Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Globe Trekker: North India - Varanasi to the Himalayas

image: ashramTraveller Andrew Daddo begins his intense journey through North India with a dawn boat trip on the holy River Ganges in Varanasi.

He witnesses pilgrims bathing in the ghats along the river and bodies being cremated. He also meets a number of characters in the narrow, winding streets and alleys of Varanasi - Saddhus (holy men) smoking chillums, beggars and touts. A young boy introduces him to betel nut and a yoghurt drink called lassi.

An overnight train takes Andrew to Agra, home to the famous Taj Mahal. Just outside Agra is Mathura where a large Hindu festival takes place celebrating the birth of the Hindu deity, Krishna. From there, Andrew heads on to Delhi where he hires an Enfield motorbike for the next leg of the journey to Corbett National Park, where he goes on an elephant safari. He then drives to Rishikesh, where he joins an ashram (meditation centre) and meets the guru who oversees Andrew’s very first yoga lesson.

A narrow gauge railway takes Andrew to Simla, a former British Hill station at the foot of the Indian Himalayas, where he learns about Indian history and the British Raj in India.

Andrew continues his trip climbing higher into the Himalayas to enjoy the beautiful views of the Kulu valley, before taking a short bus journey to Manali. Here Andrew prepares for the climax of the trip, trekking from Manali to Leh.

His companions Chris and Bob take him up the second highest Pass in the world, the Tag Lang La, and past Buddhist gompas. After a grueling journey they finally arrive in Leh, a lost city populated by Tibetan refugees isolated from the world nine months of the year, perched in the Himalayan mountains.

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