Newsflash: After a considerable period of time off the radar, unconfirmed sightings of backpacking badger have been reported in places as far afield as Varanasi and Kathmandu. One eyewitness alleges to have spotted the badger with an unidentifiable Yeti-like creature in the remote mountains of West Sikkim.
Ok - it's been a while - a lot has happened - and huge distances have been covered. I said my fond farewells to India a couple of days ago - so my list comprises some of the memorable aspects of this insane country:
- Diversity: No two places ever quite feel the same - as architecture, food, dress, religion and appearances shift from one area to another and customs and habits follow. From spiritual Sikh Amritsar to wild Buddhist Ladakh - from bustling colourful Varanasi to quiet rural Sikkim - everywhere is different and India encompasses all.
- Poverty: It ranges from desperate, suffocating abject poverty in the cities to a calmer, more inhibited manifestation in rural areas - but it's undoubtedly everywhere - a persistently uncomfortable and humbling reminder of how lucky I really am...
- Religion: It permeates all aspects of Indian society - all social classes and creeds - and it's visible everywhere: Muezzins rally the faithful at all hours with their call to prayer while incense smoke wisps around the feet of a statue of Krishna or Shiva or Ganesh or any one of the millions of Hindu deities and Buddhist prayer flags carry their incantations through the valleys and beyond.
- Colour: Nothing is toned down or muted here and India is a true riot of colours as women's bright saris clash while markets provide an optical feast of sparkly bangles, flowing silks and a rainbow of fresh fruit and veg.
- Noise: It's inescapable. The ducklike quack of the autorickshaw competes with the deafening 'melody' of the bus and truck horns. Bells clang and cymbals crash and people shout and motorcycles rev... Almost impossible to find any peace...
So - what have I been up to? To cut a long story short - I've witnessed prayer ceremonies, cremations and Hindu pilgrims drinking toxic Ganges water in holy Varansi, I attempted to meditate under the very same tree where Buddha gained enlightenment centuries ago (my knees started hurting so I gave up...), I helped some Tibetan refugees set up a restaurant, I got stuck in a political rally near Darjeeling, ate some delicious chocolate brownies in an English cafe, got hammered off tongba - a noxious Sikkimese rice 'wine', trekked to within spitting distance of Kanchenjunga, the third highest mountain in the world (wildly beautiful - photos to follow), attended a Brazilian Buddhist wedding in a remote Himalayan village, had a mouse run across my face in the middle of the night, marvelled at the verdant beauty of Sikkim - a Northern Indian state, and I just about survived an epic 30 hour journey to Kathmandu. Phew.
There's more, ofcourse, but I wouldn't want to bore you...
Looking forward to more trekking and hotels without rats as Daddy Badger joins me in Nepal for the next couple of weeks... Adios x