Apple Crumble!


As is usually the case, on telling Khenpo and Tenzin about Joel’s culinary skills; he was promptly asked to show them off: would he make dessert for all the boys in the school?… This time (having learnt from previous situations) I kept my mouth firmly shut, and looked at him for an answer… This is no mean feat, preparing dessert for 90 people! Cakes and anything else baked are straight out the window as there’s no oven. Whatever we made had to be done in a big old pot. We wanted to keep it healthy, so thought about stewed fruit, and eventually decided to make it a bit like a crumble, just by sprinkling on crumbled up biscuits, and then serving with ice-cream. We cooked the apples with plenty of cinnamon and raisins. Yum!

Joel and I are helped to sort out apples for our (version of, an) apple crumble...

It took two big boxes of apples, which we transported to the school strapped onto Dolly’s luggage rack, 9 packets of Mcvities finest (on appointment to her majesty the queen!) and a huge box of ice-cream. Apples are an absolute treat for the boys, taking into account the comparatively high price; about £1 a kilo, and they were keen to give our concoction a taste! We were helped in the mammoth job of peeling and coring 180 apples by 5 of the older lamas. This gave me the opportunity I’d been waiting for to get them practising their English. We all chatted away, once they’d overcome their shyness, about their favourite footballers and kung-fu stars, as we peeled a mount Everest of apples.

A young lama offers his apple crumble for the Buddha, Dharma (Buddhist teachings) and Sangha, (Buddhist community)

It went down an absolute treat, and everyone leapt to their feet when Tenzin announced they could get a second helping! We’d overestimated, so they all got plenty! I must say it was pretty yummy.

I get in line for seconds!

Tenzin stirs the apples


The answer: 13 and a puppy!


We spent a lovely day at the school yesterday, chatting away to Tenzin, the headmaster. The boys brought us out a delicious lunch which we ate in the sunshine in the yard.

Please donate whatever you can afford here, we’ve made £120 so far, which will go towards giving the boys a balanced diet. Lets make it £1000! Come on everyone, every fiver/tenner helps.

It’s easy just click the paypal button on this page:

THE SIDDHARTHA FOUNDATION UK (reg charity 1118349)

How many monks can you fit on a motorbike? The answer is 13. And a puppy!

Day one of fundraising, £120!


So guys, we made £120 for the school, in just an afternoon alone! Thank you for your generous donations. Remember, anything you give will go along way here. The first lot of donations will buy the boys some fruit and yogurt, a rare treat!

But there’s a lot more to be made. This is the week, so spread the word! We are going to be doing all sorts of fun stuff with our new friends at the Siddhartha School, so check back often. First off:

Also, I’m just creating an account with Crowdrise, to make it easier for you all to donate. More on that soon. For now, please continue to donate through the website:


We’ve only gone and Katman-done it!


We've made it!

We have cycled over 5000 kilometres, and motorcycled over 3000 more, and eventually, after 6 months on the road, we hit the smog of Kathmandu! And would you even believe that before we set off the furthest Joel had ever ridden was 30kms-Bath (from Bristol) and back?! It’s mad, isn’t it! I honestly can’t believe it. There have been times when it felt like we would never make it, the Zagros mountains in Iran seemed to go on forever, the humidity in Goa almost killed us by dehydration. And the thick fog in Northern India almost froze our fingers and toes off! We have had one hell of a journey! This morning, we arrived at the school in Kathmandu where I taught 3 years ago, and invited the boys to ask questions about our trip. And so came the inevitable: “Why didn’t you come in an aeroplane?”… And you know what, Joel and I just looked at each other and shook our heads. How to explain? The warmth of the people we met along the way, the peace from pedalling through a winding valley, the camping, cooking and showering in woodland, the sunshine… The relentless packing and unpacking, the sound of the rain on the tent, the soggy socks. The frustration at not being able to find a camping spot, the overcome fear of new places (like Iran, which was one of our favourite bits! But you’d never know it unless you went there, would you?) And the food… YUM! When all these scenes come whizzing to mind, the question that seems more relevant is “Why would we fly?”, but after a long list of the things we’d seen along the way, the mountains, rivers, people, I think they got the picture.

But listen, as well as to tell you about our adventure, the reason I write is a plea for help.

Before we set off on the trip, we arranged a meeting with a company back home to discuss sponsorship – we were planning to raise money for the school I mentioned. The school is actually an orphanage/monastery school, taking in Tibetan and Himalayan children who have either lost their parents or their families are too poor to keep them.

Shortly before we set off, Rainbow Zebra, ( an online office furniture company back home, agreed to support us on our ride, offering to provide the school with whatever it was that they are most in need of. Suddenly this trip became about more than just us out for a jolly… This offer is what kept my legs turning up those mountains!

We agreed that we would arrive at the school, find out what they needed, and then discuss how the sponsors could support the school. There was talk of solar panels and computers, as well as the basics; food, medicine and clothing.

Khenpo (title for a doctor of Buddhism) Rinpoche (a reincarnation of a high lama), the patron and man behind the dream which opened the school, used to have a grand(er) title, he was Head of Buddhism for Nepal, and part of the ruling government party. His salary (together with support from the UK and France), was what kept the children fed. He recently lost his position and moved out of his house in the suburbs and now inhabits a single room on the roof of the school, in order to give all he has to the 80 boys who live there. He is the one responsible, and he is relying on his savings now, which obviously cannot last forever. The worry is what will happen when it eventually runs out. They really do need help – now.

Rainbow Zebra’s contribution at this stage will go towards food as this is number one priority, and some will be divvied up for pocket money; a luxury the boys rarely receive. Photos coming soon!

Khenpo’s dream is to build a new school for 500 students, and he has already bought the land. The problems they had been having with the Maoists are now solved and there’s nothing to stop them going ahead and building, apart from lack of funds. However, it is apparent that this is nothing more than a dream for the present moment, as they struggle to feed the boys a simple diet of rice and daal. Food prices as ever, are on the up.

Joel entertains the crowd and earns his lunch!

I could write and write and write about them, these are wonderful, respectful and incredibly open-hearted people, and my experiences with them in the past have changed my life forever (I realised my dream of becoming a teacher). I really want to do everything in my power to support them, and appealing to friends and family back home is my first stop.

Please, join me in remembering how well off we all are in the west. We might be in a recession but we are lucky enough to have food and shelter and money for leisure. How much have you spent on eating/drinking out in the last month?

Me in the kitchen. The gas hob is in the middle of the floor! It accommodates very big pots!

So Joel and I and everyone at the school here in Kathmandu would be very grateful if you would consider sponsoring a child. It’s up to you how much, 70p a day is enough to feed and educate one of the children, but 20p a day provides a significant difference. In return they will write to you and send you photos and traditional artwork. They could do with the English practice too! Trust me, these kids are delightful, you will not regret it.

a classroom. very basic.

(If you can’t afford an ongoing sponsorship, please consider buying them all some fruit -or anything you think would be a good idea- via Joel and I, fruit is relatively expensive and thus a luxury for them)

Joel is doing his bit – he’s going to do some serious baking – making dessert for 80 boys! (I’ll post pics to the blog.)

Go to for more information on how to donate, or maybe how to come and volunteer?

Anyways guys, thank you all for taking the time to read this. I really appreciate it. To borrow a phrase from a company with good ethics: Every Little Helps!

I hope that 2012 finds everybody happy and well.

Happy new year!


Betty and Joel

Happy New Year from Pokhara!


By Phewa Tal in Pokhara, Happy 2012!

We’ve been spending a relaxing near fortnight here in Pokhara, Nepal’s second city. Nepal is very chilled out; always a beautiful contrast to India. People, although friendly, aren’t so interested in the finer details of your trip, in a much more Western “I’ve got my own life to worry about” way. This is refreshing after India, and we’ve taken the opportunity to let our guard down for a bit. Resulting in meeting some wonderful people and having long discussions over (Pokhara’s best – and locally grown/organic) coffee in am/pm, in Lakeside South. There’s been a week long street festival taking place, culminating in a tense tug-o-war, in which Joel’s team came second (he was the only Westerner on his team, compared to the winners who, with respect, were 4-1 Western/Nepali and stood head and shoulders above their counterparts. I’m sure they’re all very strong too. This was a great way for us to meet some locals, who invited us all out for drinks later on. It was terribly serious, and certificates were awarded to the 3 top teams. Kathryn (a lovely Kiwi woman we befriended) and I arranged a women’s pull; and lost to the buxom Nepalese dancers who rose to the challenge. I’m not surprised, taking into account how much these women can carry up a mountain, (and i’m not talking about Snowdon here! ) AND the Cossack style dancing they’d been doing earlier on! Thighs of steel!

the runners up!

Today we walked with Dhananjaya (the cafe owner, also known as David) and his friend Maggie, along the lake and up the neighbouring hill to pay Joe a visit; a 70+ Irish chap who’s built a hilltop castle-resort (wonderfully eccentric, but beautifully inspiring) with his partner Sofia – complete with Irish pub and stuffed pooch! My Dad would love it; sipping a Jamesons in front of the communal fire, listening to Joe’s stories all evening, gazing over the lit-up Lakeside way down in the valley below. Joe gave us a round of Raxshi, the local millet wine (seriously poky, but luckily not quite as strong as the locals like it) grown by his own fair hands!

Joe and his Irish castle

The Fantastic Four, (or six including Dorothy and Daniel)


all wielding our monkey sticks!

From Udaipur we headed slightly north to the small and very holy town of Pushkar. Hindus believe that Brahma dropped a lotus, and where the petals fell, the holy lake of Pushkar was formed. Every Hindu should make a pilgrimage to the town once in their lives. Unfortunately, many ‘holy men’ are in the business of hanging out by the lake and approaching trusting tourists, whom they encourage to part with a few (hundred) rupees in exchange for a karmic cleanse and have a puja done for their loved-ones at the side of the disgustingly fetid water.

We’d arrived into Pushkar around noon, a short morning’s ride of 50km, after having made a midway stop in Beowar, where we decided the night-riding had got slightly too chilly.

As we pulled into town, I told Joel he could choose a guest house, to avoid my insisting on seeing a few and choosing the best one, which frustrates him no end. So, he was rightfully delighted when a guy approached us and offers a room for 200Rs, in a quiet part of town. He insisted that we follow him there to “just look”. This hassle-free method of finding a room thrilled Joel, who’d been expecting an hour of umming and ahhing over balcony versus hot water. The family-run hotel was in a quiet place away from the hubbub of the bazaar, and even boasted a ‘swimming pool’; a rectangular tiled pond in the central courtyard, with a lonesome rubber ring floating enticingly, but going unnoticed, as the kids chose to play cricket out front instead. The room was immaculate and one of the cheapest we’d found, but I couldn’t get excited about it, and found it difficult to conceal my disappointment. Even charming Rudy couldn’t crack a smile from me. I think I must have issues with control, I seriously hate being told what to do, and this telling people what to do is something that high-caste Indians spend their entire days doing. “Come here”, “Sit down”, “Visit this temple”, “Talk to this man”, “Eat this”- I have to admit that, as with most things Indian, when this happens and I’m feeling low-energy, it can drive me up the wall. At all other times I find it endearing, often to the point of giggles, undoubtedly one of the finer details which add to the charm of the subcontinent, that has led me back here three times! But it demands energy, something I simply lack before lunch.

After admitting my weakness to Joel behind closed doors, I was ready to come downstairs and meet the friendly looking travellers at the table, who I might well have previously ignored. A couple Mattieu and Rita, from France and Portugal respectively, and a Brit, Jon, from… Bristol! It wasn’t til the next day when Jon and I were out shopping (finally a shopping partner! Joel’s useless at it!) that we discovered the extent of this coincidence; we’d even been to the same secondary school! Love it!

Jon had only been in India for a week, and from the lightness of his skin, this was evident! He had just boarded this Indian rollercoaster, and was loving every second. Nice to have someone like him around to make us remember the magic; gleamingly ever-present in every moment, but all too often hidden by our frustrations at the little things, like being ripped off; or the compassion, which encourages us to share with those without; seen by hardened hearts (and limited pockets) as guilt-trips designed to trick you out of a few rupes. It’s beautiful to witness one yet to build up stereotypical ideas of what people want from us, just in case we’re caught off-guard in not acting from the heart – a stony truth, but something that befalls (almost) every Indian, and all too many Westerners in this poverty-stricken country of 1 billion inhabitants.


Jon’s plan originally had been to do a, possibly guided, tour of the Golden Triangle; Delhi, Jaipur and Agra. He was then going to fly to Nepal for a few weeks, before flying back into India in time for his friends’ coming at Christmas. The travel agent he’d booked with hadn’t told him the rule about being outside India for a minimum of two months, a little alarmingly. We explained it to him.

He’d bumped into Mattieu and Rita and Delhi, and they’d talked him into a visit to Pushkar. His plans were quickly going out the same window ours had!

It didn’t take him many of our tales to inspire him.

“Maybe I’ll buy a motorbike,” he semi-joked.

“Do it, come with us!” I chipped in.

“Could I?” a little more seriously now.

“Yes, of course!” we both chimed.

So the three of us piled on Dolly, and did a whistle-stop tour of Pushkar’s mechanics. Knowing Pushkar to be the home of many long-stayer travellers, I expected there to be a few options kicking about. It didn’t take long to find Ashok, who was selling a rather lovely 1984 Bullet 350, later to be christened Daniel (This is a good idea of Jon’s humour, which I can’t believe I had yet to mention!). No matter that Jon had never ridden a bike before. This was the perfect place to learn! In at the deep end! No matter that the bike was just a couple of inches too high for Jon’s lil’ legs. The grin he produced when riding back down the alleyway towards us, after a crash course from the Californian Robert, a old hand at riding around India (When learning how to kick start: “You gotta feeeeel the piston, come awhhn -you’re in the East now, maan.”), was the carbon copy of the grin Joely gave when he arrived back from a test-run with Dekel back in Goa. It’s the “Yes, please, I could get used to this” grin.


So, we were now three. Jon had a few little test drives around town, and Joel was obviously happy to have a bike buddy. I was happy ’cause I could use the newly acquired time (waiting for Jon to be ready to leave) to practice some yoga on the roof. The light over Rajasthan at dawn and dusk is like none I’ve seen before. The colours are so beautiful. Dusty pinks and yellows on the jagged hills, temples poking through the mist in the valleys. The perfect way to find some peace.


A case of Delhi belly for Jon, and a problem with Daniel’s front suspension, saw us miss three agreed departure mornings, one of which we even arrived in the neighbouring Ajmer where we only made it to a mechanic, before turning back to Pushkar to confront Ashok, and possibly even demand Jon’s money back if he didn’t fix it. (We’d been told that the bike was in perfect condition, and it wasn’t.) Luckily Ashok agreed. We’d had the thumbs up from Robert, who’d been coming to Ashok for ten odd years; otherwise we might not have been so trusting, as mechanics in India can go either way.


FINALLY we left Pushkar, a good four days later than we’d originally planned, and headed North to Jaipur, where Lucy; a friend of mine from home; would be arriving the next morning. Or the following one if she happened to miss the train, which she did…

On the way to Jaipur we stopped to marvel at the novelty of an Indian McDonald’s. Joel ordered himself a Chicken Maharaja burger, and laughed at the sign by the counter that announced no beef or pork was on the premises. A funny contrast to McDonald’s back home, here it appeared to be an (all English-speaking) upper class type of a joint.

It was here that we ran into Fabio, a German chap with an Aussie accent, who’d bought an Enfield in Delhi and was riding down to Mumbai to pick up his girlfriend, who was flying out for Christmas. We were the first tourists on Enfields he’d seen, to his disappointment; as he’d been expecting to find more. We told him Pushkar and then Goa would be great places to make some bike buds, and then grinned as we watched him chug off into the sinking sun.


Jon did well on the bike, riding out on the open road is less obstacle-rich than the inner cities. We arrived into Jaipur just as it was getting dark, so opted to stop in the periphery at the first hotel we could find, to end the day on a high. We found the Vinayak Heritage Hotel, a family-run establishment. We ended up staying for a whopping five nights, Lucy arriving on the second day.

To celebrate Lucy’s arrival, we went out to a 3* hotel recommended in the Lonely Planet book, for it’s Rajasthani thalis. A feast fit for a king! We all stuffed ourselves silly and chatted the evening away. Lucy told us tales of her adventures in the mountains; she’s spent the last six months in the northern-most part of India, visiting Tibetan-buddhist communities and making plenty of new friends!

Jon reckoned it would be safe to put Lucy on the back of Daniel with him to visit the Amber fort, just outside of town. However, a swerve to get past a cycle rickshaw ended in tears, as Lucy’s little toe got in between the spokes. She put on a brave face, for what looked like a painful and bloody injury, ’til we found a little doctor’s surgery over the road and got her bandaged up.

She managed to explore the fort hobbling along without complaining once; very admirable! We hired a guide as Jon fancied it, but I’m starting to realise that palaces and forts in India are much of a muchness, and aside from a few interesting little facts; of which none were memorable enough to recount, the guide merely seemed to be holding us back, demanding our constant attention and energy for listening. He was perhaps aware of our tendencies to forget to listen, and impressed me with a few on the spot CCQs – as they’re known in the trade: concentration checking questions. I would really much rather learn about how the ordinary every-day people lived, than the kings and their queens, who must have been extremely bored confined to the inner sanctums of the palace. AND had to share their king with a good ten other queens, who all had separate quarters/share of the gardens; to minimise bickering presumably. How lonely! The king of course had constant access to any. Oh one thing the guide told us that stuck: how the women were so adorned, that they couldn’t walk and instead had to use wheelchairs to get around. That’s why there were slopes instead of steps. Just great.

One thing about the visit was wonderful, and that was the views from the hilltops. Oh yes and the company. 🙂


Jon, Lucy and I had a night out at the cinema, a fine building that resembled a pink cream cake, and saw a showing of Desi [local] Boys; an hilarious comedy (we think) about two NRIs (My new word; non-resident Indians) who lose their jobs in the British recession and become strippers. Being Bollywood nothing too exciting happens, but there’s no shortage of hip-thrusting. The crowd went wild, whistling as each actor came onto the screen. We didn’t understand the Hindi, but the amount of English thrown in, and the Indian lack of subtlety, made it easy to follow! As per norm, after the show, everyone’s heads turned our way, for a secondary and not nearly exciting performance, in which three goras stood up and made their way to the door.


The last day in Jaipur, Joel and I decided, well really just I decided, to replace our camera, as the photos it was producing were really not up to scratch, and India’s a pretty photogenic country. Jon had a nifty little Olympus, which made the same shots look far more intensely colourful. This was the icing on the cake, and securing a deal with Abishek, the hotel owner, to buy the old one, we popped out to have a look. The guys in the shop really were useless sales assistants; they didn’t have a clue about the cameras; we were trying to decide between a Canon and it’s Nikon counterpart, and all they could do was read us the info on the boxes. I asked which camera one of the assistants used, and he told me he didn’t have one. So we gave up asking, instead loading up a web review comparison on the Kindle. God I love that Kindle, it has been so incredibly useful. Thank Amazon for the free 3g! (They’ve done away with that feature on the latest model I note! Obviously too expensive with people like us relying on it for web access all over the world. Someone’s gotta foot the bill!) After reading the comparison, we found the Nikon to outdo the Canon in most respects, and substantially cheaper. Job done! Whilst testing it, Joel used some feature that had the staff a-gawp, he spotted them attempting it themselves when we were paying. Funny boys; all tawk and no trahzers.


Just outside the camera shop, we spotted a cycle-tourist! Joel ran out, and he was busy admiring the bikes when I arrived. They were a couple from Holland, and had ridden much the same route as us, through Iran. They’d arrived by train from Delhi, and were now contemplating the next leg; they were thinking about riding to Jaisalmer; way out in the Thar Desert! Fair play to them; I don’t think this is something I’d fancy. Actually, much as I miss old Arthur, I have been rather glad not to have been cycling. The landscape, apart from a small part of southern Rajasthan, has been flat and seemingly unending. People are quick enough as it is to surround us on the Enfield, cycling into small villages simply doesn’t bear thinking about. Unless you had bags of energy, when you might be excited by the very warm welcome, and offers of home visits. But that is rarely the case when you’ve been riding all day long. I shall be interested to see how they get on! Thomas was pretty impressed by the Enfield, and had been trying to persuade his girlfriend (sorry, forgotten name) that was what they should do. She was fairly unenthusiastic, so i’ll be intrigued to see if the experience of cycling in India changes her mind!


After Lucyloo’s little incident on the back on Daniel, she was loathe to get back on him for the ride to Bundi, so she caught a bus, and met us there. As Lucy and Jon were both heading south for Christmas, we conceded to head a little further south before continuing north to Nepal. Bundi has been on my mind for a few years, and I’d had a good recommendation of a all-female run guest house there. It’s a small town that retains much of the old-time charm of Rajasthan, before all the modern invasions, like motorbikes. A fort towers over the town in a spooky dracula-esque way, and all the monkeys gallop up there when the sun sets. The majority of the old town in painted blue, the traditional colour for a Brahmin (highest caste) household. In this way it’s like a little brother to Jodhpur. The RN Haveli guest house, was as expected, a lovely welcoming place to spend a few days. Mama, as she’s known to all, is a cuddly 70(odd) year old, who embraces all travellers as her children. Just what you need if you’re feeling a little homesick! She showed me articles from global newspapers and magazines, written about her and her daughters, and how they’d defied the traditional ways, turning their house into a guest house after her husband passed away. They received plenty of stick from the locals, especially her daughters, as a result of befriending foreign men. When we arrived, the daughters were all gone, married off or studying in Jaipur, as was the case with one. Mama seemed a little sad to have lost them.

The boys who were employed were wonderful, and we really felt part of a family. Raju, 23, gave us a very authoritarian cooking lesson, telling us not to speak unless spoken to. Radishan, 19, the all-round helper boy, was wonderfully sweet, and gave me a hand with my Hindi in exchange for English pointers.

Ruggero from near Vienna was also in residence, and had travelled overland from Italy. He’d opted for the Pakistani route, and told me so many stories of warm hospitality that I regretted our decision not to go. He hired a moped, and with another girl, Manu from Germany, we all rode out 30kms to an enormous waterfall. After shoo-ing away a ‘holy man’ supposedly from the Shiva temple by the falls, just sitting down on the neighbouring rocks for a spliff, where we wanted to swim, we stripped off and took the plunge. It was bloody freezing! I felt like my muscles were freezing up, and Ruggero climbed jerkily out screaming “I’m Italiaaaan!”, while the other Brits among us swam about as if in a heated pool! Ruggero went blue and was shivering ferociously, unfortunately we’d missed the heat of the day, and the sun wasn’t far off setting. Jon, Lucy and Joel were having a fine old time swimming right under the waterfall. It was a huge cliff-face sheer drop, and there was enough space to stand behind the water and shiver, as Jon demonstrated. I almost had a panic attack as it was so cold, and Lucy swam with me back to the rocks. The pool was seriously deep, and my arms felt like they were stopping working. What a relief to get out of there!

We all dried off, and the climb back up to the top of the cliff got some blood pumping again. The ride home was fun, Ruggero’s little scooter running at top speed, sounding like a hairdryer next to the two Enfields. We made it back just after dark, when Jon had a near miss with an overtaking car, which Lucy wasn’t too happy about, him having persuaded her to get back on with him. He dropped the bike as he was stopping and they both fell off; an unfortunate end to an otherwise uneventful ride! But all taken in good humour.


Lucy booked a train out of Kota, to Goa. Jon decided to go with her and booked the bike onto the train. They made it on to the train fine, and the bike will follow a couple of days later.

It was sad to say goodbye to the pair of them, we’d had a really wonderful time together, but nice that they’d continue together, even if we couldn’t make it to Goa for Christmas because of our visa. Everyone we meet is heading south, and they seem alarmed that we’d want to go to Nepal at this time of year. Well we don’t, but we don’t have much choice. It’ll be different to Christmas and new year on a beach with a bunch of mates, but i’m sure we’ll have a beautiful time. We’re hoping that we might find a way around the 2 month out of India rule, and make it back into India to spend some time with Loren, who’s flying out in January. We’ll have to wait ‘n’ see!


So we left Bundi, Jon and Lucy on Saturday, and I write this from the small historic town of Orchha, in Madhyur Pradesh. It’s full of crumbling old palaces in the jungle, with vultures nesting on the roofs. Very atmospheric. Tomorrow we’ll head to Lucknow, the scene of one of the first uprisings to oust the British in 1800, and from there to the Nepalese border.


Our aim is to be in Himalayan hot-springs for Christmas: What will you be doing?! 🙂


(only just found internet, so few days delay in posting this! Merry Christmas to you all. We’re in Pokhara after a dramatic 13hr mission, culminating in a snapped accelerator cable in mid-mountain road, but fixed in the field by our Joely. Who’s a clever boy!?)