(Almost) The Final Blog - We're almost finished. 176 days away from England and we've got 1 to go. We said at the start of the trip that we wanted to make sure that our blog was a little more than a chronological account of our day to day activities. We hope that we've kinda succeeded but, for our (almost) final blog, we thought we'd go back to blog-basics and run through a chronological account of the day to day activities of our final 20 days in India. It's not that we've lost inspiration for anything else - honest - it's just that when we stick it all together we thought it was rather good. Anyway, the 20 day countdown went something like this:
20: Drop off the huge Royal Enfield Bullet motorbike. Great bike but a sigh of relief - we're alive! Get on overnight train.
19: Get off overnight train. Have breakfast. Get on 20 hour overday and overnight train. (Oh the glamour of an overland trip!)
18: Arrive in Goa. Dig out clean(ish) clothes and hotel-crash at the Hyatt with the holidaying-Klimowiczs. Sun-loungers more comfortable than any bed we've had since home. Lucy seemed relieved to escape Paul's one-on-one chat. Drink. Rum-champagne-beer-beer-beer-gin-gin. Fish curry in there somewhere.
16: Nicola's mystery rash getting worse. Visit to Indian doctor. Local form of Shingles, known as The Cobra, diagnosed. James told that hotel upgrade required. Hotel upgraded.
15: R&R. Locals advise visit to Indian Witch Doctor. 'Doctor' eventually located living in shed in woods. Tree-root based cream purchased - "guarantee kill The Cobra snake nasty rash quick-fast". 1st cream applied with leaf by lady witch doctor. R&R.
14: Not exactly R&R. Scooter to airport. Flight to Mumbai. Taxi to cricket stadium to collect India v. England tickets. Long long story finishes with James in marble corner office of Chairman of Mumbai Cricket Association. Explanation of friend in England who works for England Cricket Board (thanks Lucy) and has reserved tickets only moderately successful. 1000 Rupees in top pocket of Chairman more effective. 2 tickets in hand. More R&R in hotel room (Domino's pizza, beer and English Premier League on TV).
13: The Cobra still bites but Nicola is brave. Witch doctor potion is great. R&R for the patient. James plays cricket with locals in Mumbai park and is suitably embarrassed. To the stadium where a Swiss flag is painted by local 'artist' on Nicola's soft cheek. Shouting. Finger pointing. Laughing. Swiss flag inverted to English flag. Take seats. No beer but Domino's, Subway and warm flat Pepsi delivered to your seat. Nice touch. Short story finishes with England thumped. Official: Indian fans are nuts. Escape alive with "whitewash" ringing in ears. Visit top Indian restaurant with top name: Gaylords. Asked and then told to sit outside. Top tip: take England flag off face before visiting posh Gaylords.
12: Hold-on. F1-style taxi trip to airport. Survive. Fly to Goa (great place to arrive twice in 7 days). Breaking news: all scooters look the same. Top tip: take note of distinguishing features of one's scooter before leaving in Indian airport scooter park. Scooter located. To the beach!
11: Nothing but the beach. And a room with a roof covered in swimming pool lilos to stop it leaking in a storm.
10: Jumped on the scooter and headed north. Beautiful. Checked in to our own shack on the beach. Upgraded - we have running water. Today is biggest festival of the Indian year. Day's holiday for everyone. Sea full of fully-clothed Indians. Much silliness, curry eating, cricket playing and fireworks. Breaking news: firework safety campaign yet to reach India: Goa like a war zone.
9: 100% beach.
8: Just to prove we're still up for it after 6 months on the road, a 7am alarm and onboard the scooter by 8am. Head south to remind ourselves that we're in India by visiting a (Portuguese) fort. Half the population of India turn up on tour buses and half of them want a photo with us. Carry on and remind ourselves that we are most definitely in Goa by checking in to another chilled-out beach shack. Settle down to an evening of fish curry, rum and coke, apple shisha and a pool table on the sand.
7: For a change, we spend the day mostly sitting on the beach but, just in case you too were in any doubt, "if we can spend 12 days on the same mountain, I think we can stay 5 days on a selection of different beaches!" That's clear then!
6: Up early again and hit the road heading south. Stunning coast road drive, complete with beach and cliff views, palm trees and a trip on a rusty old ferry. Another beach. Another shack. And another day in paradise. James finds a kayak and takes it sea surfing. Nicola finds a hammock and sways in it. Seafood platters all round for dinner to celebrate the final death of The Cobra.
5: Another 100% beach day. There was powder-soft sand backed by swaying coconut trees, sun-loungers, blue sea, blue sky, a cool breeze and a typical roaming population of cows. There was pineapple from the fruit man, drinks from the Lilt man, ice-cream from the ice-cream man on a bike and ice-cold beers from the man behind a bar. You get the idea!
4: Time for one final hurrah - we check in to Goa's finest at the Leela Goa. I doubt the manager has ever looked so disgusted as the scooter keys are thrown to his doorman and 2 filthy sand-covered, vest-wearing travellers with luggage consisting of a plastic bag walk in through his stunning marble reception. To make things worse for him, it turns out that we're the people he's been expecting, thanks to Dan Reid's global hotel contacts and a request to Leela's MD that we be "upgraded and afforded VIP status" (great work mate). We spend the rest of the day being constantly upgraded. Our lagoon suite is at least as big as our house and certainly with more bathrooms and TVs. Our typing of this blog is rudely interrupted by a boy bearing a bottle of champagne on ice! Nice touch again Reidy!
3: Ouch. Think the soft pillows gave us a headache. Or could it be that we met a couple from London who were here preparing for their wedding next year and needed a second opinion with their wine tasting. From 3 wines in 6 months to a cellar full in 60 minutes! Golf on the Executive Par 3 and a buffet breakfast cleared the head. To the beach for the last time. Publish this blog and last set of photos.
The following 2 days have not yet happened but, for completeness, we include a brief forecast of likely events.
2: Didn't bother going to sleep because a) the bar at the Leela is rather fine, b) we found a casino (the plan to win back our 6 months budget was not entirely successful) and c) we fly from Goa to Qatar at 4am.
1: Arrive at Heathrow. An inappropriately dressed couple in shorts, hippy trousers, t-shirts like Swiss cheese and monkey-chewed flip-flops are allowed to enter by Her Majesty's officers. Mr & Mrs L Taxi Service extraordinaire is ready and waiting. Visited a toilet that smelt of English meadows and had both a hole and a seat in the correct place. And OMG - is that a West Cornwall steak pasty that we can smell. JLa & NCo are off-tour and home!!
PS: this is the '(almost) final blog' because, although we're now off-tour, we have 2 more blogs planned, with the imaginative working titles of 'penultimate blog' and 'final blog'! These will include a collection of some of the most ridiculous and hilarious comments, notices and utterances that we've heard and recorded from Jonny Foreignor during the last 6 months and our very own 'best of' - essential reading for anyone planning a trip somewhere between Bali and Goa or for those who simply want to relive (or failed to keep up with) the last 6 months in a neat little highlights package!! Available soon on www.offexploring.com/james-and-nicola