Drawings South India
My plane to Mumbai (via Milano) leaves at 6:00 from Madrid. I take the first bus to the airport (4:45), as there is no Metro then. I reach Malpensa (Milano) at 8:30.
A local guide comes to me at the entrance (100 Rs). He will explain me everything, carry my handbag, light me with a torch and even tie up my shoes after the visit to each cave (you have to take off the shoes to enter the caves)!! It's good to have servants :-))
At the entrance of the caves there are some local shops trying to sell you "stones that you won't find anywhere else". Don't trust them, you'll find those stones in many other shops, and even cheaper. On the way back we stop at a road restaurant to have lunch. Yunuishkhan has brought from home a metallic box with some food for him, and for me too!! It's bloody spicy, but I can't say no... I ask for some tea (chai) and we share lunch.
As we arrive back in Aurangabad, he invites me to his house, a 2 rooms hut. We have some tea at the main room. He introduces me to his 4 kids. His wife is at the dormitory, but I don't see her (muslims). Indians always serve tea very very hot. If you can't drink it like that, you can pour some at the little plate and drink it from there. Yunuishkhan takes me to the bus to Pune (17:30, 110 Rs), I say goodbye and pay him (1.300 Rs) for the 2 days.
The bus goes slowly, stopping at each little village. We finally arrive at 23:00, I take a taxi to the Hotel Grand (MG Road, Camp, Pune, by the Aurora Towers, 320 Rs). It's an old colonial house, with a nice garden around and a quiet terrace with restaurant. But the rooms are quite old and humid, a few bugs even...
I have breakfast at the Coffee House (MG Road, Pune), coffee and toast. Go to an ATM cashier to withdraw some money and take a rickshaw to the Osho International Ashram.
This Ashram (www.Osho.com) is a meditation community whose philosophy integrates the "spiritual" world and the "real" materialist world, so you can have an hour of meditation, after that an hour of jacuzzi, then a macrobiotic lunch and after that some shopping at Versace. It's quite a good way in theory, but I don't really trust all this "happy-smiling-together-communities", I can feel something weird after that façade...
Maybe I'm too selfish and agnostic for this, but as Bob Dylan said: "Don't follow leaders, and watch the parkimetres..." The leader of this community is (was) Bhagwan Rajneesh, "Osho", a polemic guru famous in the 80-90s. I buy a ticket for a 10 minutes visit. As you enter the lobby, there is a video about the ashram showing how happy are the members inside, some words of the leader and all that stuff. Then they take you on a silent tour through the "visible" part of the ashram, just to have a slight idea of what's all that about. It has good and bad aspects. I find positive the mix of several philosophies (sufism, buddhism, early christians... even Nietzsche) in a very global way. I find negative all that "secret atmosphere", they don't even let you take photos, as in the Military Camps (coincidence, I hope).
Pune is a rather quiet and pleasant town (except the Railway Station). I try to take a ticket for the night train to Goa, but they are sold out. I didn't count on this, as it's low season.
So I go to a little travel agency by the Station and ask for any ticket to Goa tonight. They offer me a "sleeper bus", a bus (Laxmi Queen) with sleepers, as in trains, 400 Rs, which leaves at 18:30, arriving at Goa at 6:30. I leave the rucksack at the agency and go for some lunch at the German Bakery (291 Koregan Park, by the Ashram). It is a very popular place amongst travellers. They have western dishes and delicious pastries. I have a milk shake, pizza and pastries. Have a walk around, and go to a cibercafe (60 Rs/hour) where I send a message to paloma and read the latest spanish newspapers.
At 18:30 I take the Laxmi Queen bus to Panjim (Goa). Is like entering in a train with sleepers beds at both sides. It takes 12 hours to Goa, but as you can go sleeping, it's not hard. After a few stops, we reach Goa at 7:00.
The landscapes here are more tropical (palm trees...). Humid heat again. I take a rickshaw to Panjim Inn (31 Janeiro Road, Fontainhas, 410 Rs), an old portuguese house turn into guest house. The rooms are clean, spacious and the furniture is wooden colonial style. It has a veranda in the upper floor that they use as a restaurant. Panjim is a little city, capital of Goa. You can go walking everywhere. I imagined it as a little Lisbon, but it seems more Guinea style...
There are some old style houses and signs in portuguese, but all seems abandoned, humid... I take a taxi to go to Old Goa, the former capital of Goa, where you can still find some important catholic churches. It's 10 km away (200 Rs). The churches are really big, remind me the ones I saw in Cuba. Inside you can find a very rich decoration; at Bom Jesus Church they keep the mummified body of San Francisco Javier.
I eat a "thali" at Kamat's restaurant, a very popular place at the Municipal Gardens. Afterwards I buy a Bebinca (typical goan dessert) at the supermarket Megson's (18 June Road). A 3 minutes rain falls. I buy a portuguese towel (300 Rs) for the beach.
Go back to the hotel, have some rest and then hire a taxi to explore the beaches area (Candolim, Calangute, Anjuna...). I wanna have a look around in order to choose a nice hotel for tomorrow, as the beaches & hotels are here a bit far from each other and I don't wanna go around tomorrow with my heavy rucksack looking for a place to stay. All this area is palm trees woods, and the houses (& restaurants & hotels) are spread all over. I try first the Sterling Vagator (Vagator Beach), a big resort with bungalows, but is a bit "too local", and besides is low season, the hotel is almost empty and there's no much animation around. And the beach is too grey and wild at monsoons to swim.
Then I head southwards to Highland Beach Resort (Candolim, 1000 Rs), a much better hotel, also for "local" tourists, but this is a normal hotel with a central patio with a nice swimming pool. Not many people around, but here I can go walking to some lively place. The room is big (2 pieces, kitchen, clean WC), so I make a reservation for tomorrow. I go back to Panjim in the same taxi (400 Rs).
After a siesta I take a little walk and dinner at the Panjim Inn veranda restaurant. Seafood Soup, Shrimps curry, beer and dessert for 200 Rs.
For breakfast, tea and toast. A hard rain is falling this morning. I made an arrangement with the taxi yesterday, so he picks me up and takes me to the Highland Beach Resort in Candolim (150 Rs). I leave the rucksacks and go for a walk at the beaches.
Nobody around, just a few local fishermen. A huge vessel is stuck in the sand some 100 metres from Candolim beach. Some indian tourists lay under the few sunbeams. The water is quite wild, big waves, no way of swimming. I walk till Calangute, the next beach northwards. You can find hundreds of sea stars and seashells at the beach. There are also some green seed brought by the waves. As the tide goes back, the seeds keep in "dry" soil and some of them start growing and spread all over the sea shore. A short rain, 2 minutes, falls. I have a pocket anorak, but is useless, the weather is so humid that you get wet inside...
I have lunch at the Plantain Leaf (Calangute Beach), a vegetarian restaurant: Beer, Lassi and Thali (153 Rs). There are only 6 or 7 tourists around. In High Season (Oct-Feb) you have to make reservations several months ahead! Most of the restaurants are closed now. I go back to the Hotel, sleep a little siesta and swim in the swimming-pool. I'm almost alone in the hotel now.
Then I go for a walk to see the sunset at the beach. Have dinner at the Hotel (Green soup and fish curry). It rains a lot tonight. I hope tomorrow will be a sunny day: I will spend the day in a wonderful 5 stars resort!!
Breakfast at 8:00, tea, toast and scrambled eggs. I take a taxi to the Taj Holiday Villages Resort (Sinquerim Beach), a resort of the Taj Group, which normally is a bit expensive (125 $/single), but now at Low Season is only 40$ for a single, so I decide to spend a little more than usual today, I'm at holidays! The rooms are at nice bungalows, among green gardens with palm trees. First I go to the swimming pool, then I take a walk along the beach, go back to the room, take a shower...
At noon I go to Anjuna, to see the famous flea-market that takes place every wednesday... Soon I discover that is not exactly "every wednesday". In low season Goa doesn't seem to exist at all!!! NOBODY at the flea market, just me and 2 british tourists being asaulted by 4 carpet sellers. Well, I buy a blanket and some pillows, at least this wasn't a useless trip.
I go back to Calangute for lunch, is the only inhabited place around. I meet at the beach an austrian guy (Marcus) whom I met at the bus from Pune. We happen to go both to Palolem tomorrow, so we decide to share a taxi (800 Rs/2). Go back to the resort, swimming pool, some drawings, some reading... at 18:00 I take a body massage at the hotel Health Center.
They've got gym, massage, hydrotherapy, sauna, jacuzzi... At dinner I decide to make another big spending, so I go to have a nice evening at the Thai Restaurant (Banyan Tree) at the Resort. Quite expensive for goan standards: about 10$. I watch a Turner Classics movie before sleeping.
I've slept as in heaven. My clothes have dried, though that's very difficult here in such a humid weather. The breakfast is a buffet, plenty of good food. I think I won't have lunch today...
I meet Marcus at the Plantain Leaf (Calangute Beach) at 9:00. The taxi takes us to Palolem in 2 hours. Green landscapes, palm trees, hills.
Palolem is a fishermen village with a few huts among the palm trees. We decide to take a room at the Palolem Beach Resort (200 Rs/double), a simple basic room with an even simpler toilet, but is clean. Here I find many more tourists than in other beaches of Goa: 12. The beach is in a wonderful bay (still waters) lined up with palm trees.
The sun shows up, and it really burns, we are close the Equator line. Here you can swimm, the waves won¥t swallow you as in the north beaches. I have a biryani and naan at a beach restaurant (110 Rs). I spend all the afternoon wasting my time at the sea shore, the clouds pass, the sun brights again, it rains, I listen to Bob Dylan in mp3, have a swimm, it rains again, a beer, time passes...
We have dinner at the same place, with 2 polish girls whom we met here: Zuzanne & Agata. At 22:00 a Ganesh Festival starts at the beach. All the families of the village bring their own Ganesh little statue, pray, light candles, and then go with it to the shore, lighting crackers & fireworks all around. It's nice at the beginning, but after 15 times it gets a big noisy!! It rains sometimes.
At nights you can see in Palolem something called "Blue Waves". If you stare at the waves in the beach, you can see them shine in blue-green colors. It is caused by some tiny fluorescent micro-organisms in the water. They shine at moonlight. If you swimm at night you can see your body all covered with bright shiny points. It's like magic.
I decide to stay one more day in Palolem. Tomorrow, I'll take the train to Gokarn.The day starts rainy but the sun shines soon and it gets really hot. Marcus does some 15 minutes of yoga as he wakes up. He has been in a seminar about Ayurveda & Yoga a week ago, so he has a lot to practice. Have breakfast at the beach, read a bit and relax. Then I go to a cibercafe to sail a bit in Internet. Afterwards I go to Chaudi to get info about the trains.
My flight to Mumbai has been delayed (10:55-12:40). I wait in one of those comfortable seats. Another delay (12:40-13:30). I go to the transfer counter to ask for a lunch voucher and have a sandwich/beer at the snack bar. We finally leave for Mumbai. It's an 8 hour flight, where they show the film "The Mexican". We arrive in Mumbai at 21:30 (Milan time), which means 1:00 in the morning (Mumbai time). There is a 3 1/2 hours difference. It rains. Mumbai airport is rather small, Duty Free is like a bar and there are only 2 baggage strips. You can instantly feel the humid atmosphere, heat even at that time of the morning.
A guy from "First48.com" waits for me at the main gate. I made a reservation for the first night at this web page, so they pick me up and take me to a hotel for the 1st night (45$). In 45 minutes they drop me in SeaShore Hotel, a rat nest in the 4th floor of a humid dirty building at the end of a misterious alley. People sleeping at the stairs, rain, crows making noise... But is 3:00 am already and I have no choice. The room (wardrobe I'd say) is about 3x1 metres, just the space for a bed and my rucksack (no toilet, of course). The fan is noisy, but the heat is worse!... Salaam, Bombay!
There is one tomorrow at 8:20 to Gokarn. Go back to the beach, it rains, but I go swimming anyway. As the temperature doesn't change, it's nice to swimm even when it rains... The sun shines again and I go for a grilled fish (Kingfish) at the bar. There is some more people at the beach today (16 persons). Two local girls try to sell me some jewellery... and they get it. I chat with them for a while: 21 years, 4 children, they come from Rajastan, in the north, to sell their items here to the tourists during 3 or 4 months. Some fishermen got 3 lobsters, so we tell them to prepare them for dinner (250 Rs each)
At 8:00 I go to the Railway Station to take the train to Gokarn. BUT the train runs only on weekdays, and today is saturday. The next train is at 14:20. The Railway Station is 2 km away from Chaudi, so I have to go back walking, as at that time there is no taxis (as there are no trains too!) I ask at the town if there is a bus to Gokarna, but it takes several transfers, so I decide to wait for the train. I go back to the beach and look at the fishermen.
I've got a few free hours till the train leaves. I leave the rucksack at the bar and go to the beach again. This time I head left of the main beach, to see some little hidden beaches. They are wild beaches with just one or two fishermen huts. I swimm naked and lie on the sand. It's the closest to earth's paradise: you can only hear the palm trees moved by the wind...
I go back to the main beach and tell a guy to climb for a coconut. It seems so easy to climb a palm tree when they do it! I enjoy and relax. But it's time to go, so I take the luggage and go to the Railway Station again.
Palolem has been my favourite destination in Goa. I've found here what I really expected from Goa: nice beaches to swim, nice people to chat with, relaxed environment... I'm happy now.
The train takes some 6 hours to reach Mangalore. It's old and dirty and completely full. It doesn't seem to have been cleaned for years. The seats are really hard. There is only 2nd class in this train, and no reservation, so I have to walk all along the train for a seat with 4 or 5 persons by my side. The time runs slowly. Sometimes a boy with tea or coffee passes by offering drinks (5 Rs). The landscape is wonderful, green palm trees everywhere. I walk along the train to spend the time: no foreigners, and 100% of men have moustache! At 21:00 we arrive in Mangalore, delayed as usual.
As I go down the train, a strange little man comes to me and offers me a rickshaw. Why not? I go with him out of the station and across some dark strees (should I be worry & afraid?). We finally get to the rickshaw, then he takes me to a nice hotel that he knows: Srinivas Hotel, GHS Road, Mangalore, 400 Rs. A nice 3 star hotel for indian people. It rains a lot now. The man of the rickshaw waits for me and takes me to a restaurant for dinner. I invite him to dinner too. We make an arrangement for tomorrow at 9.
It's still raining when I wake up. Mangalore seems to me a grey city with not many things to see. I go to the railway station to buy a ticket for the train from Trivandrum to Mumbai. I might be taking a plain, but prefer to have the reservation for the train too, just in case. Then I go to the bus sation, in order to take a bus to Madikeri, a village in the Coorg Mountains, not far from here. I wanna see the coffee plantations and tibetan refugees' camps. Ronald, the man of the rickshaw gives me his address, he wants me to arrange him the papers to go to Europe and find a work there (...).
The bus finally leaves at 11:00. The landscape is nice, very greenish, foggy sometimes, jungles as we climb the mountains. The bus goes very very slow, it takes us 6 hours to do the 150 kms, endless trip. As we reach Mandikeri, I decide not to get down here, but in the next village, Kushalnagar, as the driver tells me there is closer to the Tibetan Camps. The coffee plantations, I can see from the bus, and think there no use in going down and visiting them by foot.
The tibetan people here are refugees who came here from Tibet at the 60s, when China invaded their country. They have settled here, have children, buddhist monasteries, farms... I take a room at the Kanika Hotel (560 Rs). Then I take a rickshaw to see the Camps in Sera Je.
Here is where most of the tibetan people have settled down. Here everything is rather different from Hindu style. Here you can see more order, cleaning, quietness... You can feel that they are not indian. There is a gust house in Sera-Je (Sera-Je Guest House). I go back to Kushalnagar, and have dinner there at the Tibet Restaurant (100 metres from Kanaka Hotel). The rain has stopped at 20:00.
At 7 I take a bus to Mysore. The bus station is a complete chaos, at least for me. Everything is written in hindu. I ask a driver (he must be a driver, I guess, as he is standing at the door of the bus) and he tells me that his bus is leaving for Mysore "right now". I'm lucky, I think. Get into the bus, the bus leaves... and stops by the corner, waiting for passengers till it gets absolutely full... 20 minutes later!! It's an old bus, wooden seats, bars (no glass) at the windows. It's only 2 hours (30 Rs) till Mysore. We stop at the middle of the way for breakfast. We arrive in Mysore at 21:30, I try to leave the rucksack at the cloakroom. BUT to leave the rucksack here I must have a train ticket, so I go first to get one. BUT I have no enough money in rupees, so I go to a bank to change money. BUT bamks open here at 10;30, so I have to wait... finally I get the money, the tickets, and leave the rucksack at the cloakroom.
I go then in a rickshaw to the Maharaja's Palace, the main tourist attraction in Mysore. The entrance is cheap, 15 Rs. You have to take off your shoes to visit the palace, no photos allowed inside. A real wonder inside, maharaja's luxury. The descendants of the former Maharaja still live in a part of the palace, and it is used by the family for great celebrations. But in the meanwhile it can be visited by the people. I have lunch at the Shilpastri Restaurant (Gandhi Square, 100 Rs), at the roof terrace under a parasol. It's a very quiet place, though you can watch at people rushing down at the square.
I hail a rickshaw to take me to the Railway Station. I tell him I'm spaniard and he says he has had a lot of spaniards lately. Someone from Sapin sent him a tape. He plays ir for me and it happens to be "Alaska & the Pegamoids", a 80s pop spanish group I hadn't heard for a long time!! India keeps surprising me... Lokesh, the driver takes me for a short tour around the old baazars of Mysore. It will be only 1 hour, as I'm leaving in the 14:20 train. We visit several workshops where you can see how they manufacture local cigarettes, wood carvings, sandal sticks, essences... A very interesting tour.
At 14:20 I take the "Shatadbi Expres", a modern train going from Mysore to Chennai. My seat (280 Rs) is First Class, A/C, loudspeakers, snacks, bottles of water, newspapers... It's almost empty and takes only 2 hours to Bangalore (140 Kms). For the same distance, the bus took yesterday 6 hours!!
Bangalore is a cosmoplitan city, big but still noisy and chaotic traffic. I leave the luggage at the cloakroom (7 Rs; this time I have the ticket already) and take a rickshaw to the Mahatma Gandhi Road, main avenue of the modern part of the city. I stop at the Koshy's Cafe, a rather "western style" cafe, by the British Library, for a tea & toast. Afterwards I go to "The Bombay Store", a 4 storey department store where you can find clothes, souvenirs, deco items...
The traffic here is still chaotic, but there are traffic lights in the main avenues, and there you don't have to risk your life to cross the street.
A lot of modern shops here, western style cafes, banks... At 21:00 I take the train to Cochin, in Kerala. Kanyakumani Express, 585 km, 583 Rs. I go in Sleepers A/C class, 6 beds for compartment.
The train arrives at 10:20 to Ernaculam, the stop for Cochin. This city is spread around a bay, and its main parts are: Ernaculam, Willindon Island and Fort Cochi/Mattancherry. To go from one another you have to take ferries (5-15 minutes). I take one to Bolghatty Island, where my hotel is (Bolgghaty Palace, 1200 Rs). It is a former dutch mansion, recently refurbished. A nice quiet place with a pleasant swimming pool, but a bit far from the city center. My room has views to the bay.
I take a shower andtake a ferry to Fort Cochi via Ernaculam. The ferries are very cheap, 10 Rs, and is a nice way to know local people too. First thing I see in Fort Cochi is the Chinese Fishing Nets, at the north coast. This nets were built by the Gengis Khan chinese people who stablished here long ago. They have become an icon of Cochi, specially at sunset, when the silhouette of the nets stands through the last sunbeams. They are still in use, but mostly for tourists, who pay to see them work and for the photos with the fishermen. You'll see "real ones" at the backwaters, around Kollam. Have lunch at the Elite Cafe (Princess Road, Fort Cochi), a place very popular amongst travellers.
After lunch I take a walk around Fort Cochi. Have a tea at the Malabar House Hotel (1/268 Parade Road Tel.: 0484 / 221199, 140$), a recently refurbished hotel. They have kept the old colonial style but mixing it with a minimalist western style in decoration, with a wonderful use of colors and spaces. If you can't afford a night there, just go for a tea at this peaceful place.
I talk with a rickshaw driver to have a quick tour around the city. We go to Jew Synagogue, Bishop's House, Dutch Palace (wonderful paintings on the inner walls), some catholic churches, dutch cemetery... and the unavoidable souvenir shop of carpets where the driver gets comission! I buy curry, curcume and other spices and go for the sunset to the Chines Nets. Then I take the ferry back to the Hotel.
I wake up at 7 and take the bus to Allepey, 70 kms southwards, to take there a ferry that will take me through the Backwaters to Kollam. The bus (23 Rs) goes completely full, so I have to stand all the way (2 hours) with the huge rucksack by my feet... a real indian exerience.
In Allepey I take the boat (just in front of the bus stop) that goes to Kollam (250 Rs, 8 hours). It's a boat for tourists, with seat at the top. It leaves at 10:30. It goes real slow, so you can enjoy the peace and quietness of the environment. The Backwaters are water channels where people have rice crops, huts and they are always full of life. Palm Trees are eveywhere, wonderful landscapes. First 2 hours you keep looking at both sides but after a while you get bored of so many palms and start reading, sleeping or listening to some music. We see some "Kettu Vallams", floating bungalows (double rooms, kitchen, living room and terrace) that you can hire for 1 or 2 days (100$/24h), including a sailor and a cooker. They take you around the backwaters, stopping at main points of interest, while you have lunch on board, sleep or just look at the landscape...
At 13:30 we stop for lunch at the Coir Lake Resort (firstname.lastname@example.org, Tel.: 91 479 48311, 1500 Rs), a group of huts & restaurant in the middle of the Backwaters. It's a lovely place to loaf around, maybe too quiet for me. We have a thali on plantain leaf. No fork & knife, we use our hands. After that, we stop again for a tea, and at the Mata Amritanandamayi Mission ashram to pick up 2 italian guys.
The crows wake me up at 9:30. Here you can find crows as you find doves in most european cities. I move to the "Apollo Guest House" (Garden Road, Colaba, 1000 Rs A/C, Toilet). From outside it doesn't seem as a proper hotel, but the room is nice, clean and the staff is kind and helpful. With a proper place to stay, I start exploring Bombay in a better mood. It rains all the time (monsoons period) at 10 minutes intervals.
The traffic is a real chaos, horns everywhere. To cross the street you have to look right (they drive the "wrong" side). You can see a lot of huge old british burocratic buildings, a bit too old I'd say. Neon signs, scaffoldings, street vendors, double-decker buses, tropical humidity... CHAOS is a good word to describe Bombay.
I go visit the Gate of India, a Triumph Arc built by the british to welcome their queen and the last point from where they abandoned India. I have a tea at the famous Taj-Mahal Hotel, just 50 metres away. Take a walk to the CST train station to ask for trains to Aurangabad. The train is 650 Rs and it takes 5 hours, but it arrives too early in the morning (3:00 am), so I decide to take a night bus (400 Rs), that takes longer but gets there at 8:00 am.
Lots of italians here, and frenchs too. We arrive at 18:30, as expected. The pier is just 30 metres away from the bus station. I take the bus to Varkala (23 Rs), along with an american guy and a danish girl. The bus stops at every little group of houses, so it takes us more than 2 hours to reach Varkala. I had a reservation at the Government's Guest House (by the Taj Hotel, 160 Rs) and my two mates join me there. It is a Government's place for the clerks that come here for a visit, and when there are no official visitors, they use it for tourists too. It's cheap, the garden is great and the rooms very big and clean.
We go for a walk at the beach early in the morning. There are pilgrims who come here to pray, have baths and other religious tasks, and fishermen at the beach. Afterwards we go to the Cliffs (up the hill, some 5 minutes away) for a breakfast at one of the nice terraces up there.
Varkala is a small beach, the most of it are red cliffs with palm trees at the top. It's open to the Arabian Sea, so in monsoon there is heavy waves and is dangerous to swim. We have lunch at the Hill View Restaurant (North Cliff, Varkala, 125 Rs), a restaurant with a nice view of the beach. I have a fish and a lemon crepe. Then I take a train to Trivandrum (23 Rs). All the trains heading south from Varkala pass by Trivandrum, so I take the first one. 40 minutes later we arrive at the capital of Kerala. Another big noisy indian town, the main attraction is the Shri Padmanbhaswamy Temple and Kovalam Beach. I take a room at the Greenland Lodging, some 100 metres from the Railway Station.
The way of entrance to the Temple is full of little shops with loud speakers and lots of people around. Too noisy for me, I decide to come back early in the morning tomorrow. A rickshaw takes me to Covalam (14 kms, 150 Rs). This is the beach where the people of Trivandrum go for swimming. It used to be a wild unknown beach, but that's over, as several resorts have been built here and many charter flights come from Europe at High Season. The lighthouse is nice, but the beaches are small and crowded.
As I return to Trivandrum I have a "chai" (tea) at a street stall. The typical way of having tea here is with milk, sugar and very very hot. They pour the tea in one glass, put milk in another one, then pour tea to the milk glass and viceversa, the add sugar and pour it both ways again to mix it completely. Then they serve it, still boiling. From 3 to 5 Rs.
I have breakfast at a Vegetarian Restaurant, by the Hotel. Naan, Dhal and a very spicy Biryani, 120 Rs.
I wake up at 7 to go again to the Temple. Now is better, empty quiet and the rising sun gives it a nice light effect. After breakfast I go to the Railway Station. I ask for the "Nethrawati Express" and look for my name at the "reservations sheet" at the entrance of my sleeping car. The cars are named by a letter and a number (AS1 means Airconditioned Sleeper Car1), so is easy to find your seat. The list shows a "Gonzalez" in bed 28. This way you can know in advance the name, nationality and age of your travel companions. After leaving my luggage at the train I phone Alitalia to confirm my flight back to Spain (Saturday night). At 10 leaves the train that will take me to Mumbai after 33 looong hours.
The train goes almost empty till Cochin (14:30), so I can sleep a while, read... When the inspector comes I ask him if the train is late or we will arrive at Mumbai in time, at 19:00 on Saturday (tomorrow), as I have to arrive on time for my flight. He tells me that a bridge has fallen due to monsoon rains and we will arrive at 7:00 on SUNDAY!! My plane leaves at midnight on saturday, so I'll definetly be late for it... I ask another inspector, just in case, and get the same answer. I have to go out of this train if I wanna arrive tomorrow on time to Mumbai. I check the itineray with the inspector and find out that the main city on the route is Bangalore. The train arrives in Bangalore at 3 o'clock in the morning, so I ask the inspector to wake me up 30 minutes before we arrive. I don't wanna miss that stop, is my only chance. I'm so worry that I can't hardly sleep.
We finally arrive at 3:30 to Bangalore and I go down the train. It's cold out there and the Station is empty, but I find a rickshaw that takes me to the airport (150 Rs). The airport is not closed, so I wait in the waiting room till 5 o'clock, when the first counters open. There is a flight to Mumbai at 7 with Jet Airlines. I decide to take it, just in case. I'll arrive too early, but I don't want more risks! The ticket costs 6.000 Rs, so I pay with my wonderful VISA (God save the Visa!) We arrive in Mumbai at 8:35, at National Terminal. I take a free bus to the International Terminal (25 minutes) and decide to wait there ALL DAY LONG. I have nothing to do in Mumbai, the centre is far away, and I'm tired... The Terminal B is rather basic: a few seats, a bar, and a souvenir shop. It's empty at that time, as most of the flight are in the evening.
To enter a terminal you must have the ticket for the airline which leaves from that terminal, so it takes me some time to convince the policeman at the entrance of the Terminal A to let me in for some Internet Surfing at the only Ciber Cafe in all the airport. I have some lunch there too. This A Terminal (the one of Indian Airlines) is much better than the B terminal.
At 18:00 I'm desperate. Time runs soooo slow... and I've still got 6 hours to wait here! I read again this diary and remember people, places... 4.000 kms around south India, quite a long journey. I'm tired, wanna go home. But as Bill Bryson says: "There are 3 thing you cannot do: cheat the Telephone Company, make the waiter look at you when you want him to, and go back Home."
I have dinner at 20:00 and keep looking at the screens for the beginning of check-in. It finally starts at 21:30, and it goes really slow, but I don't care, got plenty of time. At 23:00 I go through Customs. The policeman looks at me in a strange way, as he sees the "Free Tibet" T-Shirt that I bought in the tibetan camp in Sera-Je, but he lets me through. The flight leaves at 0:55.
I fall asleep instantly, and sleep for 7 hours, even miss the breakfast at the plane. We arrive in Milan at 9:00 (5:30 Italy time). My next flight leaves at 10:00. I have a capuccino and a croissant at the bar. It's good to have "real" coffee after so much tea.
I arrive in Madrid at 14:00.
I continue my walk till Crawford Market, in the muslim part of Bombay. Have lunch at Cafe Firdos (154 Sarang Street, 40 Rs for naan, mutton biryani and min.water). Take a walk by the baazar and in the afternoon go to an indian movie (Yaadin, 60 Rs). It's all in hindu, but it has a lot of music, dance, love and romance, so I have a good time there. I take a taxi (30 Rs) back to the Hotel, as it's raining cats and dogs. Have a rest, and at 18:30 go out to Leopold's Cafe (Colaba Causeway) to have a sweet lassi. The Leopold is a classic meeting place for travellers in Mumbai.
I have lunch in Delhi Durbar, just at the other side of the road (150 Rs for naan, fish tandoori and biryani). I take a tea at the Mondegar Cafe (Colaba Causeway, by the Regal Cinema).
After dinner I buy a branch of little bananas. The english that they speak here is a bit strange, I can't hardly understand, so I smile and say YES to everything...
It's still raining, the weather is grey, thick clouds. A big shower falls every 2 minutes, so I live with the umbrella in my pocket.
At 9:00 I take a ferry to Elephanta Island from the Gate of India Pier (85 Rs, 1 hour). The sea is gray with big waves. The island is famous for its caves, carved in rock. After you get to the island you have to climb 150 stair steps and you enter the caves (10$). The caves are about 500 m2 each, all caeved in the rock, with columns abd statutes inside. Everything is very green around (monsoon)
and there are only a few visitors (monsoon). Coming back the waves get bigger and many people get sick. I don't, I keep looking at the horizon, that way you don't get sea sick.
Have lunch at the Chetana Restaurant (34 Dubash Marg, at the back of Prince of Wales Museum). I have Thali (150 Rs), a vegetarian dish made aout of several portions of vegetarian dishes, rice, chapati and dessert. All that served in a metallic tray (in other places on a plantain leaf) that the waiter keeps filling up as soon as you finish, till you say "stop".
As it has stopped raining I take a taxi to see Chowpatty Beach, but as I get there (10 min) it starts raining again... Monsoons!
I take a walk by the bazaars till the rain gets heavier. I take another taxi back to Colaba then. I wouldn't wear sandals here as the poodles you find everywhere don't seem very clean...
Another interesting gastronomis aspect of Bombay are the "dabawallahs", some kind of food delivers. The lunch for most Mumbai workers is made everyday in huge kitchens outside Mumbai and delivered in metallic cans by these dabawallahs. Most of them can't read or write, so the final destination of every can is signed out with a curious system of colours.
In most of the toilts (90%) you won't find toilet paper at all. Indians use a little plastic jar that they fill with water to clean after using the toilet. I haven´t tried myself, but they say it works... so don't forget to bring your own toilet paper!
I left the rucksack at a cloakroom in the Apollo Guesthouse. To go back there I take one of those double-decker buses, as the London ones, but a bit older. They don't show the destination in english, so I just take one by chance and keep looking by the window till I get to a rather known place.
At 19:30 I take the Aurangabad bus. It's empty at the beginning, but it keeps stoping and getting more and more crowded, till it's completely full. They show a video, but in hindi...
At last I see the sun after 2 days of rain. At 8:30 I arrive to Aurangabad. It's a rather rural village, wide streets, small houses. I take a Moto-Rickshaw (or should I say HE takes me) and the drivers tells me that he will be my guide for the 2 days that I will stay in Aurangabad. I'm too tired to argue, so he takes me to a Hotel of one of his cousins (Indradeep Hotel, by the RTO Office, 300 Rs). Aurangabad is a muslim city, similar to any Egypt or Tunisia town.
My driver Yunuishkhan takes me in his rickshaw to the Ellora Caves, 30 kms away. I ask him for the price of the ride, he smiles and says "later, later, my friend..." He speaks constantly, but I can't hardly understand a single word of what is supossed to be english, so I smile and say YES all the time again.
Ellora caves are 34 buddhist, hinduist and jainis caves, carved on the rock with measures of about 10x20 metres each. Inside there are plenty of statues... Some paintings, but bad conserved. The main Temple (#19) is a huge building of 3 stories made out of a SINGLE PIECE OF ROCK, no joints, the biggest monolite in the world. The entrance to this temple is 5$, but you can see the building from the hill above for free. I have lunch on the way back, by the road, and a little city-tour, courtesy of my nice guide (including the stop at a tourist shop from which he gets comission).
I go back to the hotel, have some rest and end some of the drawings on my diary.
It doesn't rain today, though is a bit cloudy. Yunuishkhan picks me up at the hotel at 7 and we leave to Ajanta Caves. They are 100 km away, and we are gonna go in his rickshaw, at a maximum speed of 50 km/hour. I just hope we arrive... anytime! His son (6 years old) is coming with us, it's his first visit to Ajanta.
The Ajanta Caves are more, smaller and better located than the Ellora ones. They are carved in a cliff of basalt rock, along a river. The landscape in monsoons is quite green and fresh. We stop first at the top of a hill just in front of the caves to see the whole group. Afterwards we go down the valley to enter the caves. The entrance fee is 10$. As it is low season, there are few visitors, just 5 or 6. In high season you can find long queues to see each cave. Inside the caves there are wonderful buddhist paintings and sculptures.