Shit. It happens.

All flowery language aside, the point you start shitting blood is usually the point when you should stop naively hoping your body will sort through the problem and go seek medical attention.

I hadn’t been well in some time. At the start of the trip I was flying, sampling every street food I could find and priding myself on the fact that I seemed to have beaten my belly into submission after the initial round of violent nausea on day 3. I pictured my stomach as having given up on me after the fifth meal of mystery chaat and having left me to my own devices. “Fuck it,” the mental image of my stomach said. “Eat what you want. I just don’t care anymore. Whatever.”

But 3 weeks later in Rishikesh I found myself in the hospital to get a prescription to combat a sudden bout of food poisoning. It delayed our bike tour departure date by a couple days but, after the round of meds, I was feeling good again.

Until I caught a cold.

That was around Vrindavan. Having been slammed by gulal for Holi meant that whenever I blew my nose the tissue came away tie-dyed into a colorful snot Rorschach. And that lasted well into Jaipur where everything went south in more literal ways than even I care to elaborate.

Until, finally, when leaving to view the infamous Taj Mahal in Agra, I dialled a good friend back in Canada who happens to be a pharmacist, looking for advice. The call ended up having to take place in two parts as, halfway through, I had to cut him off to search for a toilet IMMEDIATELY. Continue reading

This post is 2.5 pictures long

They say a picture’s worth a thousand words. They do not, however, say anything about the accuracy of the stories said words tell.

As I prepare to upload 6 photo sets from my time thus far in India to the FACEBOOKs, it seems a good time to address what I hope many people who use any sort of social networking site or follow any sort of media source already know: That a picture painted by a series of photos can, frequently, be a less than accurate portrayal of how events actually transpired.

First, a quick catch up from where we left off: Departing Rishikesh with our newly serviced bikes and heading towards Vrindavan for Holi.

Holi is a Spring festival in which Indians celebrate the coming of Spring, the miraculous escape of Prahlada, the burning of Holika and the general awesomeness of Krishna and his female counterpart Radha. They celebrate this by hurling ‘gulal’, a colored powder, at each other. They also hurl colored water called ‘rang’ and, my new disdain, colored foam (which wouldn’t be so damn evil except that it’s scented, and its scent seems to be ‘rank’).

The drive there was long and hard and contained another 3 repairs: Sheila took a tumble during a railroad crossing and busted her mirror from the hand brake. Hrithik snapped a piece off his exhaust that required an. . .interesting welding job. Another tumble down a dirt road knocked another screw from the exhaust mount (In case you’re wondering, no, bikes are not supposed to fall over this often. But then, that’s when you’re driving them on roads, as opposed to collapsing mounds of dust). We’ve been fortunate, at least, in being rather close to a mechanic each time we’ve busted up the bikes. Though that may have less to do with luck and more to do with the sheer number of bikes and prevalence of shitty roads in this country. Continue reading

Reasons to Travel #1

There are a lot of reasons to travel.

Despite ‘travel’ being a popular answer to questions like “What would you do if you had more time/money?”, “Why do you travel?” is still a question I get asked frequently, particularly entering my fifth year of living nomadically. And it’s still a hard question to answer.

Not because I can’t think of an answer but because I struggle to place one above all others as being my primary motivation. The truth of the matter is there is no one answer for me, beyond the very general reply of “I enjoy living nomadically more than I enjoy being static.” Getting more specific than that would involve explaining why a mobile life brings me more pleasure than having a fixed address, and that in turn involves laying out every reason, big and small, one by one. Which would take more time than the usual ‘drive by’ conversations you tend to have with other travelers typically allows.

One of the small beauties of keeping a blog, however, is that it allows you to have a longer, extended conversation that people can enter or exit as they like. And so, here, I have the benefit of taking the time to go through those answers as they spring to mind, for others to check out, should they be interested to do so.

And so, as the start of this series, reason to travel #1:

It makes you question things you never thought to question, and presents you with alternatives to things you didn’t previously consider could even be done in a different way.

Like, for instance, the waning of the moon. Continue reading

3 weeks later

I spent 10 days in Delhi, in the end. I heard from many travellers afterward that they couldn’t get out of Delhi fast enough but I found something about the ever-changing atmosphere of the city oddly endearing; the stark contrast of its neighbourhoods, littered with still standing remnants of empires long fallen, the mix of old and new, privileged and poor, and the general chaos of its many streets and markets. Every day I left the hostel I saw a different face of Delhi, and each one had very little in common with the last. From the high rise buildings of Connaught Place to the littered alleys of Hazrat Nizamuddin, the energetic vendors of Paharganj to the quiet tranquility of Lodi gardens, from a flashing McDonald’s sign to the Mughal grandeur of Humayun’s tomb. . . and all the small places in between, some of which I wouldn’t even be able to tell you the name of.

I spent time wandering the streets with a Dutch photographer who was shooting for Lonely Planet, oggled at Qu’tub Minar with a group of backpackers of assorted nationalities and rocked the dance floor in a bar in the suburbs with a dead cool British chick who had chosen India as her first backpacking destination (brave gal).

I also spent near 3 days at the start of things bed-ridden with ‘Delhi belly’, jet lag and a massive migraine. Never underestimate how strongly a bad chicken tikka masala can kick your ass. Or at least stop it from functioning in a desirable manner.

10 days went by in a flash and, by the time I left Delhi, I felt I was only beginning to scratch the surface of the very basics of India. Actually. . . I still feel that way.

Continue reading

Day One

I sold off or gave away most of what I owned back then, and put the rest into storage. When I left St. John’s, Newfoundland for Dublin, Ireland in the summer of 2007, working holiday visa in hand, it was with a backpack, a laptop bag, and two small suitcases filled with the gear I’d need to tattoo; my occupation at the time and the way I’ve funded my travels to date.

Flash forward four and a half years and both my luggage and destination look considerably different. The backpack is the same, though its contents have switched up a fair bit. I certainly didn’t have Malaria meds and a UV water sterilizer packed when I was heading off to Ireland. And the two suitcases have been dropped, leaving the laptop bag as my only other piece of luggage. Well, unless you count the motorcycle helmet I’m dragging around in anticipation of the Enfield I’ll pick up in Rishikesh, north of my current location: Delhi, India.

South Delhi to be entirely accurate. I arrived at a guest house here after a ride in a cab that was little more than an auto-rickshaw. Pre-paid for at the airport, the approximately 24 km ride had cost 350 rupees, or around 7 Canadian dollars. My flight arrived in the dead of night, which meant that, as I laid down in the guest house bed that evening, I’d no real idea what would be outside of my window come dawn. Continue reading