A Travellerspoint blog

Reminising

Winter is approaching in Canada and my heart is in Africa

Since I have been home I have found myself travelling back to particular places in my mind and heart. I miss Guatemala, Africa and India the most. Once and awhile I go crusing on the internet for fresh images of the countries that now feel familiar, yet still exotic to me. I particularily love photos of India. Just the other day I was watching the movie "Junglebook" and I recognized a city I visited while in Rajasthan. My heart leapt for joy in the realization that such magical palaces really do exsist outside my girlish imagination.

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I remember walking across this bridge barefoot with the cows, as it was considered disrespectful to wear shoes.

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Nathaniel and I often speak of Guatemala, particularily Antigua. I loved the cobbled streets, the cafe's, the climate, the incredible architeture and the indigenous people. Nathaniel loved the volcano, the market in Chici and the great night scene. At night, live music would float out into the streets and people would visit in the town square to the wee hours of the moring.

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I often think about our time in the narrow, ancient streets of Stone Town and the white stretches of sand on Zanzibar. I remember the brilliant red starfish and blue man of war jellyfish that would wash up on the shorline.

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I also remember the masai tribesmen that would walk on the beaches and sell beaded jewlery. In many ways they reminded me of peacocks. While the women are shaved bald, and wear a simple cloth tunic, the men wear their hair elaboratly braided, and are festooned with beaded bracelets, decorative scaring, and brilliant red garments. They were incredibly handsome and they walked with tremendous pride. I still find it amazing that they are able to kill lions with only a hard wooden stick.

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In the jungle columbus monkies literally threw themselves out of trees and crashed into branches only feet from us.

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On the Serengetti I saw the most incredible birds, more varities than I can count. I find that I pay a lot more attention to birds in my own country now. In this photo we see a superb starling.

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I remember how incredible it was the first time we saw a wild lion leading his pride out into the morning sunshine. Ten playful cubs and three lioness in the procession.

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Posted by Seaurchins 18:18 Comments (0)

Northern Vietnam and Home :0)

The last few pictures of our trip

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We have now been home for two weeks and we are slowly adjusting to normal Canadian life. We are a little late finishing up our blog, but better late than never. Our last week in Northern Vietnam was great and we ended on a great note. Lets see if I can remember what we did with ourselves.

After we left Hoi An we went to Hue, a city chalk full of historical places and pagodas. We took a cycle rickshaw ride into the walled palace and spent a lot of time wandering around the ruins and lush gardens. We saw elephants, bonsi (much to Nathaniel's delight), intricate mosaics and lots of ponds filled will lilies and colorful qoi. The next day, while Nathaniel took the day off to sleep and read, I took a motorcyle tour of the surrounding countryside. I got to witness the harvesting of rice, watch a monk ceremony, scare a bunch of locals by picking up a catapillar, walk around a feild with waterbuffalos, and walk on a three hundred year old bridge.

A water buffalo in the countryside.
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Farmers harvesting rice by hand.
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Insence drying in the sun
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Visiting the royal summer palaces of the ancient monarchy
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The last four days in Vietnam we took a three day cruise around Halong Bay in a large wooden boat callled a "junk". It was the perfect way to end our trip and a great way to just relax, enjoy captivating scenery, do some tanning, swimming, mountain biking and reading. We had a great little cabin aboard the boat and we quickly made friends with our crewmates. We ate a lot of seafood, some of which Nathaniel caught while night fishing with the locals. Apparently squid fishing is best done at night- Nathaniel had squid ink all over his shirt the next day.

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Nathaniel leaping off the roof of the boat with a friend.
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We are so glad that we have been able to use this blog to share our trip with our family and friends. It has also saved us from having to answer a million questions about our trip since we have gotten home. In many ways we feel as though many of you have shared our adventures with us and we have throughly enjoyed hearing from those of you that wrote to us. We decided to end this blog with a bunch of questions that people have been curious about.

Strangest foods eaten on our trip: Guinea pig, alpacha, lemon ants, tripe, ugali, blowfish, abeloni,

Number of different beds we slept in: Ninty-five

Kilometers covered in 8 months: We are still working on this one.

Scariest Moments:

- First few hours in Gautemala city, which was the first city on our trip.. We spoke no spanish and we kept asking where we could find the bus, which we thought was pronouned "une Coche". We later discovered that nathaniel had been telling everyone that he wanted to ride a pig. It's no wonder people kept giving us strange looks.
- Walking to our hotel in San Salvador and being followed multiple times by questionable characters.
- Discovering that our backpack was stolen an hour into a eight hour bus journey .There was no way for us to contact the authorities or cancel our credit cards until we reached our destination.
- The dalla, dalla ride in Dar Es Salem when we were narrowly missed by a transport truck out of control. Instead of being hit, we watched the truck slam into two other dalla dalla's waiting for passengers and witnessed multiple deaths.
- Spending 36 hours in transit and being sent back to Africa after being denied entry into India.
- Touring Rajasthan with our insane driver Mahabil. ( It gave new meaning to the term "white knuckled")
- Having a tiger run full speed towards us with no cage in between.

Award for most aweful toilet:
On an overnight train in India I had to balance over a hole cut in the floor of the train, while it swerved and clicked over the tracks. I couldn't use the walls to balance myself as they were smeared with feces and vomit. The second worst toilet was in Costa Ricca and it was covered in cobwebs and massive spiders.

Best Memories: * really there is too many great memories to name... but these are just a few

Jocelyn: Mountain biking down the world's most dangerous road in Boliva for five hours. SOOO FUN!
: Learning how to make chapati (a kind of flat bread) in the streets with the African women in Zanzibar
: Exploring the blue city of Johdupur and sipping chai tea with the merchants.
: Repelling down the face of a waterfall in Vietnam
: Sleeping in a tent on the Seregetti and listening to lions prowl around and roar at night.
: Releasing baby turtles on a beach in Gautemala
: Haggling with vendors in Spanish over the price of coral and turquoise
: Riding a camel and staying in a tent in the Thar Desert for Valentines Day
: Swimming with sharks in Koa Toh, Thailand
: Playing with baby tigers
: Spending hours apon hours of time with my husband with no distractions.

Nate: Still to come

Posted by Seaurchins 21:51 Comments (2)

Central Vietnam

De Lat, Na trang, Hoi An

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Nate: So the count down has begun! We have seven days of adventure left and are trying to squeeze every last drop out. We are in Hoi An at the moment and Jocelyn is going shopping crazy. Lucky for me we joined up with a friend that we met when we were in Guatamala, so Jocelyn has someone to shop with and doesn't have to drag me all over the city to look at neclaces, shoes, and handbags. To be fair I am no saint in the shopping department myself these days. I have a tailor made winter wool coat (with real silk lining) being made this very minute and if the shop does well with that I will be getting 2 more 3 peice suits made for pennies (about $50 each!!!) Very Exciting. Joclyn designed some hot leather boots and a white wool jacket. It was cool to pick a style and fabric and then come back the next day for the finished product.

Jocelyn's wool coat
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Jocelyn: Hoi An was beautiful and charming town for a million reasons. It was one of the few places that did not get destroyed during the Vietnam war, so it has retained all its old world charm and historic buildings. I spent a great part of my time just taking pictures of its streets and buildings - many of which are covered with flowering vines and colorful lanterns. At night the town became a profusion of delightful color.

A lovely woman in the local market
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A really old Japanese Covered Bridge
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One of my favorite little lantern shops in the old city quarter
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The rice fields in the countryside
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One day my friend and I rented bicycles and road through the countryside to the beach. It was incredibly picturesque and I couldn't help but stop and take a pictures along the way. Eventually we did make it to the beach where were Lucy and I spent the day tanning while Nathaniel bodysurfed in the waves.

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When we got hungry we bought fresh pineapple from the beach vendors. These women cover their bodies from head to toe whith long pants, a hat and even gloves to protect their skin from getting brown, whereas us westerners try and get as dark as possible without getting skin cancer. What a contrast

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While in Hoi an we finally got a chnace to visit a silk worm farm.
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We had a blast canyoning in Dalat, We got some great pictures of each other repelling down cliffs, and down/through waterfalls. About half way into our daytrip it started pouring cats and dogs, but who can tell the diference when your halfway down a waterfall. At first we practiced on cliffs and then moved to waterfalls when we had mastered a few skills. We had to traverse some incrediblly strong currents, jump off a cliff and slide down a rock face before we arrived at our final waterfall.

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Nate: We spent six days at the beach in Na Trang and worked on our tans! The beach was a few kilometers long and most of the day it was nearly deserted. Deserted until school got aout around 2:00, and then it was packed with boistrous young boys who abandoned their bicycles as they ran into the sea. Once again we rented a motor scooter and braved the crazy caos that is driving in third world countries. Driving in Na Trang proved to be quite the hair raising experience. While we had the scooter we visited the Oceanographic Museum and adjoining aquarim. It had the creepiest collection of pickled creatures I have ever seen. We topped the day off by taking a mineral mud bath.

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The snorkeling at the beach could have been better, looking at nothing but sand gets old fast. So we hopped on an boat that brought us to various different islands. It was quite entertaining, we had our own version of American Idol (it was just as difficult to watch as the original). I was even draged up on stage and forced to perform. Jocelyn enjoyed that a lot.

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Jocelyn: We are in Hue right now but only for a day. Just enough time to explore the ancient Imperial city and take a scooter ride out into the countryside. After that we will be off to Hanoi, a good 12 hours by bus. I feel like I am getting closer and closer to home even though I am still a world away.

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See you soon!!!! Love Jocelyn and Nathaniel

Posted by Seaurchins 01:54 Comments (2)

Southern Vietnam

Mekong Delta, Saigon...

Joce: Getting Visas for Vietnam was a cinch and within 10 minutes we had our passports stamped and were on a bus to Saigon. What a busy place Saigon is! It is a good thing that Nathaniel and I have become experienced at crossing busy roads, because there are a million scooters and no stop lights or stop signs. Nathaniel says that it is a lot like "Frogger", (apparently that is some video game that was all the rage when he was a kid). You basically launch yourself into oncoming traffic and weave around the buses and scooters whizzing past you. If you wait for a pause in the traffic so that you can cross... you will be standing on the side of the road for a long time.

This is a common sight in the busy towns, scooters piled with rice, crates, pigs, ducks.. virtually everything that we would transport in a pickup truck they manage to do with a scooter.

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It has been interesting travelling in a communist country. It is incredibly hard to find books and all written work is censored. Apparently there is "free speech" but if a magazine or newpaper prints something that the communist government does not like they will "temporarily" shut down the facility and then refuse to renew their printing lisence.

Comunisim seems to be working in Vietnam now, but it wasn't always so great.
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Nate: The War Remnants Museum in Saigon has been by far the best war museum that we have seen. They had great well preserved machinery and weaponry outside, as well as detailed and sometimes graphic displays inside.
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The museum went into a lot of detail explaining the after effects of war, especially from devices like landmines, and terrible chemicals such as “Agent Orange”(a chemical used in Vietnam by the Americans to make the trees lose their leaves. By doing this it made warfare in the dense jungle much easier for them.)

I love computer war games just as much as the next guy (and some times the ladies), but seeing this stuff in real life feels kinda surreal. To stand behind an anti aircraft gun and look through the sights, or amongst all the other tanks and canons, has a sobering effect that impresses on you how real war is. Playing games with AK-47’s and grenade launchers is one thing, seeing them on display and imagining lugging these things through the jungle with you is another.

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What is just as crazy is that this thing called war isn’t just an idea, or a glimpse from the past, but a reality of today. That in another 20 or 30 years people will be able to go to museums in other countries just like this one and see the atrocities of war that are happening today as though they were the small happenings of bygone years. 40-50 years ago Vietnam was not a place for tourists much like Afghanistan, or Sudan are not places for tourists today. And much like Vietnam or Cambodia, it will be years before the full impact to these places is realized by the outside world. After seeing all these things for myself, I still have a hard time taking a position for or against war itself. Should they have left Vietnam alone? Or could we have done more to help stem the genocide of Cambodia. Those questions mirror similar questions that we have right now concerning places like Afghanistan, Iraq and the Sudan. I’m glad these choices are not mine to make.

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Joce: After a couple days of sightseeing in Saigon we decided to take a two day trip to the Mekong Delta. It ended up being a one day trip after our bus broke down so I didn't get to see the floating market in Can Tho. In any case, we got to float down the Mekong river once again, as well explore some of the smaller rivers that lead to little villages built on islands. Everywhere you looked there were blue wooden boats with eyes painted on them. We were told that the Vietmanese fishermen did this to scare away crocodiles. In anycase there are kinda creepy and cool at the same time. They actually remind me a little of my favorite children's show- Theadore the tugboat.

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On the islands we visited a factory where they make the most delicious coconut candy and I got another chance to hold a python. This snake was a lot nicer than the one I helped Nathaniel hold in Africa, so I didn't have to worry about it wrapping itself around my neck or trying to bite me.
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In Vietnam there are hundreds of women walking around with bamboo yokes laden with fruit and everything else under the sun. They carry them effortlessly, but I found that it was quite a wobbly burden.
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After a couple of days we headed to Mui Ne, a beach community where we heard there was a lot of windsurfing and kitesurfing. It took Nathaniel about 10 minutes of watching the action to decide that he wanted to join the fun.

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Nate: So, once again I anteed up the cash for more pain and suffering, and I rented a wind surfer. Since attempting windsurfing in Costa Rica I have come to realize that if I am to continue in this sport there are a few necessary skills that I need to master. Namely “water starts” and “harnesses”. So I spent the better part of an hour trying to teach myself how to “water start” while Jocelyn amused herself by timing how long it took. I almost had it figured out, but then caught the wind wrong and was catapulted through the air and consequently broke the sail, maybe next time :0).
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There are a lot of sand dunes and beautiful red conyons in Mui Ne. This is one of the streams that we hiked up one afternoon.

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Southern Vietnam has the largest variety of beautiful orchid species we have ever encountered. In the market there were entire streets of them for sale. It is painful to pass up the opportunity to buy such exotic orchids at rock bottom prices, but I don't think they would have fared too well straped to our backpacks.

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Posted by Seaurchins 20:47 Comments (2)

Cambodia.. only four weeks left!!!

Siem Riep, Phom Pean, & Shinoukville

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Jocelyn: It feels as though it has been so long since I have written that I hardly know where to begin. We have been in Cambodia for about two weeks now and we are leaving on Tuesday for Vietnam. Our time in Cambodia has been bitter sweet. The ruins of Angkor Wat were impressive and awe inspiring while the killing fields and the prison museums of the Khmer Rouge were utterly horrifying. This country has been through so much.

Seventy percent of the population is under the age of twenty and only twenty percent of the population attends school. The rest are too poor to afford education and are forced to work from the age of five upwards. Crossing the border from Thailand into Cambodia was a real eye opener. In Thailand you see giggling children in their crisp school uniforms, while only a couple kilometers away skinny children in tattered clothes, collect bottles and sweep garbage at the border of Poipet.

A young boy paddling on the lake near the slums of Phon Pean
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An old women in a rural village
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Our tuk tuk ride around the dusty city, (Scalpel please....)
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Nate: Less than 20 years ago a political communist group called the Khmer Rouge took control of Cambodia. The King fled the country, and over the next 10 years more than 1/2 of the population (Over 4 Million) were killed through genocide. They focused their killing on the educated and anyone who opposed them. The people of Cambodia have only started rebuilding their country within the last 10 years, and literacy and education are probably their biggest obstacles.

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We also stopped at the Land-Mine Museum and learned how the war is still taking casualities to this day in the form of left over landmines. You see many people in town and around with missing limbs due to unexploded mines that are laying around in the bush. Normally I wander off the beaten track alot but this is one place that sticking to the path counts. I also learned that there are only 4 or 5 countries still using land mines. I bet you can guess one. Interestingly enough, it was Canada that spearheaded an international agreement against the use, production and storage of landmines. They actually have a Canadian flag hoisted in front of the Museum. Go Canada EH!

Nathaniel with some massive missiles at the Cambodian landmine museum.
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Jocelyn: Our first stop in Cambodia was in Siem Riep, home of Angkor Wat. We arrived just before the sunrise so that we could watch it rise over the ancient city. We explored the ruins that were showcased in the movies Laura Croft: Tomb Raider and Indiana Jones. In some parts the trees look as though they are strangeling the buildings.

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We clambered up some seriously steep stairs and took pictures of majestic stone faces.

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Nathaniel had to fight for elbow room in a horde of Japanese tourists for this shot.
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Jocelyn: We are spending our remaining days on a beautiful streach of beach that is virtually deserted. We have a beautiful little bunglaow on stilts and have been doing a lot of reading, beachcombing, and generaly slothfull activities
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Both: Dispite its remote location it has not been without drama. Last night, while we were sitting wth some friends in some cozy chairs, a fight of massive proportions developed between the Cambodian cook and the Spanish hut owner. She was screaming in Khmer while he visibly ignored her unable to understand a word she was screaming. Ironically one of the Australian girls sitting with us teaches English in Cambodia and understands Khmer. She explained to us why the woman was understandably angry. Eventually the cook lost it and starting throwing dishes and chairs but it wasn't until she picked up a butcher knife that I decided it was time to intervene. I basically had to wrestle the knife from her, sit her down and try and calm her while Nathaniel and a Danish guy talked to the owner. He eventually had to flee his own establishment, and sleep somewhere else for the night. What do you expect when you pay your staff next to nothing. I'd do the same.

When we were not keeping our Cambodian cook from killing our hotel owner we rented kyayks and paddled to a remote island that you can see if the above picture. Nathaniel also rented a windsurfer for a couple of bucks and ripped it up on the ocean. He said the massive jellyfish floating past him made a good argument for not falling down.

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Nathaniel found some octopi close to the shore yesterday and true to "Nathaniel Nature" stuck one of them on his face. He was planning on eating it until I strongly encouraged him to "let it go for goodness sake"!

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Some funky coral Nathaniel found on one of his forages
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I have been very reflective this past month.. thinking about all that I have seen and experienced in our travels. We only have four weeks left, and although I am getting really excited about going home, I want to make my time here count.

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Posted by Seaurchins 00:07 Comments (1)

Vang Vieng

My brothers would love this place!!!

sunny

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Nate: After a couple of days chilling in La Prabang we thought we would get a little more rustic, so we hoped on a bus to Vang Vien, grabbed a couple of inner tubes and headed to the river for some tubing. This piece of river is supposed to be a mainstay of the South East Asian travel scene....a veritible rite of passage as the guidbooks say. It proved to be everything I was hoping and more.

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It is a slow paced river, and every 50 feet or so there is a bar serving up cold beers, fruit shakes and cocktails. This would never go down in Canada: Tubes+Water+alot of Alcohol=trouble. But even with all the bad choices little seems to go wrong. What could go wrong with drunks flinging themselves off 20 foot tarzan swings? Well I did manage to catch a few bloopers of people too intoxicated to hold onto the rope and endo-ing right off the bat, they are pretty funny.

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I really wished my brother Matt had been there. He would have been wooing the crowds like no one else can. I had my backflip down pat, even drummed up the courage to attempt a double back flip. Lets just say it was entertaining... for the crowd anyway, my back still hasn't forgiven me. There were 5 Tarzan swings ranging from 15 to 30 feet high, and 3 different zip lines. Tons of fun! We enjoyed it so much but the next day we just sat around and complained about how much our bodies hurt from all our fun. After a day of recuperation we headed back out to fly through the air once again and punish our bodies. Joce got into a game of beach volleyball and I just kept on swinging.

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Jocelyn: During our recovery day, Nathaniel spent the afternoon reading a book in a hammock beside the river while I rented a bicyle and peddled over some very wobbly bamboo bridges to explore the more rural parts of Vang Vien.
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In Vientine I indulged in in some last minute shopping before we left Laos, as it is famous for its silk and intricate weavings. I had considered taking a weaving and dying course here but I ran out of time.

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I did, however, take the time to convince Nathaniel to have a sauna and massage with me on our last day iN Laos. Nathaniel generally avoids massages like the plague but this time he agreed to come along. Turns out he actually enjoyed it. Imagine that! He was quite fasinated with the boiler of all things...

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Posted by Seaurchins 06:13 Archived in Laos Comments (0)

Laos.. the land of relaxation

Floating down the great Mekong River

-17 °C

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After leaving Chiang Mai, Nathaniel and I boarded a boat for a two day journey down the Mekong River to Luang Pra Bang, Loas. Our boat was filled with over a hundred packpackers and we passed the time by playing cards, eating food, sleeping and observing life along the river. By the time we reached our destination we had developed a lot of new friends.
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Finally we have reached our destination! Now for the steep climb up the mountain to find someplace to sleep.

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The river banks were dotted with tiny Loacian communities that consisted of houses built on stilts amoungst the jungle. Children splashed in the river as whole families bathed alongside their waterbuffalos.

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Whenever our boat stopped to drop off passengers or deliver goods, little would girls run down from their villages to sell us silk scarves.
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Lang Pra bang is a unique community and is a UNESCO world hertiage site
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I can't get over how idylic it is. Charming streets lined with old french provicial homes, streams of monks carrying umbrellas, and girls riding home on their bicyles from school in their traditional Loas skirts. Everywhere you look there are vendors selling the most delicious sandwhiches made with homemade french bread, and tables are laden with banana bread and mango cakes.
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The markets are full of homemade textiles and paper lanterns and umbrellas. The Loas and Mung people are incredible friendly dispite the fact that most of them are dirt poor and live in homes that would be blown over by a strong gust of wind.
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We are in Vand Vien right now and we are planning to float lazily down the river in inner tubs tommorow. The drive here was absolutely stunning. Check out the view from the window of our bus.
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Posted by Seaurchins 02:29 Comments (0)

Trekking in Chang Mai

Elephants, Hiking, Swimming in waterfalls, Rafting.

Nate: After the beaches we stopped off in Bangkok briefly, and then took a bus headed north to Chang Mai (12 Hours). Our shuttle from the bus stop dropped us off at a great hotel with a pool and for the first time on our trip we indulged in this most awsome of indulgences. While we were checking in, a rather swave talking buisnessman sold us on a jungle trek that left the next morning. We didn't mind because we had planned on visiting the remote jungle villages anyway.
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This sweet little girl was one of the children that had sung for us the previous evening and was both shy and facsinated with one of our friends card tricks.
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Our journey began with an hour long elephant trek up steep hills. It was really cool to take turns sitting just behind the elephants head with our legs tucked just behind it's ears.

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The elephant behind us apparently had a cold because it kept spraying it's riders with buckets of elephant snot! (In reality the elephant sprays it's ears to help cool itself, but getting sneezed on sounds way better.) This is a pic of our friends just after they have been sprayed.
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Each day we had a short but largely uphill hike, and in the evenings we ate wonderful meals under traditional bamboo, thatched roof houses. The second day we visited a "waterfall". I have come to the conclusion that many places we have visited are lacking in the two main ingredients that make for waterfalls of stunning proportions (at least on a regular basis). Alot of rain, and high mountains, both of which we have in abundance back home. So more than once now we have looked forward to the waterfall part of the tour, and then had to make the best of it and enjoy.
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On the last day we hiked for 2 hours and then came to a small creek and by far the best part of the trek. This stage involved jumping on a makeshift bamboo raft and navigating the creek back to civilization using only our wits and long bamboo poles.
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The rafts proved to be a little less than sea worthy, and more than once we found ourselves careening into either eachother or the banks of the creek. In a feirce competion to be the winner of an imaginary race down the river, Jocelyn pushed me off my raft into the river and still failed to take the lead. She was a worthy opponent truth be told, and the only girl willing (or able) to captain and negotiate the snaking turns. Pitting ourselves against each other resulted in us arriving at the dock completely spent. - Nate

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Jocelyn: When we got back to Chaing Mai, I took a Thai cooking course and learned how to make a bunch of my favorite Thai dishes.
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We got to go into the local market and learn about about all the weird and wacky ingrediants that the Thai people use is their marvelous food. After I had gathered our supplies I learned how to make spring rolls, currey paste, massaman currey, pad Thai, and sweet stiky rice with mangos. Making the currey paste was by far the most difficult and exausting. I have gained a lasting appreciation for the work that goes into Thai cusine. - Jocelyn

We did a bit of site seeing around town and this temple was by far my favorite.
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These are the neat bungalows that we stayed in.
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Posted by Seaurchins 22:38 Comments (2)

Spending the day with Tigers

sunny

A couple weeks ago when we were still in India we saw the most amazing picture of a women sitting with a full grown tiger. At first we thought the picture must have been digitally altered, because everyone in the internet cafe was staring in shock at what looked impossible. Apparently not. Yesterday we went to that tiger temple in a small village outside Bankok. Years ago some villagers found an abandoned baby tiger and brought it to the monks to raise. Over the years the monastary has become an animal refuge and they now have over twenty tigers. They allow visitors to visit the temple for two hours in the afternoon when the tigers are napping. We had some pictures taken with the cats and then we just spent some time watching the three month old babies napping. Luckily for us, one of the staff at the temple approached us and invited us to come back the following day to experience some one on one interaction with the cats while they were awake. Off the hundreds of people that came through that day they only selected five people to come back the next morning. It was an offer we couldn't refuse so we rented a scooter and woke up at 6:00am the next morning for the long drive. When we arrived we saw saw three week old cubs and spent over half an hour playing with some older cubs in their cage. It was amazing!

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Afterwards,we walked the nine month old tigers from their enclosures to the canyon where they let them loose to play. If you think walking a big dog is challenging, try walking a predator like this. There are so many things to think about. You have to keep your legs behind the tigers shoulder and you can't let the tiger get too close to somone's back. If they do get too close they jump on that persons back and instictivey go for the neck. It happend at least once while we were walking down, but the guy didn't get hurt. It's a crazy feeling to walk so close to such a huge predator, knowing full well that it could kill you.

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Once we were down in the canyon, all the tigers were let off their leashes. They played at full force for over an hour while we stoof only feet away. Once awhile they would run full speed towards us only to stop inches away. A couple of times they tried to bolt out of the canyon, but the tiger handlers were really quick and caught them. It was quite an adrenalin rush to watch.

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After the tigers had spent themselves pouncing on eachother and destroying basketballs and soccer balls we walked them over to their enclosure and gave them a bath. In the midst of getting soaked and trying to stay away from the sharp end of the tiger we forgot to take pictures.

This is my favorite tiger. He was really gentle and playful.
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This is Nathaniel's favorite picture. He has a tiger by the tail!!!
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Later that afternoon we went to cool off in some waterfalls.

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This was the second pool of seven pools that poured into eachother.
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The river was full of fish and then nibbled on us whenever we stood still. It was a little weird.
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Ahh, some much anticipated street food at the end of a long, but great day.
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P.S. Loretta, if you read this message, please send me your address. I have lots of postcards for you. - love Joce

Posted by Seaurchins 17:53 Archived in Thailand Comments (1)

Finally some pictures

sunny

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Jocelyn: So we are back in Bangkok and we are brown as nuts. Although we loved Koh Tao ( our little slice of Thai paradise), we realized that there is still so much in this country that we haven't yet explored. We have certainly had our fill of snorkling, tanning, hiking, and eating delicious food. . Speaking of food - I could almost spend an entire day snacking away on barbeque corn, coconut curries, skewered seafood, fresh sqeezed orange juice, ice cream, pad thai, fried noodles, and fresh gauva and pineapple. Everything we eat looks like a piece of art, even if we buy it from a road side vendor. The fruit is cut into intricate swirls and always deliciously cold. I am so used to eating warm, mushy sketchy food that I have had to rub vigorously with my clothing before I eat it.
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Nathaniel has been devoring meat and often orders two meals everytime he sits down to eat. I must admit that I have been enjoying eating meat again as well, as I had decided to be vegetarian while we were in India. Riding around the island on our scooter was fun, although it certainly wasn't cut out for what we put it throught. At least we didn't crash the thing. We saw numerous tourists with bandages around their legs, feet and arms. I heard that in Thiland road rash from a scooter crash is called a Thai Tattoo.

This is the place we called home for about a week.
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It was lush, beauitful and at night the geckos serenaded us with their barking and chirping. Here is a picture of one of the geckos Nathaniel caught one night while we were having dinner.
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Nate: While we were on Koh Tao we had planned on doing some Scuba diving, as it is supposed to be really good. While we were there the visibility wasn't great and after a week of pretty decent snorkeling I decided to forgo the diving and took a Free-Diving course instead (free-diving is like diving except without tanks, you hold your breath!). I have been snorkeling for years and have been pushing my limits, sometimes with bad techniques and nieve ideas. It was really great, I learned alot about proper breath holding and a lot of exersices that should make a big difference for me in the future. On the last day I went to 26 meters without fins! Thats about 78 feet. I'm still a far cry from the world record at the moment of 214 meters, which I think is insanity!!!
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Jocelyn: I am proud to announce that I have officially swam with sharks, black tipped reef sharks to be exact. Nathaniel estimates that they were about about 7 feet long, which I think is big enough for me. I was a little nervous when we first spotted them, as we were only about 5 meters above them, but my nervousness quickly turned to curiosity and I excitedly followed one of the sharks for about five minutes. The whole atmosphere was more freaky than the actual shark. It looked like a coral graveyard and everything was an errie green color.
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One night Nathaniel and I dressed up like pirates for a local party, but because we were so tired from snorkling all day we fell asleep before the party even started... parties don't get going till around 2:00am in the morning and we only lasted till 11:00.
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The night scene on Koh Tao was something else. Every night the beach became a resturant complete with torches, cushions, palm trees and fire dancers. In town we were baraged by very colorful men dressed as women inviting us to their cabaret show.
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This beautiful little parrot and I became inseperable for a couple of days. He would fly onto my shoulder from whatever tree he was sitting in and I would share my fruit with him. He was a great walking companion on the beaches in the evening.
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I love these colorful boats moored around the bay.
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These are Thai fishing boats. I love the slanted cabins on them.
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What friendly fish they have in thier ponds
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Posted by Seaurchins 08:18 Archived in Thailand Comments (2)

I LOVE THAILAND

We're on a bitty little Island "Koh Tao"

We have found Paradise. If I was tired of travelling before I am not now. It feels like we're back on vacation, and not some morbid death wish. Me and Joce keep saying things to each other like, "we could stay here for a month....". There are still soo many amazing places and things we want to see before our trip ends, But it is hard to amagine it getting better than this. It is a hilly tropical island about 7 Kms across, you can walk just about anywhere you need to be. We were going to rent 2 bicicles for $3.50 a day, but then found out that a motor scooter is only $5.00. So now I am motorized again....waahaaahaa.
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Don't I look cool! how do you like my basket?, the bag is very stylish as well...hahaha....ha....hmmmmmm
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We made our way over to a beach on the east side of the island today and found some great snorkeling, sun tanning, cliff diving..... Lots of fun. I even found a japanese glass ball on the beach, the cylinder type!
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On the way back to our hotel the road was really steep, I had to push with my legs to get the underpowered thing up the hill while Jocelyn clung to my back and giggled. We have been lamenting about our pale pastie skin for awhile as it has been some time since we were at a beach, but a few more days here an we'll be back to our golden brown. We keep bumping into Canadians here who inform us of the deplorable weather conditions back home, we feel for you ... we really do. It would be sooo much fun to have our friends and family here with us, but that is unlikely, so we will try to get some really good pictures instead.

It's hard to belive that there are only about 2 months left for us. We have started to try planning our weeks better so we make it to the places we have outlined. Once we leave this island things may get quite busy with travelling. I has been nice to unpack our bags here for a few days and get some good sleep. Tomorow we will be exploring and taking pictures so there should be some good shots along soon, Laters... Nate and Joce

Posted by Seaurchins 05:10 Comments (3)

Thailand

Ah some civilization...

sunny

Before we left Tanzania we had purchased an open ticket from which we were told we could use when we were ready to fly from India to Bankok. When we went to the airlines to pick a day to fly they told us they were booked for a month solid and that it would be at least a week before they could put us on a waiting list. Needless to say, we scrapped the ticket, applied for a refund and bought a new ticket online. We made this decision at 4:30 and we were on a plane bound for Bankok by 11:30 that night. Talk about flying by the seat of our pants. While aboard the plane I was telling Nathaniel how glad I was that I had survived India without getting food poisoning. Ironically, I spent the majority of the next day throwing up in our Thai hotel. Somewhere between between the airport in India and checking into our hotel I injested something that my "tank-like" stomach despised. Truthly, I have been incredibly healthy throughout our trip while Nathaniel has been sick on a frequent basis. I guess the tables have turned.

Thailand, is a breath of fresh air. Nathaniel keeps telling me how civilized it is. Th airport itself is an architectual wonder. After being here for one day we have realized how de-sensitized we became in India. On the bus from the airport we almost felt like we were at home as we gazed longingly around at the organized highways, and the trees... and then we looked out the left window and noticed a baby elephant foraging in a marsh. So Cool !!!!

Anyways, we are headed to the southern part of Thailand in the next day or so. We have heard that it is possible to swim with whale sharks there. We will dowload some cool pictures when we have some.
-Jocelyn Lord

Posted by Seaurchins 02:46 Archived in Thailand Comments (1)

Varanasi

The Ganges River....."OF DEATH....."

So we left our driver and opted for trains after all. Well the train was planned all along, but I feel better if I say we got rid of him and his "DRIVING OF DEATH....."

The train was an all nighter, but that was OK because we both had a bunk-beds and slept all the way to Varanasi. We had a few tense moments when none of our ticket info matched the train that pulled up at the appointed time, but a few questions and a sprint down the platform had us set right. Varanasi looks and feels like a very old city. We are staying in a part of the old city, and found it quite the challenge to locate the hotel we had set our sights on. It only took a Tuk-Tuk from the railway station and a 45 minute walk with our back packs through a veritible labrinth of alleyways.
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The whole old city is off limits to cars. Not because they want to preserve the old buildings, but simply because they can't fit. It is a maze of cobbled side streets with; as far as I can tell; no maps. It is likely a good thing that I don't have my nose stuck in a map, if I had I would have stumbled into a watery cow pie long ago. The streets are littered with the nasty things. There is a cow around most corners, and the ones that don't have cows have either tonge waging billy goats, or crazy monkeys imploying facial aggression tactics.
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Our hotel is great, cheap, has tons of cool travellers to talk to, and one of the best views in Varanasi. Right now we are in the roof top restaruant overlooking the burning ghats beside the Ganges River. From where we stand we can see the river streach in either direction.
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It was rather sombering the other day, as we sat on the steps of the ghats and watched multiple families in various stages of relinquishing thier dead to the river. The final stage being burning the body on a pyre (we counted 15 different pyres) and then scattering the ashes in the river. That is of course unless you are one of the fortunate/unfortunate few who fit into a "exception to the rule". They are: Holy Men, Pregnant women, children, lepers (people with Leprosy.....It still exists here), and people who have been bitten and died of a Cobra bite. If you are among this privleged few (or many... as it would seem) then you forgo the intire burning ritual and they tie a rock to your wrapped up body and throw you in the river whole. Which is all good and fine, unless you use bad rope or didn't attend boy scouts and the rock falls off. Which apparently happens often. Then the body floats back to shore. If your body makes landfall on the city side of the river they wrap you back up, tie on another rock and try, try again. If however, your body catches a current that carries it to the far shore..... well if you really need to know email me, it's a bit much for the blog. - Nate
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Varanasi is certainly something else. It is just as colorful as the rest of India, if not more. I have spent hours wandering along the ghats taking pictures of holy men, chilren and water buffalos bathing, women doing laundrey and laying it to dry on the ghats and all manner of animals.

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It is possible to experience sensory and emotional overload here. There are so many children begging and dogs on the verge of death. Ahhh it is heart wrenching! I wish that I could start a foundation for the children here. I see far too many working when they should be enjoying thier childhood. There are also many old men and women walking around barefoot begging with little whisper voices. There are so many social problems that I don't even know where to begin. There are many beautiful aspects of their culture as well though. I love watching boys walking home from school with their arms around eachothers shoulders, kids singing at the top of their lungs, the smell of cloves in the air, strings of flowers hanging in the trees and floating down the river. I love to watch the the shy looks that children give me turn into huge broad smiles when I say "Hi". This is a precious country dispite its hardships.

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Posted by Seaurchins 04:02 Comments (1)

Rajasthan

The Land of Maharajahs

Rajasthan......

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Where does one begin to describe this place? I have only been in Northern India for a little over a week and already I am in love. Everywhere I turn there are cows meandering down the street, women in every imaginable color of sari, and huge towering forts perched on cliffs. It is sensory overload and it is everything I dreamed it would be. I have already haggled with vendors over pashmina's, eaten a year's worth of curry, and ridden a camel in the desert. Our accomodations so far have felt like 5 star hotels compared to many of the places we stayed at over the past four months. We are fairly hardy travellers now and I doubt that anything could phase us at this point in the game. Lately we have been staying in old 17 century mansions called havalis. They are carved out of red sandstone and painted with exotic murals and designs. The best part is that they are so cheap.
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My shopping paradise!!!

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After Nathaniel and I arrived in Delhi we started to research the best way to travel around India. Initially we had asssumed that we would take the train, as that is the most common and cheapest way to travel, but then we read that India's rail system is the most dangerous rail network in the world. It crashes anywhere from 4 to 500 times a year. Logically we started to explore other alternativeso only to discover that more than 233 people die on India's roads each day- that is 85,000 a year! We thought that figure sounded a little exadurated, but sadly it isn't. Nathaniel's friend Dan Richardson had warned us about India's "death traffic".... At the time we didn't quite grasp the full meaning of those words. Let me assure you, we are well aquinted now. We decided to hire a private taxi for two weeks so that we could see all of Rajasthan. We figured it was a little bit more expensive but it would be more convienient and would save a lot of time. For the most part it has been a good deciscion, we don't have to wait for hours for a train that may or may not come and we have the convienence of stopping whenever we want to. The downside has been the scary "death traffic". Here is an exerpt from from one of my journal entries:

" What a hair raising journey today has been so far. The stretch of road between Udaipur and Puskar is by far the most dangerous road that we have driven thus far - and not because of loose gravel, steep cliffs or blind corners but because of reckless drivers - ours being one of them. In the begining it was his constant use of his horn that was making us deaf and incredibily irritated. Nathaniel put in earplugs after counting 73 honks in 30 minutes. Painful. Now we are white knuckled with fear that we are going to be sandwhiched between two transport trucks or have a head on colission by a truck hurling towards us in our lane. It is utter insanity! I thought that perhaps I was immune to feeling afraid on third world roads, but apparently not. Our driver only stopped passing trasport trucks on blind corners after we yelled at him that we didn't want to die!"

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Alice the camel.. just kidding! There are camels everywhere and i mean EVERYWHERE

Aside from that scary traffic I really can't complain about India. The service here is impecable and people are incredibly friendly. We are throughly enjoying all the old forts, some that are hundreds of years old and full of intrigue. Today we climbed up a mountain to an old amory and saw Asia's largest cannon. Nathaniel was impressed that it could shoot a 50 kilogram cannon ball 40 kilometers. Crazy.

- Jocelyn

It feels kinda like we have hit our second wind. There was a time for awhile that travelling was getting stale, and I was finding it increasingly hard to remain enthusiastic about another 4 months of traipsing across the planet. But I'm quite happy to say that I'm back in good form, with Jocelyn close on my heels to keep me from antagonizing the monkeys. There are a lot of monkeys in India. - Nate
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Posted by Seaurchins 07:59 Comments (3)

India

Much better than we expected.

India is great. It is sooo much better than we expected. After 4 months of travelling it is nothing out of the ordinary to brush up against cows as you shop for new pants, or grab a bite to eat. We absolutely love how much better the animals get treated here than in most all of the rest of the world (better than some of the people). The condition of the animals is better most likely because of the Hindu/Buddhist influence. Like ...it is sooo refreshing to not look over and see a deplorable animal being beaten to pull it's load. All the working animals we see here are healthy and seemingly happy.
The food is sooo delicious, and CHEAP!. We have'nt had a meal yet that has been over $4.00 ...for both of us! And ya all know how I eat. We are very glad to be here and tomorow we are off for a 14 day tour of Rajasthan. We are planning to do a Camel Safari for Valentines that includes sleeping under the stars in the desert. Sorry if the other entry is a downer, but a few people have been waiting for the full version of what went wrong. I don't know whats wrong with us but when it rains ... It POURS. Nate

Posted by Seaurchins 08:51 Comments (1)

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