31 July 2014

The road from Manali to Leh (2)

Here's another photograph from the second day of the journey. A traffic jam (yes) on a long switchback climb meant we had to stop and wait while the downhill traffic -- mostly trucks -- squeezed past. The advantage was the opportunity to get out, stretch our legs, and attempt more deliberate photographs rather than the hit-or-miss snaps from the open window of the bouncing minibus.

I'm settling in a Leh, mostly acclimated to the altitude now, sleeping well, enjoying the delightful hospitality of a guest house high up above the noise of the town below, but relying on restaurants for wifi -- probably a good thing, as it removes the temptation to spend longer than I should in places other than where I actually am. :^)

All content © 2014 Pete McGregor

30 July 2014

The road from Manali to Leh

The gap between postings has been because I've been travelling to Leh -- two days in a minibus, over a road where smooth tarseal would have been, as Gandhi rather disparagingly said of western culture, a good idea. In fairness, we did encounter a few sections of newly paved road; however, for most of the journey of over 400 km the road resembled a rough four-wheel drive track.

Still, this journey hasn't earned its reputation as one of the world's great road trips for nothing. The landscape is spectacular, the discomfort amply compensated. Here's a sample from early on the second day.

All content © 2014 Pete McGregor

26 July 2014

The chai seller, Manali

Old Manali clings to the mountainside above the main town and is the preferred option for many visitors. It has an abundance of cafes and restaurants, with the expense of their offerings correlated mostly with how hip they try to be and, as far as my limited experience goes, not at all correlated with the quality (although, to be fair, most is at least good). If, for example, you want good chai, go to somewhere like this: a stall that sits between Old and New Manali. It's a shack made of tin, buckled plywood and grime, with a corrugated iron roof.  I stopped in on a walk back from the new town a couple of days ago, hoping for an aloo paratha, but had arrived too late in the day.
  'Only chai,' the man said.
Only chai was fine with me. I sat in the dark interior with one other customer, an Indian man absorbed in his phone, and drank only chai and watched the passers-by. Afterwards, I paid the 10 rupees for the chai (less than NZ 20 cents) and chatted briefly with the owner (with the cigarette) and his friend. I felt as if I were back in India.

All content © 2014 Pete McGregor

24 July 2014

Proof India's colourful (bumblebee)

India's often described as colourful. This is often true, as even the bumblebees demonstrate. Several of these were working these flowers among the roadside vegetation near the top of Old Manali, among the nettles and marijuana. Not the best of photographs (I didn't have the flash set up), but I think it proves my point :)

All content © 2014 Pete McGregor

23 July 2014

Jogiwara Road, Dharamsala

Another view of Jogiwara Road, near the Gakyi restaurant, late in the evening. At times this road (and others) were grid-locked with vehicles. I don't know why anyone would try to take a car along streets this narrow and crowded, but many people seemed to feel it necessary.

All content © 2014 Pete McGregor

21 July 2014

Evening street, Dharamsala

This is what Dharamsala looks like in the evening. Actually, it's much more frenetic than it appears here, and I'll post one or two more photographs to help give you the feel of the craziness. Still, by Indian standards it really does live up to its reputation of being relaxed.

The Gakyi, pictured here, became my regular breakfast spot and is one of the things I'll most miss about Dharamsala.

All content © 2014 Pete McGregor

20 July 2014

Dog at Dal Lake

One of the guide books describes Dal Lake, one of the points of interest near Dharamsala, as 'underwhelming'. That's an apt description, but the place isn't entirely without interest. The dogs certainly know how to pose for photographs -- plenty of practice, perhaps?

Early tomorrow morning I catch the bus to Manali. Most people apparently take the night bus, but I like to see the places I'm travelling through, particularly when I have to spend 10 hours in a bus.

All content © 2014 Pete McGregor

19 July 2014


Yesterday my new friends from Shanghai and I visited Dal Lake, just outside Dharamsala. We were accompanied by a couple of other friends, including Samtin, whom William had met on his previous visit. The lake itself is, to put it mildly, unspectacular, so Samtin suggested visiting Naddi village, a short walk away. This proved more interesting. I managed to avoid the leeches this time; unfortunately, Suri and Samtin didn't. An application of hand sanitiser quickly removed the leech from Suri's ankle, but Samtin, like a good buddhist, let his feed unmolested. (The only problem with leeches is the mess they leave behind -- they use an anticoagulant which means the blood flows for a long time.)

'"Samtin" -- sounds like "something",' he explained, laughing.

[I've published a new post on Pohanginapete]

All content © 2014 Pete McGregor

18 July 2014

The view from McLeod Ganj

When the mist clears, the view from my balcony isn't too shabby. It's a case of 'enjoy it while you can', though -- this kind of exceptional view seldom lasts more than a few minutes. The bird is a black kite, one of the most abundant and ubiquitous of Indian birds.

All content © 2014 Pete McGregor

17 July 2014

Monk on the Dharamkot road, McLeod Ganj

Yesterday evening I returned to the Dharamkot road. Mist hung dense in the forest and lingered around the road; a few people laboured up the steep path or walked more briskly down. I took my time, enjoying the relative tranquility before rejoining the crowds at McLeod Ganj.

I also, as I discovered back in my room, had played host to a leech -- the first time I've donated blood since leaving New Zealand.

All content © 2014 Pete McGregor

16 July 2014

Beetle at Dharamsala

Yesterday evening in the more temperate weather of McLeod Ganj (the upper part of Dharamsala (or Dharamshala if you prefer the local spelling)), I walked partway up the road to Dharamkot, hoping for photographable views. I found none but did find plenty of other interesting things at the opposite end of the size scale, among them, several of these beetles among the abundant, head-high nettles along the roadside. For the first time in India, I put the macro lens on and set up the flash.

The monsoon arrived later in the evening: rain as I've never heard it, as if the roof might buckle under the weight of water; lightning; a continuous rumble of thunder, one peal merging with the next. By morning the rain had begun to ease; by late morning the cloud had begun to break, and the sky's alternated between sunshine, cloud and occasional light showers. Mostly, the light's been lousy for photographs, but maybe this evening I'll at last find a view worth a photograph. Meanwhile, I have a relatively inexpensive room with a view, a balcony, and even a desk that's perfect for writing. I think I'll be here for a few days.

All content © 2014 Pete McGregor

14 July 2014

The Golden Temple at Amritsar

Amritsar's just as hot as Delhi: the temperature got to about 41 degrees celsius today. I left early in the morning to visit the Golden Temple but even then the heat was sweltering. Still, the visit was worth every bit of discomfort.

(Again, this photograph looks soft to me, although the original's tack sharp. I don't know what's going wrong -- some idiosyncracy of android or the app or something. I'll keep trying to work out what's going on, but in the meantime all I can do is apologise for the quality. Bummer.)

All content © 2014 Pete McGregor

10 July 2014

Gollum; en route to India

This is what greets you at Wellington airport. I saw it in the wee hours of Monday morning after I'd arrived for my flight to India.

I hope the quality of the photographs over the next four months is O.K., because I'm trying to do all this, including processing the photographs, on an android tablet. Let's just say I'm not impressed, and the sooner Adobe gets its act together and produces an android version of Lightroom, the better.

I'll try to check these on a Windows machine from time to time. In the meantime, I'll keep my fingers crossed.

Here in New Delhi the heat's terrific, but I seem to be coping. Keep an eye on Pohanginapete to read about the travels.

All content © 2014 Pete McGregor

02 July 2014

Popokatea (Whitehead); No. 1 Line, southern Ruahine Range

I find popokatea very difficult to photograph. They move constantly and rapidly, they hang out at a level in the canopy that always seems to mean they're silhouetted, and they're usually obscured at least partly by the foliage among which they're hunting. I console myself with the knowledge that my preferences for photographs of birds and other larger animals have been tending towards those that evoke the impression of the animal in its environment rather than technically perfect portraits.

You can see another version of this photograph and read more about No. 1 Line on the Pohanginapete post I published this afternoon.

[4 May 2013, Panasonic Lumix GH1, 100–300 mm at 300 mm, ISO 1600, 1/160 at f5.6]

All content © 2014 Pete McGregor