Sri Lanka ...

Three more sleeps! I wonder how similar it will be to India, if at all.

Can't wait!

Making Prints ...

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Sunday March 22nd, 2009

Things of note:

It's been quite sometime since I've posted a blog. The guest houses/hotels in the north always had email in the lobby. This isn't the case in the south. Out of sight, out of mind!

Power cuts seem frequent here in the south. I was reading in the paper that one of the cities, I can't remember which, had to decide between a six hour power cut each day or a two day power cut holiday every week. I would hardly call two days without power a holiday. The city opted to be without power each day. The power is often out in the middle of the afternoon. The western world would hardly survive if the case were the same.

Armed guards are still stationed everywhere throughout the streets of India. By armed, I mean they wear brown uniforms and have big, long guns. I don't know much about guns but I do know that if you were to put the butt of the gun on the ground, it would stand as tall as my waist, at least.

I took a public bus making my way to Varkala which is about a four or five hour journey. Half way through the trip two armed guards got on the bus. One sat in the seat across from me and put his gun across his lap so the end of the barrel was aiming towards my leg. Second time I've had a gun pointed at me here in India. I can't say as though I feel comfortable around them. Even if they are in the hands of a possibly trained person.

Why wouldn't armed officers have a more specialized way of traveling? Who's to say some crazy on the bus isn't going to try and take the gun? Weird.

As per an earlier blog, men like to pee wherever and whenever. You can be walking behind a guy and all of a sudden he stops and turns and whips it out. It's crazy. I would hate to admit that I'm used to it by now.

Seven weeks in and I've managed to avoid seeing someone, um, taking a dump ... until two days ago. Passing a small pond close to one of the main roads and all I see is an ass high in the air. He is standing ankle deep in water and plop it goes. Yikes! What kills me is that not even twenty meters away there are five ladies also ankle deep in the pond doing their laundry. Are they oblivious as to what is happening beside them? Or do they not care?

This country amazes me. It really does. I am currently in Madurai which is in Tamil Nadu. I will be bouncing around for the next two weeks before flying to Sri Lanka. I thought it best to leave some words as it may be awhile before I find myself in front of a computer again.

I tried posting a google map showing my whereabouts over the last while but it's a no go. The connection is a bit too slow. More stories will follow along with my photos when I get home.

With that, I'm off. Power is going to be cut in about ten minutes time so I've just been told.

Wednesday March 11th, 2009

It's hard to believe it was only a few short weeks ago that I was blogging about leaving this place. North and South are like night and day. It's a whole other world down here and it's one that I'm enjoying very much!

Since my last blog, I've been in Kerala. My first night was spent in Fort Kochi. It's a quiet area with not much to do. I only planned to stay the night as I was meeting a friend and we had planned to head down to Alleppey the following morning.

It was quite easy to get a public bus for the two hour journey. Upon arrival we tried booking a houseboat but realized it wasn't going to be as easy as we thought. We went to find a room for the night instead.

It took us a few hours in the afternoon but we were able to find a nice houseboat to take us out in the backwaters for two nights. It was awesome! There were three guys on our boat with us. One to do the driving, one to do the cooking and the other was our waiter. Talk about relaxing!

We got back from our tour early morning and decided to spend one more afternoon on a punting boat. It was a nice way to get a closer look at the backwaters. What a treat!

I now find myself back in Kochi, Ernakulam to be exact. I am scheduled to leave on a ferry first thing in the morning. My destination, Lakshadweep. I plan to do some diving and snorkeling along with some r & r.

I am currently reading Life of Pi by Yann Martel.

I have about six weeks left on my trip and they are going to go by quick. I find myself wishing I had more time. I guess that's always the way ...

Mysore, India ...

Mysore turned out to be a great little city! The first day I spent orientating myself. The following morning I met an Australian girl named Vanessa. After our delicious and cheap malasa dosas, we headed out for a bit of an adventure.

I had planned on hopping two city buses about an hour and a half out of town to see a temple. She was keen to go with. The bus trip was quite easy and it seemed that most people were happy to help in showing the way.

The temple was small but so detailed. I am glad to have made the trip and was also glad for the company!

The following morning we were up and out at 7am to get an early start before the heat of the day. We caught another local bus up a hill which has a few temples. Our original plan had been to walk up the steps, but the bus didn't seem to stop there. We were driven to the top.

We did walk down and it was beautiful. Afterwards, we hopped in a rickshaw to the palace. I wasn't going to go inside as cameras weren't allowed and I've now seen so many that I thought it to be unnecessary.

I changed my mind and I was glad I did. It was the most beautiful palace I've seen in India so far ... stunning!

After the temple, it was off to the market. I got some great shots (I think) and I can't wait to see them on my computer.

After a long and busy day, I made my way to the bus station. I was on a bus scheduled to leave at 9:30pm heading to Kerala.

The bus ride was a bit insane. I'm very thankful to have made it in one piece. Had it been daylight I'm sure it would have been a beautiful drive. We zig-zagged up mountains and then back down and then back up again. I didn't get much sleep as the bus was often quite tilted ... to the left and then to the right.

Kerala is hot. It's almost 8pm and I'm covered in a thin layer of sweat. My skin is a nice chocolate brown though! I am about ready for cold shower number three.

I've met up with a friend and we will be leaving in the am to make our way to Alleppey. It is from there that we will rent a boat and spend a few nights in the backwaters. Should be relaxing!

I then need to return to Cochin as I've booked a tour over to the islands of Lakshadweep. That means it will be a week or so before I'm back online, I'd say.

Not many stories to tell. The south is so much different than the north. The food is spicier, yeah! The women actually work here and they talk to me, yeah! And the men don't constantly have their hands on their penis', yeah!

I've made plans for the remainder of my trip. It's going to go by quick and I feel as though three months isn't enough. I have so much more I'd like to see which means I may be destined to bring myself back to this crazy place!

Go figure!

Case of the missing shoes ...

Right in front of the main bazaar in Hampi stands a big temple. As a bunch of us had rented bicycles the day prior, I was a bit templed out. Going into the main courtyard was free, beyond that one has to pay 2Rs, 50Rs with a camera.

The main entrance had twenty or thirty pairs of shoes in front as you aren't allowed to wear shoes inside. I was quite good about leaving my shoes with someone to watch over them or putting them in my bag in the north. Hampi isn't a big place so I just kicked my shoes off and in I went. Two minutes later, out I come and my shoes are gone.

I felt sick. I suppose one shouldn't be so attached to a pair of shoes, but they weren't cheap and they are very practical for hiking as well as the beach. As Ash and I looked around, some kids came up to us asking what the problem was. I told them someone had taken my shoes. I wanted to cry.

Upon arrival in Hampi, each person is to check in at the small police station at the end of the bazaar. They require you to write down your passport number, where you are coming from, where you are going, dates and the name of your hotel as well as the brand of your camera. I thought this to be rather interesting.

I marched down the hot pavement in my bare feet trying to remain calm. I was very thankful to have Ash with me as I may have lost it otherwise.

Once inside the most basic police station I've ever seen, I was asked to explain my situation to a man sitting at the only desk. His first question inquired into the cost. I told him they were about $80US. Three officers were having a real laugh over this. They repeated eighty American in English three times purely for my benefit. I'm not sure if they were laughing at the fact that I'd actually spent $80US on a pair of shoes or if it was that I brought those shoes to India. Either way, I wasn't seeing the humor so much.

Their solution was that I should have left my shoes inside the main entrance where there is someone to watch over the shoes. He said they'd look for them and tried sending me on my way. I wasn't going anywhere.

I told them that you aren't supposed to wear shoes in temples and there were tons of shoes where I'd left mine. If the "tourists" aren't supposed to leave shoes at that point, then a sign should be posted to let us know. I told him this isn't good for tourism and that Hampi is a small place. I also told him that I'm sure the same kids and ladies hang around that entrance way day in and day out and I find it hard to believe someone didn't see something. At this point they (finally) asked me the brand name of shoes and to describe them. The important man with the hat behind the only desk gets up and leaves.

Another man in a hat takes his place and asks me what happened. I repeated my story and I'm sure at this point they could see I wasn't going to let this go easily. A moment later, four or five cops walk in with a little boy. My shoes are on his feet. I felt so relieved ... over shoes ... yikes!

Things got quite confusing after this. I had asked if the little boy was the one that took my shoes and the one officer said yes. The other officers then asked me to give the little boy money for returning my shoes. I was confused as to why I would pay him money for being a thief. Sure enough, I start shaking a finger at him telling him he shouldn't steal people's things. The officers then tell me that I am mistaken. A lady took my shoes and he took them from her and brought them here.

It certainly doesn't explain why they were on his feet. The officers kept saying that he was a good boy, a good boy. I was just so happy to have my shoes back that I gave the kid 100Rs and thanked him for bringing them back.

Leaving the small place, I was pretty sure it was the kid who took them and wondered if this is perhaps a common scam they have going on in Hampi. I would be surprised if the kid saw any of that 100Rs. He did run up to me halfway down the bazaar and kept saying 'no cheat, no cheat'. I tried asking him what happened but he also stated 'no English'.

It was nice to see that a system is in place and that if you are persistent enough, it works. I have decided that it might be best to buy a cheap pair of flip flops and save the Keens for hiking.

Problem solved. I'm in Mysore now and it's not a bad little place. I'll be on another (and should be my last) overnight bus tomorrow. I will find myself in Kerala first thing Friday morning.

Time for an afternoon siesta ... it's hotter than hot!

Moving forward ...

I hadn't planned on going to Hampi but I'm so glad I did! What an awesome place! It was hard to drag myself away from it in the end. I find myself in Mysore now after a sixteen hour overnight trek. I'm a bit tired today!

The train ride from Goa to Hampi was beautiful and the train was packed with other travelers which was a nice change. I met two guys, Tom and Ash, from England and we ended up rooming together for 100Rs each.

The landscape in Hampi is fascinating. I'm not even sure I can properly begin to describe it. It's loaded with old temples, ruins and big boulders which oddly balance on smaller ones. It's almost desert like, yet beyond the piles of boulders are greener than green fields containing palms, banana trees and rice fields. Truly a sight to see!

I ran into two of the girls I had met on the camel safari in Jaisalmer and ended up spending some time with them after my new English friends left back to Goa. There was so much to do in Hampi that we rented push bikes one day and scooters on another.

I am back in the city now and I'm hearing honking galore from the street below. My time is almost up. I have a great story about stolen shoes which I hope to get in type tomorrow.

I've decided it's best to stop trying to understand the ways of India and to just take them in as best I can ... with a smile!