Today we’re exactly 6 months on the road. And while living a life on the road is basically a highlight on its own, there have been a couple of experiences that really stand out. So, with a whole new year of traveling ahead of us, I think it’s good to look back at our epic (mostly) overland trip from our home in Holland to the beaches of Goa and Kerala. Which were the nicest places we visited and what were the coolest things we did? Here’s my personal top 10. In chronological order.
1. Komiza, Vis, Croatia
We started our journey in Croatia and after the overly touristy islands of Brac and Hvar, Komiza on the island of Vis was a welcome surprise. We had booked an apartment through AirBnb in the old part of Komiza, a lovely small fishermen’s town on the southern end of the island. Marie and her family made us feel very welcome and having dinner on their private roof garden terrace overlooking the harbour after spending the day at beautiful Kamenica beach was priceless.
2. Kadikoy, Istanbul, Turkey
Kadikoy on the Asian side of Istanbul, one of the oldest settlements in Istanbul, has a lively and laid-back atmosphere at the same time. With bustling street markets, cobbled streets and artsy cafes and shops it’s a nice contrast from tourist oriented Sultanahmed. Here’s where you see Istanbul’s daily life. And if you ever happen to be in Kadikoy I would highly recommend a visit to the local Hammam 🙂
3. Bokonbayevo, Kyrgyzstan
Shortly after we arrived in Bishkek, the capital of Kyrgyzstan, we found out there was the Bird of Prey Festival in Bokonbayevo later that week. Not knowing what to expect we decided to go to this small village on the northern shore of the Issyk Kul lake. Arriving at the Bel Tam yurt camp on the lake’s shore I wasn’t sure how to fill my days at first. But soon we met a group of Germans who became good friends. We spend the days floating in the lake looking at a range of surreal snow-capped mountains on the background, eating delicious meal prepared by the Kyrgyz girls running the yurt camp and drinking vodka’s at night. We had a great time.
4. Trekking to Ala-Kul lake, Karakol, Kyrgyzstan
The trek to Ala-Kul lake surely wasn’t an easy trek but, oh my god, how rewarding was the view on the turquoise glacier lake at 3500 meters! After that we still had to climb further up to cross the pass at almost 4000 meters with an impossible steep descent at the other side. The feeling you get while cooking pasta in front of your tent in a complete remote area is indescribable. Pure wilderness with not a single sign of human presence as far as we could see. A definite highlight.
5. Crossing the Irkeshtam border pass, Kyrgyzstan
The day we travelled to Sary Tash, the last village before the border, it was pouring rain. Which turned into snow as we got higher up to, the first snowfall of the season. The next day we had to hitchhike the final 90 km to the border. This should be no problem, we were told. There would be plenty of Chinese trucks passing by. The only mistake we made is to do it on a Monday morning. The border closes in the weekend so all the trucks had already gathered at the border during the weekend. We stood there in the freezing cold for almost an hour until we were finally picked up by two big Kyrgyz border officials in camouflage jackets. What followed was a ride through one of the most amazing winter sceneries I have ever seen.
6. Langmusi, China
The first couple of days in the small Tibetan village of Langmusi I was sick, not really a highlight. But it was a nice change from all the modern Chinese cities we had visited on the Chinese Silk Road. Buddhist monasteries, cozy little Tibetan restaurants and beautiful mountains. It was a joy to stay here for a while. But the real highlight was the 2-day horse trek into the grasslands. The experience to ride a horse for 2 days among the most beautiful scenery was painful and rewarding at the same time. On top of that it was nice to catch a glimpse of the simple but tough life of the Tibetan nomads.
7. Tibet Tour, China
Taking the 8-day overland tour from Lhasa to the Nepalese border was the cherry on the cake of our month-long trip through the west of China. Starting with the train ride on the highest railway in the world, followed by a couple of days in the splendid Tibetan quarter of Lhasa. And while strolling through the small streets surrounding the Jokhang Temple, visiting the famous Potala Palace and seeing the monks at work in the ancient monasteries were highlights already, the scenery on the road to Nepal was unforgettable. Not to mention our adventure on Everest Base Camp. Being snow trapped on 5200m sure wasn’t a highlight for everybody but we might have made friends for life when spending more than 24 hours together in a yak hair tent. Besides that, being rescued by the Chinese army (“Don’t worry. We are your friends. You are save now”) was kind of hilarious.
8. Trekking to Annapurna Base Camp, Nepal
I think I can speak for the both of us when I say that the trekking to Annapurna Base Camp (ABC) is the no.1 highlight. Walking in gorgeous nature for 2 weeks, away from the motorized world and surrounded by some of the worlds highest peaks was an experience that we couldn’t get enough of. The peace that you find while walking for days on a row and the ultimate reward of reaching ABC is priceless. Not to forget the many friends we made on the way and the memorable night when we were all together in the hot springs.
9. White-water kayaking on the Seti river, Nepal
Ok, for sure the kayaking course on the Lower Seti isn’t one of Carina’s highlights and I had to think twice whether I should include it in this list. It was scary and fun at the same time. I will have second thoughts on doing it again but it definitely was an experience I won’t easily forget. I had done some serious rafting before but believe me, a class 3 rapid in a small kayak is a whole new sensation. Still, the feeling you get when you conquer a rapid that big is just beyond words. Next to that, sitting around a campfire on a remote white-sandy beach surrounded by dense jungle is camping at it’s purest.
10. Varanasi, India
Varanasi was more or less our first encounter with India. And now that we’ve travelled for more than 6 weeks through the country I can easily say it was the best place we visited. The life (and death) at the ghats, the rituals at the Hindu temple, the narrow alleyways, the craftsmen sitting in their tiny window shops, the cows and goats feeding themselves from the huge piles of garbage, the cycle rickshaws, it’s India as you want to see it. If you would have to pick only one place to visit in India, it should be Varanasi.
I know it’s been a while since my last post. Not that I’ve been particularly busy, on the contrary, I’ve had plenty of time. It’s just that I’ve been lazing out on Goa’s and Kerala’s beaches most of the time. But no worries, there’s a story about that coming up too.
Also, we’ve been busy planning the next few months of our journey. After 5 months in Asia we are in urgent need of a change. So from the first week in February we will be hiking, biking and camping around New Zealand for about 6 weeks. Really looking forward to spend some time in fresh air.