Tasting Malai Kofta in New Delhi

We had breakfast at the hotel with chole bhature. Here they accompany it with a spicy curry, but we take honey. The breakfasts at the hotels in Delhi are very peculiar. The western options like toast, juice, cereal and omlet are quite poor. We are given to try everything that we are put in front.

When we finish breakfast we go down to the reception to wait until our driver arrives to pick us up. Today we have a very busy day because yesterday we left several things without seeing because they were closed. Our first stop is the Red Fort of Delhi, which is so called because of the color of the sandstone with which it is built.

Here lived Shah Jahan, who will sound to you because he is the same one who commissioned the Taj Mahal. After burying his beloved, he came to live in Delhi, rather to Shahjahanabad. It was the seventh Mughal city that was built in the area that occupies the current old Delhi.

We regretted right away that we did not pay attention to our driver and limited ourselves to seeing the fort on the outside. Inside it turns out to be disappointing. Perhaps if they had the sources that there are around the enclosure with water it would be something else but as it is, it is not worth the trouble at all.

Especially after having seen places like the ones we've seen so far. The audio guide, which we also take, is in line with all of here. Someone should rethink of updating them because they are pretty bad. Upon leaving, we take the car and go to the Swaminarayan Akshardham Temple. It was inspired and developed by Pramukh Swami Maharaj where more than 3000 volunteers and 7000 artisans participated in its construction.

The materials used for its construction were marble, sandstone and gold leaf. It is the largest temple of the Swaminarayan faith, one of the sects of Vaishnavism. The interior of the Mandir, the main building, is full of golden statues and beautiful carvings of different gods in an impressive work.

The outdoor area, with gardens and fountains, is perfect for walking. One of the zones, that of the playground, emulates an immense lotus flower. It also has a restaurant area at a more than reasonable price. The entrance to the temple is free and closes on Mondays. We cannot go with anything electronic inside (camera either).

Possibly this is one of the visits that have surprised us most to date. We had not heard of this place before coming and it is extremely spectacular that leaves us speechless. The next place we visit is Agrasen ki Baoli. Although there are no historical records, it is believed that it was built by King Agrasen and rebuilt in the 14th century by the Agrawal community.

The concept is the same as that of Chand Baori, but this is something smaller and has 108 steps. As a curiosity, our driver tells us that some scenes of Batman were filmed here. And, finally, we arrived at the famous Lotus Temple, a symbol of the city. It was built between 1980 and 1986 and, contrary to popular belief, it is a Baha'is temple.

This religion defends the integration of all religions. Inside the temples are the sacred scriptures of any faith, but it is not allowed to give sermons, perform rituals or play instruments. The interior of the temple is circular, as established by the Baha'i scriptures. In addition there are no figures or pulpits, also prohibited in the scriptures.

Surprisingly, since its opening it has become one of the most visited monuments in India, surpassing in number of annual visitors to the Taj Mahal itself. Actually the temple is very beautiful, especially seen from the gardens where it truly resembles a Lotus flower. The really incredible must be the aerial view of the place, although I'm afraid we'll stay with the desire.

The last stop is the Qutub Minar, the tallest brick minaret in the world and the oldest Islamic monument in Delhi. Construction began in 1193 but was not completed until the year 1368 by Firuz Shah Tughluq. It is built in red sandstone, carved with various figures and verses from the Koran. Its original function is not known for sure.

It could have been designed as a minaret for the mosque next to which it is located or as a defensive or victory tower. The site leaves us impressed. It was built on a temple and it is still possible to see the carved figures of the gods with their faces erased. The complex in general is spectacular and the tower one of the most impressive things we have seen in Delhi.

At about 4 in the afternoon we feel hungry. Our driver takes us to eat at a place he knows near Connaught Place, where he says they make delicious malai kofta in New Delhi. Being as passionate I am about cooking it was obvious that gastronomy was going to be one of the strong points of the trip.

This is possibly my favorite Indian food dish. It tastes great and the best I have tried. It is a creamy and very soft cream in which vegetarian meatballs (koftas) are submerged. It is absolutely essential to try this dish because it is indescribable how rich it is. When we finish we return to the hotel to take the taxi to the airport.

Something happens when I leave a place. Suddenly, the last moments become important. It is as if all my senses are aware that everything around them is final. As if it began to become relevant what until then had gone unnoticed. And this is how that bus full of passengers stays engraved in my eyes.

The sound of the horn penetrates my ears in a much more conscious way. The smell of incense permeates my nostrils. The taste of that last bite remains suspended in my palate. My hands are determined to touch everything, to take something as intangible as a country turned into something as volatile as touch.

Somehow, I want to keep everything and fill myself with everything around me so as not to lose, to take the part of me that this land has molded and turned into experience, into memory. And the city is staying in my memory. It is tattooed on my skin. And when the plane lands in the place from which days before I left, I know that it is not the person who left who returns.

The one that now arrives is me, with everything I have accumulated along the way, with everything I have lived and learned. I am a bit of where I traveled, even if it's just a sound, a texture, a flavor and that something that stayed with me forever with everything I've accumulated on the road, with everything I've lived and learned.

Malai Kofta Recipe images

Unusual Experiences in Gobi Desert in Mongolia and China

When we think of the Gobi desert, we immediately think of the golden sand dunes, which we would like to tread barefoot. We can say that our trip to Mongolia was rich in adventures. The Gobi Desert was the first big stop on our road trip in Mongolia. We discovered its many facets with its snow-capped mountains, huge sand dunes, and flaming red canyons.

The Gobi is first and foremost a desert and we have to travel several hundred kilometers on barren roads before reaching one of its wonders. Fortunately, we had a great team, and the hours spent in our 4x4 van do not seem so long. Moreover, our way of traveling is really nice.

We take the time to live and our guide, our cook and our driver pamper us by preparing tasty meals and always good. Let's be one of the lucky few who does not eat lamb meat every day! So we ended up doing our own sushi or fries in the middle of the desert and it was excellent!

As we say right now, this is not what you read when browsing this article. We could have rented a 4x4 and the services of a local guide, in order to get lost in these spaces to live a tailor-made high-marked adventure.

Moreover, to be quite honest and not hide anything, I probably would have appreciated. During my second trip to the Mauritanian Sahara, I had the chance to camp for a week in small oases with a guide. He knew at his fingertips these tracks in the sand, invisible to any foreign tourist. I still keep an indelible memory today.

This time, however, it was otherwise. Our tight budget and a strong desire to go off the beaten track have won over these images of postcards, which we had in spite of ourselves in mind. Finally, except for the stifling heat, our crossing of the Gobi desert trek proved to be perfect, or almost.

Day 1 - Moscow

I start this notebook in the sky, somewhere above the clouds, in the direction of Moscow, where we have to stop before leaving for Ulaanbaatar. The plane has just made a detour to get around a storm, but we still cross a small area of disturbances. A few hours later another storm prevents us from landing in Moscow. We are shooting in the sky. But no, we finally land! In a few minutes, the Russian officials, straight in their boots, refuse us access. There are fragrances from the former Soviet Union.

We wait 24 hours locked in the airport, with no exit in Moscow. We are still provided with a small room, after 3 hours at the aptly-named mini hotel. We go share a lean salad! We have not yet set foot in Mongolia but the trip is already full of meetings.

I have always been surrounded by unrepentant travelers who took me to all corners of the world! And that's how I went to lost places where I would never have imagined setting foot in the deserts of Syria, along the precipices of the Caucasus, on the Korean islands, and in the Brazilian jungle.

At 3 am in Moscow my sleep breaks in the middle of the night, as it's already dawn. The question turns me vaguely in the head in my half-sleep. Why is it day in the middle of the night?

I think at first that it's about the lights of the airport. Then I remember it's June and not much closer in the Arctic Circle. The dark night is not here. I write these lines without a lamp, just in the light of the night. I have not slept all night, because of the Russian polar night.

Day 2 - Ulaanbaatar

We could not get our luggage, and we obviously have no toothbrush or anything. We finally took off past Siberia. We took a flight to Beijing where we had a 4-hour stopover. We followed the twilight, leaving at 7 pm from Beijing. We arrive at 10 pm in Ulaanbaatar, but at no point in the journey have we fallen into darkness.

The evening light simply replaced the morning light. This phenomenon always fascinates me when traveling to Central Asia or the Far East. I write this notebook again in the middle of the night, but in the light of a dawn in the sky.

As expected, we found our friend at the airport and took the same flight to Ulaanbaatar, the capital of Mongolia. Our friend had already arrived the day before and was waiting for us in the youth hostel. Our flight to Ulaanbaatar was long because we waited 1 hour before taking off. Only we did not land because the pilot of our plane felt that there was too much wind.

An announcement was made on the plane to warn us that we were returning to Beijing. So we have 6 hours of waiting at the airport. We finally boarded the plane to Beijing and landed at Ulaanbaatar 12 hours after our initial arrival time. Fortunately, our guide was waiting for us at the airport and took us to the hostel.

We first went for a walk in the Ulaanbaatar town market, where our guide bought food and showed us the traditional clothes of the country. Then we drove to the Terelj National Park where we had our first yurt experience. The nomad family shares with us the traditional camel milk tea accompanied by dry cakes.

We also taste their famous Genghis Khan vodka, that Mongolians drink, without any diluent! We were prepared for a road trip in a Russian van, accompanied by our cook, guide and our driver.

Day 3 - Gobi Desert

At 4am, I woke up because of a flashlight. Someone was standing in the yurt. As the light went out as soon as I moved, it was obvious that someone had entered our yurt, though not very big. We had several valuables, including wallet, passport, and our iPad. We continued our road trip by redoubling our vigilance.

We headed south to reach the northern Gobi Desert. The road is long and deserted and there is nothing except some yurts here and there. The vegetation cannot grow on such arid land and the wind is at times violent. The guide explained to us that in the south of Mongolia it rains only once a month and this day is the happiness of the few inhabitants.

Then we descend into the heart of the Gobi Desert, where we saw many camels, wild horses, goats, some foxes, vultures and white marmots. Fortunately, our van is off-road because the roads are often steep and it happens to our driver to take shortcuts in stony paths. We walk to the top of the highest desert dune to admire the sunset.

For the night, we meet the Mongolian family who provides a yurt for us. The yurt is very modern and even equipped with TV and wifi. There is a stove in the middle of the room, and dry camel dung to fuel the fire! We would like to talk to families, but so far none of them spoke an English word. It's a bit frustrating for us, but we're watching their way of life with a lot of curiosity.

Our guide gives us a lot of explanations about the traditions. In the evening, we go to a bar in a small town in the Gobi desert. We had a great time that allowed us to forget our misadventures!

Day 4 - Orkhon Valley

After the Gobi desert, we travel through many hours of dirt roads. After stopping three times due to flat tires, we discovered with surprise the landscapes of Central Mongolia. There are vast green plains as well as big mountains and some rivers. The scenery is beautiful, and as usual, we have a nice itinerary.

We stop to visit the ruins of the Ongi monastery, Saikhan-Ovoo, where we dip in a well of magical water known for its curative benefits. We leave for a horse-riding day in the beautiful Orkhon Valley, accompanied by our guide. It was an extraordinary experience, and we were surprised by the freedom and trust that the guide gave us.

We galloped in the steppes, like real Mongol riders! We eat near a river. In the rocks, we see fantastic Paleolithic engravings, representing horses, and an ibex. On a rock, a yak's head is there. We then travel to the city of Kharkhorin, the former capital of Mongolia. We were able to enjoy a delicious and rare hot shower and a good meal in the restaurant.

The visit of the museum has allowed us to better understand the history of the country and the different empires that have succeeded for more than 2000 years. We also visit the Erdene Zuu Monastery, and we were able to attend a Tibetan monks ceremony, an extraordinary experience for us! It was again after long hours of driving that we reached the hot springs, which were welcome by this cold spring frost.

The temperatures changes from the heat of the Gobi desert! We spend the evening with our guide in the thermal waters while freezing outside. It was another atypical evening that will remain engraved in our memories! We will remember for a long time our improvised evening in a bar supposed to be closed and which ended at 10 in our van!

Day 5 - Terkhiin Tsagaan Nuur

After a good night's sleep in our yurt, this morning, we discover with surprise that it snows abundantly and that everything is white around the yurt. We leave the vehicles in the snow, dragging with the rope the less powerful cars. It was a sacred adventure again and we were amazed by the beautiful landscapes!

We drove past Sangiin Dalai Lake and head to one of Mongolia's jewels Khuvsgul Nuur. It is the second largest lake in Mongolia and the 14th largest freshwater reserve in the world. The temperatures remain relatively low. So we have the chance to discover it completely frozen without any noise disturbing the rest of Mother Nature. And what better way to discover these landscapes than a horseback ride like real Mongolians?

Thus we take the road back towards the Terkhiin Tsagaan Nuur or White Lake. Legend has it that one inhabitant forgot one evening to close his well and the next day the lake had taken place! After being intimidated by bulls approaching a little too close, we take the road again. We stop for lunch in a semi-desert place.

An owl flies over me! She stares at me from the top of a stone. I also find by chance the first Eastern Plovers. Later, while walking in the steppe behind a hill, a horned lark draws me to the surroundings from a cemetery. We are unable to reach Boon Tsagaan Nuur tonight and have to sleep in the steppe on stony ground.

It thunders, and I'm still stuck in my tent. Around me, the cows mow, the storm does not please them! Before the storm broke, on our way, we saw marmots and 5 sacred hawks, Chinese buzzards, blackbirds, citrus wagtails, damsel cranes and barred-headed geese. But what I preferred was the Mongol larks, beautiful, who paraded on stormy sky. It is not easy to photograph them. But the hunger begins to gnaw and takes me out of my lair. The lightning went away.

That night we had the chance to attend a shamanic ceremony, something rare for the tourists we are. The shaman was contacted by our guide. Shamans are very respected and Mongolians often call on them to solve their problems. They had more or less disappeared following the Soviet occupation but today they are more and more common.

In the ceremony, the shaman, a woman in her thirties wear her ceremonial costume and her face is completely covered. She enters into a trance with the spirit of her dead ancestor. Afterward, people send their questions or requests to the shaman for advice or help. Throughout the ceremony, the shaman consumes several liters of yak milk and vodka to maintain the power of the spirit.

More surprising still, the Nazi cross is engraved on many necklaces or rings worn by the shaman. This swastika cross is the symbol of power for the Mongols and was one of the emblems worn by Genghis Khan's horses. This meeting with the shaman was, to say the least, remarkable and allowed us to immerse ourselves a little more in the Mongolian culture.

After this evening quite unusual, we came back to sleep in a small village lost in the middle of the steppes. Here we had the chance to attend a concert of traditional songs. I have a drink that suits me better. The Mongolian milk tea is to say a salty milk, but a treat compared to that horrible yak alcohol. And above all, it is very warm and comforting under the storm!

In the tent, everything is already wet. The rainstorm has all soggy and saturated the atmosphere of moisture. After the polar night of Russia and the endless twilight of the plane, here is the full moon that illuminates the steppe! We sleep in fleece, with pairs of socks, and the cold wind slams the tent. The Mongols made us drink meat soup before going to bed. I fall asleep, exhausted.

Day 6 - Boon Tsagaan Nuur

Last night, after escaping the yak liquor, I could not avoid the vodka flush. The villagers inform our guide that a traditional race of Mongolian horses will take place not far from where we are going.

Our guide tells that we were going to one of the most remote corners of the Gobi Desert, and have no means of communication. When a Mongolian guide tells us that we are going to a remote corner, knowing that most of Mongolia is already, for us, a remote place, it is not super reassuring.

We go to Lake Boon Tsagaan. A little further, two stallions fight for two mares. The landscapes are incredible, Mongolia is a country really different from the others. The more we move towards the Gobi, the more the landscape becomes deserted, with more and more dunes.

The steppe has an odor this season. It smells of a strong and heady fragrance. I dream of a stream, even frozen. It would seem to me a supreme luxury. Finally, after having walked in the region of Trans-Altai, we arrive at Bayanondor, at the doors of the desert, the last village.

A Mongol guides us in the desert of Gobi A, the most difficult. I went alone to a little shepherd's building. In silence and loneliness ideas go through my mind. What if I came across a wolf? What if I found a human skeleton in the old building? In reality, I hope to find an owl or bats, but the building is by no means abandoned!

A family of desert locals stares at me. I am probably the first outsider they see. Finally, we come in sight of Shar Khuls, the oasis in the desert, where we have to camp, and territory of the Gobi bear. It is also a place where the Snow Leopard lives. We have almost no chance to see it, but we hope to find traces.

After that, we eat our rice and the hard meat. Traveling the hard way makes it easy to enjoy simple things. The food, although basic, is welcomed with pleasure. At 11 pm, I have to drink a shot of Chinese vodka! It's the tradition! The first stars rise in the Gobi Desert. The wind has risen and the tent slams more than ever. I finally fell asleep, despite my decision to fight against ticks without mercy.

Day 7 - Tsetseg Nuur Basin

This morning, around the lake, I found an old horseshoe. The guide tells me that in Mongolia, finding a horseshoe brings good luck. A whitetail of the desert begins to sing, and its song is amplified by the silence. The hunt for the wolf of yesterday was not conclusive, even if we saw a new khulan and, for my part, placed a few meters from me, a sacred falcon.

We returned to the oasis this morning. In the oasis, I went ahead, looking for butterflies. We take the road again. We searched in vain for wild camels but saw a gazelle. We then drove into the Gobi B, much less terribly hostile than the unmistakable mineral desert of the Gobi A.

We arrive at the Ikhes lake, where we should find a colony of relic gulls. But the seagulls are not there. They may have moved to Tsetseg Nuur Basin, where we saw them. And we are entitled to a bath! Once we wash, I give all the guys a little cream for the face.

In the evening, we arrive at Har Us Nuur! We celebrate our observations with Mongolian vodka (which tears as much as the Chinese). In the evening, at the telescope, I look for the wolf and I find a saiga antelope. Mongols are burning dried cow dung at the entrance of their tent. This is their traditional mosquito repellent.

We are getting really tired. We sleep very little at night, outside the rock that hurts us everywhere, because we camp often late and get up early, at sunrise. We go to bed in the cold. The fine rain of the rainbow fall gently on our tents, and we fall asleep a few hundred meters from the gulls' relics.

Day 8 - Gobi B

We are on the border of China, near Tahiyn Shar Nuruu Mountain. We leave the Gobi B and return to the grassy steppes. Our road trip ended with a visit to Amarbayasgalant Monastery in Iven Valley, at the foot of Buren Khan Mountain. Back in Ulaanbaatar, we attended a Mongolian traditional dance and song show. It was a very beautiful and diversified show, with typical instruments and colorful costumes.

We took the opportunity to stroll the streets, go shopping and discover the main squares of the city. We found it rather pleasant and modern, sometimes even chic! The small town center is full of cashmere signs, whose clothes are designed locally. Many world cuisine restaurants are established, and prices are very affordable!

Tourists are rare and we are often stared at by Mongolians. Our driver invited us to his home for a lunch. We got to know his wife and his daughters! So it's time for sad goodbye. The hearts were a little tight, eyes a little wet. We want to come back. There is the East of Mongolia, the country of the wolves, and the North, that of the reindeer. It is time for us to fly to Xi'An in China.

Day 9 - Xi'an

We leave Xi'an, eager to reach the Gobi Desert, that old childhood dream. We see ourselves already camping on the silky crest of a pure grain, having admired fabulous sunsets over the topaz dunes. Thus, we abandon behind us all civilization and go headlong into the arms of this endless aridity.

After only a few dozen kilometers, we have the impression of having entered a new country. Mosques have gradually supplanted Buddhist monasteries. The aroma of grilled lamb meat has replaced those of Tibetan Pork. The headdresses have flourished among women and men alike. Good bread also begins to appear, which is far from displeasing us. Finally, the cities are now on a human scale. There are no more megacities.

From the first hours of our long journey, we come across an abandoned section of the Great Wall of China. Without hesitation, we have a photo shoot and strafe this indestructible wall of our objectives. Not very proud of the result, we meet a man explaining to us that it is only a long wall among others. It has nothing to do with the legendary wall.

Arriving at Shikong, the driver who drives us warns us. From here we enter the Gobi desert and watch out for those who stray too far from the road. We agree, thank him and go. Very quickly, we see the first sand dunes which, being imposing, do not fail to make us sketch an emotional smile.

We continue on our way and climb a road that takes a short stretch of highway. The sky is congested and, at a speed of nearly 100 km/h, the driver releases his steering wheel several times. He wants to immortalize with the help of his smartphone a highlight of our common ride, a moon rabbit.

The rest of the journey will, however, be without danger. We leave the comfort of the main axis and now travel on the national G312, parallel to the highway still under construction. We do some spikes at 15km/h, which would almost disguise us. Several hundreds of chaotic kilometers make us change position constantly.

After sleeping in fields of wheat and corn, we make a second stop for one night at a gas station to enjoy the amenities. A long time ago, travelers and their camels rested in the caravanserais. Nowadays, backpackers in need of adventure stay in the rest areas and connect to the wifi in the middle of the desert.

In this desolate and gloomy resort, the staff cannot do enough for us. In the space of a few minutes, we sympathize with the few employees, from the sweeper to the big boss. We are smiled, we are made to smoke and especially we are invited to spend the night away from a violent storm.

From the first gusts of wind, as we were preparing to pitch the tent, a man comes to pick us up and gives us the keys of a room of the only hotel of the motorway complex, still closed to the public. The storm breaks out, and we narrowly evade the wrath of heaven. Once again, we feel lucky to have been picked up by a man with a big heart.

Day 10 - Zhangye

We continue our adventure along the Silk Road, and after camping near the multicolored rocks of Zhangye, we start to trek again. Even in the middle of nowhere, few Chinese people stop to take a picture of us. We get used to playing the superstars and already know that the return to anonymity will be brutal, though.

Helped by powerful 4x4s and some hopelessly slow semi-trailers, we manage to nibble a few hundred more kilometers on the Gobi Desert. Most often, we are transported by pleasant road and a few good souls offer us a cigarette. We reach Jiayuguan and for once we decide not to miss the few tourist attractions. The Great Wall of China is close!

We start our walk in Jiayuguan through the fort, rather nice and well renovated, which offers a nice view of the surrounding mountains. We then go to the Great Wall. This part of the wall is far from equaling its rival near Beijing. Nearly 700 years ago, under the reign of the Ming Dynasty, strong walls were built to protect the Middle Kingdom from barbarian invasions.

Finally, it is time for us to enjoy the pleasures of the deep desert, the one that we imagine inviolate for millennia. An impassable beach without a tablecloth, resplendent under a hot sun. If the heat is good, we remain a little on our hunger. After 250km of dust, of stones on a sordid and sinister track, we arrive late to Dunhuang.

We decide to walk towards the erg and hope to reach the many peaks. The worry is that an airport is blocking the road, forcing us to walk for several hours around it. Although traveling light has become a priority, we are exhausted without gaining ground. We end up giving up.

Tonight, we will not sleep on these impassible and immutable dunes that proudly, rise to the sky. Yet near the graves of an age-old cemetery that watches over the souls of an invincible people, we go upstairs. Under a light evening wind, we let the sun go through the last hours of the day and see at a distance these amber hills that we will never reach.

Dreams of discoveries multiply as each great journey takes place. It would take several lives to realize only one part, proudly ticking one by one on a list these alluring achievements. I must admit that I was initially disappointed not to be able to bivouac between two dunes, as I could do in the Sahara Desert or the Namib.

However, after a good night's rest and reflection, I thought it might be better. We touched with the fingertips the reliefs of the Gobi desert, without having access to it. I will carefully preserve this unfinished dream in my heart. There are times that are priceless in this camp cut off from the rest of the world, under this luminous moon and in this soothing wind. The bivouac is a luxury that makes it hard to tolerate, later, the nights in palaces.

Day 11 - Xingxing Xia

We wake up gently, after a peaceful night in the tent as soon as the sun appears. We resume the course of our road trip. A handful of extreme drivers are slowly transporting us through the void. The bitumen melts, sticking to the soles of my flip-flops. Our skins crackle, our lips burst, our eyes clink under the evil glare of the sun's rays. We roast deliciously.

We cross the first caravanserai of our long route but are forced to admire it from the outside. As everywhere in China, it is especially overpriced. The mere sight of the stones marked by history gives us a little balm to the heart, while we peck a few sunflower seeds.

Luckily, we manage to reconnect with the G30 highway, on which we now fly at full speed. The landscapes are metamorphosed at an incredible speed. There are golden dunes, snow-capped mountains, and rocky hills of ebony black.

We sleep one more night on the highway, to Xingxing Xia. The staff cuts themselves in four to welcome us with the utmost care. We take advantage of this break to refresh ourselves as we can to remove the sand accumulated in our backpacks. We connect on social networks to have news. The meal will be as devastating as the rest. More than ever, the cook had a heavy hand on the pepper. We rest our chopsticks in our dish of sauteed noodles and manchurian.

Finally, in the evening, we decided to pitch the tent a little behind, so as not to hear the noise of engines and horns at night. Once again, we are thinking of the caravans that were making the same journey to Antioch. The myth of the old Silk Road is over. We have to face the facts.

Gigantic electric pylons have bloomed over a thousand kilometers. A railroad now adjoins three paved tracks, and a ballet of concrete mixers ceaselessly face the perpetual calm of the Gobi desert. However, we enjoy this trip as if it was our first trip. Here, all the landmarks differ from those we knew. We go forward every day eager to discover more and we are already grateful for all this path already traveled. What could we complain about?

Every journey changes us. Every journey, in essence, is a little initiatory. This one may be a little more than the others. I will have in the heart and in the head these immense spaces, the drum roll of the lamas, and the quick amble of the last wild camels.

Dhokla - an Indian dish you should try while visiting Mumbai

We continue the journey through all those culinary delights and its various incarnations around the world. Mumbai, the capital of Maharashtra boasts a surprising variety of food. If you plan to visit Mumbai at any time in the future, then you should definitely try Dhokla.

Whether vegetarian or non-vegetarian, there are a variety of different cuisines. On its way to becoming the commercial capital of India in a village known mainly for fishing, Mumbai has come a long way in terms of gastronomy. Moreover, people who migrated to Mumbai from different parts of India in the hope of realizing their dreams, have brought with them gastronomically delicious gems that have contributed to diversity.

You can find a sizeable population of Gujaratis residing in Mumbai and that is why their favorite snack Dhokla has gained popularity like no other. This vegetarian dish is very simple to do as it is made from fermented chickpeas, hot spices, and ginger in a closed container. In order to enhance its flavor chilies and mustard seeds are added. Then it is cut into small pieces. It is served accompanied by green chutney or peanut butter.

Dhokla comes from the region of Gujarat, though its popularity spread across India. While the basic recipe remains essentially the same, the taste can be different with cottage cheese, yogurt, cheese, and a wide range of spices. This is a snack that is commonly found in sweet shops.

The basis for Dhokla consists of rice and peas, or chickpea flour called Besan. In some recipes, the batter is also prepared with yogurt. All these ingredients are first soaked for several hours, often overnight. The ingredients are soaked into a paste which is fermented for several hours.

After fermentation, spices such as ginger and chili and sodium bicarbonate are added to the mass. The mixture is steamed for a few minutes. Then cut into pieces and fried with mustard seeds. The frying process is completed when the seeds begin to crackle and pop. Then the plate is seasoned with chopped green chilies and grass with similar leeks called asafoetida.

In some recipes, a mixture of water, sugar, and oil is poured into the dish. Dhokla is often garnished with coconut and cilantro. Also often it served with chutney and fried peppers.

Dhokla recipes vary from family and region. Instead of chickpea, lentil could be another variety, as ur, also known black grams. The dish can be prepared with paneer cheese and is used as a sandwich filling. Khatta Dhokla is a version with sour curd. Rasiya Dhokla contains a dramatically different spice mixture, including tamarind, jaggery, and garam masala.

The dish is often confused with Khamman Dhokla, a similar snack with chickpea batter. The main difference between the two is that there is no rice in the basic recipe and is not fermented. Khaman Dhokla is also flavored with chili and mustard seeds and garnished with coconut and cilantro.

Gujarat consists of four main areas of North Gujarat, Kathiawar, Kachchh and southern Gujarat. Gujarati cuisine is predominantly vegetarian, with a variety of recipes through these regions. Common dishes tend to be made up of a mixture of spicy, sweet and salty flavors.

It is also common to find street stalls offering naan or roti (two types of flatbread) with curry or dhal (vegetable stew). A very popular traditional "snack" are the samosas, stuffed potato dumplings fried triangular, minced meat, spinach or cheese and served with sweet or spicy sauce. The Indian diaspora and the popularity of its cuisine have made it possible to taste almost all these delicacies in many other places in the world, from America to Australia, and of course in the UK.

Tasting Pav Bhaji in Varanasi

We finally reached Varanasi. This city is still incredible. Some things have changed but others are and always will be the same. Thousands of people from all over India gathered on the banks of the Ganges. We had not seen so many people together in our entire lives.

The arrival to the hotel was in the morning in a rickshaw. The traffic at that time was hellish and the streets, like the station, were bursting. Everyone was stuck. We entered our hotel. In the afternoon we go out. This year the monsoons have been good in India and there is some building in the Ghats that is cracked.

The height of the river is enormous and the width will be a quarter more than the previous time. From what they told us a month ago, one could not see the stairs of the Ghats from how high the tide was. And the width from side to side of the river reached the kilometer. Because of this the Ghats are clean.

At a restaurant I stop to eat a Pav Bhaji. A lot of vegetables, for example a boiled potato, carrots, cauliflower, green pepper, tomato are crushed together for the Bhaji, which is served with two buns and topped with large cubes of butter that makes the dish more delicious.

They're like fluffy bread and lightly toasted in half. They serve it with a thick orange sauce ideal for dipping, especially for those who like it. It is a very tasty dish, slightly spicy, acceptable for any palate. We also ate this dish at the Kanji in Jaipur. The waiters were watching us with curiosity. Tons of sand and mud has been eliminated, or rather dragged to the water.

The children walk among the boats to rescue comets that fall from the sky like dried leaves of a tree and move from side to side, waiting for them to rest on their hands. They scream, they laugh, they run, they jump and they look at the people. They play cricket dangerously among the ghats, taking advantage of a few free meters between boats and ladders. I hear a blow and the ball goes in any direction in search of a leg.

Older men paint the stairs in bright colors, yellow, red, blue, ocher. In the evening there is the spectacle of each day with prayers. Priests dressed in orange while looking at the river lit their bowls with fire making circles on the head. There is the sound of the speakers and the bells, the drums and the permanent murmur of the people.

At night we take a boat with a group of Israelis and we get close to where the whole bunch of people are. There are thousands of people, millions of candles, rockets, noise, music and more prayers. Feelings of human avalanches and hundreds of boats moored each other on the Ganges.

We were on the water for a long time and we returned dodging other boats. So until the engine of our boat stopped and we were adrift in the middle of the current. Our boat was spinning out of control while one of the boatmen was trying to start the engine. Meanwhile the rest of the boats, some larger than ours, were coming towards us at great speed. The blow is strong and what in any other place would have ended in sinking here ends in shouts, laughter and stupor face of our boat. The engine starts and we return to the hotel to rest.

Tasting Pav Bhaji in Varanasi

Day 2

The travelers left. The buffaloes returned to the river. The foreigners left, and the city, in the ghats, recovered its calm. The kites resumed in the sky and the facades of the buildings were filled with birds that fluttered to the sound of firecrackers that sounded from time to time.

We walked through the ghats, the crematoriums where time does not stop. The bodies were still burning and relatives were waiting for the arrival of the ashes that would end the ceremony. There were almost no people. Even the boatmen offered their boats almost without enthusiasm.

The dogs scampered between the stairs, continuing their quarrels and some clueless tourist let themselves be deceived by someone. We took chai by the Manikarnika Ghat. It is the most important of all and the most popular crematorium, amid an incessant rain of fine ash that settled on us with the softness of snowflakes.

The flakes of the end of life, flakes of death, of another life, the end of a continent and the arrival of nirvana. Varanasi is the end of the journey for many. Others will continue on this earth for a long time, for many lives. We got lost among the streets of the old town, hugely narrow streets where the children run among old people whom the earth calls them.

Crazy monkeys look through the windows for something to steal. They hang between the wires of the houses to the cry of women who as fast as they can close the windows thus preventing the theft of some chapati. We went through a silk factory in Varanasi. We saw many types of silk. We went back to the hotel to rest a bit and from there I went to a sitar tuning class.

I have never played an instrument in my life but the class was wonderful. The sitar is not as difficult to play as I thought and the teacher who instructed me was a professor of sitar in the university. The class was given to me at the school where the great Ravi Shankar started playing.

After the class I play for myself, exclusively a melody that invited me to close my eyes while I was recording it with my camera. It was a magical moment in which I merged with Varanasi. At night Varanasi is all magical. The sky is covered with a white haze that leaves between seeing the line of the ghats on the horizon.

The other side of the river is intuited almost almost like the memory of a dream and the sound of the city reverberates among the murmur of the people. Varanasi is a city of the sea, although it does not possess it, although its sea is a river.