Back  Home  August 2001 October 2001 Maren & Kirk

September 2001 Daily Diary

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(India, Nepal)



All of us were woken up by guys spitting and clearing their throats in the bathroom.  They were making horrible noises.  The bathroom is right outside our room.  We decided we would go to Dona Paula.  According to the guide book there are some beaches there.  Well they were not very nice, actually they were filthy and smelled.  One guy was cleaning himself after going to the bathroom and there was garbage all over the street.  It looked like open sewers were running into the ocean.  After walking along the beach for a while we went back to Panaji looked for information on traveling to Hampi the next day.  There were two possibilities,  one taking the train or taking the bus.  We are probably going to take the bus tomorrow.  We then grabbed a bus to  Old Goa to look at the old Portuguese Cathedrals. We had actually seen them from the bus going to Panaji the night before.   The Church and Chapel of St. Francis of Assisi was pretty big but time has taken its toll.  They have spent money on restoration, however not enough probably.   It was weird,  the first religious thing we see in India is a Christian Cathedral.  Later on we had a few samosas for lunch and then went to the market in town.   When walking back to the hotel Maren noticed a ladies hair cutter.  It was only 30 Rs, around  75 cents,  so she decided to have her hair cut.  The hair stylist said that henna helped stops the hair from falling out.  Ok, but the only problem is that it also changes the hair color of the person.  Maren said well why not.  It only costs 2 US$ more.  So she was brave enough to try.



This morning we said good bye to the two Danish travelers we had met. They also had to pack.  They were switching hotels.  We think the rooms and especially the bathrooms were too dirty.  We were happy also that they took our advice and sent some things home.  They had too much, just as we did when we started our trip.  One thinks one needs everything, but sooner or later one sees that one does not need much.  We hope that they enjoy the rest of there trip in India and maybe we will see them again.  They just have so much more time in India than we do.  Peter is staying until December and Anja is planning to stay till February.  After wishing them luck we went to the bus station. We thought the bus was going to leave at 10:30 am.  However there was also a bus at 9:30 am which we were able to catch.  It was a hard ride on some really bumpy roads.  To make it worse the bus driver drove insanely.  Always passing cars and honking his way through the traffic.  He would pass other vehicles on blind curves or drive fast through crowds of people.  It was nuts.  However we survived as you see.  The ride took 9 hours.  Kirk read for most of the journey and was happy to be able to finish his book.  One less book to carry along.  One got also to see some beautiful lush green landscape along the way and some small towns.  It just gets hard to get used to the poorness of the population and watching them going to the bathroom right in front of our face.  It is another type of poorness than in Africa.   It is just always kind of sad to see that people have still to live in this manner.  When we arrived in Hospet we had to catch a bus to Hampi.  At the bus station in Hospet,  people just came up to us and stared at us.  You feel like they have never seen someone like us before. Kirk always askes them what they are looking at and if we look weird or something.  They normally do not know how to react and go away.   There are also a lot of beggars who are constantly asking you for money.  Some can be really persistent and keep on asking even if you have said no a few times already.  In Hampi we found a hotel for 1.66 US$.  We could of had some cheaper,  but we wanted to get something to eat and go to bed.  For dinner we had a plate of Vegetable Rice and Cashew Fried Rice. Both tasted really good.  Tomorrow we will check out the historical sites around Hampi. 


The first thing this morning was to take some showers.  It was really about time.   Both of us stunk really bad.  Our laundry was sorted out and given to the hotel staff.  They do laundry for about 3 Rs per piece, which is really cheap.  Exploration of Hampi and its temples was next on our list of things to do.  The first temple was called Sri Virupaksha Temple. It was right in the middle of town and is supposed to be the most sacred temple in the area. The entrance cost 2 Rs each, which is very reasonable.  Inside there were people praying, well we think.  It was much different than what we are used to.  Monkeys are also climbing all over it.  We then went walking to other temples and sights such as the Hazararama Temple, Kings Balance, Achyutaraya Temple, Sri Vittala Temple,  Underground Temple, Zenana Enclosure, Sister Stones and more.  We also walked quite a bit around and went through some spectacular boulder sights.  There were huge boulders that seemed to be able to balance themselves on other boulders.  The Vittala Temple and the Zenana Enclosure we did not go in because there was an entrance fee of 10 US$ (470 Rs) and only 10 Rs for Indian citizens.  We thought that was a little too much.  However we were able to see most of the sights inside the temple by just walking around outside the walls. One could easily look in and see most of the structures.   We will recommend to anyone here that they bring a lot of water with them.  It is really hot and ones needs the fluids.  When we got back we went out to eat.  First however we drank a liter of water and some Fanta and Limca.  The meal was Thali Special again, though every time it is a little different.   The waiter or owner kept filling our plates when we wanted more.  It also tasted great.   After the meal we went back and took a short nap and wrote our diary.  



Thinking the bus from Hospet was leaving at 7:30 am, we got up at 5:15 am to catch the 6:00 am local bus from Hampi to Hospet. The bus finally came at 8:30 and promptly left.  It was another long and scary ride.  What the both of us do not understand in these countries is that everything is done slowly, except for on the roads where time suddenly means everything.  Along the way at every bus stop where people begging.  The were from the really young to very old. Also there are just so many people here with handicaps.  They just do not have a chance in this society.  They are also very persistent.  Along the way the both of us read our books and the news paper and enjoyed the landscape of the country side.  The people are living as in the 21st century had never come. We arrived in Hyderabad at around 8:00 pm, when we decided to walk to the Hotel.  One time a small kid begging started touching Maren all over asking for money and would not leave.  Kirk finally had to slap him with the newspaper to get him to go away. On one hand one feels sorry for them,  but on the other hand they are a real pain.   Especially when one is tired after a 11.5 hours sitting on a bus.  At the hotel we had to bargain the price down a little.  It was still way to much, but it seems all of the hotels in the area are a little expensive.  Later on we ate some street food which tasted delicious, but spicy.  After some tea we retired to our room to read up on what we are going to do tomorrow and write our diary.


The first thing we did this morning was to book our train ticket for the evening.  We want to head north to Aurangabad.  The train will leave at 6:00 pm and take 12.5 hours to get there. We booked 2nd class sleepers.  Afterwards we took a local bus to Golconda Fort.  It is a 16th century fortress on the outskirts of town.  It was expensive to get in, around 5 US $ per person.  This is the foreign price. It is only 5 Rs (10 US cents) for Indian citizens.  That is a huge difference. To us a little ridicules.  We understand if we have to pay more, but 50 times more is a little to much.  The fort was quite nice, but there was garbage all over the place even though here that actually provided garbage bins.  A guy through away his wrapper of an ice cream on the ground and Maren turned to him and said he should use the waste bin.  His friends then actually did with their garbage.  One had a great view above from the surrounding area.  On top there is a colorful little Hindu shrine.  Afterwards we caught a bus back to town and checked our email and had some lunch.  Maren had chicken curry with roti and Kirk had Egg Biryani.  Both were very spicy but good.  We took a local bus to the Secunderabad Train Station, a Double Decker that was divided into females and males sections.  At the train station Maren did not feel to well so we bought some cookies and Coke to eat.  There are so many sick and poor people wandering around the train station.  We got the upper sleepers, which was good because we could keep our bags up there with us where they would be halfway safe.  On the train Maren went almost right away to sleep and Kirk read for a while until the lights went off.  Maren slept really well because she got out her sleeping bag.  Kirk was to lazy and woke up cold in the middle of the night because the fans were directly pointing at him and he could not turn them off. Eventually he gave in and got out his sleeping bag also.



We woke up at around 6:00 am and had some Chai tea.  The bus arrived in Aurangabad  at 6:30 am on time.  We were not too sure if what exactly we wanted to do. There were two possibilities,  one see the caves in Ellora or go straight to the Ajanta Caves.  After discussing it for a while at the youth hostel we decided we rather spend our money at the Ajanta Caves.  All admissions for foreigners have dramatically increased. They are usually the equivalent of Rupees in US Dollars. That means if an Indian citizen pays 10 Rs, foreigners pay 10 US$ or 470 Rs.  It does not make one very happy.  They seem to think it is their right to rip you off.  50 times more is just too much,  it is ok that we pay more, but that is a rip off.   We then went to the local bus station to catch a bus to the Ajanta Caves.  Of course this is a big rip off too.  They seem not to want to give you a real answer when you ask when the local buses are leaving.  They only tell you about the tourist bus which costs 30 Rs more.  However since we were not getting any real answers from anyone we decided to take the tourist bus anyway. We did not want to waste a day doing nothing.  At the caves one could give up your bags at the gate for free.  They have a security guard watching them.  Wow, something for free, I guess if they are charging 470 Rs , they can afford someone to watch your bags.  The 27 caves though were really nice.  The oldest was from 200 BC.  Most had a Buddha Statue in the back. The caves were carved out of a horseshoe shaped rock gorge.  After Africa it was nice again to see temples and statues.  After lunch (Thali) we took a shared taxi down to Pardapur for 10 Rs each (20 Rs together). The driver said it was the rate locals paid.  In the taxi Kirk noticed that the locals were only paying 3 to 5 rupees.  When we got out Kirk confronted the guy, the guy then tried to trick Kirk in having a local give him 10 Rs without getting change.  Well this ticked Kirk off even more.  He then told the guy this was bull shoot and that he did not like being lied to. He said he was only going to pay 10 Rs for the both of us or nothing at all.  He had 5 guys around him, telling them off.  The guy was quickly excepted the 10 Rs and said it would be fine.  Believe it or not they got a little scared of him.  Kirk was just sick and tired of everyone just trying to rip us off all the time. In these third world countries one is just a target.  While waiting for the bus, Kirk and Maren took some pictures at a food stand.  Everyone suddenly wanted theire picture taken.  They love seeing the pictures on the digital camera.  In Jolgaon we wanted to catch the night train to Ahmedabad, but there were no sleepers available, so we decided to catch the 3:40 am train the next morning.   For dinner we ate out at a place that tried and successfully rip us off.  They said the cost of one meal was 10 Rs, but when the bill came they had written down 18 Rs.  We paid them anyway because we could not prove anything. Their excuse was that they had a person who could not understand English.  We had no choice. Kirk said some flattering words to the manager and we left.  



The train was on time at 3:40 am.  It was painful getting up.  The train arrived in Ahmedabad at around 4:00 pm.  On the train Maren slept a lot and Kirk read most of the time.  Men dressed as women, were asking for money on the train.  They were extremely persistent and a little scary when we said no.  We did not quite understand someone who said that they were castrated men.  If that is true we do not know.  In Ahmedabad we right away bought tickets on the 11:00 pm train to Udaipur.  It arrives in Udaipur at around 8:00 am in the morning.  In Ahmedabad we walked around the city and had dinner.  It was really hot and we sweated all the time. Luckily the restaurant had air conditioning.   We had Thali for dinner again, though every time it is a little different.  Ahmedabad is just full of people. It is hard to walk down the side walks because of the numbers.  Some beggars are really aggressive and touch you when you say no to them.  One just has to push them off. One often sees a grown up pointing to a child to tell him that he/she should go beg from us.  It is really sad that there are so many people in horrible living conditions.  One can not believe it until one sees it for oneself.  



We woke up around 6:30 am and arrived in Udaipur at around 9:00 am.  We were warned that the rickshaw drivers were really aggressive and that one could not trust them at all.   So we decided to walk the few kilometers to the center of town where the hotels are.  Another thing, well Kirk finally got the runs.  It took 10 days, but it finally came.  Both of our stomachs were  not feeling too good today.  After we dropped of our bags in the hotel room,  we went down to the lake to see people washing there cloths and themselves in just filthy green water.   One also had a good view of the Jagniwas Island Palace where the James Bond film Octopussy was partially filmed and Jagmandir Island.  We then visited the Jagdish Temple, which is right in the center of town.  It was quite interesting.  There were old Hindu guys who wanted there picture taken for 10 Rs,  but we declined.  Afterwards we went to the City Palace.  The price was the same for foreigners and Indians and they even had student discounts.  One did have to pay for using a camera, but it was definitely worth paying for.  The Kings Palace was really nice and beautiful.  It also had great views over the city and lake.  The Queens Palace, was nothing special, at least nothing compared to the Kings Palace.  After buying a snack for lunch we went back to our room and took a nap.  Afterwards we looked for an Internet Café where we could upload some of our web pages.  We just could not find any place where ftp and pop3 was working.  For dinner we had veg macaroni with cheese. It was ok, but the portions were so small, we had to get some sweets on the street to eat.  Later on we watched Octopussy on video at our hotel.   Over the Palace in the Lake there was also a fireworks show.  It was really nice to see.  


This morning we decided to have breakfast in the hotel. Kirk had beans and toast while Maren had banana porridge.  The serving were really small, so we did not get very full.  The servings are really small at these hotels, just like our meal the night before.  We thought about doing a tour on the lake but decided against it.  We instead went to Shilpgram, where they were having a festival. Shilpgram is basically a village made out for tourists.  One pays entrance to the village, though we never paid because the guy did not have any change.  In the village there are arts and crafts one can buy and people playing local music.  There are also a few museums and traditional houses to look at.  It is ok and the prices for food and drinks are really reasonable.  On the way there we had taken rickshaw.  We were able to get a really good price at 30 Rs.  However the guy quickly went to get petrol and tried the petrol trick. This is saying he has no money for petrol and that he needed the money from us now. Maren at first wanted to give him the money.  However Kirk said no way, he is trying to rip us off.  So the both of us said no and got out of the rickshaw.  These guys take your money and they then do not bring you to your destination unless you pay more.  Well the guy came back to us and said ok, pay me later.  So he had the money after all.  We said ok and went with him. Of course he tried again when we arrived telling us that the price was 30 Rs each.  Kirk just got into his face and said do not try and bull shoot me and told the guy to get lost.  The festival area was ok.  However we both expected more people to be there.  It was also a little artificial.  After eating some samosas and walking around for a while we went back to Udaipur and relaxed for a while and bought our bus tickets for the next day. In the evening we out for dinner again and had our best Thali in a very nice and beautiful restaurant called The Savage Garden. The atmosphere was really romantic. 



For breakfast we had bananas.  Much better deal than eating in the restaurant.  We walked to the bus station, saving us a whole 2o Rs for a rickshaw.  Took us a while since we got lost a few times, going down the wrong streets. Well we could have taken more time, the bus left at little before 9:00 am, departure time was 8:30 am.  The bus ride was nothing special,  Kirk read the Painted House of John Grisham and Maren tried to sleep a little.  After getting our seats on the bus, someone else complained about their seats,  so the conductor asked us to move to the way back.  The seats the guy did not want.  The ones which one feels all the bumps in the road.  They sort of picked us out, telling us all sorts of things why we needed to change seats.  Kirk told them flatly no, we are not moving.   They eventually sat somewhere else.  In Mt. Abu we found a hotel, right where the bus let us off.  When we said that we wanted to look around a little more, the price dropped 20 %.  So we took the room.  Afterwards we decided to take a shared taxi to the Dilwara Temples. At first they tried to charge us 30 Rs for the ride,  but we had asked around in town before, and the real price was 4 Rs.  So we were able to eventually get a ride for the right price.  There is no entrance fee to enter the temple,  but one is not allowed to take pictures inside the temple complex.  This was really too bad because the temples were magnificent.  They had beautiful Jain architecture with spectacular marble carvings.  We were a little sad that we could not get any good pictures inside.  After the temple we walked around town, going up to the Maharaja of Jaipurs former summer palace that looks over the lake and town.  They are renovating the palace now to make it into a hotel.  We asked some workers there if we could walk around and look at the views.  We were also allowed to climb up the tower.  One had really great views from everything around.  For dinner we had Dohsa.  Tasted really good, but not really enough to fill the stomach.  A very small 5 Rs ice cream was our desert.  In the evening we wanted to check our email, but no Internet café was working, so we retired back to the hotel.  Anyway in the morning we are catching a bus to Jodhpur.  We are already 13 days in India and the time is going so fast.  The problem with India is that it takes for ever to get everywhere.



This morning the we got picked up by the bus at our hotel at 8:00 am. Before that we had egg omelets for breakfast from a street vendor.  Kirk was able to finish his book on the bus ride to Jodhpur.  In Jodhpur we left one of our hats on the bus.  This was a real shame because it was a great hat.  We won't find another like it probably until we get to Australia.  The first thing we did was get a rickshaw to the train booking office.  The rickshaw driver started with a ridicules price of 50 Rs,  Kirk bargained him down to 10 Rs.  He though afterward he could bring us to a hotel and collect a commission.   We booked a 2nd Class sleeper for that night which was leaving at 11:30 pm.  It would give us enough time to see the Meherangarh Fort and some other sites in town.  When we told the rickshaw driver that we were going to the fort, he offer to take us there for 50 Rs, we told him that was too much and he quickly realized he was not going to make a killing on us and speed away.   We eventually got one for 20 Rs, all the way u to the fort.  Normally we would of walked, but we did not have that much time.  The Fort was magnificent.  It was up on a hill top over looking the city.  One had a great view of everything.  Many house in Jodhpur are also painted blue, so from above it is a beautiful sight.  The both of us were really impressed by the fort.  It is a massive structure, but also is beautifully designed.  We then walked back to the city, to the clock tower and roamed around the streets for a while.  We had a few somosas for lunch, used the internet.  For dinner we had Thalis again.  They only cost 30 Rs (65 US cents) for the both of us, for all you can eat.  I could just see my brothers (Marc and Scott) and I just pigging out.  It was actually quite good.  After dinner we had some tea in the Refreshment room at the train station and waited for the train. It left a little after 12:00 am.  



Jaisalmer is known for the touts that hangout at the train station. Well we were not disappointed.  We walked out of the train station and they were just waiting.  The other travelers also just looked.  Not only where there touts all over the place,  the hotels had guys with huge banners offering free rides to town if they stayed at their hotel.  Maren and I decided we would try and walk to town to see for ourselves and to not try and deal with the middlemen.  After looking around for a while, we finally settled on a hotel, with a good view of the fort from our hotel room.  The first thing we did was go to the Jain Temples inside the fort.  They were nice, but did not compare to the Jain Temples in Mt. Abu.  After that we visited the Palace Museum.  The palace had a great view of the surrounding area, but was nothing special otherwise.  It was a structure falling apart.  We were kind of disappointed.  When we were looking around, a tour guide came tome, checking our tickets, trying to look important.  He wanted us to do a tour with him in the place or in the city.  He asked Kirk where he was from.  Kirk said the US. This is when he shocked us with news that there had been a disaster in the US with some planes crashing into each other.  We were both kind of sick to our stomachs, not knowing what really happened.  So we decided after the palace to right away check the internet for some news.  The guy was trying to subtly get us to go on tour with him,  but Kirk eventually let it be known that we had already seen most in the city,  he suddenly quietly disappeared.  At the exit of the Palace we saw a Hindu Newspaper with some pictures of the crash and another tourist said that 800 people were killed at the Pentagon.  Kirk almost got sick.  It was unbelievable, like a Tom Clancy novel.  Well we quickly found a internet shop and checked out and our email for news.  We could not believe what we saw and read.  It gave one mixed emotion and both of us just about started to cry.  We both just stared at the monitor not knowing what to say to each other.  We were both in total shock.  One just wonders how such a catastrophe could happen and what for sick people there are in the world.  One also though of the poor families whose life's have been ruined.   We received many emails from friends telling us what has happened.   We had planned to maybe to a camel ride in the evening, but the both of us really had no urge to do so anymore.   Later on we went to the train station to get some train tickets for the next evening.  On the way to the train station,  we found a shop showing a BBC that was showing news about the disaster.  It was sickening to our stomachs when we saw the plane crashing into the towers.  It was almost as a movie was playing before us.  In the evening we looked at our emails again and and went out for dinner.  We again had all you can eat Thalis a restaurant that was mostly visited by locals.  The tourist restaurants were expensive (for here in India).   We were both a little disappointed with Jaisalmer.  It is basically a tourist trap.  Well we are taking a bus to Bikaner tomorrow and then heading up north eventually to McLeod Ganji, where the exiled Dalai Lam lives. 


This morning we first took a walk around town to look at some Havelis. They old merchant mansions in town.  However what was really on our mind was what was going on in the US.  So we decided to go to an internet café and read up on the news.  We were both still sick in our stomachs, speechless, and really down.  We still could not believe what had happened, wishing it was just a bad dream.  There are some really sick people in world.  We spent 3 hours looking at different news sites on the web.  It was depressing and it was hard to control our emotions.  At 2:15 pm the bus left for Bikaner.  The ride took 6.5 hours.  In Bikaner we had to wait around for the train which was leaving at 1:30 am on the 14th so we went and checked the internet for more news on the tragedy.  The disaster was really the only thing on our mind.  Afterwards we hung out at the train station waiting for the train.


We slept on the train pretty well.  We were very tired.  We did not get the sleeping bench we had booked because people were already lying down.  They just motioned to us to take another sleeping bench.  It did not interest them that we had booked seats,  but that is India, always polite and considerate.  One can once in a while blow ones top with the manners here.  The train ride took 15 hours.  Nothing spectacular happened,  Kirk slept a lot while Maren finished off her book.  In Bikaner we got on a bus to Dharamsala, which got a flat tire halfway there.  They had no jack to replace the tire, so we had to get a shared taxi to Dharamsala, or we would have had to wait around a long time.  There we found a room, not a nice one, but it would do for the night.  It always amazes us that the hotel manager has to think about the price before he tells you.  To us that means the price is negotiable.  Well he wanted 200 Rs, we settled on 100 Rs. 



The first thing we did was to buy a couple of newspapers to find out what was happening in the US.  Still shocks us to read about it.  The bus to McLeod Ganj was filled to the rim and more.  It was even packed up on top.  In McLeod Ganj we found a hotel room and then went to check the Internet. There are  a lot of Internet Cafe's in town and it is cheap to use at .65 US$ an hour.  We are at the moment a little down about traveling, the terrorist attacks in the US and some family affairs have made us focused our minds and souls on other things.   We also tried calling home.  Kirk was able to call his brothers and Maren reached Norbert.  Sometimes in life things are really hard and being so far away and not being able to do anything about it, makes it more difficult.  To everyone at home we both want to say we love you and are wishing for you the best.  After making the phone calls we visited the Tsuglagkhang Complex, where the Dalai Lama lives and where a Buddhist temple is.  It was quite interesting and there were a lot of monks walking around.  One also has a great view of the valley below and the mountains above the town.  Afterwards we called home again and got in touch with Kirk's parents.  We then went back to the hotel and had cheese lasagna for lunch.  It was a good change from the thalis and samosas we have eaten almost everyday in India.  In the afternoon after Kirk checked the Internet again, we walked around town looking for a small bag for the Laptop.  We did not find what we were looking for.  


It was a somber morning today.  We first checked the Internet and then had breakfast.  Afterwards we packed our bags and put them in the hotel storage for the day.  We decided to do a small hike.  The mountains were beautiful,  one needs more than a day to really enjoy them though.  On the mountain we had some chai and then went back to town.  In town we just walked around, looked at the Temples again, had some cake and checked the internet again. Maren bought a nice wool winter hat, that we will probably send home.   We caught a taxi down to the bus in Dharamsala.   It was fully packed, with Kirk's rear hanging out the window.  Marens backpack also fell off one time.  The bus trip to Dehli was a little scary.  The bus driver drove fast down winding roads.  We could not sleep too well because we were flying from our seats half the time. 



We arrived at 6:00 am in Delhi.  A girl there said she had been twice to Delhi and that we probably needed to take a rickshaw to the Main Bazaar.  We got one for 15 Rs, which turned out to be too much. It was only a couple of minutes away.  We could have easily walked.  The girl was also surprised how close we were.  Well we should have been more alert ourselves.   There we were attacked by touts wanting to show us the best and cheapest hotels in town.  We finally got a hotel in the Main Bazaar area.  After resting for a while and taking a shower we went to the Jama Masjid Mosque.  It is the biggest mosque in India with really nice architecture.  The streets around the mosque are one huge market.  It is also so filthy, that we decided on having McDonalds for lunch.  We walked around Connaught Place.  Later on we checked the internet and then watched some CNN.  For dinner we had some Chinese food and went to bed.  Delhi is just packed with people and is really dirty.  


This morning we took a bus to the Red Fort.  A beautiful red structure.  Taking a bus is really cheap around 9 cents each.  However they are packed and it is likely you will not get a seat.  After the Red Fort we walked around the market and then had some Pizza for lunch.   Afterwards we walked to the India Gate and the Secretary Buildings and Presidential Palace.  The Secretary buildings we magnificent and one of the nicest government building we have seen so far.  Afterwards we went back to the hotel where we did not find the keys to our room.  We thought we had left them in the room.  So Maren went downstairs to ask if they had a spare one so we could get into our room.  The manager just did not want to help, saying he did not have a spare key and he could not do anything until the other manager came.  He only said it was our fault that we had lost the key and it was not his problem.  Unbelievable.   Kirk eventually came to the front desk where Maren was and tried again to discuss it with the guy, but to no avail.   He would not listen and was completely rude.  A total jerk.  He just told us we would have to wait.  Well we decided to go upstairs, where we luckily found the key in Kirk's pants.  It was in his boxers.  Must have fallen out sometime.  We were lucky to get into the room.  This hotel is called My Hotel, so do not come here.  What idiots.  In the evening we walked around and checked the internet.


In the morning Kirk of course turned on the boob tube (TV) and watched some TV.  After packing our bags we had breakfast at the train station which was just ok.  Before catching the train we checked our emails.  When on the train a guy tried to tell us our seats were not the correct ones because he wanted to lay down and sleep.  A really unfriendly guy who Kirk got into an argument with after he got a little rude.  At the moment Kirk is taking anything from anyone here.  The train ride went quick, only three hours to Agra.  There right away they try to trick you into taking an expensive rickshaw and more.  The first thing we did is to get train tickets to Varanasi for the next day.  We were surprised we were able to get them because in Delhi they were all booked out.   When waiting in line for the ticket counter there were always guys cutting in.  Kirk has taken it as his mission to try and teach them what lines are.  When they cut in front of Maren and him,  he quickly explains to them the rules of lines and how rude it is to cut.  For the most part they back away.  We then found our hotel and checked out which internet cafés would allow us to hook up our laptop.   Later on we went for a walk around town and ate dinner at the hotel.  It was ok but the portions were not that big and it was a little expensive for India.   Just one more thing,  we read an article from the India Times which said they said that they are thinking of repealing the high tourist entrance fees for their Heritage Tourist Sites.  It has effected the tourism industry in a very negative way,  just like we thought it would.  The prices are just not in any relation to what anything costs here.



Today we are 6 months on the road.  This morning Kirk had trouble getting up right away.  He was in the internet cafe until 1:30 am.   For breakfast we bought some chapatis and some bananas.  Almost like a banana pancake. Then it was time to visit the Taj Mahal.  The entrance fee for foreigners was around 20 US$ each (20Rs for Indians),  but in the end it was worth it.  Just make sure you do not visit the Taj Mahal first when you come to India. It will make everything else seem like nothing.  It is a magnificent, beautiful, and huge palace. A lot of pictures were taken.  We were very impressed. One could only go half way in the palace because they were renovating.  Afterwards we walked around the Agra Fort and had chapatis and some kind of curry sauce for lunch. One has to be a little careful in Agra, not that it is really dangerous, but there are a lot of touts and the rickshaw drivers will not leave you alone. Also they try every scam in the book.  In the afternoon we worked on our website and then uploaded a few things.  The connection to the internet is a little slow here and it takes a long time to upload.  We were able upload most pictures,  but still have two sections to upload, Ajanta Caves and Hyderabad.  We wanted to take a bicycle rickshaw to the train station,  and almost did.  When we agreed on a price with a driver,  he suddenly started talking to us about bringing us to a shop.  We quickly jumped out and did not go any further with him.   If he brings us to a shop he gets a hefty commission.   Near the station we had dinner and at 8:00 pm  we caught the overnight train to Varanasi,  the holiest city in India. 



Sleeping on the train was ok. We have found that getting the upper two bunks in the row allows us to sleep better.  Our stuff is with us on top, where it would be hard for a thief to take as we are sleeping.  Theft on trains is a major problem in India. They even have chains and rings under the seats to lock your bags to.  The train took longer than planned. At the train station we first got information on trains the next day.   It took a while because the clerks worked very slowly behind their desk.  Maren also called for hotel reservations, which turned out to be a smart  move because when we arrived in the old city, there were touts everywhere wanting to help us find a hotel.   We had reservations which made us more relaxed and secondly kept some touts away when we told them that,  but not all!  A bicycle rickshaw took us to the river.  We got the rickshaw after walking 1 kilometer away from the train station.  Around the train station there were too many touts just showing us the right direction.  The first rickshaw driver wanted to bring us to another hotel, so we jumped out again. The main thing we had planned for the day was to send a package home of some stuff we do not need any more.  Yes again. Also films were sent home for developing.  Kirk's mom is always nice enough and develops them for us.  Sending mail is a real pain in India, just like our guide book said it would be.  First one has to weight the goods, second some guy has to sew the package up and wax the seems, thirdly one has to fill out the forms, and finally pay for the packages to be send.  At every end from the Post clerk to the packaging guy, they tried to give us an unofficial rate.  First the post clerk gave us a much higher price than quoted in his book.  We had to ask to see the price listings book.  The package man tried to make us pay more than what was agreed upon. We know we talk about getting ripped off a lot, probably too much, but it is just a constant occurrence here 24 hours a day.  It really gets on ones nerves.   Sorry if it has bored anyone.  Later on we took a stroll along the Ghats and had dinner in town, thalis, somosas, and tea.  In the evening Kirk called home and spoke with his folks.  It was really good to speak with them again.  Later on we sat on the terrace at the hotel,  which has a nice view of the river.  


The both of us were told that it was a good idea to wake up early and check out the Ghats at that time. There would be the most action going on at that time.  The alarm was set for 6:00 am but we woke up before hand because we did not sleep too well. Something was biting us the whole night and it was not a mosquito.  The Ghats were just full of people bathing, washing and doing their religious thing. The water from the river was just filthy.  There were also a lot of boats on the river carrying passengers and tourists to different Ghats.  Of course the both of us took a lot of pictures.  The Ghats where the people bathed were very interesting and there were all types of people walking around.  There were also people trying to get us to go on boat rides, get hair cuts, or a full body massage.  Mixed in with all the people were the goats and cows.  Also the drainage flowed right down the steps to where the people were bathing.   We also went to the Ghat  where they cremated the bodies of the dead.  One is not supposed to take pictures of the funerals,  well we now know why.  One can take pictures of the funeral if you pay a lot of money. 20 US$ they asked us. First they said no pictures, and then when trying to explaining the funeral session and cremation "tower"  they said for a large donation,  pictures would be possible.   Well that sort of tick us off a little.  They claim the taking pictures was against their religion or something, but for money it would be ok.  Well we declined and took some pictures from a far distance away any way.  When walking by where they cremate the bodies the ashes from the fire are covering you.  It is a weird feeling having the ashes of someone tey settling in your hair.  Actually one guy saw us taking pictures and one came over to us.  A guy who was really nice to us before, showed his real colors.  He started yelling at Kirk and Maren call us F____ lady and man and claiming that he wanted to take us to the police.  Well Kirk just told him off and kept walking.  The pictures anyway were from a far distance and we both felt that it just had to do with money.  Well it had to do just with money. The guy followed us basically trying to intimidate Kirk, which was not possible at this time,  when he realized he was not going to get any money, he let go and stopped threatening us.  The guy was a little nuts, and the pictures were in a public place and far away from the funeral stand, so he really could not say anything.  Indian tourists were doing the same thing, and they were not asked for anything. Like everything in India, it just has to do about ripping off tourists and scamming them anyway possible.   At another Ghat there was a body (we think it was a body) floating in the river,  Kirk went over to take a picture of it which is supposed be no problem to do.  A guy quickly called over and said that it was not allowed.  Kirk then said ok, but the guy said quickly 5 Rs and it would be ok.  Kirk then took the picture and said there was no reason to pay and he told the guy that he should not be trying to scam all the time. The guy knew what Kirk meant and just laughed and kept quiet.  After walking along the Ghat, we checked the Internet, had breakfast and then took off to the train station.  The touts trying to organize a rickshaw for us were a real pain and would not lay off until Kirk just took one of them and starting yelling at him to get lost.  He got the point and went away.  Kirk only started yelling at the guy when we had asked a few Rickshaw drivers ourselves what it would cost and he would push these guys out of the way, because he would not get a commission from them.  These touts were really aggressive.  We finally got one for a reasonable price to the train station.  At the train station the lines were huge,  but as a women Maren was able to go to the front of the line and buy the tickets.  The train came 90 minutes late so we just hung around the station for a while, eating chapatis with bananas and also had an egg sandwich. Getting on the train was a mad rush.  An elderly women was trying to get off the train and all these young guys were just pushing and shoving to get in the train.  This poor women almost got trampled.  Kirk just then stopped all these before the  entrance of the train and did not allow anyone to pass  until the women was able to get out.  She was very thankful and grabed Kirk's arm to thank him.  The guys trying to get on the train had also calmed down a little.  In the train Kirk had to again explain to a few guys sitting around us that throwing garbage out of the window was not good.  Actually two students thought we were really nice and wanted us to write some things down about our country.  They seemed to think it was nice that we thought of their country by not littering.  Later on a few guys who we had drinking tea with, they actually bought us one, were talking about different things.  Well trying to talk, their English was not too good.  One guy could not believe that we did not have any kids (they thought we were married,  we did not say we weren't).   The guys were nice in the beginning, but then they started getting a little weird on us.  The guy started bringing up the subject of sex.   At first we could not believe it,  but he started getting close to Maren, not touching, but close enough.  He then asked us if he could with Maren.  These guys here are just sick.  They also asked us if we wanted to stay at their house.  This scared us a little, because we were getting off at the same stop and they were more than us.  So we just started to ignore them a little and I think they got the point.  We were lucky when they just got off the train before we did.  When these guys started talking to us, we wanted to give them the benefit of the doubt,  but it did not work out that well.  It was around 8:30 pm when we got a bus to Sunauli, the border town with Nepal.  


After waking up the immigration officers at the Indian side we finally got our exit stamps at around 12:20 am.  Well India had one last surprise for us.  They seemed to want a bribe. One immigration officer said to us, that "give money, make him happy".  It was not clear to us, but it seemed that he wanted a bribe for waking him up.  We sort of played the situation as though we did not understand him, and just walked over the border crossing.  At the Nepalese side we also had to wake up the border crossing officer.  Their we filled out our forms, gave him a passport photo and 60 US$ and the both of us got our 60 day Visas for Nepal. This border crossing is good while it is open 24 hours a day.  There of course was a tout waiting for us.  We did not want to get a room for three hours so we told him if we could wait in his restaurant we until the bus came we would eat something.  He said that would be no problem.  At the restaurant we had chopsoey which was really good.  We also got to watch a little BBC and Fox News.  So we were updated on the latest news about the WTC.  Well the tout said we could stay there until 5:00 am until the bus came and it seemed to be ok with the waiter, who we thought was really nice.  But then the hotel manager came and said to the waiter that he should tell us to get a room, while they were closing.  We told him that this was not what we were told and why is it now different.  The both of wanted to give the place the benefit of the doubt and tried to let him explain.  They then tried to tell us that the 5:00 am bus was no good and that we should take only the 8:30 am tourist bus to Pokhara.  This was beginning to sound very fishy so we finally said we would wait outside and buy our own bus ticket at the station. He wanted 160 Indian RS per ticket.  They also at first said that there was no 5:00 am bus, then they said the bus took 14 hours compared to 8:00 hours with the tourist bus, and the price difference was only 10 RS.  Well we did not believe him and just took our stuff and left.  They followed us out trying to explain to us that it was not a good idea.  The hotel and restaurant is right on the Nepalese side of the border and is called Paradise Guest House.  Well do not go there, they are full of bull.  The waiter actually was nice, as we had noticed inside he was just taking orders from his boss.  He felt really guilty. When the boss was not looking he said that the 5:00 am bus was ok and got us a rickshaw for 10 Indian RS.  Which was a good price. When we arrived at the bus station and Maren tried to pay the guy, he came back with the 10 Rs not for two of us, but 10 Rs each trick. They do it all the time.  Well Kirk had had enough. He took the 10 Rs out of Maren's hand, gave it to the driver and said by. The bus was just leaving, and we were lucky to get on.  The bus ride was ok, a bit long on hard, bumpy, winding roads sometimes, but basically it was ok. Maren was not feeling too good.  She started having a sore throat.  It Pokhara the touts hit us right when we got off the bus.  We were a little hungry anyway, so we got some donuts and a coke in a cafe.  Most of the touts then disappeared.  We then shared a taxi with two ladies to the Lakeside where we searched around for a hotel.  We found a nice one for 2 US$.  Maren then took a nap, while Kirk worked on the ASUS Laptop. After Maren woke up we walked around the town for a while, looking at various shops for some trekking gear.  They have a lot of gear here at really cheap prices.  All name brand things.  They are probably mostly fakes, at least the cheap things.  For dinner we splurged and had huge cheese burgers.  A little expensive for here but it was nice to eat some meat again.  Later on we quickly checked the internet.  It is much more expensive here than in India.  What one paid in India for one hour usage, one pays here for 10 minutes only.  However it seemed faster than what we had used in India.   We also checked, but there were no major news about the WTC. 



This morning the both of us woke up a little later than usual, 8:15 am.  We needed to get money from the bank which opened at 9:45 am.  So we first had breakfast and then got a cash advance on Kirk's Visa Card.  They gave a really good exchange rate of 75.85 NepRs per US $.  The going rate at the cash exchange was 75.09.  Also they charged no commission.  Afterwards we went looking for the Trekking Permit office. We thought it was on the other side of town, but it was actually right near our hotel. So we took a long walk for nothing, well not for nothing, it was a nice walk.  Maren was still not feeling well, so we bought some cough medicine and vitamin tablets for her.  The Park Permits were 2000 NepRs each, which is reasonable, because you just pay once and not for each day you spend in the park.  Afterwards we went shopping for some  stuff for our trek. We bought some fleece gloves, a fleece scarf, bag rain covers, a sun hat, a small camera bag for the digital camera, and some better sun glasses for under 14 dollars. The sunglasses we bought in Dehli were just too cheap.  After some lunch we walked down to the lake and around town a little. In the afternoon we took a long nap.


The morning of the hike was a little rainy and cloudy.  We got a taxi to the bus park. There we bought some donuts at the bus stop and then caught the bus to Phedi, where we were to begin our trek, the Annapurna Sanctuary Trek. The first part of the trek to Dhampus was straight up hill on a rock stair path.  It was a hard way to begin. The first day, the weather was not that great, it was cloudy and rained along the way. For lunch we stopped at a small restaurant and ate some Dal Bhat right before Pothana. The prices on the menues seem to be fixed by the government. This is actually a good system probably because it makes you not think about having to bargain for everything. Also the people are getting a fair price for their food and services.  The people living along the trek, rely on the tourist trade for their living.  The higher one goes the more expensive things are.  There were hardly any hikers on the trail. First it is still the monsoon season here (though at the end) and the season really starts in October and goes through November. Second the world's current affairs are leading to many people not coming at the moment.  It was nice not to have the trails packed with people, like they supposedly get in high season.  From Pothana to Deurali it took us 40 minutes. The first day we walked a total of 7 hours which was enough that day.  We stayed in Deurali at the New View Lodge.  The rooms are basic, but ok and clean.  It was too bad that there were so many clouds since the views are supposed to be really good.  There we met some English girls who were having a tough time of it on the mountain.  The people on the mountain seem to be much more friendly and down to earth.  To our surprise, one could buy a lot of things, like chocolate bars, coke, beer, sweets, and other western goods at almost every guest house or restaurant  along the way.  We started at Phedi at 1580 meters and Deurali lies at 1950 meters.  We went to bed right after dinner. The meal was good, but the portions small.  During the day we had got bitten by leeches. Maren had two and Kirk one. We burned them off with a hot match.  One does not feel them, but they really suck blood out of you.  When they fall off it looks like a scratched mosquito bit, really bloody.  One sees them often on cows and other animals,  when they are full of blood.



This morning we woke up early and got right on our way, 6:30 am.  The early morning views of the Annapurna mountains were great.   It was much clearer than the day before.  After one hour we had a breakfast break.  We both had corn porridge with fruit. The next four hours were a little tough.  The way lead us through many small villages and the path constantly went up and then down.  Sort of frustrating once and a while since one does not feel you are making any progress up the mountain.  We did not expect to see so many villages with small guest houses and restaurants.  Every village along the route has turned into a place to serve the trekkers coming through.  Not to give the wrong impression, the places are really nice and they are for the most part not tacky.  Along the way Maren put medicine and a bandage on a local school girl's hand after she had fallen.  Suddenly a lot of kids had cuts and wounds.  We hope we did not start a trend, like giving sweets out to kids.   At 12:00 pm we stopped for lunch at New Bridge., which is in a lower valley.  For lunch we had vegetable, egg, and fried noodles.  It was again a really small portion. One should actually always order Dhal Bat because you get all you can eat most of the time.  At lunch we spoke to a unusual couple. He was French and lived in Cambodia with his Cambodian wife.  He had spent the last 3 months in Pokhara and only works 4 months a year.  Lives in Cambodia because it is cheap. They were both hiking on the trek with only flip flops on.  They also did not have much warm clothing with them.   The next part of of the hike was tough, straight up.  The paths here in Nepal seem always to take the shortest direction between two points.  About 1 hour before Chhomrong we stopped for a while and spoke to an Israeli couple who were on their way back.  We still had to climb the steepest part of the climb that day.  It was a 2 hour climb up to Chhomrong.  It started raining on the way up.  So we hurried and got up there in 1:15 minutes.  At Chhomrong we were 200 meters higher than we had started the day.  There we had a great tasting milk tea and got a room at the Heven View Guest House.  After dinner, which was Dhal Bat we retired early to bed.  We had spoken to some Spanish guys from the Bask region, who had just done the climb.  They hinted that tomorrow would be a tough day.  We also spoke to a French women Laure and her German friend Rene. They were doing the same trek as us. She has been traveling for 5 months now and had come all the way over land from Europe.  


The both of us did not sleep well.  It could have been that too much tea was consumed the night before.  The bathroom was visited often in the night.  (Kirk 4x, Maren 2x).  For breakfast it was porridge again with tea.  In the morning it is always clear and one could see clearly the snow topped mountains in the distance. At 7:40 am we started by first going to the checkpoint to register ourselves.  Then it was  a long steep hike down Chhomrong to a river, where we then had to hike back up to Sinuwa.  We have to come back this way, so we were not looking forward to walking up the long steep path.   During our first break we were able to get some really sweet pictures of some children.  Maren cleaned the noses of them because there was snot dripping into their mouths.  The next three hours were again hard,  hiking up and down and up and down.  In Bamboo we stopped for half an hour and had some donuts. They were the cheapest things there.  It got much more expensive up the mountain.  To understand the prices a little, donuts in town costs us 5 RS and on the mountain higher up it costs us 50 Rs and they were not really that good. Just a plain donut. We had to put some sugar in them so we could eat them.  As mentioned before, the higher one goes the more expensive things are.  It is quite understandable since some guy has to carry the stuff up the mountain on his back.  There are absolutely no roads for vehicles to reach the places here.  Bamboo was 2100 meters high. We still had to hike 3 hours to Himalaya, which was at 2900 meters.  Along the way we were bale to pick some berries, which were a nice change.  It also started to rain on the way and we put on our rain covers to protect our backpacks.  At Himalaya we met the French and German couple.  We were surprised since we had left earlier than them and we had not seem them pass us on the way.  There we changed our cloths, into something warm and dry, had an early dinner and went to bed straight away.  We were exhausted. 


Like at home Maren is always the first one to get up.  We had slept ten hours which did us a lot of good.  We filtered some water, and then got going.    In Dovan we had breakfast. It was about 1  hour away.  We had vegetable fried noodles.  Then it was onto Machhapuchhare Base Camp (MBC), all up hill.  It had only taken us 4 hours that morning to get there. There we took a long break and slept in the sunshine on a rock facing the Machhapuchhare (6997 m). A holy mountain for the Hindus, and according to them, no human is allowed to climb the mountain.  After 45 minutes Maren woke us up and we hiked 1.5 hours up to the Annapurna Base Camp (ABC).   The air was getting a little thin so we took our time. The ABC is 4130 meters high. Maren was really tired when we finally arrived.  Up top the prices for the lodges were all the same.  There were four lodges there, all basically the same, and all with nice owners.  We did not know which one to choose so we flipped a coin, and stayed at the Annapurna Guest House.  There Kirk let it be know that we like big portions of food.  Well there we got some. A big bowl of Cheese Macaroni and Vegetables.  Later we walked up above the base camp, checking pyramids people have built for a diamond ring that a friend of my brother had left on the mountain. There were so many small rock pyramids there, that we had no chance of finding it unless we knocked down everyone, which would have taken days.  Later on top we met Laure and Rene again and got their email addresses so we could send them a picture we had taken of them.  In the late evening the clouds slowly left and one had a beautiful view of the mountains.  The Annapurna I is over 8000 meters high.  Absolutely spectacular.  Snow topped mountains surrounded the camp.  In the evening Maren had the same as for lunch, but Kirk did not eat anything because the his lack of appetite. After dinner we retired to bed. 


The night was long and the both of us did not sleep.  Not only was it tough because of the the altitude but Kirk got really sick in the night. He had a really case of the runs and threw up.  So Maren was not able to sleep either, since Kirk was constantly getting up and not allowing Maren to sleep.  We had also put the sleeping bags together to keep warm.  In the morning the views of the mountains were even better. One could see the Annapurna I, Annapurna South, Tent Mountain, Machhapuchhare, and others.  We of course took a lot of pictures. Hope they turn out well.  We then packed our bags and headed down the mountain really slowly. Kirk did not have any energy at all.  At the MBC Kirk had a chocolate bar and a coke.  He could not eat anything else. For lunch it was just a coke.  Our goal for the day was to get as far as possible.  We went really slowly but did not take long breaks along the way until 3:00 pm when we stopped again in Bamboo.  However after eating another candy bar we decided to go further to Sinuwa, which is at 2340 meters.   At Sinuwa we met some Argentinean guys who we had seen up at ABC. Also we met some German families.  One of German men works at Harvard as a Professor in the Bio-Chemistry department.  My brother Marc also studied Bio-Chemistry at Harvard.  But I think this German guy started after my brother had graduated.  The daughter has lived in Nepal for the last 8 months and was able to give us some information on getting to Tibet,  which will be our next goal after Kathmandu.    For dinner Maren had mashed potatoes and fried egg, Kirk had nothing. Was not at all hungry.   Like always we retired early to bed.  It was a long 10 hour hike that day.


6:30 am was the starting time.  Kirk was feeling a little better, but not totally fit.  He has not eaten much the days before.  We had a really hard part of the trip before us. The steep path up to Chhomrong.  It was a long way up steep rock stairs.  It was really exhausting.  After passing through the checkpoint we stopped at the Heven View Lodge and had some apple pie, apple strudel, and apple crumble. Kirk wolfed them down. Well he paid for it afterwards with stomach pains and did not eat for the rest of the day.   After the meal Kirk was not feeling that good.  He actually felt much worse.   At the restaurant we met again Rene and Laure. They had gotten to Chhomrong the night before.  They were taking the shortest way out of the mountains today.  After resting a long time we decided to get going. We wanted to get at least as far as Ghandruk. The first part of the walk was mostly down hill into the valley below.  However than came a really tough stretch for almost 2 hours straight up a mountain.  It was exhausting. Up top Maren had Veg Fried Rice and Kirk a Coke.   It was then all down hill until Ghandruk.  Ghandruk was a really big village with lots of hotels and restaurants.  We decided that we could go further and walked to Kimche, where we stayed in the Kimche Guest House.  A Nepalese lady who we have met climbing the steep part of the mountain, sort of followed or lead us all the way to Ghandruk. Kirk noticed this right off the bat, that she wanted something.  We were right in the end. She wanted to show us her hotel. We had a good excuse that we were going further that afternoon.  The lodge in Kimche was the worst we had slept in so far on the trek.  The owner was also a little wacko.  We could see across the valley where we had eaten breakfast the second day of our trek.  The other side of the valley seemed much nicer to us.  For dinner Maren had Dal Bhat and Kirk just a hot lemon drink.  We wanted to go to bed real early, but Maren's meal took for ever to come.  Finally after having to listen to the owner ramble on about  absolutely nothing understandable for an hour we went to bed.   In the night Maren had nightmares that leeches and bugs were crawling all over here.  She woke up Kirk and he had to shine the flashlight so she could see that she was just dreaming.