Indonesia/Philippines May 2010

Indonesia/Philippines May 2010

The beginning – Delhi

The beginning – Delhi

Arriving in Delhi is never a tranquil experience, but successfully retrieving an undamaged mountain bike from baggage claim after 12 endless economy hours of imagining it crushed under cargo does wonders for centering one’s Chakra. Thank you, British Airways. Hotel Relax in Pahar Ganj was to be our holding camp for 24 hours as we…

The road North and Manali

The road North and Manali

From Delhi, in theory we would be getting ourselves and our bikes to Manali, as Cass and Cara were still there with the previous group, but in practice we were simply receiving a masterclass in Cara’s genius planning skills. With no direct train service, the HPTDC (Himachal Pradesh Tourist Development Corporation) bus service is the…

The ride starts

The ride starts

Manali – Marhi – Khoksar – Gondhla Friday morning, after a leisurely breakfast idly watching a mouse scurry around the kitchen of our chosen eatery, we finally got on the bikes and started up what was quite a big hill. It was, as expected, stupidly hard riding for me – from 2000m at Manali, up…

Following the river

Following the river

Gondhla – Udaipur – Sach Kas With the challenge of Rohtang behind us, we could chill out a little and enjoy the riding. I still found each day a challenge, but the legs did get stronger, if not any faster. Leaving Gondhla, we flew down for a few kilometres to the bridge at Tandi, which…

Killar – where dogs rule the night

Killar – where dogs rule the night

Just like Sach Kas, there was nowhere to camp in Killar, so we parked the jeeps and bikes on the roof of an unfinished building which hung off the side of the valley (as did the rest of the town) and the group was split between two guesthouses. The following day we would start the…

Up to Bagatou – Sach Pass begins…

Up to Bagatou – Sach Pass begins…

reakfast was dark and hurried, with a noticeable tension in the group as this was to be a big day in the saddle.

Across Sach Pass

Across Sach Pass

Bagatou – Sach Pass – Tisa Leaving Bagatou the next morning I was a happy person – by this time tomorrow the hardest part of the ride would be over. Looking back, what was unique about the next few hours was we were finally away from people – having got used to being surrounded by…

Final hills towards Chamba

Final hills towards Chamba

In our trip plan, this was an easy day – sliding “down” the foothills of the Himalaya to the regional capital Chamba, except there’s no such thing as “down” around here.

The end of the bike ride

The end of the bike ride

The next day we dropped back down to the river and headed South towards our final Himalayan pass, somewhere around 2250m.

McLeod Ganj day off

McLeod Ganj day off

It was with some sadness that I part-disassembled my bike on the terrace of our hotel, ready for its journey to Delhi. For the bike geeks amongst you, I rode a 2006 Orange P7 hardtail – the slight chubbiness of which was offset by the comfort only old-school steel delivers. Tyres were Schwalbe Marathon XRs…

Amritsar and Attar-Wagah

Amritsar and Attar-Wagah

With just 36 hours in Amritsar, I was up and out early, GT-bound. After the chilled-out traveller hangouts of Manali and Mcleod Ganj and a bunch of one-goat Himalayan villages in between, the bustle of Amritsar was a shock – almost Delhi-lite. Obviously a busy commercial town rather than just tourist centre, rickshaw journeys in…

Journeying home…

Journeying home…

Walking into an Indian railway station at a quarter to five in the morning is an evocative way to start a journey. Remarkably quiet for a pubic space in India, sleeping families were scattered around the platform, partway through their journeys and unwilling or unable to pay for a hotel. Having slept under the stars…

Dive Thailand 2009

Dive Thailand 2009

Thailand for the 1st time.

Exploring the city

Exploring the city

Up too late to catch the wet markets, Bangkok’s Chinatown was still a nice little excursion, bustling and busy, but without the tiny alleys being clogged with people as they would be later in the day. Bigger than I expected, there was a lot of common zoning going on – If you ever need a couple of hundred stalls all selling Hello Kitty merchadise, this is the place to come to.

Grand Palace closed (yes, really)

Grand Palace closed (yes, really)

In Bangkok, when a tuk tuk driver tells you the Grand Palace is closed, you don’t believe him – even the dumbest farang knows that’s the cold open to a scam of one sort or another.

Travelling to, and winding down in, Trang

Travelling to, and winding down in, Trang

15 hours on a second-class AC sleeper doesn’t sound fun, but turned out to be a smooth ride. Knackered by this point, I went with the flow on board – overpriced separate farang menu (nice spicy soup, D- cashew chicken), super-overpriced Chang – “What did you say, 120 baht for 660ml of 6.4% silky smooth…

Escaping Eyjafjallajökull

Escaping Eyjafjallajökull

Remember the golden age of air travel – elusive sophistication out of reach of all but the chosen few, jetting off from art deco lounges? Well, I can’t believe that ever applied to Birmingham Airport.

Epic fail on the baggage carousel lottery

Epic fail on the baggage carousel lottery

Tweet The Low Cost Carrier Terminal at KLIA is a scruffy, poorly designed collection of concrete boxes – you can get a coffee and something to eat, but very little else – large swathes of the bag-drop and check-in area don’t have air-conditioning, and even at 7am things are hot and humid. But, this is…

East to Flores and Labuan Bajo

East to Flores and Labuan Bajo

Tweet A new experience at check-in this morning – queue, present ticket, weigh checked baggage and then the unexpected request – “Sir, stand on scales please…” – the four staff behind the desk didn’t even try to suppress their giggles when the kg scale flipped into triple digits and kept on rolling.  This made me…

Bemos, ojaks and one-way systems

Bemos, ojaks and one-way systems

Labuan Bajo is a warm, shabby little place – fishing port, dive centre and transit hub for budget travellers heading East into Flores.

Dive days and lazy evenings in Komodo National Park

Dive days and lazy evenings in Komodo National Park

Tweet My temporary home, Bayview Gardens Hotel, sits on a jungle covered hill above the port – a handful of cottages built on terraces hacked out of the hillside, linked by steep jungle paths and each fronted with an amazing wooden terrace to admire the world-beating sunsets. Adrian, the owner, is your typical Dutch ex-hippy,…

Dive days and lazy evenings in Komodo NP (part 2)

Dive days and lazy evenings in Komodo NP (part 2)

I’m a novice diver, so Komodo NP was a pretty steep learning curve. Dive sites were typically in the lee of exposed seamounts – where the water would be slack, in theory…

Cruising back West to Lombok

Cruising back West to Lombok

For the next two nights and two days I’d be on the Perama boat, heading west from Labuan Bajo to Lombok, via stops on Rinca, Gili Moyo, the village of Labuan Haji and Gili Laba.

Dragonspotting on Rinca

Dragonspotting on Rinca

Leaving the mirror smooth open sea, an appropriately mysterious-looking inlet took our boat heart-of-darkness-lite-style up to a mooring point just a short dinghy ride away from landfall on Rinca.

Last day on Perama 114

Last day on Perama 114

After Rinca the captain turned us Northwest to cross the Lombok strait, after which we would hug the thinly populated coast of Sumbawa on our way to Lombok.

Bangsaal – three-time UNESCO global scam and dump award winner

Bangsaal – three-time UNESCO global scam and dump award winner

Bangsal beach deserves it’s reputation as one of the planet’s premier armpits. You’re not paranoid – everyone IS out to scam you.

Gili Meno – paradise or prison? You choose…

Gili Meno – paradise or prison? You choose…

Tweet The half-hour crossing from Bangsal across to Meno helped fine-tune the mother of all hangovers, so very happy to chill out and watch the luggage at a beach café within feet of where the boat had dropped us, leaving the hotel hunting to my buddies. This is a serious business – the Gilis are…

Arriving on Palawan

Arriving on Palawan

24 hours after leaving Indonesia and 3 flights later, it was wheels-down at Puerta Princesa, capital of Palawan in the Western Philippines.

Travelling North to El Nido

Travelling North to El Nido

Tweet From Puerta Princesa North to El Nido it’s about 250 km and you’ve got two choices – the public bus (40PHP to the terminal, plus 350 PHP for 9 hours of non-airconditioned fun), or 650 PHP for the “luxury” minivans i.e. only 1 or 2 more passengers than seats. It’s a 6.30am pickup and…

El Nido. Trust me – you need to go take a look…

El Nido. Trust me – you need to go take a look…

Tweet I’m not young. Would like to be, but am not. So when travelling the lure of the new is strong – always forwards, never back – three score years and ten – yada, yada. Until I met El Nido. I. Am. Going. Back. A couple of hundred metres back from the shore, El Nido…

Tour A, B, C or D?

Tour A, B, C or D?

El Nido doesn’t have a lot to offer out-of-work marketing copywriters – this level of natural beauty means there’s just no need to spin or exaggerate so the choice across town is simple – Tour A, Tour B, Tour C or, you’ve guessed it, Tour D.