sábado, 6 de abril de 2013

Following the hippies route of India and other backpakers routes

India: With close to 20% of worlds population, more than half a million villages, a 73% rural population country still have about 50 cities over a million population and 3 megacities over 10 million people...
India is a huge country with slow roads and trains, can take years to discover.
Less than 1 million tourist, mainly young backpakers, used to visit this complicated-burocracy country.
As you can imagine, the amount of tourist and backpakers spots are really limitated, and use to atract 99% of the foreigners in India.
One can be surrounded by thousands or hundreds of travellers, while in the next village none can be seeing.
Many travellers I have met use to tell me the first day in India they want to be "alone" and discover the "real india", I start to smile... After a week I discover them stuck in one of the backpakers town with no intentions of moving at all, and chating all day and night just into the travellers world.
It is actually what old travellers used to do in the old times when arriving to a new country for first time. Staying in a backpakers town was vital and crucial to get new fresh real information about the country and the places to visit. Just a dirty second hand small travelers guide, and a not always acurate map was our only source of not enough information.
Today with Lp and internet the new comer traveler arrive to India planning amazing exotic tours out of any logic, due to the dimensions and slow transports in the country.

Once upon a time, a hippy bunch of people used to travel in and incredible journey from europe crossing all midle east to India.
It was easy borders to cross with no need of visas through turkey, iran, afgan, pakistan and then arriving to India and Nepal. They used to buy old cars or trucks and do the one way journey.
Don´t miss that times, as the hippy route is now politicaly difficult with months of waiting difficult visas.

And once inside India what this hippy young full life people use to do and visit: as they were tired of amazing travelling in India they used to search for a couple of spots to rest and enjoy easy natural life and sadly drugs.

As India is so big, climate use to be very different from north to south, so the travellers used to make their summer head quarters and their winter one, with some stops in the midle during the "migration".

Winter used to be spent in the beaches of Goa, while summer time was a perfect time to stay in the fresher Cachemir forested Himalayas.

In between India was offering so many jewels.

And this is the origing of the todays travelers north-south route.
Created by nomadic hippies, after was modified by italian majorities, then young Israelis were comming by thousands doing their own, and now probably russians will lead the places.

This route should be consider as a "Unesco protected travelers migration route", due to its antropologic importance in the life of this special people and the world of travelers unborn nation.

Use to be safe places to share, chat and learn from high cultured young university alternative travellers dreaming new era.
Right now, maybe not so high cultures, not so university travellers, not so alternative, but just mainly interested  in drugs and todays fast big enjoy, without thinking to much in the comunal benefit or future consecuences.

I will tell you the route, but please, don´t abuse of it, take care of it, take care and respect other travelers, it is a place to gather and share, to find the similarities, instead a place of discusions and tiranic speaches.
It is a place to enajoy and learn how to be a better person, it is our home, the home of travelers.

While in Europe winter use to be a bad place to stay or travel, India is a perfect one, specially midle and south. Hippies quickly understood it and stablished their head quarters in Calangute Goa beach. Today Calangute beach is a horrible place with no hippy or alternative traveler, but a few uninformed tourist plus a lot of Indian tourist atracted by the legend of beautiful young hippy people sleeping in open camps in the beach.
You will see no hippy camps any more, no fireplaces, no fire cooking or hammocks under the trees. Goa is now charming , but different: Anjuna weekly market, Vagator disco beach, Arambol alternative quarters yearly growing up with more shops, ayurveda courses, beach cafes, and concrete rooms.
As Calangute was distroyed buy brick buildings, substituting the wood huts or the fire camp open sleep places (in the name of tourism), Arambol or other beaches follow the same end. Prices rocket the highst in India for a dity room, but charter flights bring Goa young tourist with no idea of Indian prices, willing to pay 5 times the real price just to have a nice 2 week party holiday.
Still Goa and southern beaches (I will not tell you to preserve them), are the most visited places and travelers-partytourist head quarters.
Travelers horrified by prices and madness in the destroying drug parties, use to scape to quite places.
But as use to happens all over the world, the balance between not being alone, and the fear of being discovered by destroying-all-charm and paying-to-much without barganing or thinkink, take them not to far. It is an strange evolution of tourism: The money tourist use to follow the young alternative routes, once in them, they ask for better rooms, better restaurants, and better conditions, willing to pay much more, and after years, once the dreamming peaceful beach with wooden simple huts and nommoney youg peolpe is converted into an Acapulco with old tourist and colorful lights marketing, all this tourits refuses to keep going and start to look new young-nomoney-beaches to restart the process. So youngters are always moving away (as when people pays twice none local wants you around with old pants and no money), and tourist follows them destroying the places, asking for the imposible (a robinsons crusoe beach from the 14th floor of a new appartments tower with all confort as at home and litle of the local culture).

So....in winter

Goa and south beaches (for the nice weather in the beach with some taste of the old hippy times, too much people around, an expensive option, still cheap for party people compare to Europe).
Hampi in the interior (for the humild travelers searching for old ruins landscape, hikes and indian culture, without any confort but a lot of new friends).


In February the heat in Goa is too much. People are moving north.
They head to 2 different places (a day and night train far): Just norht to Rajasthan (the ones who used to go to Cachemira, now a heavily armed conflict area, changed to Manali head quarters), and in the way to Nepal the stopover in Varanasi oldest town.

In Varanasi people stuck for weeks, train station is far, and people fell lazy to get out, only more heat will move them away into Nepal, just Pokara became the new hippie Kathmandu (as now the capital is heavily air poluted, unbreathable).

In Rajasthan there is so many options: Udaipur, Jaisalmer, Ajmer villages, and more. It is lovely to travel around these places just staying a week in each of them. Some places worths few days, while others a month. Up to you.
Since 2006 the pure blue skies of Rajasthan are changing to a grey ones, seems industralization of northen states are dirtiying quickly the lovely air. Think last rains are in September, so in February already takes 5months with no rain...
Preserve Rajasthan sleeping in old Guest cheap houses, instead in new hotels.

Many people start to goes to Rishikesh to embrace the yoga courses.

What happens when the heat is extreme in Rajasthan:


Travellers are smart, use to scape from heat or cold extremes. So in Summer they head up to north Himalayas enjoying the freshnesh.

There is no ruins or big monuments to be seen here, just nature.
The most travelers populated place right now is McLeod Ganj, where Dalai Lama "seems" to live with the Tibetan comunity (seems because most of the year he is travelling in the US, Swizerland or other "poor" countries needing for his help). Still thousands of foreign people comes every year from their psicollogist home consult into the one month enlightment visit to Dalai Lama.
There is a big market on that, still not fully exploited.
Suroundings of Mc Leod are so beautiful and small villages are refuge of younger cheaper travellers.

When Pak-India semiwar started, Cachemira was banned to post hippy travellers, so they changed quickly into another place: Old Manali.
A favority with Kathmandu to smoke, Manali surondings are greeny forested, and a good place to relax.
Hordes of Israelies converted the last decade Old Manali into a Thailand style village (full of internets, hippy clothes shops, laundaries, israeli food small restaurants, not so cheap rooms, hebrew advices boards everywhere sustituting the old english ones). It is an easy place full of young people, but incredibly boring one if you are not a smoker or israli, or both.
So world travelers moved to a village close to Manali (ask for the place ;)

Still Manali fresh can be very rainy in Jun Jul and Aug.
With Cachemir banned, the only way is to the though Laddakh. So Leh, a small 3700m high town has been converted into a new travellers (and trek tourist money groups) head quarters. Newly rooms and restaurants has been created to hold the growing up hordes of travellers comming the last decade.
Still charming, but with the prices growing up, it is a non easy place: very dry with very old culture people shocked by the arrival of the summer comers and their easy money, the 3700m makes no easy place to stay for non highlanders spirits. Dry dangerous montains can be explored in many weekly treks, some start to be easy others are the most dangerous and thoughtest in the world. So don´t trust in a small line in a map, or Lp old trekking books (can be fatal), but only in other travellers knoledge and experience. Some treks as Markha valley are visited by many groups, and one can get food in some places, but not all days (so food need to be carried).
At the other extreme a trek from Leh to Padum, market into old Lp trekking book, can be the most dangerous trail, all food must be carried with profesional local guide (in advice no Ladakhi use this route any more since the road was open into another valley to link Padum and Leh, so someone telling you is used to go this route is lying, only extreme trekkers group may have asked to do it and surely the guide with them was visiting the area also for his first time)

Nepal is the other place to stay, even when in summer recive rains, still a nice place to stay in the valleys. Do high trek in summer is not recommended (all is cloudy with no views of the peaks, rain and rain, leaches,...) It is better to wait until the end of the summer moonson.

Then in Sep-Oct travelers start to move again to the Indian plains, planning their way back to the lovely Goa beaches with their unice dangerous waters, the lovely coconut trees, and the superb blue sky.

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