a gathering place for the words, images and momentos of the world of adventures i've adventured, the stories i've wandered through. curriculum bella vita...a resume, of sorts, of the good life.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Sunday, October 28, 2012

sha's days

So great to have Sha in town, returning my March visit with one of her own. She and Kate graduated a year or two apart, from rival schools, and were my two favorite Fondy Relays friends...but had never met each other. Enjoyed new views at the fort, cleaned up in preparation of the Biodiversity Summit, and night shopping at Shilparamam, another new feature! Oh...and go see ARGO!

Children, children...look! Pasty people!

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Kolkata Kate and the Drive to Darjeeling

Every camp counselor has favorite campers. One of mine is Kate. Since she was in 9th grade, I knew she’d grow up to be a pretty rad lady and she hasn’t disappointed. After graduating from UW-La Crosse, she served in the Peace Corps for two years in Micronesia before leading Outward Bound programs in Florida and adjudicated youth programs in Northern Wisconsin. And after a few years of tireless work, she decided to treat herself with...a trip to India!

After a stop in Taiwan, she arrived in Hyderabad and took to liking the city and its craziness. While I worked, she made her first solo trip to Hampi, a great destination for that kinda adventure. After she got back, we finalized trip plans together.  While our original dream of a canoe (ish) trip down the Godavari River from Bhadrachalam to Rajamundry was scuttled, we had many good backup options and settled on Kolkata and Darjeeling.

After a two-day battled, we got foreigner tickets the day before departure. The night train from Hyderabad to Kolkata is almost 30 hours. It's a loooong haul across A.P. and Orissa, but the scenery's good and we met some interesting people on the train. (The real downside? Children. Non-quiet children. Children aren't counted in the seating assignments, so every train is packed full with as many children as people can find and/or produce.)

Kolkata's a great city to visit for a day and a night. The city's core is surprisingly small for a metropolis of so many people and so much ill-repute. The Floatel, right on the River Hoogley, made a great base camp for exploring the area at a decent price. We enjoyed walking through the flower market, the old bazaar streets and the government quarter. The city's dilapidation is photogenic and easy to enjoy, as were the Victoria Memorial, the planetarium, and Fire and Ice. The biggest spectacle, though, was the annual Durgapooja around Kalighat. We joined a million (?) revelers for a late night walk through a beautiful lit neighborhood.

The night bus to Siliguri was a less memorable 14 hours. At $16 a person, I'd even go so far as to recommend that each person buy two tickets, ensuring a whole sleeper compartment to themselves, rather than sharing. Especially if you're a solo traveller.

The Darjeeling Himalayan Railways toy train no longer connects to the plains, thanks to a landslide a few years ago, so the only option from Siliguri up to Darjeeling is shared jeep, a three hour ride for 150 rupees. The tea plantations and sharp slopes make for a beautiful drive, almost as nice as Darjeeling itself. The crest of the city is a nice promenade with nice shops, cafes and guesthouses. The temperature felt great, even if it felt like we were joined by a large percentage of India's population during the holiday weekend. Compared to the other hill stations i've been to, Darjeeling is much, much nicer than Kodaikanal and more scenic than Munnar. But i wouldn't trade ten visits to any of them for one trip to Leh. After an early morning sunrise and Kanchenjunga alpenglow, I didn't feel like there was too much i was missing out on in Darjeeling itself, aside from the missed opportunity to do some hiking in relatively uncharted Sikkim before having to rush back Wednesday, while Kate lingered a few days more. 

Saturday, October 6, 2012

The Second Time's a Charm

One year later, finally, Oktoberfest in Hyderabad. And while Kingfisher may not be quiiiiiiiiiite up to the standards of some of its German peers, it made a great excuse for a celebration. So nice to be in a place and time and moment where people and groups and stories intermingled. I haven't had many evenings in all of two years like this one, i miss fun muchly.