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Back on the road!!! :-)

India | Sunday, October 11, 2015 | 16 photos

After a wonderful and relaxing month in Europe (yes, finally a vacation!) with family and friends, we are finally back to the adventure, starting with India!

India was the country in our round the world trip that seemed it would be the biggest challenge in terms of backpacking and culture shock. So far, so good! We actually enjoy it even though it's more difficult than the other countries we've done. People say you love India or you hate it and so far we are leaning towards the first; it's a reassuring start. ;-)

We landed on October 6th in the city of Kochi in the Kerala region located in the south. Our e-visa was approved very easily at the customs. We then took the local bus to get to the historic part of town and just this 1h30 min ride gave us a feel of what India will be for the next month we're here. It is very hot and humid, very crowded, traffic is horrible with motor cycles and cars and rickshaws and buses and trucks AND people!!! Every few minutes you feel like you're going to be in an accident ... but then the bus driver deftly swerves to avoid oncoming traffic once again. We thought Bolivia was bad but India is 100 times worse. Fender benders don't merit getting out of your car, nobody notices and they just drive on. Plus there are a lot of billboards along the roads advertising sari and typical Bollywood movies and tv shows and shiva; no doubt we are in India! ;-)

We don't book ahead hotels here, as we did before in the old good times of South America. We always prefer to arrive in a new place during day time so it makes it easier to find a hotel since it's the first day in a city we don't know. By the way, since India is not very touristy yet, there are no hostels so it's not as easy to meet other backpackers and not a lot of hotels are good at giving us information.

In Kochi, there are a mix of Hindus 45%, Muslims 35% and Christians 20% which is atypical for India where usually it's 80% Hindu. Since this region is communist, we often see the Soviet hammer and sickle and Che Guevara signs. There are goats wandering the streets; animals in India have a special status, they are related to their gods and strict Hindus eat no meat at all. In big cities like Mumbai only traffic police have the right to touch or gently shove cows off the road. In the newspaper we recently read about a 'scandalous' student event where they ate meat to protest.

I thought we would lose weight in India but at this pace we are actually almost gaining a bit ;-) Indian food is very good and very vegetarian. When we eat in touristy restaurants, they ask us for the level of spiciness we want otherwise in local restaurants, they don't. As real off the beaten path backpackers ;-) lol, we eat most of the time in local places so it's quite spicy; we are getting used to it but haven't had a real Indian breakfast yet; maybe next week. Our stomach is still on French mode ;-)
Tea is huge here and coffee not at all, it's the opposite of Brazil. They like their masala tea that is a spicy tea (cinnamon, cardamom, etc.) with milk and sugar. People are in general friendly and speak English. That's funny, when people agree with you they wobble their head. Yes, like a bobble head. ;-) Sometimes they don't even say yes, they say nothing but wobble their head. Be careful not to ask too many 'yes' questions in a row because you'll likely burst out laughing!

It's the end of the monsoon season. So far we have been lucky that rains little or none during the day. At night is a different story! Many nights it pours like cats and dogs for hours on end and it's hard to sleep with the noise.

We had an interesting experience in Kochi. There are a lot of small 3 wheels taxis called rickshaws everywhere. One driver stopped and asked us to help him for free; if we let him take us to a store with no obligation to buy anything, he would receive for free 5 kg of rice or 1L of gas from the store. We did him he favor but of course we had to fake looking at things in the store before leaving; quite embarrassing but we helped this Indian man.

We also had our first leech experience, yes leeches!!! :-( While we were hiking in the tea plantation/jungle of Munnar with our guide, I saw a small black caterpillar on my finger so I tried to shake it off but no matter how hard I shook it, it wouldn't budge. So of course, I screamed! The guide came over and told me no to worry that it was just a leech. Just a leech! We judiciously started checking our legs for other leeches and ... lo and behold we both had a total of 3 big nice and juicy ones sucking on us. :-( Normally they're very small but swell up a lot after blood! The guide removed them and put salt on our pants, boots and socks; salt repels them.

We are now in Munnar, located in the tea and spice plantation region of the mountains of southern India. Temperatures are much nicer here! ;-) We're in the middle of lush rolling green hills and it's very relaxing - it's very popular for honeymooners and ... leeches ;-)

PS: when this post finally uploads to the blog, I will be so happy because the wifi is so bad here. Wifi has dropped off several times and it is so slow. It took me twice the time to upload the photos, write the legends and upload the main text. I cross my fingers that this time is going to work. ;-)

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