17.02.2010 - 05.03.2010 -32 °C
I think I'd been traveling for 2 days door to door when I finally arrived in Goa (decided to immediately head south once arriving in Mumbai Airport) so it was safe to say I was fairly tired. Having been to Goa before, I knew I needed to fight my way through the hoards of touts and taxis waiting outside Goa's military style airport and make my way over to the Government approved taxi counter so as not to be over charged..... all of 1.50. Its amazing how you feel completely screwed over when having to shell out an extra 200 Rupees should you mistakenly get a ruthlessly conniving (i.e. just trying to make a living) taxi driver. So off I went to grab myself a bargain whilst I was still awake.
After a non eventful taxi journey, and by non eventful I really mean speeding around mountain roads overtaking around corners in a motorized tin can (mum and dad its FINE I promise), I arrive on Palolem Beach in South Goa and after an unexpected second wind I head straight to the beach for a Masala Chai and the sunset. Mark arrives a day early (hurray!) and we spend the evening having drinks on the beach.
Goa kind of follows that pattern really. Mark's traveling friends that he met in the South were also at Palolem, so we had quite a sociable time in and around the various beach bars.
We then decided to venture 8 hours eastwards to Hampi on a surprisingly clean, comfortable and easy train ride. We'd heard all about the temples here, the waterfalls and reservoirs for swimming. Hampi is a genuinely unique looking place and to sum up in a particularly weird way: Hampi looks like a giant has been to a giant garden centre and bought a giant bag of giant paving pebbles and dumped them all over the landscape. Not seen anything like it before.
We found a guest cottage to stay in and decided mopeds were the best way to get about (mum and dad its FINE I promise) and went to explore. We soon found the waterfalls after an hour of confused fun battling through long grass (snakes anyone?) and hopping over boulders in the wrong direction. Turns out those 50 rupee guides waiting at the entrance may have been a good investment (but that's a saving of 70p so OBVIOUSLY we'll get ourselves there). There was a nice cold pool for a much needed swim and not many people seemed to be there so it was fairly peaceful.
We also visited the reservoir in search of fun to be had in the water rapids leading into it, but again nothing is simple and we managed to over shoot the entrance by 2km and go off road for 45 minutes before we found it. I think I could qualify for a Supercross competition now and I'm sure Mark would have agreed with me if he wasn't so far out in front. After a quick dip and the realisation that the rapids were just trickles of opposing currents of water we decided to call it a day and headed home, only after spotting a sign saying 'beware of crocodiles' (mum and dad....). I'm sure that was just a devious lie to stop travelers swimming in there.
Hampi was a cool place; it had some chilled out home stays, picturesque moonlit views of temples over the river at night time (obviously) and a good balance of a chilled atmosphere with potential for meeting lots of other travelers over a beer. It also had dead rodents in guest cottages which Mark is only just beginning to talk about again having accidentally slept with one stuffed in between the mattress and his sheet. Ergh.
Leaving the Hampi tale on a good note there then.
From Hampi we got an over night bus back to North Goa and stayed on a beach called Anjuna. This is renowned for Hippies and flea markets although I didn't see any of that as I was confined to a 6x5 concrete cell shaped room having contracted what can only be described as dis-sentry to the power of 10. Still it had to happen at some point. I am now back on food and celebrated the fact last night with a big fat steak and chips (eating cow in India... bloody fantastic).
So now I've been in Mumbai for 4 days. At first, having travelled for 12 hours on a train, having consumed no water or food for 3 days and walking around a suffocating city with covered legs and shoulders with no warning about where the next whiff of human disease would come from, its fair to say I wasn't in my happy place. So of course we booked into an air conditioned business hotel with 'clean' written in big letters all over it and I retired to the room pretty sharpish to watch 'Star movies'; a choice of pretty much any of the cheesiest 80's films you can think of. Heaven.
However the last 2 days I've been back on my flip flopped feet and have really warmed to the place. I've been on a boat ride to an island of Hindu caves, I've been to Ocean Drive to see the sky line of Mumbai, I've looked massively out of place going to the Four Seasons Hotel sky top bar to see a fantastic view of the city, I've been to MacDonalds at least 4 times for some good honest home cooked food and last night we went out with some local's and a friend we know from back home and were driven around and shown the Indian side of Mumbai, away from the tourist areas. Not bad for 2 days. It's a bustling city with every type of person imaginable. It's friendly, intimidating, hot, big, unusual, Western, Indian, helpful and confusing. Tonight we leave for The North.