Category Archives: India

Bus Ride from Hell

April 21st, 2011-

Once we were happy. We ate sunshine and optimism for breakfast. Then came the Bus Ride from Hell.

Here’s the story. We needed a bus from McLeod Ganj to Manali, a 10 hour overnight journey through the valleys of Himachal Pradesh. I asked around at many of the local private bus ticket sellers, but each was selling only tickets on “small buses”—i.e. 9- to 12-seater vans. As a skeptic of the 12-seater van and a happily grizzled veteran of the South American overnight big bus system (a wonderful system that actually grants one a chance at sleep), I held out for a big bus.

Finally I found a company offering a big bus: Akash Adventures. That I will forever damn this company is not important at this moment. But I will.

Akash said that the first Manali-bound big bus of the season was leaving on Thursday the 31st. He showed me the seating map, and yup, there were 40+ seats on this bus, and the seats pushed back, and we could have seats #11 & #12, right near the front. Fantastic.

That was five days ago. Fast forward to today. We walk to the bus terminal at 9pm and look for our bus. We spot two big buses hanging out in the parking lot and make a bee-line for them when a nearby Indian man asks us a one-word question: “Manali?”

“Yes, we’re going to Manali.”

“Oh okay, come over here.”

He leads us to—none other than—a tiny 12-seater van. I say, no, sorry, this isn’t right, we’re on a big bus. He looks at our ticket. Akash Adventures—yes, this is your bus. And you have seats 11 and 12. And naturally, in a 12-seater van, those are in the way back.

I call Akash on my cell phone. He says sorry, when there aren’t enough people to fill up a big bus, they put you on a small bus. I tell him that’s a terrible way to run a business—assuring me that I’ll get one kind of service and delivering another. So sorry, he says. Click.

Well, crap. We got screwed on this bus thing. But at least we had a bus. It wasn’t all that bad. Three British blokes and a French girl joined us, and it seemed that we’ve have plenty of room to stretch out on our ride to Manali. That’s when I took the above photo. When life was still good. When birds still chirped and babies still giggled.

9:40, time to go. This guy takes off like it’s the fucking grand prix. There’s hardly anyone else on the road—that’s why night buses are generally a good idea, you’re not stuck behind and endless procession of trucks, auto rickshaws, taxis, bikes, horse carts and cows—but the driver obviously has a family member in the hospital or a terrorist plot to foil or some other rational reason for driving like a stunt man from the Fast and Furious movies.

Brenna and I quickly realized the direness of our situation. We were in the back of a tiny bus (tiny enough to allow the driver to drive wildly) instead of the front of a big bus (which naturally must drive slowly) as we expected.

Within five minutes Brenna turns to me and calmly says, “I see vomiting in my not-too-distant future.”

Fortunately the French girl overheard Brenna and gave her a dramamine pill, and there was space for Brenna to move to the front. But then the van stops to pick up five more passengers. Now it’s packed. Brenna moves back to her assigned seat #11. Damn.

Off again we go, speeding down the winding mountain road from McLeod Ganj. The nausea returns. Brenna asks me if I think the cracked window next to us will provide enough space in case of vomiting. I say no, and that she should tell me if it’s going to happen and I’ll get the driver to stop. But by then it’s too late. Brenna’s got her hand over her mouth, a sickly pale look on her face, and starts making convulsive motions. I scramble for the closest bag-like object, and I find: my man-bag. I dump the contents into my lap—an iPad, notebook, and camera—and then hand her the bag, which she summarily consecrates with her vomitus.

I tell the van to pull over. We walk to the nearest ditch and decide to just leave the bag there. (While it was a stalwart Guatemalan man-bag, the zipper was broken, so I didn’t cry too much.) Before leaving we double check to ensure that no other valuables were left in the bag. We find one victim: my 1960 paperback copy of The Last of the Mohicans which I’d picked up in Arequipa, Peru. Sorry, James Fenimore Cooper. The book was good, but not puke-stained good.

Back on the bus. I demand that the bus driver put down the fold-up shotgun seat that’s in the front next to him. He accedes, and Brenna moves up there. I give her my Nalgene bottle in case she needs to puke again. And then I settle into seats number 11 and 12 for the long ride to Manali.

My rest of the ride is fairly uneventful from my perspective. The seats reclined slightly, and I manage to steal little snatches of sleep. But every bump or hard turn is an opportunity to knock me back into consciousness.

Around 1am we stop at a roadside restaurant and the driver disappears for roughly half an hour. Taking a power nap or amphetamines, perhaps. I’m pretty sure there are laws against bus drivers going so long in a single stretch in the United States. Regardless, at the bus stop I discover the Brenna had puked not once, but twice into my Nalgene. Poor girl. Being in front is helping her, but she’s still nauseous and certainly can’t sleep.

Back in the bus/van/torture chamber. Now for the next surprise. The ride, according to Lonely Planet, is supposed to be 10 hours long. That makes sense—leave around 10pm, arrive around 6am. I foolishly forgot to ask Akash Adventures how long our ride would be. Only now, in the middle of the night, do we confirm that thanks to the clear roads and our Formula 1 driver, we’ll arrive in only 7 hours—i.e. 3am.

Who the hell schedules a night bus to arrive at 3am?

I fume over that question through broken sleep until, roughly around 2:30am, I notice that bus is getting really cold. Everyone is cold. Just as cold as the mountain night air would be, in fact…but all the windows are closed…ah yes, there it is. I look behind me and lo and behold, the double doors in the back are OPEN. There is a five inch gap between where the doors should be and where they are. They’re still latched, and that’s why all our luggage isn’t falling out, but nonetheless, the doors are open.

I go up and tell the driver to stop and close the doors. He hastily pulls over, gives the doors two half-hearted slams, failing to attach them to the van’s body. And then gets back in the front and says “No problem, only 10 kilometers more to Manali.”

“Really?” I say. “Only ten kilometers and our luggage falling out is no problem?”

The driver mumbled something and took off again like a bullet.

*Nineteen* freezing kilometers later (roughly 3am) we arrive on some desolate stretch of alley that is the Manali Private Station. The other passengers ask about hotels, and the drivers says that we need to go to the villages of Old Manali or Vashist, 2km away. “Can you take us there?” asks one British woman. “Fifty rupees each,” responds the driver. Here we are, being dropped by the side of the road at 3am, and this guy is squeezing an extra 500 rupees out of his passenger load. Admittedly, 50 rupees is not much more than 1 US dollar, and I could have seen this situation coming. But it still hurt. Especially with that unsafe cracked door pouring frigid night air into the cabin.

We, the passengers, concede to this offer and he drops us in front of an Old Manali hotel. When collecting 50 rupees from everyone, I’m the last in line and I ask the driver about the 50 rupee discount for a freezing cold cabin caused by cracked doors that the driver would not close. He gets the gist and drives on.

We land in a 300 rupee hotel and collapse on the sheets. Thus ends the Bus Ride from Hell.

Silver Masturbating Monkey Charm

April 19th, 2011-

Today we shopped. Brenna bought some nice gifts which she doesn’t want me to reveal by posting photos on the blog. So instead, I bring you…

The silver masturbating monkey charm.

For a mere Rs.1500 ($32), you too can own this fine piece of Indian handicraft.

Yes, the arm moves. Just twist the pin under the opposing armpit.

(No, I didn’t get it for anyone. The monkey was too rich for my blood. And too saucy.)

In other news, it rained.

Hike to Triund

April 18th, 2011-

Today is hike day! We set out for the mountain village of “Triund,” not quite sure where we were supposed to go. We eventually got (most of the way) there.

Two canine amigos joined us for much of the early hike.

A sweeping view of the Kangra Valley below McLeod Ganj.

Brenna and I reached a tea shop en route to Triund when the weather started looking iffy. We decided to turn around there. (We also wanted to make it back in time for English class volunteering at 4pm.) You can see our starting place in the cluster of white houses below.

On the way home we discovered a shortcut thanks to the help of a Hungarian windsurfer and Russian yoga teacher. Our same two canine friends found us and escorted us back down!

After volunteering, we finally got a chance to see Black Swan in the underground pirate movie theater. As you can see, the house was packed. One of the seats up front smelled like vomit. And every 20 seconds, the volume would cut out for 1-2 seconds. But for $3, we didn’t complain too much.

Power Down

April 17th, 2011-

Every morning, the street-side shopkeepers unpack and hang up their wares. And every evening, they take them down and pack them away again. 7 days a weeks, over and over again.

I, the tourist, watch from my cafe window with an omelette and toast.

Later, I go to the local pirate movie theater to watch The Black Swan, but the electricity in the entire town goes out. No one has power except for a few restaurants with generators. Alas!


April 16th, 2011-

Scenes from a momo (Tibetan dumpling) cooking class.


Lhamo: the man behind the action.

Pinching, very delicately.


Lhamo told us his story. He came from Tibet in the late nineties, studied English for two years, worked in a restaurant for nine months, and then started first cooking class in McLeod Ganj. He learned everything about cooking from his mom.

Cabbage, carrot and onions: my favorite momo.

Brenna hand-built.

Our army assembled. (Two Canadians and a French guy helped.)

Ready for the steamer.


In other news: Tibet loves Legolas!

Lion Man

April 15th, 2011-

Brenna got her appetite back! Happy days! Goodbye, stomach bug.

This is Lion Man. He’s found us almost every day that we’ve been in McLeod Ganj and told us about his “show.” This was the third time that he asked us to come (cost: Rs.100, about $2.40). He was such a nice and enthusiastic guy that today we decided to oblige him. The show was later that night.

There was a show of a different kind going on: active construction in the hotel restaurant where we ate breakfast. This has been a theme in India. People will grind metal or cut railings or do other remodeling in the middle of a busy restaurant. This poor guy on the left got a big dust cloud shot into his meal before the workers transitioned into (the below featured) noisy hammering.

(As Brenna pointed out: At restaurants in India, you only pay for the food. Lack of flies, lack of noise, waiter service, drinking water, and any other “normal” amenities are not part of the deal.)

Luckily we did find a decent restaurant (by paying more money!) on a rooftop. Check out the my massive chicken tandoori.

The following shot is reminiscent of my steak post from Bariloche, Argentina. If that steak was reason #1 for not being vegetarian anymore, this is #2.

Later we went to the Lion Man show at a nice rooftop restaurant.

I’d buy a Sprite from her.

Lion Man started his show, half an hour late, by recounting the story of how (at age 15) and another group of refugees had snuck out of Tibet in 1998. At this point, I had quite a bit of compassion and patience for the guy.

Then he prepared to sing his first song. Unfortunately he cracked up, laughing to himself, within 5 seconds of attempting to begin. And then he did that over—and over—and over again. He couldn’t get started for roughly 15 minutes. The small crowd was supportive, and he finally started singing.

He then progressed into a very slow dance, culminating in the act of spinning in a circle for literally 10 minutes.

By the time the power cut out, it was 8pm. We’d been there two hours and our patience had worn thin. We bailed at the intermission. Thanks Lion Man, you tried.

I Do What I Want!

April 14th, 2011-

Animals in India don’t talk, but this is what I hear.





and on a totally separate note… Brenna ate pie.


April 13th, 2011-

To add to the menagerie, today we crossed a pack of (seemingly) wild mountain goats.

We made it to our first volunteering class today. Unfortunately we were asked not to take photos of the students (and post them on the internet), many of whom were ex-political prisoners, for the sake of their safety and the safety of their families (many of whom are still in China-controlled Tibet). But I did manage to snap a photo of some instructional role-playing by the other volunteers—in this case, two blokes from Scotland and Ireland—with the wonderful volunteer teacher Amanda, from England.

Brenna was still feeling nauseous. Even plain white rice and a banana lassi wouldn’t go down.

The traveler who shared our dinner table was a woman from Chile named Macarena (“yes, like the dance”) who just finished medical school. She had three months off to travel the world before getting psychiatry training and starting full-time work in Santiago. We chatted for an hour. It felt great to use my Spanish again, like the first run weeks after a marathon (i.e. the Unschool Adventures South America trip).

Tibetan Buddhist Temple

April 12th, 2011-

This morning we visited Tsuglagkhang, the main complex of important Tibetan temples and buildings, including the official home of the Dalai Lama. I didn’t see the Lama himself, but I did think often and fondly of Bill Murray’s Dalai Lama story in the movie Caddyshack.

Good views of the Himalaya and central McLeod Ganj were in abundance.

We spun the wheels of time, adding one mantra to our karma for each revolution. (“So I’ve got that going for me—which is nice.”)

Apparently no shoe was safe at the entrance to the temple. (Read the sign.)

One of the main temples, when empty.

Tibetan Buddhist monks chanting in the same temple. (I think I burned up all my karma by taking this photo.)

Our irrepressible simian friends patrolled the grounds.

Brenna snapped this photo of a fellow tourist’s sleeping child. She talks more and more seriously about stealing an Indian baby each day. I fear for the children.

Around 2pm, monks started gathering in the central courtyard. We were just about to leave but decided to stay and see what’s up. We weren’t disappointed.

The monks paired up and began conversing—arguing, more like it—with one sitting and the other standing, swaying, and intermittently emphasizing a point with a stomping of the foot and a clap of the hands. Each monk fingered a string of rosary beads in the process.

As we later learned from an elder monk in a restaurant, these young monks were debating Buddhist philosophy: one of their many forms of meditation practice. The standing monk posed philosophical challenges or questions to the sitting monk, who then had to respond.

Some of them REALLY got into it. I was a little jealous. I wanted to participate, but it was all in Tibetan. And, I suppose, I’m not a monk. (But there were a handful of apparent lay people in the mix.)

That evening we attempted to join our first conversational English class (as volunteers) for Tibetan refugees. We were a bit late, so we grabbed dinner at the “Peace Cafe” instead, where we ran into a weird, weird old man (more on that later) and a positively delightful little Korean-Tibetan girl.

Brenna asked me to get the chloroform and burlap sack. I resisted.

The Stomach Bug Attacks, and a Journey from Zanskar

April 11th, 2011-

This morning Brenna and I grabbed breakfast at the “Italian Restaurant” above our hotel. (The quotes indicate that EVERY restaurant here is an Italian restaurant…and a Tibetan restaurant…and they serve Chinese and “Continental” [European] food, too. No restaurant is really that different from another.) Brenna ate a perfectly normal looking “farmer’s omelette”—and then started feeling nauseous, with intermittent stomach cramps. This affliction was destined continue for the next three days, limiting her ability to do much more than lay in bed and listen to Philip Pullman’s His Dark Materials audiobooks. Pobrecita!

She did manage to attend a nearby film screening with me that evening. In her own blog post, Brenna wrote beautifully about it, so I feel my best option is to plagiarize! Without further ado, Ms. Brenna McBroom:

“Last night we attended a screening of the movie ‘Journey From Zanskar’ about a ‘Geshe’ monk (the highest title that one can achieve as a monk- it takes 26 years of study) who took fourteen children on an extremely dangerous journey from Zanskar to Manali, so that they could study in a Tibetan school. The movie was amazing, and the coolest thing was that the Geshe monk was present and sitting right in front of me! The screening took place in a small room above a cafe, and when the movie was over he talked with us and answered our questions.”

I asked the monk if he had heard of Greg Mortensen or Three Cups of Tea…he hadn’t! I wrote it down on a piece of paper and said “READ THAT BOOK!”

(No photos today! Sorry!)

McLeod Ganj is SWEET

April 10th, 2011-

The rest of India: hot, flat, smoggy, noisy, everyone trying to sell you something.

McLeod Ganj: cool, mountainous, clear, quiet, no hard selling.

Double room with private bathroom: 400 rupees ($9).

Cafes with free wi-fi: EVERYWHERE.

Tibetan monks: EVERYWHERE.

Ex-pat hippy factor: minimal.

Lovin’ it. Tomorrow we start looking for volunteering opportunities (probably teaching conversational English) with the Tibetan refugee crowd.

Travel Day

April 9th, 2011-

Short post today. We traveled via bus from Amritsar to McLeod Ganj (just north of Dharamsala), the home of the Dalai Lama and Tibetan government in exile.

Lots of sitting and praying that our bus driver can communicate telepathically with the drivers of oncoming cargo trucks (in our same lane).

But do you know what makes long hauls so much better? That’s right. Miniature cans of THE DEW.

The Golden Temple

April 8th, 2011-

Brenna and I snagged an overnight “sleeper” train from Haridwar to Amritsar (in the Punjab, near the Pakistan border). Cost: $5. Experience: not as nasty as I thought it could be. Almost pleasant.

Brenna taught some young’uns to play SET. And an old guy who just couldn’t quite get it.

We arrived bright and early at 7am and bee-lined it The Golden Temple, the holiest of holy places for people of the Sikh religion. It was pretty sweet ass.

Even in our dirty, sleep-deprived state, the temple left us awe-struck.

And we left the locals awe-struck, apparently. Five different groups asked us for photographs—mostly young men who approached with a big smile and “Hello! How are you?” in decent English.

We spent the rest of the day napping in a noisy hotel room. Brenna was sick with a cold, so I went out looking for wi-fi, unsuccessfully. What I did find was a nice guy, around age 30, named “Raj” who chatted me up in his internet cafe. He told me first that he worked for Microsoft, and later that he actually worked at a call center for Virgin Broadband in Delhi. Very nice guy. He asked to become my Facebook friend. That’s the new international hand-shake, it seems. I agreed.


April 7th, 2011-

Features of a Bad Hotel Room:

1) Dirty, dusty, stained sheets & comforter. Check.

2) Constant deluge of water running from one end of bathroom to the other. Check.

3) Mosquitos pouring into room via hole in the wall above the toilet. Check.

4) Threat of monkey attack. Check.

5) Showerhead non-functional—front desk guys insist that the “faucet shower” is just as good. Check.

That’s all that needs to be said about our POS hotel. Luckily they were nice enough to hold our bags while we spent a pleasant day exploring the town of Haridwar.

Little kids and old men got naked to go for a dip in the Ganges.

A giant Hindu god looked over the highway.

We got bindis from two lovely little girls.

Our favorite new (free) dessert: anise seeds with sugar. YUM.

Brenna browsed the world’s most phallic vegetable stand.

Finally we found our most entertaining destination: a clothing shop and one of its tailors, Robbie.

Brenna finally got a chance to buy her own shalwar kamiz.

Robbie was an enthusiastic salesman. Are you sure you don’t want 2 or 3 shalwar kamiz, not one? Maybe try on a sari while you’re at it?

Brenna held strong. Robbie did manage to sell me a pair of underwear (which turned out to be too small)…that sly dog.

Tonight: an overnight train to Amritsar (in the far north, near the Pakistan border) and the famous Golden Temple.

Down the Ganges We Go

April 6th, 2011-

Ashram life quickly wore thin.

Maybe it was the 5:45am wake-up for the 6am mandatory yoga class. Maybe it was the the skimpy dinner (one big ladle of rice-curry-gruel) followed by a skimpy breakfast (two chapati and a spiced pickle). Or maybe it was the incomprehensible yoga teacher who continuously insisted that we breathe into “both of our two lungs” (hmm, not sure how to do fail at that!) and spent too much time chanting.

Any way you look at it, we were ready to peace outta there and Rishikish in general. So I risked damnation by the Hindu gods and took a photo of our ashram door. (Funny story: When we first arrived, I thought that our room number was 30. Then I noticed that everyone else’s room number was 30. Then Brenna told me that that symbol means “Om,” not the number 30.)

We grabbed a bus 30km south to the holy city of Haridwar, also on the Ganges. Tired from lack of sleep and too much bad yoga, we grabbed a hotel room near the bus station and crashed out to bad American movies.

For the rest of the day, we spent an obscene amount of time in the nearby restaurant “Big Ben,” watching the noisy Haridwar traffic pass by through thick glass windows. Here Brenna sips on my mango lassi.

Our hotel room was ridiculous. More on that in the next post.

Unicorn says…

April 5th, 2011-

Today we moved into a yoga ashram called Anand Prakash. They fed us lunch (first of three daily meals), put us up in a private room, and gave us our first yoga lesson (of two daily) for 600 rupees total (~$13).

It didn’t feel right to take photos in the ashram. So I instead found an inspirational life poster that I now share with you.

We Don’t Swim in the Ganges Because of High Fecal Content

April 3, 2011-

In Rishikesh, and perhaps all over India, locals will ask to take a picture with you. One guy told us that we “look like a nice couple,” and that was his justification for photographing us. Here, three dudes asked for our photo while walking along the Ganges. The one in orange was holding my hand directly before this photo, which is normal thing for guys who are friends to do in India.

They also hold girls’ hands.

We walked down to the “Swarg Ashram” area of Rishikesh, which was supposed to be more holy, but it felt rather like all the other (commercialized) areas of the town. Brenna contemplate this fact (or an avocado sandwich, I’m not sure which) as the sun set.


Oh, and guess who we found laaaazing around on the holy ghats of the Ganges? Yup, Mr. Bull. I could virtually hear him saying “I’M SO HOLY, I DO WHAT I WANT! NO BURGERS FOR YOU!”

And to top it all off: Myspace shot on a Ganges river boat!!

(Sorry, the title of this post has nothing to do with the content. But it is true.)

Rishikesh Menagerie

April 1, 2011-

So here we are in Rishikesh, one of the holy cities along the (very holy) Ganges river. There’s a bunch of holy stuff here, like shrines, ashrams, yoga and meditation courses. But all we can pay attention to are the holy cows.

They’re everywhere.

Just lining the streets, acting like they own the place.

Crapping wherever they damn well please, rooting through the garbage.

(The previous four bovine photos: credit, Brenna McBroom)

There are two pedestrian bridges spanning the Ganges here in Rishikesh. “Pedestrian” means “foot traffic only,” right? The motorcyclists don’t seem to care—they just zip down the bridge and honk at everyone who gets in the way. And neither do the holy cows.

This cow was saying to Brenna: “I do what I want!”

There are also monkeys.

They look cute and harmless from a few feet away, when you’re just observing. But bust out the camera and they turn vicious. This one almost leapt at me from its hang-out on the side of the bridge. Maybe they need to clarify that’s a “human pedestrian bridge.”

Oh, look who was waiting for us on the way back! Our old friend! (He tried to gore me with his one functional horn directly after this shot.)

Monkeys everywhere!

And…this was great. (Photo: Brenna)

Chandigarh to Rishikesh

March 31, 2011-

View from a rickshaw to Sector 43 bus station.

View from a rickshaw back to Sector 17 bus station (where we originated). So much for bad travel advice.

View from our Rishikesh-bound bus. This kid was taking pictures of us with his mom’s cell phone.

In between all this was roughly 7 hours of incessant honking, slamming on brakes, near-misses with huge transport trucks, stopped traffic, touts, bumps, and more honking…most of which I don’t care to remember. On the upside, there was gorgeous rural scenery and the whole trip cost roughly $4.

A Rock Garden Dystopia & Pakistan v. India

March 30th, 2011-

Matt took us to Chandigarh’s big tourist highlight: the rock garden. Built by a local artistic “visionary” and made of largely reused materials, this rock garden (entrance fee: Rs.15, a.k.a. US$0.33) is not to be missed. Does YOUR rock garden have waterfalls?

Or midget-sized gateways separating its various chambers?

Or Indian people who insist on taking a family photo with you?

Or menacing metal gnomes sentries?

Or funny mirrors?

(Hey there cowgirl.)

Or a CAMEL? (Photo credit: Brenna)

After all that rock garden adventure, we needed a nap. Unfortunately I discovered Brenna cheating on me with an inflatable penguin named Pedro.

Later that day, the cricket world cup semi-finals were on: India v. Pakistan. Apparently Indians don’t really care about winning the world cup so much as beating Pakistan, their long-time nemesis. The match took place just a few kilometers away from Chandigarh, so the streets were packed with fans and gawkers.

We Americans celebrated by eating. Kate’s friend from the internship program, Maria from Siberia, joined us. This time: South Indian “domas” and my first Chai Masala tea. YUMMMMMM. Best meal yet.

Our group caught the end of the match at a local pub. Kingfisher is the Budweiser of India.

Brenna got TRASHED for the cricket game! And by that I mean: we shared a beer and then went back to the hotel at 10pm to fulfill our jet-lag-sleep-urges.

India won. The various explosions and wild cheering coming through the window told it all.

Delhi to Chandigarh

March 29, 2011-

We grabbed a 4.5-hour-long “second seating” train form Delhi to Chandigarh for the bargain basement price of $3.50.

We were definitely the only white people on this train car.

First autorickshaw/moto-taxi/tuk-tuk ride.

After we found our friends Matt & Kate (Kate is doing an internship here, and Matt is her boyfriend visiting from Boston), we took even more autorickshaw rides! And I made even stranger faces.

YUM first Indian food dinner! Picture below is my “thali” (= a little bit of everything) with hot naan bread to the left. YUM YUM YUM.

I’m purposefully not eating any “sweets” on this trip (defined as chocolate and sugary snacks), but I made an early exception for these fruit-based Indian desserts. They were pretty weird (and most Indian sweets look equally or more weird), so I don’t think my goal will be a problem.

Welcome to Injia!

March 27-28, 2011 (including time travel)-

Two weeks after returning from South America, I’m on the move again—this time to India for 5 weeks.

Why India, Blake? Well, good question, Blake.

Honestly, India isn’t the big attraction for me: it’s the Himalaya.

Ever since I watched Seven Years in Tibet and met my friend Dan, a Brit who treks and works in Nepal, I’ve had the urge to visit the Himalaya mountains. I have no desire to do some monstrous climb of K2 or Everest or something like that, and I never have. I just love the beauty of the mountains, and the Himalaya combines that with the chance to experience a new (and, for a westerner, affordable) foreign culture.

So when I was planning my year out, slapping an India trip into my travels just made sense. I had the time, money, and no binding commitments in the States, so I jumped on the opportunity. I’m going to die sometime, right? Do it while you’re still young!

Another big plus for India was that my girlfriend, the esteemed potter Brenna McBroom of Asheville, NC (, also wanted to visit India. She threw a bunch of pots and saved up, and now we’re traveling together. Hot dog! It doesn’t get better than this.

A final motive for the trip is: to do research for a potential future Unschool Adventures trip. India is not a place that I would send a group without checking out myself, so here I am, and maybe we’ll run a trip there in 2012 if it all feels right.

Okay, enough background story. On to the photos!

Directly after the conference, Brenna and I got a ride to Chicago O’Hare airport to await our direct flight to New Delhi on a big fat 777 aircraft. Here she poses with our chariot.

The big novelty of this flight is the length: 14 hours. This is my longest flight ever. We entertained ourselves with reading, movies, uncomfortable napping, snacking, and joking about the older Indian man behind us who would forcefully push our seats into their upright positions when we attempted to recline.

My eyes often returned to the big flight information board in the front of the passenger area. Those hours ticked away slowly.

Arriving at New Delhi, Brenna was confused by the airport’s lack of bathroom signage. Which one to choose??

We waited around for our pre-arranged hotel taxi, which was an hour late, and then we waited a bit more for the driver to get gas, since he was on empty. In India, you have to pop the hood to fill the tank.

Now it’s 5:30am Delhi time, which is really 7pm Chicago time, and my body is hating on me for the jet lag. Our next stop is Chandigarh, four hours north of Delhi.