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Jon & Kenty's Grrrrrand Tour

a travel blog by jonnik

12 months round the world via India, Oz, NZ, Chile, Peru, Argentina & Brazil
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Up into the hills......

Shimla, India

Right, at last I get round to adding something to this blog - I'll tell you these sites aren't as easy to get your head round as I'd hoped !!

So, we're now in the Himalayan foothill town of Shimla. At around 2200m it's much more bearable than the 44 degrees we left in Delhi (yes, for you shivering Stokies, that is centigrade !)

We had just 2 days in Delhi, but that was plenty - we'll do the sights there on our way back down south. So we've been in Shimla since saturday evening - it's nice, but there ain't a great deal to do. It's a major holiday destination for Indian familes so there's plenty of watching them watching us watching them kinda flava going on.

Spent alot of time sleeping since our arrival and have finally managed to get round to arranging our exit stategy - we leave for the chilled out village of Manali tomorrow morn at 8. It's a 10 hr bus ride - what fun !!

Anyway, that'll do for now....

Adios amigos

permalink written by  jonnik on June 12, 2007 from Shimla, India
from the travel blog: Jon & Kenty's Grrrrrand Tour
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Manali, ahhhhhh

Manali, India

After the mother of all bus rides, including high speed rear tyre blow out , we finally made it to lovely Old Manali.

It certainly is a pretty place, a bit of a scene with probably more Westerners then locals, but heh, birds of a feather flock together and all that.

Gonna spend a good few weeks here. I mean, why not, the world is our oyster and I don't even eat seafood.

So there you have it, a (very) brief synopsis of things to date. We'll explore Manali over the next few days and post some more notes soon.

permalink written by  jonnik on June 14, 2007 from Manali, India
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Still in Manali

Manali, India

Yep, still here, but on the move (sort of) tomorrow. Just round the corner to another guesthouse that overlooks the river and is definately in a nicer location. This comes to us highly recommnded by none other than Mr & Mrs Brozlehoot-Forster (aka Kev n Just).

I've been popping around and about town today as it is Miss Kent's birthday on monday, so there is need for shopping, shopping...So far so good, but don't tell her, it's all a surprise.

Just been for some fantastic Indian food and are whiling away some time as the rain pours down outside. It has cleared the air though after the recent heatwave and we can now see the snow-capped peaks around us. In fact, the weather is all very English (well, Indian actually) with Nik wearing as jumper and sporting socks AND sandals next to me.

We've met a very friendly Israeli couple, Boaz and Adi, who have a month in India celebrating their honeymoon.

Namaste and much love,

Jon and Nik xxx

permalink written by  jonnik on June 16, 2007 from Manali, India
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Birthday and tabla lessons

Manali, India

Hello !

As you can see, we have at last got round to posting some photos. Things take a while here and it's been a slightly labourious process.

Anyway, still in Manali and we've been spending the last few days having tabla lessons. It's been pretty hard but good fun and the guy gave us loads of his time for free, even if it did mean sitting cross-legged for 4 hours ! We have now hired a set for a week which was also a task in itself !

We are staying at the Himalaya Cottage, it's just us and the crrrrrrazy guy Sharman who works there, which can make for some pretty interesting times ! Every conversation with him is insane but the views are the best in town and he does make us nice chai and toast in the morning.

Nik had a great birthday, with lot's of nice presents, birthday cake, Indian Head massage followed by trip to the salon, and lots more general madness.

Hope everyone is well, speak soon....


Jon & Nik xxxx

permalink written by  jonnik on June 23, 2007 from Manali, India
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Change of address and phone number

Manali, India

Hello there to you all,

Well we hired the tabla, but haven't got round to playing them a great deal. Yes, sorry Kev, we know we're crap. They will go back to the hire shop tomorrow as we are gonna head north to Leh in the next few days.

Had a nice day today over the valley in Vashist where we walked through the forest to a very pretty waterfall.

Oh, and we've moved again. We needed a room with a bathroom (we'll spare you the details) so we're next door rocking it up in the Rockway Cottage. It's a bit more upmarket with a wood burning stove in the room, not that we need it, it's pretty warm here. The mattresses and pillows are crazy though! It's like they're made out of rock or something, very hard....

If anyone needs to call us (maybe Lucy or Luke over the next couple of weeks) then Nik has got an Indian SIM card. The number is 9816576522 - you may need a code in front of that, we'll leave you to work that one out.

We spoke to Iain, our house sitter, earlier and he spoke of torrential rain and biblical floods in the UK. Maybe the monsoon has arrived early there too........

Take care folks and have fun,


Jon & Nik

permalink written by  jonnik on June 27, 2007 from Manali, India
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Oh Leh, oh Leh, oh Leh, oh Leh...

Leh, India

Joolay !!

Well we have finally arrived in the desert city of Leh, and what a time we had getting here !! Day 1: the bus had 2 punctures on the way, so we spent 17 hrs on bumpy roads with sore arses and then spent the night in a tent at 4200m - very cold !! The next day wasn't as long fortunately, but all the way the scenery was spectacular, changing from one valley to the next. We went over Taglang La, at 5328m, the second highest road in the world....the whole journey it was amazing !!

There is quite a contrast between the lushness of Manali and the dry, desert of Leh. We're gonna relax for a few days and get used to life at the new dizzy heights.

The internet connection here is notoriously slow so we will endeavour to post some more photos soon.

Hope you are all well,


Jon & Nik.

permalink written by  jonnik on July 5, 2007 from Leh, India
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Back in rainy Manali

Manali, India

Namaste, Joolay and Hello,

Yes, we are back in rainy Manali after a month in sunny Ladakh. The internet connection was so slow in Leh that we didn't bother with anymore blogging there but now we are back !!

We had a great time in Leh, although we didn't really do a great deal, saw the sights (Leh Palace, numerous gompas, the Shanti Stupa...) and did a bit of exploring around the local area on a scooter we hired (note: must remember to always add oil to a 2-stroke engine) and generally did quite a bit of relaxing. Nik attended a 2-day course on Buddhist Meditation but my guts prevented me from attending although the Amchi (traditional Tibetan doctor) sorted me out with a five day course of rabbit shit looking pellets.

Whilst we were in Leh on the day after Dad Walton's 60th birthday (HAPPY BIRTHDAY Dad !!!) we had some great news off Lucy and Luke, yes a text to inform us of the birth of our new nephew Rory George Humphries !!! He arrived on 17th July, a bonny 7lb 8oz.
So a HUUUUUUGE congratulations to all, spoke to Lucy last night and everyone is doing great (maybe a bit more sleep needed.......)

We had what seemed a never ending mission to get to the Nubra Valley, but after 20 nights at the Oriental guesthouse and numerous trips to Leh bus station (one BIG toilet) we finally made it to Hunder, effectively the end of the line in India with Tibet (not China) the next stop. The Nubra Valley is an absolutely stunning place, there's nowt to do there, just reading in hammocks and walking and walking and walking and taking it all in. We saw wild Bactrian camels whilst having fun jumping off the Sahara-like sand dunes. On the way back from Hunder the jeep driver stopped at Khardung La, the world's highest road at 5,602m.

So we had a few more days in Leh on our return in the biggest room in the world (ever)then took a minibus for a 17 hour journey back to Manali. The driver must have been some retired minibus rally driver or something because he certainly wasn't hanging around. I mean it took over 30 hours to get there in the bus but he caned it back in only 17 ! It was a bit hair-raising at times (Kev, you know what we mean) but you've just gotta trust the man behind the wheel...

So here we are again and it's lashing down outside as it did most of yesterday, I guess that's the monsoon for you, as we're sure you all know about - the rain in England even made the front page of the Times of India. We're not going to stay too long here again this time as there's so much more of India (and Nepal) we want to see. Our next stop will be Dharamsala, home of HH The Dalai Lama.

Hope you are all well and enjoying yourselves,

Adios amigos,

Jon & Nik

permalink written by  jonnik on August 3, 2007 from Manali, India
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An even wetter Dharamsala

Dharmsala, India

So...after nearly getting stuck in Manali forever we finally managed to escape to beautiful, but very, VERY wet Dharamsala. We got there around 3 weeks ago (today 31st Aug) and typically spent a bit longer there than originally intended. Whilst there we did a 5 day yoga course which was very good, although the 7 a.m. starts weren't so great - it was like being back at work ! We also did a Tibetan cookery course and learnt how to make momos, mmmmmm. The good thing was that we had a nice appartment in Dharamsala which meant we could put our newly learnt skills to practice. It also meant we could make a nice cup of tea in the mornings. The appartment was nice, a real bargain at about 3 squid a night, but the slight downfall was that it was down 304 (yes we counted them) steps, it was like step aerobics every day !
One evening we were fortunate enough to be invited to a Tibetan family's (Amdo & family) house for dinner which was good fun. We had a few beers with him but we don't think he was over impressed with the bottle of Royal Stag (Indian Whisky) we took with us, apparently he only likes the real stuff.
We did a bit of walking in between the torrential downpours to Bhagshu, Dharamkot and the much hyped but vastly overated Dal Lake. One day we really did get soaked. When we got back to the hotel everything was drenched and this was added to by the fact that half a litre of water had leaked inside my (Jon) bag !!
One thing about Dharamsala was all the birds of prey continually soaring through the sky, this was a bit off putting during the yoga course when we were supposed to be listening to and watching the teacher not gazing out of the window. We also saw lot of mongooses (or should that be mongeese ?) and far, far too many mosquitoes.

permalink written by  jonnik on August 31, 2007 from Dharmsala, India
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Amritsar, India

Well, after the lovely cool confines of Dharamsala we headed south and west to the holy city of Amritsar, where we we greeted by pushy rickshaw riders and temperatures of 39 degrees C !! We headed to Amritsar for 2 reasons really, one to see the Golden Temple, and two to get a train back to Delhi - we've had enough of buses in India for the moment.
Amritsar, despite the heat, was a good place. The hotel lived up to it's reputation - it's described as a 'shabby hovel' in the Lonely Planet and we weren't disappointed, but the owners were lovely and that's what counts. The Golden Temple was fantastic, definately a better experience than we thought it might be. We made a few trips there, one at Sunrise and another to see the Guru Granth Sahib (the Sikh holy book) being put to bed, as it is at around 10.15 every night.
One evening we went to the India-Pakistan border to watch the closing of the border ceremony (as seen on Michael Palin's Himalaya programme). It wa a typically mad scene on a very, very hot night. The gate on the border is opened and slammed shut and the flags of the two countries lowered (at exactly the same time) whilst the overdressed soldiers try to out-stomp and out-scowl each other. This all goes on in front of crowds of thousands of cheering 'fans' and they do it every night, mad...
We also sent a bit of time eating ice cream in Amritsar, after all it was very hot and we were both missing the cake we munched everyday in Dharamsala...

permalink written by  jonnik on September 12, 2007 from Amritsar, India
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Leaving India, bound for Nepal

Delhi, India

We left a very hot Amritsar on 1st September (is it September already ?) on the mid-afternoon train to Delhi, arriving in the capital late at about 10.30pm. After being greeted by the lovely touts and rickshaw riders we made our way to the Smyle Inn where we had a room booked (or so we thought....). The hotel manager told us 'Yes, you may have booked a room with me but it isn't in this hotel'. What?!?! We ended up round the corner in the Hotel Euro International (soon to become known as Hotel Eurotrash, due to crappy service, along with crappy overpriced rooms with air-con that doesn't work !!)
Highlights of the visit to Delhi were the trip to the Red Fort, the avacado sandwiches (mmmmm, avacado....) and Jon's ten dish thali one evening (how daunting was that ?!?!)
After 2 nights we headed out by overnight train towards Nepal, arriving delayed, due to the heavy monsoon rains and flooding, in Gorakhpur, the worst town yet (or is that the worst town in the world, ever ?) We quickly escaped in a very crowded jeep and after crossing the border into Nepal a few hours later spent a night in a gorgeous (NOT) room in the border town of Bhairawa.

permalink written by  jonnik on October 8, 2007 from Delhi, India
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