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Archive for August, 2010

Tunday Kebab

Amongst other things – most of which were just extra justification, we went to Lucknow for the kebabs.  And apart from Its famous architecture and the ruins of the residency its most well known as having some of the best meaty dishes in India.  The areas previous rulers, the Nawabs – of Persian descent – knew how to treat themselves to a bit of a feast and over the years this filtered down into the large muslim community – although i’m sure I seen a few people with tiki spots munching beef kebabs.

Anyway, if Lucknow is famous for kebabs, then Tunday Kebab is Lucknow’s most famous kebab restaurant.  Chefs cook meats out front of this place frying little rounds of Shami Kebab and Grilling tandoori chicken, while boxes and boxes of biryani are filled and sold at an amazing rate.

Inside, guys are stuffing their faces, while we get ushered into the family room to stuff ours in a more civilised manner – apparently.  From the concise menu we order shahi chicken masala and a plate of mutton Shami kebabs – boiled mutton pounded with chickpeas to make a intense flavoured pattie with an almost pate like texture.

Add that to some paper thin rumali roti and sheermal – a doughy paratha with saffron and you’ve a mighty fine Nawabi treat. It all goes down pretty fast, the texture and flavour of the kebabs is great, but the richness of the kebabs has our stomachs churning for a while – all this meat after two essentially meat free months maybe wasn’t the best idea. Oh, well.

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Lucknow Zoo

Or rather the train station.  In india there’s lots of places with animals roaming the streets. But Lucknow takes the prize for most wildlife.  There are cows everywhere.  An article in the Indian times about the problem was in the paper the day we left.  Apparently there are 200 dairies inside the city limits.  And once a cow is past its milking years they just abandon it to the streets.

Obviously there are the obligatory monkey troops and packs of dogs roaming around too. and this is only the train station. 

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Slap the Taj Out

Well this is what most people come to India to see.  And it’s definately worth it.  Just not sure its worth a tenner to get in.  And it would be nice if it wasn’t in such a shithole of a town too.  But hey, you can’t have everything.

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Andrea and I were watching Kill Bill vol.2 on the Laptop when the rain started. A little drip was coming through the roof. No problem, doesn’t rain here much. Then another few more drips, then the rain started pounding on the door and windows. Then water started pouring in through the roof. We crammed all our stuff into the cupboards and drawers in the room to stop the rain getting in and ran downstairs to take cover with the family who own the guesthouse. They were distraught to say the least. The grandfather was outside wailing in the rain that was literally washing the house away. People were in the streets screaming – at over 60 years old, the grandfather said he had never seen rain like this in his life.

It was over in 40 minutes. Anywhere else in India it would have been a mild rain shower, but in Ladakh where only 10cm of rain falls a year it was a catastrophe. Looking at the house it was like someone had sprayed it with machine gun fire. But in Changspa we’d really missed the brunt of it.

When some of the guys came back from town telling us about the carnage I was a bit sceptical. How could a little rain do so much damage, but when I walked down to take a look I couldn’t believe it. A whole area of the town crushed under a huge landslide and just washed down the hill. The mud brick houses just turned back to mud and all the people sleeping in their houses were killed. I couldn’t believe we were so lucky.

Later our guesthouse owner came to get us for help – Big water coming, we ran outside to find a multinational effort to build a damn on Changspa road to stop the river flooding into all our guesthouses. All of us, a hundred western backpackers and our Ladakhi hosts carrying rocks and filling sandbags. In the end the river receded taking with it half a road, some small bridges and numerous trees.

The next night it rained again hampering rescue efforts even more and really freaking people out. Westerners and Indian migrant workers were besieging the Airport and Army airport respectively to get out of the region. Everything got cut off – the two roads into Leh, electricity, phones, mobile networks, radio stations. Nobody had any real information – leading to so many stories going around about the roads and the extra planes being put on by the airlines.

It was Chaos. We booked a flight out for a weeks time and got to Delhi, where I’m writing this. It wasn’t because we were scared we left. It just felt as if the heart had been ripped out of Leh. The teaming streets we saw on our first night had become a ghost town and after three weeks I felt it was time to go.

Ladakh is one of the most fascinating, beautiful and welcoming places to visit and I have no doubt soon enough they will have it scrubbed up as good as new. But maybe this is something that needs to be considered when they go about rebuilding the houses.

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After getting a bit jealous of all these smug people coming from Manali on their motorbikes we decided to rent one for ourselves and see a bit of the Indus and Nubra Valleys, and possibly take the road to Pangong lake – the later two were not to be due to extremely unforeseen circumstances.

We planned to take the NH1D towards Srinagar as far as Lamayaru to see the monastery there and come back via Alchi, Likir and Spitok.  All famous for their imposing religious structures.  Lamayaru was not to be though.  Landslides were a problem and we were constantly waiting for them to be cleared.  We turned back to Alchi and stayed the night and next day visited the 11th century Alchi Gompa with its frescoes of 1000 Buddha’s, Sadly no photos allowed, and the other Gompas or Monasteries.

The next day we travelled upstream on the other side of the Indus to Stok and Hemis.  Stok Palace is the now residence of the former Ladakhi royal family and has a small museum and photos of times past in the area.  Hemis is a  gompa of the Drugka Sect of Buddhism.  It’s one of the most timeless places in the Indus valley with a small village sprawling down a gulley and the imposing Gompa sitting as a crown on top.  Inside painstaking work is constantly done to keep this monastery and Its museum in perfect condition, befitting the R100 entry charge.

Later in the day we returned via Thiksey and Shey back on the Leh side of the Indus.  There are ancient Buddhist rock carvings as well as forests of Chortens or stupas all along the road.  As well as the ubiquitous  army bases.

The next day we were all set to travel up to Khardung la, the highest road in the world at 5602m and down the other side into the Nubra Valley.  Stepping outside into the rain we decided to have a day or two rest and go then – Driving a motorbike in the cold rain with no waterproofs is not an enjoyable experience.  It proved to be a particularly good decision as the events of the next couple of days revealed.

Anyway have a look at the Photos

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