The quest for liberation

Month: November 2015

Sri lanka – the wedding festival

With Bene I went to Sri Lanka for Shika’s and Vishwas’ wedding. Both from Hyderabad but decided for the green island down south being a perfect place to marry.
After a short flight we sat in the bus taking us from Colombo down south to Bentota. The island feels nice, temperatures in the 30s with a humid breeze, not that much trash lying around and the clouds are just as amazing as in Cuba.
All wedding guests checked in the Taj hotel, which was booked for the following days, round 400 people were invited, a big happening! The following days felt actually more of a music festival than a Hindu wedding 🙂

The 5 star resort was just splendid, a bit maze like though, lots of ways to get around, you actually need a map to navigate the first time 😉
The day we arrived, a pool party was just about to start, big sound system, professional lights and a live band warming up the scene, to be followed by Hyderabadi DJ’s playing the songs I came to know in the Telangana state’s capital. The bar just a hand reach away and the buffet with some nice seafood being a good introduction to the place. We met a lot of interesting people and enjoyed to the max, well we enjoyed so much that we missed the wedding ceremony, which took place early in the morning the next day right at the beach.
Feeling a bit hangover and embarrassed we took it easy stayed away from the big crowds and went along the beach to watch the sun go down followed be a spectacle of colors in the sky, orange to greenish until the last rays of light vanished from the sky.

The beach party was already kicked alive during that time, same sound system, twice as powerful as in a usual Hyderabadi club the bass was pumping hard, trying to drown the waves that crashed some 20 meters afar on shore. Same DJ’s playing the same songs, interrupted every now and then by some drummer guys playing traditional music and even using the didgeridoo entertaining the crowd with natural vibrations. Most of the friends we made the day before and the ones we already known from Hyderabad (Cheers Arjun! ) were enjoying the breeze of the ocean as much as the one from the sound.
Ninja like security guys dressed in black were taking care that no one of the party people will go down to the ocean or more far away from the party as eye sight, it’s dangerous we were told, still we went a bit away talking to the nice guy and taking him with us so he still can fulfill his duty in watching us. From afar the whole party looked and felt like a space ship landing with all the lights and dark sounds.
Another highlight that evening, the seafood bbq and buffet, oysters chilled on ice, lobsters, king prawns and many more delicacies fresh from the sea on the grill made for a perfect diet! Yum…

We went to see another place the next day with our room just a stone throw away from the ocean. Arriving there we discovered the place being German and the local waiters greeting us in our native tongue, a bit weird but hey they had Schnitzel on the menu of course we ate, and it was good! Sometimes it’s nice to get a taste of home if you’re traveling the world 🙂
We found out that this day will be an after party thrown by Raju a good friend of the freshly married couple for their honor. On a full moon night – also being an important Buddhist holiday, a dry day – a handful of people hopped in the bus and 90 min further south started drinking at a nice resort right at the ocean, a perfect surf spot with big waves moving in parallel. With DJ’s flown in from Mumbai and another delicious seafood bbq the party got started, a traditional Sri Lankan music group played the drums and flutes while professional fire jugglers went crazy on lighting the beach, peaked by fireworks I felt being taken back to Diwali night.

We partied hard, till the morning came…back at our place we gazed the orange moon setting over the ocean just at the same spot the sun set a couple of hours ago, of course we had a swim in the splendid waters with powerful waves crashing in before the new day arose.
The last day we took it pretty easy, enjoying beach life. In the evening though, we went to see some Buddhist temples to get our blessings and to ask for forgiveness for drinking and celebrating the previous night and not obeying the rules…

Cheers to Shika and Vishwas for having us, unforgettable moments and a nice introduction to Ceylon as the island was called during the British colonial rule.

Hyderabadi weddings and parties

After diwali night the wedding season in india is starting this year, everyone was holding back as an important river festival called pushkar also took place before and it’s not a good habit to marry during that time, also you don’t want any rain – a lot of parties happening outside.
A typical indian wedding has multiple celebrations where friends and family get together for praying, drinking, talking and eating. The dinner happens to be quite late, and after you eat, usually you stop drinking and soon after leave the place. To still keep on drinking during the evening and to satisfy the starving stomach snacks are available, at the proper cocktail and wedding parties waiters walking around with plates, serving deliciously spiced little pieces of chicken, paneer or veges with different kinds of dips. At the other pre wedding parties food is either way ordered and shared among the group, or at bigger happenings bbq will be available.

The first wedding I attended was Nivy’s and Lohit’s we stayed among palace like buildings with lots of space, hundreds of people. Beautiful sarees in different bright colours were worn by the ladies. Men wear kurtas, suits or other formal/traditional indian clothes. Julian a friend from berlin who arrived just in time was also dressed in a nice kurta that made him perfectly blend in.
For Chitra’s & Siddhu wedding Bene and Stefan more friends from germany joined, we all were dressed in kurtas that day following the indian style. The rituals were similar here, the clothes as beautiful but the setting was different, next to a lake and the stage was just golden, supported with the beautiful sarees and shining jewellery it felt royal! Hurray to the good times guys!
In india the bride buys the groom, the ladies family will end up of paying for all of the glorious parties and also a dauri, something like a wedding gift, will be handed over to the groom, this can be anything from small jewelry to big houses, whatever they can afford.
The wedding ritual is pretty set but timing depends on various aspects like the star constellation or the moon phase. it goes on for hours, bride and groom sit while hindu priests guide through the steps of prayer all is happening at a nice stage guided by some traditional music surrounded by the closest friends and family members. You will just get a chance to talk to the freshly married couple in the end when all official stuff is done. It’s a hard day for them, lots of smiling and shaking hands receiving the best wishes and staying relaxed is not easy.
Once married in india you better think twice if you want to break up after some years and go through all of all the preliminary steps, parties and rituals again…
No alcohol will be served during the official wedding celebrations, smoking is banned too, so you have to go a bit away from the crowds when longing for a tabaco infusion…
Big buffets are available and everybody is eating with the right hand, holding the plate in the left while standing, so much good food and the deserts are killer too 🙂

There is a lot of drinking in Hyderabad! When no wedding related celebrations was scheduled we went to private rooftops or houses to hang out with friends drinking a beer, or two 😉 listening to music and just having a good time. So we even went up on a hospital’s roof, chait is a doctor and of course he’s living on top of the building with his family!
Or some other interesting private homes in jubilee hills, rewarding with nice views, sweet music and more interesting people to talk to.
Good times, not the healthiest but you gotta go with the flow and the pace of the city.
Clubs play a big role in hyderabadi lifestyle too, fancy and a bit expensive places with different music ranging from edm sounds to mass compatible electronic music and even psy trance. Changes between the different styles happen quite fast so it’s a bit distracting as you feel the dj is not that experienced going from one hard break to the next, on the other hand everyone got to listen the music they like during the night, well most of the clubs close round 3 and 4 and you get kicked out, different to the berlin clubbing scene…


Hyderabad – a modern indian metropolis

Driving through the city, you’ll see the metro being build, huge concrete pillars in the middle of the road, construction sites everywhere, the place is growing in a massive pace the last decade. it’s a big IT hub with microsoft and google having their indian head offices in a district called hitec city, oh yeah!
but the biggest industry here is pharmaceuticals. a huge office building that was about to be finished when i arrived in town was opened couple of days ago, you can almost feel the speed of construction and within that velocity the heart of the city beats, usual indian traffic, worse on rush hours. of course you want to minimize the time spend in traffic and maximize the chill.

Going south to the old city the district of charminar with it’s 4 pillar landmark bearing the same name and it’s maze like bazaar all around is buzzing. you can easily get lost in the small alleys with thousands of gem traders or go crazy with traffic. somehow a big anti-pole to the northern and western parts of the city which feels more modern with nice shops, big malls and some park areas.
Another touristic highlight i saw is golconda fort. It is erected on a hill so I finally got to see the massive size of the metropolis, hundreds of houses till the haze meets the horizon, some mosques, a couple of hills and some green spots in between. the fort itself is half part in ruins but still a nice place to spend a couple of hours.

With julian, a friend from berlin we went to check out the big buddha in hussain sagar lake, interesting story is that during the transport to a small island in the lake, the statue fell from the boat into the water. it took years to lift it up again and erect it at it’s foreseen base as the required boats and machines first needed to be build to recover the massive granite rock it was chiseled from.

Hyderabad – Diwali night

After a 7 hour layover in Delhi and a short stroll around the ruins of qutb minar and it’s adject archeological park i found myself in another huge indian city with muslim history: Hyderabad.

This summer i met Shabarish in berlin, a good friend of Bene. He invited me to visit his hometown once I’m in india, so here I am and I got taken in the group as if I’d be livin’ here for ages.
Not that much touristy tings to do, instead we went from rooftop to rooftop, from bars to restaurants, from private houses to clubs and from weddings to parties. A lot of things happened the last weeks…

My first encounter to roof top parties in the city was Diwali night, one of the brightest and most important hindu festivals celebrated all over the country. during the day prayers will be held in the family, the entrance doors will be kept open to welcome Lakshmi the goddess of wealth and prosperity. When the sun goes down a storm of fireworks, crackers, howlers and deafening blasts of hydrogen bombs sweep through town – lasting for 6 hours easily. Spending/loosing money on that night and the following days is considered auspicious as it means good luck, so we played poker 🙂
the fireworks are 10 times more intense as on German new year celebrations, but as i was told the intensity already decreased in recent years, with air pollution being a major issue on that night.

Even at night when the sounds level of the outside black powder rage was ceasing i still could hear the sounds in my ear, good night and happy diwali!

Kathmandu – Big city life

the capital is the biggest city in the country. twice the population of berlin although not that green in between, to me it’s a mix of indian, nepali and old european cities.
The city has been hit by april’s earthquake pretty hard, still debris is cleared, cracks in masonry and wodden poles supporting houses, so the structure doesn’t collapse. still a lot can be seen, not all is lost and still it’s amazing and beautiful to wander among the ancient walls – just sometimes you get the feeling it will collapse any second…
just by walking around in thamel – the main tourist hub – you see alot of temples, smaller and big in size, the back alleys are fun to explore, every now and then a stupa will come into sight.
durbar square, a former royal area, with a lot of temples, shrines, statues and stupas from different epochs and donated to various goddesses and gods.
of course the near city of patan has a durbar squar as well, now patan is more a suburb of kathmandu, the city is growing fast. i talked to a monk, he told me 5 years ago his monestary in kathmandu was not surrounded by houses and heavy traffic, gentrification knocking at the door…

public transport is existing but just with fully overloaded buses, mini buses or safa car – electrical vehicles going up to 20, roaring speeeed 😉
Tourist transport will include bike rickshaws taxis or organised tour buses – all of those charge you 10 to 20 times more the local transport, with the cheaper although, it’s harder to get around.
first you need to know where their leaving from, all the signs are in nepali – no english script, the shouters – who are conductors as well – shout directions, easy if you’re at the station, which is just a random spot on the main road, and wanna go to a temple, just say it’s name, he will nod or point you somewhere else, if you’re lucky the bus is almost empty and you can choose a spot, go for the ones in front next to the driver cause in the back, 5 min later, there will be twice the amount of people you think that will fit.
Of course more people are picked up along the road…some don’t want to get in the cuddling van though 😉

Soo many other hindu as well as buddihst temples on the cultural heritage list around the city, a lot of old stones, i took my time to appreciated the main ones for each belief, swayambhunath being a buddhist and pashupatinath being a hindu site. both of them got small forests supporting the energy flow.

enough of the words, let the pictures speak further…










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I got robbed…by a monkey

I wanted to escape the beat of the capital city, being in kathmandu, enjoying the last couple of days in nepal. the streets are dusty, you see a lot of face masks, still some cars and bikes are rolling through the narrow lanes of the old city although the petrol is still not running (big cues at each and every petrol pump), now also the gas delivery has stopped so people get back to wood fires for cooking food – you can imagine how the air feels, so i went to breath deeply in the surrounding forest of the swayambhunath temple, also known as monkey temple – i couldn’t enter the compound, a british film crew was shooting a movie/series and the site was closed off.

so i was sitting between the trees, away from the big stairs sipping my delicious mixed fruit juice i just bought, putting it aside and rolling a cigarette. in the meantime a monkey was coming close in stealth mode – i didn’t notice, just as he got close enough, everything happened in fractions of a second, first i was shocked by surprise, damn a monkey, he used my moment and got even closer, grabbed the pack of juice and went 2 leaps back! i thought to myself what was this just now, i want to drink that juice. getting up, approaching the clever little mamal, of course he escaped just to the next tree, sitting at a secure height, starting to rip open the pack and drinking it’s delicious content, delightful in front of my eyes. i couldn’t do anything, just to watch – a bit angry though…


in the end i smiled and bought a new juice on my way down, so the monkey is happy and I’m too!

Annapurna Circuit – the real deal

thinking about it now, it was the best decision to return the same route. although i’ve been to the places i was thinking i’ll see them from a different angle now!
Most of the guys i met – including myself – were so focused on crossing the pass, every village on the way was just another leg of the trail, i’ll go a bit further today, still have energy left, next day i push myself up there, speeding through the nice valley, trying to tackle the circuit in under 12 days, flying out of jomson or taking a jeep up cutting the days.
doing that you loose the focus of where you actually are, in the fucking Himalaya ! surrounded by old traditional stone brick villages and mighty mountains, of course the next ones are just a pass crossing away but properly giving respect to the annapurna range will need some time.
and when i just walked out of the city i saw that the last two days of snowfall transformed the whole valley into winter wonderland, to be seen from manang annapurna 3, it’s galcier just running down the middle, forming a lake on the foot – nice!DSC08109with the sun shining and perfect mood i went back guarded by the gigantic slopes of annapurna II with annapurna IV coming into sight, i can’t stop smiling and always need to stop to take a closer look.

in muchi i keep left to go the upper route through the village of ngawal.
one of the traditional villages overlooking the valley at 3700m and again it was snowing the afternoon, powder as far as you can see.DSC08182

the trail follows the valley but still keeps it’s altitude high up, the next 2 h will be one of the highlights of the whole journey, overlooking most of the annapurna range, just walking opposite, keeping eye contact with the giants…see down in the valley the airstrip of humde and some white dots? those are bigger houses!DSC08219

from the lookout at the old gompa you can watch birds of prey gently floating in air, gaining altitude by using the currents, not wasting a single stroke of their wings.

gyaru comes into sight facing the beautiful mountain of annapurna II, almost 8.000m in height – can you see the face in the mountain? right there the next day in the morning i saw an avalanche breaking away, rumbling sounds and white powder falling down the ridge in slow motion – that’s the volcano blast of the himalaya’s!

i was not alone enjoying the views today, some other hikers in good mood and willing to chat and some other friends made my day…
the goat was quite attracted to my camera, posing as if she’d done it before.

the yak though, a bit grumpy in nature, just looked up when i came close and further went to feast again on the last fresh grass

wandering through the ancient village of ghyaru with it’s beautiful stupa and gompas, old and awry stone wall houses, little alleys and mani walls, always overlooked by the magnificent annapurna II i go down the steep and serpentine trail, collect jock on the way – he’s feeling dizzy and wanting to go as far as manang today – it’s already afternoon so come with me, tomorrow is another perfect day! we have quite a social evening, meeting more trekkers in the annapurna hotel, cheers philipp & leila!

the next day i already feel my knees hurting a bit from the steep decent last afternoon, today i’ll go another 500 m down to chame, goodbye almighty annapurna range, it’s been a wild ride, up’s and down’s but i won’t forget.

going through the forest, 40 min before i reach the orchard village of bhratang one of my buddies standing pose for a last time


i walk until chame, staying overnight and taking a jeep back, my knee is killing me and i don’t want to make it worse.

It will be the roughest jeep ride ever, taking 6 hours for 55 km on the worst dirt road i’ve seen, flanked with big boulders, crossing multiple streams going down the valley, so much fun but you got to work hard as must the jeep and it’s driver.
Of course the car is fully loaded, 4 guys in the back and 4 in the front and changing people in the cargo area, we squeeze in tight, leaving no space for our bums and every big rock on the way will make your body hit the neighboring one or the door at rib height – i enjoy it though.
back in besi sahar we take a minibus to pokhara, being a more gentle ride – mostly on asphalt but also very squeezy as of the nepali nature of buses.

I learned a lot the last days and saw another example of our planet’s brute force and beauty, as with destruction also comes creation – om namah shivaya

Annapurna Circuit – getting closer to heaven

Considered one of the best trails in the world – 40 years ago, still advertisements can be found today promoting the trek. In the 1980’s the construction of a road started which changed things a bit, now the road goes up to manang on 3500m. the road is the worst dirt road i’ve seen so far, big boulders, lots of streams, steep as shit, even with a mtb hard to tackle, of course there are 4wd jeeps going up and down and most of the time there is an alternative trail to the road.

Landscape is still amazing and the way pretty easy to find, i didn’t take any guide or porter, i can carry my stuff on my own…
so much happened during those 11 days, so many people i met and i can’t refer to all, i just talk about the things that struck me the most. google the names to get more detail!

starting in besi sahar i was reminded of costa rica, brasil or bolivia, lush green, rice fields, a couple of trees and some villages up on the hills. the trail goes up the marshyangdi valley crossing the roaring marshyangdi river multiple times on fabulous swing bridges i fancy walking on, it’s been a while – back in lovely aotearoa i started to love them DSC07922


the big giants still hiding in clouds up in the sky and i walk for 2 days up the valley always wondering what’s next behind the next bend, facing rock walls and sweating my ass off on the steep trails, accommodation is basic as is the food, all places have the same menu approved by the annapurna conservation area project, prices go up the higher you go.

On the 3rd day i went from tal to timang gaining more than 1000 m in height, the clouds give way to some snow covered peaks and i need to smile, half way up in the sky, mighty mountains, in the evening the moon lights magically mt. manaslu, a beautiful 8.000er, 1 of 5 people going up there won’t return! DSC07962
on the trek you usually see porters carrying up to 30 kg on their back, they laugh at my small backpack with 15 kg…villagers, cows, goats, motorbikes and jeeps on the road, not that much trekkers – i’m on my own – so peaceful!
even at night time i’m the only guest in the lodge so lot’s of socializing with the locals who speak english, my nepali is still non existent 🙂

the 4th day will take me up to 3.000m passing the districts hub town of chame and the apple orchards of brathang, the road was blasted out of the rocks, drill holes still can be found in the bluff.
just like the death road in bolivia, no handrails or security, always watch your steps!DSC08007

coming round the bend, the mighty rock wall of oble dome comes into sight, another magical moment in the trek.
being a result of glacial abrasion, it just rises as little as 1.600 m up the sky – you see the bike rider on the road?…the little black dot, so you can imagine the big scale!

getting cooler up here and blankets are being supplied at night time, that’s nice as my summer sleeping bag can’t take temperatures below 0.
the next days i take it slow to pay respect to the altitude, as i can already feel it’s effect on my body, need to walk slow uphill and breath more deep. i pass pisang, and mighty annapurna II. In most of the villages and all along the way you’ll find mani walls – prayer walls with many tiny wheels, always walk past them on the left hand side and spin the wheels clockwise, Om mani padme hum…DSC08039
next town on the lower route is humde and I’m reminded of tupiza in bolivia, the rocky slopes of the mountains are washed down revealing different minerals shining in multiple colors in the sunlight

i continue just to the next town of muchi, the area here is more dry, mostly pine trees DSC08073

i want to go up to milarepas cave, some 1000 years ago a tibetan monk called milarepa went up here to meditate
i met guillaume, also going up with his guide and we form a pack. the cave is collapsed now but prayer flags lead the way, passing the stupa and following a bit dangerous loose rock trail going up on 4.300m, here meditation is hard, as the air is so thin, i take my time though…It’s starting to snow we gotta go down, you don’t want to be up on the mountain when the weather changes!
the next two days and nights will be all white/grey skies and bloody cold nights, which changes my plans quite a bit…

we had a nice poker tournament up in manang escaping the sudden winter outbreak, honoring poker thursdays in berlin… no beer, no smokes though, cheers to ginger lemon tea – big pot, bring it on! 20151029_201745

using coffee beans, white beans, noodles, pistacio shells and grey beans for betting – good times brothers! cheers matt, ryan, tebo and harika

I come to a decision, i’m not crossing the pass, i’ll go back out of multiple reasons, not feeling going higher, my body said more than once – go down.
I’m not prepared for that much snow and the cold temperatures hard, rough at night in buildings with no insulation, heating nor double glassing – sleeping with all jumpers you have brought on, wearing your hat, covered in sleeping bag and blankets – I don’t want to buy more gear to pace up, it’s another 2000 m higher from here…
I’m quite happy with the decision and looking forward to walking down again – to the warmth.

To be continued…

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