Thursday, November 25, 2004

Ask the experts

Jo-Ann and Jeff Posted by Hello

Planning a trip to the other side of the planet is a lot easier these days with the help of the internet. There are so many travelogues available online it is almost mind boggling and google will let you know about every guidebook that could possibly be of use. Want to know the precise weather conditions in Bangalore at the moment? - no problem! In fact I would almost have to say there is too much information at hand, sometimes it is conflicting and you just don't know who is right.

I generally trust information from people's personal websites, but since you don't know the people it is hard to tell if they are over cautious or under cautious. Maybe they are poorly informed or easy to get irritated. All of which will colour their experience traveling. Additionally, travel information that is out of date by a year or perhaps many years, may no longer accurately reflect your destination.

I am really lucky because my good friends Jo-Ann (3 months in India) and Jeff (3 weeks in India) just returned from India. I have been able to ask them all sorts of obscure and inane questions, and look at their fabulous pictures. Having just been in India it is like getting the ultimate guidebook update. Although it is a bit expensive I highly recommend sending friends to your destination in advance of your trip so you can get the most up to date information. Jo-Ann (bless her soul) was even willing to accompany me on my trip as a tour guide for free - well as long as I paid for her plane ticket and traveling expenses. That is a true friend indeed. Not only did these two stalwart adventurers successfully navigate the challenges of Mother India, Jeff also proposed at the Taj Mahal at dawn - and perhaps more importantly Jo-Ann accepted! Congratulations!

Check out Jo-Ann's blog (She was in India Sep/Oct/Nov 2004).

Wednesday, November 24, 2004

Packing List

All my stuff! Posted by Hello

For you gear freaks (like me) here is what I am bringing:


- Backpack (35L)
- Small daypack (14L rolled up in main pack)


- Travel pants
- Shorts x 2
- Tank top x 1
- T-shirts x 2
- Long Sleeve T-shirt
- Thin soft shell jacket


- sandals
- trail runners


- baseball cap
- sunglasses
- Socks x 3 pr
- Underwear x 3 pr
- Bandana x 2


- T-brush & paste
- gel body wash
- Razor x 2
- Travel towel
- Nail clippers
- tweezers
- lipbalm

First Aid

- Mini- F/A kit
- Tylenol
- Imodium
- Eye drops


- Digital camera
- Charger
- Extra battery
- Extra memory cards (512MB x 3)
- Power adapter plugs
- Cables


- LED key chain light
- small folding knife


- Rough Guide India
- Notebook + 1 pen & 1 highlighter


- Passport
- Visa
- Medical insurance
- Important phone numbers
- Spare document info


- VISA & AMEX cards
- Traveler’s Cheques ($400USD in $50's)
- Cash $100USD (in $20's)


- Flags(poi) x 1 pair
- Silk sleeping bag liner
- Safety pins
- Drain stopper
- Rubber clothesline
- Duct tape
- Mosquito net
- Eye shade
- Ear plugs
- lock for room or locker
- Zip lock bags
- Water bottle sling
- money belt or neck pouch (not sure which??)

Tuesday, November 23, 2004

Delusions of Grandeur

My faithful travelling companion - Mr. Back Pack Posted by Hello

It seems actually trying to put all the things on my packing list into my backpack was a lot harder than I had anticipated. In fact it was totally impossible! I momentarily thought about using a bigger pack, but that wasn’t the right direction to go in. So I listened to Scot and ruthlessly (for me) went through the pile of gear on my bed and selected the critical items. The end result is about 30L of stuff in my pack weighing 15lbs – much better!

Two things that were difficult to give up were all my books (except for my guidebook) and my music. Scot had even suggested I ditch the guidebook, but I just couldn’t. I don’t know enough about Indian history to travel around knowledgably without it. I am not concerned about accommodation or food recommendations, but I think I will really appreciate having some history and cultural context for the places I visit – and should it not prove to be worth its weight I can always give it away enroute.

My first thought was that having music with me was essential, but after a bit of reflection I came to the conclusion that it was not critical and it might be better to let India provide the soundtrack for my travels. It would be quite easy for me to insulate myself from what is going on around me by putting on my head phones and burying my head into a book – which is not what I want to do.

Looking at my small backpack I know that by bringing less stuff I will have more room for India on my travels.

Tuesday, November 09, 2004

Flags, rags and small bags

moontribe FMG Sept 2004 Posted by Hello

I have downsized my luggage for this trip three times. My plan is to take a 35L backpack for my travels around India. I kept going smaller and smaller because I know how much crap I am tempted to take with me and how little I will enjoy carrying it. The only trouble now is the hard choices I have to make so everything will fit. I have all the clothing worked out, toiletries and such. What remains is the "fun" stuff that will keep me entertained. I definitely want some books and so far I have whittled it down to: The Rough Guide to India, Light on the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali by BKS Iyengar and a translation of the Tao Te Ching. I am not sure if I can fit all that in my pack, but I will try - worst case I am dumping the Tao Te Ching - my apologies to Lao-tzu. I will bring my discman and 20 cds full of MP3s - so about 50 albums worth of music. I can strap my yoga mat to the outside of my pack so that doesn't take up any room and it gives me something to sleep on if things get rough. Finally I will bring along a couple sets of flags - they pack really small and India seems like a country where whirling neon fabric around in the air to music would fit right in. One day soon I am going to have to try packing everything and face the reality that I have way too much stuff to fit, and I will have to make some more hard choices. After all what is more important underwear or CDs???...=-)

I am not sure what to do about the things I will want to buy along the way. There won't be any room in my pack, but I am hoping I can mail stuff back to my Dad in Kolkata. I will bring a couple duffel bags with me, to leave in Kolkata, so I can haul all my loot home. If you have any special gift requests let me know.

Maximum Cow

I just finished a couple excellent books that I thought someone might be interested in. Maximum City by Suketu Mehta is a fantastic literary exploration of Mumbai (Bombay). He investigates the Bombay underworld, the bollywood movie industry, the sex trade and the religious life (and strife) of this fascinating city. He is an honest observer who is critical about his subject matter (and himself), but also exceptionally compassionate. He returned home to Bombay, the city he grew up in as a child, to see if you can ever really go back once you are an expatriate - a question that I ponder more and more as my trip grows closer.

A less serious read is Holy Cow by Sarah Macdonald. She backpacked around India in her early twenties and hated it - vowing never to return. Fate, however, had other plans and she found herself back in India to join her fiance. She documents her travels and experiences - focusing largely on her attempts to understand India's various religious/spiritual communities. This book is easy to read and in turns hilarious and sad. I really enjoyed her perspective on love, spirituality and the sacred space many of us have found between speaker stacks.

I have copies of both these books I can lend out - just let me know.

Tuesday, November 02, 2004

Joshua Tree - you gotta love it!

Vik at Joshua Tree 2004 Posted by Hello

Sorry this pic has nothing to do with India, but I like it a lot so I posted it here. Although I will be visiting Josuha Tree in December just before heading to India, so I suppose there is a tenuous connection!

BTW - if you have never visited Joshua Tree I would highly recommend it. The landscape is fabulous and has plenty of opportunities for hiking, scrambling, climbing and general outdoor mischief.

Click on the title of this post if you want more info.

My First Blog

Well I guess this is the first post in my spanking new blog. I have resisted the blog in the past and was planning on continuing my anti-blogging stance, but Jo-Ann's blog ( was so much fun to read that it convinced me I had to accept change in my life.

I also really liked being able to track down her blog from whatever computer I was on at the moment. That was really useful!

If I can find computers with compact flash card readers on them I will even be posting pics from the road.

General Trip Info:

6 Jan - 27 Mar 2005

I will be starting and ending my trip in Kolkata where my father has an apartment.

I plan on getting an India Rail Pass and traveling to Goa for the full moon at the end of January. From there I will work my way South till I run out of land and then start back up the middle of the country on my way to Agra, Allahabad, Varansi and finally Kolkata for my return flight.

If you want to email me I will be checking regularly - now that hotmail has increased my storage to 250MB feel free to send me your witty comments, pictures, music, etc...

On my way back to Calgary I will be hitting up the March 2005 moontribe FMG. If any of you want to meet up for a little dancing under the full moon in the mojave desert - just let me know and we'll work out the details.

BTW - I will be documenting the planning and preparation I do for my trip in case it is helpful for somebody who is going to travel to India. If you just want to read about the trip itself, skip to Jan 6, 2005.