"Beautiful green fields of Mangalore, India"
After our wonderful trip to Japan and Dubai last year, John (my 12-year old son) and I decided to visit India this year. We had been to India twice already and this was our third trip. We planned on stopping off in Bombay for a couple of days and then travel on to Mangalore which is on the West coast of India below Goa.
Arriving in Bombay in the midst of the monsoon rains meant not only dealing with the rains but the rather large potholes on the roads and flash floods in certian areas of the city! I have always felt that I needed 2-3 days to just get used to the noise, the crowds, the traffic and everything else when I arrive in Bombay and after that I am OK. Our hotel, which was chosen after reading traveller reviews, was good but not in a particularly good area. One morning while returning back to our hotel, we realised the street was flooded in about 12-18 inches of water and the rickshaw driver refused to drive us to our hotel which was down this street. Needless to say John refused to get out and walk in the water:-( We finally managed to entice the driver with more money so he could get us safely to our hotel.
"John with his friends among the rice fields"
We then flew to Mangalore. The landing strip at the small airport is on a hill. Everywhere looked lush from the plane. The soil in Mangalore is made up of clay and so as you drive away from the airport, you see red roads of clay soil but there are also tarmac roads. It is a beautiful sight after the hustle and bustle of Bombay. Beautiful country side with little villages dotted along the way. The rice crops growing in the fields were a beautiful sight.
We were visiting family for a few days. We stayed in a beautiful little house right in the middle of the rice fields. This meant, John could go out and catch little frogs, little crabs and fish in the streams by the house. What a wonderful experience for a boy who in England is generally glued to the TV, Playstation or other computer games. He made friends with the village kids and very quickly had a gang of about 8 kids with whom he went out to play. At age 12 and standing 5'7" he towered over the village kids, who were a joy to be with. They were fascinated by him and some of the things he told them. They enjoyed using his laptop and took turns to play games and listen to music in the evenings and even had a disco in the balcony of the house one evening. The children were happy when they saw how thrilled John was when he saw Kingfishers, Cranes, Woodpeckers and Peacocks roaming the fields. They then went on to point out all the exotic birds and insects to us. We hired a large sand dredging river boat with 2 oarsmen to take us around the local islands. What a beautiful and exciting trip it was. As I sat on the boat looking at the coconut trees around the islands and the beautiful sunset, I did not want to go back to England. There was such a feeling of tranquility even though the children were all chatting and shouting to each other on the boat. As we enjoyed this trip so much, we decided to hire the boat again for another evening. This time we had 3 oarsmen on the boat. They took us another route and after a while told the children they could get off the boat and have a play in the water as it was only about 12 inches deep in that area. The kids by this time were ready to stretch their legs having been in the boat for at least an hour. It was strange for me to be surrounded by the river (Mabukala River) and yet be able to stand in a shallow area and enjoy the scenery while the kids played around in the water. I have to say at this point that I have a fear of water and cannot swim! One of the kids noticed clams in the sand and immediately called out to the other kids to come and collect the clams. We had a spare bucket on the boat which was promptly retrieved to collect the clams. The children filled the bucket with clams very quickly. I joined in too as I had never done anything like this before. I just put my hand in the sand and touched a few clams and lifted them to the bucket. Later when we got back to the river bank, the clams were distributed to all the kids to take home. John told me later on that it was one of the best experiences of this holiday.
We spent lazy days just watching the rainfall, trying to film the peacocks roaming free in the fields, trying to get a shot of the glorious Kingfishers in addition to taking pictures of the tiny little crabs and fish and shellfish that John had caught in the streams.
(TO BE CONTINUED)