It’s official. Ticket in hand. Itinerary is a quick 2-1/2 weeks. Romania-Serbia-Kosovo-Albania-Macedonia-Bulgaria. Details to follow, but it all kicks off the first week of March…
Okay, any one of the Beatles, but George was the coolest by far. I’m sitting outside my bungalow in Auroville. It’s this crazy commune linked up to the Ashram in Pondicherry. People here are nice and it’s super relaxing out here. It’s home to this golden temple (not like the one in Amritsar). This one looks like a giant golf ball and its actually plated in real gold. New age ashram living is funny to watch. I saw this very Nordic looking Viking type white dude driving a tractor. It reminds me of The Beach (the movie with Leonardo DiCaprio). People come here and work in the fields for ten years before they get a chance to become a citizen of this place. Gotta pay your dues apparently.
Okay, I’m more than a bit surprised. The previous trip to India I made was rough. I stayed in the north the entire time and it was one notch under brutal. So, this time I was prepared for everything to be hard. I’m quite happy to see that south India is a completely different country. It’s still India, and the good and bad that comes with that, but the south is a really laid back version of the north. I like the people, the food, the weather. It has a Southeast Asia feel to it. After landing in Chennai, it was a four hour game of chicken until reaching Pondicherry. The lines in the middle of the highway are only a suggestion in South Asia. I must have seen fifty tech colleges on the way here as well. There is definitely an educated middle class here. The city of Pondicherry is very nice with a colonial French history. The food is spicy and cheap. The city revolves around the Sri Aurobindo Ashram near the water. A beautiful place that is non-denominational and gives off a feel good vibe. More to come…
It’s been a busy couple of days in Sri Lanka. Well, by busy I mean it’s been three days spent in the most terrifying automobile rides on the planet. My taxi driver splitting lanes on the freeway at 95 MPH in South Korea doesn’t even compare to the crazy of driving in Sri Lanka. The second day here was spent in Kandy, the old Capitol and home to some amazing sites. Beautiful Buddhist temples built long ago, located in a hazy, foggy mountain city.
After walking around and checking out all the Kandy sites, it was back in the car to a spice garden. They’re huge on Ayurvedic medicine, so I got to learn about all the different oils and herbs and how they cure everything. Honestly, I would recommend skipping the spice garden. It was a forty foot walk down a path and back without much reward.
After the spice garden it was on to the elephant orphanage to play with elephants. It’s crazy how big they are, and they’re roaming free everywhere. You can walk right up to them, feed them, ride them, really anything you want to do. It was pretty cool.
New Year’s Eve was spent playing ping pong, chess and drinking some terrible local rum. All in all a successful close to 2012!
I’m sure anyone reading this just wants to see the pictures, so here goes:
Please, next time I think it’s a good idea to spend three days flying on four different planes somebody should kick me in the head. But, after San Francisco, Newark, Frankfurt and Doha, I finally made it to Colombo, Sri Lanka. I just checked into my frugal accommodations (no, seriously, the room rates in Colombo start at $9 per night), and the weather is really nice. I had a nice 45 minute conversation with the taxi driver on the way. This beautiful island has had a bad run. Between a thirty year guerrilla war and losing 50,000 people in the 2004 tsunami, I’m amazed to see everyone smiling here. This place has a ton of potential, and I’m really looking forward to traveling around here. Now it’s nap time…
I arrived in Uruguay the day before yesterday via the ferry service, and was greeted by a crazy tropical storm. Rain blowing sideways and all the fun parts of a mini hurricane. So after watching six hours of crime dramas, went to bed and woke up to blue skies and awesomeness. Both Argentina and Uruguay are not the cheapest countries you can travel to. But surprisingly the rental car rates are not a lot more than cross country bus tickets, so I get to drive while in Uruguay. The car is pretty new, it’s a Chevy Spark, and it’s a little bigger than a backpack. Everyone drives in the tradition of Italian road rules (look forward and don’t hit anything, but people behind you don’t matter). It’s also been really fun driving a stick for the first time in eight years :).
So I made the drive across Uruguay to a tiny beach town called La Paloma. It was about a five hour drive through coastal city after coastal city, including Montevideo. La Paloma has about 3,500 people and a really cool lighthouse. Check out the pics below:
Okay, okay, I am the laziest blogger ever. I’ve been in Buenos Aires for six days now, and this is my first post. It’s been a combination of keeping busy here (for the most part) and relaxing after the last couple weeks in San Francisco. Buenos Aires is not what I expected initially. At first glance it looks like any major city in Europe. The architecture, terrace culture, late night eating all remind me of Europe. It’s really nice. But any metropolitan area of thirteen million people has its annoyances. The traffic is crazy, and getting to the other side of the city is a long process (the subway makes it easier, but the cab rides add up). If you choose to visit, bring your meat belly. Everything is a meat of some kind. Chorizo is the official national vegetable, and even a side of grilled vegetables has a ton of bacon in it. Luckily, they have this great soft drink called “Malbec” that gives you a really relaxed feeling after drinking lots of it. It tastes like grape juice that’s been sitting out too long, but is cheap and delicious (yup, my beef and wine trip is going great so far). So, to recap the last six days:
Day one – Plaza de Mayo (government buildings, cool square, watched people protest)
Day two – Torrential rain, visited the Evita Museum, National Museum of Fine Arts, drank wine
Day three – Recoleta Cemetery to see Evita’s grave, went on a graffiti tour of Buenos Aires, drank wine
Day four – Teatro Colon, visited El Caminito walking street, had more meat and wine
Day five – visited a Sunday mercado in San Telmo and walked around, took a nap, ate more meat
Today I’m off to Uruguay to see what their wine and beef taste like. It’s a one hour ferry ride to Colonia and then a couple hour drive to the beaches to relax.
After a short stint in Murderville, a crazy few days in the jungle, and the chartered flight on a four person Cessna back to civilization, I’m in Puerto La Cruz, Venezuela. It’s like being in a different country. This has seemingly been three different countries in one trip. Every place has a really different feel. Puerto La Cruz could easily be compared to Santa Monica, CA. It’s a safe, hip city with an amazing walking promenade lined with shops and restaurants. People are doing group yoga on the beach and street vendors sell everything from trinkets to popcorn. A thriving middle eastern community has transformed the local cuisine into shawarma and falafel. Venezuela is far from a cheap country, and this place is an especially bad example of budget travel. The giant light up cross at the end of the promenade reminds you of the country’s catholic roots, but the stray dogs, arepa vendors and Chavez posters remind you that you are in Venezuela. The official exchange rate is around four and a half bolivares per dollar, but it’s obligatory to change money on the black market here despite the warnings about safety. The black market doubles your money, and I have no idea why, the money is the same. I’ll add some photos from around the city soon.
Waterfalls. Lots of waterfalls. After dropping my stuff off at the base camp, our tour embarked on a two and a half hour hike to El Sapo and El Sapito, two spectacular waterfalls. These aren’t waterfalls like you can imagine, these are half a mile across rivers that drop a hundred feet. It is amazing the amount of water pouring off these falls. El Sapo has about a three foot cave behind the falls that allows you to walk across to the other side. I feel like I can try out for one of those reality Alaskan fishing shows. Walking under the falls was the equivalent of a typhoon. The amount of water you get hit by every second is probably the equivalent of three normal showers. Afterwards, we all kept hiking another hour. I took a spill down a rock embankment into a tree (I love my Vans, but they aren’t exactly waterfall hiking material). Sleeping under mosquito nets facing some other falls was some of the best sleep I’ve ever gotten. Today we head to Angel Falls (in the Pixar film Up, Paradise Falls is based on this wonder) to see a 3000′ waterfall. That is as high as El Capitan in Yosemite, with a giant river flowing from the top of it. Certain things are worth risking getting your cell phone wet for. Bruised, sweating, having a great time.