8 months in review….
8 months in review…..
This is such a hard one…. I have had so much amazing food…. but here are a few of my favorites:
- grilled chicken from a street vendor in peru – plate with beet salad, maize and amazing chicken – though this was quickly overtaking by the roasted pig fresh out of the huge oven bought on the street a few days later. Oh man, I could have had 3 plates worth!
- masala dosas in Southern Indian, eaten with my hands
- vietnamese soup from a street stall
- fresh fruit from the street vendors in bangkok
- not quite a meal but…. chai on the trains in india first thing in the morning
Oh man, SE Asia is the place for … different… food. I wasn’t always terribly explorative but….
There is this sandwich that is really common in Vietnam. It is combination of the French influence (a baguette) but truly Vietnamese – on one side is a pate-like substance, on the other there is butter. Then you can choose between pork or a fried egg (or both). Then the condiments and extras include cucumber, tomato, chilies, fish sauce and other unknown stuff. It is actually quite good – as long as you don’t think about the ‘pate’.
I had some meals in Thailand from the street carts that I have no idea what they were. Some were strange, for sure.
And if I HAD tried it, baby bird still in the shell would make the top of the list!
I have probably read close to 40 books this year. I am a bit of a voracious reader, which was great because I read a lot, but not good because it meant that I finished books super fast. So – I cannot remember them all – but one of my favorites was White Tiger by an Indian author. It is super funny and reflective of life and people in India – I read it while there and I could not stop laughing.
2 pairs of underwear (but one was not my fault – the laundry service lost them!)
1 pair of socks (damn laundry service)
umbrella – uh, no idea where I left that…..
my SA cell phone – also no clue….
I have stayed in many many crappy places. But I have also stayed in some really nice places – whether it was a guesthouse in Vietnam that over looked the beach, or a simple room in a family’s home in Nepal, or a clean room with my own bathroom in Huaraz – the things that started to matter to me was quietness, cleanliness and bathrooms. Funny how your needs start to get boiled down to simplicity….
Coolest Wildlife Sighting
Seeing mama and ‘baby’ rhino from the back of an elephant! I mean, it was a rhino! And they look just like the pictures…. (which I know sounds ridiculous but that was totally my reaction….)
Most beautiful scenery
How could I possibly pick just one? I have spent time in some of the most beautiful mountain ranges of the world – Himalayas, Andes, Patagonia. I have visited Machu Picchu and temples of Bangkok. I cannot possibly pick one place that was more beautiful than another. But the diversity of Bolivia, the mountains of Huaraz, the raw beauty of Patagonia and the grandeur of the Himalayas definitely stole my heart.
There were definitely times in the fall when I had a crisis of faith – what am I doing here? What am I doing with my life?! I remember one day in particular. It was a rainy day in India, I was in Kochi, a city in Southern India. At that point, I had been traveling for close to 3 weeks or so in India, by myself. I was enjoying India, at times. But was also finding it difficult – the constant staring, the constant feeling of being a spectacle, of being uncomfortable. I was at a coffee shop and just spent the afternoon staring out in space, trying to figure out my purpose…. it was a rough period.
When I arrived in Mumbai, I had to take a taxi from one train station to another. It was quite early in the morning, still dark, and I wasn’t sure exactly what I needed to do. Taxis are always tough because they are really metered, you don’t know how much they should be charging you and how much you should bargain. I found a driver and thought we had a deal. When we got there, I paid him with a large bill (I can’t remember what it was, but I was almost positive it was enough to cover the fare). For the sake of the story, let’s say it was a 100. But, he told me, no, that is 20. You need to give me more. Confused, I handed over another 100. Again, he told me that it was a 20.
Now, you have to remember that it was still dark out. There is a chance that he was telling the truth.
But, I am pretty sure that I handed over a whole lot more than I should have. My theory is that he dropped the money on the front seat and had a 20 there to show me. Or, maybe I really was just overtired….. Want to give him the benefit of the doubt but….. I think that I lost out on at least a few 100 rupees that day!
meeting the locals….
I found the people in India to be incredibly funny and want to talk to me. Of course, at first they stared, but if I smiled at them, chances were they would smile back. I remember being in the train station in Varanasi and I had accidentally arrived early. So, I joined everyone else in sitting on the floor. There was a large group of women who were staring intensely at me. I tried to smile, but it was hard to crack their stares. Eventually, I got one of the little girls to smile at me – which in turn got the whole family to smile and giggle at me. They waved me over and we spent 30 minutes of them staring at me, holding my hand, speaking to me in Hindu and me just smiling. As they left, they all wanted to shake my hand.
I am not sure how I pulled this off, but I had it 8 months without getting sick – except for a few times that were pretty minor. My body had a day or two adjustment from being a vegetarian for 4 months to jumping back on the meat-train (with no easing in). Then in Bolivia, I got sick a few times, but mostly just for 24 hours or so. And one cold in Peru that lasted 48 hours or so. Moral of the story? Traveling is really healthy for me. Oh – and I lost my hand sani early on and never replaced it…… 🙂
Craziest public transportation
This one is tough, as I took a lot of sketchy transportation this year. I have been on auto-rickshaws and bike-rickshaws, motorcycles, buses, trans, cars, elephants. And, as my brother can attest, I can be a nervous passenger. But, for some reason, the sketchiness never really bothered me this year. Maybe it is because people do not drive super fast, maybe it is because the lack of rules in so many places means that everyone understands that and works within those parameters (a lack of rules almost means that you are always expecting the unexpected). And then there is the simple consolation for myself – well, I am sure the driver doesn’t want to die, so…. he’ll be careful., right?
But the craziest? It was probably a rickety bus that had to be push started and had 4 out of 5 gears working and I could see the ground through the gear shaft. And I was on it for 13 hours. And the driver had to avoid dogs and monkeys and people and motorcycles.
This is hands down Argentina. I mean, could the food get any more bland? Yes, yes, I know – this is the land of steaks and good wine. And I bet that if you have a lot of money to spend, you can have a really good steak. But, I never had a lot of money to blow. So, I had some good steaks. And I had some good wine. But on a whole, the food there is boring and bland.
worst guesthouse moment
This one is easy…. I was in Potosi, Bolivia and had gone to bed early, as I am prone to doing. The other people in my room got back late – around 2 in the morning. I was already annoyed with them, as it was a group of 3 and the couple of the group was staying in one bed above me (get your own room, please). In any case, they were clearly a bit drunk, stumbling around, knocking things over. Eventually, they got into bed, when I heard the guy say to the girl above me ‘uh-oh, I think I am going to puke”. And though I heard him clearly, his girlfriend seemed confused by what he was saying. In my head, I am screaming at her – get him out of the f’ing bed. But she is slow to respond. Too slow, in fact. And he pukes down the wall. You know, down the hall onto the bed I am in.
Yeah, definitely a low point….
friendliest stranger encounter
There have been so many positive and helpful. Encounters with strangers – people have been kind of helpful to me all along the way. But one memory, in particular was when I was in India trying to figure out how to get to this festival and I had to take a bus. I could not find the street that I needed to take the bus on, so I got directions there. When I approached the street, I saw that there were many buses to choose from – all written in a different language. How would I ever know? I asked a woman who was walking towards me – and she brought me over to the street, helped me find the bus and told the driver where I was headed. When I thanked her, she said, “no problem. You would do the same for me if I needed help in your country”. Good reminder of what goes around, comes around….
Number of high passes (over 4500m) crossed (by foot)
- 3 in Nepal (2 in the Everest region, 1 in the Annapurna region)
- 3 in Argentina (2 in Patagonia, 1 on Aconcagua)
- 4 in Peru (3 on the Ausungate circuit, 1 on the Lares trek)
- and of course, 1 high summit in Bolivia!
how much rice eaten
let’s see…. I have been traveling for about 240 days. Most of the countries I was in eat rice with their meals. Let’s low-ball that I had about a ½ cup of rice with each meal. And then let’s low-ball that 175 dinners were rice dishes, which means that I had approximately 87.5 cups of rice this year. Which I would say is definitely a low-ball estimate…. which means that is a lot of rice.
Best luck (and worst luck)
I combined these too – because it was really hard to think of a time when I had bad luck. Because even when things did not work out the way I had planned them, something always good happened to me. There was the time I had a day layover in Bengalore, but I ended up getting to sit poolside drinking gin and tonics. And then there was that other time that I was delayed in getting to Huaraz, but my timing meant that I met my mountain guide.
how many miles/km walked
Ha. Try and figure that one out – not only did I trek in Nepal, Argentina, Bolivia, and Peru. But I also walked pretty much everywhere. Like the day in Bolivia where I tried to walk to a school in La Paz – and it ended up taking me 3 hours. Or all the times I was a cheap-ass and refused to take the bus or the taxi. I mean, it has got to be 1000s and 1000s of kms….
Rickety buses? no.
Being abducted by a rogue taxi driver? Hardly.
But being attached by animals? Yep! Top of the list. And not just dogs (though they are definitely scary in South America), but my biggest fears are being attacked – no, that is not the right word – being charged by farm animals – you know, the cows, horses and yaks that are frequently in the areas where I trek. I know that a cow is not likely to charge me, but surely it has happened before, no? And the yaks are so damn big. And donkeys are total spazzes, hard to predict what they will do!
And, just for the record, I was trekking through a meadow last week and a horse did try to charge me (swear to god!) and the dogs that were following me (I might have fed them…) charged the horse and barked at it and scared it off.
So, I think that my fear is justified. Ok?!
Best ‘just say yes’ moment….
there have been a few….
- Getting invited to a fancy hotel and getting treated to lunch, G&Ts and dinner while sitting poolside in Bangalore
- Getting to visit a Peruvian school with a local teacher and meet and talk with her students
- Going to review maps with a mountain guide and then spending the next two weeks together!
- Getting to try delicious food from all over the world when I let the ‘salesperson’ talk me into it!