Travel log by Gaz and Lloyd
India Part A
Ok - so this is the plan
Just so you know this is basically a travel log kept by me and James. We weren’t going to put this on the internet as it’s more of a record for us - remembering what you do from day to day is hard work, especially after a few beverages. However a few people ‘like my mum’ will find this interesting so here it is anyway ..................
7.00 Fly to Heathrow from Manchester, nice quick flight, had a bacon roll and saw the sunrise over London.
10.30 Delayed by 1 hour at the gate, we got upgraded seats as the ones we’d booked were poor. Watched 3 movies on the plane District 9, The Hangover and Dorian Gray. Had a couple of bottles of wine but couldn’t keep up with our Finish neighbour ‘Whiskey Fin’ , a kimi raikkonan lookalike, who managed 2 bottles and about 7 whiskeys. We still to this day haven’t worked out whether the dude was a lady.
Arrive in Mumbai at 3.00am local time 02/12/09 Airport Pickup, we saw Vince Neil on the pickup sign amongst a sea of Indian taxi drivers.
Arrive at Chateau Windsor (£50 a night) 4.00am 02/12/09, haggled with cab driver over the tip to give him, we we’re all for giving him a tenner, settled on 70p instead. (50 rps)
Both very very tired - yawn
1st Day in Mumbai
11.00 Woke up and ventured out for breakfast/lunch, our 1st curry in a backstreet joint called restaurant and milk, it was superb, full of locals which was a good sign.
Had a morning stroll in the district around our hotel, saw the Clock Tower, University, High Court and Oval Gardens which we’re all impressive landmarks.
Headed towards the Gateway To India and saw Taj Mahal Palace Hotel which was shot up in 2008’s terrorist attacks. The buildings facia was burnt amidst these attacks and currently it’s being reconstructed to its former glory, but it’s an incredible piece of Raj architecture combined with the gateway, a monument dedicated to King George IV visiting the empire in 1911.
Jumped in a taxi tour (800rps) of the city’s landmarks, set up by a drug pusher/black-market tour guide and Guptar ‘our driver’,
Fishermans Village – A local harbour where fisherman live and work in slums by the bay. The smell of drying fish was awful. Saw a couple of children using the rocks as a toilet whilst the local lads tried to jack a boat up with bamboo poles.
Malabar Point – A peninsula overlooking Bombay’s back bay and cityscape skyline. Panoramic views of Mumbai through the haze.
Jain Temple – Temple dedicated to the Jainism. Amazing carvings and paintings decorate the walls and ceilings.
Hanging Gardens – Tranquil gardens in the middle of Mumbai, rare flowers and animal shaped hedges occupy the peaceful space. Great views of Chowpatty beach and the coastline.
Ghandi Museum – Museum showing the life and works of India’s famous prophet. Ghandi lived and worked here in-between his many other conquests.
Laundry service – One of the highlights of Bombay, a massive open air hand washing operation, in the middle of busy streets and roads. You wouldn’t really want to take your clothes there, don’t know how they keep their colours separate.
Victoria Train Station – One of the most impressive train stations ever built by the British Empire, elaborate, architectural and way over the top, possibly the busiest station on earth and famous for its appearance in Slum Dog Millionaire.
Towers of silence – Dedicated to Zoroastrianism and its beliefs, quite bizarre rituals involving vultures and bodies of the dead.
Local jewellery shops – Guptar dropped us off at some high class shops, no doubt on commission, tempted by some pearls but not a mug so declined. We both managed to escape the shop empty handed.
Got dropped off and met up with the dodgy tour guide again, coincidence? tried to shake him off. He eventually dropped us back off at the Chateau Windsor.
We got a cab to Chowpatty Beach and ate street food on the beach. Deep fried chilly balls (10rps each) and something which resembled maggots. Had more food on the sea front and had a stupidly hot kebab, we chatted to an Italian girl about Kochi.
Breakfast on the balcony – eggs and toast. Realised our hotel was overlooking the Bombay test cricket ground and India were playing Sri Lanka later in the day.
Headed towards Gateway too India, it was so busy we struggled to get a taxi. Annoyingly bumped into the tour guide again, he sold us our boat ticket to Elephanta Island.
The Island contained 8th century stone carvings of Shiva and other religious / mythical carvings, scattered in caves along the islands summit. An angry monkey tried to rob our drink. Visited two military cannons at the top of the island after a short hike in the heat, amazing views from the summit. Had lunch (veg biriyani) before heading back to Mumbai where we greeted by yeah you guessed it the ‘tour guide’. This guy was wearing us down now and if he asked us if we wanted to buy chronic one more time we were ready to give him a bond slap. We managed to escape him and went back to the safe zone – our balcony where we could relax and watch the cricket over a nice sunset (we think India won).
Ate at the delhi stall next to our hotel. Had Shahee Paneer and Massala Aloo and a few samosas which where spectacular, the honey spice was sublime.
Picked up bags from hotel and headed towards Victoria station 22.20 to catch the 0111 train at 23.05 thinking this was plenty of time. We only just made it to the huge station, then we had to find our name on a register containing hundreds of names. The train was enormous. We managed to get on and settled only to be disturbed by an Indian family with the same seat numbers as us. We argued with them but they spoke little English so we spoke louder and louder. This got us nowhere and the conductor sided with the Indians which resulted in us both sharing a single bunk. A 12 hour journey with hardly any room was hell. I woke up slightly claustrophobic but soon settled to the velvet tones of David Gilmour.
We were woken at around 7.30, but time didn’t seem to exist anymore I felt like I had died and was waiting in purgatory. The 7.30 wakeup was a breakfast call. We were both given cheese omelette sandwiches which we had both been looking forward too, however they had laced it with chillies – WTF, who has hot food at this time.
Arrived in Madgoa at 12pm after what felt like a lifetime cramped up on the jail cell train. Taxi to Camilson’s Beach Resort in Benaulim (1000 rps / £13 a night), as soon as we arrived at the resort we had a near death experience with a coconut dropping from a very high tree. Had a well deserved sleep before a late lunch / tea – chilly squid, chilly chicken, followed by king fish curry and fish masala (best food yet) washed down of course by a couple of kingfisher beers.
Had a night time stroll along the beach, a beer and coconut feni (15p a shot) tasted a bit like tequila but double the strength, ouch. Met a local history guru who guessed our postcodes, he knew all about our home cities and football teams, scary stuff – this guy new more about British history than both of us combined. 22.20 Both exhausted from lack of sleep and a combination of sun, beer and lots of food – still can’t complain.
Breakfast at Camilson’s (poached egg and toast - nice). Hired two bikes from Raymond (100cc Honda Kinetic) 250 rupees per day, approx £3 - not bad. Topped both bikes up with fuel (350 rupees) and headed to Palolem with our day sack. We took the coastal route which was well worth the trip, with incredible views and scenery all along the 50 kilometre trip. The bikes had plenty of power and were nippy round the winding hair pins and quick straights, we comfortably glided past a number of Enfields. We past a village with numerous catholic churches and schools, the school run and abundance of street cows made the trip somewhat interesting. We eventually came to what we thought was a dead end but realised we had to ride aboard a ferry.
We eventually arrived in Palolem and walked along the ‘more commercial than Benaulim’ beach. We spotted a view point / stroke restaurant and decided to stop for lunch. Probably the most expensive meal yet at £8 but by far the best, tiger prawn tandoori was out of this world, huge succulent prawns with a mouth watering tandori sauce.
Headed back to the bikes but realised one was out of juice and we’d just spent our daily budget on a meal for kings. With no money or petrol we decided to siphon petrol from one bike to another with the aid of a friendly bunch of local lads and a used beer keg pipe.
Bikes had to be back at 19.00, we missed the ferry turn off so took the highway home. Got back at 18.30, just in time for sunset. Both had a shower as we looked like a pair of Indians, brown face and dirty feet. Had tea – chilly squid, squid pokara and prawn rice- splendid . We were joined by a grasshopper which landed on Lloydys leg and a mouse / rat which ran across my foot – I actually hit it with my hand ooooossee.
22.00 Few beers on the balcony with a Russian lad called David, this guy was a legend, a nine year old brake dancer / beat boxer. Had a jam with him before retiring to my pit.
Lloydy’s got a few bites and the biggest t-shirt tan ever, gaz has a nappy rash on his hands.
Breakfast at Camilson’s and rented the bikes for our last day in Goa. We headed for ‘Old Goa’ where a flea market was taking place. Again we both felt like we were the only westerners around, until we found one other bartering with a local. We visited Basilica of Bom Jesus (St Francis of Xavier’s tomb is here) and the church of St Francis of Assisi. The churches were built by the Portuguese in the 14th century and are the last modern day remains of the former old Goa, but still spectacular in form and a world heritage place of interest.
The feast day of St Francis is 03/12, we were quite lucky to miss this as we would have been contending for parking spaces with 256,000 pilgrims. The basilica was still very busy because of the late feast day and the fact it was Sunday (the Christian Sabbath day). Pilgrims looked at us like they had never seen a white brother before, this seemed intimidating at first but we soon got use to it and enjoyed what seemed to be our five minutes of fame.
We took a look at the trust worthy compass and saddled up, however we were both looked like we had been w***ed in Folsom prison and my monkey bone was aching. Next stop was Baga beach via Calangute, we soon realised why there were an abundance of westerners around, and they all seemed to be gathered here resembling a scene from Butlins. The whole place had a sleazy Saturday night feel to it and it seemed much more like Benidorm than India. We stopped here for a Goan curry but soon hit the road and drove back along the coast, visiting Vasco De Gama and other quaint coastal villages.
The back roads were much quieter than the highway and we loved flying through the palm lined streets on our bikes, beeping cyclists and random cows on the road.
Both showered and changed we decided to have a lazy last night in Camilson. Seafood sizzler was quality. This delicacy consisted of seafood stuffed in peppers and lettuce skin on a sizzling wooden slate which spat and sizzled at us, another amazing dish though, the food here really is excellent.
Bikes now handed in, all we had to do is book onward journey, make our next reservation in Gokarn, and enjoy our last night in Goa, all in all a good experience.
Woke up and had our first swim in the Arabian Sea. Visibility wasn’t the best but if was nice warm refreshing water. Dried off eating poached eggs for breakfast. The eggs have a much yellower yolk here than the ones you buy from the supermarkets back home (even the free ranges ones). Said our goodbyes to Raymond (owner) and David (Russian kid) and took the Camilson taxi to the train station. 3.30 train from Benaulim to Gorkarn – comfortably journey which took about two hours. We had seats but others had to stand. Chai Whallahs performed shuttle runs up and down our carriage every 5 minutes. Getting off the train is always a struggle with our supersized rucksacks but we managed to exit just before the train started to move again. Jumped on an overcrowded shuttle bus to Gorkarna centre, I would have taken a picture but we really were like sardines and movement was limited to the odd moan. 20 minutes later and we had reached the centre where we took a tuk tuk to Gorkana International, with Sitar Jim (a stiff Belgian monotone guy) in hot a pursuit. Fortunately he didn’t check in.
Had a walk around the small holy town and ate in a rooftop restaurant before retiring to our seedy restaurant bar dominated by whiskey drinking Indian men.
Had breakfast where we indulged in our 1st Pakota and Dossi. Struggled to hire bikes and the call of local girls trying to tempt us into their shop was wearing us down so we decided to walk to the beach. We walked behind one of the local temples and took a narrow rough lane through forests which then opened up into a sandy uneven path to Koolee. The beach was clean and unspoilt with hardly anyone on it. We both had a swim before hiking to Om beach. Had lunch here – fish and chips. Bumped into Sitar Jim again, he had found cheaper accommodation on the beach.
We sat on a rock in the sea and basked here for a while, probably too long as it resulted in us both resembling lobsters. We were both tired so got a tuk tuk back for 150 rps £2. Had tea in Pai Restaurant which at the time seemed quite pleasant apart from a rose flavoured milkshake I decided to have. I was so thirsty I finished the channel no. 5 flavoured beverage but later realised this would be a bad idea. Couple of Kingfisher beers on our balcony then off to bed feeling fine and dandy 10pm (nice early night). Woke up around 1 feeling slightly clammy and disorientated, I sat up and was sick on the floor, ‘no big deal’ I thought until my stomach rumbled like thunder. I dashed to the bathroom where all hell broke loose. The combination of Kingfisher and curry trying to exit your body via your nose and mouth was pretty painful. Popped a couple of vit C tabs and got back into bed for an hour before scene two of the exorcist. This was truly awful, didn’t quite make the toilet but my projection did, not been this sick for over ten years.
Woke up after a night of hell (12pm, needed a lie in). Had 2 vit c tabs a rehydration pack and a barocca, even managed breakfast (honey and toast). Being sick kind of put me off the place so we left at 15.00. Arrived at the train station slightly premature as the trains’ departure was at 16.20 but it was delayed and turned up at 17.00 (Gorkarn to Bhatlak 20 rps approx 30p).
The train took about 1.5 hours but we had to stand all the way and arrived after sunset. I asked a security guard what hotel he recommended, he replied ‘Kola Paradise’. Sounds classy, well it wasn’t – blood stained walls and noisy was a put off but we seemed to have no choice in this small dusty town. We were only stopping here to see Jog falls before moving on and for 250rps £3 a night we just had to grin and bear it.
Had some food a few shops down as the hotel restaurant looked a bit grim, I managed to eat a couple of Jamoons and some ice cream whilst Lloyd tucked into a Paneer Massala curry (I still couldn’t stomach anything spicy).
7.00 Had breakfast, South Indian style bread which would have gone nice with jam or honey but no we had it with curry. However I ate it all and was feeling much better. We’d booked a taxi and driver (Danesh) the night before; he arrived as soon as we finished our breakfast (taxi - 1400rps £17).
1st stop Shiva temple, this is the biggest statue in India, you can see it from miles around and immediately recognise that it’s Shiva. Indian tourists visit this site every day and we seemed to be the only westerner there. The beach and fishing village here were very quaint but the site was dominated by a huge Aztec style building and the Shiva statue both which had been built in the last decade.
Second stop was Jog falls (2 hours journey), India’s highest water fall. Again the place had a few tourists but they all seemed to be Indian school trips, the students mobbed us like we were famous footballers or something (even the teachers wanted photos of us).
Our taxi driver ‘Danesh’ tried to put us off from walking down the thousand plus steps telling us that it was dangerous. We chose to ignore him and said we would be back in an hour. The only danger on the route were the ferocious monkeys and lack of hand rails but were soon at the bottom swimming in our own private lagoon, looking up at the spectacular waterfall.
The walk back up the steps were particularly tiring in the heat but we managed it without any stops, we’d been gone well over an hour but Danesh didn’t seem bothered, all he could see is dollar signs at the end of the day.
15.30 Got back to the hotel and ate at SeekaShiva (where we ate last night). South Indian somosa’s then Dossi’s all round washed down with pepsi (alcohol and cigarettes are hard to come by in this particular area). For desert we had GadBad layers of ice cream with dried fruit, three course meal for less than a pound.