Adventures, Trials and Tribulations!

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Mumbai and Hyderabad + Indian Wedding!

The second day in Mumbai was equally interesting. We went on a bike tour, which sounds a little intense in a city with constant crazy traffic jams, car weavers and endless masses, brazenly crossing the street with seemingly little regards of their lives or anything else. We woke up at 530 in the morning to start biking at 615am. The city was so quiet! (Relatively), but around 830am, the world arose all at once— children who slept on the streets started running around, and the din of honks begun, along with the masses.

Being on a bicycle was awesome! We got to discover a lot of part of the cities and see the whole place wake up. We got to see so many different markets- the fish market, the meat market, the flower market, the fruit and vegetable market, the gold market, etc

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After Mumbai, Hyderabad was a breeze. The city is clean, organized and not that crowded (relatively). We went to Ratna’s wedding ceremony, which was gorgeous, with 2000 or so people

I got to wear a saree (really hard to walk in), and Brady looks amazing in a kuga. The wedding was exceptional, with really interesting music, tradition and just a massive amount of people.

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I’m not feeling particularly awesome right now, so will continue the writing later.

Merry Christmas from Dubai and Mumbai

Dubai was absolutely something else. When we first arrived there, not knowing where to exactly go, we were blindly directed to the Mall of Dubai, one of the biggest malls in the world. A very extravagant mall which made me feel inadequate somehow :/

We went to the desert safari which would equate to an Arabian version of hawaii’s luau. We were picked up in a 4×4, dune bash in the desert, visited a camel farm, ate Arabian food, smoked shisha, sand boarded, took picture w falcon, rode a camel and watched belly dance and a Turkish dance. I thought it was fun and fitting for the very limited time we had to spend in the area.

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We were so jet lagged since we arrived in Dubai that morning at 9 am after a 37 hour trip because our original Royal Jordanian flight was cancelled. As a result, we wre transferred to British airways and had to layover in Heathrow for 9 hours. However, with my strong conviction and a little bit of tantrums, I managed to convince Brady to take me out after the desert safari to watch the Dubai Mall Fountain at 11pm that night. Man, Bellagio has nothing on this. It was beautifully choreographed, and much bigger and stronger than the Bellagio with gorgeous Arabic music.

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I had a RSVP to go up to the 122nd floor of the Burj Khalifa for drinks at the tallest bar in the world but had to compromise for a good nights sleep instead. We did, however, take awesome pics of the pretty Burj Khalifa.

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The next morning,we ventured to the Al Jumaeirah mosque for a tour of the mosque and a cultural talk on the religion and the Gulf culture. Growing up in Indonesia (most populated Moslem country in the world), I thought I had the knowledge of the tradition and religion down. Boy, was I wrong about that. The Gulf culture and it’s Moslem culture is totally different than what I know. The talk was very enriching and enlightening, totally recommended for anyone going to Dubai.
The speaker was eloquent, open and was very good at conveying her faith and why she believes in it. Definitely an eye opener for anyone who has a limited exposure to both the region and the religion (Brady).

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We met up with Aravind who took us to lunch at a Arabian buffet in the Burj Al Arab, the only “7star” hotel in the world. It was Brady’s “birthday” so we got a delicious cake out of it. Rumor has it that there are hundreds of kilos of gold incorporated in every aspect of the building, including the paint on the walls and the inlays on the floors. Definitely a major treat to be able to check that out.
It was outrageously extravagant.we got to see the part of Dubai that is definitely a portrayal of the land of the excess.

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Dubai is very diverse, with every people and culture of the world. It was exotic, intriguing and overwhelming to me.

We flew to Mumbai on the Christmas Eve and arrived at 3am the Christmas morning in our hotel.

Today (Christmas Day), has been really special. We awoke to the hot, sweaty, loud and busy Mumbai. It’s getting late and I’m getting exhausted (130am and I have to wake up at 530 in the morning for our bike tour (pray that we don’t die)), so I’ll be brief.

We got to tour the slums (Dharavi) with a very socially responsible outfit (Reality Tour)- they donate 80% of their profit for the educational development of the region! which we got to witness in the form of community center and computer center. They did an excellent job in ensuring the residents do not feel exploited (we were not allowed to take pictures ), informing us about the outrageous statistics (1 million ppl in less than 1 sq mile), and providing valuable information to help us rid of the western stigma of what slums are supposed to be. What we saw was a functioning, optimistic, and a very resourceful community. It was a very humbling experience (especially on Christmas Day) to see the other part of humanity that I am not exposed to. There were no beggars, no loiterers, etc. more thoughts on this later. Our guide was born and raised in one of the slums, spoke perfect English, educated and was able to give us great insights on how it was growing up in the slums. It is a fantastic tour and I would recommend this in a heartbeat all day any day. Do it. It offered me a great perspective of how good I have it and how wrong my perceptions of slums have been.

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Mumbai is outrageous, intense, crowded and is definitely an attack/allure on all senses. I feel at home and I can definitely spend months here to discover the city (time that I do not have ). More on tales of this mesmerizing city later, Must.sleep.

Merry Christmas, everybody. Have a good one. We are having the time of our lives and have never felt luckier.

BS Voyage 2013 comes to an end

2013 has been a good year, a GREAT year, a freaking wonderful year!!!

 

Every year I do a year book to remind both of us how luck we have been and how much more we get to look forward to. (I am uber restless)… so for 2013, here is our photobook:

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I CANNOT, repeat, CANNOT wait for another 2 work days, then,— a glorious wonderful beautiful travel ventures to Dubai and India!!!

 

I have been sooo stressed out about how things are going to turn out, and our apartment (which we will be “renting” to neighbours upstairs when we’re gone= $500!!)

I’m super stoked about the slum tour with a non exploting company (they donate 80% of profit to foster education/ community center) at Dharavi in Mumbai…. and to hang out with the most awesome people on earth, to have henna on my hands and feets, to attend an indian wedding, to be immersed in crazy crowded and frantic culture! to see the beautiful temples, experience the majesty of superficial dubai, etc etc.

 

CANT WAIT!!!

 

wowee BS Voyage, here we go again!!!

 

 

The fulfillment of the trip and our lives back in the now.

After the amazing Kepler great walk, we stated at Queenstown another night. Because it was my birthday, we thought it would be appropriate to (finally) stay in a hotel. We got a fancy hotel directly across from the lake. We roamed the night in queenstown, drank a lot of cider and I passed out in bed.

Saying bye to Kelley was difficult. Spending two weeks with another person and sharing every (waking and sleeping) moment in a very close vicinity drew us close together. We get to see so many different angles of each other’s personalities. I will remember this adventures that we shared together very fondly.

Brady and I continued our journey further down South, South to the Southern tip of the Southern Island of New Zealand. We drove through the Caitlins, up to Nelson, and finally Christchurch to get ready to fly out. Being in a car and driving through the miles (very quickly), gave me a much deeper appreciation of the simple and slow enjoyment of living on the bike. We were still amidst the same beautiful view in the car, but we were confined and our attention spans decreased again. I missed being on the bike, being submerged  in my thoughts, feeling every jolts of uneven road, feeling very thankful of smooth road, clean crips air, beautiful weather and surrounding. Being in a car made me feel that we were just tick marking destinations, things to see, without exerting much effort to get there. It took me a while to get used to it.

Christchurch was interesting for a lack of better word. My parents bought us two nights in a hotel in downtown Christchurch for my birthday. This was the first time in New Zealand and since we left that we stayed for two consecutive nights at the same place (other than Kelley’s house). Downtown Christchurch was devastated by the earthquake a year or so ago. They started redeveloping from the outside of town, working their way in, leaving the downtown barren, empty, demolished and… I guess very much affected by the earthquake still. The extent of the earthquake was prevalent and it makes me wonder how it would be if the earthquake hits the bay area (knock on wood). Other than that, it was a very nice and green city, they had parks everywhere, it was very bicycle friendly. We biked to the coast and to this amazing farmers market.

 

We also scrounged/ dumpster dived the garbage cans of a bike store to obtain boxes to fly back out.

 

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Fiji was beautiful. We stored our bikes at the airport and went with very light pack for the entire time we were there.  Mana Island is only 45 minutes away from Nadi (where the airport was), but an entirely different world. Mana island is a tiny island, but considered one of the bigger islands. One could walk the entire perimeter of the island in 2.5 hours. I honestly thought I was going to go island crazy, but it was super relaxing. After 5 days there, our speeches were so much slower and we walked like sloth, like the island people.

We went on 6 dives, all very beautiful– the sea lives were aplenty. We saw some sea turtles, lots of tuna, nemo, sharks, stingrays, etc. Even the snorkeling was amazing. All the scuba dives were boat dives, and we revolved our lives on the island around the dives and the meals. We met with very cool people and I feel so lucky to have experienced that.

Brady caught some major fish- the biggest he’s ever caught. We went fishing with the owner of the hostel we were staying at and Brady’s fish was so big that it fed everybody in the hostel.

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note: Fiji gold is better than Fiji bitter.

We also tried Kava and brought some home. It tasted like grass and I highly doubt that we’ll ever drink it.

 

Since we’ve been back, I’ve been trying to maintain the Zen. Both of us are much more appreciative of everything we have and all the possibilities that might happen in the future.

 

Looking back to the pictures, I am realizing that we looked so relaxed and happy, at ease and content. I should feel like that every day, right?

 

The Bay Area is gorgeous, especially right now, in the midst of spring. Last week we went to Mendocino for a 45 mile bike ride, through dense redwoods, along the rivers and on the coast, next to the ocean. We went camping (with firewood because it’s allowed!), outriggering in the river and consuming delicious food.

I can’t wait for the beautiful summer and the rest of this year. It will only get better. The prospect of that is overwhelming me with how grateful I have to be.

Ha. Now on to planning on the next trip.

 

 

Queenstown, Milford Sound and the Kepler Great Walk

our last day biking was from Wanaka to Queenstown via the crown range. The whole entire trip, we dubbed this range The Mount Mordor, mostly because of the daunting elevation profile shown in the biking guide book. The profile shows steady climbs to 1200 m elevation, with no breaks in between. We were all tired from our previous days of cycling. We made it pretty fast to Wanaka and kept our own paces throughout the day (as fast as we could). So our legs were tired the morning of Mt Mordor ascent.

We started fairly early after having instant noodles for breakfast. I was very nervous about the long consistent climb over 30 miles, not really realizing that it is a good thing, because it means that it was not as steep as I thought.

Our morning sunscreen ritual. For some reason, the sun is much fiercer here and even I get burned quite fast. I am developing freckles on my face. My mom would not be pleased :/

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At the top of Mt Mordor, starving and gulping down peanut butter, nuttela and honey sandwiches

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We made it to the top! Definitely not as tough as I thought, although it was steep at the top (some lengths of 14% grade)

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What followed was very steep, tour-de-France status, hair pin downhill ride.

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Celebratory drinks. The beer here is generally very weak, but the ciders are strong, yummy and laughter inducing.

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Brady is showing off his New Zealand beard.

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The day after, we leisurely woke up, rented a car, stored our bikes in Queenstown, made our way to Te Anau. It was raining pretty hard at this point and we were grateful and we had made it to Queenstown the previous day. Brady and I had decided that Queenstown will be the end of our trip, mainly because we wanted to do a ‘tramp’ (backpacking trip), and we wouldn’t have enough time to do both- biking back to Christchurch and the tramp.
We had booked an epic kayaking trip for the following morning, but heard that the Milford road going to Milford sound for the kayak trip, was closed. It was closed due to the possibility of landslide since it was the first heavy rain in months and months. We were nervous that the road would not open and also that we would be kayaking in the rain and we would not know till 730am the following morning.

We spent the night in Te Anau, watching Django Unchained in a movie theater with couches and serving wine. The next morning, turned out that the road finally opened and they would run our tour a couple of hours later so we could make it to Milford Sound in time. It was raining pretty good on the drive there. I have seen pictures of Milford Sound, and have heard plenty about it. But my oh my, the beauty of the place was definitely magnified hundreds of times in the rain. There were hundreds of small, skinny waterfalls, dropping from a thousand feet in a beautiful dainty trickles. It was absolutely jaw dropping.

View on the drive there. Absolutely stunning.

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We went with Rosco’s kayak adventure. Most definitely recommended. We had an amazing guide and I guess Kelley’s fame here lead to us being filmed for a show to be aired in the national Tv (not really, they were filming something else, but we were really filmed and it will be aired on 4/14 here, we might have to throw a premiere showing when we get back).

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We got pretty close to the bottom of the waterfall and we could definitely felt the string wind and the force of the waterfall. It was amazing. I don’t have enough superlatives to describe this experience.

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We didn’t take very many pictures during the kayak trip because it was raining and wet, but we will post pictures from Kelley’s waterproof c

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The next day, we began our journey on the Kepler track, a 60km hike that is one of the GreatWalks of Nz. There were huts along the way, with gas stove, cold running water and mattresses. We had made a booking for 2 of the huts and had planned on completing the tramp in 3 days. We arrived at the first hut fairly early and decided to skip the hut to sleep on the second hut on the first night, making it a 2 day hike.

This hike is AMAZING!!!! We gained 1400m on the first day and walked along the ridges, on the side of the mountain, above the clouds, whilst surrounded by mountain tips and view of gorgeous lakes. To attempt to describe it in words would do it injustice. See for yourself.

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The first hut.

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We are still so sore from the hike and feel like we have wooden legs. I think my calves and thighs are bruised from the long walk. I really tip my hat for the people who can run the entire length, the shortest being less than 5 hours for 60km. Whaaaa?

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Campsites

Here are a few of the pics of the campsites we have been staying at. My favorite was the Haast junction

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Not quite a campsite but this is the view from Kelley’s balcony in Wellington.

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This is from our first night of camping during the bike ride, we stayed by a big football/ rugby field in havelock. We were awoken in the middle of the night by a wild kiwi, frustratingly trying to open our take away box containing our leftover fries. This is our only sighting of wild kiwi, although we encountered a couple more road kill later in the trip.

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This is in Nelson, we had a very tiny campsite, shared with people from the Netherlands who have been trampling all around the country.

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Day 3, we stayed at Owens River Hotel, after the sandflies attack at Kawatiri Junction, where we had originally intended on camping. Even in the hotel room, we had to battle the mosquitoes and sandflies all night long.

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Day 4 at Westport, we stayed at a nice holiday park, there were lots of Weka birds around (hybrid between kiwi and duck, super awkward animal)

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Day 5 at Punakaiki beach, we slept lulled by waves crashing, 600′ away from our campsite.

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Day 6, Hokitika,, our tent site was a little weird and it felt like we were staying in someone’s backyard. It was only a block away to the beach with the most majestic sunset.

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Day 7, due to impending rain, we stayed at a backpackers facility at Harihari. It was bleak, so no pictures.

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Day 8, we stayed at a nice hostel in Franz Josef. It was raining hard. We even had our own balcony.

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Day 9& 10, stuck at Fox Glacier, it was still raining.

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Day 11, finally on the bikes again! We got to Haast junction and scored this gorgeous campsite.

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Day 12, at the quaint, quiet town of Makarora, surrounded by sheep.

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Day 13, Wanaka, we stayed by the river. No pictures 😦

Day 11, 12 and 13, Fox Glacier to Haast Junction to Makarora to Wanaka

We were excited to be back in the road again after a 2 day stint in Fox Glacier. It’s a beautiful town that consisted of one small grocery store, and 3 or so restaurants. We were ready to move on.

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We touched the beautiful coast again. Reunited and it felt so good. We had to say sweet goodbyes to the west coast rainforest (flanked by the southern alps and the Tasman sea, and is the rainiest place in NZ)

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We had lunch of rice balls from the rice left over from the previous night, lovingly wrapped in plastic.

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We stopped by a couple of lakes along the way. There were a couple of fishing boats going at it on the trouts.

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The view from the knights point was gorgeous.

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We scored a pretty sweet campsite at Haast, overlooking the mountains.

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Day 12 was absolutely gorgeous, the landscape completely changed again with the mountains towering us from every single direction. There are more sheeps now, sheeps that are bald and freshly shaven, sheeps with fro, brown sheeps, black faced sheeps, all of them afraid of us. Nonetheless, Brady still harasses them.

There are still as many sandflies/ mosquitoes/ spider/ all sort of nasty Bugs. I have boundless insect bites, and are kept awake at night scratching myself bloody and dousing myself with anti itch cream.

This is one of the many pictures of us having our lunch and battling with sandflies, doing our dance, screaming profanities and vowing our eternal hatred of sandflies.

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There were lots and lots of waterfall along the way. However, I was reluctant to stop because on this stretch, there was a very steep climb 1500′ in 5 km, averaging at 8% gradient. I don’t want to lose my flow.

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Again, we scored some sweet as campsite at the quiet town of Makarora, next to the meadows surrounded by the majestic mountains at My Aspiring.

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Today, day 13, we biked alongside both Lake Hawea and Lake Wanaka to reach Wanaka, a wonderful town (with Asian restaurants!! Yee!!) and a selection of more than 15 restaurants to choose from. And Internet (haven’t had any connection or cell reception since Fox Glacier!!).

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Brady battling with his 4th flat ( I haven’t had any!!)

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We eve on found a sweet bridge to jump from into the cool refreshing water.

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Ok, must sleep now, tomorrow is a big day, climbing the crown pass (2800′) to Queenstown with a grueling 37km of uphill.