Indian Subcontinent

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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.

Amritsar, ville importante pour les Sikhs car le plus grand temple de la communauté y s’y trouve. On a pas encore réussi à échapper à la chaleur, mais c’est notre dernière étape avant l’Himalaya. On est juste de passage et on a l’après-midi pour visiter Harmandir Sâhib – le Temple d’Or.

On ne connait pas grand chose du sikhisme et du coup, on se sait pas trop comment aborder ce temple. Mais apparemment, nous ne sommes pas les seuls et il y a des gens du temple qui sont là pour nous guider, il faut dire qu’il y a vraiment beaucoup de pélerins. Nous avons rencontré un couple de touristes américains qui nous ont dit avoir pleurés après avoir franchis la porte d’entrée. Ce n’était pas notre cas, mais le temple est vraiment magnifique comme essaye d’en témoigner cette photo :

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…

Le Rajasthan, c’est beau, c’est chaud. Très chaud. La région connaît une grande sécheresse actuellement et tous les jours, on entend que la veille, on a battu des records de chaleur. La journée, les températures vont entre 45 et 50° et malheureusement, la nuit, on ne perd qu’une dizaine de degrés. Sans climatisation, on n’arrive pas vraiment à dormir correctement. La région est vide comparé à la capacité hôtelière, on a bien compris pourquoi maintenant.  Alors, voilà, c’est décidé, on va changer nos billets de train et essayer de trouver un endroit plus frais.

At 32,4°C, Shimla beats a 170 years record” Times Of India, 30/05/2010

Shimla, c’est la ville où le gouvernement britannique allait pour échapper à la chaleur de Delhi l’été et c’est également la ville de montagne la plus accessible depuis Delhi, mais vu la météo dans le journal, on a décidé d’aller plus loin. On va aller à Dharamsala, peut-être qu’on pourra voir le Dalai-lama ?

Du coup, à Jaipur, on n’y a passé qu’une journée. C’est la plus grande des villes qu’on ait vu ici et avec peu de temps, on a pas vraiment eu le temps de sentir l’atmosphère de la ville, mais on y a passé un bon moment.

L’entrée de la vielle-ville :

Le traffic dans la rue :

Un singe mangeant les vieux légumes laissés par les marchants :

Le ciel n’était pas bleu au dessus de Jodhpur, la ville bleue du Rajasthan, il y avait des tempêtes de sables dans le désert du Thar. Il faisait chaud aussi, très chaud. Le nord de l’Inde a des records de canicule en ce moment, il faisait déjà bien plus de 40° alors qu’on était venu à huit heures. Le palais de Jodhpur est vraiment magnifique, il est perché et domine la ville mais après deux heures de visites, nous étions bien heureux de pouvoir faire une pause dans un endroit climatisé.

Deux musiciens à l’entrée du Palais de Jodhpur.

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.