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Our world Travel On 10th May 2007 I fled the UK on a journey around the world with a long list of places to go. Got as far as the Philippines where I met my wife. We got married on 11th May 2010 and are now sharing the experiences of travelling the world together

Mysore to Goa

INDIA | Wednesday, 8 September 2010 | Views [2413]

Tuesday 31st August - Today we move on to Hampi in the northern part of Karnataka state. This involves going to Bengalaru (formerly Bangalore) to take an overnight sleeper train. To ease the journey we decided to take the train from Mysore to Bengalaru instead of bus. But first I needed to get my guitar case strap repaired as it had ripped. One thing is certain in India, you can get anything repaired while you wait for cheap. Found a nice tailor/repair shop who re-modelled it in leather and made it stronger than the original in about 10 minutes, complete with a cup of chai while i waited.

Tried to get some cash in town before heading to the station but out of luck with finding an ATM with cash. No problem i thought, there will be one at the station. Got there by auto. First one not working. Second one took my card, made plenty of whirring noises and then issues me with 500 rupees instead of the 10,000 i had requested, and didn't give me a printed receipt, before returning my card with some error code. Oh no, here we go...wasn't sure if it had done something wrong with my account. Tried a few more ATMs with no success. All gave error codes and no cash. Eventually i found one that worked. Panic over. Just have to hope my account is safe. Last time i came to India, i had a machine in Varanasi take money from my account without giving me any. Went to the bank and saw a manager. After a very long time of them agreeing it was their error, and promising to re-credit it, they never did. Despite many calls and e-mails to them. Some even after i had left the country. I had to give up eventually, so lost the money. That is why i am always nervous with Indian ATMs if something goes wrong. It is so difficult to resolve it. 

A while to wait for our train, so time to watch other trains get prepared, and have some lunch. On the many train journeys i have taken in India, i have often been sceptical about one of the procedures they have. You book your ticket, which has your seat details on it. But they still paste a printed sheet to the outside of the train with the allocation details. Someone comes along and sticks the printed sheet on the train. Another person comes along and has to remove the old one. Labour intensive...why do they bother? No other country does this with their trains. Seeing as you have a ticket with the details, and the carriages are clearly marked. Why not save the effort? Job creation? Lack of confidence in their ticket system? Maybe it's because Indian people cannot understand the ticket they have been given. If that was the case, why not just make the ticket clearer? It seems fine to me. But then again, I'm not Indian. They even have digital displays on the platform next to each carriage at most stations which have the details on it, so you cannot or should not get on the wrong carriage.

Train 6232 (Mayiladuthurai Express) arrived at about 3pm and departed Mysore at 3:45pm and taking 3hours. The last section as it crawls into Bengalaru is a bit of a sight. Massive mounds of rubbish flanking the track. Young children, some only babies playing on top and messing with the squalid filth. A short way from them, pigs sniff through for a meal. Horses with nose bags on feed alongside the track. Someone in the center of a refuse sight lights a fire under a cauldron to cook dinner. On top of another mound a popcorn stand offers snacks for the children. Unaware possibly of the revolting stench that hung in the air, making us wretch from the safe distance of the train. Behind that terrible scene, a road. Along that road some very artisticly designed apartments, all gayly coloured and smartly fitted out inside. The contrast is vast. The different worlds, so much unalike. Welcome to Bangalore...Bengalaru as it is confusingly now called. Almost all signs still read Bangalore. Why the change in name? Must find out. 

Fortunately, there is a good restaurant at the end of the gantry that links all the platforms. Nice meal before boarding the train at 8pm. Why does a good restaurant only have one bad toilet for the whole place, and you cannot breathe when you go in?

Train 6592 Hampi Express departing Bengalaru at 9:00pm and arriving at 06:47 at Hospet, the nearest town to Hampi.

 We had an Indian family in the berths surrounding us. They had not one, but two babies with them. That is a perfect recipe for a sleepless night. We had the two upper berths...right under the aircon. Cryogenic freezing plus the potential thought of crying babies....wonderful :-)

Turned out that my telepathic thought transfer to them to stay quiet paid off...smart kids!

The magic bed fiairy didn't come to this train like with some. So after the bedding guy delivered the two sheets, 1 pillow and a blanket, we had to make our own beds. The gently roll of the train started and the rumble from the tracks sent us off to sleep. The occasional murmur threatened of a restless baby. The blow from the aircon masked most noises. 

Wednesday 1st September - On arrival in Hospet at 7am we caught an auto to Hampi for Rs100. The immediate town doesn't grab you. It seems functional and typical. The road to Hampi is an interesting one. You quickly get a glimpse of the landscape that Hampi is famous for. Soft edged boulders balance precariously over an open landscape. Ruins are frequent and the local transport is bullock drawn carts with many of the drivers stood up, rodeo style. We passed a lotus flower inspired mosque with pretty colourful minaret. Worthy of a return visit. Apparently it is only a year old. 

A fee of Rs10 is charged for vehicle access to Hampi Bazaar, the small compact main village where we are staying. Didn't look around much for accommodation and aimed for Vicky's. Rs400 with hot shower. Checked in and straight to bed to catch up on sleep. Both shattered. 

We had made the decision to extend our stay in Hampi until Monday. This meant changing our onward train ticket. They overcharge a lot in the agents in Hampi, and it is cheap to go to Hospet and do it ourselves, so went back to the railway station. Instead of being charged nearly 300 rupees for the cancellation and re-booking in Hampi, it only cost 20 rupees at the station plus return bus journey of Rs26 each way for the two of us. The bus went a different route to this morning's auto which went through more awesome terrain.

After returning to Hampi we went walkabout down to the eastern ghats area. Luckily, there was a Lamani people's Pooja taking place. The Lamani ladies dress in an amazing colourful costume with much jewellery to adorn themselves. Flags were part of the ceremony with the Brahmins floating candles on the river following annointment of the pilgrims. 

In the same location they had round coracle boats for a short trip on the river. Fairly unique in India, they range from a couple of metres diameter to about four. Made of woven wooden slats and covered in material painted with bitumen. Very entertaining. The boys who ran our corale were very streetwise, as are most here. They grow up learning to handle a multinational crowd of foreigners, mastering techniques to get extra cash out of you. Postcards, tour guiding, accommodation, the coracle, renting anything from bicycle to car. At barely 10 or 12 years of age, they seem older than their years. 

The waterfront path allows access to one of the important heritage ruin areas which we explored for a couple of hours.

One of my favourite eateries from my last visit, is the Mango tree restaurant. Perfect for sunset dinner and drinks. Accessed along a banana plantation path, it is a lovely location and, guess what? It is built around a mango tree! Paved seated areas face the water with low tables and lanterns. Just perfect. Great food too.

Spent some time looking at other accommodation for the next few days. Some are just dire. For Rs100, they are disgusting. For Rs400 it gets better. Above Rs500 they are better 

Thursday 2nd Sep - Having checked around other places last night we decided to move location to get a bigger room at Rocky's. Still Rs400, but more comfortable.

One of the disturbing sights in the village is young Children 'depositing' in the street along with the Cows and goats. Their parents seem oblivious to it and don't stop them or toilet train them. The streets get washed down each day so it does get cleared, but it is the principle of it.

Opposite to Rocky's is a children's trust. I will find out more about how it operates and let you know later.

Hampi and its surrounding area are amazing. Like no other place on earth. Round boulders mounded high across the landscape, interspersed with wonderful stone buildings many centuries old. They cleaved large rocks to make smaller ones for the construction, with much evidence of the technique visible. The manpower that it must have taken to build some of the buildings must have been incredible. Hampi village and Bazaar surrounds the Virupaksha temple, which dominates the landscape from most high viewpoints. 

Above the village is Hemakuta Hill. It is a perfect place to see the sun set. Monkeys appeared and seem to make a pilgrimage to the sun on some of the highest rocks. Staring into the sun as it set. The photo opportunities are wonderful from there.

We had chatted with an Indian lady living in Austria earlier in the day and agreed to meet up for dinner at Gopi's with her husband. They had only been married for 1 month, so were on their honeymoon too. A nice relaxed evening. 

Friday 3rd Sep - Tried to get across river to Virupapur Gaddi but boats not running due to high water. Wanted to get to Anegundi and Hanuman temple which stands on top of Anjanadri Hill. Rickshaw driver was asking 1,100 Rupees for the journey as it is 50km. An alternative was to try and get to the coracle crossing. Took a but to Kamalapurum (Rs5) and found that no buses were running from there. It was suggested to take a rickshaw which we got for Rs50. Problem was that there were no coracles operating as the water was both too high and too fast flowing. I remembered getting to this point last time i came. There was a bridge here, which was almost complete with only a few metres gap to finish. Unesco had got the project stopped as it would attract too much traffic to the area and ruin its ruins so to speak! The irony is that about year ago, half of the new 'uncompleted' bridge collapsed and got washed away. I guess it was never meant to be. What it does mean, is that the northern side of the Tungabhadra river is isolated unless boats cross it, cutting off some major historical sights. Unless you want to go the very long way around. There are some coracles crossing from other places, but they apparently won't take tourists, on the basis that it is too risky. So only locals can cross. I guess that the tourism authorities have decided that an operator gaining 10 rupees to get a foreigner across to the other side, versus its high probability of sinking or getting washed downstream, isn't worth the risk. It wouldn't be good press would it!

We met a Spanish couple who were attempting the same crossing, so we walked back together. Seems that many people we meet have had to change plans for one reason or another due to weather problems at this time of year. Monsoon season is always a higher risk, but so far not that bad for us. 

What it has also meant here is that much of the tourism business that crossed the river to stay on the other side of the river, has been forced to stay in Hampi instead, so the guest houses and restaurants are happy about that. 

Was out for a walk after a great meal at the Prince restaurant, and stopped to chat to a guy who ran a music shop. Went in for a quick jam  and was invited to play guitar at Durga rooftop Restaurant. Was a bit funny as the power kept failing. Could hear cymbals and chanting from the temple as i played. Why is there always someone who asks if you play Jimi Handrix watchtower? Especially when they look like they are on drugs, or never emerged from a coma in the 1970s? 

Saturday 4th Sep - Rented bicycles from a shop in the bazaar for 30 rupees. Brand new cycle which was great...meant that I had no excuse in blaming the cycle for not making the hills! I reckon I am getting unfit. It did get easier as the day went on, then the gear chain kept coming off so it seemed like a good idea to head back to the shop and change the bike.

Whilst we were out we took a diversion through a really sweet village and ended up at a clearing where a guy navigated us to the waterfalls. I gave him a tip for his time. Not really necessary to have a guide as the path through the banana plantations was well worn, so you could work it out. The nice thing about going by bicycle is that you can stop when you want, and the slow pace means you can catch interesting sights easier than if you whizz past on a motorbike. Women washing by the streams. People having Prassad on ghats. A few children that spend their days fishing in the streams that do not go to school. Small temples almost hidden. One of the common events is groups of children running out and following whilst they call that familiar tune...'Give me pen'...or 'Give me one rupee'. We must have heard that a hundred times in the past day or so. They have gorgeous smiles that light up their little faces. You cannot help but smile with them.

I was reading an article this morning about the Hampi Children's Trust, located opposite to where we are staying. Titled...Giving something back to the Ancient city of Hampi and its people. A non-profit making organisation, founded by Kali Das (from Hampi) and Tim Brown (from the UK) in May 2007. It basically provides an education to the 4 to 16 year old children of Hampi who do not normally get an education. Primarily because their parents do not send them to school, preferring to have them out on the streets begging instead. They have school uniforms and are given three meals a day, 6 days a week. It is a very worthwhile project. (Anyone wanting to volunteer or be involved can go through www.hampichildrenstrust.org or [email protected]). 

Sunday 5th Sept - Ahhh...a day of rest. Reading, lazing. A little shopping as there are some nice stores here that do 'Hippie' clothes. Just the thing for travellers. Gotta look like you have emerged from the 60's and missed out a few generations of clothing style revolution! You an spot the travellers, not just because we look foreign, but beause we are wearing either Alibaba pants, Happy pants, stripey everything, and many covered in tattoos and face jewellery. Some do go proper Indian style, but not so many.

Back up to Hemakuta Hill for sunset. Before sunset we had a little entertainment. It started to rain, so we had to take shelter in an old stone temple for a while. For the whole time we were there a female dog...the bitch....was systematically made use of by almost every male dog in the area. They were fighting over her. Didn't know where to look! Seemed to have a nonchalant look on her face the whole time...same time same place tomorrow night boys!

Dinner at Durga huts restaurant again. I have to say that is seems to be the best food in the whole village. The chef is from Nepal. They employed him beause Indian chefs keep disappearing, to visit family, to do their prayer rituals. Just about any reason they can find. On many occasions they had customers and no chef, so they got the Nepalese guy in and haven't looked back. He did the food exactly as we wanted it. 

Monday 6th September - We move on to Goa today. The only trains are early ones and we were booked on to the 7063 departing at 06:30 costing Rs176 for 3AC class. The only way from Hampi at time in the morning is by Autorickshaw, which we pre-booked the night before. Up early and collected at 5:15am. Still dark. The roads were empty apart from a stream of bullock carts and passengers. We guessed that many or possibly all homes dlo not have a toilet. The common sight of someone squatting at the side of the road, or in a field with a small jug of water next to them is common. I wonder about the distinction between animal and human sometimes. This was be classed as vulgar or discgusting in our culture. Here, it is accepted. The cows do it. The dogs do it. The chickens etc do it. So what is wrong with humans doing it? Progress, cultural values, signs of differentiating ourselves from animals. It is like spitting. The all too ommon sound of someone clearing their throat. Men and women do it. It is revolting to hear. Revolting to see. So why do we not do it in our countries? A person would be thought of as disgusting if they did it. Here it is too common. Urinating in the street, almost anywhere the need arises. Makes for a society which not only looks a mess, but smells like an open air toilet. Is that what people in these places aspire to? Is this how they would like their children to behave in future generations? If not, then set an example now, and stop doing it. Develop some cultural  values that show progress from the animalistic caveman days. It also shows that these people have no pride in their environment. There are signs everywhere requesting people to keep their town or city clean. And yet, some of these signs are surrounded by rubbish tips, and even people urinating by them. I have seen it. can they not read? Maybe a lack of education means they cannot read the signs. If that was the case, then who are the signs aimed at? Certainly not the educated ones who can read, who are least likely to foul the place anyway. Anyway...rant over for now....

Arriving at Hospet junction station was a bit quieter than when we arriived. Many folk were already there, some sleeping on the floors and the platforms. The stench is foul, but people don't seem to care where they lay down. Most of the public toilets are so badly maintained and make you ill just going near them, that it is no surprise sometimes. Sorry, I'm ranting again. Shiera wanted to puke the small was so strong on the platform. In fact someone had vomited by one of the seating areas. A lady had spread her food out on the floor amongst this. Her baby needed the toilet, so she jumped down onto the track and sorted the baby out. Good job a train wasn't coming yet! Whilst she was doing that, a dog came and urinated on her food. Served her right for putting it on the floor. I just hoped she didn't still eat it. The thought of it. Couldn't look, so didn't find out. She probably fed it to the baby!

Couldn't find our train on the list, but wrked out that it is in fact train 8047 the Amaravati Express to Vasco da Gama. It was actually running a little late as it comes a long way, from Howrah juntion near to Calcutta. As expected, a really long train. When it pulled onto the platform, we looked out for our carriage but couldn't find it. We were in S11. S1, S2, S3 etc up to S10 then Second class. No S11. Turned out that ours was right at the end of the train. S11 does not come after S10. Set into a sprint and found it. At 7am the train pulled away on our 8 1/2 hour journey.  This was the same train i think i took the last time i went between Hampi and Goa, around 3 years ago. I remember the scenery being nice in the latter stages of the journey, so was looking forward to that. 

The train ambled along and made stops at Hubli, Gadag, Dharwad, Londa, before leaving Karnataka. Each stop, an opportunity for Chai, Biryani or other snack.

Occupying time on a long train journey is an artform. Today's task was to begin putting some ideas on paper for a future home. No idea where it is yet, or even which country. But we do have ideas of what we want, and aim to build our own home to our own design. It is just a case of finding the place to buy some land.  We also know that we want to have a homestay and some craft business included, so we need space for a studio and extra space for the guest lodgings. The cost of the land is a prime factor of course, and that varies widely from country to country, and from one plot to another. The legalities within each country is a key factor too. Some i can own land, others i cannot. Weather conditions, ground conditions, access to water, drainage and electricity utilities are important as are telecoms for internet. Many factors are important, but the house will remain more or less the same. So at least we may as well work out our dream home whilst the ideas are forming. The basis for our design is the Chinese Ying-Yang shape. Lots of curves, plenty of natural light and open spaces. With water features figuring in the design, both inside and out. We also want to search for a large tree as an extension to the main house, connected by rope bridge as a tree house lounge area. The main idea is that it must look native in style. The ideas are fun to work on. 

 We reached Castlerock station, which i think was the first stop in Goa, but not sure, at noon. Then the rain started. As wemoved westwards into Goa the views were a little marred by the rain induced mist. On times when it cleared the view is really nice, and a reminder that entering Goa is a different terrain to that part of Karnataka we have just come from. A few long tunnels cause amusement as the kids screamed at full volume in the darkness. Kids the whole world never change!

Back into the open and beautiful deep valleys clad in dense forest. The first major landmark in Goa is the Dudh Sagar waterfalls. India's 2nd highest at 603m. The view from the train was really clear although many tries to scramble for the doors where the view is a bit limited. They can be reached on an organised tour, but after seeing them from the train, we don't feel the need.

The rains kept on pelting down. That is why Goa is so green! And the Chai sellers keep coming. That is why we keep on needing the toilet! 

We arrived in Vasco Da Gama in the dry after deciding not to get off at Madgaon due to the heavy rain. A long way from exiting the train to actually exiting the station. The hoard of taxi drivers, rickshaw drivers and any other form of driver, was overpowering. Like a mad scrum. I got a little annoyed with some of them who insisted on circling us and getting in the way of moving. Asking over 800 rupees to go anywhere near where we wanted.  Even the rickshaw drivers wanted 450 rupees. No way. We worked our way out of the melee and aied for a local bus to Panaji. Turned out that we first needed to catch a local bus across to the main bus stand for Rs10 and then a Panaji bus for a further Rs20. A nice route through green forest and following the waterline for most of it. At Panaji we got straight onto another bus to Candolim for 20Rs each. Total so far was Rs100 for the two of us, not Rs800. The fun then started. We checked around Candolim and came to the onclusion that it was dead. Many of the guest houses and hotels were closed, and refurbishing during the off season. Most restaurants were closed, other than in the real busy centre where we didn't want to stay. Decision time. Get out of there and aim north to Calangute before it got too dark. As we were tired and didn't have much energy left for walking around room searching. We jumped in a taxi for Rs100 to ferry us around some places. Ended up in an apartment at the Indian Kitchen for the night. Not the cheapest at 1000Rs plus tax, but has a pool and wi-fi, although they charge Rs100 per day to use it.

Dinner was good there, and our first meat in a while, seeing as most if not all of Karnataka and Kerala are vegetarian. Some menus had 'Huhn' on it...Chicken. But they didn't actually have any available. Now that we are in Goa, it is back to Carnivorous land and the joys of meat and fish.

No hanging around as we had to find both other options for places to stay, but with a kitchen, and also some cereals and foods for breakfast. Almost no decent provisions stores around town, as I guess they only cater for people who eat out all the time. Asking for a place with a kitchen proved to be tricky too. Why would anyone want a kitchen? Possibly 1,500 rupees a night was the best, and almost only place we could find. No internet at the rooms, only net café on the street.

The room at the Indian kitchen is referred to as an 'Apartment', but has no cooking facilities, only a fridge and a sink. So, exactly what are you supposed to with that then? At least it is bigger than a normal room.

Shattered after a very long day, rising at 4:15am this morning in Hampi, and finishing at nearly 11pm in Calangute in Goa. It has been wearing. The fourth Indian state on the Indian leg of our epic journey. Tomorrow will be a sorting day and deciding on the plan over the next couple of weeks. More of that in the next posting.




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