The Flaneur: Moto Journal Day 2 — Kashmir

To enter the Kashmir Valley from the south you must pass through the Jawarhal Tunnel, a rugged 1.77-mile hole between Banih?l and Qazigund that looks carved out by hammers and picks.

The one-lane tunnel is damp and feebly lit and a little frightening, especially on a motorcycle with bats flying overhead and vehicles with one headlight honking past in the bleary darkness, but these hazards make the journey all the more refreshing when the Kashmir Valley washes over you on the other side, with its cool air, valleys full of gleaming rice paddies and snow-capped mountains.

The ascent into the valley is gorgeous and relaxing, and as we pass through the first small town the initial signs of Kashmiri culture begin to appear.

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The Flaneur: Moto Journal Day 1 — Settling into the Ride

After three days of running around Dharamshala I’ve finally got all my gear. All together it weighs about 20 kilos: clothes, camera equipment, notebooks, first aid, hash, spark plugs, tools, tire tubes, clutch cables and other spare parts for the inevitable breakdowns in the middle of nowhere. I’ve fit it all into two old rucksacks and strapped them into the bars on either side of the wheel. This weight makes the bike drive wobbly as it accelerates, but once it gains speed things even out.

It took awhile to get the balance just right, but now things are set. The luggage is finally strapped to the 350cc Royal Enfield.

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Flaneur 15: Letter from Jogibara Village

A storm blew through these mountains a few hours ago, freshly icing the peaks and knocking the power out again.

It was a big storm. Unseasonably violent winds, heavens full of thunder, trees tossing around like raptured spirits. And now like so many times before since moving to the Himalayas, I’m writing in candlelight again.

One butter candle splutters and smokes out and I light another. One cigarette fills my lungs with death, and my mind with life, and I write a little more and light another. The lamp strapped around my forehead attracts moths. They flap around between my eyes. I blow them away. They come back.

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Day in the Life of a Long-Term Traveler: The Khardung La Pass, Ladakh, India

I wake near a window. Slowly, I remember that I am in someone’s home, in Khardung, India.

The wooden bed creaks as I pull my sleeping bag up over my shoulders and prop my head up for a better view.

The mountains are surreal. Each has a different character. The closest, just beyond the chasm separating it from the village, is ill-formed like a melting brain, or like an evolving, fetal creature, or a mountain anciently dead and in the process of devolving. To its left are red and orange, young-looking mountains, and beyond them, the largest in view, a yellow and kingly one. Beyond that is a range of black and purple snow-capped peaks.

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A Day in the Life of a Long-Term Traveler: The Turkish Mediterranean

The morning’s first waves began to sway the boat as I lay there watching a circle of hot light move down the wall as the sun rose up through the port window. I was on a mat below deck on a docked sailboat in the town of Fethiye, Turkey, trying to sleep off a hangover.

At that particular moment, halfway through a three-year trip, it was my job to ride Turkish gulets up and down the Mediterranean coast, picking up a new group of tourists every few days and taking them around while they drank and sunbathed. It was my responsibility to serve them drinks and interpret for the captains, who often didn’t speak much English.

That day’s passengers arrived around 10am. It was a group of rich Australian grad students in their twenties who’d hired us to take them around the Lycian Coast for a few nights.

After serving them lunch we set out to sea.

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A Day in the Life of a Long-Term Traveler: Vipassana Meditation Camp, Kathmandu, Nepal

I open my eyes at the first clanging of the gong at 4am.

Somehow, even though I’ve had almost no sleep, I am wide-awake. The gong clangs again, a bit louder this time. I turn on the light and begin stretching.

The man in the bed beside mine stirs and pulls the sheet over his head. Although we’ve been staying in the same small room together for four days, we’ve yet to say a single word to each other. We haven’t even made eye contact. This isn’t due to rudeness or unintelligibility, but that we’ve promised to adhere to “Noble Silence” during this 11-day Vipassana meditation retreat, “Noble Silence” here meaning no communication whatsoever – verbal or nonverbal (hence no eye contact).

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A Night in the Life of a Long-Term Traveler: Istanbul Graveyard Shift

It was for this reason that I found myself squished between three paramedics in the front seat of an Turkish ambulance at 1am en route to pick up an old man who’d tumbled down a flight of stairs somewhere in the outskirts of Istanbul….

 

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