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Our first day in the Himalayas was easy – only 3 or 4 hours of flat hiking through a beautiful, mountain-lined valley. Soon after we had reached our first camp, a white mare gave birth to a cute wobbly-legged baby. All the male horses got excited. Apparently they fight for the claim of father… wonder why.

Our group was super nice. We were with 3 other tourists – 2 French students and 1 librarian from Hong Kong (who hopefully we’ll see again in HK). Our guide was always in high spirits and our cook was surprisingly good for being in the middle of nowhere. Funny, for us 5 tourists there was a team of 6 staff and 10 horses!! All for 40 US a day! … only in India.

The last real day of hiking we reached Kongmaru La – a pass at 5150m/ 16892 F. It was pretty exhausting – but very rewarding. We trekked for 2 hours up and 6 hours down – made for a long day. The top was nice; you could see mountains in all directions stretching like a blanket over the horizon.

Surprisingly, the Taj actually lives up to it’s reputation. The building is beautiful – perfectly symmetrical, luminescent.  Up close you can see the delicate flowers that are gracefully carved into the walls.

Nicolas had to visit the Taj quickly. He was really sick in Agra – bed-ridden for three days! We learned later that you need to take a special 2-in-1 antibiotic here, because the bugs are particularly resistant. I took most of the Agra photos. I was helped by the random tourist-trappers, who point out good angles and then ask for ridiculous amounts of money…

Day 1-4: Delhi

We spent our first few days in Delhi running errands (step 1 buy a lonely planet!) and planning what we would do here in India (oh…  foresight … how sweet you could have been!)  It was nice though, because in between all that, we had a great time catching up with friends (through the ILO and travels) and seeing some beautiful sights (below, Humayun’s Tomb).

In the city, the poverty and wealth side by side are shocking (even when expected!). There are people sleeping on the side of the road (in mass), men pulling huge loads twice their size on carts…  On the other hand, we were kicked out of a restaurant a friend chose because Nico’s shirt didn’t have a collar!  We happily found another collar-less venue with ease…

Day 5 -16: Rajasthan

We spent a week and a half travelling around this very hot, very beautiful region.  I think my favourite city there was Udaipur – this romantic lake-side city is filled with gorgeous palaces and calm relaxed people.  Below’s a pic of the sunset we caught there.

Throughout the region, the architecture is amazing.  Even aside from the delicate beauty of the Taj Mahal, every palace and fort we’ve visited have been pretty awe-inspiring. Some of the hotels and restaurants too – they’re in these 250-year-old buildings with beautiful courtyards centered around fountains, with ornate doorways and draping plants.

Wandering around residential neighbourhoods, the kids are super cute and the people friendly. It’s strange:  in addition to asking us to shake their hands, take their photo and, on occasion, for money, the other common request is for pens.  I’m really curious which former tourists came with mass amounts on pens… perhaps it was in the old lonely planet recommendation.

The streets are filled with animals – we even got a few glimpses of elephants! Monkeys and camels too! Cows here sorta resemble stray cats or dogs – they’re everywhere, wandering the street, nosing through the same garbage that any street animal would.

A sunset in Istanbul – we’ve had a very relaxing time here, meeting up with old friends and wandering around the city.

Here’s Nicolas in the Aya Sofya – the golden ceramics you see were covered for centuries by plaster in this church/mosque/museum.

More on Wadis

Stayed with a great couple in Amman. Anselm took us to this fantastic canyon (wadi) – there’s tonnes of them here. After floating for some time in a remote part of the Dead Sea, we hiked into the wadi. We came to natural hot springs, swam in the pools and scaled the canyon walls to get to cold pools above.

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We met Omar on our second midnight round tour of Kerak – that is to say when we were dead lost with a hotel reservation in a town two hours away.

Not only did this smiling, laughing man guide us to the right highway, but also invited us to eat at his place. Funny, but after ten minutes of broken English with him, we knew he was the kind of guy we could trust.

Anyway, on our way back North the next evening, we called him up. He was on his way to the mosque (prayers 5 times a day!), but came to get us right after.

We were welcomed into this exquisite appartment: lush carpets, fluffy sofa, columns – seriously beautiful. Little children – his brothers from his father’s second wife (you can have up to 4) – came to greet us. A friend arrived, who spoke English, and we sat down on the carpet to eat.

The food was absolutely delicious and the conversation went in interesting directions; Omar holds a PhD in religious studies (the Koran) and studied in Baghdad in1995, when it was still the cultural/artist center of the Arabic World – think Paris, Rome…

He works as a teacher and runs the family business in gold on the side. He told us he has problems with the government because he “likes the poor too much.” Two weeks ago he led a rally of teachers demanding higher pay – right now they get about 300 dollars a month. Hopefully the reaction of the government won’t be too harsh.

The conversation often went to religion, to family, what life is like in France and Canada. At one point I was invited to the second half of the house to meet his mother and sister, who had cooked the meal we were eating. (The house was doubled with 2 living rooms – one for guests and one for the women and family.) They both were kind and funny. Neither work. His father’s wife greeted me veiled but promptly removed it to reveal a t-shirt. We had nice broken-english/sign-language conversations over Turkish coffee.

On reflection, what I feel most is a stunned gratitude to be so quickly and warmly welcomed into someone’s home. As Omar would say Alhamdulillah


Welcome to Here and There, the official blog of Megan and Nicolas’ trip around the world :)