Kashmir

January 25, 2007

All my good intentionswith this blog have been scuppered by work nd now lack of internet access. the place i am staying in the mountains has no working connection so i am writing my blog on my laptop and will make a big update when i get to somwhere with wifi. i’m having an amazing time, kashmir is beautiful.

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To Rajasthan

January 14, 2007

Sorry to have not updated since my initial posts. Pretty hectic with the shoot but will hopefully be able to write more tonight.

Departures & Arrivals

January 11, 2007

My journey from London to Delhi went extremely smoothly last night. It was a real luxury to be picked up from my house by a posh car and not some crappy mini cab I’ve paid for myself! I wasn’t initially aware that when you fly Upper Class with Virgin Atlantic a chauffeur driven car to the airport is part of the deal. I arrived at Heathrow via Virgin’s kerbside check-in and my bags were gone before I’d stepped out of the car. Excellent! I need to make sure I get more jobs abroad!

The Fast Track through passport control was a life saver as the regular queue was worse than I’ve ever seen it. I think people were waiting in line for about an hour to get through security to the departure lounges. I was through in minutes and straight into Virgin’s gorgeous lounge. Really, this is how the other half live. It was like a set from a movie, trendy bar, ultra cool lighting, a DJ playing chill out music, fantastic food and wine (all for free!) If I saw it in a film my reaction would be “Yeah right, like airport lounges look like that!” Amazing!

I bedded down shortly after take off, and dozed on and off until the nice beauty therapist lady reminded me it was time for my massage. Quite the way to arrive in another country after a long flight, properly rested and feeling great. The treatment I got from Virgin made the arrival in Delhi airport all the harder.

It was hot, chaotic and pretty confusing. As well as my backpack full of camera gear I had a suitcase and my snowboard bag. That got some funny looks – India really isn’t much of a snow sports destination (yet!) I think people thought it was a coffin!

Changing money was a nightmare. After exchanging £400 I have ended up looking like I have robbed a bank, with three huge bundles of Indian rupees! The staff at the branch of Thomas Cook in the airport were particularly unhelpful and not a very good introduction to the country. That’ll teach me for choosing the nice, safe English sounding option over the local exchanges.

I was met by a man holding up a sign saying ‘Simon Weller’. I think this is maybe the first time that has happened to me. Sadly I didn’t feel that important as there were about 3,000 other people holding up signs as well! As we made our way to the car park I was immediately pounced on by about ten men trying to help load my bags into my cab, demanding “Gimme pound” for literally lifting one finger to help. I gave them a couple of pounds and was then told off by the travel representative for doing so! You can’t win. I’ll have to develop the thick skin needed for traveling in a place like this. Do not make eye contact with the poor homeless man selling Indian flags at the traffic lights, do not acknowledge the poor, dirty child staring through the window of my cab, trying to offer me a flower. It’s so difficult to do. But you have to I suppose.

The drive to my hotel was quick but horribly cramped. The snowboard bag didn’t really fit in the car and was laid out from the back, through the gap in the front seats, resting on the dashboard. The driver could barely change gear! Luckily I am able to store the bag in left luggage at my hotel (even though I am only staying one night) whilst I go off to Jodhpur, Rajasthan to meet up with the BBC crew tomorrow morning. The hotel I’m staying in is the luxurious Taj Palace, very nice indeed and one I most definitely wouldn’t be staying in if I had to pay for it!

I have to be up at 5am so I need to get to bed.

Goodnight!

Thoughts about India

January 5, 2007

On Wednesday I’m flying to India for a month. I’m going out to work with a BBC documentary team in Rajasthan, photographing for a book that will accompany a new series about India. The series is be presented by actor/comedian Sanjeev Bhaskar (The Kumars at 42) and will be screened in the summer as part of an India season the BBC is putting on, commemorating the 60th anniversary of their independence.

I’m flying to Delhi, staying for one night before catching a flight up to Jodhpur in Rajajsthan for about 5 days. We will be staying in a palace, trekking in the desert and seeing some pretty amazing stuff i’m sure!

I then leave the BBC team and travel back down to Delhi for another 5 days. On the 21st i’m flying up to Srinagar in Kashmir, yes Kashmir!! I must be mad. I’m heading up to Gulmarg, a tiny fledgling ski resort in the Himalayas. Although it has some of the most stunning scenery and best boarding terrain in the world it still only receives about 500 visitors every season!! Crazy! This is mainly to do with the political situation between India and Pakistan – both countries claim Kashmir and were on the brink of nuclear war over it less than five years ago. Gulmarg is only a few miles from the line of control, one of the most hotly disputed border areas in the world. In the last two years the security situation has improved a great deal (although it still not 100% safe, but where is?)

It is thought that this resort will become huge in the coming years, so i’m really looking forward to snowboarding before the crowds. I am going up there for 2 weeks, staying in a tiny lodge hotel and have booked a local guide everyday to go out with exploring the mountain. It’s gonna be powder heaven out there. Here’s an article about the place:

http://travel.guardian.co.uk/article/2006/dec/10/india.skiing.shortbreaks

i’m then staying on one of the famous Dal Lake houseboats before i fly back to Delhi and home.