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Published: January 29th 2010
My last night in Goa, in Paloloem (the place with too many Israelis, but just enough hummus) I met a cool French guy who was staying in the same place as me called SuperMax! He was part gypsy (but French gypsy, the cool kind, not the pikey kind) and half Polish, and had a goose as a guard dog in his house in France. He had hardly any stuff with him, and made me ashamed of my huge rucksack, which I've decided I need to repack into a smaller bag once I see one. He'd been to Goa before (it seems everyone has) and took me out to his friends bar. Turns out, the place I'd been in North Goa, Cocktails and Dreams, that had hundreds of cocktails on the menu, also has a branch in Paloloem, and SuperMax knew the manager. He was cool and bought me a lot of cocktails and we took the piss out of the fact that everyone there was convinced the Kashmiris were going to blow them up. (When really, they're just trying to get laid)
Unfortunately, my taxi to the train station the next morning was at 6am, and I didn't get to bed until 5.30, and the taxi driver woke up most of the people in the surrounding area trying to rouse me. Luckily, I'd booked a sleeper berth, so I had a bed to lay on when I got on the train and all the men in the compartment (nearly all with mustaches, but without shoes) moved and left me alone to sleep. I slept almost all the way to Hampi. Hampi, (I now know) is a religious site, and alcohol and meat are both forbidden. The hotel I stayed in the first night had a huge sign on the wall telling people to behave responsibly and dress appropriately. I thought I was dressed fine, but after walking around for five minutes in shorts, I had to go home and change into my longest skirt, and wrap a scarf around me. I'm usually so unobservant, I think it's only because I was so tired (/hostile) that I actually noticed everyone staring at me and my big white legs.
I visited a restaurant recommended by almost everyone I'd spoken to, which was really quite shit and I was dissapointed. I was more disappointed at the lack of beer, because Hampi was so much hotter than Goa had ever been and I really wanted a cold beer, or six, before bed. It's possible to go get a boat across the river (2 minutes) and buy beer there, but I didn''t want to try getting on a little boat/raft with my huge backpack. (This foresight would later prove quite sensible)
I switched hotels to a place that was a few minutes walk away from town, and had a really cute brown cow in the garden and was half the price of those in town. I found a rooftop restaurant that sold some chicken. AND RUM COCKTAILS!! No beer or anything, just rum cocktails. Luckily, they had a cute waiter from North India too, who didn't really speak hardly any English but looked very nice. I ended up staying there all day and meeting some people. I had the weirdest mojito I'd ever seen, and I think they'd blended all the ingredients, so it looked and tasted like a alcoholic wheatgrass drink. I met an annoying gay Scottish man who came every year to Goa & Hampi but seemed to really hate Indians. I've noticed this a lot, why do people come back here if they don't like Indian people? And why do they complain about Indian people so much, while in India, near Indians who speak perfectly good English? I told him that I didn't mind been ripped off by Indians because they're usually so charming when they do it, and a small amount of money makes a huge difference to them, but means hardly anything to me, it doesn't bother me. He said I'd change my mind when I come back to India again. I told him he'd change his mind if he ever went to China. He was trying to hit on the two straight boys (one Ukrainian, one English) who were with us, but they were having none of it, and I was pleased that he wasn't getting any cos he was a cock. (Simple things.) I watched Dance India Dance with the hot waiter, which is the equivalent of Bollywood Strictly Come Dancing and is AMAZING!! Scored a free ride home with his boss because I told him I was scared of rabid dogs (legitimate fear, I think) but then didn't see one dog on the way. Actually, theres a lot of wild monkeys climbing all over the restaurants and roofs here, and I think they're more dangerous than the dogs. There's especially a lot near the Hanuman temple, who is the monkey God, and I wonder if they know that he is a monkey, or if it's just a nice place for them to sit.
I walked around Hampi, which is much more like I imagined India, but is a UNESCO heritage site, so is not like India at all, really. I met a nice man who owned a reggae bar, which wasn't as popular as it should have been, and I felt bad for him and his seven daughters. I told him I didn't really like Hampi too much, and he told me he could find me beer, hash, or even a nice Indian boyfriend if I wanted. I appreciated the gesture, but gave all three a miss and went home.
Next day I ventured across the river to the side which was full of travelers and guest houses and BEER!!! I nearly broke my neck getting into the little boat, and the ticket man had to save me. I accept my terrible balance skills, but most of the other people who'd got in without help were carrying 20-30 kilo rucksacks, and I nearly capsized the sodding thing with my handbag! I found a nice restaurant which had good food and a friendly waiter from Himachayal Pradesh (North) who was funny and short. I hung out with him for a while and then met some British rock climbers from Bristol who were not at all like cavers, (I thought they would be) and were really funny. I found out the restaurant had rum as well as beer, and missed the last boat at 6pm back across the river. I stayed in the restaurant until they closed, and the bar boys put all the floor mats away and made beds for themselves, me and a few other people who'd missed the last boat back or just got too stoned to move. I don't think I've mentioned it so far, but the mosquitoes in Hampi are worse than any mosquitoes I've ever seen anywhere before; they're huge, and loud and are out all night and there are billions of them! So it makes sense that I would be sleeping outside without a mosquito net or repellent in that particular malarial area. Their loudness actually woke me up five times during the night (and I had been in a fairly deep drunken stupor) and I got bitten about thirty times on each leg, THROUGH my blanket! What was a nicely tanned leg, is now just a scabby mess. Lovely.
Those bar boys work so hard (when they're not sat entertaining lone female travelers) and had gone to bed at 2am, and were up cleaning again by 6am. I'd planned to meet this other English couple from the night before and go to Hospet for our trains together. However, the one place in town that did top up on mobile phones hadn't paid his bill, and his phone lines were down. I'd spent most of this time reading a book called Shantaram about an Auzzie fugitive who moved to Mumbai and got involved with the Mujahadeen in Afghanistan. Everyone should read it before they come to India, it's amazing. But I'd finished it, so I swapped it for some books about the Mahabarata, the Indian folklore tales.
I got a rickshaw into town for my train, and wished I'd stayed in town, which looked a lot more interesting, skanky and industrial with pigs rooting around in the street for food and people cooking their tea on gas stoves on their doorstep. I wasn't too reassured by my driver though, who had one of those wobbly eyes you get from too much strong liquor, and his mp3 player earphones in (but no player?!) I'm also pretty sure I saw a guy getting kicked to death at the side of the road, and we nearly ran over his head, but missed by less than a foot. The driver either didn't mind (worrying) or didn't notice (more worrying) and carried on regardless. I also saw a rickshaw the same size as mine with more than 15 people crammed into it, and all the kids in it waved to me and tried to shake my hand from inside their moving rickshaw. Then I got on my train to Bangalore.
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