Indian observations, part 1:
• there are cows everywhere- on the beach, on the roads- I know they are sacred here but I don't really get it.
• Goa is also full of tattoo shops, which is reflective of the ilk of tourist- drunken, hippy types.
• it's very difficult to understand the Indian people, just remember any call from/to a call centre- they speak very fast and without appropriate pauses or pronunciation. I'm forever- "pardon?".
• the Indians do an amazing head wobble which either means yes, maybe or I don't know- but it makes me smile every time I see it!
• everything has women only sections- buses, trains, waiting rooms etc. and the good thing is they are less crowded!
• food is generally pretty spicy, I like it but it leaves your nose running and there is just so much choice- I still can't decipher menus so ask them for a recommendation (most of it tastes the same to me?!) But the good thing is that there are so many vege restaurants!! And lots of fresh fruit!
• the Indians really do eat with their hands! It's quite something to watch how they mush the rice into balls with the sauce so they can pick it up. (Only the right hand! The left is the toilet hand).
• the men in Kerala all wear sheets wrapped round their middle inside of trousers.
• it is rude to sit and jiggle your leg- I was eating with an American guy and the stall holder come up to him and told him to stop shaking his leg as it was "very bad". I would have said sorry and felt embarrassed I didn't know, but being American this guy was like "why?? I'm trying to enjoy my food! You coming up to me is making me want to do it more....." This sums up the yanks, sadly!
Thursday: the rain kicked in last night and it continued torrentially until about 11am! It's less humid than Mumbai which is a relief! So I had a quiet morning and when it stopped I got a local bus to the capital of Goa- Goa is the smallest state in India- a town called Punjim. I walked for an hour or so to the recommended sights and got some lunch at a vege place. Then I got a local bus to old Goa where there are old churches, cathedrals, etc. I got another local bus to Candolim- one of the beach resort towns where I walked miles to another ancient fort. It was about 8.30 by the time I got back- it was a fun day exploring the highlights of Goa and the local buses were an experience! They are only 10-20 rupees (12-24p) instead of 300-400 rupees (£3.60- £4.80) for taxis and I didn't see another tourist on them all day! But the locals are helpful when you ask where to get a bus from, although the buses look like something from the 40's.
Friday: I headed to South Goa on the local buses- 4 in total- to Palolem which is meant to be the nicest beach in Goa. It was a long trip but it takes you through most areas of Goa which is nice. The beach was indeed as you think- long and sandy and lined with palm trees and almost empty- I can only imagine how pretty it must be in the summer (although ruined by tourists). Sure enough, as I walked along the heavens opened and I got soaked, but in true British style I enjoyed an ice cream before starting my long trip back! I was getting a night sleeper train at 10pm to Kerala and so got a taxi to the station. The train was only 30 mins late! The "bed" was a bench and there were 8 crammed into a 4m x 2m space! I was on a top bunk and had to have all my bags with me on the bunk. No windows! And big, old, loud fans! I listened to some music and managed to sleep.
Saturday: I woke to the vendors coming through selling tea, coffee, breakfast, snacks from about 6am. I was due to arrive at 8.20, but had no idea when my station was as there were no announcements and I couldn't see out a window?! I asked a few people and finally arrived about 10.40am having travelled 750km- but you look on a map of India and I've hardly moved! I had to go to the bus station, so asked a few people outside the station and a guy offered me a lift on the back of his motorbike for free!! However, when I got to the bus station I was informed they were on strike!! No one could tell me much or I didn't understand anyway! I was starving, so grabbed some bhajis. I was told the bus I'd need and to sit on it and wait til 12, so I waited til gone 1 and nothing was happening! So I changed my plans and got a tuk tuk back to the train station where I've never seen such a long queue for tickets!!! I phoned the hostel I had planned to go to and said sorry but I wouldn't make it. I got a train ticket for 4pm, so sat around for a couple more hours!! It's fair to say that India is hard work- everything takes so long and nothing is simple! Having been here a week I don't really feel I've achieved anything or seen anything spectacular, the culture is very interesting but as I spent the day waiting around I admit I was thinking of booking a flight home! The train took 4.5 hours! I'd finished my book so had nothing to read and the small, dirty, obstructed windows don't lend themselves to admire the scenery through, but I got chatting to a nice, young Indian fella. Finally arrived at the station about 9pm- 24 hours after I set off- hungry and in need of a shower!
Sunday: I spent the day walking around the town of Fort Kochi- I went to a museum which is called the Dutch palace and tells you a bit about the history and Portuguese, Dutch and British influence in this area. I saw the oldest synagogue in India from the Jewish migration in the 1600s. I had a nice hot meal for the first time in 3 days- was getting sick of bhajis! Then the giant Chinese fishing nets they use for fishing- very clever! Got caught in the rain, as it rained sporadically for most of the afternoon. In the evening, I went to watch some traditional theatre- an art form called Kathakali. It was quite something! They don't talk but it's all done with eye and expressive facial and hand movements, with live music. Can't say I've become a fan, but it was good to see.
Monday: I got the ferry back across to the mainland and a tuk-tuk to the bus station where I got a 4.5 hour bus to Munnar, which is another part of Kerala up in the mountains which is known for it's tea plantations and nature reserves. At least I could admire the view for most of the journey; but the buses have no windows so when it rains you pull down shutters! No hostels here, so I'm at a guesthouse- £6 a night (it's heartbreaking!). But I have a double bed and ensuite. I was starving, so walked back to the main town and had some good, local food!! Unfortunately, Munnar is full of homemade chocolate shops, as they grow cocoa here! My first chocolate in several weeks- it's not the nicest though. It's very wet and much cooler here! I had a nightmare getting any/hot water for a shower, so got rather pissed off! 3 times I got undressed and had to get dressed again to go down and ask the man. The wifi was crap and the power was out half the time.
Tuesday: I had arranged to do some trekking through the guesthouse- it was the only reason I stayed here! The guy said the time depended on the weather, but if it was nice in the morning he'd wake me 30 mins before. I was really looking forward to getting some exercise after so much time on buses/trains and seeing some wildlife. At 9am I hadn't heard anything so I went down and a guy said the other 2 people had cancelled but we were still waiting on the weather. At 10.30, I went back and was told it was cancelled as it was just me! I was furious, especially as it was now too late to do any of the other day trips that you can do from the tourist office! If they had told me when they found out, I could have arranged something but I ended up with a wasted day! So I packed my bag and moved next door- 60p cheaper and still a double, ensuite. I walked 4km to the tea museum and learnt about how the British set it up in the 1800s and saw the tea making process. Then had another nice, hot meal- the only one eating with a spoon!
I think I have been so lucky to visit such amazing places and do such amazing things in my life that the new places I visit have a lot to compete with! As such, I am far from enamoured by India, maybe the wet and gloomy weather doesn't help and I don't mind slumming it (Africa, SA, living in a tent for 2 months) but everything here is just hard work and for nothing!
I have confirmed a placement at a project that educates and provides employment (they have their own farm and craft making) for people with learning difficulties and other marginalised groups. They will give me free food and accommodation while I work there and I feel it is a perfect project to utilise my skills as an OT! It is near Pondicherry/Chennai on the east coast. It begins Monday 19th and I have committed to a week, but I can stay as long as I want. So I will try a week and if I like it then I will stay for a month before flying north and spending my final 2 weeks exploring a couple of places there. If I don't like it, I will fly north for a week or two and then cross into Nepal. But the world is my oyster!
Pleased that not all the British public are stupid enough to be manipulated by the shameful bias of our national press and the vilification of Corbyn. But the DUP?! Really?! I guess we'll see.....