Hello! After a week of not really doing too much & keeping it low key, the fatigue we were feeling when John last wrote the blog has gone & we are once again super excited to be here. That's not to say there isn't still the daily hassles and constant bartering needed, but having rested a while we're enjoying the challenge once again. Phew!!!
After the busy days in Jaipur, we shortened our Rajasthan plans somewhat and decided to just visit Pushkar and Udaipur, both smallish city's and on our route south. Unfortunately this meant we didn't get to ride on a camel through the desert, but having spent half an hour on one in Morocco when I was 19, I'm glad to have escaped the saddle sore.
Udaipur was beautiful, probably the nicest place we've been to so far and we managed to bag a great hotel right on the lake with superb views.
Quiz time for all you James Bond fans out there – which 007 film used Udaipur as its backdrop?? The answer is Octopussy – lots of it was filmed there & so every night it was shown on a big screen at most restaurants in town. Probably very annoying for the waiters who had to watch it over and over but great for us. It reminded me of the days when James Bond was shown on ITV every weekend, we used to watch it as a family and I think my dad secretly wished he was Roger Moore....
It's wedding season in India and so even Udaipur's City Palace was being decorated for an upcoming wedding as we were looking around – it looked amazing. So colourful & extravagant, we wish we could have stayed for the party. Less than 3 weeks left in India but we're keeping our fingers crossed that we get a wedding invite before we leave – with most weddings hosting hundreds, if not thousands of people, a couple of extra guests won't matter, right?!
So our mission recently has been to travel south and over the past 4 days we've spent 3 nights on trains, 42 hours in total, travelled 2356 kilometres and been in 4 different states. Not bad for £13 each. I think it would have taken us a year in the van given the state of Indian roads. It was actually quite fun and although we didn't have the best nights sleep we ever have, the snoring men were at bay so we did manage a bit of shut eye.
There does seem to be a general lack of consideration for other travellers here though and any hopes of a lie-in were dashed when the family sharing our compartment decided they wanted to get up at 6.30am, turning on the lights and generally being as loud as they possibly could – seemingly normal behaviour here.
The scenery from the train as we headed further south was beautiful...the deserts of Rajasthan became the lush green palm trees of Goa and Kerela.
The Indian railways are obviously so important to the country, and the people too...it's the biggest employer in the world for a start, and the amount of people that use the trains every day is incredible. What I wasn't expecting to see so much of was how many people live on the railways – either in the stations or alongside the tracks, whether it be in tents or out in the open under blankets. It's pretty harrowing to see whole families huddled around a fire as you whiz past on a train.
We broke up our train marathon by spending one night in Palolem, a beach town in south Goa. The first day was a bit of a daze - I accidentally managed to fall asleep at a restaurant and John kindly got the waiter to take a photo of me, er...thanks John!
We did go on a wonderful boat trip though, just us and a local with loads of dolphins swimming alongside us.
It was great to be by a beach and the pace of life immediately felt 10 times slower than the hectic north. Our hut was a stones throw from the beach and so allowed plenty of time for lazing around and swimming in the sea.
We're now in Kerela, the most southerly state and are staying in the city Kochi for a few days. It's a lovely town although almost feels more European than Indian – it even has traffic lights and street signs! There's definitely a post-colonial feel here and the change in religious preference is evident with churches and synagogues much more plentiful. The large picture of Jesus in our guest house room is just slightly unnerving.
We've been pretty much t-total since being in India, having one beer a week or less, so last night we decided we deserved a treat and went on a mission to find a watering hole. The lack of pubs in India means restaurants and hotels are the place to go, although you may find yourself drinking beer from a teapot as many places don't have the right licence. As we approached one restaurant, John asked the fella's outside whether they served beer. The guy quietly muttered under his breath that they didn't do beer but that they did serve cocktails. This seemed to totally baffle John as when we were inside he gave the waiter a sly wink and said “I'll have whichever cocktail is a beer.” I think he'd been watching too much James Bond – unfortunately the confused waiter once again stressed that they don't do beer and so he had to settle for a Pineapple Fizz, which he said was rubbish. Better luck next time!!x