Wednesday, 17 November 2010


Well hi there!

It's been a while.

What have you been up to?

How are things back home?

Anyway enough about you. What have I been up to? Well lots actually. Yes that's right. Tonnes of stuff.

Since leaving Tamil Nadu and resuming our travels we have really been in the groove. India no longer seems difficult or makes me want to pull all my hair out and jam it in my eyes. Well not every day at least.

People always talk about the bewitching effect this place has on you and I have to say it's true. It sneaks up on you and we are now going to be very sad to leave. Normal food is going to seem very, very dull. We had brought our onward flights forward by two weeks but since then we have changed them back.  India has wound itself round us and won' let go.

So after an overnight train from Trivandrum in the south and a night in Benaullim in Goa we took a 9 hour train to Hampi in Karnataka. We had heard lots of good things about Hampi and it didn't disappoint. I think it has been the highlight of my India experience so far. The boulder strewn landscape is a marvel and you can spend hours looking at the scenery and pondering the duration of time it took to create it. Huge rocks seemingly dropped from the sky into random places. It's such a dramatic place that it seems strange to consider it as being one of the most stable geological sites on earth. For all you armchair geologists out there the rocks are made of granite and unlike volcanic rock were formed underground and forced up to the surface by the movement of the earth billions of years ago. The shapes have been carved painstakingly over the millenia not by Glaciers or cataclysmic events but by the simple and constant action of wind and water. It bends your head to think about that amount of time. But it certainly puts the minutiae of your daily life or indeed the duration of the entire human race in perspective.

We discovered that there was the possibility of doing some rockclimbing here and so we went to the quiet village of Agondi over the river from Hampi. This place was a treat in itself and arriving early in the morning we could see a scene that could have been played out for hundreds of years as people went about their morning routines and cockerels and dogs and cattle went about theirs.

I have never climbed outdoors before having only started climbing this year so was a little nervous. However I was the only person there and two excellent local instructors took me out into the rocks. Turning up that day and the instructor just picking up his bag and saying "lets go?". No forms. No car rides on landslide roads. Hardly any money. No bullshit. Just get amongst it. Amazing. I can't think of many places better to start your outdoor climbing career than Hampi. It's a paradise for it. My climbing wasn't amazing as I was out of practice and a bit out of shape but the whole experience was incredible. Note Gemma on the top right of the first picture.

After that early morning Gemma and I crossed back over the river on a tiny coracle boat and then walked back along the river bank towards Hampi Bazaar. It was probably a 3 or 4 km walk but there was no path and no other people around and we hopped from boulder to boulder making our own adventure amongst the landscape as old as anything you can ever see. I was in awe of the place. I was in my element. I can't remember being as happy as during that walk.

The Mango Tree is a fantastic restaurant in Hampi serving incredible food, with the Aloo Paratha being a highlight. Like a Cornish pasty but made in heaven rather than Cornwall.

After three days in Hampi we took an overnight bus (surprisingly palatial) back to Goa and we spent a night in Panaji or Panjim as it is also known. It's Pan-jim but not as we know it? The capital of Goa is a cool town displaying load of old Portuguese architecture and colonial charm. We only stayed a night though, the beach was calling. We took a couple of local buses to the south of Goa and Pallolim beach. The bus rides were incredible. We started each journey with only a handful of people on the bus and we sat back smugly thinking we were in for a relaxing spacious, scenic journey. This is calm and organised Goa but it's still India boyo so don't go getting any ideas.

The conductor hung on the side door for the duration of the journey calling out enthusiastically to passers by informing them where we were headed. I swear some of the people didn't even want to go to those places but they got on anyway and they kept getting on.  There were so many people on board that he had to physically re-arrange the people standing in the aisle to get more people on.  They didn't know how to minimise their postures for maximum passenger numbers but he did. Goa Tetris champion 2010.

On and on he called for more to board. Faster an faster were his calls until it seemed like he would have a fit and pass out. Unfortunately the fit never occurred and more people crammed on board. I have to say that after a while it just got bloody silly. I had an armpit in my face for an interminable period and an old woman was sick out the window in front of us.  People still cheerfully clambered past her and joined us in the crush. Still with her lunch evacuated the conductor saw that some space had been freed up and another passer by was hoisted aboard.

Not one person was turned away and there were comfortably 20 more than the safe maximum in the aisle. This kind of shit is old hat now for Gemma and I. Seasoned Indian travellers that we are. We eat bus rides like that for breakfast with beggar curd, a car horn chapati and a poosmell pickle on the side. 

Pallolim beach was still in construction as they take the huts down every year for the monsoon and as previously mentioned the monsoons are all over the shop this year so they were about three weeks behind schedule. We stayed three nights then moved to a lovely little room rented out by an Indian family in nearby and more chilled out Patnem beach. We really lucked out on the price and the quality of our lodgings. This is where we currently reside and life is about as idyllic as it gets. I won't bore you with the many pleasures of beach life (just yet) but let me just say that on my first dip into the shallow, calm waters at Patnem I saw a dolphin in the sea about 20 yards from me. I was alone in the sea and nobody on the beach was nearby. It bobbed around a few times before heading back out to sea. A truly magical moment.

1 comment:

  1. so glad you're having such a good time!
    and at patnem too, our fav.