Thursday, April 28, 2011

exciting wildlife sightings

That's right there has been more than one. On a bridge the other day coming down to Munsiyari Robin saw 2 red pandas sitting around having a chirp at each other. Of course, you will recall his camera is non functional. Of course. Here's a link to a wonderful BBC site that has great little movies and info on all sorts of animals, but this is for the red panda pages. Here's my red panda picture - I think red pandas are fabulous!
The other thrilling piece of wildlife was ..... angora rabbits. Yesterday on their 2nd day off in marvellous Munsiyari Robin took Bob's camera and toddled off to a village which was supposedly about 50% authentic (and therefore 50% unauthentic Shakti concrete monstrosity). The big attraction there was the wild angora bunny farm where the local lasses weave the bunny fur (geez that has to be a painstaking profession!) into shawls and jumpers. Luckily he managed to escape unscathed. He also got the ladies at Bunny Game Park to dress in all their finery for a video (at least that camera works) and avoided buying me anything. Sod.
Robin explained that they are a very odd mix of Buddhist and Hindu - not that the population is half-half, but the people each hold a mix of Buddhist/Hindu beliefs and customs. But he was unable to establish how this came about. They call themselves SHOKA people from Darkot. No luck with googling that yet but will keep trying. He also visited a funny old local museum run by a school teacher.
So today they were heading off on the next leg to Joshimath - the camera that was bought for RS 35,000 and is not returnable and doesn't work with the same brand lenses (don't get me started) is headed back to Delhi for a slap. The SPOT hasn't arrived yet and Maninder managed to spoil that surprise by telling Robin about it (Indians! GRRR).
Meanwhile I am recovering after 2 long days at work (too much to do in the allotted hours this week!) and of course am almost wetting myself with excitement over the royal wedding tomorrow.
Here's some wedding jewellery I bet you won't see tomorrow at Westminster Abbey!

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Update on the tired trekkers

I finally got to have a long, sensible and not expensive chat to Robin today while he and Bob enjoy 2 days off in a hotel in Munsiyari. He isn't overly impressed with Munsiyari as it is at a low elevation and therefore has a lot of flies - and anyone who knows Robin would be aware that he he can't stand flies. He and Bob were both happy to get their boots off and air their blisters for a bit. So for now it's a chance to relax, ditch the climbing gear and plan the next stage. Much will depend on whether they can get permission for the Kalindi Khal or if they need to take a longer detour to reach Joshimath. So no doubt there will be some more sorting out of paperwork and running around. One problem they face is that all the local trek operators deal with vising Indians from the plains, who are notoriously unwilling to walk for more than a couple of hours - so all the trek timings they get are almost useless for them.
Bad news on the camera front - the body that was purchased for Robin doesn't work with the lens (although they are all Canon) so Robin STILL doesn't have a camera. It's extra annoying because he was toying with either getting a new one before he left, or borrowing mine. And of course he did neither. And he has a Rs35,000 camera body he still can't take pictures with. And there isn't a Canon dealer around....
It was lovely just to sit and chat about this and that for almost an hour today without worrying about the phone bill - thank you skype!
They were unable to cross the Ralam Pass as there was way too much snow -  even then  they ended up bush bashing to get to Munsiyari and the flies.
For the next 2 weeks they will be very close to Nanda Devi, but at relatively low altitudes so the weather reports won't be as critical, but of course I will still be doing them. It looks as thought the cloudy weather should clear by Thursday, which would suit their plans perfectly. So it probably won't happen.
You all know that my cat, Princess Lakshmi, is a very naughty girl. But I found out my sister's cat is more naughty - apparently Babooshka jumps into the cupboard where the papadams are stored in a ziplock bag, grips the bag firmly in her mouth and runs down the hall, then hides under a bed and chews through the plastic to eat the uncooked papads. Weird.
Time to cook dinner.
See you soon

Monday, April 25, 2011

News from India

Happy Anzac Day. It's a shame we had some rain in Sydney for the Dawn Service and the march but it didn't seem to dampen the spirits of those marching, or the big crowds who turned out to watch. I remember how excited my Dad used to be when he polished his medals and headed into town for the march - and because Anzac Day was his birthday he got free drinks after the march - we never saw much of him on his birthday!
Anyway, on to India. On Friday I got a message from Maninder in New Delhi that Sumit (who is doing the logistics) had returned from starting the walk with Robin. He said that Robin had somehow managed to break his Canon camera and Sumit was getting him a new one. As if the phpne bills aren't enough now there is a new Canon DSLR to pay for!!!
Robin rang me briefly from a pass somewhere in India a few hours ago to say hello (I think) and told me they had good weather, they were heading for Munsiyari and he'd call later. He mentioned that Bob was NOT enjoying the trail!  So I expect to hear more about the camera and who knows what else.
Meanwhile I got to watch the Tahs only just get done by the Reds on Saturday night, and yesterday I enjoyed Lebanese Easter Sunday lunch at my friend Rhonda's. And no, I didn't need dinner! Poor Rhonda had to go for a second round after I bailed out. Groan!
Visited the Batty One today - Di my sister was there too and it was of course another surreal experience. I'm not sure if mum even remembered it was dad's birthday - she doesn't go out to the cemetery anymore. She hardly even goes to the mailbox.
Well I'll let you know the news from our man in Munsiyari later.
I'm off to pour a drink and say cheers to the men and women of the armed forces.
Lest we forget.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Happy Easter and Anzac Day

OK ok I know it's been a week since my last confession! I have been very busy thank you Peter, Steven and the rest of you...
Gosh I was babysitting the Foxtel across the road last weekend, it was pouring with rain and I had to have 3 attempts to get a parking spot at the local supermarket. And that was just Saturday! And I got ANOTHER huge phone bill - this time for Robin's global roaming for $638 for a month. So I've had $300 odd, $800 odd and $600 odd in just 2 months. I'll never save a cent at this rate!
In view of the problems with communicating with Brave Sir Robin and Bob (I've not heard a peep since last I blogged) I got Robin a SPOT GPS Messenger doover on Monday. He had asked Bob if he could find one to bring, but Bob was in Taiwan by that time and unable to get one. Anyway, it works by sending pre-programmed messages to pre-programmed people (if you get what I mean) when you press the button. It also has an SOS button if you are really up $hit creek.
So on Monday evening I jumped on the website to activate it and programme in the messages and recipients before sending it to Maninder in Delhi who will get it to BSR & Bob wherever they are. How hard can it be? I thought - just a few details, credit card number and Bob's your trekking partner....
Name & address of registered operator - easy
Select what services you want -  easy
Now the hard part: If you are not the person who will be using SPOT tick here - ticked - fill in their name and contact details - done - OK now list your primary and secondary emergency contacts - OK me in Australia and Sumit in India- ENTER. Oh dear...' Primary and secondary contacts must be different'. But they are??? OK, hit ENTER, hit ENTER, hit ENTER, shout at computer, repeat. Put in someone else's name and phone number. No. Untick I'm not the person who will be using this. No luck. Go back to the start, try again. Same result. Google 'why can't I register my SPOT' and find forums with comments like ' this is the most stupid website ever'  and 'took me 2 weeks to do it' with special note made of 'don't email their customer service cos they never get back to you'.
What's a girl to do? Well, I made dinner and poured a glass of wine. Later that night I got out the laptop (I had been trying before on the desktop) and got straight through. Go figure. Must have been the wine.
So then I wrapped SPOT and wrote a card and got it all ready for the Post Office to do their worst. Oh no, you can't mail anything with lithium batteries so had to unpack the blasted thing and email India to let them know that assuming it turns up they need to get lithium AAA batteries. At least it was only $19.50 to post. I'll be amazed if it actually arrives without having been pilfered. Watch this space. As far as I know the boys are somewhere near Nanda Devi in Garhwal but I can't be more specific than that right now.
So now I have 5 days away from the fabulous workplace thanks to Easter and ANZAC day. The sun is shining and the planes are thundering over, so it's a great day to do some laundry (of course) and maybe later on some more zumba. Hopefully I'll also get to tidy up my messy house - burglars would think they were too late (which may not be a bad thing).
Meanwhile things just get worse in Nepal. They have now run out of fuel and the NOC (Nepal Oil Corruption) can't pay their bill to Indian Oil. Their main problem is that they buy oil from India for say 50 rupees a litre, but sell it for 45. Which would probably be OK if they had a budget surplus, or sold anything to the rest of the world apart from manpower. But they don't. So then India says 'you can't have any more oil'. Or, the Nepal government increases the price of their petrol, diesel and kero but the students protest (what is has to do with them is anyone's guess) so the government, which is so spineless it's almost unbelieveable, just backs down and continues to 'subsidise' fuel. Which it cannot afford. If they were a proper business instead of government run they would have been closed years ago.
Here's a GREAT video of a plane landing at Talcha airfield in Nepal - if you want to see more just go to Nepali times on youtube for a scary take off, and the view of landing from inside. I love it!!!
video



Friday, April 15, 2011

Hooray!

Just got a call from Brave Sir Robin - they've got the signed paperwork and are heading to the trailhead (wherever that may be) - I had better start consulting my fabulous Survey of India tourist maps, purchased in the marvellous headquarters in Dehra Dun a few years ago.
He may be out of phone range for up to a week, so I have a chance to get my stuff sorted out to start sending weather reports again.
A big thanks to Viv for the tip about Skype calling - what a boofhead that I never thought of it myself. It's a winner and very good call quality. I now have more options than a Bangalore Call Centre for keeping in touch with my number one!
It's really starting to get chilly here in Sydney and I'm not sure I like it. But I do get to share the bed (and my pillow) with puss every night.
Got a flu shot yesterday courtesy of my lovely employer - it didn't hurt but I got a headache and ended up sneezing for about 2 hours last night. What fun.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

On your marks, get set....GO BACK!!!

Why is this not a surprise? Off the boys zoomed this morning, only to be foiled by the ITBP (India Tibet Border Police) due to a lack of a piece of paper signed by the local magistrate, who you will remember is off on a holiday somewhere - probably watching IPL.
So they were turned back - good thing the Honeymoon Suite at the YMCA was still available. Hey, how come I never get to go the Honeymoon Suite with Robin? I see I must 'have words'.
Anyway, they are now attempting to get a bit of paper signed by someone else (the mail man? the vet?) and if they can't they will have to head off at 6am for Pithoragarh  to see the magistrate there, who apparently is NOT having a holiday, and then drive back up the road again. Perhaps another night in the Honeymoon Suite? At this rate they'll get one night free!
Robin says it has now occurred to him, what with Indians doing all his logistics instead of moi, Logistiques Queen, how damned useful I am and just how much I do.
Not that I have exactly nothing to do now.
1. Wake up.
2. Feed pet
3. Have shower and put clothes on in correct order
4. Make breakfast and pack lunch for work
5. Feed pet across the road (just for a week)
6. Go to workplace for 8 hours plus travel time
7. Come home empty next door mailbox (just another couple of days)
8. Empty my mailbox feed pet
9. Empty mailbox across the road, feed pet
10. Xbox zumba for 20 mins
11. Cook dinner
12. Check Robin's email and Facebook and respond as required
13. Check my email and catch up with people who have a life
14. Send weather forecast for trekking area I can't see on a map to a person who may not receive it
15. Open a bottle of Sauvignon Blanc if I haven't already (this would usually be step11)
16. Go to bed if time permits

See isn't life FUN.
 Nepali New Year a couple of years ago.
Cheers for 2068!

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

On your marks, get set....GO!

After a day of fiddle-faddling in Darchula (the Indian one, not the one in Nepal), Brave Sir Robin and Mystic Bob will start the GHT India proper tomorrow. They are currently holed up in the honeymoon suite at the YMCA in Darchula - probably not as appealing as it sounds.
Last night Robin tried calling me with his Indian SIM but it didn't work, so whipped out the Nepal one and hey presto! I now have so many numbers programmed in for him that I feel like I should work in shifts! There are the regular numbers: Australia, India, Nepal, satellite, and then the ones where I use the cheapo phone card (save me dialling 34 numbers every time I want to call).
Robin was very excited to report that India being what it is, they had to report to the magistrate this morning to get permission to continue. However the magistrate was off on holidays - so as he doesn't know they are there,  he can't forbid them to continue. Robin then had the 'thrill' of crossing the bridge border from India to Nepal and back again - without his documebts. Ooh err what a daredevil.
Oh, one of my favourite films just came on SBS: Himalaya. It's set in Dolpo and has the most beautiful scenery, and a story as old as time itself. The villagers take their yaks to trade salt as the harsh winter closes in. Is the old chief right, or do the young men of the village have the right idea? If you are at all interested in Nepal, Tibet or different cultures (and you probably are if you are reading this) then watch it sometime. It is about a world that is slowly disappearing forever.
And staying in Nepal, tonight is NYE. That's right folks, tomorrow it will be 2068 in the Nepali calendar.  Which makes me way too old to be using this inter web hurdy gurdy.
I'm off to investigate what the cat is up to, and refill my glass with a dash of something wonderful for New Year.
Cheers everyone

Monday, April 11, 2011

GHT India is GO!!!!

The boys headed off just after 6 this morning with 7 bags, one car, one driver and 2 'old farts' as Robin's SMS told me. When I called at lunchtime they were at a railway crossing waiting for the train to cross on their way to stay with some friend of Bob's at a place which may, or may not, have been called Jeolikot or somesuch. Anyhow, it's on the way to the border with western Nepal.
The weather in the mountains on the India / Nepal border is not too flash right now with quite a bit of snow falling. I'll be sending them weather reports every day from my fabulous array of websites. At present they are heading for an area around Kumaon and Garhwal, with the mountains Panchchuli and Nanda Devi. There that's given you all something to read....
Right now I can't give you a link to a map but I'll spend some time looking for one in the next few days.
Anyhow, time for this Zumba Zombie to turn the food in the oven.



Saturday, April 9, 2011

Whizzing towards Easter

And if I'm in one more shop where a poorly disciplined child chucks a big tanty because mummy won't buy it an easter egg at least as big as its empty head I don't think I can be held responsible for the outcome. There I think that is my whinge out of the way for today.
It's a beautiful sunny day and so I have been doing a spot of gardening - cutting back the cardamom on the advice Robin got from planters in Kanchenjunga. That way I should get some pods - apparently the price of pods has skyrocketed - I wonder if they are more expensive than diesel or a decent lettuce?
Robin has finally procured an Indian SIM card with national roaming and my goodness it has crap reception in Delhi. Apparently that is OK, because the company doesn't have many towers there but has the most extensive country wide coverage. We shall see. So I can now avoid another horrendous phone bill - last week I got one for $832 for the month - with my fabulous Mr Phones card - all I need to do is dial 34 numbers and I'm through for 5 cents a minute. Which is better than $6.60 for Robin on global roaming - Global Robbery more likely.
I believe I am still in the lead (jointly now) in the work footy tipping comp. Go figure.
Bob, Robin's trekking partner, arrives in Delhi today and they have to get everything organised for an early morning drive on Monday out to the eastern border to start walking. Better them than me! So the Indian section of the GHT finally gets underway soon. Stay tuned.
Currently on a mission to find a new GP for mum - the one she goes to now is indescribably rude, arrogant, unhelpful and uncaring. She was really rude to me last year when I took mum, but I thought maybe it was just me, or she  was having a bad day. Seems like every day is a bad day for this ghastly woman. How someone hasn't smacked her in the face is a mystery to me.  Wish me luck.
Right now I am recovering form my first 45 minute zumba class on the xbox. I had a bit of a skid in my merengue and my knees aren't feeling too flash! As you would expect. And as for my salsa, don't even ask.

Best news of all is that Vic and Franca are back in their wonderful Italian restaurant up the road - they left about 8 years ago and that's when we gave up eating out. Now they are back and the food is just as wonderful as ever.
Here I am with my neighbour Neal and the short but highly irrepressible Vic by the VERY hot pizza oven. It's great to see them back and I plan on going there at least once a fortnight. AND he is STILL playing Dean Martin on CD player.



Saturday, April 2, 2011

Another wild Saturday night

Woo hoo! Managed to find a video streaming download of the ICC World Cup final between India and Sri Lanka, which of course Robin is watching in Hauz Khas. So it's kinda like we are together, except I am also watching Pretty Woman - can't get enough of Richard Gere. YUM. And all that shopping!
Did I tell you that I finally got a copy of Robin's guide book and if you look closely on pages 50 and 92-93 you will find some of my contributions. Which of course are excellent. And fascinating.
Robin is busy finalising his route for the India GHT which will kick off in a week or so. 
Somewhat astoundingly I am STILL number one in the work footy tipping. Obviously it pays to know absolutely nothing about rugby league. Give me Super 15 rugby any day, and well done to the Tahs and my Phil for last night's excellent effort.
Meanwhile, I have had a busy week of work and zumba. Must tell you... the other night I got home from work, fed the cat and readied the small loungeroom for zumba: chair goes in the hall and coffee table heads towards the fireplace. As I am whizzing (well sort of) left to right across the loungeroom, Lakshmi the Wonder Cat is charging up and down (ie directly across my path) from the back of the house to the front. Directly across my path. Makes for a very thrilling exercise effort. And dangerous.
Seems the weather in Sydney is slowly turning autumnal - not that any of the leaves are turning, just dropping to the ground. But the evenings are cool and dew is around in the mornings.  Puss is getting fluffier too.
I have had to give Robin lessons via phone about life in Hauz Khas. I was chatting to him today when he mentioned that Hydra the cat had wandered into the kitchen and jumped onto the bench near the sink. So I told him that she wanted a drink (old readers will remember this from last year)  that she likes to drink out of the tap, and he should just turn it on low and let her drink. He was laughing his head off (after he decided I wasn't taking the mickey) at her antics. I can't believe I have to tell him all this stuff! Hopefully he will get the video camera for tomorrow so we can all enjoy it!
Right then, I'm off to the front room office to check out the cricket score.
Stay beautiful - like this wonderful ornamental Gau from the Royal family of Lo Manthang. I love it!
India zindabar!