Lost & Found 

Lost & Found 

When it comes to packing for holiday I can be a major procrastinator.   I’ve been known to take days, putting clothes, stuff & things into piles as I figure out what I need, wheedling it down the essentials (and probably not so essential), inspiration often hitting me at 2 in the morning of some gadgety thing or other or item of clothing that I need to dig out, #swissarmyjess. 

Might Needs and What Ifs have been the death of me.  I’ve packed and over-packed for holiday so many times as a result, only to later curse the extra weight on my back, or the lack of space in my bag each time I’ve unpacked and repacked the 3 pairs of shoes I didn’t need, or tried to stuff that bulky jumper back in because, you know, “I might want to go trekking in Nepal” or “what if it gets cold in India?”.

Back in 2016, with only a rough idea of travel plans and a 70ltr bag already bursting at the seams, I was forced to go with the Knowns:  to only pack for what I definitely knew I was doing or weather I was expecting, instead of the usual Swiss Army Jess M.O. of packing for hypothetical scenarios, borrowing worry from a future as yet unknown.  Having said that, the notion of Indian heat is a hard one to grasp when you’re in England, in a cold, slightly damp-ridden flat in London, in January, so there was bound to be some mistakes.  

I was the girl who had all the gear for every eventuality, and I’d get a kick out of being prepared for everything.  Letting go of What Ifs and Might Needs was hard for this Girl Scout at first, but has become so liberating, almost addictive – I’ve culled my bag of non-essentials and spent items several times over, leaving little bits of me behind all over the world.  

It made my load lighter, both physically and philosophically, relaxing my fervour for perfect preparation, made me resourceful (if I’m cold, just wear everything I own), forcing me to make do with what I have (which in most cases turned out to be just fiiiiine), to borrow from fellow travellers, and it’s led me to plunge my grateful hands into the Lost and Found bin. 

LOST & FOUND


Most hostels have these tucked away somewhere, and have so often been a treasure trove. The bits and bobs left behind fall into a few categories:

The Rejects: Stuff you’d never be seen dead in, and frankly who on Earth ever bought that, let alone wore it! but proves useful for trashing at Holi festival, or sweating into at humid Lumbini Vipassana retreats.

The Randoms: the unexplained and niche, like a fully reinforced and functioning motorbike jacket, and an apron… true story.

The up-cycle candidates: usually with some kind of defect, like a small tear that can easily be fixed, a small mark that can be overlooked/washed out, or shape/size that can be adapted with chalk & scissors. As my Mum would say, I am my Grandmothers Grandaughter.

The Winners: perfectly fine reusable pieces that have been left behind, either by mistake or necessity, like no more room in the bag. 

Casting shame and judgement aside, delving into the Lost & Found has yielded me extra layers when I’ve needed them, a head torch, a replacement pair of flip flops, a fresh pop of colour from a pashmina, fresh tee-shirts that I’ve adapted to suit, leggings to wear to death and throw away, warm socks for trekking, new shorts that just needed a few stitches, guilt-free fashion faux-pas, like the AliBaba (nappy) trousers I wore for a week in Pushkar (guilt-free because I DIDN’T buy them and therefore can relinquish any responsibility for style choice), “clean” clothes, a fresh wardrobe, all with no attachment – I didn’t have it in the first place, so I can just bin it, leave it behind or pass it on – and all for free/exchange. 

I’m pretty useless at shopping too, so the Lost and Found bin does me another favour, taking all colour and style selection totally out of the equation as the procrastinator in me breathes another sigh of relief, leaving me time to worry about other things, a fatter wallet and a much lighter load on my back. 

Two roads diverge in a forest, and I – I took the one less travelled by, with no expectations, no attachments, into the unknown with a “roll with it” attitude, and that has made all the difference.  I just had to let go of a little part of me that was no longer serving to find my way.


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7-Bullet Sunday: Day 143

7-Bullet Sunday: Day 143

A tardy summary of happenings and musings from the last 7 days:

1.  Ledakh – one of the most remote places I’ve ever visited.  The roads that give access to this place from Kargil in the West and Manali in the South are seasonal, and were only just opening up when we arrived.  Newly defrosted/scarred/under-construction roads, men at work breaking rocks, several bumpy, cosy, shoulder-to-shoulder boob bouncing jeep rides, patience/physical endurance/tolerance, a new appreciation for smooth tarmac like you wouldn’t believe.

The roads in Ledakh are like a metronome for its development:  the community need/want progress, and there’s a race to get the roads safe/give access in and out to those who’ve been cut off for months as well as getting the tourists in the quickest.  At the same time, they risk/worry about losing that delicate Ledakh heritage/identity that will begin to melt away as the Tourism soars.  I hope they succeed in protecting this special place. 

Nubra Valley

2.  Getting my first taste of Tibetan culture and getting excited for September! A new language, prayer wheels, stupas, prayer flags hung literally everywhere and flapping in the wind, Tibetan refugee markets full of beautifully tempting souvenirs, a new set of symbols and meanings, a kind of innocence, a thinner atmosphere/less oxygen (10k ft above sea level), brisk, colder temperatures, space, SNOW! breathless acclimatisation, peace and quiet (no beeping, no TukTuks), a much bigger, fluffier and teddy-bear-like breed of Steve, weathered and almost purple wind-burnt friendly smiling faces, clean, fresh mountain air – it’s enough to make you forget you’re in India, but with the pace of life set at 3 knots and a very relaxed/non existent approach to health and safety (thank god), you’re soon comforted by that familiar “Indian way” of doing things.  

 

Leh – not at war, LaLa’s Art Cafe with Leh Palace in the distance
 
The town balances looking like a construction site, a war-zone and an historic religious memorial all at the same time with a graceful simplicity, one of the many idiosyncratic talents of India.

3.  Driving 1 1/2 days to reach the Pakistan border, weaving and climbing through the vast Nubra Valley – another long, but stunning journey that took us up and over Khardungla, “the highest motorable road in the world” (18,380ft), and eventually spitting me out at Turtuk – the last village to be occupied by India and the closest I can get to Pakistan.  

Stood by the border check-point (a familiar sight for a Dumballer), it was a sobering moment for this kid from the Midlands – took the opportunity to pause and reflect on my fortunate predicament:  free to travel anywhere in the world, and at the same time acknowledging the slightly bonkers/surreal location that I found myself at on day 140.  I can see Pakistan!? 

Indian/Pakistan Border Crossing

4.  1st world problems: 

a) as my visa expiration date approach’eth, Jessington brain-fog sets in as to “where/what next” in the world?  For now, a no-brainer hop skip and a jump over to Nepal and a brief Denso reunion beckons – why the fuck not?!  I’m excited by the possibilities/opportunities that are to come, whenever the conclusion materialises.  

b) lengthy and quite regular Leh-wide wifi black-outs brings a welcomed off-grid quiet, save for the attempts to alleviate some acute pangs of missing family & friends through Skype and the like, which were rendered completely impossible or frustratingly sketchy #loading, #connecting, #nointernet, #1stworldproblems

5.  Finding inspiration in all sorts of places.  Most notably, from 3 talented podcasters whom I highly recommend you all take the time to listen and subscribe to:

1. The Comedian’s Comedian – Stuart Goldsmith
2. Distraction Pieces – Scroobius Pip
3. Adam Buxton

Your own podcast recommendations are most welcomed – get in touch or stick a link in the comments bit below.



6. Saying cheerio to the #GoodEggs Naomi and Clay, as they set off from Leh destined for Manali. #travelwankers, #clangers and my #globalfamily for the last 90+ days, I love the way they look at the world, the larfs we’ve shared, and the things we’ve seen together.  

Some have come, some have tried, and some have left defeated, but it’s that top-shelf calibre that glued all of us “Clangers” together.  You know who you are. “Hello forever”  😉 ©CarolineDensley.

7. Sampling Yak cheese for the first time, I can report it has the hardness/crunch of Parmesan/Manchego, yet the sweetness of Gouda/Emmental, and seemingly goes with absolutely everything on a Leh menu. Yakety Yak!  Don’t talk back.  Recommended. 

When paradise is hell

When paradise is hell

Travelling in India – the unreported side

Getting “Travellers Tax” because you got a craving for a meat dish. At a restaurant by the beach. With flies. More fool you. 

You need to puke so soon and so bad, and the only option is out a tree house window – you do it 

You need to puke/shit yourself so bad and so often you have to sleep on the sofa outside the toilets, because there’s no toilet in your treehouse

The travellers tax stages: feeling stomach cramps, not being sick, considering making yourself sick, but don’t because you feel sick, drink some water, BLASTOFF, sweating like shit, you forget the hours, you vom/the other till there’s nothing left to give, sleep, but you can never sleep, water, dioralyte, rest. Finally feeling like you could eat something, you think it’s a beer. It’s not. It’s chips, or toast, or masala chai. You hope it never happens again. You know you’re wrong.

Dealing with Indian squat and drop toilets, feet always covered in a little of your own wee.

Your nails are always dirty and your toes horrific. No matter how many times you wash them.

You wish you had more nail polish and remover to cover up the mess.

Packing, unpacking, re-packing, losing your shit, always quietly hoping your passport is where you think you left it, finding your shit in unexpected places.

You rue the fact you brought that thing with you from home, and look for the best immediate option to send it home, or dump it

Wishing your bag was at least 50% lighter
Leaving another something unneeded behind at each check-out and smiling a little more as your bag gets lighter and lighter

Wondering what more “essentials” you can really cope without

You really can wear the same thing every day, no one else cares  

Showering in the dark when the power is out, and washing your hair with toothpaste instead of shampoo by accident 

Running out of shampoo and not caring 

Running out of anything and not caring, because it’s one less thing to carry/worry about

Running out of coconut oil though, distressing 

You can only get £100 out of the ATM at one time, if the ATM booth is open, and getting charged 3% each time for the privilege

Sometimes you really do just want chips, or a pizza, and a TV, whether you’re in Paradise or not. It’s not wrong. It’s just human nature. 

You forget the last time you had a shower when it wasn’t in your toilet 

you feel like a dick every time you order something, and ask for the wifi code in the same breath

Forever trying to even up the tan lines and the sunburn 

Realising you basically wear your Bikini everyday, so you didn’t need as many pants as you think. Happily bin them as you go.

You don’t need that warm thing. Ever. Put it down. Back away. Don’t pack it. You can buy it later.

Endings and Beginnings

Endings and Beginnings

Day 50: after 27 magical days in Arambol, it’s time to move on. We leave behind some wonderful people – the lovely Heather, Spencer, Matthieu, Violet and Prana – heading East with Jack, Clay and Jim, bound for the ancient ruins of Hampi, Karnataka: they say “an unearthly landscape that will leave you spellbound the moment you cast your eyes on it. Plan on lingering for a while”. We say “Ok then.”

To get here involved our first sleeper bus experience from Mapusa – 10 hours in an economical double bunk (in relation to humans anyway), shared in a cosy shoulder to shoulder manner whether you know your neighbour or not – untold numbers of people have lain their heads here before me. the a/c is cold, consistent, assertive, often wakening, and the curtains indifferent about their job – but who wants an easy journey? thank you India, and thank you Xanax. 

   

Bleary eyed, I step off the bus the next morning at the sacred centre of Hampi Bazaar, straight into a swarm of enthusiastic Tuk Tuk drivers, each vying to take us where want to for 100rps (84p), if only we knew our own names. 

Factoid: set over 36sq km there are some 3,700 monuments to explore in Hampi – it would take months to do it justice. It’s early, but the suns already fierce and the Xanax only just wearing off: makes for a dizzying combination. The temperature’s set to hit 36 today too. Jeese. Think we’ll ease ourselves in gently. 

   

Due to Hampi’s religious significance meat and alcohol are banned in the Sacred Centre, but across the river is Virupapur Gaddi where there are no rules – ideal.

 

A tightly-squeezed Tuk Tuk ride, a short boat crossing and a sweaty walk later we land at The Goan Corner, a guesthouse run by the sharp witted matriarch Shamila, and for 900rps/night it’s our home for… well, let’s see shall we? It’s the usual basic room and we have a hammock, so I’m sold. 

Peer to Paneer

Peer to Paneer

 

I’ve been in a worldwind of admin hell these last few weeks – never ending research or admin re travel insurance, national insurance, tax, change of address, packing, making lists, sorting visas, buying international driving permits, passport photos, noting down important information, updating my will – urghhhhh.

So, I was delighted when a friend sent me this life-hack of what to pack – a nice no brainer list for a change, and a solid bit of peer to peer advice. Phew… One less thing on my list.

Travel wardrobe tips for India

Boxing clever

Boxing clever

I found this storage company recently: a friendly company with a caring attitude, offering a very modern cloud-like storage solution: will be perfect for my storage whilst in between abodes.

You pay by the box, they collect for free from anywhere in the UK; you only pay for what you use, and you can have any boxes redelivered at any time to anywhere in the UK. No van hiring or lugging about. Marvellous.

They’re a lovely bunch, and they’re running a promotion on at the moment, which I’m sure they wouldn’t mind sharing with you. Just use “teddy” at checkout to get some money off. Everyone loves a discount.

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