After an overnight train to Goa, I found myself a shady motorcycle rental guy on the corner and headed north to explore some beaches. My trek buddies suggested Anjuna and I only had a few days in Goa, so that seemed like a good start. Other than the shady hustler trying to scam money from me by attempting to convince me that my ears were really dirty (no joke, I saw a few people trying this scam…so bizarre), arriving in Anjuna was pretty amazing. When I got to the edge of the cliff, I just looked up and down the jagged coastline that carved out several beaches and rock formations. People were out exploring and sun bathing and enjoying the perfect weather. So I joined them.
And so did this guy. Did I mention cows are everywhere? They absolutely run the show.
After a few days of motorcycling and reading and sunshine and prawns, I jumped on a train (8 hour train in sleeper class = $4USD. Score.) and headed to Hampi to explore some ancient ruins. The main temple near the Hampi Bazaar is occupied by this big fellow named Lakshmi. Apparently he will bless you (tap you on the head) if you give him a rupee. I just took his picture. If you’re feeling adventurous, you can help bath Lakshmi in the river at 8am. I showed up late and snapped some photos, but didn’t get in and get my hands dirty.
Hampi has a ton of monkeys. They are everywhere just trying to steal a snack or a bottle of water or a camera…they’ll basically take anything they can get their paws on. This guy was hanging out in the temple and I was able to get up close and say hello. Tried to catch the sunrise over Hampi at the top of a temple, but it was cloudy both days so I just had a morning hang session with more monkeys. Watching monkeys does not get old.
The Queen’s Palace and the royal elephant stable are a major tourist attraction in Hampi. And after walking the grounds for a bit you might stumble across an overgrown field with lots of rock piles. Another cool aspect of India is that they don’t regulate too much (which also has its downsides), so even at a national park or tourist center, you can usually wander around and find interesting little spots that are slightly off the beaten path. That’s one of my favorite parts of traveling. So when I came across these rock piles amidst these ancient ruins, I decided to make a contribution to the future of India’s past. This was my first attempt at making a rock pile and I thought I did an OK job.
By: Will Noon
This picture reminds me of being young and staying up really late and getting bummed when the theme song for M*A*S*H came on. You knew there was nothing left on TV to watch when you heard that song…and it meant you had no choice but to go to sleep. This was overlooking rolling hills of tea plantations on the ride from Kumily to Kottayam. From Kottayam I took the commuter ferry to Alapuzzha. The 2+ hour boat ride costs about 12 rupees (25 cents?). If I had more time (or wouldn’t feel creepy doing it by myself), I would’ve rented a house boat to cruise the backwaters of Kerala, but for the quick and dirty backwater experience, the commuter ferry was awesome. I think I was reading “confederacy of dunces” at that point.
After a quick dip in the Indian ocean and a night in Alapuzzha, I took the bus up back up to Kochi to explore Fort Kochi and Jew Town. Unfortunately, my scheduling was sub-par and I ended up in Jew Town on a Saturday so I wasn’t able to actually get into the 500 year old synagogue. I was a bit heartbroken. But I really enjoyed Jew Town. I picked up a small bronze statue of Shiva and got schooled on Tibetan singing bowls by a beautiful Indian woman. This shot shows just outside the synagogue as the winding streets lined with vendors eventually lead north towards Fort Kochi.
The rocky shore to the north of Fort Kochi are most famous for their ancient Chinese fishing nets. One of the really cool things is that you can buy fresh fish and have it cooked for a small fee by the fish mongers. (They’re really called fish mongers). If buying a kilo of fresh tiger prawns for $6 USD doesn’t tickle your fancy, then having a fish monger frying it up had better stir something in your loins. But among all that chaos, it’s also nice to just take a stroll along the water and watch a canoe float by.
By: Will Noon
Walking to the Periyar Tiger Reserve in Thekkady. This was the first day that I was 100% by myself so this sign hit me like a ton of bricks. I ended up doing a short morning trek with a couple from California (who hooked me up with a lonely planet book because mine arrived from amazon.com 2 days after I left). If you plan on going to India for less than 2 months, be prepared to feel foolish when you meet other travelers because it seems that everyone traveling in India is out for 2 months, 3 months, 5 months, or more.
After trekking the perimeter of the reserve I headed towards the Periyar Lake. Here I met up with an Israeli couple from London who design furniture (check out their awesome super modern stuff – http://www.raw-edges.com/ ). We crossed the lake on a simple raft made of logs by pulling ourselves across with a rope anchored on both banks. Such a simple yet effective system. It’s probably been in place for hundreds of years…why change it? Unfortunately I wasn’t able to do any real boating on the lake. One of the problems with India’s “get it done” philosophy is that it often supersedes safety. A few months prior to my arrival, a wildlife watching boat was apparently over capacity and capsized when an elephant was spotted to one side of the boat. Approximately 50 people died.
Monkey knife fight! Ok so they didn’t have knives, but it was a monkey fight. On my way out of the Periyar Tiger Resreve, I had my first of many encounters with these mischievous little guys. Funny thing is that in addition to NOT seeing any tigers at the Periyar Tiger Reserve, nor elephants nor anything giant and exciting/scary, I actually saw more on the way in and out of the reserve. Monkeys, giant squirrels (its a real thing, not just a fat squirrel – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Indian_giant_squirrel), wild boar, etc.
By: Will Noon
If only I had been able to snap a photo of the guy carrying 75 dead chickens on his bike. No joke, 75 minimum. It was like a giant pile of chickens with a dude sticking out the stop slowly gliding down the street. This was on the way out of Peddapuram. One of the most amazing aspects of India, or rather of the Indian people, is how they get things done. Family of 5 in the US = minivan (or giant SUV), family of 5 in India = motorcycle. (I don’t mean they share it, I mean all 5 of them are on it at once). How many people can you fit in a jeep? My trekking buddy from San Francisco was 1 of 22. There are people on the train who fix broken zippers on luggage. Indians are pretty bad ass. They just get it done.
Case in point. When you need to move 8 billion pounds of hay, you don’t make multiple trips. you just get it done.
When people tell you there are cows everywhere, it doesn’t really sink in until you get there. And then a week goes by and you don’t even realize that you’ve become accustomed to it. Everywhere. Hanging out snacking on some garbage. Sitting in the shade on the side of the road. Walking aimlessly through insane traffic without the faintest hint of fear or even concern.
By: Will Noon
Will Noon, a new contributor to The Anti Tourist, went to India recently. His pictures and their helpful captions will be published on the site this week. Starting…right now.
This was the street scene outside the lunch spot on day one in Kolkatta. It was the first chance I got to actually slow down and take it in. That unique mixture of nerves and excitement always makes the start of a journey feel so inspiring.
After getting settled in at the hotel in Visakhapatnam (or vizag), I was coming down the stairwell when I passed by a window and the city scape caught my eye. It was probably the purple building that did it, but the whole scene just looked so in place, as opposed to myself who was out of place, that I wanted to document it.
We spent some time at the St. Joseph’s school where we met some amazing children. I’m not exactly sure what was captivating them at this moment, but my guess is the antics of some goofy white kids. Keshor towards the front was awesome. He was a skilled and patient translator.
Photos By: Will Noon
I put one foot in front of the other, concentrating on tiny increments of effort. I only allow myself to look a little ways ahead, focusing on the next small hill or switchback. I feel the weight on my back, the aching of my shoulders and the tension in my legs. I am aware of my body. I lift my head up every minute or two to remind myself of where I am–seeing is believing–and I tell myself that these are not just any mountains: they are the Himalayas.
From New Delhi I take a rickety bus that charges up steep passes, its motor growling and body teetering too-close to the cliff edge. Once in Joshimath, the hill town in Uttaranchal where I begin my trek, I hire a guide and buy bread, peanut butter and chocolate (you may want to buy supplies in New Delhi—Joshimath is somewhat lacking in foodstuffs). I then decide on a six-day trek over the Kuari Pass.
On the trail I hear the clunking of my water bottles, and the crunch of the ground under my feet. I scramble across snow drifts, digging in my heels, falling on the ice, hating it but loving it at the same time, and quietly working with my guide. In silence we stand at the top of the Kuari Pass, peering down at the land that simultaneously we conquered, and that conquered us. Continue reading