7 September 2014

Tour of Britain, Liverpool

The annual Tour of Britain cycle race has increased in popularity over the last couple of years thanks to the success of British cycling and stars like Bradley Wiggins and Mark Cavendish, both of who are in the race this year.  The first stage was a 8 times around a 12km loop along Liverpool waterfront to Sefton Park, with the finish in front of the Royal Liver Building.
Here was the peleton rolling away at the start of the afternoon.  Then soon speeding up around the circuit.
There was an early breakaway of 4 riders who did gain a couple of minutes over the group.
Before being reeled in by the peleton. On the front here was Omega-Pharma Quickstep, with Team Giant and Team Sky helping the pace along.  It was Team Giant who were successful in the end, setting up their spring man Marcel Kittel for the victory.

6 July 2014

Le Tour de France, England

This year the Grand Departe of Le Tour de France was in Yorkshire, England.  The first day was from Leeds to Harrogate.  We went to watch on the second day of York to Sheffield.
We walked up above Rochdale to the hills about half way along the stage.  I am a fan of cycling but I was amazed at the turn out of the British public to watch the race.  Here are a few snapshots as the race sped past.

12 June 2014

New Delhi, India

Well I was back in New Delhi for the last few days of my trip.  I didnt worry about doing too much sight seeing, instead spending the last couple of days relaxing in the south delhi suburb of Greater Kalish.  Being in south delhi its a newer suburb and abit nicer than the old part of the city, with plenty of places to go out and eat or have a drink.  After going the cinema up the road I did pass by the Lotus Temple to take a final photo.
I have ticked off a few more places in India this year, but still left with plenty of places to visit. Until next time India.

10 June 2014

Shimla, Himachal Pradesh, India

After finally leaving the very relaxing and comfortable Old Manali I got the bus back down the valley to Shimla.  Known as the summer capital of India it sits high in the hills along a ridge with views of all around, a busy little town very popular with indian tourists who venture into the hills to escape the heat of further down.
I had a pleasant morning stroll along the ridge out to the Viceroy Lodge, built in 1888 for British Viceroys, it looks more like an old scottish castle.
Shimla is also famous for its toy train that leads up from Kalka around 100km down the hills, it passes through over 100 tunnels and there are several hundred bridges as the train climbs up.  I couldn't get a ticket to ride the train down as they were sold out but here is the local station, with a local clearly enjoying his work.
There is also the second oldest church built in india in 1844, it looks very english set up on the hillside.
And finally I should say the food in Shimla was good, nice and spicy curries as they were targeted for the local tourists, as I think many places don't make the food spicy as they think westerners can't eat too spicy food, but I certainly can and this was a really good thali, I had rice on the side too.

30 May 2014

Manali, Himachal Pradesh, India

So still residing in Old Manali, the weather has been a little rainy on a few days but on the other days the sun has been shining so I've been out and about walking up the hills and valley.  Old Manali has a very laid back atmosphere with lots of backpacker cafes and shops; had some good company at my guest house so we have spent time trying the different restaurants and having some good meals out. It is set up on the hillside above the river, with new manali set further down and a much busier little Indian town.  These photos were taken after walking up above Old Manali on a trail which leads to the next village a few kilometres around the hillside.
 To get down to New Manali you have a choice, follow the busy road complete with infinite amount of taxis and none stop horn honking or take the calming stroll through the nature park, which is more like a forest full of cedar trees.

26 May 2014

Vashisht, Himachal Pradesh, India

Currently staying in the little backpackers village of Old Manali, set in the Kullu Valley. Fantastic scenery all around here.  These few are from walking across the river and north up along the valley to near the village of Vashisht and up to a waterfall.

Whilst these couple are from a walk alot further up the valley today passing through a couple of local villages; stopping for chai on the way; then climbing above the village of Palchan for this view.

20 May 2014

Mcleod Ganj, Dharamsala, Himachal Pradesh, India

I spent over a week relaxing in Mcleod Ganj.  It has a large Tibetan community and is the seat of the Tibetan government in exile, as the Dalai Lama came to live here in 1959 when he fled Tibet.
I learnt a fair bit about the history of Tibet visiting the museum and Tsuglagkhang complex which is where the Dalai Lama resides.  Here are some of the local monks who were all very friendly.

To learn more about Tibetan crafts we visited the Norbulingka Institute which houses Tibetan refugees and teaches them the traditional arts and crafts to help them make a living and keep the traditions alive.  The painting below had been worked on for over 6 months and the level of detail was amazing.
 This men was crafting statues of Buddha from copper to sell.
Finally the countryside around Dharamsala was fantastic, the next village over was Bhagsu where I walked up to a little waterfall up the valley.

17 May 2014

Triund, Dharamsala, Himachal Pradesh, India

So after a nearly a week not feeling too great in Delhi, I finally got an overnight train up to Pathankot.  I must add here that I nearly missed, well I did miss my stop at 6:30 in the morning and had to jump off the train somewhat after the station itself.  Anyway about 4 hours on local buses got me from Pathankot upto Dharamsala.
I am actually staying in Mcleod Ganj (Upper Dharamsala), which is the seat of the Tibetan Government in excile and where the Dalai Lama himself resides (when he is not travelling overseas doing public speaking).
Its been a very relaxing week here so far and have enjoyed trying the tibetan food. But I will post more pictures from in the town itself later.
As yesterday we did a great day trek some 9km from Mcleod Ganj, and 1000m climb in elevation to the top of Triund hill for a view of the surrounding mountains.
 Here is a view back towards the village on our way up.
It took us around about 4 hours to make the 9/10km hike, but there are a few chai shops on the way where we stopped for tea and some biscuits to keep our energy up.  You can just make out one of the refreshment shacks in the photo below.
We kept going and where eventually rewarded with the amazing views at the top, obviously we were pretty damn tired by this point but the scenery and mountains where worth it.  We had climbed up over 1000m over the course of the day to an elevation of 2975m.

After having noodles for lunch at the top it took us over 3 hours to wind our way back down, what a day.

8 May 2014

IPL T20 Cricket, Delhi, India

So after the past 2 weeks in hot Rajasthan doin a tourist trail of forts and palaces I got the train upto Delhi. I had a reason to hang around for a few days as I had tickets to a couple  of this year's Indian Premier League twenty20 cricket matches. 
The game the other night was under floodlights and I was in the east side stand.
Unfortunately Delhi Daredevils lost the match, but I wasn't too worried about the result more just watching a good game.
The second match was an afternoon kick off and I had fantastic seats on the 2nd level off north east stand behind the wicket, what a view of the action.

3 May 2014

Thar Desert, Rajasthan, India

So here is the real reason to visit the town of Jaisalmer as its main tourist attraction is trips out into the surrounding desert.  There are numerous options and different places to see but the general theme of the trip is camel trekking out in the desert, seeing sand dunes and getting to sleep out under the stars.
And it did start well, we left late on in the afternoon to avoid the highest temperatures, set off in a jeep to get out of the town by about 50km and started our camel riding.  Which was good fun but I am glad it was not for long as I have a bruised/sore backside today and we were probably only on the camels for an hour or so.

After we reached an area of sand dunes this was to be our camp for the night.  Whilst the guides set about unloading the camels and getting a fire started to cook the evening meal we climbed up the sand dunes to see the sunset (although it was rather cloudy) and take some more photos.

We had a good time here and a local kid had walked several miles out to the dunes so he could make a few rupees selling us a beer to enjoy the evening with.
Unfortunately I should first say that the evening before whilst sitting on my guesthouse rooftop there was alot of lightening.  This was turning about to be the case out in the desert this night also, whilst finishing our freshly prepared veg curry, rice and chapatis the guides told us it would probably be best if we didn't stay out in the desert due to the lightening and it may rain.  Obviously we were disappointed but listened to them and had to make a move back.  There was correct in getting us to return as no sooner had we set off did it start pouring down, wind swirling around and great forks of lightening.  We still got abit wet driving back in the jeep, we stopped in the local guides house for abit whilst the storm let up then carried on along a somewhat flooded road back to Jaisalmer where they got us a guesthouse for the night.
So an interesting evening, we didn't get to see the stars; I guess the weather can't be helped, but I did get to go camel riding and see the sand dunes, maybe next time I'll get to sleep out in the desert.

2 May 2014

Jaisalmer, Rajasthan, India

So after another long hot and bumpy local bus some 6 hours from Jodhpur I reached Jaisalmer.  Abit different from the other places I've visited recently as its on the edge of the desert (as you'll see in the next post) and here the old fort is the centre of town and locals still live throughout it.  Just a few snaps of the town and fort itself.

30 April 2014

Jodhpur, Rajasthan, India

Still battling with the soaring temperatures here as its been over 40 degrees; maybe as high as 45 degrees; therefore its been a struggle to do a great deal here in the blue painted city of Jodhpur.  I'm not exactly sure why many of the old buildings are painted this light shade of below except for the reason of tradition,  one of the possible reasons is the Indian caste of Brahmins took to painting their houses blue and alot of them live in Jodhpur, apparently mosquitos aren't attracted to the colour so that is a bonus.  Beneath that is the portrait of an old gentlemen who insisted I stop and took his portrait so I obliged.
That was on my way up to the Mehrangarh fort that looks over the city perched on a 300 meter high hill commanding views over the city.  Lastly not far from the fort was Jaswant Thada a white marble memorial to a famous Maharaja.

Next stop is Jaisalmer for a camel trek, then Delhi for some cricket, then i'll head further north upto Himchal Pradesh, where it shall be cooler and I can stop complaining about the temperature.

27 April 2014

Udaipur, Rajasthan, India

Been in Udaipur a few days and have seen the numerous sights, including the palaces.  Udaipur is an old city and has been seat of the local royal family or maharajahs for hundreds of years.  The main City Palace and its grounds is the largest in Rajasthan and I explored round the palace museum that shows off the traditional rooms and courtyards, it was quite labyrinth with passages winding up and down to the living quarters or entertainment halls.
Perhaps what came to my mind when I thought of Udaipur is the famous Lake Palace though, built in 1754 and used as the summer time palace.  More recently made famous as the backdrop to scenes in the James Bond film Octopussy, hence why many restaurants show this film every night.  Nowadays the palace is a very exclusive and expensive hotel, so I could not get a closer look at it on its tiny island on the lake.
Another slightly different tourist attraction is the collection of vintage and classic cars that have been owned by the royal family here over the past several decades.  With another James Bond link in here as there was a 1934 Rolls Royce Phantom that was also used in the film Octopussy.  Among other cars were huge classic Cadillacs, Fords and a couple of Mercedez, great to see and many of them still run, one of the older Rolls Royce cars had been entered into a classic car presentation over in California a couple of years ago.
Finally here is 3 happy local guys on a little street stall near the park preparing what I had for lunch after visiting the cars, they were making Aloo Paratha (potato stuffed fried breads) served with curd and curry, probably one of my favourite Indian breakfast/lunch meals.