27.12.2005 30 °C
Well after the urban chaos that is Dehli, (The lovely Haruman's Tomb and Lodi Gardens excluded) we made our way to Bombay. Fairly similar in terms of noise, pollution and constantly being harranged to buy things, specifically drums and bizarre giant balloons this time!
Bombay at least has just about entered into the modern age in some areas, the power generally lasts more than 15 minutes at a time before it fails totally, there are plenty of modern globalisation places McDonalds, (Where you can get a damn fine Aloo Tikka Tikka burger!) Coffee Republic etc. The buildings were so much nicer as well, having not pulled down anything that the Brits built and replaced it with a concrete smelly block. The train station is simply amazing, an old victorian gothic building that looks more like a cathedral than a train station. Still at the end of the day it was a big smelly polluted city much like Dehli.
A visit to the mosque on the shore was quite unpleasant due to the huge amount of lepers missing various limbs etc lying in the sun praying and begging. It really shows you just how much poverty and deprivation there is in India. We took a late night stroll on Chowpatty beach which was really nice seeing the skyline at night but a bit ruined by every 5 secoinds being asked whether we wanted yet another Head Massage seconds after the previous masseur had been told politely thanks but no thanks (What makes them think we'll change our mind at the 300th time of asking!!)
The highlight was the trip to Elephanta island, a one hour boat trip from the Gateway of India to a small island off Bombay where there was a haven of peace and quiet. Amazing statues of various Hindu gods carved out of the rockface inside some nice cool caves, real big ones too, 10 metres high! Looked like a scene out of an Edgar Rice Burroughs or Kipling novel with shed loads of monkeys crawling all over it, coming right up to you and trying to nick anything near them! The guide book described them as pesky monkeys and the thieving gypsy bastards were certainly that but great fun to watch! After watching a gorgeous sunset over Bombay bay, the sun seemed to look even better when covered in a cloud of pollution, the next morning it was off to the jungles of Tamil Nadu!
Arriving at Ooty, allegedly a beautiful, colonial hill station in the mountains of South India, we looked around at the stunning views of the mountains but it was ruined by the fact that they have 'done an Indian' on thew town itself, very smelly, polluted, rubbish everywhere, noisy, concrete blocks thrown up badly in place of the beautiful colonial buildings they pulled down. People in town said that even as little as 10 years ago Otty looked like a small Kent village with manicure dgardens, the racecourse, lake views etc but now they have turned it into a smelly toilet. The racetrack was full of rubbish and overgrown, the manicured gardens looked like urban scrubland of the sort you'd expect David Bellamy to pop up in with his shorts (excpet the rats would probably have eaten him!)
SO after a few hours in ooty rather than the few days we planned to stay we headed off further up the mountains to Masinagudi in the Mudumalai Elephant sanctuary.
This was a breath from heaven, stunning scenery, very clean, small site with about 6 small bungalows, a lovely bar/restaurant and the most amazing pool I've ever seen, nesteled with the most stunning view over the mountains!
Felt very relaxed here and stayed for 11 days including Xmas day (bizarre lunch consisting of Roast turkey, parathas and Cheesy peas with Dal mahkani!! Delicious though.
Staff were great, was run by an Indian/German family and was a nice Welsh guy Chris manning the bar.
Did loads of relaxing, sunbathing, swimming as well as some jungle treks during which we saw Elephants, Bison, deer, loads of different monkeys, mongooses, snakes, Peacocks, eagles, giant squirrels etc.
Got to ride an elephant at Bandipur too! No tigers or leopards unfotunately although there are loads in the park they're obviously very wary of humans and rare to spot.
Anyway after that absolute bliss haven in the mountains we made our way down to Goa for some sun worshipping and drinking!
Been here 2 days now and it's exactly like bendidorm! Full of fat bright red cockney wanker or northern monkey families! Beach is amazing though and bars and restaurants are so good for food and drinks (dirt cheap too, about 40p for a pint of Kingfisher and about 2 quid for a huge steak/seafood meal).
The beach is one of the quieter ones at Candolim so very relaxing, no hassle from the vendors as the police chase them, the kids and the beggars off the beach and keep them away from you for a small bribe of 25p!!
Very happy and relaxed here (and getting fatter by the minute with the amount of cheap amazing quality food/drink.
the culture here is very different from elsewhere in india as this has a far more european feel, the locals here look and act more like Europeans, no surprise I guess as they were a Portuguese colony until 1960 ish and most people are part Portuguese (and they hate the pure bred Indian tourists that come here, calling them smelly dirty jungle monnkeys to their faces!!) they have a dislike of russian tourists for some strange reason too but love the brits!
Off now to sit by the beach for a few hours then we're doing the pub quiz tonight in the Peacock pub to try and see if the 'End of the World' pub quiz team can take it's Wimbledon White Hart successes globally!
Off to do a few trips over the next few days (Monkey Island, Cocoa beach, Dolphin spotting and snorkelling etc) before heading back to Bombay on the 4th to catch our connecting flight onto Singapore!
Have fun all.