Monday, December 31, 2012


Being one of the seven wonders of the world, it's no surprise that the Taj Mahal has some strict security measures in place. But, there were a few items on this prohibited list that we thought to be slightly amusing. Thank goodness we decided to leave our toolbox and great dane (top right) at the hotel, and were allowed inside. But, we think Waka Flocka Flame would definitely approve of the "no hands," prohibited in item number two. 

 And, no visit to the Taj would be complete without adopting a new Indian family, complete with kids and grandparents. This family, visiting the Taj for the first time, shoved their child into Kip's arms and demanded a photo. We were only too happy to oblige. Liz really hit it off with grandma, as the photo clearly shows...

Friday, December 28, 2012


Udaipur, also known as "The City of Lakes" is one of the most romantic places in India. Kip, being the hopeless romantic that he is, was off hiking with a friend in Darjeeling, while Liz visited this beautiful city solo.

Not pictured (actually, just out of the frame to the left in the above photo) is the famous Lake Palace Hotel, one of the most exclusive and expensive hotels in India. It probably doesn't need to be said, but Liz did not splurge for the $700/night room, particularly when she could get the sunset for free.

Monday, December 24, 2012


The holiday season is a time for giving, right? We thought we would give our readers a little something as a thank you for letting us share our adventures with you. 

Ever since we were little kids, we've both loved getting postcards from faraway locales. The exotic images on front, the colorful stamps on back--they helped fuel imaginary journeys for years, at least until we could finally take some real adventures of our own. 

If you're like us and you like getting postcards from far away, we would love to send you one for the holidays.  Between now and December 31st 2012, if you send us a name and mailing address to, we'll mail you a card from Africa, our next stop.

It may take a month or two for the mail to arrive, but hopefully it will get there before next Christmas. We promise we will not use your info in any way other than to send you a postcard. 

Happy holidays, everyone--safe travels and happy 2013!

Liz & Kip


Now THAT is funny.

Friday, December 21, 2012


A female grounds worker walks in front of a red sandstone gate that protects the entrance to the tomb of Itmad-Ud-Daula, a former ruler of the region, and his wife. Guess they didn't have chain link fences back then...

The path the woman is crossing leads to an ornate white marble structure known as the "Baby Taj Mahal." Built in the 1600's, the tomb preceded the actual Taj by around 10 years and kicked off the transition from red sandstone structures like the one above to the glistening white marble buildings like the actual Taj Mahal. 

Click here to see images other folks have taken of the Baby Taj in all its glory.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012


Really hard to take a bad photo of the Taj Mahal, possibly the world's most architecturally stunning building. 
When you experience something memorable for the first time—swimming with a school of sharks, for example—it’s really nice to have people you love nearby…especially if the fish get hungry. 

So when Kip’s parents Paula and Larry decided to meet us in India, we were excited. Not only were we finally getting to see some of our family after nearly nine months on the road, but we also would be accompanying them to through New Delhi, Jaipur, and the Taj Mahal. As an added bonus, we also knew Kip’s mom would probably be hauling a backpack full of Clif bars, and his dad might even leave Kip a fresh shirt or two, which Liz was really pumped about. 
Larry and Paula warily pet a live cobra at Jaipur's City Palace. Nice shirt, Larry...maybe you'll leave it behind?
We kicked things off in New Delhi, where Paula splurged for a hotel with hot water, satellite TV, in-room wi-fi, and even clean, white sheets and fluffy towels (such rarities, at least where we usually sleep). We lived the good life, doing serious damage to the breakfast buffet and stopping by the sauna, while the folks slept off jetlag. The next day we toured some of the city’s highlights—the Red Fort, India Gate—weaving our way through the dust, dirt and chaotic traffic while clinging for life in the rear of an Indian auto-rickshaw, which thrilled Larry to no end.

Next we were off to Agra, home of the Taj Mahal. On the side of the road, “parked” at a gas station en route (seriously), we spotted a camel, which Liz and Paula both had to ride. Paula even got a big kiss. 
After a lunch break at McDonald’s for some fries, a Coke and a beef-free Big Mac, aka a “Maharaja Mac,” (Indians don’t eat beef, so there’s no Big Mac; but Mickey D’s remains insanely popular), we finally made it to our hotel, where through a thick blanket of fog we caught our first glimpse of the Taj Mahal. 

It was incredible, as was our long visit the following morning at sunrise. We'll only show a couple photos here, but as you can imagine, we took hundreds. 

The Patricks visit the Taj--Larry, Paula, Liz and Kip

 Dressed in their new "Indian" clothes, Liz and Paula share a laugh (left). The Taj framed (right).

Last stop was the historic city of Jaipur, the highlight of which was a visit to the Amber Fort. All four of us got to ride elephants up the steep, stone roadway to the entrance. Larry and Kip even allowed themselves to be conned into buying these stylish turbans. 
Larry and Kip go local at the Amber Fort outside of Jaipur, India.
After a lot of chicken curry, too many miles, and the making of some long-lasting memories, we headed back to India’s capital, tired but happy. We had watched the sun rise over the world’s most stunning architectural creation—something we’d dreamed of doing forever. We rode elephants. Some of us kissed a camel (Paula) and a water buffalo (Larry). And we got to do it with some of the people we love.

Not too shabby a way to spend a few of the not-so-many days we’re allotted on this planet. Not too shabby at all.

Addendum: If you’re back home in Louisiana and run into Paula and Larry, make sure to ask them about our not-so-friendly car driver, the over-eager postcard and trinket sellers at the Palace, and last but not least, how much they enjoyed being celebrities and having their picture taken with strangers everywhere they went.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012


The good people over at Meet, Plan, Go! featured our blog and a photo of us at Everest Base Camp on their website.  

Check out the post here.  Thanks guys, for the shout out!

Formerly called "Briefcase to Backpack," Meet, Plan, Go! is a great resource for anyone out there considering taking a "career break." And if you need more inspiration, check out this Huffington Post column on five reasons to go traveling now.

Monday, December 17, 2012


Talk about pressure. Not only do they charge for a bathroom break in rural Nepal, but you get charged extra if you stay too long...

Friday, December 14, 2012


One of the world's largest stupas and holiest Buddhist sites, Boudhanath is a UNESCO World Heritage site and a place where thousands of Tibetan refugees come to worship. 

It's also on the outskirts of the Kathmandu, which means between the distance from downtown and the sound of hundreds of prayer flags whipping in the wind, the city's horn-blaring chaos can almost be forgotten...or at least, that's how we felt while having coffee on one of the many rooftop cafes that surround the site.

Thursday, December 13, 2012


A monk chants under a fig tree at the site of the birthplace of Buddha in Lumbini, Nepal.
Lumbini--the birthplace of Siddhārtha Gautama Buddha, is one of the four most important Buddhist pilgrimage sites (the others being: Bodh Gaya, Sarnath, and Kushinagar). The site and small town nearby also sit conveniently next to the border with India, our next stop, so we decided to visit.

The town itself isn't much, particularly considering its historical significance. The guest house we stayed at was probably the worst of the whole trip, and that's saying something, but at $5 per night, it was almost worth it, mosquitoes and all. The bathroom featured a dirty squat toilet, a leaky tap, and a filthy bucket. And then there was the roach that crawled across Liz's chest in the night. Kip was just annoyed that her yelp woke him up ("Roaches don't bite. Shhhh!"). We've experienced lots of bugs on this trip.

Luxury hotels aside, the temple complex is actually quite nice. The most important site is the Maya Devi Temple (seen above), which has a stone marking the "actual" spot where Queen Mayadevi gave birth to Prince Siddhartha, who later became Buddha.

Due to the number of pilgrims inside, an the fact that they don't allow photos, we can't show the exact stone, but it's inside the white building, where lots of pilgrims come to meditate and worship.

Just outside, a long tree-lined road, cut by a canal, leads on to the Lumbini Peace Pagoda. The area is bordered by a crane sanctuary, a habitat set aside for the rare Sarus Cranes in the area.  We were fortunate enough to see one sqwak and fly over our heads as we rode past on our bicycles.
A Sarus Crane searches for food in the Lumbini Crane Conservation Center next door to Buddha's birthplace.
In addition to a crane sanctuary, there are quite a few signs along the way that we found interesting. One ended up as last week's Funny Monday. This sign, which we wish we could read, seems a bit out of place. Heading into India. That's all for now.

Was Buddha big into wrestling?
Nice that the site includes trash receptacles. Interesting they separate their rottens from non-rottens.
It was a full moon. Almost. It was pretty.
In addition to the cranes, Lumbini is also home to monkeys. Lots of them, actually, living right along the road, but they're far outnumbered by roaches and mosquitoes.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012


The hiking we've done in Nepal has been some of the best ever. And though we put in more than 20 days and close to 150 miles, Liz wants to come back and do the full Annapurna Circuit (20+ days). As for this trip though, our Nepali visas are up, our legs are beat, and it's time to head south.

Since we're heading into the heat of India next, we won't have much use for all these winter clothes, and with our packs heavy enough, we needed to lighten our load. Kathmandu has a great organization, KEEP, that runs a Porter's Clothing Bank. Since many porters don't have, or can't afford, sufficient winter clothes, this organization provides the opportunity for tourists like us, to donate excess winter clothing to be passed along to those porters who need it. We were only too happy to oblige,

KEEP's organizers asked us to encourage others visiting Nepal to do the same, so here goes. Below is their contact info online and in Kathmandu. They're within easy walking distance of Thamel. Stop by if you're passing through.

Monday, December 10, 2012


There were too many funny things in Pokhara for us to select just one. Below are some advertisements around town that kept us laughing for a while.

In the US, it's a convenience store. In Pokhara, it's a "Dance Restaurant."

Fresh fish, courtesy of the headless, watch-wearing lake man.

This photo was four feet tall and hanging on the wall of a shop offering kayak trips. While interacting with the locals can be fun, this kayaker may be getting a little more than he bargained for.

Sunday, December 9, 2012


Words don't do justice to the stunning beauty and random hilarity delivered by a hike through the Annapurna Sanctuary. For your viewing enjoyment, below are a few photos from the trek:
Some sheep Kip befriended on the trail.
View of the Annapurna peaks from Annapurna Base Camp at 13,549 feet. The strange lines of clouds high above the peaks are caused by high winds, we're told.
Liz with her soul sisters Nada and Sim at Annapurna Base Camp.
Some very camera shy Nepalese girls. They had a great time telling Kip all the English words they knew.
No chicken, pork, or buffalo meat beyond this point of the trail. Not a high point for us non-vegetarians.
Safety first? Not in this hot water shower, powered by a propane bottle and clear plastic tube that remain in the bathroom as you shower. Shockingly, we decided to pass on the gas.
Looking forward to buying some holes at this "hole sale" provision shop.
Considering there are only four lodges in Chhomrong, this sign seems a bit dated.
A herd of goats blocks the road on our ride back to Pokhara. Their horns are painted blue to identify them to their owners. On the dashboard of our car spins a solar-powered prayer wheel. 

Friday, December 7, 2012


Every once in a while, heaving a heavy pack up stone steps for days at a time can seem a bit pointless. And then, there are other times when--sweating, shivering, and dodging yak dung--it seems utterly ludicrous.

But then you're treated to a sunrise like the one above--with Machapuchare's near 23,000-ft peak shrouded in shimmering clouds--and we remember why we do it. At least, that's how we felt when we took this shot above in Nepal's Annapurna Sanctuary.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012


Thanks for the "HEARTLY" welcome, "Lodge Owner Family!"
After surviving a 14-day hike to Everest Base Camp, followed by a hair-raising helicopter ride back to Kathmandu, we decided a few relaxing days in the beautiful Pokhara in central Nepal were in order. The town, perched on the edge of a beautiful lake, with warm temperatures, stunning views, and good food were just what we needed to get over the hiking we swore we would never do again.  

Our first morning there, we saw the peaks of the Annapurna and the holy, un-climbed Machapuchare calling us from behind the hill over the lake. We were hooked immediately, and after renting two dirty sleeping bags from a hard-bargaining eight-year old, we set off for a "quick" six day trek to the Annapurna Sanctuary.

The view, enjoyed from our sleeping bags, was worth the trip.
The first few days of the trek were tortuous, climbing and descending an endless set of stairs, some built for small children and others built tall enough for a Yeti. It did some serious damage to both our legs and our will to keep going. But, the early morning views from the town of Chomrong at left made every step worth it. 

Not only is the scenery incredible, but the Chomrong Guesthouse makes a famous chocolate cake, at least according to TIME Magazine, which we may have tried three times in our one night stay.

The cake was a nice touch, but the reason to hike this trail is to see Annapurna.

The Sanctuary did not disappoint. The views were stunning. And we did our part to keep them that way, picking up trash as we hiked, as we did on the Everest trek. We filled ten bags of trash and had some help from folks along the way.  

Thanks to two hard-charging Aussies we met on the trail, we even had a place to sleep at Base Camp. Being the planners that we are, we didn't book ahead for one of the few rooms available. Sim and Nada (the awesome Aussies) were kind enough to share their's with two smelly, cranky, exhausted hikers (that would be us) so we didn't miss the incredible sunrise over the Annapurnas. Thanks you guys! (G&T's on us next time we're in Oz).
Us with the "Amazing Aussies," Sim and Nada, at Annapurna Base Camp.
A buffalo unamused by our request for a ride.
The hike down the trail was no less exciting than the hike up. Since we were without a map (Kip's idea) we decided to take a new route home (Kip's idea) that would save a few hours of climbing down stairs (Liz was all for this part). 

We ended up in a town where jeeps normally transport locals and trekkers to down to Pokhara. Perhaps not surprisingly  we were unaware that it was a Nepali holiday, and there were no jeeps, no buses, no donkeys/yaks/buffaloes, and no helicopters to carry us down. 

A local villager suggested we trek another two hours to a crossroads, where jeeps sometimes pass and we might flag down a ride for the three-hour journey. Thankfully, one lovely man agreed to take us (for the incredibly ridiculous "holiday" price) in his off-road four-door hatchback. We were in. 
Our amphibious 4x4 Suzuki. Half way across the river, our feet got soaked...inside the back seat.
The closest equivalent of Mexican Food we've seen
so far. Thank you , Pokhara
The road was rough. We could feel rocks scraping the undercarriage under our feet. We drove through a stream, and Liz's feet felt wet. She looked down, and water was rushing through the holes in the floor, and we were taking on water. But the car didn't quit, and we make it back to Pokhara, for a traditional Nepali-Mexican dinner and drinks with our new mountain friends. 

After a quick stop in Kathmandu, we're heading south to India next. No more least for a while.

The Annapurna crew, celebrating in Pokhara after a trek well done. From left to right, back row, Nada (Oz), Krissi (U.S.), John (Oz), Liz, Kip, Neal (U.S.); front row, Sim (Oz), Krista and Gareth (Oz). 

Sunday, December 2, 2012


This is Beni Rani Ghale. She is an incredible Nepali woman we were lucky enough to meet during our last few days in Kathmandu. 

Rani started a small shop that sells some really cool stuff made from garbage and found materials from across Nepal. As fellow garbage collectors, we loved the idea. We also liked the designs and items she and her organization managed to create, which range from Christmas ornaments and bowls to purses, belts and bags, all made of discarded chip bags, used bicycle tires and candy wrappers, among other things. 

Rani's story is pretty amazing. 

She belongs to an organization called HEED (Health, Education, Empowerment, Development), and she is the Director of Recycle-Handicrafts. She said her goals are to provide "income generating work, education, health and family planning for women and their families." The organization she is a part of works with Nepali women in rural villages to collect, and wash garbage and turn it into usable, marketable products.  HEED uses the proceeds from the sales of these products to provide a fair wage to the women workers, provide access to free healthcare, family planning, and schooling for their children. 

The website for the HEED NGO is, though it may be temporarily down by the time this is published. Eventually, visitors to the site will be able to make purchases online.

These ornaments are definitely worthy of our tree...which we will hopefully be home to put up in 2013...or 2014...
Christmas ornaments made from "cleaned-garbage." 
Rani showing off one of her messenger bags made from recycled truck tire tubes.