Munnar- Elephants, trekking Tea & Culture

3rd Jan – 16 Jan 2014

Our driver Sennan who was found thru Sylvia at Gracefulhomestay (who also beat him down to Ru2800 per day, thats £28) was an excellent investment! For the all in price per day we got him, his local knowledge of Munnar (he does this trip quite regularly) all fuel, tolls, mileage & his living expenses plus he’s at our beck & call. I’ve got to say he couldn’t do enough for us, and was quite surprised when we didn’t use him but rather walked out & about.

So making full use if Sennans knowledge we planned the next few days tourtastic adventure.

Ann & Carl wanted to do some elephant riding….seeing as I was only just back up & about I didn’t feel up to it so became the official photographer

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And feeding!

Then we went to Top Station

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How cold?

As you can see it was a tad misty & not crowded at all. Annoyingly more expensive for foreigners. ….again!

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The following day was out gallivanting in Sennans very comfortable Innova taking in the countryside, from the large plantations of eucalyptus trees (the seeds of which were smuggled into the country by the wife of a Tea plantation manager…in her stockings) still used to provide fuel for the boilers, to the never ending tea plantations themselves

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Weighing in the T leaves

Then popped into the T museum

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I’ve no idea what this concrete crocodile has to do with Tea, but it has pride of place right outside the front door!

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Maybe something to do with the Old Dodgy handshake club?

But talking of Crocodiles we also checked out the crocodile rehabilitation centre

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Then we drove for miles to a nature reserve so Carl “Grills” could have us trekked around allez uber in the mid day heat looking for wild animals……we didn’t even see a mildly upset one, other than Ann, refusing to climb the (wobbly) watchtower and still suffering with her broken arm

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To be fair it was a long way up!

Whilst out exploring around the hotel Carl had noticed some advertising for a  Quad bike experience just down the road, so early doors the next day we went & had a thrash! Brilliant fun & needless to say I thrashed his lap times!

Then that afternoon it was time for a bit of culture. ..we went to an Indian theatre to see a performance of Kathakali….a danced mimed artform performed to percussive instruments and wailing….think really long drum solos and that long wailing song from Pink Floyd!
1st the dancing with accompanied wailing

Now the drummers equaling Cozy Powell doing his 1812 overture drum solo piece (he played for Rainbow, Black Sabbeth & Whitesnake amongst others)

So after 5 hectic tourtastic days at Munnar we did the long drive back to Trivandrum, spent a last couple of days panic shopping in both Trivandrum & Kovalam….well Carl did, fitted in another trip to the Zoo, at Ru20 its just such good value, before sending Carl back to Blighty on the 0400 o my god its early plane.
Then it was a day or two at Graceful homestay prepping for the next leg…backpacking South East Asia via Sri Lanka.

The boss and I have decided to limit our baggage to One daysack each, that we can carry onto any plane; which means no sharps, no liquids over 100ml and weighing less than 7kg!

When I look back at all the gear we had…..oh boy!

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How much kit?

So we’ve gone from that to this:-

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Sick sick sick……still

2nd Jan -14th Jan 2014

On the morning of the 2nd we got an early start to the airport in order to catch our flight to Goa, good thing we went early and I’d booked in on line cos we went to the wrong terminal! In my defense it did say on the ticket that the flight was from the international terminal which I thought odd  but got the boss to check too. So a hasty transfer to the domestic terminal and we still had time (well I did) to impulse buy a nice watch and have a farewell to Mumbai beer.

The hotel in Baga Goa was excellent! We got an absolute bargain by booking early. ..check out the suite:-

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Entrance hall leading to sitting room

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Sitting room looking towards bedroom

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The bathing suite! Separate entrance to bedroom

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Bedroom, bathroom to back rear, sitting room to right

Carl rattled around his a tad…ho hum its a hard life! The mini bar prices were very reasonable -so it got abused- but as we’d gone accommodation only the breakfast buffet was a tad expensive. ….which wasn’t a problem as just up the road was an excellent little café (with free wifi) that did an amazing breakfast of epic proportions. ….huge bowl of chopped fresh fruit salad (I mean huge), followed by proper bubble n squeak, 2 fried eggs, bacon, fried tomatoes, toast tea or coffee for only £4:50 each…result!

After the 1st day we decided to hire a couple of Scoots & go exploring. All was going exceedingly fine until ‘Carl Grills’ insisted on climbing up to Chapura Fort….all went well until the decent, where on very loose soil Anns feet shot out from under her and she landed sharply on her bum….breaking her fall with her right hand, and instantly her wrist was aching like billeyO.
Now Ann’s pain threshold is up there alongside KickAss’s, so when she went white & dizzy I knew all was not well!
I gave her a big hug…very helpful I’m sure….then helped her down the rest of the hill to our Scoots, threw her on the back and hot footed to the nearest village where we loaded her in a taxi to the nearest hospital, a mere 5 min ride away. She was in Xray before I’d even finished filling in the registration form! In & out in 2 hrs fully casted up and injected with pain killers and that was with a 30 min wait for the orthopaedic surgeon to come in and resett her wrist. Only cost £50….sorted!
Off course she’s a bit gutted that it wasn’t a proper cycling crash, avoiding mad Indian buses etc etc instead of “old woman falling over syndrome”. Still ho hum!

So with Ann laid up in pain and unable to sleep very well with heavy cast throwing her off balance it was down to Carl & I to amuse ourselves…..unsupervised.
Full of good intentions we walked down to the beach to hire a couple of jet ski’s which we’d seen advertised at Ru300. Turns out its Ru300 per minute & you don’t get to drive. So binned that idea and continued Carls record of not catching a fish in any major ocean. ..ever by booking a fishing trip and…..well you know!

The following day we went to do a bit of souvenir shopping, got thirsty & dehydrated so had a beer or two or three…..actually I lost count after that, but discovered that I am no longer capable of quaffing copious amounts of Larger, and to add insult to injury still as usual after a quaff or two get the munchies!

The following morning I wasn’t feeling 100%…which was unfortunate as we were flying to Trivandrum via Bangalore, then continuing by car (a mere 10hr overnight drive) to Munnar. In my inebriated state the night before I  had remembered to collect a made to measure fleece lined leather bomber jacket I’d had made (in preparation for returning to the UK- temperature differential approx 35 to 40°- prior planning & preparation prevents frostbite & hypothermia) which was just as well ‘cos after 10 mins of sitting in Goan departure lounge I started feeling seriously unwell, nauseous and very cold to the point of shivering violently. So after 15mins I toddled off to the great white telephone to God & had a very loud and copious conversation! This seemed to help somewhat but I was still seriously cold…so on went fleece lined leather jacket. ..much to the amusement of my fellow travellers. I still firmly believe I was suffering from food poisoning not just a hangover. ..but could I convince the boss….or Carl?

Still there’s a silver lining to every cloud. ….looking pale weak and shivering whilst wearing a bulky fleece lined jacket instantly attracts a wheelchair with nice chap to push it, accompanied by you & yours, to the front of every security/boarding and ticket Q to be expressly delivered to your on going flight. Ann and Carl were delighted, I just monged in said wheelchair & gritted the old sweating back teeth!
The flight passed in a blur (for me) and we arrived in Trivandrum to be met by another nice chap with a wheelchair who wheeled me out to the carpark straight to our waiting car and driver- for the next 6 days- Sennan.

I don’t remember a great deal about the trip as I was floating in & out of compis mentis, except for brief flashes of dark road intersped with glaring headlights &  the blaring of horns, followed by climbing up on a really terrible road. I do remember thinking thank goodness its dark or Ann’ll be most unhappy (her not liking heights).
We eventuality arrived at our hotel at about 0500 only to find all the lights off, but Sennan found a receptionist asleep on a sofa in the lobby & by half past I was tucked up in bed where I remained for the rest of the day and night before finally feeling capable of showing an intrrest in anything other than the great white telephone to God

Sick sick sick!

I’ve noticed I managed to post my last 2 bloggs arse about face….sorrry!

27th Dec 2013- 2 jan 2014

Once we had dispatched Lee & Kirsty back to freezing Blighty, Carl Ann & I moved back into Graceful homestay-again- prior to our whistle stop tour of the west coast of India, namely Mumbai -for the new year- Baga in Goa for a bit of sun, beach and Russians- and Munnar for a decent cup of tea and serenity.
Whilst relaxing in the evening in the environs of Graceful we found a decent restaurant called the Ruby Arena Hotel which is on Medical Junction road in Trivandrum. They have 2 restaurant, one on the 2nd floor; air conditioned etc & one on the 8th floor (a roof terrace), but seeing as both Ann & Carl were being savaged by all things creepy & crawley we plumbed for the 2nd floor! It was all very tasty, but Carl especially recommends the Tandoori (full) chicken.
The days were filled with excursions to the beach (mango in salt water filled plastic bag anyone?) The zoo, at the amazing rate of Ru20 per person, and back to Kovalam beach for more gift shopping by Carl, oh and another good scoff at our favourite beach restaurant.
The night before our departure to Mumbai I foolishly partook of a cold spicy chicken takeaway snack type dish from a local Delli & of course the results were predictable. ….Delli belly! So a pocket full of Loo paper and a wary eye kept for (European style) toilets was the name of the game. (Whilst I don’t have a problem with the Eastern ‘squat & aim’ toilet -other than western men of a certain age are incapable of attaining a comfortable position- I do have an issue when it comes to the world erupting from my bottom in what can only be described as “airburst mode”)
Nevertheless I managed to maintain my dignity and arrived over the city of Mumbai accident free. The view of the massive slums that surrounds the international airport are staggering. I’m not sure of the numbers & to be honest I’m not sure anybody is…but its got to be well over 1 million & apparently the place generates close to £15million to the cities economy annually.
The previous few months of treading thru the rest of India just didn’t prepare me & the boss for the squalor & rife poverty visable on every corner and at every junction & traffic lights as various people either tried to sell you complete Tat or just outright knocked on the windows asking for money.
The hotel we had booked into was to the north of the city, although thats akin to saying Stansted is to the north of London, which was a bit of a pain cos the traffic was such that it could take up to 4hrs to get to the Gateway to India (where the Taj hotel-of shoot em up fame) is situated.
Me having a dodgy stomach meant Carl & Ann went exploring the sights & partaking of the most excellent buffet; both breakfast & dinner.
By the the evening of the 30th I was up for a bit of exploration, so off we went.
A shopping Mall, then down to the Gateway of India

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Where Carl was in much demand for photo opportunities with the indigenous population

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Should have asked for Ru100...would've creamed it in

We then negotiated a tour, which was very good value in my opinion, looking at a number of sights including the Dohbi (open air laundry) the gardens on top of the Victorian water tank

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(supplying the cities water) a temple or two

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And a burial well where the bodies are left for carrion birds to dispose of, amongst other things

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Most expensive building in the world (?) Helipad not allowed to be used

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We also made use of the causeway from the north of the city to the south-a rather excellent piece of engineering that can cut an hour of the commute, called the Bandra Worli Sea link.

Of course this was the day we got crap taxi driver, I should have realised when he “persuaded” us that the only parking available was outside a Pashmina/Antique shop just around the corner fron the Taj. Of course this necessitated us “looking around” – no obligation sir- So one Pashmina later…very good quality sir….only Ru5500. I eventually got them down to Ru1500 (£15).
A very good day otherwise, the boss & Carl not extracting the piss much….all day, until the trip back. After a couple of hours I realised we were in unexplored territory, so got out google maps and realised we were about 5 ks North of our hotel and getting further away every minute. I pointed this out to taxi driver who said no no is this way, no its bloody not says I, no understand, I’m running out of Lpg I drop you here…Ru2500 please. (Should have been 1800…to our hotel!)
The git stopped by a tuk tuk stand on the main highway & I think  said help help, forgein tourist not want to pay…or words to that effect. Carl & I were miffed enough to quite happily start laying about us with righteous fury but the boss said No! There’s a lot more of them than you -not a problem I thought- they’ll have knives and machetes- possible- and no matter if you win the police will arrest you cos your forgein & have more money for bribes/fines- very goid point!
So we paid the git and hired one of the tuk tuk to takes the remaining distance back to our hotel.

Once back a beer was needed….but it was New Years Eve. The hotel were offering a deal….all you could eat & drink for only Ru3500 per person. …now with Carl & I, normally they’d have been on a bit of a loser at that price, however the beer in the deal was Bud…yuck! And the normal buffet was more than enough anyway and was less than half the price. So a few bottles of Kingfisher each, an excellent buffet dinner and we were all in bed for 10! So much for New Years eve in Mumbai.

I know, lets get the train….that’ll be fun!

Mon 9th Dec 2013 Train from Margao (Goa) to Trivandrum

How difficult to get a train ticket? (We went a fortnight ahead of travel so as to ensure we got tickets). One of the chaps chez Castle house (when I told him about it) said “once they’ve got a job at the ticket office they don’t feel they actually have to work” and if the ticket counter operative (I use the term operative very loosely) is typical I can well believe it.
The system doesn’t lend itself to ease of use either & it goes something like this:-
1st you must get a ticket requisition form, then fill it out with all sorts of personal information and the train id number you wish to travel on. The biggest issue is finding out what train you wish to travel on in the 1st place & then what id number it is. Don’t even think of asking the git selling the tickets cos Mr Helpful he isn’t. Fortunately I’d actually done a bit of research on t’interweb and when combined with the hand painted info signboard
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I was able -eventuality- to discover the train we wanted.
I was very lucky in that I only had to Q 3 times at this blokes window, fending off Indian Q jumpers left right & centre. The boss was getting very stroppy…..calm down luv…..didn’t go down too well.
For entertainment there was a young hippy type couple….bloke with ginger hair, scraggy beard and crap ponytail weighing in at 9st soaking wet including backpack twice his size (what are they carrying? ) who was getting nowhere except sent to the back of the Q to refill his requisition form…..he’d been back and fro at least 6 times and hadn’t got the knack of elbowing Q jumpers who literally pushed him to one side……I started to feel quite sorry for him!
So anyway we eventually got our tickets for approx 16 hrs of sleeper AC2 class non-veg for the use off.

On the day of departure we turned up early and waited with baited breath for our train, as these long distance trains can sometimes be over an hour late and the info announcements are indistinguishable its a bit of a lottery getting the right train.

Once on however we found our allocated bunks then swopped so we could be together. The bunks aren’t too bad so long as your not more than 6ft1″ and used to sleeping on 2ft 6″wide or less. I am Ann isn’t!
Anns lower bunk could be converted into 2 seats facing each other which was quite handy as it was only 1300hrs & I wasn’t feeling that sleepy.
Included in the ticket price (approx £22 per head)  were clean sheets a pillow with clean slip, a small towel 2 “non-veg meals on wheels” -which was a bit messy even with the travelling spoon as the meat was still on the bone and slathered in gravy, thank goodness for wet wipes!- and afternoon tea.
About 7ish we decided to get our heads down, this is when Ann, who usually sleeps in the ‘starfish I can reach every corner of the king size bed/tent’ realised how narrow 2ft 6 is and who really can’t cope with loud chattering Indian blokes who don’t understand the concept of talking quietly didn’t sleep too well…..I was well wobbed!

We…..well….I, was woken up at 04:30, Ann was still awake, by the carriage staff 1) to let us know we were 1/2 hr fron Trivandrum & 2) to ask for a tip…..as they didn’t understand “don’t eat yellow snow” I gave then Ru200 each.
We got into Trivandrum at 0500 or so, still dark but quite busy, so gathered our belongings and wombled over to the chai stall, had a fine chai & watched the world go by as we didn’t feel right about turning up @Graceful quite so early. ….well, I say we…..I was quite happy to wake everyone up, but the boss insisted.
So arrived at 6ish at Graceful to be met by Giles (who’d been up sending guests off at 430) to move back into our usual room….ah home again!
We had a bit of a sort out regarding the luggage, downsized to a 20lt daysack each ready for our backpacking phase, before heading into Trv to do a bit of shopping. ….but didn’t actually buy anything.

Thurs 13th Dec 2013

Moved into the Leela hotel at Kovalam where we’ll be staying for a week with Lee & Kirsty who arrive tomorrow. ….how posh? How goods the scoff at the eat as much as you can buffet. ..oh dear…I can see a bit of weight gain happening, fortunately there’s a gym so a few hit sessions should help keep me trim.

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The infinity pool

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More infinity pool

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The boss enjoying the pool

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Some of the foyer

I think you get the picture?

Christmas in Kovalam

20th-27th Dec 2013

After an excellent week with Lee & Kirsty at the Leela we took over a small villa about 5km from Kovalam in readiness for Carl coming to join us.
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Its almost impossible to find a Villa with a pool, but fortunately we managed, & very nice it was too!
So early doors on the 21st- that’ll be 0230- Vj & buck arrived in their tuk tuks (that’s not his real name, but we couldn’t pronounce it and he could have done with braces at an early age, if you know what I mean) to take me n Lee to the airport to meet Carl. We thought we’d immerse him in the full authentic India right from the start! So as soon as he’d stumbled off the plane (0445) still dark and a bit chilly (well it was for me…Carl had a bit of a ‘sweat on’) we went for a full Indian working mans breakfast…..of Chai, no milk as it hadn’t been delivered yet & a chilli donut. ….mmmmmm! Then 12 miles back to Kovalam in the dark early morning rush for a proper breakfast at the Villa.

Over the next few days we did various trios on boats
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To see & feed elephants
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“Do Trivandrum”, not forgetting to mention Christmas day, which started with a boys trip out to the barbers
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The barber turned out to be the local Hindu festival piercing bloke. If you zoom in on the TV in the bottom corner of the last picture you’ll see some of his handiwork! We had the pleasure of watching the full dvd whilst each of us had a shave (I had my head done too + polish!) The boys had a quick trim also then splashed with ‘something for the weekend’ I’ve had CS gas burn less! Mind you it only cost Ru350 for all of us. Then a bit of shopping before a quick Xmas dip & drink in the pool….not quite as bracing as those Xmas day dips in the north sea back home, although the chlorine & after shave potion did add a certain tingle.
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We’d booked our table at a fine little establishment on Kovalam beach, and altho they had a Turkey all ready to be Masaler’d
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We stuck to traditional scoff like Sea food platters
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And substantial amounts of beer. However it was an excellent day

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HAPPY CHRISTMAS!

Then on boxing day we managed to get an elephant ride for Lee & Kirsty
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Before sending them back to the storm ridden UK on the 27th.

Hubli – Hampi & back to Goa.

19-20th November 2013

Note to self:- don’t take the room at the front of the Hotel when the Indian equivalent of Piccalilli circus is right out side!! Reason being the buses run late and start earlier. …..and before they stop or set off they pound their horn repeatedly (which usually sounds as tho it should have been fitted to the Titanic. ……in fact if they had been fitted the iceberg would’ve disintegrated before the collision)
I know that the boss had a shattered nights sleep altho I must say the excitement of piloting Ernie had plumb worn me out, so I slept like a log. ….as usual.

So, fruit for breakfast, then out to kick Ernie into life, only 2mins of kicking before blatting of to the petrol station to top up, then onwards. …tally ho!

Its a straight road -literally- to Kiresir where we planned to stop for naafi break. Along the way we ‘teamed up’ with a couple of chaps heading in the same direction, so after passing each other a few times we rode alongside and chatted a bit before they invited us to share chai & a chilli donut with them…..so we did! The conversation was a tad stilted due to the language barrier ie we spoke no Indian & they spoke limited English, but a pleasant time was had before the obligatory photo session
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I then made the mistake of believing their directions to Gadag, the next major town on our route
Another note to self: most Indians don’t know the way to anywhere, so at least check surreptitiously before heading of into the uloo.

After 10-15ks it just felt wrong, so I broke out the trusty Google maps & yep….180° in the wrong direction. ….However the scenery was epic and we got to see it twice!

We eventually made it to Gadag where we stopped at a ‘family restaurant and Bar’……hint….if it says Bar, its not family!
Scoff was ok, mutton fry & mutton biryani washed down with lovely chilled water…..not whiskey or beer which is what we kept on being offered. Of course all the staff and half the customers managed to wander into the ‘family’ room to check out the mad White Woman with blond hair wearing shorts. Ann not impressed.
Anyway, scoff scoffed, Ernie refuelled and onwards ho.

Hampi itself isn’t prominently marked on the map, but its approx 15ks NNE of Hospet.
The road to Hospet is pretty good & even morphs into a 3 lane (per side) superhighway…….but don’t let that fool you into thinking its a motorway, oh no!
You’ll still find vehicles travelling towards you on ‘your’ side of the 3 lane highway. There are savage speed breakers allez uber, most not marked and some in really odd places.
You’ll also find lorries parked in any of the 3 lanes, altho to be fair they’re mostly in either the slow lane or the fast lane depending on where the chai/meals ready stall is.

My plan was to leave the highway before Hospet & stay on the north bank of the river (its either the Krishna or Tungabhadra river…couldn’t work/find out which) which is 2nd only to the Gangees in significance to Hindus. Unfortunately I missed the turning somehow and the next thing I knew we were in Hospet. No worries. ..we followed the signs (my word!) to Hampi & pretty much booked into the 1st place we came across. Only Ru800 per night, so not too bad.
Once we’d booked in we had to register at the local police station
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There were a number of nefarious looking rouges & robbers (para 13) on display altho fortunately my picture was missing.

We took a walk into ‘downtown’ Hampi which is full of shops, guest houses, roof top restaurants and cycle hire emporiums, oh and cows and monkeys!
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It looks better at night!
After freshening up we went back downtown and had some excellent scoff at one of the roof top terraces. Altho the handy reference guide explained everything Indian
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The smell from the wood fired pizza oven seduced me into a veg pizza…..mmmm! They also did mixed juices, I can thoroughly recommend the watermelon, ginger and apple.

Hampi 21-22nd Nov 2013

Hampi is an amazing place, architecturally, geographically and spiritually (well for Hindus & aging hippies) and well worth a visit.
Its a religious pilgrimage site for hindus and the river is used for disposal of ashes and purification bathing. The site comprises of aporox 29acres of ruined palaces, royal bathhouses, elephant stables and of course the temple itself
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The surrounding landscape is totally different from anything else we’ve seen in India too
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There are 3 towers (which serve the same purpose as steeples on churches ie here we are come on down!) built in the 14th 15th & 16th century’s.  The town Vijayanager which was the capital of the Kingdom and a commercial hub was eventually devastated by a 6 month Muslim seige in the 16th century leaving the city in ruins.
We took the chance and paid 50 rupees for a local tour guide to take us around  the temple & it was worth every penny. The guide was very informative & helped us understand a lot of the everyday scenes we’d observed in India.
He also explained the meaning of different carvings and the symbolism in relation to the Hindu religion.
Ie the pornographic carvings found in every temple
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are there purely to divert the attention of the evil spirits. Also the 7 sacred animals of Hinduism are depicted in this carving:-
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and as far as I can remember consist of; elephant, dog, rabbit, lion, snake, peacock & cow…..I think!

Theres lots to see and take in, and I would recommend getting a guide to show and explain it all
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The highlight of the day as far as the boss was concerned was being blessed by the temple elephant for 10 rupees
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She didn’t appreciate me saying I could do a similar blessing for free!

Return to Castle house 22 Nov 9th Dec

After exhausting ourselves exploring Hampi and its environs both on & off Ernie…but getting quite miffed at the discrimination
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We staged back to Castle house in Palolem Goa via Hubli-Darwah.
The downside of our accommodation in Hampi was the family and visiting Indians were constantly up at 0400hrs in the morning making a right row! So Ann was a little tired! Poor love!
So to cheer her up I chose an upmarket hotel called Dennisons in H-Darwah. Normally £140 per night but reduced to £45. Absolutely 5 star! Excellent hotel, only recently completed and opened (in fact the gym and pool weren’t quite finished and there was a lot of staff training going on)
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After a luxurious stay in Hubli-D including a visit to the local KFC and a stop in a hardware store cos the screws of our Ortlieb panniers kept working loose…disappointing to say the least Mr Ortleib.
The boss had a most excellent nights sleep in preparation for our 160 mile trip to Castle house.
Now 160 miles doesn’t sound like a long way, and in the UK USA or Europe it would only take 3-4 hrs, but unfortunately the roads don’t lend themselves to that kind of irresponsible speed in India!
Altho the roads were some of the best we’ve been on, and mostly downhill, the combination of speed breakers, potholes, wildlife, cows and other road users meant that we only achieved 30mph average speed for the trip…which is far and away the absolute best we’ve ever managed!
Also it didn’t help that we decided to take a “scenic route” that after 25 miles turned into a dead end! I knew that small insignificant road under construction sign meant something!
However, a pleasant day thumping along on Ernie saw us back home at Castle house, where after our hectic few months we decided to take a fortnight beach and preening holiday!

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Castle house reception

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We made sure to do 15-20miles a day on the bikes in between preening, sunbathing & Bear Grills impersonations. Then we sold the bikes on the 8th before catching the -sleeper- train from Margao to Trivandrum in preparation for Lee & Kirsty arriving from the UK for Christmas.

Right…hands up the evil spirits who zoomed in on the porn!

Exploration on Ernie “the beast” Enfield

Friday 15th November

I managed to persuade Ann that even tho she felt better a gentle recovery was the way forward, but there was no need to stop exploring as we could borrow a 350 Enfield from a nice chap I had met whilst she was recuperating.
To further reinforce the need for 350cc’s of thumpingness we hired a scooter from Castle house the previous day (for only 250rupees) and had a potter around the local area.

So it came to be that Ernie “the beast” Enfield….of dubious age, even more dubious milage (speedo not working) but of a mechanically sound temperament (I hoped) was recruited into our adventure.
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Using good old Royal engineering bodging I adapted a couple of our panniers by the judicious use of sawn off re-bar, salvaged cordage (from Italy. …I knew it would come in handy! ) and a bit of local stitching and we were ready.
One hour later I’d just about given up as I couldn’t get the bloody thing started! My thigh muscles were so pumped I could have done a stand in for Van Damme.

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Thats a nice bike mate, can I kick it over?

Eventually a friend of Jai (Ernies owner) turned up, turned the fuel tap to on, then kicked Ernie into life whilst looking at me like I’m a bloody idiot…..fair enough!
Altho in my defence I was reasonably certain I had it in the reserve position. …..mmmmm maybe not, Duh!

So a short trip up the coast to Colva,
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getting used to negotiating the traffic at speed (a pulsating 25mph) but also re educating myself to the arse about face gears and brakes, because on an Enfield of 1950′s design the gears are on the rhs, and go 1 up 3 down whereas on every other bike I’ve ever ridden they’re on the left and go 1 down 4 up! I constantly found myself changing up when I wanted to slow down and braking sharply when I wanted to change up….frustrating! However I found that the way to a smooth and pleasurable ride on an Enfield is to do it with forethought calmness and above all slowly.
In order to know how fast we were going and what milage we covered (useful when estimating when to refuel) I fitted Anns garmin 200 to the brake reservoir which worked out a treat.

Colva was full of Eastern Europeans and reminiscent (to us) of Yarmouth, sadly we didn’t find this out until after booking in for 2 nights at a hotel on the beach road.
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The translations were amusing but unedifying. …what is Monkey gland Steak or Chicken crumble?

Saturday 16th-Sunday 17th

On trying to get 1 nights refund this morning we failed miserably. …the lesson is, only book for 1 night until you know you want to stay longer. We were tempted to stay for the day, but decided we’d rather move on to somewhere we liked rather than stay somewhere we didn’t, so we moved on up the coast to Baga.

We had a good ride around, (also checking out the Hotel where we are staying with Carl in the New year. ….very nice!) Before ditching the bike and walking around some more looking for a room. We settled on a room overlooking the beach, but set back somewhat and also away from the main strip so as to ensure a peaceful nights sleep.
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The boss did the bargaining whilst I collected the bike, and what a hard bargain she drove! I think she must have still been simmering over not getting a refund cos we ended up staying in a very pleasant spacious non a/c room with hot water, balcony a full sized fridge and tv for only 800 rupees per night. Ok the bed was a tad firm, but they all tend to be anyway.

There’s a plethora of small shops and stalls in Baga selling everything from silver & gold to tailored leather jackets to bargain shop tat.

Again its aimed at the Eastern Europeans but the restaurants also have English menu’s and do a full English!

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£2:20 with coffee & juice...lovely!

I’ve got to say the fur lined leather bomber jackets were very tempting, especially when we keep hearing how cold it is in the UK, and how its going to last till April. Maybe I’ll have another look at Xmas.

The beach was quite crowded with very scantily clad ( inappropriately I thought) white women of all sizes being oggled by groups of fully clothed Indian blokes who come down to the beach for just that point.

There were other things on display too tho
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these local fishermen were touting their catch around the beach trying to get people to pay for a photo.

Monday 18th November

Time for us to head inland and explore the interior. We’ve decided to head for Mollem, where there is supposed to be a fantastic waterfall, so its up up up into the windy Ghats, very windy steep road (climbed over  2500ft…..quite handy that garmin) punctuated with very slow moving trucks going up and trying to avoid not so slow trucks coming down, nearly always being overtaken on blind corners by Tata buses or other trucks!

Nb: when using the roads in India expect overtaking on blind corners and all other inappropriate places and you’ll seldom be disappointed and survive!
Also look out for (not just on blind corners but also in both town and Country):-
“speed breakers“; these are savage sleeping policeman usually before & after junctions, schools, mosques, churches, and traffic lights, sometimes they’re signposted but often they aren’t
Potholes; you think they’re bad in the UK? They’re almost craters in India, and can go on for 100s of meters

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Road roading....road stops! Craters begin

Cows, buffaloes, dogs, goats,monkeys and bullock carts
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Not forgetting seed crops; a way of threshing your crops thats very popular with the subsistence farmers

After a thoroughly enjoyable thump along on Ernie the Beast for my part and an “ok” from Ann we arrived in Mollem.
At this point I really must say “thank you” to the boss, who was fully supportive in allowing me to fulfil a long held dream of mine to ride an Enfield in India, ok it wasn’t into the foothills of the Himalayas…..but there’s always next year!

The excursion to the waterfalls is in Collem about 6ks down the road from Mollem. We toyed with the idea of doing the trip straight away, but decided to find some accommodation first then relax a bit & do the waterfalls the following morning before moving on.

The accommodation is in very short supply and the place we eventually found was typical of India. …quite newly built with beautiful tiled floors and bathroom, satellite Tv, rock hard beds with no sheets and a gap between walls and roof allowing all kinds of insects to visit!

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Wall walling, wall stops.

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Due to the shortage of accommodation we paid 1200 rupees after some very hard bargaining, could have been worse…..not sure how, but it could’ve.

Tuesday 19th November

An early start, after a poor nights sleep for Ann, as she was constantly attacked by all manner of insects thru the night. I didn’t notice but kept that to myself so as not to incur the wrath of the boss.

Although we had good intentions of arriving early at Collem we were distracted by breakfast. ….ho hum.

The whole trip to the falls is typically Indian, and can be quite annoying and frustrating unless a conscious effort is made to relax man!
It goes like this:

1) 1st you find somewhere to park. …normally in India you can pretty much abandon your vehicle anywhere you feel like, but Collem is “pay parking only”….unless you’re on a motorcycle which you can leave amongst all the locals bikes at the railway station.
2) find the ticket office where you are paired up with other travellers as its a minimum of 5 people to the jeep, the cost is 440 rupees per person, exact fare required please! You’re then told a number….remember this number as it is the order you’ll board your jeep in…..ours was 23, this meant the 23rd jeep that came along. ….eventually. …was ours.
3) you must now go and collect your life jacket. …another 30 rupees each
4) wait for your jeep. ….only an hour and a half or so cos we were late getting to Collem
5) pile into jeep and your off…..for about 2k when you come to the entrance to the nature reserve. ..here you must pay another 20 rupees each, exact fare please! entrance fee + 30 rupees for any camera you intend using & 50 rupees for any video camera. The camera fees are paid by honest people only, as there is no way of policing the use of cameras at the falls..
6) travel another 9ks being bounced around like billyo (in our case anyway, as our driver went to the Emmerson Fitipaldi school of motoring, and managed to overtake 3 other jeeps on the single track track!)
7) you then arrive at the jeep park from where you walk (about 10mins) to the bottom of the falls, having been told by your driver that you have 45mins before the return trip.
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The falls themselves are actually worth the trip, but the sooner after the monsoon you go the more impressive they’ll be.
There was absolutely no benefit in the life jacket other than to sit on in the jeep, or at the falls.

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Rush hour to the falls

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Who's the cheeky monkey then?

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Everybody ignored the 'don't feed the monkeys' signs

With half the day gone and us not having got very far, we got a bit of a hustle on, crossed out of Goa into Karnataka -where suddenly the roads became a lot worse- still climbing into the Ghats heading for Hubli-Darwhad. Another 5000ft ascending in total…of course there was also descending. …but a lot less!
On the old google maps there were loads of hotels so I didn’t bother booking ahead, which proved to be a bit more of a gamble than I thought.

Because of the late start, or rather late leaving of Collem, I was getting a tad concerned about running out of daylight before reaching H-Dharwad ‘cos there is no way on earth you’ll get me riding at night in India……its lethal! You have all the points mentioned above complicated by 1/2 the vehicles on the road not using lights and most not really bothering with staying on their own side of the road!

So we reach H-Dharwad only just before dusk and every hotel is full…….it turns out there’s a big wedding on and everything is booked. The next place on the map is Hubli, which also has loads of hotels, so we started in that direction, only to come across a place near what turned out to be the main bus stops for the area. However, they had a room, (right at the front of the hotel) and it was getting dark so we took it!

Not having eaten since breakfast we went out to a local meals ready, had a decent bit of scoff, then had a wander around. Because this was the main bus stop junction/area there were all kinds of little shops, booths & market stalls selling everything from chickens (live) to plumbing supplies. The hygiene leaves something to be desired, as all the rubbish generated is just thrown in the ditch or onto waste ground where cows dogs and pigs root thru it all

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One of many pigs rooting around in the centre of H-Dharwad