Monday, August 20, 2012

Throwin' the Wendy All Over the World...

It's been too long...too long. 

Kingsnake from on the Appalachian 30 degrees (what  can I say - we're desert folks!)

Booneman on Angel's Landing in Zion National Park 

Outdoor Lover on Brown's Peak, AZ - The hike that started the phenomenon known as!

Joe Bartels, Nick and Bruce on the Spencer Trail near Lee's Ferry at the head of the Grand Canyon

My Trail Sister - Angela (aka Tibber) on Cathedral Rock in Sedona.  Check out her amAZing photos!

Vaporman and his fellow canyoneering partners in crime at Tatahtso Canyon in the Grand Canyon...

Boscoaz in the incomparable Buckskin Gulch in Northern Arizona

Joel and Belinda Norby on Escudilla Peak - Arizona's 3rd Highest Mountain!

Crzy4Az's Caroline celebrates on Picacho Peak

Rick Vincent (back) and the Tarantula Hawk (fore) celebrate on the 4-Peaks-Motherlode!

Rob in Greenhaven Canyon near Lake Powell, AZ

A familiar face...see the rest of the blog for more details on my trek in the Indian Himalaya ! That's Mt.Kanchenjunga in the background - the third highest peak in the world!
My fellow trekkers at the vista above Dzongri

The hearty bunch that made it to Goecha La

I only made it to the stone egg ;)
At Cibecue Falls on the White Mountain Apache Indian Reservation

With the Arizona Backpacking Club on Carr Peak in the Huachuca Mountains...awesome hike!

With a group of adventurous souls on an Arizona River Runners raft trip through the Grand Canyon of the Colorado River - Redwall Cavern.  What an Epic Trip!

Our second group of folks - what a fun loving bunch!

I'm on a BOAT!

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

A Day in Darjeeling...

We followed our porter and Rohit up the steep stairways and through the maze of people, shops, streets and alleys of Darjeeling.  I was winded before we even hit the middle of town, and it was only because Sarah was a good head taller than anyone else on the street that I was able to keep a bead on our guides.  She kept up with those legs of hers, and I kept her in sight - just a head with a bright hat bobbing through the throng in front of me.

When we reached the Hotel Dekeling, I hoped for a brief respite, but the porter continued to climb more stairs - four more flights up to the lobby of the hotel.   While the lobby was on the fourth floor from the street, it was nearly level with the hillside behind the building, the terrain was that steep.  

While Sarah inquired about a room, I paid the porter.  I didn't have a 50 rupee note, only a 100, and I gave it to the man even though it was double the fee.  I figured that he'd earned the $2 US harder than just about anyone I'd met yet.  He wished me namaste and disappeared back into the crowds of Dajeeling.

Once we found the room we were hoping for (to get one with a view, we had to climb 3 more sets of stairs), and got settled in, we decided to hit Darjeeling and see as much as we could before night set in.  The hotel was at the edge of the tourist market, though the majority of the tourists were Indians.  We wandered through shops full of brass trinkets and textiles and past hundreds of stalls selling Western style clothing and knick-knacks from China.  It was a beautiful, busy and fun bazaar.

The top of the bazaar - once school let out it was crawling with young people in school uniforms

Sarah models some Tibetan fashion

An example of the English-influence in the architecture of Darjeeling

 We were on the look out for a number of things, including some old English tea mansions turned hotels as well as the local temple.  We wandered through some lesser traveled side streets which in many other cities might have been deemed 'sketchy', but in Darjeeling seemed quite safe.  The people always smiled and appeared happy to see us, even in areas one might consider verboten to tourists.  The monkeys, however...they were a different story. 

The monkeys are apparently welcome guests at the temple - there is a small shrine at the base of the hill with food and water for the animals.

I never captured a good picture of just how many monkeys there were here...there were LOTS. 
As we approached the apparently deserted parking area, we were amazed at how many monkeys were running around on the hillsides.  The closer we got, the more brazen the monkeys became.  Sarah confessed to me later that she's a bit frightened of monkeys, and I think with perfectly good reason.  When one particularly large animal came toward us aggressively with an open mouth full of sharp teeth, I felt more than a little intimidated.  Sarah began to yell - probably the loudest noise I've ever heard come out of someone's mouth.  She kept yelling as the monkey kept approaching, and we both started stepping backwards.  

Finally, I think the monkey decided that not only did we not have food for it, but that the crazy white people weren't worth the trouble and it sauntered off.  Sarah and I decided to walk as quickly as we could off the monkey hill and back to the safety and security of the city.

View from the monkey hill
Late afternoon light over the hills of Darjeeling

Chowrasta Market Plaza 

These small stalls each lit their space with a  camping lantern.  Each one packed up all of their goods each night, carried them down the hill on their backs, and then carried all of it back up to set up again the next morning.  

Not just your average by Sarah

For 25 rupees this woman roasts you a fresh ear of corn over charcoal.  She uses a palm leaf fan to keep the flame hot and turns the rocket-hot cobs with her bare hands!

I was disappointed that I couldn't partake in more of the street food... Many of the vendors had piles of delicious looking samosas, meat on a stick and noodles that I just knew were amazing.  We played it safe, however, and got pizza and french fries at the hotel restaurant.  There were many places to get coffee, tea and special treats as well along the market.  After a blissful hot shower, we turned in to our soft, comfortable beds (at least by Indian standards) and slept.

The next morning, we finally got a chance to speak with our inkeeper.  She was a friend of the Frenchwoman we'd met in Gangtok, and she had lots of great advice for us on how to get the most out of our time in Darjeeling.  We only had a day left, and we had a long list of things to see and do - so we started early and didn't stop all day!

Dogs that lay together...right outside our hotel

First we made appointments for massages at one of the fancy British-style resorts. Sirena was right - massage here is inexpensive and VERY oily!

Nothing like a little Gothic architecture for your Girl's school!

Which way do we go?

The rooftops of another one of the famous British hotels in the area.  These very high-end rooms can go for upwards of $100 US a night.  Considering we'd splurged on our nicely appointed and comfortable room at $30 a night, I can only imagine what the accommodations would be here!

Vertical housing

Zoo and Himalayan Mountaineering Institute - one of the big attractions in Darjeeling
Our buddy Rohit was at the zoo playing tour guide for other clueless Westerners. It was nice to see him! I ended up leaving my huge old backpack with him - I'm sure he can use it more than I!

Even at the zoo the red panda is hard to get a photo of!

We hid from an afternoon monsoon storm in this fun little 2nd floor cafe...unfortunately the roof and walls leaked, forcing all the patrons into the center of the room!

The Hotel Dekeling - our room was way up in the attic...
The common room at the Dekeling - Sarah's checking email

Brandishing my favorite purchase - the Kukuri knife

With our host the morning before we left.  She's a lovely Tibetan woman who is so kind and gracious!  She helped me find my wonderful salwar camise which I wore for the trip home. 
   We did the required Darjeeling bit: we tasted and bought teas, had cookies at Glenary's, saw red pandas at the zoo and toured the exhibits at the Himilayan Mountaineering institute.  We bought trinkets from local merchants (including Sarah's beautiful metal elephant which would be a blast getting through airport security over and over!), people watched at the Chowstra and had dinner at a Thai food restaurant.  It was your typical urban vacation scene with that unique Indian twist.  

When it was time to go to bed for our last night, we were both a bit conflicted.  We were ready for the comforts of home, but we felt we'd barely even scratched the surface of what India had to offer.