Published: May 16th 2012May 16th 2012
The day after the final reception, everyone was ready for a little R&R. It had been a wild few days! Sagar really wanted to plan a special day for us, especially since it was the last day for the boys in India, so he took us to a resort just outside the city limits.
It was Sagar himself who picked us up from our hotel, and we managed to squeeze 6 of us in to his tiny compact surprisingly comfortably. I'm so impressed that Sagar can drive here - I think that's why he's such a calm guy in Toronto. If you can drive here, surely nothing can phase you! He took us to his family home where we transfered into a much larger car which could accomodate all of us, and which came with a driver. I realize now that an advantage of having a driver is not just the not-having-to-drive part, but also that you don't have to find parking really. They can just drop you off and swing back around when you need them. As you can imagine, parking is often at a premium in such a dense city.
The resort was gorgeous. It was like a huge, tropical, gated community with a mix of privately owned vacation condos and hotel suites, with resort amenities like a fitness club, spa, and big pool. We were especially taken by the pool because it has been so hot here and our hotel in Bangalore doesn't have one. After a buffet lunch (at which I pretty much couldn't eat anything, my stomach had finally quit), we took a walk around the beautiful grounds. I have to admit I felt someone like an exploitive British colonialist here, but I pushed the thoughts aside and just tried to soak in the serenity of the place. There were so many beautiful lush bushes, flowers, and birds - wonderful! Finally, it was pool time! While Sagar napped (well deservedly) on the pool deck, the rest of us changed into bathing suits and started playing. There was a big waterfall that you could sit under, and some polo balls we found provided endless entertainment. All in all, it was a really nice afternoon.
OK, I realize by this point you're probably thinking that I haven't exactly been slumming it during this trip, and you are partially right. But what can you do when your hosts are this kind?
After we had changed and dried off, we loaded back in the car to head back into town. We were going to a tourist area called MG road (Mahatma Gandhi, of course) to pick up some souvenirs. Also, Vanessa really needed to get a SIM card for her cell phone because she is staying here for a while after we leave, and we needed Sagar's help because we have had NO success in getting this thing. When she finally found a place that actually sold them, they told her they needed a copy of her passport! So she and Sagar set off to do that, while Josh, Brodie, Jeff, and I poked in nearby shops. In one shop, a really nice sales guy helped us out and I acutally bought quite a bit from him because he wasn't push at all. I mean, he was encouraging the upsell, for sure, but he was reasonable and calm about it. Earlier I had gone into a textiles place and instantly people were literally yelling at me and shoving products in my face. I hate that. I just ran away. No sale for them! Eventually Vanessa and Sagar returned with photocopy and 15 passport photos in hand (don't ask), and she got her SIM card. She was told it would be activated by the next night, but when she left me the next evening it still wasn't working... I hope it gets activated eventually.
Finally, it was time for the great day and the group travel to come to an end. The car dropped me and Vanessa off at the hotel (she would be sleeping in my room that night) and the boys picked up their luggage. They were all going back to Sagar's house for about an hour, then Sagar would drive them to the airport. Their trip is far from over - they were flying straight to Cambodia, and they are still going to Japan after that! It was crazy to say goodbye and realize I would really only see them for a couple weeks around convocation, then I will be moving to Calgary and we will be living apart for at least the next five years. For the past year I've been living in the same apartment building with them all, and it's been great.
When I got up to my room with Vanessa, I took the opportunity to catch up on emails. Ooooh boy was there a lot of them. I had a bunch of high priority, time sensitive Scout documents to review and a number of issues for school to deal with. It seemed that we still didn't have a speaker for convocation, which was supposed to be my job and I was really stressed about it. It had been a long few days and I was literally falling asleep at my computer by the time I shut it down. V and I decided not to set alarms for the next morning...
The next day, Tuesday, it was just Vanessa and I on our own. Our group had gotten so small! We had planned to hire a car to go to Bandipur National Park to do a wildlife safari this day after failing to make it happen on Friday, but during some late night browsing Vanessa had discovered the park was closed on Tuesday! Argggghhhh!! We had spent so much time figuring this out, too. At least we made the discovery before we got all the way there. So we spent a good portion of the morning trying to figure out a plan B. Honestly, getting around this city is really, really difficult. Every time we come up with an idea we have to work out how close it is, if we could possibly rickshaw there, will traffic be OK. Then there is the problem of figuring out where things are. See, we had wanted to check out a temple or two. There were a few good ones listed, but when we tried to look up their location it wasn't clear at all. Google maps would list multple locations for all of them. Others were too far out of the city.
In the end, we decided to go to the botanical gardens. It turned out to be a great choice! Sagar had said they had fallen into a bit of disrepair and I think that was true for a number of the areas, but overall the area was a green oasis in the middle of the city. We really enjoyed walking around. I particularly enjoyed looking at the different birds living there, which were similar to Canadian birds but not quite the same. A kind of bird Twighlight Zone. Like, there were sort of cormorants, but different. And harks, finches, and ravens that just weren't the same. There were some bird interpretive posters around but I couldn't match up any of the birds that I was seeing to those. There were lots of families in the gardens, which was nice to see. We made the mistake of engaging (only briefly, but that was enough) with some little hooligans over by a GIANT tree that we wanted to take a picture in. The followed us for like 15 minutes yelling for money. We hadn't experienced anything like that during our time here. We really didn't know how we were going to get rid of them because they clearly had nothing else to do then pester us (which they thought was hilarious), but we found an unlikely saviour in the form of a dog. There were dogs lying all over the gardens (including a very cute beagle!) but when we got to the edge of a lake, this one dog just started snarling and barking and lunging at the kids, who jumped behind benches for safety and forgot about us. I imagine they had not been good to that dog in the past, because I didn't see them do anything to him then. We made our escape, but kept one eye open for the little pack the rest of the time.
Unfortunately, we picked the hottest day of our whole trip for this outdoor excursion. Honestly, it was difficult to breathe it was so hot and humid. We ended up only being in the gardens for an hour but it seemed waaay longer than that, and we were completely wiped afterward. We had planned to walk around the area afterward and see what we could find, but after less than 5 minutes of heat stroke, crazy traffic, and a sidewalk-free neighbourhood, we gave up and flagged the first rickshaw we could find to take us to the sanctuary of an airconditioned mall. Hey, it was really, really hot, OK? Don't judge! We were just so exhausted we couldn't imagine doing anything else, so we went back to the movie theatre we had gone to earlier with Anjali. We considered watching a Bollywood movie, but in the end we went for an English one, that new Tim Burton one called Dark Shadows. The best part, though? The seats!!! The entire theatre was filled with lazy-boy style airchairs that fully reclined. They were so plush and cozy. Vanessa and I were in heaven. It may not have been a very cultural experience, but it was definitely the right choice for us at the time. The movie was better than I expected it to be, too.
When we exited the theatre we were hit with an unpleasant surprise: there was pretty much a monsoon happening outside. Like, serious torrential downpour. The kind where you are instantly drenched just from stepping out from undercover. Everyone was hoarding around the mall foyer because no one wanted to go out in it. I had actually been carrying around either a raincoat or an umbrella for most of the trip, but this particular day I had left them at the hotel. We waited around 20 minutes but there was no sign of it letting up, so figured we had better face the fact that we were going to get wet. We ran out into the rain and pretty much got into the first rickshaw we saw. We paid more than we should have but we didn't care - it was worth it to get home.
What followed was the most harrowing ride of the trip, which is saying something. The roads were all flooded, and our driver was young and wild. He also didn't have a windshield wiper (note to self: next time it's raining make sure you get in a rickshaw with a wiper). He kept taking one way roads the wrong way and driving through puddles and rivers that were so deep they would come up into the rickshaw. At one point we almost stalled out and I was SO worried we were going to get stuck but, miraculously, we made it. Phew. Now, we were wet and freezing. Quite a change from our heat exhaustion of earlier in the day!
Vanessa had another hurdle to pass at this point. She was supposed to go to an aunt's for supper and then go to her friend's apartment, where she will be staying for the rest of time. As I have said many times, though, travel is hard for us here and now she would have her big suitcase with her. She also didn't think a rickshaw driver would know how to find her aunt's address. It's hard to phone a cab becasue we don't have cell numbers which they require, and it is a constant struggle and negotiation with the hotel to make local calls here. EVENTUALLY she secured a cab to take her, and after a half hour's wait it arrived. I hear it screwed her over in terms of price, though, and then it supposedly "didn't have change," either. Sigh. I'm not looking forward to getting to the airport tonight.
Vanessa left just in time, as I was hit with a rather unpleasant bout of traveller's diarrhea shortly after. Not a great night. But it in terms of timing I couldn't have asked for anything better. I was planning to take it easy today anyway. I got some drugs from the pharmacy this afternoon so I should be in better shape for my 24 hours or travel back to Canada tonight (I hope!). I changed from a window to an aisle seat, though, just in case =)
And that pretty much wraps up my India trip! I felt like this blog was a lot less fun and descriptive than my previous world tour ones. I think I was busier on this trip so it was harder to fit it in. Oh well. I think my pictures tell a better story of the journey. I'll put them up when I get home.
Bye until the next adventure!