okok, I am getting worse and worse at updating my blog....I have been really busy (??!!) but mostly lazy, so this blog entry is probably going to be a bit long - sit down, take a deep breath, you're stuck here for an hour :-)
Before xmas Claudia and I happily left Arambol to go to Hampi - a ruined town in Karnataka. The journey was quite painful (local bus to pernem, train, night in chaudi, train to Hospet, rickshaw to Hampi, boat to the other side of the river- I let you imagine). Arrived there we bumped into Adi, one of the israeli guys I knew from Rajasthan who advises us a place to stay (tip - israelis always know the best and cheapest GH everywhere!). We then stayed accross rice fields, in an area away from all the GH and quite hidden. However all the places were full on the first night so we roughed it up and slept outside on the floor. Xmas was quiet - Hampi is a holy place so vegetarian and alcohol free however we managed to sneak some rum in to at least celebrate it. We met quite a few people there and we all spend the next few days together chilling (Going for massages, playing music, making fires). Claudia and I rented bikes and cycled around the all the temples, rented scooters too and went to a neighbour lake (all the travellers but me swam in there and got really ill for a few days, I was really glad I didnt) and go a remote village in the back country. The feel there was just amazing, all the kids were running after us, we spent our time playing cricket with them, drinking chai in the local hang out. Thats a highlight of my trip.
Before NYE we took a night bus to Palolem....and there it happens....in the middle of the night the bus stopped for a wee break....there was no space for me to hide...so I went further away and hid behind a sand dune....and....fell in quick sand...before I realised what was happening i was already covered to the top part of my legs and screaming for help only scared the locals who came to have a look at me but ran away (???!!). Fortunately a man pulled me out. I was scared, exhausted, dirty and lost my shoes in the incident. I am talking about it fine now but I was in shock for a few days (hence my silence on internet for a while)
Arrived in Palolem we can already feel the tourist trap - small and dirty huts for 2000 ruppees (normal price being 200) and all you can hear is english and swedish everywhere. This said, the beach is really beautiful and at this stage I am just really excited that Alice is coming from England to visit me.
The hut complex we're staying in is very friendly and we meet quite a few people there, going to a Metalheadz party on the beach for NYE. The fish and seafood are amazing too and we stuffed ourselves with goan dishes.
The few days there are spent going dolphin watching, jog on the beach, get a big henna tatto on my arm and swim to small beaches away from the crowd.
After NYE a 3h train journey takes us to Gokarna. Gokarna is known for being (I quote) "a paradise for people fleeing the commercialism of goa" - understand a place for materialistic hippies pretending not to live in our society. Ok I am a cynical. Gokarna is nice. Kudlee beach, where we stayed, is unspoiled (ie facilities are very basic) but the real draw is paradise beach, a secret treasure hidden in the jungle that you can only access by boat of after an 30 min steep walk in the jungle. There is one caf and a few bambou huts there - thats it. It is really nice. But meeting people who had been there for 2 months makes me think it might be slightly over-rated. We stayed there 2 nights, spending our time playing cards, visiting the town and chilling.
After that Alice and I said goodbye to claudia and took a nightbus to Mysore. Mysore is very famous for its market and became in the last few years internationally known for having the best yoga teachers in the world. We get there in the morning and get into an argument with a rickshaw driver who pretended the GH we wanted to go didnt exist (typical scam) and me not being as polite as Alice (:)) started to really get annoyed with him. We finally get to our destination to find that our room is twice the price we expected and that we can only go in at 12 - its 7am, we're exhausted and since the room is empty we dont understand why the manager is being such a pain. We decide to wonder around the town like the ghost we (I) were and try to organise a train to Kochi in Kerala. We visited the city palace and walked around, and both had the same feeling that we wanted to get out - which we did on that same night even though we had paid for the GH. A couple of amazing thing though - Mysore market, with spices, fruits, vegetables and lots of random stuff is definitely worth a stop if you're on the way, and the city retains a very original feel since there are almost no foreign tourists (think we might have 3 or 4 in total). The food is also amazing since there are no tourist places its all very good local quality - I stuffed myself with masala dosas (my favourites!) and random stuff on street stalls. Something random is that there were no woman in the streets and Mysore is mainly male dominated.
An episode that caused us a big trauma - we saw a MASSIVE rat - and I am not joking, like the size of a cat - close to a shop and the shopkeeper was killing it with a bambou stick and you could see everything coming out of it. I couldnt stop thinking about it for a few days. YAK.
On the bus to Kochi we met two italian guys and spent the next couple of days hanging out in the streets of Kochi.
Kochi is INCREDIBLE! One of my favourite spots in India. Chinese fishing nets, dutch homes, english churches, jewish area, hindu temples. It is tiny and very chilled, with a couple of very cool hang outs and art galleries. We spent a couple of days there buying silver, getting fish from the market and renting bikes to cycling to Jew town. I could go on and on about the history of the jews in Kerala but I'll let you do some research if you are interested. They did have a massive influence in trade and because they were really close to the hindu community got granted a land to build a synagogue right next to the main temple. Visiting Kashi art gallery we were asked to pose for an exhibition (see photo on fbook) inspired from hamletmachine, which was defo a cool episode of your stay there
We then went to Munnar and stayed overnight in the middle of plantations of tea, cannabis, spices and other random stuff. The house is lost in the plantations and very peaceful, perfect for some meditation. We took a Keralan cooking class and also went on a boat trip to the backwaters. We then met 2 canadian girls that i will spend some time with in Varkala, a beach resort in the south of Kerala.
It was time to say goodbye to Alice who was going back to England and I took a local bus to Varkala the next day.
Varkala is very touristy but as with everything you can take the bits you like of it and so i decided to stay away from the main cliff, closer to where the Hindus have their bath in the morning and evening. I spent the next few days there with some french and italians met there as well as the north american crew met in Kochi, getting a few ayurvedic massages and some well deserved cocktails. The higlight was when I walked north of the main cliff for an hour and found a little deserted beach with literally just me on it...and at that time I feel how lucky I am to be doing this trip and I think this moment will remain a key point of my journey. The waves are massive in Varkala so not ideal for good swimming but whats good is that the dolphin swim very close to the shore and you can see them jumping, which adds to the already amazing sunset.
On sunday I left varkala and flew to Bangkok. I felt homesick on the first day (home meaning India at that stage). The airport bus dropped me on khao san road - the main backpacker street - and I feel a mix of nausea, disgust and unhealthy curiosity to have a wonder a take pictures of this perfect example of how tourism can destroy a place. I stayed in the first GH i found (it was 11pm) and moved asap the next morning. I am now further away from the mayhem and after visiting a few temples and walking in the backstreets warming up to the city. I will send a proper update on thailand in the next couple of weeks.
Coming back on the subject of India - I know people hear lots of horrible stuff but it is for me one of the most beautiful experience of my life. Everything that make India - cows, near death experiences, spitting, meditation, burping, massages, farting, smiles, markets, saharis, deserts, elephants, sickness, rickshaw, amazing food, camels, frustration, temples, late trains, cockroaches, yoga - make it INCREDIBLE. And I know that I will return very soon.
Ok you can breath again I am now done :-)
Sending you all my love xxx