Tuesday, April 12, 2011

India: the end



View India 2010-2011 in a larger map


Beds slept in: 62
Books read: 43
Films watched: 37
Wedding rings lost: 1
Haircuts: 2
Curries eaten: infinite


That's that, then. I'll be back in the UK by the time this post is published, freaking out from reverse culture shock - "Where are all the people? This country is so sparsely populated! Where did all the smells go? Why is no one asking me my name, profession and salary in order to gauge my social standing?" etc. Normal Electric Goose service - i.e. infrequent posting and embedded YouTube videos you've probably seen already - will be resumed in a few days. Namaste!

India flag

Monday, April 11, 2011

India part 32: Vagator

Cross

Aside from our last night in Mumbai, Vagator was where our trip ended, with a week of luxury that came by accident about after I cleverly mucked up the honeymoon bookings back in October. I was in my 20s, then, young and foolish.

Frankly, it's too late in the day to start boring you with well-worn travelogue dialogue about how India is a land of contradictions and all that, written from the poolside, so (assuming nothing very exciting happens during the 24 hours we'll be spending in Mumbai) we'll finish with a typically Indian scene, in the form of a photograph of one of the unusual lifeguards to be found along this beautiful stretch of coast.

Surf Rescue cow

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Signs I have seen #424-430

Modest

Signs advertising businesses in India can go one of two ways. There's the example above - self-effacing - and the below - nicely bashful.

"Decent"

But sometimes the modesty goes a bit too far.

Okay

Things can go completely the other way, however, with tons more swagger and own-trumpet blowing. I mean, this is all right, I guess...

Ideal

And this is more cheeky than boastful...

Mega

But this is getting a bit up itself...

Show-off

And this is just ridiculous...

Sounds nice

India part 31: Arambol

We experienced the festival of Holi in Arambol, Goa, because Hindu celebrations are always the best when you're in a majority Christian area *ahem*. You know those amazing glossy pictures you see, grinning purple urchins and so on? Not representative: a lot of the folks just look like they've had an accident with a fluorescent marker, and some Westerners, hipsters undoubtedly, seemed to end up with nothing but bright red beards or green cheek streaks that reminded me of the kids at last year's Latitude festival. So, in feeble protest (also at the fact that Sarah's colour attack actually sounded quite unpleasant), all I got was a picture of a cow. On Holi. Hmmm, cow, Holi... Can anyone think of a decent two-word caption I can use for this one?

Holi cow

Also this:

Beach football at sunset

And this.

Sarah's bag

Can you tell we're winding down a little, now?

Saturday, April 09, 2011

India part 30b: Hampi and Viru - ten pics

Butterfly in paddy field

Frog surveys bathroom

Surely a trap

Green birds

Thingy

Colourful prison

Pigeon watches sunset

Frog 3

Awesome saddhu

Rooster and hen

India part 30a: Hampi and Viru

Stone bridge

In Hampi, with a tear in my eye, I said goodbye to my battered and torn Ganesh manbag, which, in a strange twist of fate, I had actually originally bought eight years ago in Hampi. They don't make 'em like this any more - they genuinely don't, I checked. Goodnight sweet prince.

My Ganesh bag bites the dust

After a couple of nights in Hampi, we decided to move across the river to Virupapuragadda, something we hadn't been able to do on our November visit, because the river had been too high to cross. Leaving our guest house, a shack huddle called Garden Paradise, some people on the street shouted an offer of a room. We said no; they asked if we were going to "Other Side of River". Yes. A woman tutted and said, with foreboding: "Danger place."

Well, you can get beer and meat in Viru, and frequent wafts of smoke while you're eating indicate that not everyone is taking those "NO DRUGS" signs seriously - but it is also taking a good chunk of business away from the cluttered Hampi bazaar area, so for the people who work on that side, yes, it must seem like Danger Place. And to be fair, some of the restaurants - they all have floor cushions and shin-high tables - do have the atmosphere of opium dens.

Or perhaps she was referring to the nearby reservoir at Sholapur. Hippy types had told us it was a great place to swim, but it took us ages to find it - we nearly ended up walking down this road...

The long road

When we eventually did locate it, however, any thoughts of a dip were abruptly aborted: Sarah in particular seemed put off by the sign about crocodiles, for some reason. "I was told they're friendly crocodiles," an Irish woman who wanted directions informed us the next day.

On another occasion, we took an epic walk to the town of Anegundi, doing 5km before breakfast, which turned out to be couscous with pickle and peanut powder. I didn't think they'd even heard of couscous in India, but there it was. An hour later, we were squelching through mud towards a surreal river-edge temple complex and lying silently on the stone floor like bits of rubble.

Row of sculptures by the river

The oddest thing about Anegundi, though, was how incredibly well-signposted it was, with brightly-painted directions to everything everywhere (though fortunately not Everything Everywhere). It made getting lost a real challenge. On the way home, some guys gave us a lift in the back of their truck. "That's one way to do it," said a man passing on a bicycle.

The rest of our two weeks passed in a slow motion whirlwind of writing, yoga, evening movies, long long walks in the baking heat, rocky sunsets, World Cup cricket games and numerous glasses of milk tea. I also spent quite a lot of time being distracted by a paving stone that stood next to the patio staring at me menacingly while I was trying to write.

Angry slab

Looking the other way, though, there were the paddy fields and I spent long periods staring at them. Mmmmmm, green.

Our back garden (Mowgli guest house)

Speaking of green, on the way out of Hampi to Hospet, where we stayed overnight, we stopped for lunch. Here's what you get if you order a cucumber salad in India.

'Cucumber salad'

And in case you're wowed by the chef's garnishing efforts, I should point out that Sarah added the pepper herself.

Friday, April 08, 2011

India part 29: Chennai

Sleeping feet

Little of interest to report from our one night back in Chennai, but a long journey there - 20 hours from Bhubaneswar (which we referred to throughout as "boobs"), then a a walk round the block to St Andrews' Church, a sleep in a crappy hotel, and an early morning train to Guntakal Junction, followed by a rickshaw across town to the bus stand, a local bus to Bellary (on which I chatted animatedly to two very friendly gents, one of whom was the bus conductor, pictured below) another bus to Hospet, and another bus to Hampi. That was interesting for you.

Srinivas, bus conductor

Tuesday, April 05, 2011

India part 28b: Konark

To the famous Sun Temple at Konark, which is inevitably spelt with an extra 'a' ("Konarak") if you say it out loud to a local. It puts Mamallapuram's Shore Temple to shame, frankly. Our bus from Puri broke down on the way, which was quite a relief, because it was incredibly cramped and hot, and I felt a bit weird listening to Nicki Minaj cussing in my headphones while standing next to a demure Indian lady holding a baby. We managed to jump in a taxi - the bus was never going to be fixed in under two hours, whatever was wrong with it - with an American couple who liked rock-climbing and an English woman whose next stop was South America - she said she'd been offered a job as a weathergirl there.

Just a warning, before you scroll down: some of the temple's carvings are enough to make a Premiership footballer blush. Or, as the Rough Guide puts it:

Konark, like Khajuraho, is plastered with loving couples locked in ingenious amatory postures drawn from the Kama Sutra - a feature that may well explain the comment made by one of Akbar's emissaries, Abul Fazl, in the sixteenth century: "Even those who are difficult to please," he enthused, "stand astonished at its sight."

Or am I seeing an innuendo that isn't there? Here's what it all looked like, anyway.

Sun Temple wheel

Woman at Sun Temple

Dragon at Sun Temple

Sun Temple filth

Photographer at work

Sun Temple scaffolding

Smile for the camera

Sun Temple spit-roast sculpture

Flowers and sculpture

Wheel B&W