As we drove into Bijapur it was different again. This is a town of 220,000 inhabitants. By Indian standards that's not big. We've seen our share of poverty on this trip. On an individual level if you are in abject poverty it doesn't matter if you are in Bolivia, Ethiopia or India. The big difference in India is numbers. There are 250 million Indians living in poverty 75 per cent of them are in rural areas. It's pretty much everywhere you look. We had now moved into a rural area.
The scenes greeting us had deteriorated with each location. Bijapur was once the capital of a small empire. It is now a crumbling dust town. I can't paint a romantic picture of Bijapur. It's a s*** hole. The streets are lined with refuse. Feral boars scavenge through the rubbish. Dogs roam the streets.
Cows are the sacred animal of the Hindus and are not to be harmed. We had seen people with cows in other places but here they roam free. They saunter along the roads and frequently sit down in the middle. They s*** everywhere. It's not a pretty sight. As we passed one it put its head down and swung its horns at Jill. Ok do I chin it and start a diplomatic incident or do we cross the road. We crossed the road which is actually more hazardous than a pissed off cow.
When the locals talk to you they all ask the same questions. The opening one is 'Hello, where are you coming from?' I'm thinking of getting a T shirt to cover that one. That's followed by 'What is your name?' Usually that is it and they walk away without another word. Sometimes they will continue with 'What do you do and how much do you earn' It's all very strange. Of course often the final question is 'Can I have money?'
Our hotel was described as a business hotel. In fairness it's not too bad. We did get a copy of the Times of India under the door in the morning. No wifi though which is a pain. I did try the internet cafe outside but with three power cuts in twenty minutes, uploading photos was impossible. This time we checked about the shower and it was the same. Only hot in the morning.
The lad who carried our bags was on the ball. He put the bags down and said 'Would you like beer?' Oh yes indeed. 125 rupees a bottle. He was gone and back in minutes with two bottles. Not bad being as the hotel doesn't sell beer. We needed to follow him and find his source.
As it was still light we decided to go out and have a look around. I don't have much time for celebrities but I'm beginning to get some sympathy. People staring at you is bad enough but when they follow you as well it's really annoying. Some just keep staring even when you look back at them.
I was not warming to this town at all. After ten months on the road there are things you get used to and things that progressively grate. I was not having a good day. When my evening meal was cold I'd had enough. I would happily have got on a plane and come home. This was the country I had wanted to see but it was proving to be an anti climax. The one saving grace was there were movies on the tele. Time for bed and try again in the morning.
Next day and it's surprising what a good nights sleep can do. It's morning and we got tea and toast in the hotel. The internet worked so we could check emails etc. We walked outside. The sun was shining. The town was still a s*** hole.
We took a walk to the bus station to work out our route out. No flash packing this time we are taking the bus. It all seemed ok. The chap at the ticket office told us times and platforms and then coughed straight in my face. Lovely.
As we walked back we noticed a ruined monastery or similar and decided to take a look. Bijapur is dotted with similar places from its past. This was nothing special but worth a look. No sooner had we entered the grounds than a chap was following me as I took pictures. Periodically he would say something in Hindi. I had no idea what and eventually he tired and left me alone.
As we walked back to the hotel we saw a bar/restaurant. Time for a cold beer. It was dirty and grubby but the beer was cold and the owner spoke English. He brought us some curry peanuts to have with the beer. As we sat there the waiter walked by and spat on the floor. Spitting seems to be an obsession in developing countries. Then another very scruffy chap came over and opened his hand to put some more peanuts down. I was not going to eat those and was now regretting eating the first lot. Next, three of the staff came and sat on the next table and just stared at us. Nothing was said until I took out my camera to check my snaps. They wanted their picture taken. Several people have asked me to take photos of them. It hadn't occurred to me that they had never seen a picture of themselves. The owner didn't seem to like it and told them to stop bothering us. When we left, one of them followed us down the road and wanted another photo taken.
In the afternoon we went to the big attraction in Bijapur. Golgumbaz it is a huge mausoleum. It houses the bodies of Emperor Mohammed Adil Shah d 1656 and his family. It is a huge building with a 38 metre dome. It is said to be the second biggest dome after the Basilica in Rome. It has amazing acoustics like St Pauls whispering gallery. Every sound echoes 10-12 times and reverberates for 26 seconds. The longest of any known building. It is an impressive sight. We had the usual problem with the photos and spent quite a lot of time being photographed. When I was buying the entrance tickets a lad came and stood behind me and was staring intently at my hair colour.
That evening we went to a local hotel and had a veggie curry. India has more vegetarians than the rest of the world put together. The meal was good and filling. We had made some enquiries and found the bell boys secret off licence. We secured some beer and also found out that he had been charging us over the odds. Like I say it's a religion.
Next morning after a very hot shower we managed to use the internet cafe downstairs. It's weird how things like mobile phones and internet become addictive. Anyway email checked, Facebook updated and pictures uploaded we headed out. We went to see another mausoleum, this time for Emperor Ibrahim Shah. He built it for his wife but he died first so was buried there. It is not as big as the other place but more ornate. The minarets are said to have been the inspiration for the Taj Mahal.
Our celebrity status went a bit further this time. As we walked to the mausoleum there was a school visit taking place. Maybe one hundred 8-10 year olds with their teachers. First a small group came across and asked for a picture with their teacher. We obliged. Then the others spotted us and that was it. Total chaos. We were surrounded 'Where are you from' 'What is your name' 'Take my picture' the questions came thick and fast. We had to keep walking with a mob around us. Now I know what Donny Osmond had to endure. We eventually made it to the safety of the mausoleum. We had a look round had more family shots taken and then started to leave. We had to go out the same way as in. The kids knew this and were waiting. They ran across the grass like something from Braveheart ignoring their teachers. 'Shake my hand' 'Sign my book' 'Come and play cricket' 'Meet our teacher'. We were basically man handled by a mob of kids. It was like something out of Gulliver's Travels. They took us captive and presented us to their teacher. Now you might think it would be ok now but all he said was 'Children get away from them. I want a picture with them and my daughter'. His daughter looked very uncertain. We were basically held captive for about fifteen minutes signing autographs. Eventually when he had enough pictures the teacher blew a whistle, clumped a few of them round the ear and regained control. We were allowed to leave still in one piece....just.
Tonight we found a hotel down a back street with an outside restaurant. It was an oasis. No noise just fab food. We had three different veggie curries with rice, nan bread, chapattis and fresh orange juice. Total cost five pounds. Tomorrow we head further south to Badami by bus.