Sunday, July 29, 2012

A Road Trip Across Rajasthan

Anne and I spent the second half of April 2012 in the north of India, more specifically a region called Rajasthan (which means "the land of the Rajas"). Being our first time in India, we experienced severe culture shock. In hindsight, had we started with the south of India and one of its big, modern cities (Calcutta, Bangalore or Mumbay), it may have been less shocking.

Anne in front of Humayun's tomb in Delhi.
To sum up the Rajasthan experience: extreme poverty, squalor, intense heat (~50C/120F), majestic forts and palaces from a glorious past, shacks and shanties from a not-so-glorious present, desert, overpopulation, incessant honking, dust, pollution, street vendors everywhere, skinny cows everywhere, mounds of garbage everywhere, flies everywhere, colorful saris, hundreds of eyes fixed upon us every waking minute. This blog post will focus on the beautiful relics of the past, the gems that attract thousands of tourists to Rajasthan every year. All photos included in this post have been selected carefully, so as to depict only the beauty, and not the squalor. I'll tackle that in a follow-up post.

Monday, July 23, 2012

Backpacking List

For a while now I've been really into backpack hiking. I could say it's my newly discovered love. There's something about being out there in the wilderness by yourself, away from civilization, cars, cell-phones, loud artificial sounds, hoards of people, that renews me and fills me up with happiness and energy. For those who like to run, they call it "the runner's high." I guess I have "the hiker's high," and you can probably speak about similar highs with any other outdoors activity. Whatever rocks your high boat!

I've long wanted to make an extensive list of all the items I need to bring with me when hiking, as there's always something I forget at home. The list below was borrowed from my friend David Pilz and slightly modified/expanded to suit my own packing needs. 

Some of the items on the list below are linking to my favorite camping items/brands, but that doesn't mean they are the best, or that I am endorsing a certain brand. They are just the items I've used and liked, and a good recommendation starting point for anyone building a "hiking kit" from scratch. 

The weight of your backpack with all the items inside it already should be less than 25% of your body weight, so, keep that in mind when purchasing new camping items, such as sleeping mat, tent or sleeping bag. Today, you can find extremely light and compact camping gear. Some of it can be expensive, but it's worth it, if you know you'll be hiking or camping a lot. I've had my ultralight sleeping bag, mat and tent for years now, have used them tons of times and never regret the investment.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Hiking The Lost Coast

This past weekend my friends Devin (aka "Young Man"), David (aka "Siesta Dave") and I went on a hike up north to an area known as The Lost Coast. Here's what Wikipedia has to say about this magical place: "The Lost Coast is an undeveloped section of the California North Coast in Humboldt and Mendocino counties. It was named the "Lost Coast" after the area experienced depopulation in the 1930s. In addition, the steepness and geo-technical challenges of the coastal mountains made this stretch of coastline too costly for highway or county road builders to establish routes through the area, leaving it the most undeveloped and remote portion of the California coast."

Photo by Devin Steenwyk. This is Wheeler black sand beach, where we camped the first night.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

A Weekend in LA: Gang Wars and Pool Parties

Ever since I came back from our trip, I promised myself to leave town every weekend. San Francisco is usually cold and foggy in summertime and since I'm unemployed, I'd like to maximize the funemployment as much as possible. I spend the entire week in front of a computer applying for jobs, so I don't feel too guilty for switching off adult responsibilities and switching on hedonism over the weekend.

So far, I've been out of town 4 weekends out of 5: once to watch an RV Demolition Derby near Clear Lake, another time to watch and photograph my dude friends riding dirt bikes outside Yosemite, once to camp by a river with 30 of my friends and, most recently, to get wavey poolside with LA's infamous Swim Team. Next weekend, we'll be doing a 2-day hike up the Lost Coast, so stay tuned for some breathtaking coastal California shots.

Zurich, the Dream...

It's now been almost two months since I was in Zurich. I'm excited to write about my experience before the memories fade away... Arriving in Zurich felt like a dream. The colors were intense, but muted. The silent landscape felt remote and fascinating.

I spent four days there with an old roommate and friend of mine from Boston (Mia), and her boyfriend (Nicolas). It was wonderful to visit them. They are probably the most loving people I know, and are excellent hosts. Upon arrival, I was handed a tasty Swiss beer.

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

California River Rats

As we were driving back to San Francisco yesterday afternoon, weaving South on Highway 101 through golden hills crowned by intensely blue skies, my friend Jenny sitting next to me in the car kept exclaiming: "Gosh, it's so beautiful here!" She must've said it several times, enough to wake me up from my constant taking-for-granted of the majestic landscape that makes California such a visually stunning place. Jenny was visiting for the weekend from Cincinnati. You often need that outsider's point of view to remind you of how lucky you are.

Every summer for the past five years or so, my friends and I have been spending the 4th of July weekend camping by the Eel river in Mendocino county in northern California. We usually gather around 30 people and every year we set a theme, that we loosely adhere to. In the past, we had themes such as Indian Summer, when we built a tee pee and decorated the place with Native American paraphernalia. Another year we had a Hawaiian theme and we roasted a baby pig. One year we bought glow-in-the-dark sticks and we broke them open, splashing the paint all over our bodies and danced around covered in glowing paint.