As they say, 'all good things come to an end'. Admittedly, by backpacker standards i'd been spoiled for the last 2 weeks- a nice comfy bed, fresh home cooked food, the luxury of a personal driver even (thanks shai!) and hot showers everyday without being worried about taking too long and using up all sparse resources! But as one door closes, another one opens and with that, i was onto my next destination, South India. The plan was simple enough, working my way from Bangalore (or as i should say Bengaluru) up to Mumbai over the space of 10 days, via a multitude of destinations. Ended up picking Mysore, Kerala and Goa, a bit of a risk when considering the monsoon was lurking ominously over my trip and could potentially cause havoc!
The flight into Benguluru was pretty incident free, aprt from the ridiculous pick up time of the airport taxi, which arrived promptly at 415 am and wiated for me to grab my stuff, chuck it into the bag and anxiuosly wait to see if my overbulging bag would close!
The weather was great, sun shining brightly in stark contrast to the rain and cloud whoch had seemed to hover over colombo for the last few days that id spent there. To be honest, i didnt really have a clue what to do in Bengaluru, so i made the briefest of considerations and decided to hop onto the next bus to Mysore. After attempting to decipher a Karnatak (or maybe Tamil- who knows??) movie on the bus (unsurprisingly it followed one of the two bollywood storylines- 2 guys/1girl or 2girls/1guy!), managed to squeeze in a nap and glance over the indispensible Lonely Planet guide which would become my bible for the next couple of weeks.
Quickly checked into a hostel, which although quite prison like from both inside and out, had a cheap and nice restaurant -mysore dosas def taste a lot better out here, and for 25p too!! Didnt manage to meet any other backpackers though, only a group of old couples seemingly on a 18-30 type holiday or something! Booked onto a day tour the next day and managed to catch short glimpses of the main sights, of which there were many such as the Palace, Brindavan Gardens and Chamundi Hill. Mysore was really nice, and would have been even more appreciated had i not been squeezed onto an overly packed bus and sat next to (in the politest way i can say) an oversized man who took up one and a half seats, leaving urs truly squished up against the window. Took about 2 hours for the bus to leave in the evening though, app the driver had spent that long trying to fill up the remaining empty seats- a story less believable when he returned with half of his dinner spilt down his shirt- typical!
So from Mysore, it was down south towards Kochi, first stopping in Ernakulam and then onto Fort Kochi. Annoyingly though, due to the drivers peckishness the previous day, i had to travel to Kochi a day later than planned, allowing me to catch up with the backlog of blogs- of which im suffering from now too! The bus journey was a killer, a complete beast! With a dead i-pod and not much else to do in the dark, the 12 hour bus ride wasnt the greatest way to spend an evening, esp with my rucksack under my legs for the majority of it. Somehow, interspresed with frequent naps, the journey passed relatively quickly and exited the bus into a dark, empty Ernakulam station. Didnt have a clue where to go, got a semi-helpful response from the ticket office (my hand gestures worked a treat- mainly from pointing at a map repeatedly) and hopped into a rickshaw, which amazingly didnt try to rip me off and took me exactly where i wanted to go- the ferry jetty.
Getting to Fort Kochi at 6am turned out to be a bit of a problem- none of the hostels were actually open. So i was left standing on the footpath like a bit of a lemon, ducking under doorways when the heavens opened and doing.....not much else really. I was rescued by a guy walking along the street, picking up on my sense of not knowing what to do and asked if i needed somewhere to stay. All very legit and normal of course, turns out he ran a homestay place for 150 rupees- bargain! After hearing and seeing so much of the backwaters, booked myself onto a day tour- hoping to avoid the incessant rain which had begun to appear almost daily now the monsoon season was fully under way. Got a beauty of a day, sunny and without any rain, which made the scenery stand out even more. Met some characters on the boat (or maybe it was just good to converse with people, didnt happen very often lol), there was even a tamil bunch of guys on a stag weekend!
After a couple of days, it was back on the bus (trust me, if there was another way, id have taken it!), but this time it was even worse. A 21 hour combo bus ride, first from Ernakulam to Mangalore, then from Mangalore to Goa- which would take from 7pm to 4pm the next day, or maybe loger considering the piece of rubbish they called a coach! Not sure how i managed it, but without an ipod or a book to read and seemingly staring out of the window for what felt like eternity, i made it to Goa. And it was pouring down with rain.... Imagine the feeling of travelling that far, finally reaching to find the weather wasnt on your side, not great! Lol. Rain kinda dominated my trip in Goa, didnt manage to make it out to the beaches but got a pretty thorough look at Panjim and managed to update the blog (woohoo you all cry!). Was a bit of a weird internet cafe, full of schoolkids playing command and conquer or dirty old men sat away in the corner looking at porn- seriously, no joke! Rain and more rain 'forced' me into finding sanctuary at a nearby restaurant, which must have served some of the nicest and cheapest food ive ever had (silver lining me thinks), so i must have ended up going there bout 5 times in the 3 days i was there, sampling all sorts from the menu!
My time in India was almost at an end now, sitting and attempting to sleep on a night bus to Mumbai the main hindrance to a smooth trip up the city to meet up with Baij and head down under. Felt like i hadnt seen him for ages when we finally met up, he was still cultivating the freshtache and must have gone a shades darker from the Nagpur sun, but i think for both of us, it was good to see a familiar face!
The last week had been an invaluable learning experience, and although it got off to a tentative start, i soon got into my stride. Without having other people to discuss ideas with, decide where to go and what to do, i was unwillingly forced into an initial heavy reliance on the book as a point of reference, but soon became confident enough to 'freestyle' my decision making!
From India to Australia next up, off to the land down under!