Wednesday, 24 March 2010

The Southern Tip and Kerala

Kodaikanal was nice but boring. There wasn't much to do other than walking. I did a couple of 10 to 15 mile walks which felt pretty good, but the rest of the time it seemed like I was just watching the cricket with the Indian guys in the hotel. Anyway after a few days I was quite eager to get away, so I booked a bus to the Kanyakamuri. This is a town on the very southern tip of India, where the Indian Ocean meets the Bay of Bengal and the Arabian Sea. So it's quite a significant point, and a great place to watch the sunrise.
The bus ride back down the mountain was quite funny. The road was quite steep, and had lots of bends and potholes. So after a while quite a few people were leaning out of the windows being sick. I think 6 of the 15 passengers were sick. The sides of the bus must have been in a state. Anyway after we got down onto the plains it wasn't so bad.
We turned up in Kanyakamuri at 3 in the morning, which left me with about 3 hours to kill before sunrise. I ended up going down near the beach and tried to have a bit of a snooze there, but there were so many people around waiting for the sunrise that it was pretty hard. So about 5am I went down to the beach. It was pretty scummy really, loads of rubbish and some massive rats wading through it all. But on a little island about 100m out to sea there was a massive statue of a guy (I don't know who, but he looked pretty severe in the daylight). And the sun rose just behind him, which was pretty impressive.
Later that morning I hopped on a train (after having a more settled snoozie in the train station) to Kerala, which wasn't that far at all. My stop was Varkala, where I had heard there was a pretty nice beach and possibly some paragliding. Well the beach was pretty nice, and fenced in by some pretty impressive cliffs, but the tourist season was over, so I didn't see any paragliders, which was a shame. But there were a few cool people to hang around with in the hotel, and lineing the clifftop were a load of restaurants. Most of these did fresh fish and other pretty decent food. And they had pretty good views of the moonlit sea, and of the dozens of little fishing boats out on the horizon. It was pretty nice.
So I spent a few days there before heading up to Fort Cochin, one of the bigger towns in Kerala. The buildings were a mix of British, Portuguese, and Dutch architechture. The first church in India was built here. It was great to walk around these little streets, most of which were filled with antique stores. Before Isreal was formed there was a very high (and wealthy) Jewish population here. So when they left for Israel they left a load of antiques behind. There was some pretty impressive stuff around. One shop had 40m longboat in it.
Anyway today I move up to the next state, Karnataka. I'm hoping to see some bull racing, which sounds like pretty good fun. They race in a muddy field, and the riders are awarded extra points for getting the wheels of their chariot to splatter mud over a certain height. So that's that. Take care back home and have fun, Ben.

Sunday, 14 March 2010

Getting Really Hot and then Somewhere Quite Pleasantly Cool

Well my next stop was Hyderabad. I was staying with someone from the paragliding course, Monty, and his family. Compared to Calcutta, which was the only other big city I'd been to, it was very clean and affluent. A big IT centre. And I was able to see much more of the city with much less stress than I would have done if I had had to rely on public transport.
On the day I arrived it turned out to be Montys twin cousins 5th birthday, so I was invited along to their party, which was pretty good fun. And I got stuffed with some really nice food. In Hyderabad I also saw a 4D film, which was quite funny, the biggest film set in the world, which was a bit tacky, and then one day a big group of us went kyacking out of town. It was really good fun, and the lake was welcome relief from the heat which was getting up to about 40C. The day after that was Holi, which was crazy. The whole local community came out and smothered each other in colourful powders and water, it was brilliant.
After Hyderabad I got a night coach down to a town called Hampi. I didn't really sleep on the bus because it was colder than home, and because the driver kept on going over speed bumps at speed. But Hampi was beautiful, the most beautiful place I have been to. It is an ancient abandoned city, with a slightly newer settlement built up around one corner of it. It was strange to imagine what it would have been like when all of these ruins were lived in, the landscape is so ancient that it is hard to picture it being a wealthy and vibrant place. Which it apparently was.
I hired a little pedal bike a few times so that I could get around better, it was quite nice to cruise along these little roads, high-fiving kids and swerving on-coming buses. There was also a big reservoir nearby that you could swim in, which a few of us did. Again, this was such a nice relief from the heat, which was even hotter than Hyderabad. We also met an Indian guy called Moses there who did a lot of diving off some pretty big rocks. One was 15m.
And then from Hampi I was meant to get a sleeper train to Mysore, which is an old sandalwood producing town, lots of massive trees and old palaces, very nice. But I missed the train, so I ended up getting an unreserved ticket to Bangalore overnight (this meant 11 hours on the floor of a packed carriage, sleeping with cockroaches), and then from there another 3 hours to Mysore. But I made it eventually. Although there were some nice sights and markets, Mysore wasn't as nice as I had hoped, it was still a city. So I didn't stay long. And to get a reserved seat or bed on a train there is usually a waiting list of at least 3 days, so I decided to go with the cockroach's again. And this time I was lucky enough to get a seat, so I was able to sleep a little better. It's just so cheap and easy! I did a 360 mile, 13 hour journey, for about 1.75 pounds. And you don't have to book.
So my next destination was a hill station called Kodaicanal, which is where I am now. It's about 2000m above sea level, which makes it much cooler than the plains. I had to use a blanket last night, which was exciting. During the day it is still quite warm, but not uncomfortable like it was down below. And the views are incredible. The mountains are beautiful, and in the distance you can see the plains. So I'm planning to do a few little days treks around here, get a little healthy, and then move on to the beaches. Should be good. Anyway take care and have fun. And Happy Mothers Day to all you mothers out there wherever you are.