Saturday 18th September - Moving on today to Nasik. Taxi for Rs150
to Dadar to catch a bus. He dropped us at a
roadside bus stop. The bus wasn't due for another 90 minutes, so the guy at the
ticket office suggested we went to the main Central Terminus where the bus
would leave at 10am, which is where we wanted to go in the first place. He
insisted on another 50 rupees to take us there. No way. Anyway, we went. The
10am bus had left at 9am, and the next wouldn't be until 11:30am. At this point,
the thought of a death wish was high. No option but to sit it out. Of course,
they offer an alternative of private car for a whopping 2000 rupees! Oh
yeah...do we look stupid? How about an AC bus for 400 rupees. When does that
leave? 2pm. It is now 10am. How much is the non-AC. 200 rupees. Ok then. Where
is it you want to go then? Nasik...why do you think we are standing here
talking about the cost of getting to Nasik? So, do you want a cab to go and get
the private car? At this point I just wanted to kill everyone within arm’s
length. Is there something about the human brain that never developed in some
of the people selling travel tickets? Or do they just enjoy pissing people off
and wanting to terminate their life prematurely?
an aside...On the way to
Dadar, the driver bought a bunch of Chili and lemon from a lady and tied to the front of the taxi. We noticed the same bunches tied in stalls. What is that
about then? There is something about Indian culture and their religious beliefs
that makes even poor people grasp at strange ideas in an aim for some form of
absolution. What is the symbology associated with chili and lemon though?
we are now sat on a bus going to Nasik (Aka Nashik). Not remarkable in itself,
but getting from the ticket office to getting on the bus was another one of
those 'I want to kill more people' situations. After 90 minutes of waiting
around, the ticket office guy had vanished. Another guy arrived and took us to
another office. Someone else then arrived after another 10 minutes and ran off
into the distance with a group of people in tow. With luggage and the steaming
heat we couldn't catch up. I had to run ahead, backpack flapping away and order
him to stop so Shiera could catch up. Another hundred metres or so further on and
we ended up stood by the side of a road for a while. When the bus did arrive,
we had to argue with the conductor over the seats as they wanted to give us the
worse seats on the bus. No way again. Everything is such a hassle sometimes.
Fortunately, one passenger spoke some English and argued with the conductor on
our behalf, who then left us alone. You can end up getting stressed all the
time. Lies, mis-information, arguments and bad attitude are a way of life.
There have been some really nice experiences over the past few days. But to be
honest, the best thing about Mumbai was leaving it. Sorry to sound harsh, but
it has been hard work.
is vast. It is really an island, but getting to the northern escape hatch where
the road bridges link it to the mainland took about 90 minutes. The black and
yellow 'Bumble Bee' taxis gave way to Black and yellow 'Wasps'...I.e. Tuk-tuks.
The suburbs seemed awash with them, in similarly vast numbers. Like a nest with
them all buzzing around in search of food. On the western side of the
carriageway two large pipes seemed endless. Not sure, but i think they are oil?
What is evident is the scale of the warehouse business here. We passed many kilometers
of the most enormous warehouses. I guess that with a city the size of Mumbai,
the supply chain to support this needs to be incredible.
crossing to the mainland, It soon turns green and the road wide and relatively
empty. After a meal break we carried on to Nashik through some stunning
scenery. Beautiful Mountain ranges and intense green paddies for what seemed
endless miles. This has to be some of the best scenery we have seen so far in
India. It had to end sometime though, and entering Nashik is a shock after the
beauty of the open countryside and fresh air. Back to the congested horn
honking noise. We had opted for the hotel Abishek out of the guidebook. What we
hadn't realized was that Nasik would be gripped by Ganesh fever. The Ganpati
festival is in full flow, ad being one of the major religious cities of
Maharashtra state, attracts pilgrims in vast numbers. Surrounding the hotel was
more Ganesh displays and animated stories accompanied by sound systems than you
could wish for in such a small space. Traffic competed for space. Control
police added to the melee with whistles to direct the manic crowd. In
short...it was a nuts place to be. Ideal then!
argument on check-in as they changed their price twice. 345 rupees, when I
viewed the room, followed by 395 rupees and then 500 rupees. It was clear that
is asked for a double for two people, but their price kept climbing. Chaos or
what? I got fed up with them as it had bean a long day of arguments at every
stage in getting here, so my patience was running very low.
not much time to waste, so dumped the luggage in our room and hit the streets.
The main area surrounds the Ramkund bathing
tank. An amazing area where pilgrims in large numbers bathe and offer Pooja.
Floating candles on the Godavari river. It is quite a dramatic sight. The light
was fading and the scene emotive.
was even more dramatic was...and here's a question....are we attracting dead
bodies, or just unlucky? On the way into the bathing tank area, we noticed the
body of a lady on the entrance steps, covered in a blanket. Someone passed and
offered the suggestion that she was just asleep. I don't think so. It turned
out to be yet another dead body. Our third in 2 days! We wandered around to
find out what was happening to have the corpse moved. The total apathy amongst
most people was saddening. We eventually found some police who were more
interested in us and where we came from, than another dead body. An ambulance
would be due within 10 minutes. So how long has it been there...a day was the
reply. So, for a whole day, thousands of pilgrims had walked past this body,
and the police were no more than 10 metres away from it....and it was only just
about to be removed. The lady's body would go to the hospital. We guessed, to
be used for students to poke, prod and analyze. Nobody would care who she was.
Did she have any family. Another nameless cadaver and one more to add to the
statistic. Three dead bodies in short space of time is too much to take. It
makes you cry!
have to absorb this type of situation. To understand it. To rationalize what is
going on. To come to terms so that you can carry on and enjoy the sheer potency
of what is an intoxicating culture. Around the Ramkund are a couple of ancient
temples. At night, the atmosphere is interesting. The stairs climbing to the Kapaleshwar temple are lined with Sadhus
and beggars reaching out for a rupee or two, or other offering. The extremely
devout Hindus pray, offer, anoint, in their ever familiar ritualisation of
their faith. Up the road from the temple, a line of people, mainly male stand
in queue with their bowl, for their prassad offering. Their free meal of the
day. Glitz and glamour of one Ganesh display after another seems to be a
complex contrast to the poverty, squalor and death that surrounds. The human
mind is complex to understand...but, some cultures more than others.
and hungry, we tracked down a great restaurant at the Sahib family restaurant.
A nice cold Kingfisher beer and superb food. Aahhhh... What else but to track
down a goodies shop after wards, and indulge in some Gulab Jamun. Followed by
another shop for some gloopy Rasmalai looking thing that was deadly for 20
rupees. Had to go back to the hotel before we reached calorie overload. It has
been a long, tiring and thought provoking day.
Sunday 19th Sep - A couple of old shrines to visit In the morning, close
to the hotel. Went into the Seeta Gumpha, which had an interesting multi-headed
figure on a chariot, but just looked at the Kalaram temple aross the road. Both
small shrines. The town was more subdued than last night. I was so tired last
night. I remember the incredible noise from the street that just faded out as I
went to sleep. Normally I find it so difficult to sleep amidst noise. But last
night nothing would have kept me awake.
majot attraction of the Nasik area is that it is a burgeoning player in the
Indian wine market. The climate is warm, the soil good and the terrain
reaonable flat. We took a rickshaw out to the Sula Vineyard, about 13km away. Only took about 25 minutes to get
there. The vineyard runs a tour and wine tasting from 11:30am, so we had a
little time to relax and take in the view. Takes me back to France and endless
landscape of vines.
rupees each for the tour and we got to sample 6 wines afterwards. A mix of 1
sparking, 2 white, 1 rose, 1 desert and 1 red. Harvest time is January to
March, and production isn't running now, but at least we could see their
storage vats and machines. The wine market here is growing steadily each year
by about 0.5% total consumption of alcohol. The climate is a bit too warm for
storage, so it has to be treated carefully after purchase. One of the
highlights was a deluxe cheese and mixed fruit and nut platter. We both crave
for cheese and crackers and with the nie wine and a cappuccino to follow, made
for a perfect setting and experience. Considering the tormented day we had
yesterday, it compensated in a big way. It was Shiera's first time in vineyard
and a really enjoyable one.
got the driver to drop us at the Central Bus Terminal in town afterwards. Next
destination Aurangebad. 196 rupees and should take around 5 hours leaving about
2pm. We had to laugh...the conductor from the bus next to us came up to the
window and offered 150 rupees for the same journey. We had already paid. The
bus was identical. I asked our conductor why we paid 196 and the identical bus
next to us only wanted 150 rupees. This is a 'Luxury Bus'. It was so funny.
They were identical. Both falling apart and parts of the bus missing...doesn't
it feel better now that we know we are travelling in a 'Luxury' Government bus!
I also felt happier that our driver had more hair growing out of his ears than
out of his head. Reminded me of the Planet
of the apes movie.
of the route is flat agricultural land. More vineyards, Maize, Beans, plus some
crops I couldn't recognize from the bus.
arrived back into the busy traffic of Aurangebad at about 7pm, and aimed for
the Shree Maya Hotel (Rs15). A comfortable place for Rs495 for a double. Food
is good quality and also had a small bottle of Merlot wine with it that I had
bought at the Sula Vineyards.
Monday 20th Sep - A day of sightseeing. Outside the Shree Maya, Sheik was
waiting with his Rickshaw and it seemed a fair price to pay 500 rupees for the
whole days transport and sights. Clean rickshaw and he spoke reasonable
English. First stop was to survey the travel agents to book our onward
overnight bus to Ahmedabad. 650 rupees for an aircon sleeper departing at
4:30pm, giving us about 5 hours to see everything and get back for a shower and
a meal before heading for the bus.
Bibi Qa Maqbara is famous for being a mini Taj Mahal...also referred to as the
'Poor man's Taj'. Constructed by Auranzeb's son Azan Khan in 1697 as a
mausoleum for his mother and originally planned to be constructed in marble like
the bigger version, his spends were cut by his father, so he had to settle for
cheaper materials, mainly lime cement and stone. 100 rupees foreigner entrance
fee. It was quiet when we arrived and was really pretty. Like its larger
counterpart, it has a central avenue lake pointing towards the 'Taj'. The
reflection was nice and clear and a super platform to take photos from. The
main mausoleum does have some really nice marble trellis design windows. Inside
the central dome area a rug in the base with thousands of scattered donation
coins. There is some restoration work being carried out on the outer dome roof
and some has already been done on the walls.
stop was a 30km ride out of town along the road we came along from Nasik
yesterday, to the Ellora caves. Along the way are a few places to stop for
photo shoots. There are some interesting phenomena in this part of the world.
Number 1....yellow cows! Yes, yellow cows! Well, they have an animal festival,
during which the farmers are so happy, that they paint their cattle yellow.
Number 2...the guys like wearing Pink turbans. It is so colourful. We were
lucky enough to see phenomenon numbers 1 and 2 together. A cart being pulled by
yellow cows with red horns, and driven by a guy with pink turban. Like a moving
caves are immense. 34 caves stretching for a couple of kilometers along the
face of a hill, they are a system of temples and caves hewn out of solid stone
over a period of 5 centuries around the 7th century onwards. The centre of cave
system avenue is the immense Kailasha temple (cave 16), dedicated to lord
Shiva. An amazing feat of human endeavor and engineering. 200,000 tonnes of
rock were hand chiseled out of the hill by 7000 laborers over a period of 150
years to create three huge trenches, followed by the carving of the temple
itself. It is the largest monolithic sculpture in the world! Only one
word for it...wow....
only did the stretch of caves from 1 to 16 due to limited time, but it was
enough to get the feel of the place. The Ajanta caves in the north of the state
are equally famous but earlier in construction, and both are Unesco World
the way back we stopped at Aurangzeb's tomb. A tour by a blind guy who as usual
wanted to tell us his life's history so that we would give him a personal
area is famed for Figs, Guava and Custard apple, all of which are cheap by the
much time left, so we rushed back to the hotel for a quick shower and an even
more rushed meal, before Sheik collected us and delivered us to the bus pick-up
had reserved sleeper berths on the Gujarat Travels aircon bus to Ahmadabad. It
arrived promptly at 4:30pm and once we all got into place, set off. Fairly
smooth and quiet by comparison to the buses we had taken in India so far.
Hoping for a good night's sleep, but not much chance of one. A bit like riding
along on a bouncy castle for the first few hours as we passed through some
towns. Settled down a little after that. Time to reflect on some other stuff we
have learnt. It is common to see men with almost fluorescent orange, or even
red beards, or hair. Something to cover up the Grey of growing older. To be
honest, they draw ore attention to themselves than if they just left alone. It
does make it colourful though. In the west we are used to women dying their
hair as they get older. Most men just accept it, or shave it off like I have.
My reason is one of practicality, in that I have to shave my face anyway, so
why not just shave the lot. In a few minutes every other day, it is done. Saves
money when you are travelling a lot. There is a downside. I am always getting
by scalp sun burnt. Forget to put lotion on, and occasionally forget to take a
hat on cloudy days. The rays are still there and I get burnt. Used it now
though. How about I take their idea and grow my hair back but dye it orange, or
pink, or green? I will file that idea in the same section of my brain that is thinking....yet
again...about ear piercings and tattoos. Both Shiera and I have been talking
about it. Will it happen? Only if we are committed to it. I have thought about
it for years but never done either yet. Which will come first...green hair,
pierced ear, or a tattoo of a Gecko running up my arm?
periods of travel have to be done with a different approach than short breaks.
It is tiring having to plan all the time. Where to go, how to get there, where
to stay, what to see, how long to stay, have to do the laundry, catch up with
some writing and the photos mount up. Many thousand since we entered India
alone in early August. The book I want to write is still in my head. Another
day another place. Need to take a break soon to get straight. Of course, we are
entering Rajasthan in the next day or two. Not the best place to take a break as
there is so much to see and places to go. We have gone past the rains now and
it will just get hotter and drier from here, adding to the strain. And so it
Tuesday 21st September - After a crazy journey of mainly rough roads and a few
occasions when my whole body levitated off the bed...I didn't know I could do
that, we arrived off the state highway into Ahmadabad at around 7:30am. The
feeling was to not stay in Ahmadabad, but to carry straight on to Udaipur in
Rajasthan. Fortunately, where we were dropped was also an agent for the bus to
Udaipur which would leave 45 minutes later. Enough time for the toilet and a
cup of chai before we took a rickshaw across town to the departure point. A
group og German students that arrived on the same bus were also heading to
Udaipur, so we travelled together. 200 rupees and about 5 hours journey time.
no time for breakfast, we had to make do with some bananas from a passing
seller after we had set off. Ahmadabad is a typical commercial city. Noisy,
busy and dusty. It does have some mosques that supposed to be worth a visit.
The rickshaws are green and yellow which is a change from the normal black and
yellow or cream of everywhere else. The style of dress seemed typical of a
predominantly Muslim city.
9:30am we had left the city and entered the more tranquil green of the
countryside. Windows open and fresh air breezing through....time to relax and
rest. Not a bad journey other than the usual stop at the most dodgy eatery on
the route. Bugs everywhere and food you wouldn't want to feed your worst enemy.
arrived into Udaipur about 6 hours after leaving Ahmadabad, and were dropped by
the railway station. A 40 rupee rickshaw ride into town from there and the
usual driver wanting to take us other than where we asked. Our choice was the
last place he wanted to go. Anyway, we were looking for a traditional Haveli.
The old house style of Rajasthan with courtyard environment. After checking a
few we settled on the Poonam Haveli
at 39 Lal Ghat. And we managed to get the 007 room! This area is famed for the
shooting of the James Bond movie Octopussy
with Roger Moore. The Poonam is a nice and clean place with rooftop restaurant
and good view of the palace and Pichola lake. Not the cheapest, but at 1,200
rupees, we are satisfied to be staying a bit more comfortable than usual. After
the past couple of days travelling, we were feeling rather grubby and tired. A
freshen up, clean shave and a shower made the difference.
awesome meal on the roof of the Poonam. A superb introduction to eating
Rajasthani style, and a great view as the sun went down.
is the penultimate day of the Ganesh festival a stage had been erected nearby
for a dance show. Initially local children performing some dance hits, followed
by some more professional displays in traditional costumes. In front of the
stage was a sea of ladies in their colorful sarees and scarves making it quite