Sunday, May 30, 2010

where can I get a job like that?

2 years ago Nepal elected the 601 boofheads I referred to earlier to write a constitution, and as you all know they were running out of time. Well Friday was their deadline, and all of a sudden there was a flurry of official cars whizzing to and fro, people trying to make last minute deals and general watching of TV all day by the 'denizens of the Valley'. When I got home just after 10pm, the TV was showing all the female parliamentarians standing up and jeering non stop while the countdown clock ticked down the minutes. I gave up and went to sleep. I awoke yesterday to discover that these people who were given a 2 year contract which they failed to fulfil had voted to give themselves another 12 months to fail. How fantastic!
So no strikes, for now, but the PM (who was rejected by the voters but still got to run the country?!@*) will be resigning and the race is on to decide who will be next in charge. It looks as though the Maoists will have another turn at the job, many favour Prachanda who was the recent Maoist PM, although the Indians are said to favour Maoist number 2, Dr Bhattarai, because he went to Nehru University in India.....
I had to endure another evening of no sleep when I was invaded by mice the other evening, who managed to get into my unopened emergency supply of pretzels. Munch munch crunch all night! So Keshab and I constructed a barricade on the balcony door which seems to have kept the rascals out for the last 2 nights.

 And here is my fabulous balcony!

Robin is now having a day off at another hot a-springs place called Laya, and has only about 2 weeks left to trek in Bhutan. And I think he will be pretty pleased to stop.
Meanwhile I have a very busy day today - breakfast, Sunday roast at the Sterling Club (today this is chicken with peach pie for dessert) with a friend, trying on the outfit for the wedding, and a party down the road. Phew.
Thamel has been rather busy the last few nights as the last of the mountaineering expeditions returns. But I expect that they will all be going home in the next few days as they tend not to hang around too long, since they have probably been away for 2 months or more.
And in regional news, police in the Punjab in India have arrested a pigeon for spying. The pigeon was spotted by a 'vigilant villager' (try saying that after a few drinks) and was discovered with a Pakistani phone number on a ring around its leg, and police believe it may have carried a note - which they haven't found yet! The pigeon is being held in solitary confinement. I have no idea how they plan to interrogate it.
Just in case you don't believe me:spying pigeon nabbed by cops
Right then, bed tea has arrived so I'm off.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

but wait there's more....

electricity that is! I have been driving myself nuts using it - don't ask me what the hell I have achieved though. I still haven't ironed anything!
Right, so Robin made it over the 2nd highest pass in Bhutan and is now somewhere called Narithang - it's amazing what a difference having a map can make. I got up at 3 this morning to get a forecast off the net for him, so am a bit dopey....Just because there is power doesn't mean the internet works.
Got my bangles for the wedding - all nice married ladies have armsful of bangles and I couldn't be left out! Not that anyone could mistake me for a nice married lady.
My Nepali friends and I have been busy solving all of Nepal's problems. We all seem to agree that it is the fault of the 601 parliamentarians - rabid dogs or crazy monkeys depending on who you talk to! I can't believe that every month for the last 2 years each of these useless bums collected Rs 1 lakh (100,000 rupees or about $AUD2k - a fair bit for this place) and they have managed, in general, to achieve precisely nothing to benefit the local people. It is bad enough when it happens in the west, where at least most people have a house, water, medical care. But here it just sucks. Many people are thinking it's time for a different sort of government. Like not a democracy - considering that the hapless fellow who is PM (MK Nepal) was rejected by all voters and yet still runs the country (if that is indeed what he is doing) I think anything would be better, and I'm not the only one. A friend of mine says that the only reason Nepal isn't a failed African state is that it isn't in Africa!

Today is Buddha Jayanti, so Happy Birthday to Lord Buddha.

Tomorrow is the last day for the parliament to get it's act together. Saturday is Republic Day - and also probably the day when people take to the streets egged on by the Maoists to protest about the useless government. And Sunday is Roast Lunch day at the Sterling Club - this month is roast chicken with peach pie and ice cream YUM. Taking my mate Sarah to that.
Went for a swim yesterday as the weather was pretty steamy - and what a lovely swim it was too!
And here's a quote I read in the paper yesterday about the missing doctor I have been telling you about : "The cops are not able to solve this complicated crime conundrum." FANTASTIC. In news about raids on 'massage parlours' in town : "The police caught them in the midst of their involvement in objectionable activities." Excellent work.
There is now another person signed up for the full Nepal traverse next year with World Expeditions. Please, if you are thinking of a trek check out the WE GHT trips - you will be part of something new and exciting, and you'll be helping Nepal as well as having a great holiday.

And here as promised is a photo of a large plate of that Bhutanese delicacy Emai Datsu or cheese curry. MMMMMMMM.
Thanks to my sister for keeping me informed on mum - expect an email after I digest the current news - which is only slightly more palatable than the cheese curry I think!
Well the rain has started again, and I just finished a splendid hot chocolate so I might wander home and grab a hot shower before the water goes cold on me!

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Bhatti drives me batty

that's right the electricity situation here is driving me nuts. In theory we have 12 hrs every day of power cuts, all nicely arranged and duly notified, so that you can plan when to be home and when you can go out. The last few days we have had some huge storms that go for 10 hours or more, which increases the water level in the rivers, and the amount of hydro power.
So the powers that be very kindly just leave the switch on, so we all get more power. Problem is, you never know when they will turn it off. An hour ago I was stuck in netbanking, email and weather forecasting when it went off, so have now come out to a cafe to finish what I started. I am enjoying a rather good mango smoothie while I work so it could be worse.
I've not gone back to the pool because all the rain will have made the pool even colder than it was on Saturday. And I am such a wuss.
Had dinner and drinks last night with Billi and some friends of hers from her hometown Garmisch in Germany. we went to a Bhutanese restaurant for dinner - and boy am I taking my own food when I visit next month! More on that later. I tried to upload a photo of the cheese curry  but the website spat it out.
There has been a huge dump of snow at Everest Base Camp, and Makalu was apparently way too cold to summit.The rescues on Dhaulagiri, Annapurna and Manaslu this season are quite the talk of the mountaineering community - a joint venture between Nepali Fishtail Air and Swiss Air Zermatt has proven that it is possible to rescue above 6000m. Read more about it here:
We now have the youngest climber: Jordan Romero aged 13. He has completed the Seven Summits - quite an achievement. And as for the nutty British chap who swam across the glacial lake under Mt Pumori - why?
And speaking of why, Robin has another big pass on Thursday, then they arrive in a place called Laya - if I had a decent map I could find it - and then it is 'all downhill' from there. They got soaked yesterday, just as I predicted, and were lucky enough to pal up with the forest officer who comes originally from Nepal, so he let them stay in his house and warm up by the pot belly stove. 
On yesterday's topic of the missing doctor, apparently an investigation has discovered that he is OK and will return home in a few days. What does that mean? Did he go to India to the Bata shoe shop? A quick trip to Lhasa? How vague and irritating.
Looks like none of my photos want to upload today so you will just have to go without.
Bye for now!

Monday, May 24, 2010

then it started to rain

A LOT. I had to hole up in the after hours office for AGES last night to avoid being drowned. But it meant that the views this morning were great! Mind you, I think I drowned on the inside!
So what have I been up to since Saturday afternoon? Well I went back to the pool and jumped in - the water was about 10 degrees colder than the pool in Delhi and it was all I could do to stay in it, but once I got swimming it was sorta OK. I need to eat some cement and harden up apparently!
Didn't end up going to the press conference for the Spanish climber, but stayed in town on Saturday night - not that it was very busy. Most of the trekking is finished for the season, so most tourists have left. Not so many people are going to Tibet at the moment (this is the best time of year) and there are still a few mountaineering groups in the hills waiting to summit. There has been some dreadful weather this season, and it was good to see that there is now a Nepali/Swiss operation doing mountain rescues and air ambulance.
Yesterday I tried to make an inventory of my trekking gear here - I currently have 6 tote bags and a barrel in the room - and that took me most of the morning. Outrageous. I had intended to do some internetverke, but the net dropped out badly for most of the day. Maybe this is why:

Anyway, it seems OK now. Robin is now safely over the worst of the Snowman trek, and is now going to be heading south rather than west. At least now I can pinpoint where he is on the map, which makes it easier when I try to forecast the weather.
Today's mission was to find an outfit for the wedding next month. I made sure I had permission from the father of the bride NOT to wear a sari! So it was time to get a kurta salwar made up - the long top and pants outfit that you see everywhere. I was quite surprised that I got something that I think will look good in the second shop I went to. You select the material for the top then the pants then the scarf then get measured - talk about complicated. All I can say is that it is purple and it does have sequins - you can't be seen at a wedding here without sequins! And thank goodness the bride came with me to help me choose.
And in crazy local news, a doctor in the Terai disappeared on his way home from work the other day. His car and briefcase have been found in different locations, but no trace of him, and no ransom demand (kidnapping important people is a popular pastime here). So yesterday the Nepal Medical Association called a strike of all staff to protest against the government 'failing to reveal the missing doctor's whereabouts.' I kid you not. If the doctor is not 'produced' within 3 days there will be a national strike of all medical staff until the doctor is found. Is it just me, or does that sound so completely batty I couldn't possibly be making it up?
I love this country but I wonder why sometimes...

Saturday, May 22, 2010

let's all go climb Everest

I feel so left out - everyone it seems is busy climbing and I am just lazing around. Well not really, I have been SO busy I can't begin to tell you.
I finally managed to join a swimming pool nearby. For the princely sum of Rs 3000 (less than 50 bucks AUD) I can wander up the back lane to the Malla Hotel pool anytime I like - even in a strike - and swim myself stupid - yes it may not take long!
Met up with an old friend for brekky yesterday, then a different one for lunch, and some more for drinkies and dinner last night.
Had 2 opportunities to lie in as Robin didn't ring me yesterday or today at stupid o'clock. He rang me this afternoon while I was having a wonderful massage to let me know he made it safely over the pass (sorry I can't tell you which one) and was worn out. He is now heading for a campsite near a village where he hopes to recharge his sat phone battery. Now that the south west monsoon has hit India, and the cyclone has hit the east coast, weather forecasting just got a whole lot trickier. I rely quite a bit on what the Everest and Kanch climbers are up to as that gives me an indication of what the jetstream is doing.
And my goodness what a lot of climbers there have been: the 13 year old who just became the youngest to get up the big E, Miss Oh from South Korea who recently became the first woman to climb all 14 8000m peaks, and Edurne Pasabane who became the second, and is disputing Miss Oh's claim that she climbed Kanchenjunga. There always seems to be some sort of scandalous palaver, and I guess this is the one for pre monsoon 2010. At least it makes a change from people arguing about who should have tried to save a dying climber instead of stepping over them on the way down. You can expect some more mountaineering news in the weeks to come. And perhaps I will also have news on a missing solo female trekker who disappeared a few weeks ago in the Helambu area north of Kathmandu - the area has had quite a few lone trekkers disappear never to be found. You should ALWAYS go trekking with another person you know and trust.
Meantime I have been enjoying some unexpected bhatti (electricity) - got to watch an Akshay Kumar flick the other day. He is too cute and frankly he can put his chappals under my charpoi any day!

Thursday, May 20, 2010

The joy of phones

Another warm fun day in the 'du. Met up with some friends at the after hours office yesterday - the Professor (who isn't really a professor) was in a very good mood which means one thing - he will hug you all night! And then I was lucky enough to run into him this morning as well! Lots of mates are coming back to town now so I am never surprised who I bump into on the street.
This morning I went to immigration to extend my visa which runs out next week. usually it takes several hours, so you go and come back and waste all day basically. To my complete surprise, for the sum of only Rs 500 (less than 10 bucks) I could get it issued in 10 minutes. So of course I took advantage of this 'offer'.
Now that I am back in Nepal it is very difficult for Robin to call me in the afternoon/evening as the mobile network here is completely jammed. The 'best' time for him to get through is 6am. Or so he thinks! So here is what our phone calls sound like:
ring ring (well it is a Punjabi dance song but you know what I mean)
good morning darling how are you? It is a beautiful day here.
are you in bed?
so how was the engagement party?
mrph blmph sari glub beautiful glmph rsft food
oh that sounds great! Packing the yaks now so I'll go and I'll call you tomorrow. Go back to sleep now.
Love you too.

So romantic!
For some reason we have had extra electricity yesterday and today but of course because it is unannounced nobody knows when it is coming or for how long. So I never use the bonus time for banking!
Speaking of which, new banking rules here and in India are a real pain in the butt. In order to combat money laundering in both countries, the maximum withdrawal at an ATM is Re10,000 in India, and Rs15,000 in Nepal. BUT you can make up to 5 withdrawals in a day. So that stops people laundering money HOW???? So the queues at the ATM are very long now as people try to get enough money out to pay for a trek or whatever.
Only another 8 days till the deadline for the constitution passes without it being written - and we are all expecting trouble, which is why I got a multi entry visa just in case I decide to scoot off somewhere if the situation gets bad. Though Bangkok doesn't look like an option! And I can't go back to India (in theory) for 2 months - another new rule to combat terrorism. Don't ask. Pakistan looks nice? or Bangladesh for a beach holiday?  Perhaps Tibet would let me in now!
Well, here's a picture of the view I get in my after hours office:

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Cheers from the 'du

why is it 10 degrees cooler here in Nepal than it was in India, and yet I feel hotter? It's quite sticky, and of course no power and I've not joined a pool yet.

So I arrived yesterday afternoon after flying west along the Himalaya - which I could see above the clouds at about 5500m. managed to get to the immigration counter first, which meant I had a long wait for luggage. It's good to be back with all my friends and family here, so I celebrated by having a few at Sams last night and trying to catch up on all the gossip.

Today was my Nepali niece's engagement and I took my friend Billi along, so I wouldn't be the only foreigner there. And here we all are looking bemused by the entire thing! Yashu is the one in the red sari with the grass necklace thing. She and I bought that sari for her mum as a present a few years ago - it's the 'best' in the family.

I was supposed to go to another friend's housewarming puja (blessing) but didn't know where her new house is, and couldn't get her on the phone, so I fell asleep instead, bathed in sweat because there was no power! It is easy enough to adjust to stumbling round in the dark, but when it gets to about 2pm and there's no breeze you just conk out. Even the burglars wouldn't be bothered!
Robin seems to have gotten some luck. We (the people in Bhutan) and I failed to get anything definitely organised, but then some random guy wandered up to him yesterday and announced that he would go across the pass and gets some yaks, and come back this evening to take them over. How weird.
In Nepal of course the focus at this time of year is mountaineering expeditions, many of which are trying for the summit as we speak - well as I write anyway. Seems we are all keeping an eye on the weather. Robin seems to be out of the bad patch he's had for 6 weeks now - would that be called something more than a patch?
Gotta go to the immigration office tomorrow to extend my visa, and see if one of the nearby hotels wants to make some money by letting me into their pool.

Oh, here's a picture of some desserts we had in Delhi:
this was Indian Summer - all mango - even the egg. Mango creme brulee, green mango something something and mango with fresh berries

This was Devna's chocolate fondant - love the hat - with mango icecream and berries and hot chocolate sauce inside. And yes thanks, it did taste as good as it looks.

I now have another hour of power left today - it was off for 6 hours then it only comes for 3 on Wednesday after 10am - looks like I won't get a lot done on any Wednesday!
And look, now it's nearly cocktail o'clock! Cheers you lot.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Thanks India

Well here I am at yet another airport using free wifi. Can you believe I was only charged Re100 per kg this morning for my excess. So I still have some unusable overseas 500 notes to try to get rid of.
Well last night Manish, his lovely wife Devna and I went to Olive and made complete gutses of ourselves - I still have some of my pasta in my hand luggage to eat on the flight maybe, and Manish took home a pile of stuff! Thanks to both of them for coming with me.
Robin is having lots of dramas with horses, 2 died yesterday and it looked like they were going to be stuck or would have to cancel the trip. Lots of frantic calls on yesterday and first thing this morning, but it looks like we will be able to get some fresh pack animals and some help to get over the pass, although the locals are charging an exorbitant fee to clear a trail and come over - because they can. It took all my patience and then some to deal with that yesterday and this morning, especially as I managed to somehow lose my airline ticket in the airport - good thing it didn't really matter and I got checked in anyway.
think I'll try to snooze on the flight - got a legroom window seat, and I even have 7 days left on my old visa so just have to extend it sometime this week.
So again, thanks India that was TOPS!
See you all from Nepal, and Manish - keep in touch cos karaoke friends are forever!

Bored security staff in one of Nepal's many strikes

Monday, May 17, 2010

If that was a weekend I've had it!

And in future I must try to get to bed a little earlier. Benningans was packed on Saturday night - there were even a few other non locals there. One big guy called Ben did the most hilarious version of Backstreet Boys I've ever seen. I'm still not convinced about 2 guys singing Britney but what the hell! Got to bed about 2.30 from that escapade after I got home and did a spot of laundry (yes stop laughing). Sunday was spent lazing and reading the paper till it was time to go to the hair do emporium - only 5 minutes walk but I thought I would melt anyway. Oddly enough there weren't many other people wandering around! After a lunch treat at the cafe I bought a squillion magaines and wandered home just before sir rang. He hadn't actually gone anywhere yesterday (except back to the hot springs) because the horsemen refused to go on, and so they wasted most of the day using up phone $$ getting them to agree after being instructed, to go for another 2 days. This all sounds so fabulously irritating.
So last night I was off to Ice Lounge - I was advised in the morning that the driver would be around so I had a shower and got dressed and came downstairs only to be met with the now familiar blank stares. I had to call the dodgy cab company twice before a vehicle came - a minibus with not only no a/c but no suspension either. Now that's what I call torture. But it was cheap!!! I avoided the microphone (just) despite repeated requests (what is WRONG with these people??) but didn't avoid the dance floor after karaoke. It's been a while between discos for me.
Oh and I watched Australia get done in the T20 as well, so now I owe Manish 5 rupees. Better pay up before I try to leave town tomorrow.
So today, as it is my last here, I think I'll hang at the pool then I have a dinner date which I can tell you all about tomorrow! If there is any power in Kathmandu.
Here's why there mightn't be!

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Getting warmer.....

especially when the power goes out. Eeeeewww last night was so lovely. Lucky I had a supply of previously cold drinks to rely on. And a shopping bag of ice cubes....
Not much has occurred today - pool where there were a few more people because it's Saturday - and answer me this - why do people seem to not feel that they need to supervise their kiddies in a pool which has other grown ups in it? I don't go there to watch your darlings madam, I go to SWIM. So if you are going to wander off and gossip on your phone, get the kiddies out of the pool! There that is my whinge for the day.
Robin rang me after a 4 hour stint in the hot a-springs where it was actually warmer than Delhi. He sounds like he had a great time! A lot of up tomorrow and the weather forecast I sent is not looking too flash so fingers crossed that it is only bad in the morning. I didn't tell you that he ran into some non-Bhutanese yesterday - a Polish couple who were going up and down the boggy trail just to go to the hot a-springs.

Big news day today:

The bus was loaded on top with wedding gifts including an almirah (metal 'wardrobe') and it hit an overhead powerline and zapped everyone, who you can see piled up outside the bus.

The Delhi council has banned all tongas (horse drawn carts) from the streets - an old fashioned 'country' way to get around. many farmers used them to bring things to market. Now there is nowhere for them to go, but I'm not sure why the horse is in a pit.

And my personal favourite:

I love the way it so isn't an Indian girl in the photo. I want to go visit the Anti Obscene Calls Cell - I reckon that would be a hoot.

I'm off to the anti bad hair day joint tomorrow so hopefully will look less like a mop gone wrong in my next pic - where I will also attempt to NOT be wearing that brown shirt.

Karaoke again tonight at GKII - I shall try not to be too late but leave a light on just in case!

Friday, May 14, 2010

I know what a hot dog feels like!

It's official - yesterday was the hottest day in Delhi since the Taj Mahal was built - well almost! And it just never seemed to cool down. As I mentioned, swimming was not really refreshing, just different. I felt like a poor old cocktail frankfurt. After the swim I got another dodgy cab, this time an old black and yellow Amby (Ambassador) the classic Indian car: bench seats, no air con and ALWAYS driven by immaculate old fellows in neatly pressed grey safari suits. I feel so sorry for these buggers that I just can't resist hailing them in this heat, then giving them an extra Re 10 at the end so they can buy an icecream. They seem pretty pleased - they have to turn up to work anyway and nobody wants to hire them, so they sit around in the heat all day and don't earn any money. That's me being charitable. And hell, it is SO hot it really doesn't matter.
Which leads me to dinner, wherein Louella (the resident teacher), Vinita (the maid/cook) and I walked for 15 minutes or so in the heat to a south Indian dosa joint for dinner. It wasn't really cooler, but at least the sun had set!
Complete this joke to win a prize: A Nepali, an Indian and an Aussie went to a dosa joint.....

Why do I always seem to have that shirt on????

Hey just caught the Super 14s and saw the Tahs beat the Hurricanes. YAY.
News from Bhutan: Robin was stuck in the infamous and well documented mud of Bhutan yesterday and today - blizzards, snow rain. Sounds just lovely. They are now somewhere called I think Tjule Tsho (lake) and going over the Gulay Na(??) some some hot a-springs. They are a little behind schedule as the mud really slowed them down, and Robin is feeling the altitude at a snip under 4500m. He's lucky he's not at Everest Base Camp otherwise he probably wouldn't have a tent as just about everything got blown away in big winds  there in the last few days. He is looking forward to a short day tomorrow followed by lounging in the hot springs - he should just come to Delhi where even a cold shower scalds you. And as for the rungs on the pool ladder...
I hit the mall again this arvo - bought a dress and some supplies - like beer, coke to go with rum, juice and cheese Shapes to go with the beer and the rum. Oh and some new swimming goggles since my others leak.
Another state hangman has offered to come out of retirement to hang the Mumbai terrorist Kasab. For the grand sum of Rs 200 I think.
this Sunday is the last auspicious day for weddings for some months, and there are forecast to be between 15 and 20 THOUSAND weddings set for Delhi on Sunday. Gawd help us. I think hanging out at Ice Lounge will be the best thing to do - and it is meant to be 46 on Sunday so going into minus 6 should really make me feel fabulous - or dead!
Staying in tonight to watch Australia and Pakistan in the T20 - just hope there isn't a powercut!

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Feelin' hot hot hot!

That was a warm day.. by any standards. It was 45 in the shade at the pool today - so I spent time running to the pool swimming for a bit then jumping back out again - actually I didn't run as that is DANGEROUS - it was more of a skipping ouchy hoppy thing - very attractive.
I appear to have been abandoned by the driver - of course nobody ever tells me ANYTHING in this nut house so I never know what is happening - like with Carmen coming, the no phone and internet, the staff having the night off so no cooking (which you don't know till you are starving and half cut from pre dinner drinkies!) so in order to get to Harry's last night I ordered a local dodgy cab. I make it a habit to always get at least one dodgy cab per trip - this one was OK except that me being a cheapskate last night meant I ordered an un a/c one thinking oh goody I'll save 30% and then got stuck in a big old traffic jam. Lovely.
So last night was my last at Harry's karaoke for this trip - and if they have any brains they will put my photo outside on the 'not wanted inside' list! For some reason I now see fit to sing AND dance - last night I got roped into 'Karma Chameleon' with a rotund jolly Indian chap in an apricot polo shirt. He then tried to get me to do 'Islands in the Stream' with him but I gave that a miss. There was a table of 3 girls who sang very well ( I think they were using the place for practise) but they weren't buying any drinks which annoyed the owner.. of course. Then there was a young lady's birthday do where the blokes all stood down one end (or went out for a smoke) while the girls were down the other singing and admiring someone's new tattoo.
Manish has ordered me to go to Bennigan's on Saturday and then finally Ice Lounge/Bar thingy on Sunday since I'm leaving on Tuesday. So you will get more of the latest Delhi karaoke news. Did you know there is a facebook page - karaoke friends are forever - set up (I think) by the pilot Andre that I met a while ago here. But I don't think you will find me on it - well I hope not anyway!
Great news on the trekking frontier - Robin got some blue sky yesterday. Not for long, but it was better than nothing. The weather reports make it look like the weather is finally clearing - I have about a dozen websites I look at and then have to decide which is correct - since they are all different - sometimes it is a subtle difference, others it's like I'm not looking at the same area or day at all. Today Robin was off to a hot a-spring (as the Nepalis call it) - don't need one if you are in Delhi!
If you stop on the footpath for more than a second your shoes will melt into the tar!
The country is agog with the crap$hit effort of the Indian Cricket Team (or TEAM INDIA as they seem to be called) in the T20 World Cup. The captain, lovely MS Dhoni, has come out and said that IPL is to blame because they played late night matches and then had to go to parties (but when he says it it comes out like puddies - sounds cute!). The TV cricket wallahs - on one channel we had 3 ex Indian captains - a Hindu, a Muslim and a Sikh - which I thought was rather interesting - all slamming the players, administrators and anyone else they could think of. Then Imran Khan turned up (former Pakistan captain and hunk) and they didn't seem to appreciate him telling them that Indians didn't know what they were doing and couldn't play short pitched balls. And just now I heard that there was (allegedly, as they love to add in the papers here) a punch up in a Tequila bar between 'puddying' Indian players after their 'shock' exit from the World Cup, and 'disgruntled' fans who took exception to the team having a good time. Allegedly, 'taunts were exchanged'.
Delhi may indeed be melting, but the big trees are looking great. The laburnum (yellow) and gulmohar (red) are fabulous right now.

Here's one of the trees round where I am staying:

And since it's Cocktail o'clock: CHEERS!!

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Daze of our lives!

Talk about weird. I've certainly had an odd week - and when I tell you what's been going on you'll understand why I've been out of touch.
So, last Thursday I went to Olive Restaurant, right? Then Friday I blogged all about it, and since then...
First of all the summer power cuts kicked in, with the house plunged into warm inky blackness on Friday afternoon. So no internet. Carmen arrived back from Goa on Friday night - nobody bothered to tell me she was coming - and promptly announced that she was flying to Spain on Sunday night. Family 'issues' I think you could call it. Saturday no internet - but that was kinda OK as I was busy at the pool. Then in the afternoon  Louella and I sat in Carmen's room eating samosas and drinking whisky or rum. Every 'proper' Indian bedroom also has a lounge etc in it so you can just sit in there and ignore the rest of the family - it's a very Indian thing!
That night I went to Bennigans in Greater Kailash with Manish. A totally different karaoke crowd - most people were damned good. The best thing was a foreign family were there with their 2 kids, eating dinner, when the karaoke started. The young boy was busting to sing, so got up and asked if he could sing 'Livin on a Prayer' by Bon Jovi. He did an admirable job, much to the delight of mum and dad, and everyone gave him a huge cheer. The equipment there kept petering out - the amp got too hot I think - and after 5 deaths the evening was declared 'over'. Just as well as it was about 1am.
Sunday - pool and no internet and a walk up to the local cafe. I was asking about the internet problem but just got stupid grins at home. Oh well. Carmen was busy getting all her last minute stuff done so no car for me.
Monday was VERY hot so after swimming and lunch, I went to the Post Office to mail something to Kolkata - the Post Office hasn't really changed in 20 years. The parcel sewing men are still outside, sewing and sealing, and the fruit juice man was doing a roaring trade with the foreigners busy mailing their rugs and clothes back home. And the staff still try to look like they are doing 10 things at once when in fact they are really just wasting time! But at least it's cheap. After that I headed to one of the big malls here in Saket - such wonderful material in the clothes but it beats me how anyone wears saris that have so many sequins on them - it must scratch every time you move. The icecream was pretty good though. Still no internet and I couldn't help but notice that there was an Airtel bill on the kitchen counter, with rupees piled on it. It was still there on Tuesday when the internet wasn't working, but finally disappeared at lunchtime. Chances of internet action up 50%. And finally this morning it works.
So today being Wednesday it's karaoke at Harry's again - last one for this trip anyway as I leave next Tuesday for Nepal. Where there are 12 hours of powercuts a day - fun.
Now let me think, what has Robin been doing? Oh yes that's right, trekking! They had a few 10 hour days where they got completely soaked, then one of the horsemen got crook and ended up in hospital, and they got a new set of horses. They had a 2400 metre climb (with accompanying descent) which was $#@*!! tough so I am told. On Monday they were in a place where the first Choegyal (King) of Bhutan came from and were staying with his relatives who could trace their family back I think it was 12 generations. So he got to stay in a room with a big pot bellied stove in it to dry out him and his stuff, and there were kittens prancing around. There always seem to be kittens jumping around. Yesterday when he called me after another epic he was wrapping himself around a bottle of 'HIT' beer from Sikkim. Sounds great doesn't it. He is now in Central Bhutan on the bit that is called the Snowman Trek - very tough week ahead but then it should be plain sailing (or trekking), which is why I can go back to Nepal and won't be required to mount any form of rescue from India apparently.
Robin has had 2 enquiries today about people wanting to walk the Nepal part of the GHT - one would like to do some on mountain bike. I always just say to these people that Robin is in the field and will get back to them in July. Some people seem to have unrealistic expectations - like that they can just put on a pack and wander off without a guide, and that there will always be some local who will put them up and feed them. That is so far from the reality of the situation, but many people seem to be very opposed to using any local staff - and the whole point of the GHT is that it isn't about YOU walking it, it is about THEM getting money and tourists. After all, it ain't the Everest Trek!
So, India has a new World Champ - Vishy Anand, Chess Grandmaster who defended his title overnight in Sofia. Well done him. Much better effort than the Indian T20 cricketers, who are now blaming the constant round of IPL parties for their poor show in the Caribbean.
And on Saturday, Delhi police got in a 'tizzy' when there was a hoax call made that the Chief minister of Delhi's life was in danger. Trying to picture tizzied police.....

Prayer flags at the  temple in Darjeeling

Friday, May 7, 2010

I think I just had the best meal ever

Have you noticed how often I am chatting about food? That might be because Delhi has some of the most awesome restaurants. Last night Harry and I went to Olive (just behind the Qutab Minar in south Delhi) - a place I had been wanting to visit for some time. It is run by Chef Saby - who also runs ai, the Japanese restaurant I visited recently. Saby trained in Sydney under people like Tetsuya, and I think he was also at Rockpool for a while.  Anyway, to say the food was divine is an understatement. Olive is a true Mediterranean restaurant, serving not only Greek and Italian style, but Middle Eastern, and North African style meals, For starters he created a sort of cold minestrone mousse which was to die for! I didn't get a pic of that, but YUM. Kebabs, pizza, pasta, fresh bread and pound-it-yourself pesto/salsa.

You can sit outside near the mist fans (so cool) under the big old fig tree - gorgeous. I had a pizza that sounded like the kind of thing you make up when you've had a few too many, and you want to eat all your favourite things at one: tiger prawns, lime, chilli and basil. What a fantastic sensation that was. And I still have 2 bits for lunch later.

And here I am with said pizza, with Bikram the chef, and Chef Saby

And that's my dessert - sort of baklava thing with fig and almond icecream and berry sauce - except it was called something more glam on the menu. Don't you just love the cooked apple decoration in the middle?

So please promise me that if you are ever in Delhi, that you will go to Olive Restaurant or ai, and to know more about Saby here's his facebook address

And I know that for dessert last night Robin was having tinned pineapple rings - oh well we all have to make sacrifices....

Thursday, May 6, 2010

And from our roving sports reporter

At half time in the great soccer match (football to you non Aussies) at Lingshi sports stadium (or a field in the middle of nowhere) it's Dragons (red) 0 - Lions (gold) 0. The girls are playing in the next match I'm told.
I have now purchased a fab Samsung dual sim phone, which works a bit like an Indian call centre as I can be on one sim, say the Indian one, and Robin can ring on the Aussie roaming one and I can say stuff like 'hold the line please' , or as they lady at Spicejet said the other week "please be online" - I thought she meant I had to get my computer out!

This chap has nothing to do with anything in the blog, I just think he's really cool. Last year he got locked up for painting a statue of Prithvi Narayan Shah, the uniter of Nepal (we could do with him now) in puce pink and gold. I rather liked it.

Like a Wir-gin

Sorry, I promised I would make that the title of this blog. Because that's how well brought up Indian girls sing Madonna's song. I laughed till I nearly choked. Lucky I didn't have a mouthful of the snack Manish keeps ordering for us to eat, which he and his friends call Elephant Peni$. Here's a photo of it so you can make your own mind up, and if you've never seen an elephants one don't blame me.

Not a lot has happened since I last bloggerated you - I made that word up can you tell? The power kept coming and going yesterday so I ended up having a shower and getting dressed in the dark - the first thing I grabbed last night was only half an outfit, so I had to have another go. Never try to co-ordinate a matching outfit in the dark - always just go for the black dress.
So I was back at Harry's Karaoke last night and the joint was jumping. Quite a big crowd - me the only foreigner as usual here in the 'burbs - but they were all competing with each other to sing so I just sat back and enjoyed myself. It's rather good to be in a foreign country and not hang out with other tourists or expats - get out and see what the local people do for fun. And I'll say this for Indians in general - give them a microphone (or a loud hailer) and you will struggle to get it back again. Poor Manish was running from one side of the room to the other grabbing microphones as 2 tables were taking turns to delight us with all sorts of musical offerings. And then they screamed and screamed for Dancing Queen and I ended up on the dance floor with one...a little bit Oxford Street!
The next adventure was getting home. Manish very kindly gave me a lift to save the driver hanging around all night waiting, and we had to try a few entrances to the gated community before we finally made it here. It's like a crazy maze, but so much more difficult in the dark. Hauz Khas by Night is not a tour I expect to be booked out anytime soon! Gawd.
The news this morning shows me that Greece has gone bonkers, Nepal is still bonkers and heading for total bonkerdom, and that today we will all surely learn that the Mumbai gunman will be executed for his trouble. Well, I'd be very surprised if that wasn't the sentence handed down. Though of course here in India, like many other countries, these sentences take years to finally, if ever be carried out. India rarely carries out the sentence, unlike some other places I could name.
Heard from Robin while I was eating lunch - he went for a visit to a monastery this morning and then found some local weavers and bought me a dress - the weaver apparently had her loom set wrong, and so the material came out as 1.8m wide by 2.5 m long - which is way too big for your average Bhutanese lady. So he got it cheap for me. How the hell I am supposed to wear a length of material as a dress is anybody's guess.... hope I don't have to wear it to meet the king!
The sat phone saga continues - I am now trying to get hold of the man in Abu Dhabi to tell him to call Robin in half an hour, as his phone is on the horse but will arrive soon. And now I get the Abu Dhabi answering service in 8 different languages I don't speak. GRRRRR. This could turn out more annoying than last years broken stoves. For those of you who missed that palaver: will bring you up to speed.
Well you won't believe this - a breakthrough! We have an iPhone which didn't seem to be working anywhere, so I just used it to play hangman. Anyway, Robin can call the iPhone from the sat phone, but can't call my phone with Indian Sim. I can't call the Bhutan phone or the sat phone from the iPhone, but I can call the Bhutan phone from the Indian Sim, and the iPhone doesn't work at all in Nepal. ARE YOU KEEPING UP???? So, it does appear that what the nice man at Thuraya told me was true - the  Indian government are blocking all calls in their area (not just their country) to or from sat phones and phones they can't trace (like the roaming iPhone). How bloody ridiculous.
I'm off to buy another phone - 2 just isn't enough to carry around in my opinion!!!!!
And have a lie down

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

power to the people

Well I don't have any at present, and my friends in Nepal have even less - but more on that later.
Robin is trying to dry out at a place called Lhuntsi near the border with China - they got soaked yesterday, and had thunderstorms all night, so stopped at about 11 this morning when they found a lovely dry grassy place by the monastery, and spread everything out to dry. Robin assures me that Pasang the cook is excellent, unlike the 2 horse boys who cannot tie a load to save themselves and have held them up rather badly. So it looks like some new horse boys will be recruited.
Unfortunately the sat phone is still a useless lump of plastic, and I am getting increasingly frustrated trying to explain to people in various countries what is and isn't happening as they keep asking me things like - does he know how to use it? If it doesn't work properly soon - and we are sure it is a problem their end not ours - it will be saved till the end of the trip and stuck where the sun don't shine!
Another quiet night in last night - especially as the cricket was rained out, then off to the pool this morning. Chatted with some friends in Nepal - I'm in no rush to go back there with all the Maoist protest hoo haa going on at the moment - why on earth would I go from Delhi, the shoppers paradise - to Kathmandu, shops open 2 hours a day and there probably isn't anything decent in there anyway. And there's not much electricity. Too boring. But the funniest thing about the Maoists luring people to Kathmandu to protest and gherao (blockade) the capital, is that many of them are getting the $hits from bad food and water - and frankly everyone is getting the $hits with them... karma.
This afternoon I whizzed off to Lajpath nagar in an attempt to locate a particular tablecloth I had my eye on, but when we arrived there were about 60 cops and a whole bunch of bomb squad around. I suggested to the driver that we should just 'go to home' and he, bless him, said 'but madam, SHOPPING!!'. I said it was OK, we would go 'today next' (tomorrow). He said that was a good idea as 'bomb make big problem for market. BOOM!'
Tonight I am going to paint the town beige (or puce) as I make a triumphant  return to possibly not sing at karaoke. Depends what sort of mood I'm in.
And more signings for the Great Himalaya Trail trip next year - Julie @ World Expeditions tells me that Carlos Buhler has confirmed he'll guide for the Tilman Pass section - so anyone looking for a wild and exciting trek with one of the great mountaineers of modern time would do well to consider it. 

to get you in the mood for trekking!

                                                 but some days it's all too much to bear!

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Supertramp said it: It's raining again

Well it is in Bhutan anyway! Robin is very soggy and pleased to have a carpet and a kitchen tent. He would be even more pleased if he had a satellite phone that worked. But hey, that's for me to sort out. Currently 4 countries are involved in this tamasha - let's hope that's all it takes.
Got a call from Robin on the Dong La at about 4000m in mist, rain and hail. He had seen ugh yellow, red, pink and white rhododendrons, signs of deer and wild boar, and lots of birds. He sounded very happy and tired, and said his trusty guide Raj seems to be enjoying himself most of the time!
He rang me while I was at Sarojini Nagar  (especially noted by the embassies as a place to avoid because of possible terrorist attack). As you see, I made it out OK but there sure weren't any other foreigners there. Got a good deal on a bag from the 'hand luggage emporium' near the ice cream stand - the man assured me it was number one quality. I'm sure it is for $10 Aussie. But as long as it holds all the blasted books Robin bought and a few other heavy items I'll be happy.
Currently enjoying the Amazing Race Asia, where an American who is married to an Asian lady is being soundly berated for his driving in Korea - and boy does she have a screechy voice!
Swam half a km or so today - which kinda wears one out. 
The shouty news TV stations have been bombarding viewers all day with tasteless logos about the convicted Mumbai blast chappie Kasab/Qasab. There is overwhelming public support for a public hanging, and so the news channels now have borders around their KASAB MUST DIE flashy trashy headlines, of a swinging noose superimposed over his photo from the CCTV cameras at the Taj. In case you didn't guess, I find it all rather tacky. Not to mention wrong. That's not to say the bereaved families didn't suffer, but it won't solve the problem or bring the loved ones back.
And in travel news, there is a strong push to close many of the tiger parks to the public as there is a perception that tours is making the tigers too used to people, and therefore creating problems for villagers.  And if nobody ever goes there nobody will know what is happening to the animals...

A shoe shop at Sarojini Nagar Delhi

Monday, May 3, 2010

almost back to normal

Yes the girls are back at work today (so they make the food and save me worrying about how to work a microwave, and how to get an Indian washing machine off the 'sari' setting) - I am not making this up. Sartar the driver is back too so I went off for a swim (almost time to fall asleep now) then after a very healthy lunch of fried chicken sausages between toast and grilled cheese went to Jorbagh to Steakhouse after fighting with several ATMs.
Last night the peanuts and shandy were a very lovely meal while I watched the T20 cricket. Do peanuts qualify as 'veg'?
Not sure what is happening with the 'terror alert' but there weren't too many people around Jorbagh today which is rather unusual. My friend Manish tells me that it is all on again at the karaoke joint on Wednesday, which is great news for those of us who go mad stuck at home.
And news, still nothing from the sat phone people about how to make the sat phone work. I'd really hate to have to insert it somewhere so I hope they get back to me soon.
Oh, and remember the saga of the SUUNTO watch band thing? Well, there is actually an outlet here in Delhi I discovered that has all sorts of spare bits and pieces, like the commonly defective ladies watch band and clasp. I don't need it now but you might one day!
So let me tell you more about the strange North East of India, where everyone is a tribal and nobody likes anyone else - if the stories are to be believed. I can tell you that not many white women spend time in Guwahati (Assam) judging by the reception I got.  And they certainly don't go to the airport wearing capris with a metal zip. I had to drop my daks at the airport (behind a grubby screen) every time I went thru Guwahati airport. And funny thing, the woman with the metal detector was wearing trousers with a metal zip (she tested it with the detector) so I am mystified. Robin reckons they wanted to see my knickers. God only knows why. I wonder what sort they would have liked to see?
And in Assam and Darjeeling, 2 famous tea growing areas, it is almost impossible to get.....a decent cup of tea. The tea in Assam is the right strength, but served in pi$$y little cups, while in Darjeeling it barely rates as coloured water. Mind you, the airports for both places, Bagdogra and Guwahati, are still the sort of place where one can arrive in a cycle rickshaw. And at Bagdogra we just 'deplaned' (what a stupid word) and wandered across the tarmac, all the crazy Indians taking pictures of themselves in front of the plane - no security AT ALL. Try doing that in  Mumbai and see how much you like Arthur Rd Jail. Speaking of which, no surprise that Mumbai bomber Kasab has been found guilty today.
And finally on Guwahati, if you are ever over that way do stay at the Hotel Vishwaratna - Mr Das is a charming fellow and the evening chef makes some of the best food I have ever had upcountry. If it isn't on the menu he will give it a go if he knows how.

And here is a sample off the 'snacks' menu:
gotta love anywhere that does things on sticks

I don't know what the salamander thinks about it!

Sunday, May 2, 2010

and to bring you right up to date

I got a call from Robin to say they got into the town called whatever-it-was about 11 last night but were hoping to be trekking any moment! His departure from India was delayed yesterday because neither he nor the driver realised there was an immigration checkpoint about 3 kms from the border - so they just drove straight past it.
His sat phone is playing up again (it did this last year too) so I am busy firing off email Exocets to all and sundry trying to get it fixed. The usual response is buy another sim card - not too easy when I am in a different country to Robin, and the country I am in does not allow civilians to carry a sat phone, therefore I can't buy anything for the phone. Hmmm - problem. Stay tuned for solutions, I hope.
Other than that I got bored so wandered up to a local cafe which had rather good pasta and a nimbu pani (lemon juice), bought some beer (ooh shameless) and some peanuts and wandered home past the piles of police. Who of course are just there for my security and peace of mind. The intelligence reports that the authorities received list several market areas where foreigners (including me) hang out so I am staying in again tonight. Lucky there is T20 World Cup on soon, India is the first match followed by Australia.
Well it is actually drinkie time now, but Robin just rang to say they are at a place called Tashi Yangtse Dzong (fort) which is now a gompa with a princess walled up inside to stop the local traders being eaten by an evil demon.
His tent is an A frame that he can stand up in (he isn't the tallest chap around!) and it has a carpet, there is a dining tent for him and Raj the guide with chairs and table, and the kitchen tent has lots of little kittens running around. Sounds good! They have to go from 1700 metres where they are now to 4500m in a couple of days as they have to hurry their plans up as Bhutan TV want to see them and the King is even interested! WOW. I'd better pack a decent frock.
Since it is 25 past drinkies I will now leave you all in peace.  Off to the cocktail cabinet.

the cutest Himalayan Black Bear

And a flat out red panda.......

Terror alert in capital

which I'm sure has nothing to do with my return! but it did stuff up my night out which didn't happen.
So, what's been happening? Well I made I made it safely to Guwahati, and the boys got back there in remarkably good time. The funniest thing from that day was the tale told by James, when he and Pema shared a room at the hotel in Guwahati, and Pema went to have first shower. After he finished, James went to have a wash and discovered that the floor was about an inch deep in water - everywhere. He asked Pema why he didn't use the shower curtain, Pema said it didn't reach. James was very confused, until Pema showed him the 'shower' - it was the toilet squirt thingy!!! I'm still laughing about that.
Mystic Meg here was unaware that Robin was annoyed about a lot of things that went not according to plan on the trip to Arunachal, so when he discovered that we were off to Kolkata he was not at all happy. He had wanted to go to Darjeeling, but didn't tell me.... my goodness what an interesting 24 hours that was. As luck would have it though, the concierge at the Taj in Kolkata was very helpful and efficient and managed to get us a very good deal on the Windamere in Darjeeling which pretty well cut our losses. And I am never organising a treat for sir again! Ever.
So we enjoyed the cool weather in Darjeeling - I had to buy a cardie and a shawl (luckily I decided I could live without a bobbly beanie) although of course there was no view of the mountains. We went to the zoo and saw snow leopards and red pandas and drank endless cups of tea. I got bored walking up and down hills in my borrowed shoes and socks.  Robin bought lots of books which contributed in no small way to my excess luggage bill yesterday.
Yesterday morning I sent him off in a car from Assam to Bhutan, and last I heard he was near the border at lunchtime yesterday. I then took the Jet Airways Sky Chunder service from Guwahati to Delhi - the plane bounced around so much I thought I would lose the lunch I didn't have!
I have another 2 weeks in Delhi before I am supposed to fly back to Kathmandu - but now I hear that the Maoists are calling strikes starting today so I will wait and see - if it is going to be a nuisance I just won't bother.
Despite the terror alert warnings from the embassy I am determined to get out today before I go stir crazy - might hit a bar tonight after walking up to the local shops to get something to eat as it is the staff day off, and everyone is out of the house.

Sadly the cafe wasn't open when we went there..

Consider yourself warned!!!