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Yosemite National Park – A Perfect Destination For Family Holidays

Yosemite National Park – A Perfect Destination For Family Holidays

Yosemite National Park is one of the coolest places a family can choose for their vacation. The kids will love it, the dog will love it, and the adults will really love it. The open, vast beauty is entrancing, almost casting a spell over its awestruck visitors. Even the most rebellious of teenagers will be won over by its unique ability to captivate. The park truly is the perfect place to enjoy time with your family, while connecting with nature.

There are many programs and classes available, hosted by members of our knowledgeable staff. The park employs hundreds of people that take pride in sharing Yosemite’s many secrets and treasures. Additionally, staff will assist in planning activities of your choosing.

Everyone has a different idea of the ideal vacation. Some people choose an aggressive approach, determined to knock out everything on the list. Others want to meander through the shops and historical center at their leisure. Still other families want the day focused on kid friendly play. The staff will help you create your version of an ideal vacation day!

Yosemite realizes that there are family members with limitations. Packages are offered which embody specific activities geared toward adventure, education, exploration, romance, children, seniors and disabled or handicapped visitors. Through thoughtful consideration, every family member will be able to fully embrace what Yosemite has to offer.

Yosemite Lodge offers a number of packages that might be of interest to you. There are a variety of free passes, discounts and free rentals accompanying packages. Promotions vary with the seasons, but there is always a good deal to be found. Babysitting services are also offered to guests of the lodge.

Exploring Yosemite National Park gives you the opportunity to be one with nature and the beauty that exists within. You might choose to hike along a path, ride a bicycle through the winding trails or have a seat in the saddle! Horse and mule rides enable you to see the breathtaking views without too much effort.

Most activities have rental equipment available at reasonable prices. Our equipment is monitored and maintenance regularly, to ensure the safety of our guests. Horse and mule rides are 2 hour, 4 hour or all day rates. There is also bicycle, boat and ATV rental options.

We offer rental camping and backpacking equipment, rock climbing gear, and ski or snowboard equipment, including footwear.

Yosemite has programs covering wildlife photography, star gazing, habitat, gold mining, wilderness survival, and wildlife and Yosemite history. Lessons are offered for rock climbing, cross-country and downhill skiing, snowboarding, hiking, survival, swimming and fishing. Learning together as a family is an awesome experience for everyone! There are also group activities available for hiking, rafting, horseback riding, bicycling, fishing, rock climbing, skiing and bonfires.

There is Yosemite Museum, which offers a glimpse into the history of Yosemite. The museum visits are by appointment only. The rock formations and gold mining history of this area is really incredible to learn.

Whether you come for a day or a week, there will be fun had by the entire family. We wouldn’t be surprised to see you back again next year.

Voyaging To The Marquesas Islands – What A Stunning Experience!

Voyaging To The Marquesas Islands – What A Stunning Experience!

Super yachts, noisy traffic and the busy streets of Papeete quickly become a distant memory replaced by “No Shoes, No Shirt, No Problem”: the motto posted in the bar of the Aranui 3 that defines the casual atmosphere aboard this hard-working freighter.

Every three weeks the Aranui takes up to 200 passengers from Papeete, Tahiti to the remote Marquesas Islands but its main task is delivering freight.

The ship provides a lifeline of essential items including food, medical supplies and building material. The Tahitian and Marquesan crew wrap passengers fortunate enough to be on board in the gentle embrace of Polynesian hospitality and culture throughout the two-week voyage.

While skilled seaman unload and reload cargo, passengers are taken in 4WD vehicles with experienced guides who lead groups on short and long trips to hike and explore archaeological sites and museums.

Along the way stops are made at villages to enjoy local food and view dances and craftsmen at work. An expert lecturer is on board to give talks and guides speak English, German and French.

On Board The Aranui

Accommodation ranges from backpacker dorms and standard cabins to deluxe suites and the ship has a small swimming pool, gym and gift shop. The Aranui is a working freighter which makes the journey far more interesting for those seeking an alternative to standard cruise ships.

Waking up to islands with soaring peaks and lush vegetation surrounded by deep blue water is the start of most mornings, followed by a hearty buffet breakfast that covers the spectrum from freshly baked croissants, eggs, sausages, yogurt, fruit, cereal and much more.

Lunch and dinner are served in three courses of delicious French/Polynesian food often sourced from the sea and nearby islands. Bottles of red and white wine accompany afternoon and evening meals. The comfortable dining area hosts a causal mix of passengers who often linger for hours in conversation.

During the two-week voyage two stops are made in the Tuamotu Archipelago and while voyaging through the Marquesas six islands are visited.

The Marquesas lie just over 1000 kilometres north-east of Papeete. Tourists flock to Tahiti’s attractions but few take the time to venture to these remote islands so visitors are warmly welcomed with a smile and a tiare, a small fragrant white gardenia flower, to place behind their ear.

Notable Visitors to the Marquesas Islands

These are the fabled islands of Robert Louis Stevenson who in 1880 wrote about Ua Pou’s exotic landscape. In 1842 Herman Melville jumped his whaling ship on Nuku Hiva resulting in his first novel Typee and later his classic Moby Dick.

Melville wrote:

“The Marquesas! What strange visions of outlandish things does the name spirit up! I felt an irresistible curiosity to see those islands which the olden voyages had so glowingly described.”

French artist Paul Gauguin left Tahiti after finding it too civilised, to spend his final years (1900-1903) in the small township of Atuona on the island of Hiva Ova. His writing, paintings, prints and carvings often portray a romantic view of a lost, primitive paradise full of lush vegetation and graceful Polynesians but his work achieved international recognition only after his death.

Hiva Oa was also the refuge of Belgian born artist, singer and composer Jacques Brel who was popular throughout France and much of Europe. Brel became much loved for delivering the mail and flying villagers to hospital in his trusty Beechcraft airplane named Jojo. A small museum houses the aircraft and tells the story of these two iconoclastic artists. Their peaceful graves are visited in the beautiful setting of Calvaire Cemetery on a nearby hillside.

A Familiar Culture for Kiwis

New Zealanders will find the rich cultural heritage of these remarkable islands of particular interest. The art of the Marquesas reaches back in time to the arrival of the Lapita peoples from the homeland of Southeast Asia. These early settlers of the Pacific brought with them knowledge of long distance voyaging and artistic traditions of intricate pottery designs, tattooing and carved sculpture.

Incised pottery is no longer made but early petroglyphs carved on large stones and traditional tattoos are reminders of this ancient craft. This artistic legacy continues to the present day and is readily available in the work of local craftsmen and women who carve tikis and wooden bowls, produce tapa cloth, pearl and shell jewellery.

Marquesan tattoo, worn by both men and women, is an art form in its own right but these traditions were almost lost. Fortunately the re-emergence of Marquesan culture during the 1970s resulted in educational programmes that encourage culture and the arts. Now graceful dancers supported by drums, ukuleles and guitars are part daily life.

While the Marquesas Islands are exotic they are also familiar. French is the language of Polynesia but Kiwis will recognise many of the Marquesan customs and words because they are similar to Maori. Me’ae is the Marquesan word for marae and many of these historic sites dot the landscape.

Preserving For The Future

An initial proposal was put to UNESCO in 2012 to include the Marquesas Islands in the list of world heritage sites in order to better protect its environment, historic sites and cultural values. UNESCO will consider the matter in 2017 but more importantly, because of the research and effort required to make the proposal, Marquesan’s have placed great value on maintaining the natural environment, their heritage and cultural traditions.

All too soon I find myself winging my way back to Aotearoa. Home again, my thoughts turn to those distant islands, friendly faces and remarkable landscapes.

My Visit To The Land Of Scorpions And The Glorious Peking Duck

My Visit To The Land Of Scorpions And The Glorious Peking Duck

It’s 5:45am and I’m sitting at the gate, C23, waiting for my flight to Guilin that departs at 7:30am.  I’m a bit early.  In order to get onto the internet, you have to go to a ‘position of authentication’ and present your passport.  I doubt they’re open at this hour.  Who knows.  I can’t be bothered.

The taxi ride here took no longer than 30 minutes.  It was hard to sleep last night, relying on the alarm clock on my unreliable mobile phone.  I woke up every 20 minutes or half hour, afraid I would be late for my flight.  Eventually I got up at 3:50am and began packing.  The taxi arrived at the hostel at 4:50am.

The cab ride to the hostel three days ago cost ¥80.  I thought it’d be a good idea to have the hostel order a cab to the airport, as they warned that taxis are not regularly available in the early morning.  However, it was going to cost ¥120.  I should have just walked along the street and hailed my own.  They were everywhere.  Oh well, you live and you learn.

So where do I begin?  I developed a love hate relationship with Beijing over the past three days.  To be completely honest, I wasn’t in love with China’s northern capital at the beginning.  It was rather overwhelming, busting at the seams with people and no one spoke English or Cantonese.  Coming from Hong Kong where I was able to communicate and navigate in Cantonese, this was slightly frustrating.  However, I did come to love the city, the people and the food, and I’m quite sad to be leaving Beijing.

Here’s a recap of my stay in Beijing.

Following my arrival at the hostel, I settled into my 12-person dorm room, and made my way to the common area where I met Max.

The Florida native has been in China for the last 13 months, studying martial arts and calligraphy, and staying with a family in a small, remote village, two hours outside of Beijing.  Max was in Beijing for a three-day break.  We got acquainted and exchanged stories.  “Where are you from, what do you do and how long are you here for?”  Max was returning to the village in a few days and needed to purchase a train ticket.  I had nothing planned and agreed to accompany him.

The trip to the train station was my first exposure to Beijing’s notorious subway system.  And what an experience it was.  I had heard stories of how crowded and intense it gets, especially during rush hour, but never imagined the extent of the chaos.

For ¥2, you can travel as long as you want and as far as you want.  Their system has eight different subway lines, reaching the many far borders of the city.  We purchased our tickets, ran my bag through the security check (they have security checks everywhere!) and made our way to the platform.  Throngs of people were already there, waiting for the arrival of the next train.

When the train did arrive, instead of creating space for those exiting, everyone piled in front of the doors and ploughed through as soon as they slid open.  Having also been on the other side, inside the train waiting to get off, I can tell you that it makes it quite challenging and even creates a sense of anxiety around whether you’ll successfully get out before the doors close.  Apparently during rush hour, someone is hired to push people into the train.  Nonetheless, it’s all part of the adventure and what makes each culture so unique and fascinating.

The Beijing railway station is beautiful.  The exterior is at least.  It sort of reminded me of the one in Bombay.  Majestic and booming with character.  Hordes of people were sitting (or squatting) inside and outside the station.

The lady that randomly started and wouldn’t stop talking to Max.

Max purchased his ticket and we decided to do some shopping.  Up until that point, I didn’t really buy anything or much.  Can you believe it?  I was dying to employ my haggling skills though.  So here’s my sinful confession.  Our first stop was H&M, in some ginormous, multi-level shopping centre.  However, I did not buy a single thing.  I would have felt like a sell-out.  Plus, I didn’t want to carry the additional bulk around.  I still have two weeks to go.  Not that that has stopped me in the past.  I can’t guarantee that I won’t do some serious damage in Hong Kong though.  So many things fit me properly here – it’s a miracle.

Our next stop was one of Beijing’s infamous markets.  I don’t remember what it’s called.  However, it housed floors upon floors of knockoff items – shoes, purses, sweaters, jackets and more.  I couldn’t believe it.  Everything looked exactly like the real thing and was a fraction of the market price.  How does a place like this exist?  I was actually interested in a pair of shoes.  I don’t remember what the seller asked for at first, but Max was able to get it down to ¥100.

Max speaks Mandarin pretty well.  He’s been the one communicating with the locals everywhere we go.  From asking for directions and explanations of menu items to bargaining for cheaper prices.  It’s not the first time I’ve seen a ‘foreigner’ speak Mandarin or Cantonese, but every time I do come across someone who does, it baffles me.  And in these situations, I feel like an idiot.  Everyone looks at me and speaks to me in Mandarin expecting me to understand, but I don’t.  That’s part of frustration and my love hate relationship with Beijing.

I ended up passing on the shoes.

All that shopping worked up an appetite.  It was time to grab dinner.  I couldn’t visit Beijing and not have Peking duck.  Thankfully Max is a huge fan of the delicacyas well.  So he took me to this restaurant where we had an entire duck that cost only ¥80, served with mini ‘pancakes’, scallions, sliced cucumber and hoisin sauce, and some snow pea leaves too.  Delicious.  Or ‘glorious’ as Max would say.  The dishes were complimented with some Tsing Tao beer and plum juice.

That was day one in a nutshell.

The Forbidden City and Tiananmen Square were at the top of my agenda the following day.  Home to the Ming and Qing emperors many centuries ago, it took more than five hours to navigate the historic site.  I’m sure I could have easily spent more time there.  However, after the first two hours, all the structures started to look the same.  It felt like I was in a maze, rammed with mostly local, Mandarin-speaking tourists, none that I could speak to.  Because it was a holiday, mid-autumn festival, it was even busier than usual.  Bad combo.  I was overwhelmed, so overwhelmed that I decided to skip Tiananmen Square and head back to the hostel to rest.  Nevertheless, the Forbidden City was pretty impressive.  Massive.

Lining up to get into the Forbidden City.On guard.Locals celebrate mid-autumn festival at the Forbidden City.Don’t forget your umbrealla for shade, of course.Happy mid-autumn festival!One of the many grand entrances.

On the way home, I had one of those sausages on a stick.  I saw them everywhere and finally caved in.  I’m a sucker for street meat, but try to practice caution when away from home.  It was delicious.  The meat basically melts in your mouth.  However, given my weak stomach, the sausage might have been the reason to the joyful bowel movements I experienced in the evening.

Later that day, I made my way down to Wanfujing Street, home to many hotels, big shops and restaurants.  There was no intention of buying anything.  I just wanted to see.  I was told it was worth a stroll.  En route, I passed by many street side restaurants that appeared to be local and authentic.  Many men and women were sitting at tables setup by the street curbs, wolfing down noodles and rice.

My mid-afternoon snack was enjoyed at a Japanese restaurant in the Oriental Centre on Wanfujing Street.  Udon noodle soup with beef.  I had been craving noodle soup.  It’s comfort food for me.  The udon noodles were so fresh and tender.  Yum.

Oodles of yumminess!

After lunch, I continued to randomly wander up and down the streets in the Wanfujing area.  Eventually I met up with Max back at the hostel to have another meal.  Hot pot.

Max recommended an all-you-can-eat hot pot restaurant, but it was over an hour away.  Instead, we did some research and consulted the hostel staff.  Apparently there was one at the Oriental Centre.  To make a long story short, it was a complete disappointment.  We didn’t even finish our food.  To begin, the hot pot itself was not a typical one – a pot segmented for the option of different broths.  That threw us both off.  Perhaps it was a ‘traditional’ hot pot?  Neither of us knew.  Second, the soup base was beyond bland.  Flavourless.  It was basically boiling water with ginger.  Finally, the food was not spectacular either.  We ordered a basket of local greens, sliced chicken, vermicelli noodles and sliced prawns, and opted out of the sheep testicles.  Ha.  They had all sorts of ‘different’ meats and animal parts.  The prawns were too fishy.  We eventually gave up and settled on getting more snacks at the infamous night market on the way home.

The Donghuamen night market is definitely a must-see, but not necessarily a must-eat.  Depends what you’re into.  A huge row of vendors stretched far along the street, peppered with red and yellow lanterns, served some interesting fare.  Scorpions, centipedes, grasshoppers, snakes, chicken hearts, worms… in addition to some more common selections like squid, lamb, beef, chicken, corn, shrimp and candied fruit.  Unfortunately I’m not that adventurous when it comes to food.  I have had some unique items, but wasn’t up for any of the above.  So I settled on bean curd wraps.  They didn’t have the same filling or tasted as good as the ones back home.

Creeeeeepy crawlers!Kidneys and hearts anyone?

Behind the food market was a massage parlour.  It’s quite common for women on the streets to offer you a ‘massagey’.  We thought it would be fun and possibly interesting to check one out.  Upon descending the stairs and reaching the bottom, there was a dimly lit hallway of rooms.  Just as we walked by the first one, a lady scantily dressed in booty shorts and a t-shirt greeted us.  The vibe was indicative that these massages included happy endings.  So we left.

Max and I enjoyed some beers back at the hostel and later met up with some former Beijing classmates for more drinks.  I bailed and called it a night as I had a big day at the Great Wall ahead of me.

Eek – it’s boarding time.  I’ll have to get to the Great Wall in another post.  Hope you guys are enjoying the posts!

My Travels And Adventures: The Beautiful Yangshuo, China

My Travels And Adventures: The Beautiful Yangshuo, China

Beautiful, if truth be told, is an understatement.  It’s hard to put into words the beauty and spirit that Yangshuo radiates.  You really have to experience this bustling town for yourself.  Nestled in the heart of China’s legendary, lush limestone mountains, Yangshuo is a photographer’s fantasy.  Dreamy and picturesque.

Despite being popular amongst tourists, Yangshuo boasts a strong sense of culture and tradition- virtually an amalgam of the past, present and future.

I arrived last Friday I believe, the 24th.  I’ve lost track of the days.  There are various routes to get to Yangshuo, but many travel from Guilin.  My flight from Beijing to Guilin arrived at approximately 10:30am.  I didn’t get much rest as a baby, seated two rows in front of me, screamed at the top of her lungs the entire trip.  And, I had pleasure of eating expired food.  Delicious.  From the airport, I had to catch a bus to the city centre.

Like China’s northern capital, no one or not many speak English or Cantonese.  I didn’t encounter any at the airport at least.  So I started the trial and error thing again with gestures and body language.  Some were happy to help but couldn’t, while others ignored me and kept to themselves.  I eventually found the correct bus.

Nearly 70 minutes later, we arrived at our destination.  From the city centre, I had to catch another bus, near the train station, to Yangshuo.  However, the railway station was not within sight.

“Bus to Yangshuo – do you know where?”  I asked the bus attendant.

She pointed in a direction, but I wasn’t confident I’d find my way based on a simple signal.  I tried to get more details from her.

“Train station?”

“You take taxi – ¥10.”

I gathered my courage and hopped into a cab.  Less than 10 minutes later, we pulled up underneath a bridge.  The cab driver pointed across the street. “Bus.  Yangshuo.”

I didn’t see any buses and at this point it was pouring.  The frustration started creeping back.  Another 15 minutes passed and a bus appeared across the street.  Joy.  I paid the taxi driver and hurried over.

“Yangshuo?”

“Yes, Yangshuo.”

Seventy-five minutes later, we pulled into a bus station.  I was expecting to meet a local guide there, Richard.  However, I didn’t know what he looked like and I’m sure he didn’t know what I looked like either.  Thankfully, I did have a number to call, but unfortunately, no one would let me use their phone.  Round two of charades.  Finally a kind lady at the mobile shop came to my rescue.  Her English was very limited, but she understood enough to let me use the phone.  After all was said and done, Richard’s friend Jerry picked me up.

We walked 15 minutes to the hotel.  It’s nice and clean and the staff is friendly.  Plus, I was thrilled to learn that one of them speaks decent Cantonese.  Upon settling in and freshening up, Jerry and I went for lunch, as I was starving at this point.

My first meal in Yangshuo was noodle soup with beef and greens.  The noodles were freshly made.  Everything was prepared, from start to finish, in less than 90 seconds.  Incredible.  Noodles in soup is a staple here.  The locals, including myself, have it for breakfast every day.  Sometimes lunch and dinner too.  There are many types of noodles and it costs anywhere from ¥4 to ¥6 for a bowl.  Not even a dollar!  I’m really going to miss the cheap eats when I return home.

I had heard through the grape vine that the locals eat dog here.  My curiosity begged me to validate and see it for myself.  The food market that carriers this ‘delicacy’ is off a main street.  Upon entering an opening laden with squatting women shouting at you, in an attempt to sell you all types of fresh seafood and veggies, you enter a huge room, lined with tables of even more fresh fare for sale.

Many of the vegetables and greens looked familiar – cabbage, carrots, eggplant, tomatoes, potatoes, etc.  However, I was less familiar with the reptiles and amphibians, and this was where the squirming began.  One lady was preparing fresh snakes, one by one, each approximately 30 centimetres long, whipping their heads against the cement, then poking them through a blood-covered nail, and finally skinning the little creatures with a knife.  I was quite surprised at how fast and efficient she was getting through her basin of snakes.  They also had pouches of frogs.

Moving along into a separate area, I reached a room filled with caged animals.  Ducks, rabbits, chickens and dogs.  I’m sure I would have discovered more if I stayed longer.  The poor animals were crammed into the metal crates, without much or any room to move.   There were butchers stationed around the perimeter of the market.  Walking by each one, I witnessed the bloody aftermath of many executions.

When I arrived at the dog vendors, I nearly cried.  It was absolutely horrific.  Deeply disturbing.  So many dogs in cages, weeping.  They must have been aware of their destiny.  There were tables of jaws and pieces of meat hung from cords.  One butcher was scrubbing a wet, stiff, dead dog on the ground.  It honestly looked like a stuffed animal.

If you’ve ever wondered how dogs are prepared (more like murdered!)… they’re beat to death with a mallet first.  Primarily at the head.  Then they’re blowtorched to remove all the hair.  The corpse is hosed with water and scrubbed to remove any excess hair or residue.  At this stage, the exterior is virtually cooked, while leaving the interior fresh and raw.  The intestines are removed and kept for sale and the remainder is chopped up in pieces.

I received the validation I went to seek, and had to leave.  I was speechless for a while.  I even contemplated being a vegetarian again.  If I have the courage and opportunity to return, I’ll try to get some proper pictures.  Many of the butchers yelled at me for sneaking shots.  Apparently you need to have a license to sell dog meat and not everyone does.

Later that evening, I witnessed the famed cormorant fishing.  This traditional method of fishing has been around for hundreds of years, and practiced in other parts of the world.  A snare is tied to the base of the bird’s throat, allowing them to swallow small fish, but preventing the cormorants from gobbling the larger fish.  When a larger fish is trapped in the throat, the fisherman brings the bird back to the bamboo raft and has the cormorant spew out the fish.  I’m still undecided as to whether the practice is ethical.  The birds don’t seem to be in any pain.  Nonetheless, it was interesting, but a bit touristy.

The night ended with a few drinks at a bar, where I was serenaded by two dudes and their acoustic guitars; followed by a plate of fried noodles at Gan’s Noodles again.  The texture of the meat was felt funny.  I hope it was actually beef.

Even though day one in Yangshuo was only a half day, it was a rather  eventful one.  I’m having an amazing time and could easily spend two  weeks here.  Stay tuned for more updates.

My Visit To Hot, Humid And Yet Magnificent Delhi

My Visit To Hot, Humid And Yet Magnificent Delhi

I’ve been assaulted by the heat.  With temperatures soaring well above 46 degrees, India feels like a furnace.

Day two in Delhi was filled with more exploration.  After breakfast, we jumped on the crowded metro to head into Old Delhi for a stroll along the city’s oldest avenue – Chandi Chowk.  Countless wires, a volume that seemed perhaps dangerous, lined the top of the narrow street.

We followed the herds of locals down the road, witnessing a variety of shops, stalls and stands that sold everything from fruits and vegetables, to jewelry and hardware.  Towards the end of the lane, everyone but me, enjoyed some fresh lychees from a vendor.  As appetizing as they looked, the splashes of water that came from a plastic bag, showered on the juicy red fruit, made me nervous.  I didn’t want to be a party pooper, but I wasn’t up for testing my sensitive tummy on day two of the trip; or extending an invitation to the infamous Delhi belly.

A few minutes later, we arrived at Jama Masijd – India’s largest mosque.  During my last visit in ‘09, I journeyed to the religious site, but didn’t actually pay to go inside.

Hopping along the scorching sandstone tiles that paved the courtyard (that can apparently hold up to an astonishing 25,000 people), the dramatic architecture left many of us in awe.  For thirty minutes, we explored Jama Masijd, discovering it’s intricate beauty.

While snapping photos in an attempt to capture the magnitude of the mosque, a handful of street children approached me.  “10 rupees,” begged a young boy, sporting a fat smile.  As heartbreaking as it was, I declined and said no.  Instead, he wanted his picture taken.  I gladly agreed to the photo opp and snapped away.

As the photo shoot progressed, the crowd of locals swelled, larger and larger, drawing a few more street children.  Hoping to get in on the fun and attention, I girl hopped into the spotlight as well.  However, the boy wasn’t willing to share the limelight and proceeded to push her away, which led to a bigger conflict that ended the photo session.

On our way out, I made my first purchase.  Despite my efforts to haggle the price down, the seller remained strong at 100 rupees.  Apparently that was already the ‘good price’.  Feeling slightly disappointed and defeated, I handed over the 100 bill.

The next stop, a short walk from Jamad Masijd, was Gurudwara SisGanj – a Sikh temple.  We sat amongst the many locals inside on the carpeted floor and observed as they prayed.  The next part of the visit brought us to the kitchen.  Regardless of religious background, anyone is welcome to eat the food produced there.  However, it was recommended that we only help, and not eat; unless we were interested in facilitating an acrobatic performance in our tummies later.

 

A group of women seated on the floor prepared and rolled the dough used to make chipati.  A few steps away, the uncooked circular sheets of flour were tossed on a heated surface.  One by one, the discs ballooned and browned, contributing to the heavenly aroma that dominated the kitchen.

The last stop at Gurudwara SisGanj was the dining hall.  As soon as we entered the room, our eyes were attacked by mustard oil fumes released from the final stage of the cooking process.  A continuous flow of tears poured from many of our eyes.  We escaped and dashed for the exit.

Following the Sikh temple, a few of us migrated to Cannaught Place – a shopper’s paradise.  However, we weren’t there to shop.  Our tummies were growling and needed to be fed.

Lunch was served at a south Indian restaurant.  A two-level eatery loaded with cold, crisp air.  Plate after plate, the servers brought out massive dosas stuffed with spiced potatoes and onions, alongside mini portions of various fiery concoctions.  Yum.

With stuffed bellies, we made our way back to the hotel, packed our bags, and freshened up.

A few hours later, it was time to head to the train station for our overnight journey to Jodhpur.  My previous overnight choo-choo ride was certainly memorable, but not entirely enjoyable.  As we marched along the platform, identifying our coaches, I was haunted by frightening flashbacks of my subzero cabin in ’09.  Vivid nightmares of me curled up with my pack on my bunk up top, soaked by the drops of condensation dripping from the ceiling.  The bone-chilling AC blasted throughout that night and into the early hours of the following morning.

Fortunately reality was far from the horror of ’09.  We arrived at the station, already bustling with crowds seeking their coaches, as the reoccurring departure announcements echoed loudly throughout the platform.

I shared my cabin on coach B1 with a few locals and two fellow travellers.  AC was pumping, but thankfully it wasn’t freezing cold.  The train eventually took off, on time.

As the evening progressed, we got to know the two locals in our cabin, sharing stories from our adventure thus far.

“Chai, chai, chai,” shouted a gentleman, carrying a kettle of India’s infamous hot drink, as he marched down the aisle.  I couldn’t resist and ordered a mini cup for 10 rupees.

A few hours into journey, the moon appeared and illuminated the indigo sky.  Passengers made their beds with the provided sheets and blankets.  Soon after, one by one, everyone went to bed; except me.  I managed to get a few hours of shuteye, but had a hard time falling asleep.

Twelve hours later, morning arrived.  Everyone frantically prepared their bags as the chai wala marched up and down the aisles again with a fresh pot of masala tea.