama and said that he had many interesting things to say. Then, all of a sudden from behind, a small Tibetan lady approached and said “he’s cool, right?” We nodded
Walking back to the jeep to get back to Birethanti

Walking back to the jeep to get back to Birethanti

Leaving gardens for Kathamandu city

Leaving gardens for Kathamandu city

About 40 mins away from our finiish

About 40 mins away from our finiish

This guy is a pro

This guy is a pro

24th April 2016
  • Headed back to Kathmandu by bus after a 6.30am breakfast
  • Some more shopping and plenty of eating ensued after an 8-hour bus drive that featured many close traffic accidents
Monkey Swayambhu Temple, Kathmandu

Monkey Swayambhu Temple, Kathmandu

Not every day may be good but there is something good in every day

Not every day may be good but there is something good in every day

A "cross" spider

A “cross” spider

Dom gets a cheap shave

Dom gets a cheap shave

Where's the wire? There is a method in maddness

Where’s the wire? There is a method in maddness

Spot a pigeon - Durbar square

Spot a pigeon – Durbar square

I'm buyin' one of these babies

I’m buyin’ one of these babies

25th April 2016
  • It was time to return to the hustle and bustle of Hong Kong for us and to Geneva for Tilly
Goodbye Kathmandu

Goodbye Kathmandu

When in doubt, have a burgur

When in doubt, have a burgur

What about 'em Taliban Soups?

What about ’em Taliban Soups?

Interesting things we observed in Nepal:
  • Villages were very, very clean. I was expecting some garbage near the villages but there was none. Most villages in the mountains were spic and span
  • Prices in guesthouses were fixed and controlled. No matter which guesthouse  you go to, the prices were the same for guesthouses at that altitude
  • People were nice and friendly. Largely,  there was no real attempt to ripoff tourists. This was more true after Banthati
 
Trip rating: 
  • Truly kick ass style. Great place, great company and a truly kick ass break
  • Learning lessons:
    • One week in the Annapurna region and another in the Everest region would have had more kick ass power
    • Never carry more than you need. 7 tee shirts weren’t necessary. Light but good rain gear and winter gear are necessary. Most other things are dispensable
    • A private car for 6 people would have saved time instead of the long bus ride to Pokhara
    • A small day pack and a normal rucksack would have helped to carry ad hoc stuff instead of just a big rucksack

Overall, another great adventure in another great place! Our planet is really beautiful!

 

DSC03655

Koh Chang “kick ass” trip (Feb 2016)

2016-02-04
  • Learnt at the check in counter that we actually had a business class ticket to Bangkok and not a cattle class ticket. I don’t know how that happened because I could have sworn we clicked on “Economy”. HKD 4013 for a return business class ticket from Hong Kong to Bangkok
Stylist business class travel

Stylist business class travel

  • Strategically and immediately made use of the business class boarding facilities including the business class lounge (might as well! Who knows when the heck I may fly business again!)
  • Saw Hannes’ Thailand Arrival immigration card where he had marked “Toilet Cleaner” as his occupation. He told me that he had been marking “Toilet Cleaner” as his occupation on immigration cards for 25 years! (No, he’s not a toilet cleaner in real life although I guess he does clean his own toilet). Apparently, it was just “Cleaner” first until the immigration officers in the Philippines questioned him. Then he thoughtfully prefixed that very accurate description with the word “Toilet” to make it “Toilet Cleaner” to give it full meaning. The immigration authorities in the Philippines were then placated
"Toilet Cleaner" marked as occupation

“Toilet Cleaner” marked as occupation on Hannes’ form

  • Buses to Koh Chang were full. After much haggling, we got an airport taxi for 4,700 Bahts. Some weird looking guy who looked like a pimp carried my luggage (without asking me) to the taxi and spontaneously asked for a tip. I told him I didn’t have any change and offered him the few coins I did have. He scoffed at me, I think he even swore at me, and off we went!
  • Took a ferry from the pier to Koh Chang after the four hour car ride. Ferry took less than 30 minutes to get to Koh Chang. First impressions: crowded, commercial and busy. It took a while to find our hotel “Magic House” which had an “ok” look to it on the outside. White Sand Beach, the beach we went to for dinner, was only a 10-minute walk away
On the Ferry to Koh Chang

On the Ferry to Koh Chang

Welcome to Koh CHang

Welcome to Koh CHang

Beach was 5 mins away from "Magic House"

Beach was 5 mins away from “Magic House”

  • After a sumptuous dinner by the beach, it was time to retire for the day
  • In the room at Magic House, during the night it felt like there was indeed some magic happening – black magic! I thought we had some sort of ghost rattling all the windows and doors. It felt like we were somehow in the midst of a severe storm. I barely slept because I felt like the shaking windows would come crashing down in shards of glass. The next day morning, after some examination of the premises with little sleep, we discovered that it was just the power of the wind in a tropical place combined with some shoddy construction work at not-so-magic house.
View from Magic House

View from Magic House

View from Magic House

View from Magic House

Selfie on the beach

Selfie on the beach

2016-02-05
  • The French host at “Magic House” (our humble abode which had nothing magical about it), made us some croissants in the morning. Hannes, who lives around a French neighborhood back in Hong Kong felt like he was at home. He even started to show off some of his French language skills
  • Got three scooters for 600 Bahts in total and went on a 110km trip around the island
Saw this bee on the elephant rock

Saw this bee on the elephant rock

Scooting away Exploring island on scooter

  • Riding about 20km away, we saw the scenery transition from being that of a busy, chaotic little city to that of a clean and green island. It was perfect for the soul and a “chillaxing” experience!
  • Later, we went to another white sand beach, I think it was cold Long Beach, where we had a filling lunch (I did most of the eating!)
This is what rubber feels like after a while

This is what rubber feels like after a while

Rubber Plantation

Rubber Plantation

One of many beaches

One of many beaches

  • Then we went past a temple that supposedly cost 18M Bahts to build. There was a 20 Baht entrance fee but I decided to have a buko (coconut) for that price instead. Had two in fact!

One of many bukos

18M temple

18M temple

  • I wanted to try my hands at firing some weapons in a shooting range we rode past but then, once we got there, it just felt wrong to shoot! (Yes, harmless I know but still!) I saw the guns again and the price tag to fire them. Something like 2000 Bahts for firing 16 rounds on a M4. I decided against it. I think it was because it felt like I was indulging in the art of needless destruction. Or maybe I was overthinking it. (What do you think?) I’m not sure I would have fired those things even if it was free. But wait, whom am I kidding! Had it been free I’d probably have had a crack at it! But I would have probably regretted it soon after, so it was just as well I decided against it!
  • There were two other beaches we drove past before refilling the scooter with more petrol and riding down two the end of the island
  • Got some glorious sunset views on the way back and by the time we returned to our “Magic House”, it was close to 6.30pm which meant it was time to end the day with some good food and beer.
  • I’ve got to say – the number of European tourists in Thailand is a pretty staggering number. In fact, the first currency I saw in the Money Changers was always Russian Rubble to Bahts!
  • History repeated itself during the night and the rattling of the windows and doors meant little sleep. The power of the wind was simply incredible. To add to the cacophony of noises, the asbestos roof of the structure opposite to us was vibrating like a tuning fork which meant even more noise and even less sleep than the previous night!
Gorgeous sunset

Gorgeous sunset

2016-02-06
  • We joined a 700B / pp snorkeling trip which involved being picked up at 8am from Magic House with the intention of taking a boat ride to four different neighboring islands for snorkeling
  • It was 9.20am before someone showed up to pick us up. We were then driven to a pier about 25km away where we boarded a rather crowded boat
Rather crowded snorkeling boat

Rather crowded snorkeling boat

Beautiful island en route

Beautiful island en route

Getting ready to snorkel

Getting ready to snorkel

  • The blue skies and soothing waters soon set the stage for a day out in the serenity of the sea
  • In one of the islands, I stepped on a “sea hedgehog” which was a rather prickly experience. Later on, I had to remove two needles from my foot. (Luckily there were only two). Back on the boat, I observed the foot of another lady who had more needles periced on the base of our foot than I could count! Nasty things those sea hedgehogs
Small fish to fry

Small fish to fry

Big fish to fry

Big fish to fry

Not sure what you call them but I had two needles stuck in my feet because of them

Not sure what you call them but I had two needles stuck in my feet because of them

Coral Reef

Coral Reef

  • After retuning home to Magic House at a about 7pm, it was time for yet another Thai food eating marathon and some live music plus beers for dessert
  • The wind returned in full vigor during the night as though it had been given some sort of a steroid boost. The upper floor of Magic House shook every time the wind swept through. It felt like a typhoon 10. With every fierce swoosh of the wind, it felt like a jumbo jet was passing overhead. Reminded me of a Batman quote: “what happens when an unstoppable force meets an immovable object?” Answer: probably a crumbling Magic House because its questionable construction work hardly makes it immovable. We had to rely on its magic to stay in one piece
2016-02-07
  • After putting countless amount of calories in the body, today it was finally time for some exercise
  • With Dom leading the way on a hiking route he found on Strava, we were on our way on our 20km hike. An old village lady came outside to charge us money for a public trail. When we refused to pay, she threw stones at us but we carried along as though nothing had happened
Impolite Driver complaint

Impolite Driver complaint

Not Waterfalls but Water Fulls

Not Waterfalls but Water Fulls

Tall beautiful canopy

Tall beautiful canopy

Some sort of grinding gizmo en route

Some sort of grinding gizmo en route

Dry mushroom

Dry mushroom

Hannes' team

Hannes’ team

  • Hannes got a quick team together (three stray dogs who seemed to totally love him). They followed us all the way and stood guard at every junction of the trail
  • At some point, we couldn’t find the trail anymore and had to turn back. On the way back, we somehow seemed to bypass the old lady and escaped being hit by stones again
  • After another great meal, we put on our engineering hats to try and fix the Magic House window. We struck many pieces of cardboard in the gap between the window frame and the window. The wind speed also dropped. Meaning, there was finally some “magic” 8-hour sleep!
2016-02-08
  • More exercise was needed after consuming way more calories than we were expending. So, today it was time for some mountain biking
  • We got three mountain bikes at a place around 4km away from Magic House. The shopkeeper’s neighbor was an Indian guy who spoke fluent Thai. While waiting for our bikes, I indulged in two more coconuts. I was boasting off my ability to speak Thai by using what I thought was the equivalent for coconut in Thai, “buko”. Later, after many confused stares and an embarrassing reminder of those stares by Dom, I realized that “buko” is the Philippines word for coconut, not Thai
  • We did 77km on the bike in about 6 hours (including lunch). There were some mammoth hills on the way where I was forced to push the bike up the hill whereas Hannes and Dom were like fish in water
Going Biking

Going Biking

Hannes and Dom trying Jinhwa's Frog Stretch

Hannes and Dom trying Jinhwa’s Frog Stretch

Coconut drinking marathon

Coconut drinking marathon

Beautiful scenery en route

Beautiful scenery en route

Beautiful scenery en route

Beautiful scenery en route

Red flowers at our lunch place

Red flowers at our lunch place

The lunch place

The lunch place

Saw this quote on a book

Saw this quote on a book

Temple decoration

Temple decoration

  • As usual, the evening concluded with food plus drinks and the night was relatively noise-free as the wind stopped its onslaught. However, the noise from roosters, construction guys, dogs and occasional traffic took its place
2016-02-09
  • It was time to see the crocodile and snake show before departing for Hong Kong. Hannes and Dom reminded me that it would likely be a disappointment – more of a freak show than an educational experience. We decided to go anyway (largely me)
Snake and Crocodile show

Snake and Crocodile show

  • And, what a freak show that was! Some guy brought out a cobra, a python and a coconut snake and started irritating them. Every time the annoyed snake would strike back in defense, he’d exaggerate the effect by making an alarmed sound. He then brought the snake to the audience (a grand total of 6 of us) and it was our turn to touch the snakes. I passed despite plenty of prodding and “no bite” protests from the guy. Just felt uneasy with the snakes. The crocodiles were then given a similar treatment. He used a bamboo stick to pry open their mouths and got them snapping their jaws shut quickly to create a hollow noise. He then prayed (the music changed appropriately – all port of the show) and then put his finger / hand and also part of his head into the jaws of the crocodile. What a freak show that was! Oh, by the way, when he was demonstrating the Burmese python to the 6 of us, it peed and pooped on him. Some whitish colored feces oozed out of the snake and dropped on the ground. Pretty disgusting to watch! It wasn’t really worth the 900B we paid for it just to watch the animals being disturbed
The finale - the guy prayed and kissed the croc

The finale – the guy prayed and kissed the croc

Putting his finger in the snake's mouth

Putting his finger in the snake’s mouth

Dom holding young croc

Dom holding young croc

There was this iguana in the cage

There was this iguana in the cage

This python pooed on him

This python pooed on him

Dom showing off his snake skills

Dom showing off his snake skills

Poking the snake to get it to bite

Poking the snake to get it to bite

Prodding the croc

Prodding the croc

Croc watched the show too

Croc watched the show too

  • After the snake and croc show, we made our 6 hour journey to Bangkok airport
2016-02-10
  • We arrived in style and it was now time to depart in style, by business class, back to Hong Kong
Summary: 
Thailand is quite a place. The pace of life drops, the warmth of the sunshine is soothing and the beaches are inviting. The people are largely happy, friendly and polite. (You get weird ones too but that’s outside the scope of this blog!) We had two “cold” days – about 17 degrees but other than that, it was the typical palm tree tropical weather. I’d give Koh Chang a 6/10. Although it had its pristine parts, it was also congested and full of tourists. Cat Ba in Vietnam gets a higher score from me as far as places go.

Sapa village

The Vietnam Adventure (Sa Pa / Cat Ba / Ha Long Bay) – December 2015

Photos are here.


 

2015-11-29 (Sunday)

  • took a plane to Hanoi which landed around 2000 HKT. Vietnam is one hour behind Hong Kong
  • took a USD 5 cab ride to the train station. Met lady from the travel agency who had our tickets to Lao Cai. After our struggle to find veggie food, I got her to say veggie food in Vietnamese and recorded it on my iphone for future use
  • took the train (Orient Express) headed for Lao Cai (50km from Sapa)
  • got ourselves into what looked like a fancy compartment. Very comfy. USD 80 for 2 people. Private cabin. We expected two more but that wasn’t the case
This is how you say “No Meat” in Vietnamese
Very comfy train

Very comfy train

2015-11-30 (Monday)
  • I learnt that Cai in Vietnamese is pronounced “Kai” and not “Chai” like Chinese
  • I learnt that Vietnamese doesn’t have any pictorial representation of the language. It’s pretty much like English with fancy up/down intonations. Kind of like the German Uberlong
  • got off the train nice and early at 0540, took a ripoff 200,000 Duong minivan ride to Sapa (only 50km away). Almost dozed off most of the way. Sapa struck me as one of the classic Indian hill-stations. Pretty, pristine yet chaotic because of traffic
  • soon after exiting the minivan, got accosted by countless locals who were getting us to buy homemade purses, bracelets, and so on. They also wanted us to go hiking in their respective villages. “Come to my village, most beautiful” was the broken record for the day
  • checked in into Phuong Nam hotel and went for a walk to nearby village called Cat Cat
  • Cat Cat was quite scenic and serene. Except for the constant “come to my village” and “please shop” sales pitches which just wouldn’t stop. One even waited for us to have lunch and almost twisted my arm into buying something. I refused but felt quite guilty after a while. (I still feel guilty as a matter of fact!) Should have simply made her day. Only a matter of HKD 20 or so after all! There was no need for a hard “I cannot be moved” stance
  • took a scooter (USD 5) and rode around. Saw clouds dangling above a valley. Looked spectacular

Check out this Hydro Grinder

Cat Cat Village

Cat Cat Village

Cat Cat Village

Cat Cat Village

Cat Cat Village

Cat Cat Village

Cat Cat Village

Cat Cat Village

Who is this handsome guy?

Who is this handsome guy?

Cat Cat Village

Cat Cat Village

2015-12-01 (Tuesday)
  • got up at 0700, went down to the reception and booked tickets to Ha Long Bay for Thursday evening on a sleeper bus. Also, booked our guide for the hike up to Fancipan (3100m) for Wednesday
  • had a sumptuous breakfast (again) and hired two scooters (again!)
  • first stop: Ta Phin. Very scenic and harmonious BUT (as usual) we got frequently accosted by local villagers who wanted to us to buy various things from them. To avoid them and to enjoy some peace and tranquility, we stopped at various lookout points on the meandering road where there was no one
  • After a pretty heavy lunch, we headed towards the next village for the day called Su Pan. More villages, more serenity, more picturesque landscapes. Ride was awesome
  • after Su Pan, we headed for our final village of the day called Topas. A gang of villagers tried to get us to buy something. We somehow escaped without departing with money
  • stopped at a Vietnamese style rural “cafe” and ordered some Chinese style tea. Some old looking guy invited himself over to our table and helped himself to some tea. I replenished his cup, Dom’s cup and my cup. Drank plenty of tea and left after an hour. Tea lady didn’t want money for tea (people are good and not everyone is greedy!) but to reciprocate I insisted on giving her something and gave her 20k Duong
  • my scooter then stopped because of mechanical problems. The old guy I had been serving tea happened to be riding his scooter and saw me. I gave him a “I-am-in-trouble-please-help” look and he immediately stopped, took a look at my scooter and discovered the broken spark plug. He removed his own scooter’s spark plug, made my scooter work and only asked us for HKD 20 for a new spark plug for his scooter. I was thinking to myself how goodness exists in the world when we look for it. Amidst all this news of terrorism, people killing people, etc, there is a lot of goodness that still embraces the society!
  • learnt that “Pho” is noodles in Vietnamese and “Bho” is beef. Had another great dinner and hit the sack for the relatively early start on Wednesday (7am Facipan trek)
Handsome guy...

Handsome guy…

Sapa village

Sapa village

Sapa village

Sapa village

Tea guy comes to the rescue to fix my busted bike

Tea guy comes to the rescue to fix my busted bike

Above the clouds

Above the clouds

2015-12-02 (Wednesday)
  • had a quick breakfast and met our guide Sam at 7am. Took a cab up to the starting point of the Fancipan Trail (pronounced the same way you’d pronounce “Fancy Pants” minus the “ts” at the end)
  • our guide Sam turned out to be the Vietnamese equivalent of a Nepali Gurkha. Went up and down slippery slopes like a friggin’ mountain goat. I had no hopes in hell of catching up to him. He was amazing!
  • met some tourists along the way who were going to do the hike in 2/3 days!!! It’s about five times as hard as Sharp Peak but anyone with a resonable level of fitness can do it within 10 hours!
  • took us a total of 3.15 hours to get to the top. It was a cloudy experience but we did have a trigonometric station to tell us where we were! One item checked off the list!
  • On the way back down, saw a couple of guys of guys from Australia who had just summited. “Beautiful view” the guy said to me referring to his summit views. I drilled further into his comment and figured out that all he saw was what we also saw – a blanket of whiteness!! But having come all the way from Syndey for this, it HAD to be beautiful!
  • took about 2.30 hours to come back down and we finished the whole thing in 6.42 hours. Got a medal and a certificate at the end!!
Met. Mr. Goat on the way to Facipan

Met. Mr. Goat on the way to Facipan

Dom and Sam (guide)

Dom and Sam (guide)

Dom and I

Dom and I

Hut 2: 2800m: On the way to Facipan

Hut 2: 2800m: On the way to Facipan

Up, up and away

Up, up and away

Fancipan: Construction site plus trigonometric station (they are building a cable car now!)

Fancipan: Construction site plus trigonometric station (they are building a cable car now!)

Coming back down to Sapa from Fancipan

Coming back down to Sapa from Fancipan

We got a cert plus medal for going up 3130m to Fancipan

We got a cert plus medal for going up 3130m to Fancipan

Coming back down to Sapa from Fancipan

Coming back down to Sapa from Fancipan

What a great looking guy

What a great looking guy

Fancipan: Construction site plus trigonometric station (they are building a cable car now!)

Fancipan: Construction site plus trigonometric station (they are building a cable car now!)

Hut 2: 2800m: On the way to Facipan

Hut 2: 2800m: On the way to Facipan

Hut 1: 2300m (on the way to Fancipan)

Hut 1: 2300m (on the way to Fancipan)

2015-12-03 (Thursday)
  • chilled out the first half of the day and took a sleeper bus to Ha Long bay in the evening. Destination: Cat Ba island which is off the coast of Ha Long Bay
Chilling out

Chilling out

View of Sapa town

View of Sapa town

Yes, the Amazing Hotel

Yes, the Amazing Hotel

Our hotel Phnom Penh

Our hotel Phnom Penh

2015-12-04 (Friday)
  • the sleeper bus to Ha Long Bay was a nightmare! Well, comfy sleeping berth but we had a noisy crowd with phones going off all the time. I could even smell cigarette smoke
  • the bus dropped us off in Ha Long Bay at 0330 whereas we were told it would take until 0500 for us to reach Ha Long Bay. Well, early to bed, early to rise I guess. We took a cab at some ungodly hour and reached the ferry pier to Cat Ba island at 0400. Next couple of hours were spent in the pier staring into the darkness and feeling the cold wind brush against our body. We could also hear the rain hammering the roof above us in steady intervals
  • I learnt that the town of Mong Cai was nearby and it bordered China’s Guang Xi province. Technically, I think we were just one hour away from China!
  • by 0600, darkness turned into daylight and it stopped raining which gave us our first views of Ha Long Bay
  • the “cruise” to Cat Ba island from Hang Long Bay was scenic – reminded me a lot of the jagged peaks of Guang Xi (like what you see on the RMB 20 note’s backdrop)
  • Cat Ba island by itself was serene, pristine, lush and soothing. Probably the highlight of the trip for me thus far. The air was refreshingly fresh and crisp and the landscape was invitingly spectacular. Jagged peaks surrounded the distant backdrop and mangrove trees occupying the foreground were resting beautifully in whitish-blue colored waters
  • the island was relatively big and the small town centre looked quite fancy with many 3-storey buildings and hotels
  • we checked into Bayview hotel by the seafront and rented scooters to ride around the island. It was drizzling rather heavily at times but still, this scooter ride was one of the best rides I’ve done. There’s no greater source of rejuvenation than to smell the fresh scent of air after rains have blessed the lush greenery. It took in as many deep breaths as I could
  • we stopped by a cave which doubled as a rather large hospital for wounded Vietnam soldiers who served during the war with America. According to an ex army guy who now runs a restaurant by the side of this cave, many bombs were dropped on Cat Ba and Ha Long Bay during that war. He also told us that many more such secret caves still exist all over Vietnam but the government won’t reveal their locations as that information is classified
  • day ended with some sumptuous dinner (as usual)
Arriving at Halong Bay at 0330

Arriving at Halong Bay at 0330

Welcome to Cat Ba

Welcome to Cat Ba

From Halong Bay to Cat Ba

From Halong Bay to Cat Ba

Cat Ba's greenery

Cat Ba’s greenery

Entrance to the hospital cave

Entrance to the hospital cave

I used to train with John Rambo back in the day

I used to train with John Rambo back in the day

Long entrance in the war museum cave

Long entrance in the war museum cave

War museum in cave. Wounded soldiers were brought in here during the Vietnam war

War museum in cave. Wounded soldiers were brought in here during the Vietnam war

Cat Ba's greenery

Cat Ba’s greenery

This guy served back in the day during the war but left soon after he found himself a chick (behind every man's success...)

This guy served back in the day during the war but left soon after he found himself a chick (behind every man’s success…)

Cat Ba's beauty

Cat Ba’s beauty

Cat Ba's beauty

Cat Ba’s beauty

Cat Ba's beauty

Cat Ba’s beauty

Cat Ba's beauty

Cat Ba’s beauty

Riding scooters through beautiful Cat Ba

Riding scooters through beautiful Cat Ba

Life is good

Life is good

2015-12-04 (Saturday)
  • today was the kayaking day. Checked into Outdoor Adventures at 0800 and got on kayaks at 0900
  • the scenery was amazing. A combination of Milford Sound views plus Guilin views. Spent quite sometime admiring the views and exploring secret lagoons. Kites were flying overhead and adding to the feel of the place. Loved it
  • after a day of kayaking, it was time for another sumptuous dinner plus a Vietnam adventure closing beer
Goin' kayaking

Goin’ kayaking

Where are my Hollywood offers

Where are my Hollywood offers

Dom enjoying his kayaking

Dom enjoying his kayaking

More kayaking

More kayaking

Another secret lagoon

Another secret lagoon

View of the bay

View of the bay

View of the bay

View of the bay

Cat Ba's Milford Sound like beauty

Cat Ba’s Milford Sound like beauty

Cat Ba's Milford Sound like beauty

Cat Ba’s Milford Sound like beauty

Floating village

Floating village

Kayaking

Kayaking

Floating village

Floating village

Loved the kayaking

Loved the kayaking

Cat Ba's Milford Sound like beauty

Cat Ba’s Milford Sound like beauty

Cat Ba's Milford Sound like beauty

Cat Ba’s Milford Sound like beauty

Cat Ba's Milford Sound like beauty

Cat Ba’s Milford Sound like beauty

Cat Ba's Milford Sound like beauty

Cat Ba’s Milford Sound like beauty

2015-12-05 (Sunday)
  • it was time to bring the Vietnam vacation to a close. Boarded a bus at 9am which took us to the pier. From Hai Phong Bay, we took another bus to Hanoi. We then cabbed it to the airport
  • a plane back to Hong Kong concluded our little jaunt in Vietnam
Sunny day photo of Cat Ba

Sunny day photo of Cat Ba

What a great looking guy

What a great looking guy

Bye Bye Hanoi

Bye Bye Hanoi

Summary:
  • stunning rice terrace, beautiful villages, serene islands and spectacular scenery. If this isn’t reason enough to visit Vietnam I am not sure what is!
  • my suggestion to fellow travelers would be to avoid the night buses if you don’t like cigarette smoke!

DSC01644

Kick Ass Motorbiking Adventure in Ladakh (July 2015)

After eight long years, the mountains of Ladakh, India beckoned again. The motorbikes were calling out our names. High altitude passes, river streams and meandering roads were waiting to be crossed yet another time on a motorbike — this time on Royal Enfields. And so began the planning of our motorbike trip to Ladakh from Manali. Prashant, my friend and travel mate on our two previous motorbike rides in Ladakh organized this one too. Bold Swiss motorbike rider and fellow Hong Konger, Hannes also joined us for our kick ass motorbiking adventure in Ladakh during July 2015.

Photo courtesy: Hannes (he’s a better photographer than I am). All photos are here.

Hannes’ PowerPoint collage

2015-07-13, Chennai to Manali

  1. I took a flight into Delhi from Chennai. Flight landed 5 minutes early (Go IndiGo Air!) and met Prashant and Hannes at about 1945 outside the airport
  2. Took a pretty long taxi ride (saw India Gate, Red Fort on the way) and reached a super crowded ISBT (big intercity Delhi bus stand) at about 2100. Bus stand was a cacophony of activity
  3. Took a bus to Manali. Had front row seats. Hannes even helped fix a puncture en route at 3am while Prashant and I were asleep despite the rather uncomfortable seats
At ISBT bus stand

At ISBT bus stand

15-hour bus ride. Fixing a puncture at 3am

15-hour bus ride. Fixing a puncture at 3am

2015-07-14, Getting bikes plus permits in Manali

  1. reached Manali at 1.15pm (left at 2200 the previous day) making this the longest bus ride of my lifetime. 15 hours on a bus that stopped almost everywhere and even had puncture problems
  2. got the motorbikes from the Trip Advisor rated bikerentalmanali.com. Their shop was in a place called Vashisht in Manali. Luckily, the gears on the Enfield were on the left side. I got the new Thunderbird 350cc which was only a month old. Prashant and Hannes had classic Enfield 350cc bikes. Bike guy whose name was Abhinav Sood, seemed to be running a pretty lucrative business. Reliable guy but made us sign a million forms to indemnify his company against this, that, etc (guess he needs to). Bikes were in great condition
  3. got the permits done to cross Rohtang Pass at the SDM (not sure what that stands for) but it’s a pretty dull looking bureaucratic office in Manali City by the bus stand. We then tested the bikes out and slept like a log for 8 hours to recover from the 15-hour bus ride
Room in Manali

Room in Manali

Hannes with his "Black Beauty"

Hannes with his “Black Beauty”

Prashant and his Enfield

Prashant and his Enfield

Suited and booted and ready to go

Suited and booted and ready to go

Loading up on gas

Loading up on gas

2015-07-15, Manali to Jispa

  1. set off on our kick ass bike journey at 7am in the morning. Meandering roads, slushy terrain and dust-filled air greeted us on the first half of our ride. That and plenty of careful overtaking of heavy tucks that stirred up dust straight into our faces. The challenge of riding on slushy mountainous roads blended with the magnificence of the mountain itself
  2. the new Thunderbird 350cc I was riding definitely looked old after I crossed the muddy roads of Rohtang pass (about 3800m). The shock absorbers were put to good test during and after crossing Rohtang. We averaged around 16km per hour until Sissu (after Rohtang). It was rather an amusing sight to watch tourists dressed up in full blown snow suits when there was very little snow to see! It was like wearing a raincoat for protection from a small puddle of water in the remote distance
  3. we continued on after Rohtang and eventually reached Jispa at around 4pm (9 hours later) covering about 110km on Day 1 of our kick ass riding
  4. Jispa was quite beautiful. We found tent like accommodation with a proper toilet. It started to rain as soon as we were parked and settled! I even caught a rainbow from the toilet window
On the way to Rohtang Pass

On the way to Rohtang Pass

Little but of snow en route. Tourists wore a full snow suit for this!

Little but of snow en route. Tourists wore a full snow suit for this!

Hannes enjoying a Kingfisher in Jispa

Hannes enjoying a Kingfisher in Jispa

This is Jispa

This is Jispa

2015-07-16, Jispa to Pang

  1. Quite a hard day! We left Jispa early but got stuck at Baralacha La Pass. Two vehicles got stuck in a rather ominous looking river crossing. We waited for two hours for the army to clear the road using something called a JCB (some big crane). Later, Hannes was the first one among us to attempt to cross that stream. He rode through the bouldery stream crossing like a daredevil punk and succeeded in his first attempt! I needed help and almost fell. Prashant followed suit and made a successful attempt. More such stream crossings appeared and demanded some heavy motorbiking skills
  2. The lake at Baralacha La pass at 4927 meters was dazzling. Serene and picturesque. I remembered seeing this lake 8 years back in June when it was frozen. Now it appeared vast and was quite a sight. After the lake, came two very beautiful high altitude passes. Nakeela La at 4961m and Lachung La at 5097m. I almost lost control of the bike while negotiating a slope after Lachung La. Prashant had his first fall which resulted in a minor knee injury
  3. We finally ended up at a place called Pang at 4.30pm, which was at about 4500m above sea level. Although we did not want to stay at such an altitude, we were out of time and could not continue riding. Staying at Pang was a nightmare. We had basic tent like accommodation with many others. It was super cold and noisy (I also contributed to it through my occasional snoring). All the three of us had an altitude headache. Hannes didn’t sleep a wink. The previous two times I had stayed at Pang was in 2008/2009. Both times, I vomited and felt like someone had beaten me up. This time, the lady at the place gave me some ginger tea which really helped. I managed to spend the night at Pang without puking. I even ventured out quickly during the night to look at the stars. It was quite a sight! But, my visual treat was interrupted by my olfactory senses which detected the pungent smell of human excreta nearby! I gave the stargazing a rest and went back into the tent to try and resume my sleep despite the sharp high altitude headache
Truck stuck in Barlacha La pass

Truck stuck in Barlacha La pass

We had to wait for the army JCB to clear this mess

We had to wait for the army JCB to clear this mess

Prashant and Hannes wondering what to do next

Prashant and Hannes wondering what to do next

JCB tows away the van

JCB tows away the van

Hannes readies to cross

Hannes readies to cross

Finally made it through

Finally made it through

Barlacha La pass

Barlacha La pass

This is Barlilacha Lake. Usually frozen in winter

This is Barlilacha Lake. Usually frozen in winter

Nakeela Pass

Nakeela Pass

Pang - our resting abode for the night

Pang – our resting abode for the night

2015-07-17, Pang to Leh

  1. with much difficulty, we got out of our horrible tented accommodation in Pang. I got out to look at the toilets and immediately averted my eyes! First of all, I had trouble deciding where exactly the toilet was. The pungent smell my nose detected seemed to come from pretty much everywhere! Pieces of feces lay strewn around like landmines beyond a distance which was hardly a stone’s throw away. I decided that my own excreta was best contained within the confines of my intestines. Hannes proudly announced that he had gotten a nice one out the previous day on the mountains just before we got into Pang. Anyway, we got back on the bikes, happily left Pang, and it was then one relatively fast ride into More Plains, a 50km stretch of flat roads in the high altitude plains. We then hit another high altitude pass called Tanglang La pass at 5353m. Stunning. There was a temple there but I didn’t have enough energy to remove my shoes and go in, so I skipped going inside
  2. after Tanglang La pass, there was a meandering road that took us to Rumtse (4300m). Then we hit Upshi after another 50km of riding. The roads all the way from Pang were very good
  3. riding into Leh from Upshi was such a pleasure! There was a river hugging the winding road and I managed to hit 90kmh on the Enfield on many occasions
  4. upon reaching Leh, we found good accommodation in a hotel called Grand Willow (finally had access to a good toilet again!) After checking in, showering and getting rid of intestinal waste, we walked around to try and get permits done to visit Nubra Valley and Panagong Lake. (Since these places are close to border regions, one needs to get permits). Getting permits for Hannes seemed like a struggle initially. Apparently, non Indians can only get permits if there is at least two of them traveling together! I am not sure what a solo non Indian traveler would do! Anyway, some money and a travel agent up the road solved this problem for us by combining Hannes’ permit with some other non Indians. It was funny to see that they wrote down that Hannes was from “Swaziland” and not Switzerland in the permit!
The Moray plains

The Moray plains

Tanglang La pass (5300m). Couldn't go into the temple here

Tanglang La pass (5300m). Couldn’t go into the temple here

On the way to Leh

On the way to Leh

This is in the outskirts of Leh

This is in the outskirts of Leh

Our hotel put on a cultural show in Leh

Our hotel put on a cultural show in Leh

Not sure what these two gentlemen are laughing at

Not sure what these two gentlemen are laughing at

2015-07-18, Leh to Pangong Lake (aborted Nubra Valley attempt)

  1. armed with permits, we set off for Nubra Valley at 7am. However, around 10km into the journey, we were stopped by some local punks who insisted that we could only go to Kardung La (we had to cross this 5400m pass to get to Nubra Valkey) on Jammu and Kashmir rented bikes, not Manali rented bikes. Hannes unleashed a slew of verbal abuse at the guy which made him get on the phone to his boss. (For a couple of minutes, I thought Hannes was going to get himself killed!) However, the punks won and although illegal, they managed to turn us around
  2. after having been turned around, we decided to attempt Pangong Lake, although we felt we would be turned around there too by the punks there. As we were riding, at some point during the initial ride to Pangong lake, some local punks shouted at us and asked us to stop but we continued on regardless. After several hours of hardcore biking and several stream crossings which rendered by feet numb, we reached Chang La (5378m). As usual, there was a temple there but I couldn’t summon the energy to take my shoes off in that altitude for a quick note of thanks to God!
  3. the ride into Pangong Lake wasn’t easy. Although it was only around 50km from Chang La pass, the road was super busy and we had to cross many more mini streams. There was also some occasional desert like surface, and a lot of bouldery bits which proved to be a bit of a challenge for me on the bike. Hannes seemed to have no problems and even gave his beloved Enfield a pet name, “Black Beauty”. The desert like surface sent my bike and I dancing dangerously on many occasions
  4. eventually, we reached the beautiful Pangong lake after several hours of riding and found ourselves a nice warm Swiss style hut with a proper toilet. Upon Hannes’ insistence, we took a cold shower (my butt froze)
  5. it took me a while to get myself warmed up again as I had wet feet from not wearing proper biking boots. I was wearing Gorerex running shoes and all the streams en route were no match for these shoes. I was thinking of ways to make some makeshift poncho-boots for the next day’s ride to avoid getting frozen feet again!

PS. The irony of the day was that no one had asked us for our permits! All that time we spent getting a Swaziland permit for Hannes was unnecessary!

Chang La pass - on the way to Pangong Lake

Chang La pass – on the way to Pangong Lake

On the way to Pangong Lake - a wild yak

On the way to Pangong Lake – a wild yak

Pangong Lake - where 3 Idiots was shot. There is a Rancho Cafe there

Pangong Lake – where 3 Idiots was shot. There is a Rancho Cafe there

Our Swiss style hut in Pangong Lake

Our Swiss style hut in Pangong Lake

The hut even had a couch

The hut even had a couch

Three quarters of this lake is in Tibet and 1 quarter in India

Three quarters of this lake is in Tibet and 1 quarter in India

 

2015-07-19, Pangong Lake to Nubra Valley via a challenging shortcut!

  1. we decided to take a shortcut to Nubra Valley from Pangong Lake. The shortcut was questionable as the road conditions were unknown but it promised to save us around 50km of riding as we would directly end up at Nubra Valley instead of going through Leh again
  2. the “shortcut” started off with a stream though which half the bike got submerged. Again, hero Hannes somehow managed to cross the stream without killing his engine. My bike stalled. I waited for Prashant and Hannes to rescue me. My feet got totally wet. It took me a while to get the engine going again. Then I met two army guys who told me that the road ahead was extremely bad and that it would be wise to turn back to avoid punctures. We dismissed his suggestion and rode on
  3. at some point, the “road” was non existent. Each boulder I guided the bike over felt like the next sureshot setting for a fall. And, fall I did. Two times. First one was in a stream where I misjudged the size of the boulder. Luckily, it was a minor fall. The bike was still standing although my right mirror broke. What I found harder was to gather myself and recover in the high altitude conditions after each fall!
  4. I have to say – the shortcut was beautiful no doubt but to admire the beauty was a challenge, especially when I felt like I was losing control of the bike. On serval occasions, it felt like I was on a camel, not an Enfield. Fortunately, the bike behaved and it seemed like we were somehow going to make it to Nubra Valley but just a mere 5km from Nubra, we had our first major unstoppable force of nature greeting us. A part of the road was blown away by a recent Made by Nature stream and the resulting deluge meant only two things (1) stay there and wait for the army guys to clear the stream (2) ride back!!! I definitely didn’t want to go back. No way in hell was I going to go through those boulder roads again (I had just narrowly escaped falling down more times than I could recall!) Staying there was a questionable idea as well as there was no guarantee of a foreseeable fix. The army guys couldn’t divert the stream channel as some sacred tree was in the way. So, we improvised on (2) and decided to get to Leh via a “Wari La” pass. Some random truck driver told us that the road condition to Wari La pass was “ok”
  5. I was expecting a puny 4300m pass but Wari La turned out to be the mother of all passes. At 5300m in altitude, it was snowing on top, there was ice on the road and quite some streams were pretty hard to negotiate. My hands were frozen. The views were simply superb but only when admired in hindsight! I saw two gigantic vultures but didn’t have the energy to get my camera out! Hannes managed to get some pictures of them
  6. we lost daylight and had to ride back into Leh in the dark. I was blinded by the powerful headlights of oncoming traffic in the night but it was manageable
  7. we reached Leh at 9pm and covered roughly 254km in one day and went over a 5300m pass where it was snowing! Quite a “shortcut”. We were finally back in Room 403 of Grand Willow hotel in Leh
On the way to Nubra Valley

On the way to Nubra Valley

Some of the road junctions were impossible to cross

Some of the road junctions were impossible to cross

We were stuck here! No way we could cross this stream

We were stuck here! No way we could cross this stream

Deciding on Wari La Pass while perched on this log

Deciding on Wari La Pass while perched on this log

More streams to cross

More streams to cross

A marmut

A marmut

 

Vulture on the way to Wari La Pass

Vulture on the way to Wari La Pass

It was snowing on Wari La

It was snowing on Wari La

My hands were frozen. Wari La was at 5300m above sea level

My hands were frozen. Wari La was at 5300m above sea level

2015-07-20, Leh (rest day)

  1. today being our well deserved rest day, we got up late and went on a leisurely walk to a donkey sanctuary. Some kind person set up a place for old and injured donkeys where they could spend the last few years of their lives in comfort instead of letting them die a painful death outside
  2. we then visited a rock museum which was quite impressive. I had no idea that Ladhakh was home to so many precious minerals
  3. the evening was spent watching a movie about Ladhakh. Quite a good introduction to Buddhism and the beauty of Ladhakh. Did you know that Ladakh comes from the Tibetan word “La Dags” which means Land of Passes? After the movie, I went to the market to buy rubber boots. My goretex running shoes were no match for the intense stream crossings!

DSC01605

Leh Market place

Leh Market place

Downtown Leh

Downtown Leh

Leh Marathon! Will do this someday!

Leh Marathon! Will do this someday!

2015-07-21, Leh to Manali (first attempt)
1) the plan was to get up at 6am and head back towards Manali. We did that and left at 7am. I learned that the trouser goes over my newly purchased rubber boots, not under. My boots got wet as I rode the bike through a deep puddle of water. We reached Upshi (50km from Leh) at around 9am when Murphy’s law (what can go wrong will go wrong) greeted us

2) the guy at the checkpoint told us that “Brandy” bridge near Sarchu has been washed away by the torrential downpours the day before. Hence the road was closed. We needed to turn back. We still waited. And waited. Many other bikers and cars were stopped and given similar news. What followed then was a melee of mixed messages. Some guy said that the road would open at 1pm and another guy insisted it would take three days for a new bridge to be put in place. Messages were as confusing as they were ample. Everyone had supposedly heard something. We turned back towards Leh at 1pm after being told by the police guy at the checkpoint that “there was absolutely no point in waiting”

3) having lost our backup day and without any signs of anything improving, we decided to explore buying our way out of the situation. Meaning, we had to book expensive flights out of Leh and pay our bike rental guy many more thousands to get the bikes back to Manali on trucks. We reached the airport at 3pm or so to explore buying tickets but only to discover that it was closed (all planes fly in the morning only). Murphy’s law struck again as Prashant’s bike stopped working. We then split up. We used the remaining two bikes to get to the local mechanic. The mechanic went back with Prashant to the airport to fix his bike while Hannes and I went to the sole travel agent in Leh with a working internet connection to inquire about flight prices. It was INR 25k for a fight to Delhi!

4) after lunch, we asked several more people (police headquarters, Manali taxi stand) about the road condition and eventually, there seemed to be some sort of consensus on the latest news, which was that small vehicles were now being allowed to go through!

5) with this newfound information, we decided to leave at 5.30am the next day to attempt to get to Manali one last time before considering the expensive flying option. To add to the confusion of the route being open, we had another fresh problem to deal with. Apparently, Leh was going to be on strike the next day from 6am to 8pm. No vehicles were to be allowed on the road during this time. To tiptoe around the Leh lockdown, our plan was this: we would leave at 5.30am the following day and reach Upshi by 6.30am. If the road to Manali would be open, we’d take it. If not, we would hang out outside Leh, wait for the lockdown to end, somehow book flight tickets in the interim and come back into Leh after 8pm to try and make a Thursday/Friday morning flight!

6) nature, strikes, breakdowns… We had seen it all in one day! Getting out of our room 403 at Grand Willow hotel was a challenge!

We had a hard time leaving this place

We had a hard time leaving this place

We visited the Leh Palace in the afternoon

We visited the Leh Palace in the afternoon

The old Leh palace

The old Leh palace

The Gongpa

The Gongpa

2015-07-22, Leh to Manali (second attempt)

  1. We got up not at 5.30am but even sooner, at 4.30am ready to take on the 450km ride to Manali. We said another sly goodbye to the hotel room and hoped we wouldn’t see it again anytime soon
  2. Less than 25 minutes into the ride which started at 5.20am, we saw many bikers signaling us to turn around. We eventually figured out that the guys who were striking had created a road block up ahead. No vehicle could leave Leh! It was not even 6am (the supposed beginning of the lockdown) but the striking hooligans seemed to have gotten themselves an unfair early start. About turn. Hello again Room Number 403 in Grand Willow Hotel. Looks like we’ve met before! Time: 6.15am.
  3. We had lost our contingency day and one day of our actual journey to Manali! Now, we had to do the ride to Manali in a mere two days to make our Hong Kong flight in time. And, that didn’t allow any room for error at all. A breakdown, a fall, more road blocks and we would get stuck in India! Our flight out to HK was on Saturday night and we still had to get to Delhi from Manali
  4. we thought up a series of plans. Plan B, Plan C, Plan D, etc, etc. We again opted to buy our way out of the problem by purchasing air tickets to Delhi and paying the bike guy to send someone to Leh who could take the bikes back. New challenge: there were no flights available until the week after! Our only other solution was to ride back to Manali in two days. No room for error
  5. In order to while away time, we visited Leh Palace in the afternoon
  6. Thanks to the strike, we had one less day to return to Manali

Target: Time: Two days. Distance to cover: 450km

2015-07-23, Leh to Manali (third attempt)

  1. Get up time was 0330. Departure time 0400. We were ready to kick some serious butt today. Two days of intense riding through to Manali to get us the heck out of Leh! Thirty minutes into our cold and damp morning ride, I almost got caught in a muddy section of the road and my front wheel got ensnared. I was revving my engine real hard and real loud at 0430 to extricate myself and my bike from this newly formed slush. Prashant did a dance tune on the slush while Hannes almost ran into a cow!
  2. the day seemed fine and we were all ready to do around 200-something km on the bike. We reached Upshi with bated breath and were quite surprised to see a bunch of Enfields waiting before us! They managed to get up even before 3.30! One of them told us that she had gotten up at 2am in the anticipation of a long day ahead! BUT… Nature had its final say! There are two ways out of Leh. One of them got hit by a landslide (road via Tso Moriri) and the other one had a section of the road swept away! (Road via Rumtse – the way we came). Meaning, we were once again (for the third time) stuck in Leh! The Tso Moriri route might have not been an option to begin with as it was 170km longer. Not something we could do in two days anyway!
  3. three days, three attempts. Three failures. Stuck in Leh. Stuck in Leh. Stuck in Leh. We had to come up with a Plan D to get us out of Leh and in time for our Hong Kong flights. We didn’t sit at Umshi waiting for the roads to get fixed (as we did two days back!) Instead, we rode to the airport to check for available flight tickets out of Leh. None was available. We then went back to our usual hotel where the staff once again greeted us with a smirk on their faces. “Never has someone been unsuccessful so many times”, said the hotel guy. It didn’t make us feel better. What did make us feel better was the news that Ladakh was experiencing a “cloud burst” which only happens once in about 5 years. At least, we weren’t carrying any jinx. It was not our rotten luck but it was Leh and the unique weather that was to blame for our inability to escape from our beloved hotel room!
  4. after showering and “downloading” at Room 403 of Grand Willow hotel, we went to a travel agent hoping for last minute cancelations. Finally, Lady Luck smiled at us and we got three tickets out of Leh for the next day at an exorbitant price of INR 24,000 each ticket. The price of freedom!
  5. we negotiated with our bike rental guy to send someone over to our hotel to pick up the bikes. Then we went for our final joy ride on the bike to a place called Nimmu on the national highway #1. We saw the Indus Valley river and a hill called Magnetic Hill which is somehow supposed to pull vehicles upwards against gravity, towards its peak. It seemed like a bunch of baloney
  6. we came to know later on that the landslide on the Tso Moriri route wasn’t fixed until about the evening. So, waiting at Rumtse would have been a waste of time as we would have been out of time anyway. We had made a good decision by choosing to return quickly upon discovering that the roads were closed. That way, we at least got the last few seats on the plane to Delhi the following day
  7.  we concluded what seemed like our final day in Leh (this time for real) with some sumptuous dinner in celebration of our bike ride into Leh and our three attempted rides back! Hannes added that “if I come back to this hotel room tomorrow, I will hang myself”
On the way to Village Nimmu

On the way to Village Nimmu

Indus Ruver

The Indus River

The Indus River

This river runs from Tibet to Pakistan via India

This river runs from Tibet to Pakistan via India

2015-07-24, Leh to Hong Kong, via Delhi

  1. we got up at 4.30am to catch our 7am fight out to Delhi. Hannes asked if he should leave some luggage behind just in case. We had come back 3 times in the past 3 days anyway. Would we really be able to leave Leh?
  2. I wanted to get the pilot to do a low flying pass over Upshi. If we could see both roads to Manali open, we could always parachute down to ride the bikes back to Manali
  3. all the three of us said goodbye to Room 403 at Grand Willow hotel and hoped that the plane wouldn’t get canceled! If the roads can shut two times in two days and if a strike can stop us on the third day, then a plane cancelation isn’t really far off the realm of imagination
  4. the sky was clear blue outside and the day was perfect! It probably was a good day for riding but … it was also one for flying! We were ready to fly home!
  5. we reached Delhi without incident at 8am and said bye to Prashant. Hannes and I flew out to Hong Kong in the night
Goodbye Leh, for real!

Goodbye Leh, for real!

I almost thought we wouldn't be able to leave Leh

I almost thought we wouldn’t be able to leave Leh

A nice statue of the sun in Delhi airport

A nice statue of the sun in Delhi airport

Summary:

Snow capped mountains, lakes, desert like landscape, ice, snow, high altitude passes… we had seen it all by riding 1255km around Ladakh on Royal Enfields. We’d also seen man made pollution, landslides, experienced plans being forced to change due to nature’s intervention and plans being disrupted due to man made strikes.

This trip has definitely had the hallmark of yet another kick ass adventure in our beautiful Planet Earth. The more I travel and immerse myself in the beauty of nature, the more captivated I become with what our planet has to offer! I will miss my Royal Enfield. And, next time, I think we should avoid biking in Ladakh during the July monsoons!

Thanks to Hannes for the photographs.

Julley. (That’s some kind of greeting in Ladakhi).