Our time in India had finally come to an end. We were excited about heading to Nepal and the adventures this would bring, as we boarded the plane headed for Kathmandu. Upon arrival we discovered that our Nepal visas needed to be paid for in cash but the ATM in the arrival hall was broken. So off Glenn went through the visa control and out of the airport to the closest ATM with airport security hardly noticing. Upon returning we were then informed that we had to get photos taken and pay for the visas in US dollars not Nepal rupees. This posed another problem because the cost was now greater than what had been withdrawn. After another quick visit to the ATM we finally had our visas, collected our luggage and were finally exiting the airport over an hour late.

The hotel we had decided to stay at happened to be in the middle of the Thamel district (tourist district) so even arriving later at night the entire place was still buzzing with activity and everything was still open, a nice surprise. We had a quick dinner in the hotel restaurant which seemed to take forever even though there were very few people dining and then it was off to bed for some much needed sleep as the upcoming days would see us busy getting ready for our upcoming trek. The following morning we set off early to find breakfast and explore our new surroundings. Much to our surprise there was very little open at 8am in the morning so after a quick breakfast at the only restaurant we could find open we headed back to the hotel to start organising our permits and bus tickets that would be needed.

Contrary to what we had been previously told, the hotel could only tell us where we needed to go to organise permits and travel instead of organising them for us. Being a Saturday we were informed the office of Tourism, who issued the trekking permits was only open till noon. With plenty of time we caught a taxi to the office only to discover our hotel was wrong and the office was shut on Saturdays. Luckily it would reopen at 10am the following morning. We walked back to our hotel to see a little of the city where we first noticed half the locals where dust masks to avoid breathing in the dirty air. The remainder of the day was spent relaxing ready for another try tomorrow.

We were up early on Sunday, back at the tourism office, ready for when they opened. One hour, three permits and $100 later we had everything (permit-wise) we required to start our trip to Everest Base Camp. We were now in need of some gear to help get us there, so we headed back to Thamel, as this was the best place to pick up what we needed for the best price. We had done a bit of research the day before, checking prices at a few of the stores around our hotel, and had a pretty good idea of what we needed and what it should cost.  We ended up finding a store around the corner that was able to supply us with everything we needed and give us a nice discount, as we were buying 2 of everything.

After a big day of shopping we headed out in search of a nice place to enjoy a quiet meal. Much to our delight we came across the Organic Green Cafe, which served a nice range of organic veg and non-veg meals, plus the best Lemonade in town. This became the place we ate most of our meals at for the next couple of days. The last thing we needed to organise was our tickets for the bus to Jiri, which would be the starting point of our journey. Again we were under the impression that our hotel would help us with this but ended up having to do this ourselves. Once shown on a map the location of the bus station we became a little disappointed as this happen to be next door to the tourism office we had visited twice in as many days. So off we went again back to organise our tickets. Once completed, tickets in hand for a 7am departure the following morning, it was time to go to the supermarket for some final supplies. The day ended with an early night sleep, ready for our next adventure, Everest Base Camp.

McLeod Ganj

We arrived in Pathankot early in the morning and set off on the two-hour taxi ride to our final destination in India. When arriving in McLeod Ganj our first impressions were of a quiet and very scenic hillside village with plenty of cafes and restaurants overlooking the valley. As this was where the Tibetan government and Dalai Lama had made their home, there was definitely a different feel to the town. The streets were distinctly more Asian, with their tightly packed shops, Tibetan prayer wheels and the many orange robed monks wandering the streets.

Our first task after dropping our bags in our room and quickly freshening up was to get in contact with the Hotel in Jaipur to see if we could arrange to get Glenn’s charger couriered to us as quickly as possible.  Not having his laptop would make our lives a little difficult not to mention he was getting a little moody and to be honest I was getting a little sick of him stealing mine. While we still had a lot of spare time to explore, we made the short trip to Bhagsu waterfall, located a few kilometres away. This took us through the aptly nicknamed “little Israel” or the village of Bhagsu before arriving at the waterfalls clear waters, one of the growing indicators that the area was cleaner (by Indian standards) than most of the other places we had visited.

The first couple of days were spent exploring the village, enquiring about yoga courses and meeting up with the NGO, Tibet World, who we would be volunteering for. We settled on a yoga Centre offering the Iyengar style that seemed to provide a more scientific approach to the practice. Early the next morning we headed up one of the areas typically steep hills toward Dharamkot so we could check out the Iyengar Centre before registering for the course that would start in the next few days. It soon became clear to us that we wouldn’t only be getting 3 hours of yoga in every day for the next 5 days but we would also have a 30 min hike up a hill every morning to add to our preparation for Nepal.

That afternoon we had our first meeting with Yeshi, the director for Tibet World. This was mainly a meet and greet, giving us an opportunity to find out about the NGO and for Yeshi to explain how we could help him. After much discussion it was clear the best place for us to start helping was to lend a hand updating and streamlining the website.  This suited our situation as it meant that we could do our yoga classes in the morning and spend the afternoons working on the site.

We did the few things with the website that we could with the restriction caused by my Chrome book but we both knew that the real work would start when Glenn’s laptop charger arrived and we could really start our task. So we spent the following few days going to our yoga classes in the morning and taking turns doing things on the website in the afternoon. Finally the charger arrived after 5 days and 50 emails between the hotel and us. So now the work began.

Shortly after starting with Tibet World, Yeshi had invited us to one of their cultural nights. This turned out to be a fantastic night where we were first entertained by various Tibetans with song and dance, before being invited to join in with the locals, as we attempted to follow their dancing lead but with two left feet. Leaving the Centre we walked back to the hotel along the typically misty streets of McLeod Ganj.

After completing the beginner Iyengar yoga course we decided to continue on with another week, which would mean that we would now need to be up at the yoga Centre every morning at 6:30 in the morning for the intermediate classes. We had two days off between the two courses which we thought would be the perfect time for us to take a trek up the local mountain which involving a 18 km trek up and back giving us some good training for our coming base camp adventure. On our first day off we got up and headed off early but unfortunately after a few wrong turns and no map to follow we ended up at the Sacred Dal Lake. It was still an enjoyable journey, taking us past many rural Indian villages before deciding to head back just as the weather was starting to turn bad. We arrived back at the hotel tired and very wet ready for an early dinner followed by an early night.

Our next week was spent much as the first, with yoga classes in the morning and website work in the afternoon. At the conclusion of the second set of yoga classes we decided again to attempt a walk up Triund hill, this time with a lot more success. After 4 hours of trekking up steep hills, uneven stairs and crossing over the bottom of waterfalls we reached the top at 2850 metres. It was definitely worth the work out (Glenn says it was even worth listening to me complain most of the way and stopping every 5 minutes). At the top you walk onto an open field covered with a few little shacks and a heap of horses and cows. It was amazing seeing cows on top of these really tall mountains and wondering how they get them up there.

With us leaving McLeod Ganj in a few days we had our final meeting with Yeshi to tie up some loose ends with the website. We were then invited to his house for dinner the following night. This was an amazing experience allowing us to see a typical Tibetan home, as well as being taught (well they tried but we didn't pick it up very well) how to make MoMos, a traditional Tibetan dish. After a great meal and even better company, we said our goodbyes.

With only a couple of days remaining, we visited the Tsuglagkhang (the Dalai Lama’s Temple). Surrounded by chanting Tibetan monks we followed suit spinning the prayer wheels and seeing the inner workings of the temple. The visit was short but we left with unavoidably big smiles due to the vibrant atmosphere of the place. On the way out we visited the Tibetan museum, which informed us further of the ongoing plight of the Tibetan people.

With very little time left, we finished our work in McLeod Ganj, ate our last MoMo and caught a taxi back to Pathankot. The train back to New Delhi was shared with a French tour group, as we all jostled for baggage space before bunking down for the night. Arriving in the morning we jumped straight into another taxi, heading for the airport, where we excitedly waited for our flight to Nepal.

The Road to McLeod Ganj

With Bhopal now happily behind us we had our first experience in a chair car, which was a nice change. Not only was it air-conditioned, but for the first time the train ran on time and also announced the stops prior to reaching the station. This meant you weren't either dashing for the door when you realised that it was your station or standing at the door for half an hour expecting the next station to be yours.

The first thing we realised when arriving in Agra was how clean it was. Not that this was surprising seeing as the local rubbish dump would have been cleaner than Bhopal.  As it was late at night we headed straight to the hotel, jumped through another cold shower, had a quick dinner and headed to bed looking forward to an early start the next morning to visit the Taj Mahal.

Upon waking the next morning it soon became clear that not a lot of sightseeing would be taking place due to the cold Glenn had caught in Bhopal getting worse with him now running a temperature. So after a quick breakfast at the hotel we headed to buy our tickets for the Taj Mahal with us walking up the road 500 metres in the wrong direction to the ticketing office, only to have to go back past the hotel, heading to the actual attraction. But it sure was worth it when you were standing in front of the tomb that you had seen in so many photos.

After taking a slow walk around the gardens we walked the short distance back to the hotel, had some lunch and retired to our room so that we could rest and try to get better. The next day we checked out of our hotel and went back to the train station heading for Jaipur. Again arriving late at night we headed to our hotel had a late dinner, cold shower and headed to bed. We awoke early the following morning and after breakfast headed back to the train station to organise what would be our three final train rides in India. Unfortunately, when we arrived at the ticket office it was closing for its morning tea break, so off we went in search of the post office to get an idea of how much the next care package home would be.

In true Kayla and Glenn fashion we managed to go slightly the wrong way and added an extra 20min walk to the trip. From the post office we went and checked out the Pink City and a few of the sights before deciding to head back to our hotel to collect the stuff we wanted to post home. As no rickshaw driver seemed to know where our hotel was, we decided to get him to drop us off at the local shopping mall that we had spotted earlier that morning. This seemed harder to find than our hotel and once we arrived we realised there wasn't much to see in the mall anyway, as half the shops were empty. We then walked back to the hotel collected our things and arranged a taxi to take us to the train station, post office and then back to the hotel for one fixed price.

After spending the next day relaxing in the hotel, organising flights to Kathmandu and generally bumming around in anticipation of our long trip from Jaipur to McLeod Ganj. This began with an early morning train from Jaipur to Delhi. Upon arrival we found the baggage storage room and proceeded to check our packs in so we didn’t have to lug them around for the day. It was at this point that Glenn realised in the rush to do the final packing in the morning he had managed to leave the charger for his laptop back in the hotel in Jaipur. With a 17-hour wait before our train to McLeod Ganj we decided that we might just be able to venture into Delhi to find an apple store and purchase a replacement charger. This idea seemed great in theory but with no Internet to find the address of the apple store, plus a taxi driver who decided to say he knew where it was before changing his mind and the fare half way through the trip, it became clear this would be harder than we thought... We managed to stumble across an apple reseller but we were disappointed. So we found the closest Starbucks, had a coffee, before heading to a movie to pass the remaining hours before our train.

We ended our time in Delhi with the pleasant surprise of being upgraded to first class for the final train leg of our trip.