Walking the crowded, narrow streets of Thamel in Kathmandu, with its chalkboard menus shouting momos and banana pancakes, trekking and whitewater rafting companies crammed into the alleys, and shops stuffed with knock-off trekking gear, pashmina scarfs, rugs, Tibetan thankas, and idols of Buddha and Ganesh, you could almost lose yourself, tele-transporting from this to any other backpacker enclave in the developing world
Namaste! (pronounced Nam-ah-stay, with much-varied elongation and stress on the last syllable), is the traditional greeting in Nepal, whether between Nepalese or passing villagers or trekkers of all nationalities on the steep and rocky trails. I've now said it hundreds of times in a handful of different ways: mostly with a smile, sometimes with a grimace, often very quietly in an effort to conserve energy, with a loss of breath.
Sri Lanka enjoys a rich history, a laid back island culture, and some pretty awesome landscapes and scenery. We hired a car with driver for 10 days to tour the island's sights, first winding our way up small mountain roads through the tea plantations, then to the important old capital of Kandy (where the tooth of Buddha is stored in the temple of the sacred tooth relic), and continuing on to the northern plains where one can find the ruins of ancient capitals and buddhist monasteries.
We always intended to include Sri Lanka, land of serendipity, on our round the world adventures, but our swifter than planned departure from India threw us into an un-researched land. In the day we had to plan our travels, rather than reading about the different parts of the island, or checking on the status of the recently solved 26-year civil war (which came to an end in May, 2009), we prioritized studying various websites trying to map out population density, both of humans and divine bovines.
The drive through the countryside from Udaipur to Pushkar was a feast for the eyes. Rolling lush green hills with rocky outcrops, spotted with vibrant colors from the many women out and about. No matter how rural or remote you try to get in India, you are never alone.
Rajasthan is one of the most colorful states of India, both literally and figuratively. Traditional Rajasthani dress finds most women wearing extremely brightly colored, ankle length dresses with gem-adorned, see-through veils. The art of covering their faces as strangers near is refined, almost like a flock of birds coordinated in their flight upon being startled, but less abrupt.
We disembarked from our aircraft at 12:02AM, the hour of Midnight's Children, to the familiar humidity of Mumbai drenched in ghee and garam masala. The skies were pitch black, but the warm glow of cooking fires and precariously strung electric lights from the slums surrounding the landing strips welcomed us.
Our final resting spot in Africa was at the Okonjima Lodge , home of the AfriCat foundation private reserve. AfriCat is a family run, non-profit organization that works towards the long-term survival of Namibia's carnivores, namely cheetahs, lions, and leopards.