Where next – Bus to Pokhara


I’m disappointed I don’t have enough money to allocate to a trip to Mount Everest. It is such a shame considering my close proximity. The fomo isn’t made any easier by the people I meet who are just back from trekking to Everest Base Camp. What an incredible achievement! I have accepted it isn’t possible for me on this trip & I have decided to venture Pokhara & into the Annapurna Mountain range.

The Annapurna Mountain range is to the West/Central of Nepal. It has the tenth tallest mountain in the world (Annapurna 1 at 8,091M) & 6 prominent peaks over 7200M. It is the first & largest conservation area in Nepal at 7629 square kilometres. The Annapurna peaks are notoriously difficult to climb with a fatality to summit ratio of 34% – deeming them the most dangerous in the world.

Many people in our hostel had been to Pokhara & portrayed it as a peaceful backpacker getaway from the city. The way they described the lake with such fondness & how serene it was completely sucked me in. I was looking forward to escaping to a relaxing haven! Fellow backpackers have told me the Annapurna treks are beautiful, less crowded than Everest base camp trek & not as exploited. As a beginner trekking in Nepal on a budget, it seems like an amazing hiking option!

My Brazilian friend & I booked an early morning 8 hour bus (closer to 10 hours in reality due to massive stints sitting in long queues of traffic) from Kathamandu to Pokhara. We booked the cheapest bus available accepting defeat that it would be an awful trip. As expected, the journey was long, extremely uncomfortable & tiring. We stopped for a break twice & had a 1 hour lunch stop at a roadside restaurant full of people doing the same expedition. I was snacking on a mixture of fruit & junk food on the bus, feeling like crap inside & out.

The views were incredibly beautiful. I woke my friend up on a couple of occasions so she wouldn’t miss out & she was thankful to appreciate the scenery. The mountains were so picturesque. I tried my best to take pictures but I shouldn’t have bothered, the quality is so poor. Apologies the selection of pics don’t do the area justice….

img_3892

When we arrived at the bus station my friend was fed up & insisted on a taxi to the hostel. We were dropped off to the hostel where I made the booking & they said they were fully booked & put us in a shared room in neighbouring accommodation. It was so dirty & expensive for what it was. I complained & we were moved to a better room. We were cranky from travel, tired & hungry for decent food. After a brief explore we curled up in bed with plans to only stay 1 night in this hotel. The following day we checked out & went to the much nicer Little Buddha guest house next door.

Night bus: Rishikesh to Dharamsala, India


img_3524

My lovely Australian friend & I made plans to travel to Dharamshala for Holi festival. Our friends from the hostel are going to party central Pushkar for Holi but we are both hesitant. We are cautious of Indian men & feel Dharamshala will be a less overwhelming. I want to celebrate Holi, of course, although the thought of being crammed in a busy square getting crushed & groped by the sexually motivated & deprived is a living nightmare. Hopefully Dharamshala will have enough people to have a great party & a perfect balance where we don’t feel out of our depths.

Our 14 hour night bus cost only 900 rupees (£9) although it was far from luxurious.

Exhausted, in the blistering heat we waited with our worldly belongings & other travellers for our bus to arrive. After our scheduled departure time we were directed towards our rickety bus. Everyone filed to put their luggage in the hold where a guy was taking a fee for the luggage. Already annoyed I refused stating our luggage was included in the fare we had already paid. After a few moments of debate he clarified that the extra fee was actually for him to take the luggage from our hands & set it into the bus luggage hold we were standing beside. What the fuck? It’s as easy for me to set it in myself. My friend & I refused this chancer’s fee & set our own bags in the luggage hold, unsure if we would ever see it again….

Everyone crammed onboard & unenthusiastically absorbed the state of the bus. It was obvious no one was surprised when the fans weren’t working, to see the promised power points ripped from the sides of the bus or the distinct lack of curtains in places. If you’ve made it this far in India the filth doesn’t affect you anymore. We sat on the bus for an hour waiting for the driver to begin the journey. When I enquired after 30 mins a fellow backpacker laughed & shrugged ‘This is India’ in a worldly get-used-to-it manner. Fuck off mate. This is India, but I’m not going to sit & pretend it’s fine, I’m going to let the bus driver know people are waiting & not ecstatic to add another hour on to the already tedious journey.

Eventually when the driver returned from his many casual Chai we set off into the dusty abyss. A backpacker in the seat directly in front of me was suffering badly with nausea & snuggling towards the window in preparation to vomit. I pitied him but my selfishness dominated as I became concerned about the smell of his sick, questioned his aim & whether his sick would go directly out the window. I retreated to an empty seat near the back & enjoyed stretching out while I still could. I day dreamed out the window wondering about the lives of the people we passed….

As I was relaxing into the journey & getting lost in my book a strange man seized his opportunity to sit next to me & bother me. I am often told I am too nice, but I find it extremely awkward to be rude. I was making it incredibly obvious that I wanted to read my book but he insisted on talking to me. He spoke about Reiki, told me of the shining light & feelings he was getting from me, that I was a kind person, my smile, guessed my parents professions (incorrectly), that I was a free spirit & enjoyed travel (duh). I was trapped on this bus for another 12 hours with nowhere to run & this guy wanting to hold my hand to give me spiritual healing. Oh FUCK OFF!!! 

I made my excuses & moved back to my seat, sacrificing the extra leg room for peace from harassment. Naturally the guy followed me & sat in his seat, directly beside me. Fuck my life. At this point I’m not even surprised by these occurrences. My Australian friend had also noticed the pattern of me attracting weirdos into my path & offered me a smile of sympathy & mild amusement. The next logical step for me was pretending to be asleep. I instantly wrapped myself in my blanket & closed my eyes exiting from the world of annoyance. As you can expect this guy spoke to me at every point I was awake, when we stopped for something to eat he sat beside me & when we got to Dharamshala we just happened to bump into each other on a bi-daily frequency. One of these days I expect to be murdered in a dark alley by some random stranger who has just tagged on to me.

The uncomfortable bus journey dragged on with me pretending to be asleep for the majority. The window behind our seat didn’t close so the poor girls behind us as well as everyone in the back of the bus were frozen for the latter part of the trip. When we inclined up the mountains the bus was eerily silent & my stalker was fast asleep so I felt I could relax. As much as one can relax after 14 hours cooped up on a bus, faux sleeping & trying to avoid the person sitting next to you. The sun was slowly rising over the snow kissed tips of the himalayas. The views were spectacular with the colours of dawn melting the night shades away. I was completely awestruck at the view & overwhelmed by the beauty. My inner misery melted away & I felt blessed at where my life leads me.

I’m so sorry I could not take a better picture, but please trust me – it was stunning!

The Goan Corner, Hampi, India

 

The Goan Corner is on the ‘other side’ of Hampi, if that makes any sense. One side of the Tungabhadra River through Hampi has the temples hotels & restaurants. If you cross the river to the ‘other side’, Virupapur Gaddi, you get more cafes & restaurants & some guest houses. I don’t think there’s much else really – Rice paddy fields & the most awesome place to watch the sunset!

One thing to note is the night buses can drop you at either side of the river. My friends arrived much later than me because they were dropped off in hospet & had to take a tuktuk to Hampi then wait on the boat service to start. It isn’t a big hassle, but nice to know beforehand.

The entrance to the hostel

This hostel is really laid back & caters fantastically to backpackers needs. They were quite casual when we tried to make a booking & told us just to arrive & they’ll sort us out. We are a small easygoing, optimistic, group of 3 so we were happy with this arrangement. Maybe during busy high season people would prefer confirmation. There seems to be a lot of decent (read ‘backpacker decent’) accommodation in the area, I wouldn’t have worried if they couldn’t fit us in as there are many other options.

We got a little hut with a double bed & they put an extra mattress on the floor for us. Altogether it cost about 500 rupees per night. The toilets & showers were dotted around in separate blocks, they were average clean & a mix of traditional & western toilet style. The huts were dotted around & gave a real community feel. We quickly became friends with our neighbours & chilled out on their hammocks. The electricity cut out during the day which was a killer when you were relying on the fans to keep your temperature at non fatal levels, however I have come to expect the power failures. The internet was ok but it was cut off all night so no late night facetimes….

The Goan Corner has a big outdoor restaurant area which is really sociable. I found that if you rock up at a table of strangers they happily welcome you & chat easily to you. Equally when anyone approached a table I was at we, of course, quickly invited them to join us. I know this is down to individual attitudes, but this spirit is actively promoted by the staff as though we are unconsciously influenced to adopt the demeanour of the hostel.

The staff are really nice & attentive. I told them my name once & they remembered it for my entire stay. They make a tab & all your food, drinks, laundry, bus ticket, & accommodation goes on it until you depart. The main lady Shamila is lovely & welcoming (at home she would be described as ‘dead on’ or ‘sound’. For 3 nights accommodation, meals, lots of water & laundry & a bus ticket to Bangalore I paid a grand total of £11.

The food is really good!

There is an entourage of dogs & cats who are really cute & friendly. Some of my friends grew very attached to their newfound live in pets! I was less lovestruck when the pug kept using my leg as a leaning post to attain the perfect leverage to stick his nose up his asshole…

The Goan Corner offers exceptionally cheap rooftop dormitory accommodation at 150 rupees per night. I wouldn’t even consider this option due to the manic morning monkeys who like to run around this rooftop in the morning grabbing what they can & making mischief. I would have a heart attack if I woke face to face with a monkey!!!

My friends on top of the boulders, I’m watching from the comfort of the hostel & my chai!

You can definitely put in plenty of lazy days at the Goan corner & I can see how people get stuck there for a while. Personally Hampi is getting far to hot for me. I cannot function well above 30 degrees so all productivity ceases & I go into survival mode at 40 degrees. I have to flee somewhere cooler!

You can find their contact number HERE on their Facebook page.

My Bali budget

c59b9b8b7264c7a8a04592b51a78e813.jpg
I generally don’t manage a budget when I travel. As a rule I tend to survive on very little when I’m working & in saving mode, as well as when I’m travelling. I always find a bargain & go with the cheapest options to enable me to travel longer. I stay in cheap (& sometimes nasty) places & eat in cheap (usually really good) places.
My outgoings always increase when I cover more ground in travelling within a country or on day trips which I never include in my budget – unless it is the sole reason for my trip. I usually don’t buy souvenirs as my backpack is already too full & sometimes, especially with this trip, I’m not sure how long I’m travelling for.

Unknown-13.jpeg

Other expenses that I frequently forget to factor in are visas & vaccinations. By the time it comes to thinking about these I have usually already booked my flights & I’m on the cusp of my adventure so I HAVE to make it work!
In Bali I slept in budget accommodation, ate like a lord in cheap restaurants, went snorkelling & diving, had 2 massages & a facial & travelled to 5 different areas. In total this cost me around £300 for 2 weeks.
This doesn’t include my flights: £100 one way from Sydney to Bali & £130 onwards to Goa, India via Kuala Lumpur. The flights were much cheaper when I initially priced them & I regret not booking them immediately.
images-21.jpeg
Regrets of my Bali trip were:
  • Spending a night in Kuta
  • Not researching the exact location of my accommodation in Jimbaran properly (it was in the middle of nowhere)
  • I wish I could have had another massage at Jaen’s Spa (you can read about my amazing massage here)
  • I wish I had longer to explore the islands
  • I wish I snorkelled more
  • I wish I found a fun driver/guide with good english

Have passport, will travel

IMG_6439

Another great travel enabler in my life is Sky Scanner. The hours I have fantasised over that website…. Well, I don’t care to count them! It is literally my travel porn, cajoling all these alluring destinations & possibilities. My feet itch just thinking about it!!!

I work to a tight budget & I’m very flexible so Sky Scanner is perfect for me. I can price flights over a month period & see the cheapest option. I can price over a whole year to see when will be cheapest to travel. I can select to fly out of the country as opposed to one airport which broadens the options again. So many tools to find the cheapest flight solution.

My favourite function is the ‘Everywhere’ destination option. This shows the cost of flying from your selected country/airport to everywhere in the world & it is arranged in price order. This is when I’m inspired to travel to places I’ve never been or for one reason or another just overlooked. It is great for my last minute itchy feet breaks & my country hopping expeditions. It also encourages the enthusiast in me – as if I need any encouraging to travel! I can self manipulate & convince myself that because the flights are cheap my trip is completely feasible & before I know it I’ve booked something. Again. I may have a problem.

If you aren’t flexible & have specific dates & know your destination (rarely me) it is also a great tool. Sky Scanner checks flights on the web & brings you options & prices. I must admit the prices aren’t always 100% correct sometimes when I click through to view them – but I love SkyScanner so much that I forgive them. This is true love guys!

Check it out folks, put in your dates, select everywhere & book somewhere different. Explore the world, it doesn’t have to be expensive. Not having enough money is NOT a reason not to travel. Look at me, I can manage on a shoestring. Just make sacrifices on luxury & make it work.

Please let me know in the comments if you have been inspired to visit somewhere different, what you think of Sky Scanner, & are there similar sites you prefer?

Many thanks & happy travels everyone x

http://www.skyscanner.com @skyscanner #skyscanner