Tuesday, 29 November 2011

snapshots: mysore

25th-27th November 2011

As in my previous post covering Ajanta / Palolem, I'm returning to the photo-story style to cover the few days I spent in the city of Mysore, a city made famous by the slaying of a demon buffalo by the Goddess Durga. Arrived in Mysore, via Bangalore, at midday on the 25th. I was once again travelling alone but once again it would not be for long...

Whilst wandering around the Mysore market was greeted by an enthusiastic group of Canadians who introduced themselves by saying, 'HEY, You Irish dude?' After informing them that I was in fact British (dear boy), despite my ginger-ninja characteristics, I found out they were taking part in a two week yoga course and after seeing the market was invited back to a flat they had rented where we cooked the first home made meal I have had in seven weeks.

Munch out, joined by a German by the name of Yann and Ajay the student from Tamil Nadu.

After we had finished eating we went for a walk into town and came across a small festival which had been taking place for the past two days. A large trench had been dug which, as you can see, had been filled with burning logs. We were told that as soon as all the wood had been burnt so that only embers remained, there would be a ceremonial fire walk. At 4.30am. Unfortunately after getting back to my room on the other side of town, I didn't make it to the early morning ritual as my alarm didn't go off...

Just near the temple, next to the firewalk we were invited to have some cakes and got flooded by happy locals eager to have a photo and chat.

Yann surrounded by curious locals. After arriving we were treated to a bowl of biriyani rice and some cakes. The sight of an aryan German, lanky Brit and talkative Canadians drew quite a crowd.

The next day whilst walking into town came across this legend. The photograph speaks for itself.

Meat section of Mysore market.

 When asking for directions in India I've come to realise that you should never point, as most of the time the answer is 'yes' even if they have no idea where you're trying to get to. In trying to find the train station got lost and ended up in this incense stick making factory where the girls let me have a go at rolling my own. Also bought you some lavender oil mum.....although you'll have to wait a while before you can receive it!


Mysore palace.

Vivid coloured powders in Mysore's famous Devaraja market.

Rows and rows of fruit stalls lined the narrow canopy covered lanes which ran through the market. 

Met two Australians, Bronwin (who I've now traveled to Kerala with) and Daniel on his own 6 month India mission. Bronwin sampling the fragrance oils on offer.

Meet Jesus Prabhu.  Told us enthusiastically that he was a police informant who also practices kick boxing religiously. A certified Christian who was also certified mental. Constant hand shaking and hugging plagued Bronwin and myself whilst we waited for our sleeper coach headed for Kerala. We thought we were safe when we boarded the bus but that didn't stop him hopping on where a further round of hand shaking and maniacal giggling ensued, before he was finally shooed off by an angry driver.

Saturday, 26 November 2011

reflections on a ruined city

Hampi / Vijayanagar

20th-24th November 2011

         The past seven days have, by a country mile, been the best days of the trip so far. To try and pinpoint a reason for such lavish praise, the only explanation I can really give here is that the place - to use a highly cliched but appropriate expression - cast a spell on me which resulted in the postponement of my departure on more than one occasion. Undoubtedly one of the key factors in the adoration I've developed for the ruined city a.k.a Vijayanagar a.k.a Hampi was the guesthouse I stayed at, and the people I met there. Gopi Guesthouse run by the friendly Cyril (the Squirrel) and his legion of helpful and chatty staff, most notably Sonnu (along with his big life plans...best of luck man!) helped make my stay here a very special one indeed. Writing from the Hospet bus stand, waiting for my sleeper coach to sweep me down south to Mysore, I thought I would spend a few moments running through a morning I had recently, which was only one of the many amazing experiences I had whilst here in Hampi. Also to link together the effective narrative of this blog, its appropriate to say that I've now left the Swiss, who have headed for Gokarna. Which is a shame because we got on really well but such is the nature of these short term friendships, which are born upon arrival at a new city, and whose demise comes upon departure.

Awoke at 5.30am on the 22nd, as the night before had been talking with an Israeli girl by the name of Iris, who after hearing about my wish to catch the sunrise from the Hanuman temple wanted to join me in my mission. A battle plan was hatched and so at about 5.40am after fumbling around in the darkness of my hut for some clothes, we hopped on our bicycles, and set off into the darkness. Luckily Iris had a head torch which lit the potholed roads made even more hazardous in the dark. After a 15min ride we caught our first glimpse of the monkey temple perched on the vast boulder hilltop, and for the second time in a week, I made my way up the winding path under the gaze of the ever present monkeys. Reaching the top just after 6am, we found the perfect spot and shared a nice moment watching the sun slowly illuminate the vast boulder landscape before us. Making our way back to the staircase I noticed that one of my shoes, which had to be removed upon arrival at the top of the hill, had gone. Immediately I suspected foul play on the part of our simian friends, and glanced up to see a gang of the cheeky chaps watching me all looking as guilty as the next. One of the holy men from the temple approached after observing my distress and greeted me with a wry chuckle. He said the monkeys stole visitors shoes frequently however did not usually travel far with them. After clambering over a few boulders I finally spied the missing shoe perched precariously on the precipice of a long drop. Edging towards it I quickly grabbed one shoelace and yanked it away from danger. After finding Iris, who had also gone off on a hunt for the shoe, the holy man asked if we would care to share a chai and wait till 8am when we could observe the morning Puja. If the shoe had never gone missing we would of missed the next hour we spent watching this amazing ritual, and so for that I thank those monkeys. Entering the small temple, the set up had changed since my last visit. The om symbol had been removed and in its place sat two men chanting incessantly whilst a man in the corner was crouched down humming the same incantation over and over again. After several minutes everyone was asked to stand and there began a new instrumental chant played out on the various bells and drums which hung from the ceiling. The cacophony of ringing bells, joined by the steadily increasing beat of the drum, gradually built into a crescendo of noise which completely washed over my body. As the hymn grew in power, I became fixated on the small silver shrine which sat in the dark recesses at the back of the temple. Accompanied by the ear piercing bells and bone shaking drum I was lulled into a very reflective and peaceful state, despite the noise which engulfed my senses. When it finally ended Iris and I walked bemused back outside and was welcomed by the suns savage stroke which had grown in power since we entered the temple. An incredibly surreal yet fantastic experience which I won't be forgetting in a hurry..

After reaching the bottom of the hill, we hopped back on our bikes and headed towards the guesthouse. Iris who had been eager to go to Yoga at 8am had missed the lesson, although was in no way unhappy as something much better had come along. So as it was now past 9am, we stopped by a really random little breakfast house in the middle of nowhere and ate omlettes and freshly prepared banana lassi and reflected on the morning we had just shared. The next few days were spent lounging around the city, doing the temple rounds (TEMPLED OUT) and chatting to some really great people at Gopi and I'm very sad to be leaving the place. It's dawned on me however, that I only have two weeks or so left in India and Kerala/Tamil Nadu still awaits!



hampi bazaar.

hanuman hill.

sunrise courtesy of hanuman.


Monday, 21 November 2011

hanuman's hilltop retreat


19th November 2011

After Palolem, and after parting ways with the French who are headed for the Varanasi, I decided to leave paradise and check out some more of Goa. The way of life in Palolem is so easy and comfortable that its no wonder people end up staying weeks even months there. In order to keep the momentum of the trip going, I decided to leave and check out one other beach in Goa before heading to Karnataka. The beach I chose - informed once again by the ever knowledgeable rough guide - was Benaulim. The four days spent there was once again a very lazy affair which I enjoyed but was soon eager to get back on the road. The reason being that shortly after arriving in Benaulim it became apparent that the area was a hive for European retirees, the ever present Russians and families on holiday which made me slightly regret leaving the amazingly sociable and younger Palolem. I soon got bored of the place and on the second day made plans to leave for Hampi after finding a train which left on the 18th.  I booked the train online using cleartrip.com and the reason I mention the site, is that the train system in India is confusing at the best of times, and this website shows the availability of trains and times in a very clear and concise way. For this reason it has become a hugely useful tool for those traveling around this vast country and nearly everyone I've met uses it instead of the official Indian rail website. As the train left Margoa at 7.50am it was necessary to hire a rick shaw to take me to the station as buses did not run that early. Although still very cheap (Rs150) it was annoying as the buses cost next to nothing for short journeys. Overhearing my dilemma two girls standing close by said that they were also intending to take the same train and offered to share the rick shaw to the station. And this is how I met the Swiss. There names are Ronja (hope i spelt that right) and Lucia and since then we've been exploring the ruined city of Hampi (former Hindu capital and in its heyday labelled 'City of Victory') together and the following is an excerpt from my journal detailing a particularly eventful day we've had together in this incredible holy city....

                      Upon arriving in Hampi we had to make a decision about which side of the river to stay on and as there is no bridge, the only way to cross the river is by boat. Unfortunately the last boat makes it trip at 6.30pm which means that picking which side of the river is quite a major decision, as you have to stay on the side you choose till morning when the boats resume their service. After asking other travelers we opted for the far side of the river as the general consensus was that 'Viru' was more peaceful and less of a tourist trap than the guesthouses which frequent the central Hampi bazaar. We are staying in the Gopi guesthouse and after being offered a standard room or small wooden hut to sleep in I obviously chose the latter. The hut is housed by a thatched roof and contains a raised central platform upon which a thin mattress has been laid out. The bed itself is  covered by a large mosquito net however I've just noticed that a large hole has formed in the corner giving the mosquitoes easy access to my sleeping body which must be nice for them after looking at the many bites all over my legs.....just have to hope that the malaria tablets i'm taking are doing their job!
                Awoke after a relatively chilly night (the hut is ever so drafty) and joined Lucia and Ronja for breakfast. After hatching a plan to hire scooters we headed out into the countryside to explore the area after hearing about this monkey-god temple (Hanuman's) and a large man made lake which may, or may not, contain crocodiles. We soon found the large  reservoir which was nestled between the gigantic boulders which the area is famous for. After dipping our toes in tentatively for fear of hungry crocs we headed off down a dusty road in search of the much talked about hilltop monkey temple and after several kilometers came across the vast boulder hill. From a distance a small white footpath could be seen zigzagging its way up to the top navigating its way round the vast boulders which the hill is comprised of. We pulled over at its base and began the long and arduous journey to the top. A stiff 15min climb up the path followed, and at one point with no obvious route present, it was necessary to crouch and make several steps under a particularly massive boulder. In addition to the tough climb we had timed our trip under the powerful rays of the midday sun which seemed to make the climb twice as hard. (Gas mark 9 was definitely the order of the day if you're reading this Smiddy Fresh) A whitewashed stone temple, upon which a single red flag fluttered in the wind, greeted us as we trudged up the final few steps. The 360' panoramic views were breathtaking and the gust of winds which were whipped up due to the altitude were hugely welcomed after the sweaty climb. After tentatively approaching the doorway to the small temple a man ushered me and Lucia in where we were lucky enough to witness a Puja being conducted. A Puja, I later read, simply means 'devotion to god' and six men were chanting prayers whilst circling an om symbol which had been drawn out upon the floor using candles, slices of banana and palm leaves. The banana was an offering to the monkey god as the object of the Puja is to achieve Darshan - a glimpse of god.  The shrine with its many candles had turned the small room into an oven  and the cool winds which greeted us as we stepped out at the end were a great relief. We then made our way back down the hill and spent some time watching the gangs of monkeys who treated the hilltop site as a giant climbing frame!

             After taking a really nice ride through the vibrantly green rice fields under a late afternoon sun we finally reached the lake we had found earlier. A local guy introduced himself and told us it was possible to jump off the boulders into the lake. After dismissing the myth that crocodiles resided in its waters we decided to jump in and asked him to show us some safe spots to do so. He showed us this massive 18m drop which required climbing three gigantic boulders stacked on top of each other to reach. (Large but nothing on the Tivat bridge jump Balkan Brigade...) We asked if there were some smaller jumps and finally settled for a 7m plunge into the lake and although nothing on the larger jump still required overcoming some nerves.  Ronja decided to give it a miss, so me and Lucia, after dressing down to our underwear, counted to three and leapt off into the cool refreshing waters. Once we had dried off we hopped back on the scooters and headed back to the guest house. Or tried to. About 3km from town my scooter completely died after running so smoothly the whole day. I was told by some passing locals that luckily we were near a small village which had a mechanic and they helped me to push the bike there. After waiting 20mins for the power to come back to the village, as by this time the sun had set, the mechanic got some light and managed to fix a small problem with the accelerator. Paid the man 60Rs for his work and finally arrived triumphantly back at the guesthouse under cover of darkness.

A happy ending in Hampi,


Me, Ronja and Lucia.
The legend mechanic fixing my bike for me

to palolem via the ancient caves of ajanta

9th-18th November 2011

To try something new and to take a break from the format employed in my previous posts, I thought it might be nice to put together a series of photographs documenting this leg of the trip. Next to each photo I'll also try to include a caption to give it more meaning. As I haven't posted here in awhile I'll give a quick summary of where my journey has taken me since the bodies at Mandu. After leaving town, along with Julien and Lilly, we undertook a two day marathon which saw us hopping on and off a variety of different government buses and sleeper coaches. So many in fact that for those two nights recliner seats and bus stop benches took the place of a proper bed. From Mandu we headed for Indore where we caught an overnight sleeper coach to Jalgaon (a jump off point where we spent the morning seeing the Ajanta caves) after which we departed for Aurangabad then a pit stop in Pune before finally climbing onto our final overnight sleeper arriving a little worse for wear in Palolem, Goa on the morning of the 9th. The following photographs therefore cover the caves and some of the things I saw in Palolem. 


Originally a site where Buddhist monks established their monasteries, the Ajanta caves are a series of caverns which have been chiselled out of the basalt cliffs which line the river Waghora. The site is situated 58km south of Jalgaon in the state of Maharashtra.

The 28 caves contain paintings and sculptures which date back as early as the second century BC.

Parinirvarna (Siddhartha reclining on his deathbed)

Met this absolute joker called Jay from Birmingham who had  sacked off the UK and headed to Goa, surfboard in hand, to live for 5 months in Palolem getting to know the locals and learning to surf. Loved the Villa.

Palolem Bus Stand.

Palolem beach with its fleet of wooden outriggers which could be hired to do day trips out of the cove, visiting the surrounding beaches.

Goan Fishermen preparing the nets for a days fishing. At the end of the day  the fish would then be sold to the restaurant shacks which lined the beach. One night after selecting some fish we sat on the beach and watched our dinner get bbq'd after which we ate as the sun faded over the cove.

Saturday, 12 November 2011

life and death in mandu

Mandu - 4th-7th November 2011.

After hearing about a peaceful town by the name of Mandu from some other travelers, the past 4-5 days have been spent chilling out and exploring the small town and its surrounding areas. Accessed by a 4hour bumpy bus ride from Indore along roads containing massive potholes and cracks we finally arrived late at night on the 4th where we found the nearest available guest house to crash after spending 12 hours on three consecutive buses from Sanchi.  

Woke up on the 5th to the sound of beeping horns and a voice ranting about something over a loudspeaker, that or a prayer being broadcast by one of those crafty minarets. Although India is dominated by Hinduism, I read from the rough guide (my own travelling bible) that Muslims make up 13% of the population and have representation in most towns and cities. Whatever the noise was it was impossible to get back to sleep which annoyed me as i'm a very bad morning person. Seeing as I was awake I thought I might as well get up and see what the French were upto. Predictably Julien and Lilly had been up for a few hours already and had found a cheaper guesthouse down the road so I packed my stuff up and made the move. Now paying 150rs a night, that's pretty much two pounds! An hour or so later, whilst sat on the front porch outside my room, along walks this highly eccentric looking Italian chap by the name of Alessandro. He had arrived the previous afternoon and was also a solo traveler. He had just been in Thailand where he lives for part of the year with his girlfriend and I explained how the second leg of my trip had me flying into Bangkok. As I have heard there's been bad flooding in Thailand I was keen to ask him about the current situation there. He said that central areas were drying up but the floods have been significant, hopefully it will be ok next month when I roll into town!

As it was a Saturday we spent the afternoon wandering around the local weekly market. A large concrete space in the center of town had been cleared for the occasion and by the time we arrived it was in full swing. Each seller had been allotted a space on the ground upon which to sell their wares and everything from shoes to torches, spices to vegetables were on offer. The food sellers had hand scales and used Kg division weights to counterbalance items of food placed on the opposing scale. Piles of red and green chilies, onions, fresh cabbages, cucumbers, tomatoes and many other foods were neatly stacked side by side one another and the haggling over them was frantic. The highlight of the market for me however was the freshly prepared pekora. Since my first bite of the popular roadside snack i've developed somewhat of an addiction and all I can say is that if you can imagine crack coated in chickpea batter, fried up in vegetable oil, you're only about halfway towards how ridiculously tasty and moreish these things are. A rusty iron shack housed two men side by side, the first man’s job was to create the mix of vegetables, chilies and batter after which the second man would sprinkle chunks off into the boiling oil which sat in a large pan over a log fire. As soon as a fresh batch had been finished they were served up to the counter where a swarm of people flocked round like vultures. I missed out on the first batch as grown women wrestled me out the way to get first dibs. Aside from pekora being mighty tasty another reason for the scrabble was that you often see pekora on roadside stalls or counters, I tend to be wary of these as its impossible to know how long they’ve been sitting there and it’s just another thing that can make you ill. Here in the market however, it was done in front of you so you knew it was perfectly safe to eat. The day faded away watching the sun set and munching on my pekora from Sunset View, a large plateau which looks over the valleys and mountains surrounding Mandu.

The next morning after hiring some bicycles to take a trip into the countryside, we witnessed a procession through town fronted by a drummer and horn blower. At first I assumed it was some political rally but was soon mistaken as round the corner came six men carrying a dead body. Not in a coffin but in full view, a local villager had died and it was standard practice to parade the body through town on its way to what I assumed would be the graveyard. How wrong I was. Although shocking to see a dead body float by we thought nothing more of it and hopped on our bikes. After exploring the area just north for an hour or so we headed back through town to check out some temples to the south. At the end of the road we came across a temple called the Rewa Kund which stood next to a large water tank. We walked through the main entrance and I noticed some logs in the corner of the yard which seemed to have been burning for quite some time. Soon after sitting down near the burning embers we were approached by three men looking visibly animated and concerned. They pointed at the pile of ash (and what I initially thought were branches of a tree smoldering in the flames) and uttered the word 'death'. Yep, we had just unknowingly wandered into a active cremation and the burning log was in fact the body we had seen earlier that day being carried through town! I soon realized that there other piles of ash dotted around the area which were obviously previous cremations. In England death is hidden behind curtains or in a coffin but here in India it’s treated in a much more open and visible way. A rather harrowing experience which obviously resulted in a very somber cycle back to town.

The plan now is to make our way to see the Ajanta Caves and then Goa. I'm just Dying for a pint of Kingfisher. (Excuse the pun).


Heaps of Chilli.

Using hand scales to weigh the red chillis.

Preparing the Pekora.

View from sunset point.

Monday, 7 November 2011

tom & jerry. the bachelors of bundi.

BUNDI - 28th October - 2nd November 2011

We have spent five nights here in Bundi and the reason for our extended stay was that Julien and Lilly have been struck down by some horrible virus which has had them firmly planted in either bed or on the toilet... thankfully I've escaped with just the cold I caught from the Udaipur rooftop drinking sessions. Still no dysentery... I'm about three weeks into the trip now and all sense of time has started to fade away to the point that I'm not even sure what day of the week it is anymore and now time seems to be divided up by when I arrive in a new city and when I leave. For this reason (and also because internet is not always available) I've realized that it is going to prove impossible to update this blog on a day by day basis and so instead I'll divide the posts up by city and describe the things I get upto in each place whilst introducing you to some of the people I meet.

Arrived in Bundi on the 28th in the early evening and was recommended the Govindam rest house by this eccentric hippy-looking couple who flew by on a Hero Honda motorcycle. Seeing as the French made straight for their room clutching their stomachs I decided to take a stroll into town to see what Bundi had to offer. On the corner of the street I came across a cheesy cartoon sign advertising the one and only  Tom and Jerry restaurant. Naturally I had to investigate and after climbing three flights of stairs came out on the rooftop terrace restaurant and was met by the incredible duo of Tom and Jerry. They were two brothers who are both cooks/proprietors of the establishment and they couldn't have been happier to see me. An enthusiasm they employed towards all their customers and the place has been the only place I've eaten in since I've been here. The reason for their constant happiness was soon made obvious as it appeared Tom loved to smoke the hashish whereas Jerry was the more sensible and business minded of the two but still equally merry. Breakfast or evening, the moment I walked through the door I was greeted by their eager greetings and Tom's appearance of constant joy was made even more enjoyable by his fantastic mustache which seemed to be taken straight from D'Artagnan of The Three Musketeers. The restaurant was set under a wooden lattice cage which seemed a little enclosed but the reason was soon explained to me by Jerry one morning. Monkeys were the root of the problem as roaming gangs traversed the various rooftops of the city and it was essential to have some form of protection for the tables, cushions and hi-fi which the cage housed. Tom told me it was very important for him to lock the kitchen at all times as well, even if he was just popping out for a second, as one time he returned to find a monkey rummaging through the fridge for some snacks! Cheeky blighters!

One evening whilst having dinner at T&J's I got talking to a couple from Canada by the names of Ben and Paula. They were doing some travelling for about three months and like us, were having a break in Bundi. We exchanged stories of how crazy India is and they told me that they had been invited to an Indian couples wedding in December! As the saying goes, anything in India is possible! Another interesting if awful thing that had happened to them was that the previous day whilst strolling along the road minding his own business, Ben had been attacked by some crazy dog. The little bastard had bitten him on the leg and had drawn blood! Worked out ok as locals directed to them to a pharmacy where they could give the necessary jabs but what a nightmare! I'l be giving all dogs a wide berth from now on I think! By this time Julien and Lilly were feeling slightly better and they had heard from some other travelers about a waterfall which existed about an hours drive from town and so I invited Ben and Paula along. We all met at 10 the next morning in the square opposite where Julien said we could get a taxi to take us out to the waterfall. Predictably this plan failed as much of the time in India you are told one thing and delivered something completely different. Instead we commandeered a large rikshaw which could take the five of us and headed out of town to find the waterfall. As suspension is non-existent on these rikshaws the next hour was a bone shaking trip made even more hectic by the large speakers our young driver had mounted on the back, which for the duration of the journey blasted out tunes. The journey took far longer due to the fact that our delboy of a driver slowed down everytime a local girl passed by. Lad number two but nothing on Mr. Cool Raoull. The long rikshaw journey although very hot, sweaty and uncomfortable only made arriving at the waterfall even more triumphant. A parched landscape suddenly gave way to a deep ravine where several tributaries joined to form a powerful cascading waterfall. A narrow staircase had been built which led down to the base of the waterfall where the water was fit for swimming. Swimming over to the base of the waterfall it was possible to swim through the cascading water and sit on the rocks below. After the sweaty drive the cool water was incredibly refreshing and we spent the rest of the afternoon relaxing by the water.

Bundi, not bad. Not bad at all.


Jerry, Me and Tom. In the wrong order really.

Aurelie, Julien, Me, Paula and Ben.

Loving the waterfall.

Tuesday, 1 November 2011

"what is your name? where are you from?"

UDAIPUR TO BUNDI - 26th-28th October 2011

Whilst traveling in India there are days which have been filled with excitement and adventure and other days which have felt more like a survival test than a holiday and the past few days have been a case of the latter.  Although very hot during the day, at nights, especially in desert areas like Jaisalmer, the temperature drops quite drastically so I managed to pick up some serious man flu.... and its wiped me out for the last three days or so.  It pretty much struck on the day of Diwali, the morning after the whiskey session... and has been lingering ever since. Still i can thank myself lucky that I have still not been hit by the infamous Delhi Belly (aside from a dodgy night in Jaipur) however I now realise that in saying this, I will no doubt be struck down first thing tomorrow with a hefty dose of dysentery....I've kept away from all meat and doing small things like carrying a small bottle of hand sanitizer to clean my hands before eating has obviously gone a long way in preventing the dreaded shits! Its been crazy, as I've never talked so much about bowel movements with complete strangers in all my life but its always a subject which is discussed in great detail whenever you come across other travellers (sometimes too much detail!) Due to the dreaded man flu shivers the last two days in Udaipur were spent in the hotel room which was a bit shit but I've realized on a trip this long I'll have to take the highs with the lows and just accept it as part of the experience...

I would like to mention briefly here a few thoughts I've had about this country as I've now been in India for a few weeks and have developed some ideas about the place. In the rough guide it talks about how many travelers in India develop a love/hate relationship with the place and that from day to day most people tend to oscillate between the two emotions. I couldn't agree with this comment more. There are times when the constant crowds, piles of rubbish and beeping horns - not to mention feeling unwell from the flu or whatever ailment bothers you - get too much and can get you in a really foul mood, so that when the next unsuspecting shop owner asks you the classic combo of "Whats your name? Where are you from?" You end up either snapping at them, forcing a distinctly unfriendly grunt or completely ignoring them altogether. Another issue is that after the thousandth beggar has approached you asking "rupee, rupee" it can also severely test your patience. Any notions of philanthropy which are held when you arrive in the country are quickly erased as I've started to become a pretty callous bastard, unaffected and desensitized by the awful scenes I encounter in many Indian streets. There are still things which obviously shock, such as the dead dog i walked past, which had been shoveled into an open sewage pipe but in general the surreal becomes normal here. Pretty grim stuff but that, as I'm beginning to learn, is India and if you don't like it, you  can get on the next plane out of here! In saying all this, although it is testing at times, when good stuff happens it completely blows me away and if you've read my previous posts I'm sure you can see what I'm talking about!

Along with Julien and Lilly we left Udaipur on the 28th and headed for the peaceful town of Bundi. I got my first experience of the buses and trains in India as we did a two leg journey there. A bumpy two hour bus journey stopping off in Chittorgarh where we then caught a connecting train to Bundi.As I've had a driver for two weeks i'm still pretty unsure of the train system in India and rocking up at the train station, two days after Diwali, we were greeted by blank faces saying that unless we had a reservation, which of course we didn't, the only option was to buy an unreserved ticket and slum it for a few hours in the bottom class. Although I'll definitely get stuck in with the third class carriages later on in the trip, as apparently you meet the most interesting characters there, we thought we'd play dumb and get on second class sleeper and see how far we could get. By sheer luck the family who was supposed to be occupying the seats we had plonked ourselves down in had not shown up and with a knowing smile from the inspector we were allowed to stay where we were without a fine as it was only a short journey. Although I've only taken one short journey which lasted a couple of hours, the trains seem to be the way to travel in India and i'm looking forward to spending alot more time on them whilst I travel down south. I will write a separate post about the trains later on I think.

Biggles the Mammoth follows me everywhere.