We had been told we didn't need to book a ticket to Badami. The man in the office at the bus station said they go regularly, no timetable just turn up. We had to get the bus from Bijapur to Kerurl then change for Badami. Catching the bus in South America had challenges, mostly because no one spoke English. On the up side they use the same alphabet so place names were recognisable. In India English is not widely spoken and place names are all in Hindi Sanskrit. Kerurl may be how you say it but it doesn't look like that when it's written.
The man in the office said we wanted stand 1. We went out and counted 5,4,3,2.....yep no 1. I just approached a few people and said 'Kerurl'. They pointed. We sat not sure if we were in the right place or not. Eventually a conductor got off a bus and I asked him if he spoke English. Clearly not. We sat wondering what to do. Suddenly the conductor appeared with a smartly dressed man. 'Hello, where are you looking to go' He said. A helpful Indian. 'Kerurl' we said. 'That bus there' he said.
We got on board with our fingers crossed. The conductor came round to collect fares. 'Kerurl' I said. He punched it in to his machine and printed a ticket. Three hours on a bus, 70p each. Strangely enough the ticket was in English. Confused? You would be. More on that later.
The bus was quite comfy and it was quite a nice trip. We arrived at Kerurl bus station and changed to the next bus. As we got on board I thought has someone pissed in here. No we were just downwind of the station toilets. We sat for about fifteen minutes enjoying the aroma before we set off. It was only thirty minutes to Badami. We've noticed that lots of men hold hands here. Two young lads were sat near us and the conductor sat next to them and put his arm round one while they chatted. When they got off another young guy got on and he put his hand on his knee. In England if a bus conductor put his hand on a youngsters knee he'd get a five stretch. Little wonder multi culturalism is not working.
We arrived in Badami and it had been much easier than we had expected. Our hotel was described as opposite the bus stand and it was. We walked across the dirt road and were soon in our room. Considering we are in a small town it's really quite nice. I use that term very loosely. The hotel bar served a nice cold beer. If you've been reading all these blogs you may think we have a drink problem. Trust me if you ever spend a few hours on a third world bus on dust roads you will want a cold beer!!
Badami describes itself as 'The city of caves'. It's not a city, twenty five thousand people live here. It's one main road with side roads. The ubiquitous cows and feral boars are here. They also have an added extra in the shape of monkey troops roaming the roof tops.
Our reason for coming here was to experience rural India and to see the cave temples. When I said the hotel bar I wonder what you imagined? It was an upstairs room with plastic tables and chairs. The floor was dirt and covered in rubbish. It was semi outside as you could see the buildings opposite. The exposed bit was covered in chicken wire to keep the monkeys out.
The first time we walked in the waiter said 'Beer? In the hotel'. We went to reception and spoke to the manager. 'The bar said we have to drink here' we said.' 'Come with me' he said. He took us back to the bar gave out a k*** ing which probably was along the lines of 'I don't pay you lazy coolies to turn customers away. Get your arses in gear and serve these people' All went well after that. Everyone seems to know their place in India.
We had a look around the town. It didn't take long. That evening we went to a local restaurant and had Lobster Thermidor in a mornay sauce with sautéed vegetables and a glass of chilled Muscadet. Yeah right. We had a veggie curry with a fresh lime and soda. I love curry and so does Jill but we may struggle with eating it every day for three months.
As I've said everybody stares at us. While we were in the hotel bar Jill commented that there was a big pile of rubbish in the corner. She took a sly picture. Clearly all the staring crowd had noticed. Next day there was a bin there.
It is still all very mixed with the people. We went to see the local cave temples and a slightly creepy guy followed us around for about half an hour. Eventually he said 'There are more things over there' then walked briskly away. Plain weird. Later in the bar two chaps on the next table offered me some of their lunch. I declined so he gave me some roasted monkey nuts to eat. They were just friendly.
At the caves there is a sign warning of the monkey menace. Jill was stood by a wall and her scarf was flapping. Not for long as it soon had a monkey holding on to one end. Jill had a brief tug of war with it before it let go. Next she went to take a picture of me and put the water bottle on the floor. Like a flash a monkey jumped down and grabbed it. It then sat about four feet away and undid the lid tipped the bottle and had a drink.
Language is providing amusement and frustration at the same time. We have sometimes thought people can speak English. Often it is limited. Their motto seems to be when in doubt say 'Yes'. E.g. 'One tea and one coffee please' 'Would you like a cup or a glass?' 'Which is biggest?''Yes'. In South America they refer to a hybrid of language called Spanglish. Here they have Indglish. I was watching the cricket and the commentator said 'Hindi hindi hindi oh fine cover drive, hindi hindi hindi.' There doesn't seem to be any pattern just a bit of a sentence in Hindi with an English phrase thrown in randomly.
All you hear these days is that India is a huge economy and is at the cutting edge of technology. After all they are a nuclear power and have put a rocket into space. Well let me tell you their IT is crap. No wifi outside of the big cities. No internet at all in nearly all the hotels, and internet cafes that keep crashing. Like China they have billions of potential customers but they are light years behind the west in nearly every aspect. They are just having a national debate about whether to let big retailers like Wal-Mart in here. Politicians are largely in favour but the retail business here is controlled on Caste lines by 'middle men' who fix the prices and control the flow of products. Guess who doesn't want Wal-Mart?
Today we hired a driver to take us to a temple site about 20kms outside of Badami. The site itself was interesting but the drive was probably more so. It took us down dirt roads through small farming villages. The living conditions are just awful. People huddled around stand pipes to get water for washing. Most of India is still agricultural. People are working all day in fields and plantations. Snakes are everywhere. The government figures attribute something silly like 300,000 deaths each year from bites. These are the deaths recorded in hospitals. The World Health Organisation put the figure at over one million. Most people who are bitten live in rural areas and have no access to medical care. They die where they live and are never recorded officially. The minister for trade said in the paper he was tired of India being called a developing nation. He wanted it recognised as a developed one. A bit of work to do I would suggest. Having said all that with their obsession with making money if they do get their act together we had better watch out.
Tomorrow is an early start to catch the bus to Hospet. Typically Indian there is a bus at 7am another at 7.30am then the next one is at 7.30pm. Don't even try to work out why it will drive you wibble.