I hope this blog will be a direct insight to my travels. Learning curves, hopefully, not mountains. People, emotions and cultures. The really important elements of life.

Monday, 22 November 2010

Last post

Hello.....well it did stop raining and I was able to spend the whole morning on the beach yesterday........loooverrrly!
I set out at midnight last night, it is now 12.55 the following day. I eventually flew from Cochin to Dehli arriving here at 10.30. Baggage collection was reasonably painfree and by 10.45 I was enroute to the International check in, two hours later I have just found a little haven with iced Savignon Blanc and super food all courtesy of Amex, I needed it I can tell you I was about to explode. The red tape and bureaucracy here is just unbelievable! It keeps thousands of police in jobs and hundreds of airport staff working at the usual Indian pace appearing to be busy!
So here I am due at number one gate in a few delicious moments and reflecting on my trip I have concluded I am so pleased I was able to experience the pleasures and delights of India, I am too old to relive the many annoyances, I wish I had managed to see Hampi, Rickasesh (or similar spelling) and a few other special places, I am so very pleased I did this trip. I worry they have nuclear power at their fingertips and have rethought visiting China due to the knowledge I now have from the many poor Tietans with whom I have chatted.
I feel so enlightened and so exhausted all wrapped up in a wonderful bundle of memories.
Bye for now xxx

Sunday, 21 November 2010

Hello and it is raining!

This may be my last post from India and unfortunately I have to report it is raining. In fact we have had rain here in Vakarla, everyday except yesterday but today it started around 13.00 following a hot but mostly cloudy morning and looks set to continue all day. I guess it is good practise for me returning home tomorrow. It has never persisted for a long time before but oh well, notice already I am talking about the weather!
I have spent a few relaxing hours slung in the hammock outside our room, as it is very warm so I was able to enjoy my book.
Spending too much money in the shops here as the beach is not an option and now I am taking a relaxing drink. We have arranged to meet up with a few people we have met in other towns who are also now here, have a game of scrabble and or cards.
So even though the weather has let me down at this last stage I am able to enjoy and relax.
Love you and take care from India. xx

Thursday, 18 November 2010

Vakarla Beach

Hello from my final stop. We arrived here after a mere tuk tuk to the bus from Kovallam, two buses and a second Tuk tuk. However following the train journeys we have had this was comparatively easy!
India is such a vast country that travelling from one town to another is always a mission. Vakarla itself is a small town still in the state of Kerrala but not quite on the coast so of course the bus drops at the main town and from there of rickshaw is required. When on the bus, well I use the word loosely as, if you can recall the depot where the oldest and most broken down old buses have laid for many years awaiting a miracle to resuscitate them back to life, well that is the bus! No windows of course, in fact I cannot recall seeing windows in many places here, just the occasional building and cars of course. The door is pulled close after use by the nearest passenger (on this occasion me) using a piece of string. We do of course attract huge amounts of attention as we travel, particularly from the younger generation. The little children take much pleasure in greeting us with a sweet 'hello' and a very large smile followed quickly by a proud glance toward their family. The young men, but rarely girls, are always so very keen to 'extend their conversational skills' as they so wonderfully put it.
So we arrived and a lovely place it is too. We have two nights at a 'couch surfer' which basically means free and have decided to stay here until I leave for my flight. We have found a lovely room to move to on Saturday night for 300 rps each night, a real bargain. It is very near the front and has a hammock to laze in outside. The 300 will of course be split between us and when you remember the rate is around 70 to a pound sterling it is one of the best we have found.
Vakarla consists of a very small beach, the beach extends as the months go on, they have the monsoon finishing around August Sept and from then the water becomes reduced which exposes more beach! Their winter is just beginning (which is also the high season for tourists) so prices will be increased soon.
It is 36 or 37 degrees everyday with the sun being very strong until about three in the afternoon. The food is wonderful with loads of fish and even a rum and civilised! The high cliff , that requires tackling to access the beach supports the single row of traders including restaurants and travel agents. Well on the subject of travel agents we actually found one here who had a map of India, it brought such excitement!
So it is here in this rich and clean area, one where the locals no longer spit, they have learnt to wait their turn, they often are seen shaking hands (oh so very western) and to top it all there are no cows that I spend my last few days before returning to England.
I will leave here on Monday night to fly from Cochin at 07.15 and a direct flight from Dehli to UK departing at 11.45 I believe.
I may speak again..........
Chris x


This is a photo of the charity feeding for the DaVali celebrations. All the local hungry and homeless arrive and queue up outside while the rich Indians who have donated the food play music and make a bit of a thing about it before opening the gates allowing the poor in. They all are very quite whilst they file in a single line. They sit down and wait. They are issued a vine leaf each (not to eat but to adapt as their plate) before several people come round serving different foods onto the leaf. When all is served they begin to eat and shortly after they leave, still poor and homeless but for now anyway no longer hungry. This happens once a year.

Monday, 15 November 2010

Monday 15th Nov Still in Kavala

Hello Well we have decided to move on tomorrow. We have thoroughly enjoyed the time here, have met some lovely people and enjoyed the gorgeous food. Fish, fish and more fish so I have been in my element.
I have strolled the 'front' so many times with the touts now smiling and saying 'hello' Today I took my wrap around skirt off as I came out from lunch and joked with the wrap/scarf seller offering it for sale to him. We were joined at lunch by a chap who arrived yesterday from Taunton and our afternoon trek up to the lighthouse was 'guided' by a fantastic guy who is a fisherman and life guard. He has his handmade boat which he paddles out to where the Squid and mussels are, he dives down with his machete and collects the fish returning to the boat, so clever, he is also a lifeguard as the tide and current here are so very strong, they are all fishermen and really know the sea, they rescue at least one person a day. What a fantastic life he has, I so admire him, he learnt to dive for fish as a boy going out with his father. He was telling me today he has three brothers, two of which are in Saudi Arabia making lots of money. They are a Muslim family. He received an invitation from them to join them and also make money but he declined, saying he is happy in his soul and has sufficient money to live and feed himself also looking after his parents.
We also have met several English people in our hotel so a group of us are around most of the time.
Anyway I must tell you about my highlight that you will not believe! Yesterday we met a guy at breakfast and we were chatting , he said a few of them were taking a taxi to Trivandrum that evening g as there was a rumour that Bob Geldorf was playing a free gig, would we like to join them. Well of course we did so off we went at 17.30 six of us all squeezed in the taxi. Arriving at the palace we strolled through the grounds where a book convention had been for the previous week. We found the natural auditorium and took the front row. It started to spit! The equipment that was on stage under the covers began to get wet and a sad air of disappointment hung around us. The loudspeaker crackled into life and a voice said there are two ways of dealing with the rain, we either all pray or we have a rain party! You can guess the rest......but just before the band came on stage we realised that Sting was seated forth row back with Trudi. The band came on then Bob came onstage. He played for two hours and Sting joined him for one number.
It was absolutely amazing I can't tell you and for free.
So here I am seated in the Internet cafe, its 19.30 and we will eat dinner soon, at least that was the plan but the sky has just opened and tipped a huge amount of water onto us accompanied by very loud bangs of thunder. It has been very very hot so I am really not surprised. It will not last long and then it will be dry again.
So tomorrow we travel to Varcala just up the coast a little where we have two free nights accommodation, we are hoping to do a backwater tour from there which also places me nearer to Cochin from where I fly home.
Now I will venture out to the restaurant to retrieve my beer!

Love you xx

Saturday, 13 November 2010

we have arrived AND there is food!!!!

We began our journey at Varanasi, having had a huge pasta dish and steamed vegetables, which is really two meals but I knew I had to 'stock up'. We arrived at the station, huge, full of people (and cows), many platforms with many people keen to rip you off. We established the appropriate platform and struggled up the many steps to walk several yards and then down many steps with huge baggage which seems to multiply every time we move on.
We had of course purchased many items of food that were available on the streets, this amounted to crisps, bananas, apples, one pomegranate and some nutty/coconut type sweets.
Looking up at the platform display sign and allowing my eyes to wander from left to right the headings were as follows:- Train number......destination.......train name.....scheduled time.....late
LATE ....already printed on the sign, well that is a very good insight into the general level of efficiency in India. In our case the figure was 1.30, meaning the train is already running one and a half hours late and still a couple of hours before the scheduled arrival time!
So that was the beginning of our arduous journey. The first night was impossible to sleep as the driver was leaning on the horn all night long! The second not too bad, probably due to us being pretty comatosed by then and the third again impossible as this engine clearly had a fault with the clutch, so every time he dropped down or moved up through the gears the whole train lurched and jolted throwing all personal pocessions flying. With the increasingly unbearable stench of urine wafting from the said 'toilets' and the persistent cries of "biriyani' every ten minutes or so, as the 'boys' from the kitchen were of course on commission, the advantages of travelling this way were quickly forgotten.
Arriving at Trivandrum was more a case of falling off than alighting with style! I can't begin to explain how dirty we were, it was when we began to have coins offered to us that we realised just how we mimicked street people! No only joking. Anyhow we were of course immediately surrounded by Tuk Tuk drivers, taxi drivers and the like but quickly realised this was a city and a big one at that. We really had had enough of the city life so took a tuk tuk straight to Kovalam, booked into a hotel, got a good deal for 500 per night (after we changed rooms cos the first had no hot water, they always try it on) and had a shower.........well it was the best shower of my life, boy does this travelling make you appreciate what you have at home!
Next guessed it food! We had eaten so very little I should have lost loads of weight but sadly not. Think it may have something to do with the beer as there is no choice of alcohol.
Then I opened my eyes and realised we were in the most idyllic bay, the waves crashing in and every restaurant displaying the catch of the day for my indulgence.....and boy am I!
The sunset here is amazing and looks like we will be here for a couple more days....Oh the agony of it!
I do miss you all..really. I am off to dinner now. Speak soon xxx

Monday, 8 November 2010

Last post from Varenesi. Monday 9th Nov

Hi everyone, we have finally arranged our next move. We are due to leave this evening on the 23.55 train to Chennai arriving there at 14.20 11 th Nov, we then take the train at 19.45 to arrive at Trivandrum at 11.20 on Friday the 12th. A very long journey indeed but the most economical one by far. So today our mission is to colllect as much edible food as we can find to take on board, generally this amounts to only crisps and fruit! We have booked economy sleeper which means no a/c and no bed roll. As it was so very cold on the last train we decided that would be the best 'class' to travel.
Well did I tell you the beauty of Varenesi, it is a city of very old buildings all extremely close together, reminding me of Victorian London, creating a mass of narrow alleys through which cows, motorbikes, pushbikes, goats, dogs and literally hundreds of people all sieve through avoiding, where possible, the caramel coloured pats spewing from previously sealed wads, the pungent exhaust fumes and the touching of the many beggars.
The 'burning ceremony' continues relentlessly twenty four hours a day with bodies being paraded through the streets held high by the family, only the males of course as the women are considered too emotional to attend. These bodies, wrapped in many layers of varying coloured cloths with tinsel and flowers topping the package, are laid upon makeshift wooden stretchers to take the weight of the body, which at times is carried several miles terminating the journey at the burning gat. The deceased person has normally passed that day however if the family were more spread out (normally only the more wealthy) then a vehicle is used, the body laid on the top and the family collected en route, this sometimes requires the body to be laid on ice for up to two days prior to the burning. Once arrived at the said gat the stretcher is laid on the ground, a fire of wood is carefully prepared by 'a boy' , the rich use sandalwood but the masses any old wood. The men then go to the barber where their heads are shaved leaving only a tiny ponytail on the crown in memory of their lost one. They then return to the corpse, lift and hold in the river, this river being of course The Ganges, a holy river and considered to be so very precious. This dunking is the second element, there are five as follows: earth, water, air, fire and sky. The sky under which they burn is representative of heaven and eternity a spiritual conception. The corpse is then placed back on the soil where the flowers, tinsel and many covers are removed leaving only the cream coloured shroud that encloses the raw body. These wraps are now no longer required therefore, naturally they are thrown in the river (where else would you place them!) The stretcher carrying their loved one is then placed on top of the carefully prepared fire, the men withdraw and collect on the nearest wall or space where they squat and observe the fire. A boy regularly attends ensuring any limbs that slip are placed back on the flames. There is no crying or wailing. The bullocks also attend these ceremonies finding the discarded flowers particularly yummy. The family spend the next fifteen days at their home fasting and in mourning. There is a particular ghoulish attraction to watching this ceremony,naturally photographs are not allowed out of respect for the dead, unless of course you pay a 'guide' then respect goes out of the window. When the fire has died down the ashes are collected in a sieve and placed in the Ganges where the boy allows water to flow through until they are no more. The gold exposed by this process is of course retained. Incidentally not everybody is dealt with in this fashion. There are some who are considered to be too pure for burning and they are wrapped, a rock tied to a foot, taken by boat to the centre of the river and thrown overboard. These consist of children under ten, pregnant women, Sados (holy men) and cows!
So I hope I have begun to paint a true picture of this city. I can't help thinking if it were lifted from here, cleaned and placed in England it would be considered so special.
There are numerous opportunities to make a fortune here. They are just not geared up for westerners. There are many rooftop restaurants, in fact they are nearly all on the roof as that is they way they live. They have no real kitchen or bathroom, instead they wash themselves and their clothes at the same time on the roof using the nearby hosepipe water supply. All the females of the household are present and all the children, a child matures at about 12 years and are then expected to work . They play an equal part in the running of the household and if Father has a shop or stall they are often selling goods from there. Few attend school as they have no money to pay for education.
It is difficult and very time consuming to put photos on this blog but I have many capturing the atmosphere of life in India.
Well I think it will be several days before I am able to blog again so until I reach the south (Kerala) take care.
Love you xxx

Sunday, 7 November 2010

Hi Sunday 7th

Hello we are still in Varinasi and today visited the temple from which Buddah delivered his first sermon. We used pony and trap to get there which was lovely, it was approx 10 klms and all the way the children were waving at us, it was like being a celebrity! That was in Saranat but there was nothing else to do there. This evening I ate the same spaghetti dish I had last night which was lovely and this morning for breakfast I managed to get fruit muesli and curd (yoga rt) so all in all a successful day! Note my days are measured largely on the food consumption.
Tomorrow we must finalise our next movement to the south, we are having great problems, as I said but it is likely we will take the train to Chennai, about 37 hours, followed by a further 6 or so! Mad I know but the flights are just so expensive it seems it would be more money than I paid for the UK to India return. They say of course it is because of Davali but I really can't see much changing as that was supposed to be yesterday! They say the fireworks will continue for some time, Marie is far from happy as she does not sleep with the noise.
So today we saw yet more bodies being carried down to the river, to think yesterday when we were there, those people were alive and breathing, it is a crude reminder that we are here for only a short time, it is sensible to enjoy every minute.
If I don't get to the blog for a while you know its cos we are on a very long train journey!
It was lovely to speak to Adam today, I tried to get Daniel today but with no luck, will try again soon.

Love you all xxx