A Travellerspoint blog

Getting overwhelmed in New Delhi India


View World Trip 2012 - Actual on dariusz's travel map.

We were worried about the airport in Delhi because of horror stories from people who have been there but the arrival at the aiport in Delhi is now a relatively peaceful affair. I think it has something to do with the Indian government efforts to make the country more accessible and appealing to tourists. However, the second you get into a cab and leave the airport grounds the chaos begins. The deafening and CONSTANT sound of honking. The six lane highway where no one actually stays in a single lane. The pedestrians, tri-cycles, rickshaws, cows, children, elderly, goats and cars all intermingled together on a single road in one of the biggest cities in the world. No one pays any attention to silly things like traffic laws. There is extreme poverty all around you, with naked kids doing their business on the side of the road and tents setup near sewers, intermingled with some of the most ridiculous opulence you will find anywhere. There is dirt, exhaust fumes, flies and smell of urine everywhere. The whole experience of arriving in India is entirely overwhelming to the senses.

The driving in India is especially atrocious. In Latin America and other chaotic places in the world you will occasionally see 4 or 5 cars side by side in what technically are only 3 lanes. The difference in India is that the cars will drive weaving slowly lane to lane even if they are the only car on the road! They will drive on the wrong side of the highway (yes, I mean head-on) for no apparent reason other than they felt like it. They will stop their car in the middle of the busy highway to go pee on the side of the road instead of just pulling over and risk their own life as well as others. We saw all this actually happen during our 30 minute drive from the airport. It’s not chaos because of necessity anymore, its chaos for the sake of chaos!

When the cab driver arrived at the airport to pick us up he grabbed my bag and packed it inside the cab letting Kristine pack her own (don’t worry I helped). OK one freak incident right? Get to the hotel, same thing. The guy grabs my bags and runs upstairs leaving Kristine all alone with her bags. I carried her bag up and he got no tip. The restaurant we went to that night the waiter acts as if she doesn’t exist. It turns out this was our initiation into one of the most difficult to accept cultural peculiarities in India, the way they treat women. There was not a single woman working in any of the hotels we’ve been in. In fact there were very few women out and about during the day in Delhi and the Metro had separate Men and Women lines to get in and then separate Metro cars for Women. To be fair women were allowed to go to any of the cars, and some clearly more liberated ones went to the general cars, but the men were not allowed to go to the Women cars. Not sure if this is true but we’ve heard this was started because of abuses of Metro riding women in the past (ie. Groping).

The truth is that the first impression of India we got was not the most favourable but the good news is that it grows on you and there is just so much to offset the negatives. When we ventured out the next morning to see the Red Fort in Delhi we were surrounded by a stunning cultural mosaic. There were colors everywhere, different dresses, different customs and people from all walks of life. It was still chaotic and loud but I was now enjoying it and despite all the commotion not once did I feel unsafe. Whenever we looked lost someone would ask us where we were going and point us in the right direction. If we asked for help it was heartily offered and usually followed up with some questions about where we were from. People were genuinely warm and friendly.

When we got to the Red Fort it was absolutely packed with visiting Indian families. This was wonderful because it’s so nice to see people enjoying their own countries, but also because many of them were wearing traditional clothing. The kids looked so adorable wearing their Sarees, Kurtas and Sherwanis. I was a bit shy at first taking pictures until I realized that they were taking pictures of us! It turns out we were quite the attraction to the Indian families and shortly thereafter we trading pictures with wonderfully friendly people from all over India. We’re probably going to end up in a whole bunch of family portraits.

While walking around Delhi we also learned about how multi-cultural India really is. You pass by mosques, hindu temples, bahai temples, budhist places of workship, sikh temples and many others I was not able to recognize. It has to do with the incredibly colourful history of the region and a tradition of multi-culturalism and tolerance. It seems that India was already a true cultural mosaic way before that term entered the English vocabulary.

You can see some of the pictures from the day below or you can click on the link at the bottom of this blog entry to see even more pictures.

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Click here to see more Pictures!

Posted by dariusz 05:20 Archived in India Comments (4)

Quick Stop in Toronto: Fevers, Food, Friends, and Family

We were so fortunate that a flight from Lima to Delhi with a 6 hour stopover in Toronto was about $300/person more expensive than booking one flight from Lima to Toronto, then a separate flight from Toronto to Delhi a few days later. Doesn’t make any sense but it sure worked in our favour!

The original plan was to fly to Toronto and stay for 3 days. In that time we were going to settle some financial and tax matters, repack, visit friends and family, and have a family birthday celebration for Derek.

Being on a budget in Central and South America means having to eat rice and beans daily. I was ready for change! I planned to eat at my favourite Thai food restaurant with friends. I salivated at the thought of the Polish yumminess my mother-in-law and father-in-law were to bestow upon us. I (almost literally) drooled at thoughts of my dad serving his best Filipino foods. And I was to pair all of this deliciousness with my favourite wines.

Unfortunately, none of that happened.

I had a raging fever from our stopover flight in Bogota to Toronto and it persisted for a few days. Worse than the bloodwork I had to give 2 times a day and worse than having to provide samples you really don’t want to know about, I couldn’t keep any food down.
At Derek’s birthday celebration with his family and my family, guests came in with delicious offerings of Asian food, Polish food, wines, and my favourite desserts. All I could do was put some food on my plate and literally lick at it so that I could taste what I was missing. Even licking my food didn’t help my situation as I would run to the bathroom as my Uncle Al would shout after me “IMMODIUM!!” Thanks Uncle Al :)

A couple of days later, the antibiotics kicked in and the fever went away. My bloodwork indicated that I did NOT have malaria and the working antibiotics meant that I probably had something bacterial and it meant that my fears that an opportunistic parasite wasn’t laying dormant and laying eggs in my gut! Yay!

We are so lucky to have the wonderful friends and family that we have. To my friends that I had to cancel on – I’ll see you in 4 months and that really isn’t too far away!

Off to India we went!!

On a funny note, I was having bloodwork done by a woman originally from Punjab, India. I told her that the bloodwork had to be done quickly because I was going to India. Then she stopped what she was doing, looked me straight in the eyes, spoke in a low, serious voice and said ,” Why would you want to go there??? I’m from India and I don’t want to go back.”

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Posted by krisses 21:08 Archived in Canada Comments (1)

Peru Redux - Northern Edition


View World Trip 2012 - Actual on dariusz's travel map.

Peru is one of those countries that a traveller can return to over and over and never get bored. It just offers so much diversity in terms of activities, terrains, history and cuisine that there is always something new to discover. It’s like someone compiled a smorgasbord of backpacker lures and put them all in one relatively small box of a country. You will undoubtedly be hooked no matter what type of backpacker you are.

We first travelled to Peru 2008 and it was truly an adventure of a lifetime. Among many other things we went sand boarding down giant sand dunes, flew over ancient desert lines, stayed at the home of a traditional Lake Titikaka family and of course trekked to the ancient city of Machu Picchu. We loved every minute and Peru quickly became the standard that we would compare all other trips to. However when we left we knew that there was still much more to see and we promised ourselves one day we would come back. This trip finally provided the opportunity to keep this promise and this time we decided to concentrate on northern Peru as we made our way down from the Ecuador border to Lima.

We started at the small beach town of Mancora near the border with Ecuador. Immediately we went for sea food and of course the world famous Peruvian Ceviche. If you don’t know what Ceviche is then don’t even try to find out unless you are going to Peru. You will be almost certainly disappointed anywhere else. We loved the food in Mancora but unfortunately very little else. The beach is dusty and full of garbage and the vibe in the town is decidedly on the seedy side. We left after a couple nights towards the city of Trujillo.

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We really didn’t know what to expect of Trujillo but we knew there were some really interesting ancient desert adobe cities and pyramids in the area so we thought we’d spend at least a couple of nights. As it turned out we actually ended up staying much longer because we enjoyed the area so much!

Trujillo is a very charming, safe and clean midsized town and nearby Huanchaco has a far better beach vibe then Mancora. We loved the fact that it seemed every block had at least 2 or 3 stores or restaurants with display carousels full of yummy deserts. The public transportation actually has route numbers (Gasp!) which makes it really easy and cheap to get to anywhere you need to go. There is even a bus route that goes right by the ancient city of Chan Chan and continues on to Hunachaco for a day at the beach. There is really no need to bother with taxis but if you like even the collectivo taxis have route numbers posted on their windshields so that it’s easy to tell whether they are going in your direction. Huanchaco is a true beach town with a great beach front promenade and some really interesting reef fishing boats. You can occasionally see one of the fishermen grab a boat and run out into the water or another one bring a boat back. That’s some impressive core muscle strength!

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After Trujillo we headed for our last taste of the Andean mountains in the famous Cordilleras near Huarez. The town itself is set in an almost surreal setting in a valley surrounded by no less than 6 snow caps over 5000 meters high. The $30 per night (splurge!) hotel we got offered a panoramic view of all of them from the rooftop where they serve their breakfasts. It was a wonderful way to start each day.

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There are tons of options for trekking in the area but we were a bit limited on time and health. The time had to do with our upcoming flight from Lima and the health had to do with Kristines poor beat up knees. We decided we didn’t want to push too hard because we wanted to save her joints for the Himalayas so as far as hiking we just chose to do a single day trip. The day trip we chose to do was to a Lake called simply “Lake 69”. Sounds boring right? Well it is anything but that! We needed to hire a taxi to the start of the trail in the actual national park but luckily we were able to arrange the ride with a wonderful French couple so that we were able to split the cost 4 ways. The hike to the lake offered some of the most awe inspiring larger-than-life nature views I have ever seen in my life.

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The hike also offered a couple of brand new personal experiences for me. The first one was actually chewing coca leaves. We’ve both drank tea made out of Coca leaves before and enjoyed it but we’ve never tried chewing. The guys we rented the taxi with happened to have all the necessary ingredients for the process, so we decided to try it. The chewing is supposed to prevent altitude sickness and fatigue, which is why the locals do it, so because we had just recently arrived at altitude and were already doing a strenuous hike we thought we would try it. I have to say that I didn’t feel any fatigue or altitude effects while I was chewing the leaves for the first couple of hours. The problems began when I spit them out and proceeded up the last incline up to the lake. I have never felt altitude sickness before, but I’ve seen Kristine suffer from it many times and it did not look fun! Well, this time I got to experience it firsthand. It’s a horrible feeling of complete exhaustion but yet not exhaustion. You walk 2 or 3 steps and your heart starts racing as if you just sprinted full out for 100 meters. You have a pounding headache to go along with the racing heart. Yet you are fully aware that it’s not your muscles or your conditioning that is causing this. Your muscles feel fine and you don’t feel tired but yet your body refuses to obey you. I started getting angry thinking that I’ve climbed higher and tougher places than this and I was not going to let this hike defeat me. Finally we made it to the top and I simply just collapsed at the side of the lake. As you can see it was worth every little bit of effort.

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Posted by dariusz 03:39 Archived in Peru Comments (0)

Vilcabamba to Piura, Peru using Macara border crossing


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Why a post about leaving Vilcabamba without a post about Vilcabamba first? Well, it just seems to suit since we really couldn’t wait to get out of there. To be sure the city of longevity famous for its 100 year old inhabitants sits in an absolutely gorgeous valley with a perfect climate. This seemed to be our kind of place on paper and we really did enjoy the day hike we did to a beautiful waterfall in the area.

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The city itself however had a vibe we did not like. The first thing you notice when you walk around is that there is a definite divide between the Ecuadorians and the expats in the area. There are posh expensive expat restaurants all around the main square (though with crappy food) where everyone speaks English and no locals go to, and then separately, there are Ecuadorian restaurants where the price is a fraction and the food is actually better. For the most part the expats keep to themselves and the locals go about their own business, however, we could just feel the tension. We found out from one of the other tourists in our hostel that apparently there has been a huge influx of American retirees into the area over the past couple of years. This drove land prices through the roof and drove up the costs of everything in and around the city. This combined with an apparent lack of interest the new rich residents had in learning the language or the customs or even getting to know the existing residents, and it’s not really surprising an unfavourable vibe developed. It's too bad because the city looks like it could be quite charming.

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We decided to leave Vilcabamba and go to Peru through a much less travelled border crossing in Macara because of a couple of reasons. First, it would be very time consuming to backtrack to the Panamericana, and secondly, we heard a large number of horror stories about the Huaquillas border crossing. Apparently in Huaquillas you are required to disembark your bus and take a Taxi through a 2km border zone which can lead to problems. In some cases we’ve heard of the taxis taking people to garages and robbing them blind, and in other cases we’ve heard of people never finding their bus or the luggage they left on it once across the border, and having to pay an expensive taxi to Tumbes the first real Peruvian town. Unlike Huaquillas, the Macara border crossing is extremely relaxed, there is no need to take any taxis, and you always have your bus in sight. You do need to get off the bus and do the immigration formalities yourself but you walk maybe a total of 50 meters across a bridge and you are already in Peru. You then just get back onto the same exact bus and it takes you to Piura in Peru where it’s easy to catch and onwards bus. The following is the list of times and buses we took:

1) Bus from Vilcabamba to Loja at 5:15am – takes approx 1hr 30 mins
2) Direct bus from Loja to Piura, Peru at 7am (Transportes Loja is the company) – they say it takes 8 hrs, in reality it takes around 11hrs
3) You arrive in Piura around 6pm where it’s a short walk from the Transportes Loja station to any number of other Peruvian options such as Cruz del Sur, Ittsa or El Dorado.

It was a very long day starting with a wake up call at 4:15am and ending at our final destination around 10pm. However, the entire experience was stress free and very easy, and I would highly recommend this route for anyone trying to get from southern Ecuador to Peru instead of backtracking to the Panamericana.

PS. After we had already left we learned this happened in Vilcabamba. It's very unfortunate and we hope she recovers quickly however we're not extremely surprised that something like this happened.

Posted by dariusz 15:38 Archived in Ecuador Comments (0)

Quilotoa Loop Day 4 - Taking the Milk Truck to the Market


View World Trip 2012 - Actual on dariusz's travel map.

The last day of our trek was not really a trekking day. We needed to get from Isinlivi to the market town of Saquisili for the weekly market which is known to be one of the most authentic ones in Ecuador. The problem was two-fold. First of all, the distance was far too great to walk, and secondly the only bus leaving Isinlivi was at 3am. Waking up at 2am to catch 3am bus to be at the market at 5am did not appeal to us very much. Thankfully Joanna studied her Lonely Planet carefully and found that there is another way to get to Sasquili and it involves jumping on the back of a milk truck. The approximate 9am (South American time, so give or take an hour) departure time of the milk truck appealed to us far more than waking up in the middle of the night after having hiked for 6 hours the day before.

The milk truck journey turned out to be amazing fun and a great cultural experience. Thinking about a milk truck through our North American paradigm we expected that it would be a vehicle that goes around from house to house or village to village and delivers milk. We were in for quite the surprise since the Isinlivi milk truck does the exact opposite and in hindsight it makes perfect sense. The milk truck goes from farm to farm and COLLECTS milk from the farmers and then delivers the milk to the city. The locals are either standing with buckets of milk to deposit or there is just a bucket of milk sitting there by itself by the side of the road. As the truck stops one of the guys on the back of the truck runs out and deposits the milk in the buckets into the large containers sitting in the truck. The buckets themselves are left behind. I never saw any money exchanged so I am not sure how the depositors get paid and how everyone knows how much each person contributed but it all seems to somehow work.

Here is a short video and some pictures:

Here is our driver picking up some of the more creatively arranged milk buckets:

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Here is one of the other passengers on the milk truck:

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We finally arrived at Sasquisili in the early afternoon when the market was already winding down. However, we did manage to have an excellent lunch and even bought a couple of ponchos. All in all a very successful and colorful market day.

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These giant red bananas were DELICIOUS!
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Posted by dariusz 10:43 Archived in Ecuador Comments (0)

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