Day 30 to Day 44
16.01.2017 - 30.01.2017 30 °C
Day 30 - Monday - 16/01/17 - Kochi
Started the day with a banana and honey pancake at the Tibetan cafe.
Then just a lazy day sitting on our hotel room patio and anywhere we could get out of of the sun.
We have a school playing field directly behind us and this is entertainingly used throughout the day, six days a week. There are little girls flapping a multi coloured sheet in the morning and big guys running around doing soccer practice in the afternoon.
All in 30+ degrees heat.
Did I talk about our room at the Adam's Old Inn? We are quite happy with it. It has a large balcony/patio facing east and with shade from the southern sun. It can get a bit hot early in the morning but it's a great place to be after that. The front door is in the adjacent wall facing south. It leads from an open access balcony. The door and adjacent window combined with the balcony door provide excellent cross flow ventilation, in the event that there is a breeze to catch. As with most older buildings here, the windows are provide with generous horizontal hoods which limit the heat of the sun and presumably allow the windows to be left open during the monsoon rains.
All good design. We have an air conditioner and a ceiling fan and we only use the latter. But it is winter.
We have a bathroom attached. Unfortunately it has a few issues. First and foremost, somebody, perhaps an overweight traveller from somewhere, has put their foot through the moulded fibreglass floor. As a result the first place for the shower water to go is into the void under the shower base. Only the bathroom gods know where it goes after that. Probably into the room below! Anyway it goes somewhere and doesn't flood our room so it's not a problem for us.
Then there is the toilet seat which has broken off during our stay. Management accepted my offer to install the new one. I hope I don't get into strife with the Kerala Plumbers Union.
Probably the worse feature is the water pressure to the sink and toilet cistern. It takes 10 minutes to brush your teeth and half an hour before you can give the loo a second flush!.
Notwithstanding, it's a nice room in a nice little hotel with friendly, helpful staff, in a great position in a great town. And the manager assures us that the shower floor will be fixed before the room is let again.
Day 31 - Tuesday - 17/01/17 Kochi - Kerala Backwaters
An early start this morning saw us being bussed southwards for a country boat cruise on the Backwaters. A most enjoyable and relaxing day although one did feel a little guilty sitting in a cane chair under a plaited reed roof watching one elderly boatmen propel our boat full of maybe 20 well fed tourists for 7 hours with nothing but a 6 metre bamboo pole.
I felt like an ancient Egyptian pharaoh being rowed along (not across*) the Nile by a good an faithful slave. Sorry about moving the metaphor to Egypt, but I couldn't think of an appropriate Indian equivalent.
- If I remember my Egyptian customs correctly, pharaohs being rowed across the Nile were often heading for the mummification plant and the big stone sarcophagus. I'm not quite ready for that trip just yet!
In the evening we attended a performance of traditional Keralan dance (Kthakali) which included a lengthy session watching the artists making up. The whole thing was most enjoyable.
We had dinner at the Lucky Star Restaurant.
Day 32 - Wednesday - 18/01/17 - Kochi
My turn to be crook.
We were intending to head off to Munnar today. We had a nice omelette and toast at the Kashi Art Cafe, and headed back to the hotel to organise our transport onwards, when, I started to feel a bit of stomach discomfort. No more details, except things didn't start settle down until Carol made me take an Indian panodol and I immediately brought up a sliver of bamboo about the length of a toothpick. I think it was part of what the boat guide called vegetarian chook.. well this one became vegetarian chuck! Sorry, I wasn't going to go into more detail, was I?
So the day was lost for me, but Carol met a nice Scottish couple, Mary and Colin, both doctors, who were wearing Lycra. They were, of course, riding premium quality mountain bikes and had just arrived from Goa. It was late afternoon so they had retired to the covered rooftop terrace to partake of a couple of Kingfishers (nice Indian beer).
Colin was popping out for a couple more stubbies (actually Darwin stubby size) and brought one back for Carol. My darling brought her partly consumed beverage down to our room and asked if I would like a swig. I just groaned.
Day 33 - Thursday - 19//01/17 - Kochi - Munnar
We have now organised our transport for the rest of the trip. This morning, after a light breakfast of fruit, we trudged up to the bus stand and took a bus for Aluva (same pronunciation as our Alawah). This took about 1.5 hours. There was a wait of about 1.25 hours before our next bus left for Munnar.
Munnar is a hill station and is located in the Western Ghats almost due east of Kochi. Almost from the start, we were climbing the whole way. The road is narrow and constantly winds around he steep hillsides. Once we were out of Aluva, he scenery became soft and green and as we started to gain altitude, the temperature began to fall.
The second bus ride took a 4.5 hrs, so it was getting Lae when we arrived at Munnar. We accepted the recommendation of an Auto driver and took a room at Hotel David's Regency. It is on the 4th floor, has a little balcony and overlooks and is within easy walking distance of the town. It is costing R2000 a night including breakfast.
Long pants and coats were in order, given the pleasantly reduced temperature. Not quite as cool as Ooty, though, where we occasionally resorted to beanies and even thought about gloves.
The local Carmelite church was celebrating the feast of St Antony of Padua so we paid a cameo visit to the mass that was in progress. We thought this was very appropriate, bearing in mind in mind the family adoption of the name Antony in one form or another. Go Dom! Go Mum! Go me! And, sadly, my late cousin.
Dinner, was vegetarian of course. I have forgotten the name but I recall it started with an 's'. (It was the Saravana Inn Restaurant).
We had the usual spicy veg and spicy veg and sweet corn soups followed by veg fried rice, mushroom Marsala and rotti and 7Up. Excellent.
A walk around town and through the bazaar was enough to tire us out so we headed back to the hotel for a well earned rest.
Day 34 - Friday - 20/01/17 - Munnar
Today we took a tour in an auto rickshaw tour up to Top Station.
This included side trips to view tea plantations and the Rose Gardens.
The elephant ride was fun but not long enough. Carol enjoyed feeding our lady elephant pineapples which she (the elephant) grabbed with her trunk and scoffed down whole.
Top Station is the location of the border between Kerala and Tamil Nadu.
When we got back to Munnar, we had a late lunch, bought a couple of surreptitious bottles of Kingfisher and fell asleep after just one!
Day 35 - Saturday - 21/01//17 - Munnar - Mysore
Our first rain during the whole of this trip to India.
Apparently it rained through the night, and was still falling lightly when we got outside at 9:00. Unfortunately it didn't dampen the amplified soprano chanters connected to the aforesaid Catholic Church. They start at 5:30 and grind on until 7:00. Further sleep is impossible even with half of a pair of earplugs in one ear and the other ear buried in the mini pillow. For good measure the nearby muezzin (?) chimes in at about 6:00 with an amplified call to prayer from the minaret of the nearby mosque. He, however, keeps his message short and sweet and cannot be said to be at all annoying.
Talk about duelling religions - ably assisted by some incredibly powerful audio equipment. For those of you whom we have bored with stories about our former neighbour at Parbury Place, all we can say is "Thank goodness Mr Reynolds didn't get hold of one of these Indian amp and speaker systems." We would have been blasted from one end of Caves Beach to the other.
Our driver from yesterday, Prabhu, picked us up at 9:00 and took out to Harrison's Tea Factory. This was very interesting, unfortunately no photos were allowed within the factory. Obviously there would be unsafe work practices abounding, hence the secrecy. It's not surprising. All of the equipment and machinery, with the exception of one colour sorting machine, has been in use for over 90 years and was made in good old England. Then again almost all heavy machinery of this kind was made in England 90 years ago, wasn't it?
It speaks heaps for the quality of pre-war British stuff. Unfortunately I, and my sickly Range Rover are post-war and not built quite as well!
After lunch we headed for the bus station and our 13.5 hour bus ride to Mysore.
To say that the trip was uneventful would be an understatement. The trip down from the hills contains a large number of blind hairpin bends, a number of which are presaged with with a sign depicting a skull and crossbones! The road is narrow and quite heavily used and this is Saturday evening. Within the space of no more than a couple of kilometres, we were held up by two accidents, one of which, between a car and a scooter, could have been fatal judging by the breakage of the car windscreen. Few motor cycle or scooter drivers wear any kind of safety equipment, least of all a helmet. Those that do where a helmet never extend that privilege to their pillion rider(s) many of whom ride side saddle because it is a bit hard to straddle the back seat of a Bike in a sari.
The rest of the trip really was uneventful, if you don't count the huge speed humps inserted at 100 metre intervals within the main road through Bandipur National Park. Unfortunately no wild life showed up. I guess that noise of the bus thumping along together with that of the human cargo bumping around inside was enough to make any animal wary.
Day 36 - Sunday - 22/01/17 - Mysore
Arriving at about 4:00 am at Mysore bus station, we were virtually poured into the ADHI Manor Hotel by a friendly Auto driver. We were charged R20 for the ride to the hotel. We walked the same distance a couple of days later with full baggage in tow and it took no more that 2 minutes!
We went straight to bed and when we awoke, we discovered that the hotel wasn't quite as clean as we would have desired, but at R3040 for 2 nights who is going to argue? After all, it was close to the bus station and within easy walking distance of the Maharajah's Palace. What else do you need in Mysore?
When we went out in the morning, what surprise Mysore was. There are elegant Champs Elysees style avenues lined with mature shade trees, grand colonial era buildings and surrounded by parklands. There are a number of grand roundabouts, each with its own politician's statue, one of which I couldn't help but christening as Piccadilly Circus, even though it was much bigger than its name sake and the traffic, surprisingly, better behaved.
The Maharajah's Palace was in the middle of all this and contributed its own supply of parkland and wonderful period buildings.
A walk through the palace, which was designed by a British architect and completed in the 1920s, gave a clear impression of the high esteem in which certain Indian royalty was regarded by the populace. The Maharajah, who was on the throne at the time of independence in 1947, stood down as ruler but was subsequently elected Governor of the State (Karnataka).
Looking at the displayed paintings, we couldn't help but notice that the Royal ladies would have fitted seamlessly into the modern population. There saris were not significantly different to what many Indian women are wearing today.
Lunch was at Nahar Refreshments KR Circle and was delicious.they also do a great masala tea or milk coffee.
We returned to the palace grounds in the early evening and were gob smacked by the illumination of the palace building and its surrounding walls and gates. The lines of these structures are picked out by hundreds of thousands of incandescent light bulbs. A truly memorable sight.
It is not normally a sound and light show, but the Karnataka State Police band set itself up in front of the Palace and struck up Colonel Bogey March and several other patriotic Indian tunes. I was trying to recall the words we used to sing to the Colonel Bogey tune but I couldn't get past Adolf's affliction. Any body else care to join in?
Day 37 - Monday - 23/01/17 - Mysore - Goa
We found a rather expensive looking roof top restaurant at hotel Palace Plaza for breakfast. It was full of westerners. The ambience was delightful. Sitting shaded by beautiful trees and eating al fresco. Like the rest of the city, a bit of Paris in India.
Needing to make the best of the day, we booked the second autorickshaw (R250 instead of 300) and of course paid for our savings!
We particularly wanted to go to the top of Chalmudy Hill. This is the highest point around Mysore and is, of course sacred. The worthy way to do it is to climb the 900 steps, stopping at each step to place a red and orange mark on each riser and making a special offering at the huge Nandi Bull at the 600th step. Then, of course there is a temple at the top of the hill to finalise the devotion.
We, the profane, chose to walk down.
It was not until we had walked halfway down that I happened to turn round and see the chromatic effect of all those devotional red and orange dabs. The face of the stair was a riot of colour as far as the eye could see. Beautiful and very Indian.
Our auto driver met us a few minutes after we arrived at the bottom step and had brought his spivvie boss with him. In order to get back into town, it was trial by shopping. First the Sandalwood Factory (sadly closed for lunch!), then there was the sandalwood soap shop (sadly not closed for lunch but smelling rather nicely) and finally the essential oil shop. The proprietor of the latter gave us a head massage with he sandalwood oil and, (I am writing this a few days later) it seems to have cleared up the head cold that seemed to have been developing. We were assured that this business continued to supply oils to the Body Shop etc etc. In order to get away, we bought some Jacaranda Oil. The auto driver wanted to take us somewhere else but we said "Just take to the Nahar Refreshment Cafe".
To paraphrase Mr Dylan:
"Everybody must get conned........."
After a late lunch we collected our bags from the hotel and headed for the bus stand to join the Paulo king size sleeper bus to Goa. The bed consisted of an upper double bunk at the front of the bus. Unlike our previous sleeper experience 6 years ago, the bed was long enough for my 180cm height and was much more comfortable than those rotten reclining airline type seats.
Being an upper berth, access presented some difficulty for Carol but she made it.
Thank you Mr Paulo. (Mind you, at $ 2200 for the two of us, it wasn't a cheap ride.)
Day 38 - Tuesday - 24/01/17 - Goa
The Paulo bus station is a little out of town so we needed a taxi to get us to the accommodation quarter at Panjim. It cost us R80 and the friendly driver led us to the best accommodation that we have experienced on the sub continent. Named "A Pousada Guest House" and hosted by the lovely Sabrina, the rooms including the bathroom, were spotlessly clean and very comfortable. Sabrina directed us to a nearby cafe for breakfast, provided us with a map of Panjim and pointed out a number of places and things we should see and do.
We chose to take the local bus out to Velha Goa. We were advised to ask for the bus which goes to Old Goa Churches.
A very descriptive name. There was a large number of old churches, so many that it would be hard to imagine them all in use at the same time!
There were relics of earlier times and an archway dedicated to good old Vasco da Gama, the Governor in his time.
Upon our return to Panjim, it was definitely beer o' clock. So we went on a bit of a search to find somewhere that served alcohol. Finally, a nice little hotel with a beer garden and an upstairs verandah restaurant. There we were served a large bottle of Kingfisher in glasses which had been chilled in the Aussie tradition. Ah! Nectar of the gods! Just one beer was just enough.
We had booked a table at a nearby nice looking restaurant and had an ok meal. We have had much better in far less prepossessing premises. It just goes to show, don't it? What do they say about books and their covers?
At this stage we were ready for bed. I tried to get this stuff into the blog before I wa overtaken by drowsiness. To no avail, i probably won't catch up until we are on the train to Bangalore and Chennai on Saturday. Such is the time available!
Day 39 - Wednesday - 25/01/17 - Goa - Hampi
Today we thought we would take a bus to visit the forts on the northern side of the river.
While we were having breakfast at the usual venue, Carol happened to mention to the proprietor that we might be interested in hiring a scooter. Within seconds he had called Neville over and for $600 we had a really nice Scooter with a full tank, no more to pay. It was a really nice machine with real brakes, a speedo that worked and it didn't stall. Each time you let go of the throttle. Luxury.
What a lovely day we had. Firstly we headed west to Miramar Beach. By Indian standards this was a pretty nice beach, with only a thin veneer of rubbish and that confined mostly to the casuarina groves between the beach and the road. Carol dipped a toe in the Arabian Sea and I put my left hand in. (You always use your left hand for anything that may be a bit suss. The right hand is for food).
We needed to cross the river to get to the forts and we had the choice of the highway bridge or the Ferry. We chose the latter. On the few ferries we have seen here, you have to access and leave the craft via the same ramp. This means that 4 wheeled vehicles either reverse on or off which is a bit of fun. Us two wheelers just have to get on, do a bit of juggling and then drive off without dropping into the drink. Being the last one on, I was first off. The really daunting part of it was the phalanx of motorcycles on the wharf revving to get on the ferry before any of us had managed to get off.
But we managed some how.
The ride out to Agouda Fort was very pleasant, with reasonably well behaved low volume traffic and a cool headwind. The Fort was built by the Portuguese in the 1500's as part of a series of defences for the river mouth.
The visit to the Fort was apostrophised by a couple of very nice lime sodas. (Have I mentioned that it was hot and sunny, as it has been for most of our time here in India?)
We then went off in search of Reis Magos Fort which was a little difficult to find in view of the poor signposting. Apparently we sailed right past the entry, enjoying the river views and the waterfront housing. I think we had found the housing owned by the well heeled Goans.
Eventually we ended up at Coco Beach and stopped for a Pepsi sugar hit and a stroll amongst the beach front stalls, then back on the Vespa until we finally found the Reis Magos Fort car park.
You could tell at glance which Bike was ours. It was the only one parked the right way round with the rear wheel to the kerb. Everybody else was parked nose in, requiring the driver to reverse into the traffic stream. They usually overcome this inconvenience by closing their eyes and wheeling the bike straight backwards, regardless of other vehicles and particularly pedestrians.
The Fort had been extensively restored and was said to be in its 1570 configuration. There was a most interesting display regarding the history of the Fort and its various uses for defence purposes, a hospital and a prison.
A special section of the display dealt with the struggle for independence from Portugal. I certainly didn't realise it, but Goa was still part of the Portuguese empire until 1961, at which time it became part of the Indian Union. During the struggle, the Fort was used as a prison for dissenters.
Getting back to Panjim was a bit of a struggle for me. I decided to use the bridge rather than the ferry and, again due to poor signposting, we found ourselves riding out of town rather than back in. It took several u-turns before we finally got back over the river and into familiar territory.
There was a cappuccino and garlic toast at Cafe Coffee Day, a wander through the City Markets and then we finally made it back to our starting point at the breakfast cafe and we were able to hand the bike back to Neville in one piece.
Whilst we were saying our goodbyes to the cafe proprietor and his family, a young catholic priest clad in a long white cassock dropped in for a coffee. A guitar appeared and he sang us some hams an local songs. He asked what faith we were and when we said 'lapsed Catholics' he said he would sing a song to bring us back. It brought a sympathetic tear or two to our eyes. Perhaps we'll attend just one more mass fore his sake.
We hadn't left ourselves any time for dinner before we were due to catch the next sleeper bus to Hampi. The conductor said words, to the effect, don't worry we will stop for dinner on the way. So we settled into our very comfortable lower, king size bed and watched the city lights drift by as we dreamed of a nice feed an hour or so along the road.
The bus departed at 8:00 pm and the dinner stop, limited to 20 minutes, didn't appear until midnight! To be fair, the caterers were well fit to feed whole bus loads at a moments notice. We got our midnight feast and a couple of masala chais in plenty of time without holding up the bus.
Somewhere along the way, we came to a bit of a hold up. A bus going the opposite way had gone too far off the blacktop on the inside of a bend and had dropped its inside wheels into the very deep monsoon drain which ran close to the edge of the road formation. It had come to rest at a 45 degree angle. We can only hope there were no serious injuries or worse.
The uncertainties of travel. Fortunately, our driver was able to keep us pointed in the right direction and at the right angle to the perpendicular.
Day 40 - Thursday - 26/01/17 - Hampi
We had a quick comfort stop at Hospet, just after dawn, and believe or not we felt a few spots of rain. Only the second time since we have been in India. It was over before we got back on the bus
The bus dropped us at Hampi at 7:00am after what turned out to be a fairly restful night! A friendly auto driver took us into Hampi village and helped us score a home stay at R1000 per night. That was cash, no questions and no documentation and no running hot water. Just the sort of thing the demonetisation law is trying to stop (apart from the running hot water).
Hampi is the site of old Hindu settlement which was abandoned in the mid 1500s after the locals were defeated by a combined Moorish and Portuguese invading army. The city was very large and judging by the number and extent of the ruined stone buildings, temples, palaces, stables, baths and bazaars, very grand and wealthy.
We breakfasted at the Chill Out Cafe. Corny name for old codgers like us but it has a great view across the Tungabadra River, although the river was pretty low from where we were looking.
A shower was necessary before we started the day. The lack of hot water wasn't a real burden for me although Carol was provided with a large bucket of hot water to ease away the shock.
We decided to cross the river today and have a look at the stuff on the north side today and then to do the main attractions on foot tomorrow
To cross the river, We had two choices. There was a large tinny that accommodated about 20 people and a couple of motor bikes at R10 per person. Or alternatively, we could have cruised across Jim Hawkins style in a coracle but that was R50 each (motorcycles need not apply).
Naturally the tinny was the go. The way up from the wharf was lined with various vendors of food and nicknacks. There were also a number of scooter and motorcycle hirers, all fairly disreputable looking. The price seemed to increase as you got further from the 'wharf'. We could have got a scooter for R350 if we had been quick but the young kid at the end of the row wanted R400. Of course when we went back to the first guy, the R350 scooter had gone and he only had R400 machines left.
We decided to walk and off we went into the rice paddies without any idea where we were headed! A few hundred metres up the track, the kid came roaring up on the scooter and we ended up getting it for R350 plus R180 for two litres of petrol out of a soft drink bottle. The bike was OK apart from the front brake which was woefully out of adjustment or hydraulic fluid. The wet patch on the front tyre indicated the latter.
Anyway, it handled properly, could be stopped reasonably safely and didn't stall when you let go of the throttle. Sheer luxury.
We visited various ruins along the northern side of the river. It was a long hot but fun day. I somewhat regretted not thinking to wear a long sleeved shirt with a collar. At the end of the day I was more than a little sun burnt.
We had dinner at at Ravi'sRose rooftop restaurant. Very nice, especially the Kingfisher with which we started the evening.
And so to sleep in our mosquito net cocoon and to dream of another cold shower in the morning!
Day 41 - Friday - 27/01/17 - Hampi
After breakfast at the Chill Out Cafe we just started walking.
This time we stayed on the southern side of the river. It was a long hot walk, interspersed with temples, ruins, Pepsi and chai. The highlight was undoubtedly the Stone Chariot and surroundings temple, followed closely by the Lotus Temple and the King's Elephant House.
The latter was, I suppose, the equivalent of a modern day garage for a collection of classic cars, with the Jensen Healys, Porsches, Rileys etc being replaced by elephants of equally high pedigree. -- No names.
Other highlights included the Queens Bathhouse and anywhere you could score a drink to rehydrate. It was another hot day.
Dinner was at a Tibetan rooftop restaurant. Service was so slow that we had to request our bill before we ordered our coffee otherwise we might still be there. There was no delay in bringing the bill.
Day 42 - Saturday - 28/01/17 - Hampi - Hospet - Bangalore
The journey home really begins here. We are on the first leg of the journey back to Caves Beach.
We got up really early to see the young yoga exponents sitting on the boulders by the river at dawn, doing there art. At least that's what some Indian lads told us they were going to do. Maybe the Kingfisher or the whacky baccy got to them because they just didn't show!
Still there were plenty of people doing their ablutions and poojah at the river's edge providing a colourful spectacle for us. In the background a young lad was beating a tin can with a stick in order to frighten the local monkey troupe away from the stall he was trying to set up. They just jumped into a nearby tree and carried on at him.
Coming back into the village, we were more than little surprise to see a cow urinating in the street and a local lady holding a jug up to catch the endless stream. We never found out what on earth she was going to do with a jar full of cow piss, but we made sure we didn't eat breakfast in any of the cafes in close proximity to her abode.
After a pleasant breakfast at the Mango Tree Restaurant, we spent a few hours enjoying the ruins around Hampi Village.
We noticed a bevy of rather nice Royal Enfields. I particularly liked the Himalayan. A real adventure tourer?
We finally took an auto into the station at Hospet. To drop our bags at the cloakroom, as we had a couple of hours to kill, we were required to lock them otherwise the staff wouldn't accept responsibility.
I was directed to a paan stall just outside the station precinct and picked up 3 mini locks for a total of R60. 'Pick' was the operative word as you could open these with a matchstick! Notwithstanding, they satisfied the cloakroom attendants so we were then off in search of a lunch venue. I suspect there was some kind of a deal going on between the cloak room attendants and the Paan man.
You'd think that there would be food all over the place near a railway station - as there normally is. Not this time. We must have walked for twenty minutes, passing the ladies washing clothes in the main water supply channel and eventually ending up at a dubious looking establishment with a cow at the door seeking entrance or a feed or something. Be warned. Don't have lunch at a restaurant with a cow trying to gain entry.
We had some noodles and veg rice. Wow, was it spiced up?. It was superspiced. I like my curries hot but this defeated me and I had to leave some for cow, if she came back! More the fool her if she did.
Carol had steam pouring out of here ears and I developed Extra hot lunch syndrome. This had my gum and cheek swelling on one side of my mouth and I was unable to bite on that side.
Our next fun experience was the Slow Train to Bangalore. It stopped everywhere. Being a single line, there were often long waits for the train coming the opposite way to arrive and clear the line ahead.
It would have been better if the family sharing our compartment had been willing to pull the bunks down so that we could lie down and try to sleep. But the father was adamant that that didn't happen until after dinner at 8:00 or maybe 8:30. So we all had to endure sitting on the vinyl covered planks for 6 hours before this little Hitler gave in. As Carol said, he was angling to get our bunks which are the lowest of three tiers. There is no way that senior citizens should have to climb into higher berths!
We insisted on going to bed at 8:00 pm and they had to give in. Anyone that knows me, knows that 8:00 is not my usual time fore retiring, however hard as the bunks are, they are still more comfortable in a horizontal rather than a vertical stance.
Halfway through the night I awoke thinking that an elephant was sitting on my feet. It was actually a somewhat overweight Indian lady who had decided it was OK to place her none too small posterior so as to occupy the bottom quarter of of my bunk. From that hallowed position she thought it was just fine to carry on a loud conversation with a person on the opposite side of the gangway.
At first I asked her nicely to vacate my bunk. When she ignored my request I used some good old Aussie vernacular on her, again to no avail. So there was nothing for it but to draw back my feet to a position of advantage and give her a swift double kick on her bottom quarter. She finally got the message!
Despite all the apparent delays, the train arrived on time at Bangalore Central at 5:15 am. Notwithstanding, it was 15+ hours of purgatorial suffering.
Day 43 - Sunday - 29/01/17 - Bangalore - Chenna
We didn't find the escalators until we had dragged our bags down and up the stairs a few times. We tried to use them to get down to our Chennai train, but they only go up! Murphy's Law (India 2017). Sometimes you just can't win.
We are in upright seats for the last leg of the train journey to Chennai. The seats are less uncomfortable than the sleeper benches, but they expect 3 people to fit on a seat that is barely wide enough for 2. The train is full to capacity so there is no chance of scoring a bit more room.
I can honestly say that I'm over Indian trains and I'm glad this is our last.
It was 24.5 hours since we left Hospet with little sleep and less comfort. Despite the discomforts previous Indian train rides had been enjoyable and the steam driven trips were almost heavenly, however we would probably fly next time, if there is a next time.
The real bonus for this day was getting back to Footprint B&B in Chennai. Our room is even better than the last time we were here (in December) and the shower with real hot water, a shower rose and good water pressure was unadulterated luxury.
We went round the corner to Pantry d'Or for dinner and probably had our most expensive meal in India - R1600. That's about $32 in Oz money but it was very nice.
After that, sleep in a proper bed!
Day 44 - Monday - 30/01/17 - Chennai
Our last full day in India. After breakfast, the first port of call was to arrange the tailoring of the materials which Carol had purchased when we were first here. This being done, we needed to find an ATM, quick smart as we were rapidly running out of ready Rupees. This was easier said than done. We must have inserted the card into a dozen teller machines before we found one that was actually prepared to dispense money. We could only surmise that the machines don't get refilled on weekends so Monday is not a good day to be seeking cash.
With the coffers somewhat replenished, we went on a little spending spree and so spent our final day.
Finally, I didn't want to knock the beggars again, because I believe many of them are destitute and do need assistance. But that should come from some kind of social security system, not from begging on the street.
Anyway, a woman who appeared to be carrying a small disabled child stared on us while we were taking a breather, sitting on somebody's front steps eating some delicious grapes. The usual signal is putting the right hand to the mouth in an symbolic request for food. Carol offered her a large bunch of grapes but this was waved away, with it being clear that they weren't hungry and just wanted money.
She hung around for maybe 10 minutes and then, lo and behold the child must have become to heavy and she put him down on the road. We were fully expecting to see some poor deformed and emaciated individual but to our surprise, the child turned out to be a healthy, normal well fed specimen, probably 12 or 13 years old and who should have been at school. How she had managed to make him appear to be small and frail, we have no idea, but her game was up and we told them to POQ.
We visited the Spencer Plaza shopping mall for the experience of experiencing the oldest mall in India (according to our host).
It's pretty crappy with low ceilings and narrow arcades and really was a glorified bazaar (not to mention a firetrap). Almost without exception, the shopkeepers sat outside their shops trying to entice customers inside. None of our typical David Jones type situation where you have trouble finding a shop assistant. They are all over you. But as Carol says "Oh but the wonderful merchandise!" And consequently she acquired some samples and so did I.
The last shop we patronised (and boy did we patronise it) they showed us photographic proof that a recent customer for whom they tailored a leather jacket, was none other than our Michael Hussy, who was playing for one of the local cricket teams in Chennai. We suggested that perhaps they might take a photo of us to show to future Aussie visitors, but we couldn't quite convince them of our star status. (Just wait until our home movie of India is accepted by SBS.)
There is not much more to say so I will finish off here.
I do hope we haven't been to boring.
Can I say in conclusion, that while there have been some trials and tribulations, and some things we would have done a little differently, our six weeks in Southern India has been another great life experience and we wouldn't want to have missed any of it ( except perhaps the 24 hour train ride!).
Almost without exception, everybody that we have met here has been very friendly, helpful and happy to share the experience of their amazing country with us.
It was tough at times and more than once we said that we wouldn't be back again. However, if old age doesn't get the better of us I would not be surprised if there is another episode to our wonderful Indian adventures.