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01/09/2017

Tourist in India and cash situation / demonetisation

India,tourist,tourism,cash,demonetisation,rupees,new notesSeveral people have asked my opinion on how to travel in India right now because of the currency situation, here is my humble advice: come with patience!

If you have booked with a tour operator or directly from not-too-bad-hotels, you can pay by card and keep your small change (which is worth gold) to buy a bottle of water, a chai, a rickshaw fare etc.

But since it is still handy to have some cash with you (especially in India), here are some ideas to get rupees:

1. Exchange:

Legally, foreigners are allowed to exchange only 5,000 rupees a week – which is enough pocket money if you pay for lodging, transport (bus/plane/train) and beers by card. Technically, no one can check how much you exchange per week unless you go to the exchange bureau of a chain.

2. ATM:

The other possibility is to withdraw in an ATM, within the limits of 2,500 rupees a day (although apparently the limit has been increased to 4,500). The exercise here is to identify the ATMs that have the cash. The following site can help locating them: https://cashnocash.quikr.com/ 

3. Bank counter:

There is the option to go directly to the counter at the bank. Here again you must find the Bank that has cahs and it’s not easy easy. Then wait in line. And with a little luck you can withdraw 24,000 rupees (per week, wherever you withdraw, at the counter or the ATM).

4. Indian SIM and apps:

Finally you can take an Indian SIM that will last 3 months. It is not always the easiest experience, but it does get you into the swing... (Apparently in September the Government agreed that all the tourists with an e-visa will automatically receive a SIM card but I can't seem to find out whether it has actually been implemented). You need to come ready with a photocopy of the passport, your visa and a photo. Plan to activate a card with roaming (if you change State) and data to have wifi. And if you get that far and you have previously downloaded the app PAYTM (and recharged your account) you should be able to make a lot of payments with your phone! Uber or Ola app can also be useful.

Good luck!

12/12/2016

Trekking in Nepal in August - Chapter 5, Photos

India,Nepal,trekking,August,monsoon,rains,Annapurna trail

12/05/2016

Trekking in Nepal in August - Chapter 4, Annapurna Trek in August

And here we are, a week later, in Kathmandu, in the (slightly ugly) premises of the travel agent, who gives us details on this trek “fairly easy” trek. The first day will be “a little hard”: “after four hours of walking, you will have to climb 2 000 steps. But the hardest part will be the third day, because of the altitude and the up-and-down type of walk. Oh and by the way, do you all have hiking shoes?” Of course not, my father, self-proclaimed expert es-hiking had claimed that trek sandals were good for any kind of path, and they were very handy during the rain. Quite accurate in theory, but it did not take into account a non-negligible parameter: leeches! And the very slippery state of the ground. You should have seen everyone’s face: flabbergasted! And I began to wonder what on earth had pushed me to lead everybody in this ‘adventure’...

After a night in the capital in a hotel full of charm, despite the insistence of the owner that we recommend his property on Tripadvisor, we took the road to the airport and after a 30-minute flight we were in Pokhara, the second city of the country.

We spent the night on a hill, in a basic guest-house very welcoming, despite the insistence of the owner that we recommend his property on Tripadvisor. There was a great view of the Lake and the chain of the Annapurnas in the background. Unfortunately, because of the fog we couldnt see a thing... And it took less than half an hour of walking in the rain (a training before the D-day, and the opportunity to see a stupa), for the soles of the (very fake) hiking shoes bought from a friend of the guesthouse owner’s to come off... This trek was promising to be full of surprises!

We finally got started on the trek. And here let me tell you, “fairly easy” in Nepali English translates in “rather difficult” in normal English (especially if one has weak knees and the other one a baby in the making).

The 2 000 steps were bit was a joke. In fact 80% of the entire path were made of steps! And you go up and down and you slide! And up and down and you slide!

What about the rain? Well you do get at least two hours of heavy rain every day. You may want to avoid the umbrella ‘I love Berlin’(a souvenir): it is not waterproof on the long term. Not more than the Petit Bateau raincoat by the way. Other than that, walking under the rain is not so bad, it even adds a certain charm!

We had also been cautioned against the cold but we did not experience it, just needing a sweater from time to time. But also we did not climb any summit nor did we cross the altitude of 3 200 meters. We rather got very hot when it wasn’t raining. And what humidity! How much you sweat! Actually, whether you are under the rain or the sun, you end up equally wet there...

As for leeches, one should know, there are everywhere. Nothing too bad but for a city dweller, it may be surprising...

The tea guest-houses are okay, you don’t need to bring a sleeping bag, just maybe a bedsheet. And it is really appreciable to not sleep in a tent in this season! Just dont expect more than vaguely lukewarm showers.

And the mountains? Well we didn’t seem them very often... The fog was there most of the time. That said it makes the view of the Annapurna and its neighbouring peaks when it emerges quite exceptional!

You don’t really need a guide. The presence of an alcoholic puffy Nepalese with no intent to give explanations and a very limited vocabulary can even be irritating. But it is also reassuring in a way. Hire a porter it's nice, and it creates jobs. It also allows you to carry enough dry t-shirts. The Agency had certified to me there would be a porter to help carry the babies but its weight calculations will remain a mystery: six adults with 20 kilos each, and three porters carrying each 20 kilos plus their own stuff, who was left to carry the 12 kilo babies? The great husbands! In fact twenty kilos were divided between two porters and my brothers and the husbands got a little help...

As for my Baby Samurai, he loved it! He saw lots of animals, which was fortunate as he was in his period ‘sounds of the farm’. He also liked to share our food (even if he lost weight) and sleep between his two parents and jump on the shoulders of his ‘mamus’ (uncles in Mauritius slang). He stayed quietly in his carrier 6 hours per day hardly complaining – but when he did it was quite painful!

The flight? Since we were going from the first to the second biggest city of the country, I figured that we wouldn't have 6 seaters and indeed our Buddha airline planes carried about 60 passengers. No turbulence, it was quite a pleasant 30-minute ride. Blessed be the Nepalese who took pity on Baby Samurai and gave us their hand-fan as it was super hot...

And as for my pregnant friend, she did well! In silence most of the time, because she needed a lot of energy to put one foot in front of the other. And apart from a somewhat painful morning where she felt like vomiting, nausea left her alone! The hardest part was almost for her to take care, in the evening, of her toddler full of energy after staying without moving all day... And when a mother can barely keep her eyes open, it’s not easy to manage! Because she needs them open, her eyes, to avoid spectacular falls and other mishaps.

In short, it was not easy-easy but very nice, and quite unique. The BIG advantage of trekking in this season is that not many people go. From the number of guest-houses we saw, we can easily guess that in the high season the trek must be packed with people.