India, I’m Into You: Timothy Nathan: India

Name: Timothy Nathan
Occupation: Photographer
Currently: Bondi
Location: India

My girlfriend, Grace and I recently went on a one month trip through Northern India and Nepal. It was god dam crazy and i’m going to try and describe the whole thing in a nutshell *paragraph.  WE arrived in Kolkata after a 6 hour drunken stopover in KL airport – stayed there for a day and walked around the city and flower markets, not alot of international tourists visit cities like Kolkata so wherever you walk, you get stared at. The next day we got on a flight to Srinagar, which is a small town about 200ks from the border of Pakistan, my mum had read up on the place and was heavily concerned about our travelling there due to do some idiot website advising people not to visit because it was too dangerous.

 

We stayed on a houseboat there for two days in Srinagar and organised a 5 day trek which would see us venturing deeper into the Himalayas and reaching heights of around 4500 meters above sea level. This we were in no way prepared for, Grace had some joggers and I had an old pair of Vans, our guide was thoroughly unimpressed when he first saw us, but was happy that I at least had a sleeping bag, because the temperature falls below zero at night. After a 5 hour drive, a one night stopover and then a 6 hour walk, we reached our camp for the next 3 days. It was like some kind of dream, no one around except for an Indian gypsy family living in a hut about 100 meters from where we set out tent up. There were 3 beautiful gypsy children who would walk up to our tent and stare, we weren’t able to communicate in any way except smiles and basic gestures.

 

Three days, 48 kilometres of hiking through treacherous terrain, and 6 hours of driving later, we arrived back in Srinagar, where we booked a local bus that would take us to a city called Leh the next day. This was the scariest bus ride I have ever been on, it took 16 hours to drive there through the mountains – snow, mud, goats, mini avalanches and sheer drops often on either side. Leh is well known in India for the motorcycle trips you can take there, primarily the one to Nubra Valley, in which you have to ride over the highest motorable road in the world to get to. 5600 metres.

 

Upon arrival in Leh, I rented a Royal Enfield Bullet 500 (this costs about $20 aud/day) and we met some other tourists; Lisa from Amsterdam, Jascha from Austria,and this crazy dude Josh(nicknamed Fuzzy),and his lovely girlfriend Emma. The two of them rode hell for leather on that bike, Fuzzy had a Ducati Monster back home and was happy to go without a helmet, and often without holding the handlebars on his (also rented) Bullet 500. I admired him and feared for his life at the same time. We rode in convoy for 6-8 hours a day, 4 days straight, with petrol and supplies strapped to our bikes. We successfully made it to Pangong Lake, drove over the highest road in the world, and into the Nubra Valley. I had become competitive with Josh over the course of the trip and we raced the last half hour back to Leh, each with our girlfriends on the back, flying in between trucks, broken road, dirt and tons of other motorbikes at speeds of 80 – 110ks/hour, which is pretty quick on those roads. Everything goes a little blurry and all the other traffic seems to be going very slowly, it’s a terrific and liberating feeling. Grace didn’t utter a word for this last half hour and I would later find out that she had her eyes closed the whole time, and was furious at me for doing such a thing, I don’t blame her.

 

After making it back to Leh in one piece, we booked a Jeep to a Manali, which was a pretty boring hippy kind of a place with weed plants and tea head tourists everywhere. We stayed there two days then got on another bus to Delhi. It was Monsoon season there and going outside meant you would be getting saturated from head to toe. We got a tuk-tuk to the markets where a Brazilian girl came up and asked me to buy her condoms (the shop owner wouldn’t let her) so that she could try and smuggle hash back into her country, that seemed like a completely insane idea, but she was nice, so I did. I wonder whether she made it?

 

The next day we took a flight to Kathmandu, Nepal. Grace had been there before and I was dying to check it out too, and potentially help out in any way we could with the earthquake situation. To our astonishment, the city of Kathmandu itself was almost completely fine, many buildings were rebuilt and the people were mostly happy. From what we had previously read in the news it seemed like the whole city was ruined which was simply not the case. A major issue there now is that no one is visiting the country, and the (usually thriving) tourism industry is now doing very badly. Prices were halved for any tourist related activities and the whole town of Pokhara was basically empty. We went bungie jumping there for $35 aud. After staying in Nepal for a week and seeing the Burning Ghats, Sadu’s and insane streets, it was time to end the trip. And after some horrific visa issues at the airport, some shouting and abuse, and a further $650 ticket direct to KL (I wasn’t allowed to go back through India as I only had a single entry visa) I met Grace back in KL.

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