Friday, 9 February 2018

Chilling in Kodaikanal

As I stepped off the bus to Kodaikanal, a hint of homesickness struck: I was presented to a norwegian summer! At 2000 m of altitude, Kodai gets temperatures 10 and 20 degrees lower than that of the plains. Also being sick with a parasite (Giardia or amoeba) , my acclimatization proved to have been perhaps too effective. I was cold and miserable. But nothing some pills, a thick blanket and absolutely stunning vistas couldn't cure! That is, when everything wasn't covered in clouds. Even though Kodai now has low season, it's quite the vibrant place, with all the amenities a tourist would want. Ugly paddle boats at the little lake, hundreds of souvenir-stalls, fervent taxi-drivers looking for customers. Needless to say, not a good place for chilling, so I checked out the nearby Vattakanal, a tiny village down the side of the hill of Kodai proper. And there it was high season!

Sunrise at Vattakanal

Israeli conscripts, when discharged from their service, tend to evacuate their homeland and roam the world, and they often congregate on certain spots. So much so that you can see Hebrew signs, menus and even commercials for universities in Israel, all over these places. There were no single rooms in Vattakanal, only small apartments for groups, and Israelis very often come in packs. Those who don't, are fed up with the constant partying and exclusively hanging around with their own country-people.

I stayed a couple of days, and started searching for another place. People live everywhere in the hills, even in the big nature reservations around Kodai. I took a day trip to Poombarai, and was struck with the scenery and people. Poombarai is a farming village that shows the conditions which I assume many Indians live by: Very basic. As I was sipping a Chai in the village square, a man walked quickly past, carrying who I guess is his daughter, covered in a bloody blanket, followed closely by immediate family, in tears.  No ambulance, no car, and I suspect no doctor, as they seemed to poor to afford one. India has its ways of showing beauty and horror, all in the same breath, and it's forced upon you, whether you want it or not. I don't know how it went with the girl, and I made no enquiries.

Just outside Poombarai

Impressioned from the day, I returned to Kodai. My new friend Joe, who I had met at a hostel, told me of Karuna Farm, a place with small, simple cottages, option to cook your own food, or eat at their restaurant. The perfect place for a self retreat, or just chilling out. The next day we went for provisions, and the day after we took a taxi there. A truly beautiful place, with interesting hosts and intense nature. A pool with waterfall, a rock with an astounding view, and a hill that begs to be visited during sunrise. Easy to get stuck there.

Eucalyptus trees close to Karuna

Living in one of the jungle huts at Karuna

Three days later, I was lucky enough to be able to visit Bodhi Zendo, a zen-meditation Centre secluded in the jungle not far from the neighboring town of Perumal Malai. Father Ama Samy is a Franciscan priest who went to Japan and learned zen, and has been making and teaching at Bodhi Zendo ever since. Waking at 5.30, the days are passed intermittently meditating, working, eating home grown veggies and socializing with the 40 or so guests here. Truly a gift to the spiritual seeker.

From the courtyard of Bodhi Zendo

Next: Christmas! (If this blog had been on time... )

Friday, 15 December 2017

Staring at the boulders

You don't meditate in Hampi. Hampi meditates you.

View from Hanuman shrine

I don't know how many hours I spent just looking at the rocks of Hampi; the play of light over this massive area of myriads of boulders. The monkey King Hanuman is said to be born here, and rightfully so. If you don't watch out, they'll grab your food right out of your hand!

People across the ages have seen Hampi as it is: A magical place. It's been home to dynasties, that all built wondrous temples here, also because the rock is of such a character that it is very easy to cut in straight planes. There are hundreds of temples, shrines, houses, baths, bazaars and the like, in intricately cut rock. Even at the quarries, they've built small shrines, and carved portraits and gods in the rock.

Hampi is magic in another way, I met some wonderful people here. Especially one, together with whom the sunrises got even brighter. But that belongs in another forum...

In all, I spent 2 weeks here, hardly climbed a rock, but overheard many climbers recounting their day with feverish eyes and trembling limbs. Some have come back every year the last 30 years, and they say perhaps 5% of the area has been climbed, or rather bouldered.

Sunrise and bouldering

Thursday, 16 November 2017

Beach yatra

I finished the yoga course in due time, said bye bye to my newfound friends (I'll see some of them again in March), and started walking the beaches of Goa. This is the first beach vacation I've had for as long as I can remember, I've always gone to the mountains, so I figured I'd do it proper this time.

Chapora castle

Crossing a shallow stream

Small, quiet beaches... 

And not so small and quiet ones

Fishermen pulling in their dinner

Older type fishing boat

Yatra means journey, and some Indians practice the tradition of leaving their house to go to holy places, as in a pilgrimage. The best time to walk is in the early morning or the evening because of the heat, but the paths over crags and hills separating the beaches are treacherous in the dark, so I walked mainly in daylight. 

Just north of Chapora castle there is a little hindu shrine, built onto a cave, in between the sea and the cliff. I was resting in the shade when another traveler walked by, and we had an interesting chat about life, the universe and everything. At some point a couple of Indians came to the shrine and lit some incense, giving their respects to the local deity. One of them started playing a harmonium, a box-shaped accordion, and sang a wordless song to the mountain. My new friend and I went inside, and listened to this classical Indian style hymn, while watching the eagles above, the fireflies playing in the wind, and the fishing boats coming in from the sea. A truly beautiful moment... 

My little trek lasted 3 days, and despite all good intentions, my feet wasn't up to the task of walking all the beaches of Goa. Walking in the "desert" for miles upon end really gives a good foot scrub, and when blisters are a fact, sandals and shoes don't do much good. So, reaching Panjim, after long consideration over proper coffee, I decided to take bus and ferry the rest of the way.

Ferry fun

 India has it's own way of getting under your skin. And taking public transport even more so. On the bus, I usually take the handicap seat close to the door, since all the other seats have miniscule leg room. On this particular trip, the ticket guy insisted on squeezing his butt-cheeks onto my knee, and if I moved it, his ass would follow. Moreover, an elderly lady that sat beside me held on for dear life, and pressed me with her back into the window, and kept pushing as much as her frail body could. All together with a bus driver that believes speed limits are for inferior beings, Bollywood music that's so loud that the driver can't hear all the honking and mayhem he leaves behind, nonexistent suspension, and your friendly neighborhood fishmonger that spills all his merchandise onto the floor of the bus. I traveled for 2,5 hours, and paid 1 euro. 

And now I'm in Palolem, south Goa. I'll probably move inland to Hampi soon, the Indian climber Mecca, but not before some more soaking at the beach. 

Tuesday, 7 November 2017

Hello India!


Here we are again. Wonderful India, scary, happy, free, pulsating India!

I quit my job and traveled. But not before a whole heap of housework. I'm using a rental agent to rent out the house, which seems to go well in order. Took me a sweet while to ready the house, it's always somewhat discouraging to see how much stuff I've accumulated. My biggest regret before leaving was not being able to throw a farewell party for my  friends back in Oslo, but I did get to properly say goodbye to my now ex colleagues at Mantena. Work and party hard, guys!  

So now I'm here. Arambol, north Goa. The area was once a Portuguese colony, and bears clear marks of this. One Sunday morning I woke up to singing. I've woken up to many sounds in my travels, but not this. The beautiful call to prayer from Muslim minarets, cocks greeting the rising sun, bells and whistles, but never a chorus. Upon closer inspection, the local church was packed with people, and I joined some on the stairs outside. Not an organ playing, but guitar, flute and violin, and the chorus being all the locals dressed in their finest Sunday outfit. Beautiful! 

The Christian heritage is strong in Goa, but it bears clear marks of other influences as well. The hippies of the 70'ies came here in bus loads, carpeting the area with sweet smelling smoke, chanting and spirituality. Their spirit lingers, but is hard spotted, as mass tourism has flooded the beaches. Gory neon, scooters zipping to and fro', street merchants, scattered music and drunk Desi (Indians) and foreign tourists thrust themselves upon your senses. Which really isn't uncommon in India, but here it is somewhat concentrated. 

The first impression can be tiring, but true gems are scattered among the cascades of input. The heavily tattooed biker gang that hangs out in the nearest restaurant, talking about the importance of mudguards on Indian roads, and their warm but frustrated feelings about the Enfield, the motorbike of choice in India. Or the energetic Mumbai ex teens, that have rented a hotel rooftop, making it into a cafe/restaurant/nightclub/yoga hall/everything that is nice, where the food is some of the best I've tasted in India. Or old hippies, that have more or less settled, scraping by on pensions or a seasonal restaurant. And rest assured, under an old banyan tree in the nearby forest, an old baba was showing the younglings how to handle a chillum, or traditional weed pipe.

A wonderful place to chill, if you can find your chill in all the ruckus. It really helps to take one of the many yoga, Ayurveda, massage, music or elsewhat courses that are on hand. Which I have, I'm attending a five day course in Iyengar yoga. After that, I have decided to find the nicest beach in Goa, from north to south. Stay tuned! 

And I also got a little taste of what the monsoon entails. =)

Saturday, 14 September 2013


About 2 years ago, Thomas asked me to be best man in his wedding. His traditional chinese wedding. In China. I cherished the honour, and happily got to see a bit of his birth country as well.

This certainly became a trip of contrasts. Starting up, I thought I would spend 14 hours on the concrete floor at the terminal at Doha, Qatar. No, it turned out passengers were entitled to a hotel stay.

The hotel room (beats concrete, yes?)
A nearby mosque
An impulsive Doha bay cruise with other travellers

Business district by night

Doha from the hotel roof

And the next day:
 "Sorry, sir, we had to change your ticket." 
Me: "Oh..."
Qatar Airways business class (shamefully stolen picture)

After a start like that, I feared the rest of the trip would be boring. Shame on me.


I ran around planning my trip a little bit more, and saw a few sights.

Bell tower
Temple of heaven

Gotta get those details...
Typical get-together in Temple of heaven park

Also met up with the bride and groom (the latter not present here)
I stayed in small hostels in what they call Hutongs, small narrow streets with single floor housing. Very cute, intimate and cozy. And sadly un-documented.


A stopover getting to know the old capital of China.
Biking on the city wall

Hua Shan 

The holy tao mountain to the west.
In the valley on the way up

The chinese are crazy

Looking one way...

Looking the other way...

A cave I slept in
Hua Shan in the morning. The drop is 1,5 km.
 "This is stupid. And the cellphone is slippery."

Wudang Shan

More of the same, really.
The summit. 60 ton copper temple on the top.

Some nice photographers I met and later partied with

Yichang - Cruise on Chang River

Street karaoke! I had to join!

Wet, gray and nice

Can't beat that feeling

It's just like a norwegian fjord!

The happy happy shared toilet on board

Back to Beijing, and then wedding in Bazhou

When the 4 day cruise was over, I was sortof in a rush to get back to Beijing. I bought the first and best train ticket, which turned out to be a 3rd class, 24 hour standing ticket. I dreaded the departure, but actually, after 20 hours, I looked down the carriage, and thought it would be sad for this fine train ride to be over so soon... (Stockholm syndrome, anyone?)
This guy helped me get a seat.

My tailor
 And then there was wedding! I'm currently waiting for pics from the semi-pro's that where blitzing all over the place. The chinese are really something else when it comes to hospitality and parties. Rest assured, a nice update will come!
Only picture I have of the wedding. Happy bride and groom walking up to their parents and representatives.

Going home:
"Excuse me, sir, the plane is overbooked. We are looking for volunteers for seats in business class." 
Me: "Oh..."
Yes, you've seen this one before.

You think it is lonely travelling by yourself?

And at last: Funny signs.

Sign by some stairs on the tourist boat

It should say: "Stay in line."

Tourist trap, anyone?