Paul on top of the world

Hi Mum and Dad, I am really well and hoping you are too. I’m sorry I haven’t been able to send my pictures to you, but believe me I have been trying to! There is only a very limited connection here in Ladakh as it is such an isolated area. I asked a Tibetan friend to send you one pic early in the morning when the connection is best. He would have sent it via his account though and I think it was in large format. When I cross back over the mountains in a week or so I should have more luck with connections so I have to ask you to be patient. I am still staying in the small city of Leh and spending lots of time with new friends exploring the area. There are many ancient monasteries and ruins in the surrounding mountains and all have been very fascinating.

Mountain pass sign on the worlds highest road

Khardung  La,  18.380Ft   Highest motorable road in the world.

Yesterday we took a jeep ride to the highest mountain pass on the worlds highest road and, having earlier hired mountain bikes and tied them to the roof, we unloaded at the top and rode down 40km of mountainside at incredible speeds. It was truly exhilarating. Love to you all back on the farm, Paul

The view from the top of the world.

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A cold mountain lake    Hi Mum and Dad, I have safely made it up to Ladakh after a two day jeep ride (10 hours each day!), over the 2nd highest mountain pass in the world at around 5300 meters.  I had a very cold overnight stay in a tent but when I rugged up it was quite comfortable.  The landscape is amazing – unlike anything I’ve ever seen before.  This is a high altitude desert and although the surrounding moutains are bare rock and snow,  they change through a multitude of colours as the sun moves across them during the day.I have met some fellow Aussies along the way and we have organised to take an 8 day trek into the Leh region and surrounding valley,  visiting Buddhist monasteries and crossing some high passes. Our guide is bringing 7 ponies to lug our equipment,  surely more than we need but it sounds as if we will be well looked after with quality tents,  food and sleeping gear.  We leave tomorrow so I will be out of touch until the 23rd.I should have many photos to send when I return.                                                                                                                                   
  I’m having a great time and am with good people.

Love,  Paul                                                                                                      Wild horses on the mountain                                                Paul near waterfall near Ladakh   

Hi everyone,My apologies but the following journal is a little out of date (almost 2 weeks) as I have been at the mercy of the local internet connection which has been non-functional for many days followed by my decision to hike into the mountains for a while – far, far away from any guesthouse or internet cafe.

I have much writing to catch up on and many more adventures to share but lets just begin where we last left off.

After leaving the Tushita Meditation Centre, filled with peace and love for all sentient beings and feeling rather detached from my perceived reality (or perhaps just weighed down by a philosophy overload), I have landed on my feet in the neighbouring valley and the little mountain village of Bhagsu.

Sprawling up the side of a very steep hill, Bhagsu and the nearby Dharamkot (the boundary between the two is difficult for even a local to define) were not so long ago a scattering of simple stone houses and patches of farmland winding their way through a cedar and pine forest. Over the past 10 years or so it has been a scene of constant change and development as it has been invaded by the most frequently encountered tourist throughout India – the Israeli Hippy!

I swear this place can be declared a minor state of Israel, as many guesthouses and restaurants continue to be constructed to accomodate the growing prescence of young jews who having recently completed their compulsory army service are now in India to just hang out and rebel against the system.

Bhagsu is like a picturesque taste of Indian village life combined with techno hippy mecca. The locals go about their daily business of tending vege gardens, goats and dairy cows to the drifting accompaniment of trance techno and muffled bass from one of the many Israeli hangouts. Most of the area is inaccesible to vehicles and everthing is connected by forest trails and steep, stone pathways leading up the hillside. But many of the old ‘authentic’ houses here share the landscape with recently built guesthouses catering for the increasing number of visitors. In fact, the local Indian families seem to make a tidy living from converting part of their homes and gardens into accomodation with homestyle hospitality for lone travellers such as myself, and a reluctant tolerance for the noisy tribes of young Israelis getting their first taste of freedom.

I was drawn to the energy of the place from the time that I wandered down from the sheltered quiet of Tushita and approached the steady trance beats and colourful cafe scene. The Israelis come here for the lush scenery, cheap living and easy drugs. The cafe scene is all floor cushions, tie-dye wall hangings and coloured lamps, tinged with the sweet aroma of hashish joints and inscense (much like the share house where I spent a large part of my 20’s). The young jews lounge around in groups dressed in every colour of the rainbow, smoking, eating, playing music together and just chilling out. They describe their scene as Shanti, a Hindi word for peace, and their shanti is very warm and welcoming. It is easy to start friendships here, the Israeli youth love to talk about their experiences and perspective of world issues, politics, life, love and healing. Passionate, intense and deeply personal conversations are frequent and many are genuinely interested in learning about Australian life and particularly my background in natural medicine.

As well as being a psuedo-hippy hangout, Bagsu is a place of learning, with a myriad of courses in the field of alternative medicines, self-development and healing. It is encouraging to see youth who are balancing their rebellious partying with the positve and life-affirming energies of Reiki, Ayurvedic Medicine, Chakra healings, massage, Tai Chi and many different styles of Yoga and meditation. During the day I was kept very busy pursuing my own studies in Iyengar Yoga and Tibetan massage. In the evening I would happily share my knowledge and experience as we sit and indulge in the excellent fusion of Indian and Hebrew cuisine on offer.

Alas, the weather has changed quite rapidly with the fast approaching monsoon and most days are now constantly wet. After having to cancel a couple of treks I had planned with friends, I have made a decision to leave what is notoriously known as one as one of the wettest regions in India and head further into the mountans ahead of the monsoon. I’m hoping to get some better weather for some overnight treks in the green alpine region of the Kullu and Parvati Valleys, but I’ll be racing the monsoon!

Having spoken to many fellow travellers about their experiences (and having endured a couple of overlong bus trips myself), I have come to the realisation that being on the road here is exhausting and a true test of patience and nerves. Most seasoned travellers choose to find a region of India and settle in for the experience – just take some time out to simply be. I have underestimated the effect on the country of the oncoming monsoon.

Already the south has become extremely wet and prone to flooding and this has led me to change my initial travel plans. Northern India and the Himalayan ranges have cast their spell on me and I feel that I can spend the rest of my time in India exploring this region and its cultures and trekking into it’s wild and beautiful landscapes.

Details of my Himalayan trekking adventures in my next journal.

Love and light going out to all,

Paul

Travelling on the bus, on top of the bus.

Hi Mum and Dad,

It’s great to hear the drought is over and there is enough water back home now. I am having a similar eperience here – more rain than sunshine! The monsoon has certainly caught up with me here. I was having some good weather, warm with showers for only a few hours of the day, so decided to organise my own trekking in an isolated valley called Parvati.

I left my big pack in storage in Malani and had to take 3 seperate buses to get here, the last hour of travel was a true Indian experience – I had to ride on top of the bus with the other young guys as the inside of the bus was packed full! I arrived yesterday evening at a town called Kasol in good weather, but a thunderstorm was approaching and overnight it began raining heavily and has not stopped. I am staying in a comfortable guesthouse and hope to do some local hiking tomorrow if the weather lets up.

It is a beautiful and narrow green valley surrounded by rugged mountain ranges. I hope to make it over one of the passes to an isolated town called Malana where they worship a strange God and outsiders can visit but are not allowed to touch any building or local person and if you do you must sacrifice a sheep to appease their God! It sounds interesting so my fingers are crossed for clear skies.

I have sorted out some money for the time being and will stretch it as far as I can, but would really appreciate if you could put $100 into my account for emergency. I overspent on some of the courses I was taking (they were worth it!) and had to purchase new hiking boots but can now budget on just daily living expenses.

I have booked a ticket on a jeep ride up to Ladakh for next Friday. It is a mountain desert with no monsoon and many travellers head there this time of year to escape the wet.

Tell Bella she has to sort out that toothless old bag Fatty and give her a big hug for me.

Love to you all,

Paul

Hi Mum and Dad, I am really well, although a bit tired after returning from a 3 day hike in the mountains. It was an amazing experience, we hiked to 5000 meters and spent both nights at truly beautiful campsights. Our guides took exceptional care of our small group, cooking us a feast for b’fast, lunch and dinner, setting up the campsite and tents and carrying all the heavy stuff. All we had to do was walk and enjoy the scenery and all the wildlife that survive up here. I will give more details in an upcoming journal but I’ve got a bit of catching up to do with my writing so hopefully I can rest for a few days and spend some time at a computer. The internet has been a big problem here, no connection for many days and now its only available for emergency. I could not reply to you before my hike but I have now bribed the guy at my guesthouse to write to you. Hoping full service returns tomorrow. Just wanted to let you know I’m safe and well. Love, Paul

Hi mum and dad,

Thanks for keeping me up to date with Bella’s wellbeing. We have a very powerful bond and I really miss her and often think about how she is coping, but I know she is being loved and well looked after.  

  Bella, the psychic cat waiting for an email from Paul.  Bella the psychic cat on the computer printer waiting, sometimes for hours, for an email from Paul. Bella does the same with the phone. She can sense it.

Tomorrow I will move on to the Kullu Valley, which is a 10 hour bus trip further into the mountains. I love this area around McLeod Ganj and I have learnt so much from my yoga, massage and Buddhism courses as well as keeping up daily meditation practice. But I realize I have spent an entire month here now and am becoming a bit restless and want to tray some overnight treks in the mountains and the Kullu region offers many guided treks. Also, it has been quite wet here with the monsoon arriving early this year, we’ve had many thunderstorms. I’m hoping it will ease off the further I travel into the mountains.Please give my love to the family.
Love, Paul.