Ditsy, artsy, fartsy, lover of all things vintage and kitsch, creative, a bit mental but not enough, forgetful, strong minded, philosophical, forgetful, cabable, good at sewing on buttons but rubbish at being on time, realistic, opinionated but open minded, you can be both it turns out and some other stuff... turns out I'm actually quite brave too. In that I'm heading off by myself to visit numerous places around the world. Leg one is through the States; NYC, Washington DD, Las Vegas, San Francisco and then a drive down the famous coast road to LA. Leg two after 13 hours minus 1 day takes me to Auckland where I am taking 5 weeks to explore both North and South Islands before embarking on leg three of my journey. India! To include an epic 30 hour over land train journey to Varanasi (Benares - where they throw bodies in the Ganges and the air is filled with human ash), Agra, Ranthambore National Tiger reserve, Pushkar via Ajmer and Udaipur before heading back to Mumbai and coming home with a sackful of memories and about 100Gbs worth of photos.

Asia » India » Rajasthan » Udaipur January 25th 2012

22nd Jan 2012 Udaipur (day two) I sleep badly and so I sleep late. Rizwan makes me a hearty breakfast of banana porridge and cheese, tomato and onion omelette on the rooftop of the hotel. I look out over Udaipur to see many people on the rooftops; women hanging clothes, children and grownups playing with kites, men sleeping, others cooking. I love the rooftop culture in India, it's where everyday life happens. Rizwan arranges a sightseeing tour for me today and later I meet my tuktuk driver, Firoz. He is a sweet man and I quickly see that he is sincere. I tell him I don't want to do any shopping and he is the first Indian to joke dryly with me. He says "But then madam, how will I make my commission if you do ... read more

Asia » India » Rajasthan » Ajmer January 21st 2012

I had a taxi booked for 12pm to Ajmer where I was to catch my 7hr bus to Udaipur at 1pm. By 12.25 there is no sign and I start to panic. The cabby eventually arrives at 12.35 and we head off at breakneck speeds through Pushkar and out on the same mountain pass I took on the scooter. My driver is insane. I've become largely used to the Indian driving style but this is by far the most terrifying journey I've taken to date. So much so that I find myself actually changing the position of my legs whilst thinking about the best way they could be broken during the crash that I am fully anticipating. Regardless, the cabby gets me there in one piece and the bus too is running on Indian time so ... read more

Asia » India » Rajasthan » Pushkar January 21st 2012

So I've gotten a little behind on my blog and since I last wrote, some strange and interesting things have happened. Including a night of what felt like hallucinations and very bad sleep, bumping in to three people (separately) that I've met previously on my travels having had no idea that they too were in pushkar, making friends with a local and a fairly comical event involving a busy bazaar and an unfortunate Indian man... Pushkar has been such a great place to chill out, it's easy to see why some people get stuck here for months at a time. There's really not that much to do apart from the usual tourist attractions like camel safaris, horse riding and yoga but I've done none of that to date. I've not even been to the one and ... read more

Asia » India » Rajasthan » Pushkar January 21st 2012

Days 9 - 11 (14/01/12 to 16/01/12) Not been well so I haven't done much this last few days. Got a 1hr full body massage for 350Rs (about £4), did a whole load of shopping having decided to try to sell some of India's wares at the craft fairs I do back home. Have found the experience of shopping much more enjoyable here. There is less pressure to buy and if you look to buy larger numbers you are invited in to chat and drink chai as you negotiate the price. The kindest shop clerk I have met is Raj who sold me numerous scarves for a very good price and even gave me one free. He has offered to walk me and Ben (who arrived yesterday) up to the temple on the top of the ... read more

Asia » India » Uttar Pradesh » Agra January 21st 2012

Day 8 13/01/12 We get the tuktuk to the bus station and jump straight on the bus to Fatephur Sikri. It costs just 27Rs. The bus has seen better days but its comfortable enough and it gets us there without breaking down. Neither of us has any idea where to get off but we figure we just get off when the rest of the non-Indians do. We pass through the Indian countryside but the waste and decay of the Indian cities follows us here. All along the road there are signs of Indian culture. Westernised advertising with charming spelling mistakes and misinterpretations. Rubbish strewn along the sides of the road. Decaying buildings serving as shelters for the homeless. We arrive at Fatepur Sikri via a huge red stone archway and enter into a crazy, bustling village. ... read more

Asia » India » Uttar Pradesh » Agra January 12th 2012

I boarded the train in Varanasi Junction station at 5.20pm, where I had arrived early so I dumped my backpack on the floor trying hard not to think about what I was putting it in. They spit a lot in India and it's common to see red splatters of paan (chewing tobacco) all over the streets. I sat next to a little boy selling guava. I smiled at him and he looked back at me with confusion all over his face. The children in the orphanage had taught me the Hindi word for smile which is 'hashna'. I said this to him and he looked so concerned at my knowing some Hindi. So much so that he then ran away to some older men and jabbered something in Hindi. The men laughed at him and it ... read more

Asia » India » Uttar Pradesh » Sarnath January 10th 2012

Day Five 10/01/12 I woke early as is usual when the rest of the world wakes around you, banging and clattering, shouting and singing, ringing and chiming. There has been chanting and bells every morning I have been here. I assumed it was a group of people getting together for a morning singsong but this morning I ventured out early to get some snaps before Mayur arrived and found that it is in fact many people separately worshipping their chosen gods in their miniature shrines on the street. When I arrive back at the hostel I meet Mehdi and Sahi, a brother and sister from Iran. I mention that I plan to go to Sarnath today and they ask to tag along. I'm glad of the company and it turns out they are both into photography ... read more

Asia » India » Uttar Pradesh » Varanasi January 9th 2012

Day Four - Varanasi 09/01/12 I was woken throughout the night by monkeys jumping on the roof, crying puppies and people vomiting violently somewhere in the hostel. Had a very hot shower and tried really hard to convince myself that the water came from somewhere other than the septic Ganges. Mayur confirmed that the local water does come from the septic Ganges but reassured me that it goes through a purification plant first. Not much reassurance at all really when you see what they put in the Ganges and knowing how famous the Indians aren't for having clean water?? So Mayur was on time at 9am and we set out for the brown bread bakery to get a take away breakfast of banana and honey cake which was pretty good. We jumped in the auto rickshaw ... read more

Asia » India » Uttar Pradesh » Varanasi January 7th 2012

Day two in India - En Route to Varanasi 07/01/12 Another bad nights sleep with people talking until late and then again early this morning. My back was in pieces from the taxi ride home from Colaba yesterday so I couldn't get comfortable and I'm panicking a little that I might not be able to carry on. It has gotten better through the day. I woke early to the sound of birds squawking and dogs howling below. It seems that the streets belong to the animals at this early hour. Breakfast at the Anjali Inn was omelette and toast with beautifully spiced Chai. It was good. My taxi arrived on Indian time about 30mins late but I made it to Lokmanya Tilak Terminal well in time for my train. I checked the list for my name ... read more

Asia » India » Maharashtra » Mumbai » Juhu January 6th 2012

06/01/12 Ok so I arrived in Mumbai yesterday around 2am after three flights and about 32hours of travelling. It was pretty harrowing leaving the airport laden with heavy bags and a severe lack of sleep and walking out into hundreds of faces all staring back at me, brandishing signs for local taxi companies and hotels. I scanned the crowd for a board with my name on it but could not see it anywhere. I was exhausted so I sat in the midst of it for ten minutes or so and attempted to gather myself. I took another walk around and found a young indian guy wearing a black and green checked shirt, who held a sign with something similar to my name on it. 'Lauren Huges' and Anjali Inn were printing on the board. I followed ... read more

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