Thursday, February 23, 2006

The Hairy coooooooooo cow

To properly tell you about the Hairy cooo I will have to take you back into the mists of time (if this is not funny you are not reading the blogs thoroughly enough)....

It seems that the hairy cooo has been used since the mists of time as an aphrodisiac, its horns apparently warm to the touch when touched give of a potent aphrodisiac that helped the lusty young lads of Scotland earn their reputation as legendary lovers or so Fergie (tour guide not royal) tells us, this practice he informed us actually coined the term "feeling horny".

Not to miss a prime money making opportunity the drug company jumped on it, the idea not the horns, and have extracted the horn of coooo for the drug Viagra the fastest selling drug on the market currently...I wonder then have sales of Panadol gone down or up after all till Viagra is made for women won't we still have headaches honey....

But despite helping the love lives of many an aging man around the world the coooo's are also adorable, fat tubby little bodies covered in long red hair, that even covers their faces in a disturbing likeness to Kurt Cobain, with their soft pink wet and rather large nostrils being the only feature not obscured by their hair they are quite the site.

I leave tommorrow so that's me from the land of haggis, kilts, scots men and report will be from Spain if I can afford the internet access.

I finally found out what is under the kilt

Well I can actually say that I am writing to you in real time as I am actually in Scotland and that is the subject of this blog.

I arrived in Scotland to be greeted with rain and a heart attack at the cost of my hostel, $50 Australian for a dorm bed with shared bathroom with 12 other people, but it was warm and blissfully cosy and marked the event of my first time in a hostel on my own. I walked around Glasgow, an old industrial city which is now emerging at a cultural and artistic centre, I was very much reminded of Chippendale in some parts. Glasgow is a gritty, urban and edgy city, perfectly defined by the fact that I stepped of the train to a swarming crowd of goths of every size and description almost comical is in their collective state, faces masked with white makeup - like they needed to be any whiter! Clutching bags decorated with sculls and various other Goth paraphernalia.

My fist night was in a four person dorm shared with 3 other quite solo women travelers obviously with the same grandma tendencies as me as we were all tucked up in bed by 9.30. The hostel was a strange environment as it was Saturday night and thus was filled with loads of 12 year olds (my description for anyone younger than 25 who wears skirt resembling a belt when it is clearly freezing outside) the middle group basically everyone in my room and then a strange contingency of Russian blokes that looked like the defected body building team form the USSR that controlled the kitchen with their large production of cooking 4 course dinners for themselves, I nick named them the Russian kitchen Mafia.

Anyway, a few hours into my blissful sleep I was woken by the 12 years screaming in a Scottish accent from which I could only clearly discern the swear words, followed by hours of ranting, hooting, singing, clapping, wooping and generally not sleeping which continued until 6am. And so I started my first day of touring around Glasgow I misjudged my map and ended up walking two hours out of town to a beautiful country estate and mansion it was worth the walk as it is now a trust house and they were holding a special Victorian day they had characters from the house telling tales and answering questions (yes I am that nerdy), and the gardens were hauntingly beautiful in the rain and mist. It was on the walk back however, when I noticed the afore mentioned rain had turned into ice and even the horses were wearing jackets that I started to feel a bit cold, hungry and longing for my little dorm bed, 3hrs later with many stops for directions and exasperated sighs I made it home, and promptly booked myself on a tour for the next three days.

My tour started in Edinburgh, and our tour guide Fergie set the right note straight away by promising that every site was a surprise despite the guide in our hands and by promising that we would instantly orgasm upon site of most of them, only people with a Scottish accent could get away with the things they do. We traveled from Edinburgh along the West coast through the beautiful and tragic town of Glencoe where "back in the mists of time" as Fergie would say a terrible massacre occurred all the way through to Fort Augusta home to Loch Ness and the monster, through to Skye where the mountains meet the ocean. Scotland has the most breathtaking landscape, towering snow capped mountains flanked by glassy lakes, green hillsides and amazingly for the three days of our tour blue sky's which I am told happens for about 5 days of the year in Scotland.

I even learned a bit of Gaelic different to that of Ireland and pronounced (Garlec), so loch is lake, glen is valley, and really that's about it, but I also learned a fair bit of a Scottish history in all its gory details, although it was confirmed that Fergie was a compulsive liar so I am a little afraid to repeat any of it just in case. But just for laughs I will do a little blog about the Hairy coooo for all my single readers...

My first bus tour brought out mixed feelings, the highlands could not have opened up to me so beautifully without the help of a guide and the landscape was unforgettable, however on the third day, a severe case of bus butt and gut, and bus anxious bladder set in and by 5.30pm I was keen to get off, however I did meet some great people in particular an American, a Canadian Girl and I formed a group that we fondly named the Haggis sisters and on our final night in Edinburgh we set off on a girls night around Glasgow with hilarious results.

Our first stop an Urbanite bar full of too cool for school 20 somethings looking decisively bored and yet entertained at the same time, a bottle of wine later we headed to the Three Sisters, to christening our own Haggis sister union only to find a bar filled to the brim with men ( I know sounds promising) except that they were all starring in the same direction with stunned looks on their faces (no it was not a strip club naked women would not have been any distraction for these boys) who were all fixated on the football or for those back home the soccer. Our next stop an Irish bar in Scotland weird at best, two accents impossible to discern don't make for great conservation so lots of nodding and answering yes, thank god no one asked if they could have sex with me...All that nodding and consenting could have got me into trouble. Then the best stop of them all the Liquid Bar Edinburgh's indi night club filled to the brim with 9 years (even younger than the 12 years and I think I even spotted some embryo's there actually) dressed as if they had fallen into a coma while filming a decephe mode video and then woke up in 2006 and headed straight for the club, swaying aimlessly to music even JLo couldn't dance to. Adequately drunk and brazen in a new city I centred myself on the dance floor and tried not to kill myself laughing when a rod thin embryo in tight black pants, leopard skin singlet and black vest, white to the point of radiating with a bob hair cut (yes I am referring a boy), starting dancing with was a scream ah to be old and wise.

My first week in London

What can I say despite apparent lack of cows and pissing men, London is a great city, sure the sun never does shine here, but they have enough indoor activities and beer to deny and forget...and since everyone here walks around like shining beacon's no one is really bothered...

My first week in London was spent walking around to explore gallery after gallery or just walking along the newly developed South bank enjoying the riverside and pinching myself because I just could not believe that I was here. I had my first tube ride, and since I could leave my Lonely Planet at home (thanks to guidance of my lovely carers Marie and Ails), I had my headphones on and was not interested in making conversation and the fact that I am Indian (half of the Indian population actually seems to reside in the UK) I blended in and was even asked for directions at Oxford Circus station.

My first stop was to buy a coat, since winter in Australia average temps of 15 degrees on a winters day, saw my neck disappear turtle like, my hibernation and my ranting that it was just too damn cold, I felt that a good coat was going to be the only way that I could struggle through 5degree days without curling up in a small ball in front of heater. I had my first iconic British moment when I bought my coat at Marks and Spencer, and my second when I was walking home from the station and a police car blared past and I felt just like I was on the Bill.

London is a truly beautiful and exceptionally cultured city, but like any city it has it's quirks. First the British are the queens of queuing and after the screaming bum rush that happens in India for everything from entering the train to going to the toilet my queuing etiquette was a little rusty and I was promptly told off for not queuing properly at the bank, and then curtly told to have a nice day when the said telleroffer finished his business and left. I recently read an article about Londers that reveals their passive aggressive core beneath their perfectly mannered veneers - aptly told its all "terribly awfully sorry" while their eyes scream out at you to get out of my bloody way you git, fucking tourists...

They are also frighteningly quite on the train, you could hear a pin drop on the morning commute and feel a brute even breathing a little to loudly, but on a the street they are more than happy to help with directions and blissfully ignore you the rest of the time... quite a relief after feeling like a zoo animal for most of my time in India.

The best and most striking difference ofcourse is their accents, the many different accents and levels of well spokenness is amazing walking down the street, where they do occasionally talk a little I felt like I was flitting from the Bill,to the BBC, to Little Britain and then to Home and Away, every second person here is either Australian or a New Zealander and they even have their own brand of dinky pubs called Walkabout I cringe every time I walk past....

Anyway these are my first impressions of London and I off to Scotland next....

Our last four days...

I realise that I must be losing my readership due to the slackness of my blog but please hold in there as I am trying very hard to get it up to date.

After Rajasthan we headed to Puskhar for a much needed rest and stayed in 3 star luxury not as good at 5 star but not as bad as the minus 5 stars that we had been staying at. Enticed by the garden and the pool we dug into our pockets and decided to Splurge a little, not realising the dangerously low temperatures that Pushkar suffers at night and is thus retained in the pool water we gleefully dived in only to realise that our blood had stopped flowing and our hearts beating for a minute until we madly splashed out vowing to get in again tomorrow needless to say it never happened.

Our last stop before Greg got of the mad cattle train that is India was Delhi and what an end it was...Delhi is the most uninspiring city in India hotly competing with Chennai for its level of dullness, but to add insult to injury it is also suffering a major shortage in accommodation (a word Greg kept insisting on using while Indians stared blankly at us and I had to hastily follow on with 'room'...) and room would not really be the description I would use for the only place that we found we to stay in, cell or prison cell would be more adequate but then at one point I considered getting arrested as I was sure prison would actually be more comfortable.

After four days of rolling around Delhi trying to find anything of interest to do, visiting Embassy's buying stuff for my Europe trip and generally ranting about everything from the total lack of decent hotels, the crap expensive food, the cheating auto drivers, our blessed tummy's which insisted on coming out of our bums every hour or so (Delhi belly), the colds we were both suffering and the looming fact that we would soon be leaving each other, it was with relief that we finally pulled up to the international airport to check me in for my flight at 5am. To discover that only passengers are allowed into the doors of the airport as is strictly enforced by military types who have guns. At this point all hell broke loose both Greg and I were crying, I was pleading with the guard and ranting loudly about how much I hated India all this amongst trying to hug and kiss Greg within an inch of himself....what a parade no wonder Indians thing foreigners are mad. After regretfully and tearfully leaving Greg I went right through to customs crying my eyes out much to the interest and sympathy of the airport staff who treaded lightly and let me push into all the queues.

My flight over was uneventful, true to Indian style the staff seated us and then completely disappeared until meals were due and then vanished again as soon as rubbish was collected, I was in the last row with a spare seat next to me and a young Indian couple who I am sure were drugged as they were comatose from the minute we took off to till the last person stepped of the plane, not even stirring for food or the bathroom, why haven't I been granted the wonderful Indian trait of being able to sleep anytime anywhere......

I landed at Heathrow 8hrs later, having finished the first and second Harry Porter books, to be greeted by rain and a minor heart attack when I exchanged $200 US and only received £50 back. In my last session of uni I had a particularly loopy lecturer (the one that swayed for anyone I bored with the stories) who had been to India and sage-like had told me that when you get to India you areinitiallyy overwhelmed by the dirt andfilthh but are more overwhelmed when you return to thesterilee environments of the west - well give me sterile anyday (that does sound a bit strange on rereading..) I joyously walked through the airportmarvelingg at the fact that there was no rubbish anywhere, that men weren't pissing in the corners, that signs actually directed you in the right direction, and the total absence of cows was comforting. I was greeted by beautiful Aileen who now had short hair by the way and given my first tour of London, while I grinned from ear to ear about the fact that everyone stayed in their lanes, I didn't hear one beep and there were actual footpaths and not an open sewer to be seen.

But my heart was a little heavy as I pictured poor Greg setting of on his 2 year journey back home with all his changes and transfers.....but now that I have grown and matured from my India experience I realise that cheap flights are cheap for a reason...

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

A Monkey biting a Camel

I understand that many fans out there are waiting for more photo's and I would love nothing more than to stop ranting on and load them up for you but they take an awfully long time, so for the moment I am not able to, I promise to bore you to death with them when I get home.

But for now I am going to keep rabbiting on with my stories....

One of the best things we have done on our trip in India was a Camel trek through the desert in Jaisalmere, we decided to brave the experience and chose to do a full 2 nights and 3 days in the desert, and didn't regret it for a moment.

Not ever having travelled by moving animal before well, besides being carried home in a drunken stupor by Greg it was really something of an experience and Greg assures me that he has never been one a camel before either.

We started our trip off by choosing our camels, a little difficult when you don't know much about them, but one things for sure don't choose a male during camel love season as the camel men refer to it. Camels for all their appearance of calm poise are quite awkward about the mating game. The male camels in a frenzied and horny attempt the get the females attention stick their rather large and inflated slimy tongues out the side of their mouths and bubble and froth, pretty much like their have rabies, the sound is sickening and the smell very bad, this is really saying something in the land of bad and even worse smells.

Our first day included a visit to a village, and slow and steady ambling on the camels ending with setting up camp on a sand dune, on which the afternoon sun is magic the smooth curves of the dunes glow in a golden honey hue and although the Indian desert is not like the African deserts which are all dunes, little pockets of dunes dot the desert and are stunning in comparison to the sparse vegetation of the rest of the landscape. However far from being an isolated and dead landscape there is lot of activity, with many little villages, watering holes, hardy vegetation and beautiful goats with slick jet black coats and innocent white faces roaming around.

Camel riding is not as easy as it looks, the height off the ground is a little daunting to begin with and they do move in rather a lumbering fashion especially when they run. My camel Monkey was a bit of wild child and loved to run down hills, very scary as it basically feels like the camel is going to fall over and you are going to be squashed under it. You control the camel visa a rein which is actually attached to a rod that is pierced through their nose and sad little Monkey's piercing was infected, but these kids will insist on putting holes where god didn't intend them...he also had a bit of a biting habit and had to have his mouth clamped shut so he wouldn't bite the other I said choosing your camel is tricky and although I did feel like I had chosen badly I got to love Monkey in the end anyway, he was proud despite his biting and pussy nose and had the loveliest long eyelashes fluttering over his soft brown eyes.

Greg on the other hand choose well and his camel went like the clappers and he even managed to ride a camel that the team were breaking in, much to the detriment of his child producing capabilities, you could say he became at one with the camel, farting and burping at times even more than they did and then there's that thing he does with sticking his tongue out..and bubbling.

However the main thing that made the trip fabulous was the camel men, they were so kind and gentle and treated us and their camels with such respect and humour, and a great sense of humour they had. They love to sing and make up little rhymes, one of their favourites is "desert - full power 24 hour no toilet no shower" and they love to take off the aqua song Barbie girl however their version goes..I'm a camel man, in the bloody sand, like fantastic if there's no plastic, you can brush my hair take me anywhere.....

They are also fantastic cooks and on our second night we were treated to desert cake made with flour, sugar cane, cardamom and spices followed by goat that was bought from a near by village and killed and cooked fresh. Despite my resolve to be vegetarian for my time in India even I could not resist and I have to say it was the best meat I have ever had, truly organic and pasture fed, cooked and eaten around a camp fire, it melted in your mouth and more than filled the hole after a long day on a camel.

After this we crawled under our blankets to enjoy the stars and bask in the quiet as we dropped off into a contented sleep.....

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Octopussy anyone?

Sorry about the slackness of the blog, what can I say I am holidays…..

My last entry had us in Bombay now renamed Mumbai but I just don't care, I prefer the old names and I am going to use them from now on, for those that don’t know, many Indian cities have been renamed in order to fully throw off the shackles of Chennai was Madras, Mumbai - Bombay, Kolkata - Calcutta.

After shopping till we dropped in Bombay and sending home a massive 23kg box of stuff (give us a break neither of us has really shopped for years) we headed off to Rajasthan the desert land...we had heard many things about Rajasthan and were both excited about the colour and rich culture there, but also a little afraid of the touts who earned their legendary status as scammers and bastards in Rajasthan.

Our first stop was in Udaipur the city of lakes, and set of Octopussy as advertised by every cafe and restaurant in town which shows this movie every night. This the location of the beautiful bathing and washing ghat's you often see in images of India - a ghat is basically a public access to a river or lake, and Udaipur's ghat's are a lovely setting for packs of women, clad in wet sari’s of butter yellow, blood red and baby pink soaping clothes into a frenzied latter and then beating them within and inch of themselves with baton. Instead of staying in the busy and narrow lanes of the main town, we choose instead to cross the lake and stay on the other side in peaceful and beautiful guest house, our room had arched windows on all sides to reveal the lovely old buildings of Udaipur and of course glimpses of the lake, the guest house was also run by a rather lovely and spunky Indian man with soft green eyes. Upon hearing that his family were trying to arrange his marriage we started discussions and offers immediately on Jo's behalf so watch this space we may have two Indians in the family soon. We were lucky to be in Udaipur this year as it is the first time that the lake has been full in 7 years; apparently the young children of the town who had never seen water in the lake crowded all entrances to lake right up into the town.

Next stop in Rajasthan was Jodhpur which has the largest fort in India and of course is the blue city, blue denotes that the household is Brahmin, which being the highest caste in India is eager to show its place. It was heartening to see once we had arrived that the blue was fading and although not making for as spectacular a photo, I had hoped this reflected a fading of the caste system within India. From what I understand the caste system is basically how society was stratified in India and was determined by trade, trades being passed on from father to son. The lowest classed are the garbage or shit collectors, leatherworks etc and moved right up until the jewellery makers and priests being closer to the top. The fort is a spectacular site looming large over the city, it is an impressive and intricate structure, it is arranged in rather a modern fashion for India and operates as a living museum with and audio guided tour, spoken by and Indian man putting on a high English accent - very funny. Interestingly I learnt on the tour that opium was and still is an important social drug in Rajasthan used to celebrate births, deaths and marriages.

Our next stop was in Jaisalmer, which is also a fort city although much less spectacular than Jodhpur, we arrived in Jaisalmer in the late afternoon and were shocked to see 20 men running after our bus as soon it pulled up and then crowding around the door, calling out for us to go their hotel, this was one of the things I was dreading about Rajasthan. After 6 hours on a bus this was the last thing I wanted, but not to be a shrinking violet I met the situation head on. Pack on my back and day pack on my front I went to step off the bus and was not able to, reaching boiling point I held on to the handles at either side of the door I started kicking out at the men while shouting at to them to get out of the way, there was a police man there to help protect the tourists from the touts who found himself trying to protect the touts from the mad kicking tourist. Jaisalmer is the main town to catch camel trips from and after one day in the city, we headed out to the desert on camel but more on that later.

After three weeks of non stop sight seeing, we had earned a rest and decided to finish our trip with a week in Pushkar. Pushkar is a scenic and lovely town which is a significant spiritual pilgrimage site for Hindu's, thus the town has many Sadhus’ (holy men who devote their whole existence to pursuit of understanding and practising their religion). However it is also the place of significant drug taking and many of the Sadhu's walk around in what appears to be drunken stupors exclaiming largely inaudible words of wisdom while wobbling on the spot. Many tourist's discovering the delights of Pushkar's bhang lassies spend more time there being tripped out and speculating on life's great issues than they intended to. Pushkar is a very unusual place, it has strict religious rules and so no alcohol, meat or eggs are allowed in the town at all, and rules of conduct for tourists are posted everywhere, yet it has a big drug culture and because bhang is legal here it is not hidden.

Saturday, January 28, 2006

Did someone call for Dr Bombay

Well we have arrived in one of India best known cities Bombay now renamed Mumbai, this is a thriving Indian city, with beautiful architecture, wide streets which are cobbled, cheap markets with anything and everything, bars, hip young things and just about everything except good food alas.....

We were very lucky in Mumbai to be put in touch with some young hip things that are up and coming on the Mumbai scene. Trupti a very successful fashion designer and her partner Youri a diamond trader were lovely enough to invite us into their homes and lives and showed us a taste of how the other half lives in Mumbai which is definitely stylishly and very much a jet setter lifestyle Mumbai it seems is the town to party. We also met Trupti's sister Preeti a interior fabric designer and her husband Richard who have the most beautiful home I have ever seen, I am talking something right out of the pages of Vogue Home magazine, open spaces, with sponged walls, wood craved door ways, marble floors antiques carefully chosen and placed.

Thanks to their contacts and advice we found ourselves whisking around the city in search of bargains in tiny alleyways, with strange communities in the middle of nowhere. We went the Chor Bazaar (the thieves market) to look at antiques a long street in the midst of thronging Muslim community where the women wear quaint colourful almost Amish dresses and head covering. We bought a beautiful old light fitting and a 75year old mariners clock, Joanne you would have gone nuts in this place.

Next off to their personal jeweler where we arranged to have our wedding rings made, Greg's turned out beautifully, but mine was the wrong size and could not be fixed so the search continues.

We spent most of our time in Mumbai in an area called Colaba made famous to us be a book we had read before we set off called Shantaram, if you have not read it run out and buy it now. Written by an Australian man (Gregory David Roberts ? I think) it tells the tale of man you broke out of prison in Melbourne, and came to India. He lived the slums, joined the Mafia and became a gun runner among other things. One of the main meeting points in the book is a cafe in Colaba called Leopolds we went there for dinner and although the food was poisonous (to be kind) we did in fact get to see the writer himself and since the book is based on his true story it was very exciting.

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Partying In Goa

Goa is considered the party central of India, tell anyone your going there and immediately images of beach raves, acid and hippies comes to mind, although it is more like a middle class tourist resort most of the time, we did attend a few good parties.

Our first party started at about 2am, and being the vigilant types we are, we were both fast asleep and were woken by a very loud and random selection of dance music, trance, and pop followed by a cheering crowd every time a song ended. After our New Years fizzler we both leaped out of our bed at Frog's hollow (the place we were staying - actually called Chuckies but we remained it as for our whole stay we were watched over by several frogs - one in our wardrobe and one in the bathroom). Dressed and ready for anything we walked down to the beach with the another guest who had been woken up, we were going to dance, she was about 50 and going to complain about the noise which had kept her 75 year old mother awake.

Walking up to the car park that led to the beach, we were confronted by the spectacular site of six Indian boys dancing around two cars, drunk as skunks and cheering to the music of their car stereo's, as soon as we appeared they smartly packed themselves up and drove away, not wanting to look like complete nongs we walked down to the beach and dipped our feet in the water at 4am pretending to be early risers out for a walk.

Our second party was a little more inclusive, after fleeing Benaulim on our bike we ended up at Palolem which is in the very south of Goa, this party was on the 7th of Jan a significant date, being cold and depressed in Ooty for my birthday I decided I would postpone it until Jan the 7th. Of course I had completely forgotten about it but our favorite son Greggie G didn't. In Palolem we had the good fortune to meet group of Israeli’s who were staying in our shack compound, on our second night they invited us to a BBQ party, which was amazing, with little more than foil, a few spoons, a dish an a BBQ grate they managed to cook a mouth watering meal.

First course, sandwiches made with eggplant dip, prepared from scratch by them earlier, onion and cheese wrapped in foil and toasted on the fire... can't wait to try this when I get home. Then onto stock flavoured rice, baked potatoes and Israeli salad, accompanied with copious amounts of alcohol...thanks to the big speakers they hauled around with them we even had music.

At about 1am when the festivities seemed like they were dying down oceanboy Greggie demanded that we all go down to the beach to end the night, to my surprise all the Israeli’s agreed, and we promptly marched down. When we got down there Gregie with the help of the boys put on a spectacular fireworks display in honor of my birthday, I am not talking sparklers here, you can buy just about any type of fireworks here - seriously what you see on New Year's Eve at the habour, it was beautiful and amazing one of the most special gifts I have ever received, fireworks are much pretty when they are just for you.

Dropping out of India for 2 Weeks

Well Goa was certainly the rest stop we needed, after 6 weeks of what seemed like getting on and off trains and walking miles with our packs, Goa was heaven.

Goa is the most Western part of India for sure, everyone except the people working in the shops and cafes are western so although it doesn't really feel like India it was just the break from India that we needed.

The beginning of our Goa trip started a little rocky, sick and stuck in Benaulim, it seemed that Goa wasn't really that amazing, until we rented a scooter and the holiday really took off. Riding a scooter in India is the best feeling, the wind blowing through your hair, the smell of cow dung and piss watered down, bugs hitting your teeth and the open road in front of you. Having your own transport in India cuts your stress in half, no more haggling over auto fares (haggling so fierce I am surprised it doesn't end in blows), being able to stop as often as your like, toilet breaks on command and of course the freedom to ride for an hour and half just to have porridge.

You may not believe it, but our stint of Tamil Nadu and Kerala had us well and truly over Indian food, so Goa was all about the beaches and the food, because everything is prepared fresh here it takes about an hour for your order to arrive for every meal so here's how our days went, get up about 8am, ride 20 minutes to our favorite breakfast place at a quite beach called Agonda which the tourist industry has not discovered fully as yet. Order a huge bowl of fresh fruit salad topped with grated fresh coconut and honey with a carrot and pineapple juice, wait an hour for food, eat, walk along the beach, swim, reading and then have to prepare for lunch, which is at Sonia World Food, where we order and wait another hour for home made Hommus topped with fried Mushrooms and onions, with a pool of tahini in the middle eaten with freshly baked lafa bread. In this cafe we have our usual table under fan in a small cushion room, we spread out and read our books all afternoon, another swim, cold shower in our open air bathroom and then dinner, order, wait another hour, and eat fish salad in a lime dressing, followed by chili beans and tortilla bread, while sipping a pomegranate cocktail...heaven

For all the mum's and general worry warts at home, riding a scooter in Goa is fine, Goan's although at times seeming like they have been seriously sun affected actually drive pretty well, we didn't have any scrapes and only got booked by the police once for not wearing our helmets. Even nana t usually to be found behind knitting needles while complaining about my aching joints learnt to ride and am thinking about getting a scooter at home, after all if you ride in India you can ride anywhere.

Monday, January 09, 2006

Our many homes away from home...

I just wanted to do a little blog about the accommodation that we are staying in, before arriving here I was imagining backpackers with bunks and communal tables where you met other travelers and little gardens where you hang to read books. Sadly not so.

Mainly the accommodation here is hotel style and they are stuck in a 70's time warp they are usually pretty bare with a bed, table and chair, painted white but inevitably more brown from years of wear with some rather strange stains at times, one room we stayed in had two great big hand prints on the ceiling.

The smell if not of mould due to the weather conditions here rainy and hot is of moth balls, for some strange reasons Indians put moth balls in all their drains a mystery we are yet to figure out.

Next you look at the bed, usually thread bare, in one room we could feel that slates of the bed through the mattress. The pillows are rock hard, if you were to have a pillow fight with these suckers there would be causalities. Double beds are a rarity in India and most doubles are just two singles pushed together with single sheets on each side, Greg and I have a running joke about being one of us being on crack if we want to cuddle.

Next we open the curtains always closed to discover our delightful view of a brick wall, garbage pit, over pass or train tracks.

Christmas and New Years Our Tales of Woe continue

Christmas - we were in Chennai to visit the family, muggy heat and gray skies everyday, to treat ourselves and because neither of us had a work Christmas party this year we decided to have a grand buffet meal at one of the five star hotels. The meal was lovely, nothing special but both of us we overjoyed by the sight of lettuce and just ate several plates full.

Later that night Greg started vomiting and pooing and did not stop for days. Christmas day, we had been up all night and arrive to my Uncle Pats place exhausted and over it, Royapuram the place where I was born is grubby little port town and rather a sad sight on Christmas morning. Uncle Pat is joyous to see us but informs me that the family does not get together for Christmas and so we have to get around in the one day to see the three families. Greg tries to eat a bit of breakfast - throws up and then needs to go lie down. I try to make small talk mainly about what I remember which is nothing and long for home....I start feeling a little sick myself.

Next stop is my Uncle Joes, we get there and he insists that we drink some juice, and we are presented with juice of which I have no description that neither of us could drink, more talk about what I remember, Greg swaying nauseously in the corner....Joe insists we have lunch and we awkwardly tell him that we have to go to my Auntie Maree's for lunch.

We get to auntie Maree's my Grandmother is there and I am happy to see her after so many years...we hug and kiss and Greg takes a few photo's before exiting to throw up and lie down. Conversation is slow and then we start watching a Karaoke video, which takes all of our attention. My family insist that we go out and get some medicine for Greg which I think is a good idea we go out and I discover they have taken me out to buy me a gold ring, horrified I beg them not to buy it and even walk out of the shop and refuse to try anything on, they buy me a ring anyway.

Another hour of the Karaoke video and we are off back to our hotel, Greg collapsing and me in a daze.

New Years Eve and the plague continues, we arrive in Goa after 22hours on the train on the 31 first of December. The train ride itself is an event, thinking that our train was at 11pm on the 30th we were cruising around getting some things done when we discover at 12.30pm that our train is leaving at 2pm, after packing at break neck speed we arrive at the station in time for train, hot, hungry and tired. All of the trains we have been on so far have had a continuous stream of food sold by porters walking up and down the carriages so we were not disturbed by the fact that we have had no lunch. An hour into the train ride and not a porter to be seen I asked the conductor if there was food, only to be advised that there was no food on this train an we would have to wait 8hrs until Bangalore to get food. Thankfully he was wrong and food was available at a station about 3hrs into the trip, but we were so scared of possible starvation that we over ate for 22hrs of our trip and arrived at Goa stuffed, exhausted and not really caring about partying for New Years.

Knowing that it would be busy there we booked a room well ahead, but India being India they gave our room away and so three hours later we found a hut on the beach and sat down to relax, a quick swim and we got showered and dressed for the festivities. At dinner started sneezing uncontrollably and kept going this way until about 11pm when I had to go to bed - so missed the count down and fireworks and had a fierce cold for the next three days.

But we are in Goa the sun is shining, the sky is blue, the ocean is bright, cornflakes and lettuce are in plentiful supply and things are looking up.

A Tale of Three Cities

After our trip through the mountains it came time to return to the big smoke and in India there certainly is a lot of smoke.

First stop Mysore - beautiful old city with lovely buildings and actual parklands...first we have seen in India in fact, and there are big old trees that line the streets providing releif from the heat and making Mysore one of the nicest cities in India. We became real tourists in Mysore we walked around with our maps, carrying backpacks, we paid entry to see places, read badly written information cards and took lots of photo's.

Second stop Bangalore - this was the first family visit that we did with my Cousin Gerard his wife Sabrina their cheeky 2year old Leanne and their extended family, we were well looked after and had a great time. Bangalore is the IT capital of India and so is wealthy in comparison to other states - malls are prolific here and walking into one makes you feel like you have been transported back to Australia, if it weren't for the paneer wrap at McDonalds...but walk outside and the traffic is hideous (I don't even think I can describe how bad, and to add to the choas no lanes, huge potholes, bits of road carved out and left laying there in big mounds - scary at night if you hit one in an auto)

Third stop Chennai - the straw that broke the camels back, kicked it in the guts and threw sand in its eyes. Chennai is a hole of a city, it stinks mainly of piss, men piss everywhere here and quite openly - just walked to breakfast and have seen four dicks already. It is also a tip there is garbage everywhere, the first street we stayed in smelt like blue cheese, good smell in a cheese but not so good on the street in 30 degree heat. Luckily we did find another place to stay away from cheese street and even over looking a park about the size of two car park spaces at your local Westfields and gated - you can look but no touch. This is a richer suburb but just walk a few metres from our hotel and your find another park hemmed by a street filled with garbage. Besides the garbage everywhere you also have to handle yourself carefuly over the open sewers, that are very still as present despite the rain and make you gag just looking into them. After 6 weeks of travelling, we are well and truly over the food, the South particularly Tamil Nadu has the same menu everywhere you go, for the firt four weeks it was exciting but now if we can get cornflakes for breakfast it makes our day.

Tuesday, December 27, 2005

Shaking our Booty in Ooty

Scenes from train ride to Ooty

Not getting enough of the mountains we decided to go even further up to the hill station of Ooty. This is where my mum went to boarding school in a place called Conoor which is one town before Ooty.

The only way to get into Ooty is via an old minature steam train, which takes you back in time (all be it very slowly) to travel in the age of the Raj (not really as grand as it sounds but lovely none the less). The scenes as you ride up the mountain are of lush emerald green trees wrapped in fine white mist, as the wet air rushes into the train and your hear the tooting of the old steam whistle.

The distance itself is very short but the steam train combined with the many food stops draws the trip out to about 5hrs. At one of the stops, we had a rush of little monkeys who stealthly climb into your carriage and try to lift everything that isn't tied down, they are beautiful animated creatures, but unfortunately the constant feeding by tourists had made them very aggressive.

As you make the climb further and further up the mountain the cold starts to set in, I was wearing everything I packed including my beanie, we even had a roaring fire at the YWCA where we were staying, before finding the fire wood however we had to be constantly on the move to keep warm. We did a four hour guided hike through Ooty where I guide insisted on showing us the different countries that converged in Ooty, so a field of Eucalptus trees represented Australia, green misty field scotland, and tiered mountain sides Tibet. A single tied up cow in the middle of an empty forest represented the irony of India, in a country where cows roam freely in the cities but are tied down in the forest.

Mum we did got to St Josephs but it is not a covent school anymore it is now run by priests and is a co-educational school.