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February 22nd 2008
Published: February 25th 2008
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Hello everyone
Hope you are all ok and eveything is good back at home?
One line from Dean before we start the blog-'Come on Wales' (against Italy tomorrow). Needless to say he was chuffed Wales beat England in Twickenham! (It had to happen 1 day I suppose)!

Anyway... sorry we havn't blogged for a little while-think we last updated you when we were in Gokarna so we will start from there, even though it seems like ages and ages ago!

Gokarna was very interesting (and i finally got over my horrible cold). It was a real mixed bag-full of long term tourists and hippy types but also very spiritual and genuanily Indian at the same time (loads of monks ran past with a body on a stretcher for a funeral procession)! We stayed centrally for a few days in Hotel Shri Sai Ram (which was very roomy and clean-good value for money, 350R for a double-bargain) also the manager/owner would do anything for you and was extremly helpful (this cam in handy becasue there were no ATMS we could use in town and we ran out of money!!) whoops-all worked out in the end though. We were going to stay on Kuddle beach but I was still a bit worse for ware and didn't feel like the trek down from the road so we ended up at busy Om beach. We stayed at Namaste beach resort in a lovely hut/chalet for 500R a night. Ended up being well enough to have a few Kingfishers in their restaurant cafe on the beach (see pic). Portion sizes, especially my indian lasgane, were off the scale but the friendly Pippu the dog managed to help me out with it. We won't tell you about Deans 'spanish' omlette, that was pretty interesting! (think egg merangue pie). The beach was pretty but there were a few too many people on a comparitvely small beach. Shame I wasn't feeling better because the other beaches would of been better. Om beach did have some HUGE waves though which Dean enjoyed drowning himself in! We only stopped 3 nights before moving on to Mangalore (on the ultra early 6am bus).

This bus was our first taste of South India bus madness... spine crunching is the word! The bus driver was a cross between Micheal Schumaker and Fidel Castro!! That mixed with potholed roads ment we spent most of the journey up in the air. (Not the best for Dean's back). When we got to Mangalore they were resurfacing the main road (it was so dusty!) So again I looked like an extra from Oliver Twist with my dirt, sunglass tan, rather that though then keeping the window shut-Managlore=very humid and hot.

Managalore was very different to the last 2 places we have been to. It is almost Mumbai like with it's modern shopping malls etc, even has Pizza Hut, Subway, Cafe Coffee Day (with extremly loud trance music) and a Multi-Plex cinema... Dean and I tried to see a Bollywood Movie! We ended up watching an Indian, modern comedy movie (not much fun if you can't understand any of the jokes!) We snuck out at the interval-very modern cinema though. It was then that we realised that we had forgot that it was Valentine's Day!!! Whoops. I brought myself a white (bargain t-shirt) from the mall and we went back to get ready to go out in the evening. We had decided to get ourselves some Indian style Pizza Hut but with it being Valentine's Day we thought we should go somewhere a bit more 'sophisticated'!! (little did we know!)

We headed to Cardamon Restaurant at the swanky Taj Hotel which was very very nice. It started off very romantic with complimantary wine, choc covered strawberries, red rose and soothing music. There was a very good buffet on to help ourselves to as well. Things started to change after an hour or so when a paparazzi style photographer started to take loads of pics of Dean and I scoffing our faces!! Because we were a bit merry we found it very amusing- he turned out to be a photographer from the Times of India (there main paper)! Apparantly we are in the entertainment section in today's newspaper, will try to get a copy but we are in the middle of nowhere at the moment. Fame seems to follow us everywhere after we got offered a spot in a Bollywood movie in Mumbai. To cut a long story short the evening ended up with all of the Indian people (which appeared all together from nowhere) dancing like maniacs to various styles of music. Some of these classics included Bon Jovi, Guns N Roses, Country and Western, Bryan Adams, Aerosmith (I don't want to miss a thing!), D.I.S.C.O! etc! Very very amusing-it was a great insight to some modern Indian culture.

After a brief stopover in Mangalore we decided to head out to the Coorg region, a couple of hundred K inland. Cue-another hair raising, bumpy, air horn bus journey. We thought it was bad from Gokarna! ... we know nothing! At least that road had some tarmac. The scenery was pretty amazing though which helped take our minds of the pain!!

After a couple of bus changes (each 1 was subseqeuntly busier and more decrepid) and a rickshaw ride we arrived at the very beautiful Palace Estate (6 bumpy hours after setting out). The Palace Estate was a homestay style lodge on a coffee and cardamon plantation high up in the misty hills - see pic (mum you would of been in your element with the coffee but would never of made the journey! same goes for Stuart :-) Prasad and his family were fantastic hosts even though we arrived on a jam packed weekend. Hillariously Prasad thought that Dean's name was in fact Holland which he barked across the yard at every opportunity, eg, 'Holland it's breakfast time' and 'Holland take shower now-hot water for you'. You had to be there but it became a very funny. We also met a couple of fellow weirdo's called Grant and Tamsin from Glasgow. They had come to Coorg for the trekking but unfortunatly Grant had badly sprained his ankle getting off the bus in Madakeiri. Luckily this didn't affect their drinking and we shared a few late night Kingfishers with them. Aside from a very informative nature walk with Prakash (brother of Prasad-very confusing with the names) the main thing we actually got around to during our extremly lazy week was a dawn trek up the summit of the mountain overshadowing the lodge. Was quite hard going despite everyone saying it was easy but it was well worth it as the views from the top were stunning! (pics!) Tamsin also came with us but poor Grant had to sit and rest his ankle-gutted :-( At the top we had our little random packed breakfast of boilded egg, milk bread and jelly-jam!

We and everyone else finally managed to leave on Wednesday and began our somewhat fool-hardy bus journey down into Northern Kerala. Yep, the bus journey was even worse again-luckily we had a better seat near the front and we were a bit more prepared for it this time round as we knew last year's monsoon had washed the road clean away! Dirt track it is then! We had a 1 night stop over in Kannur at the Mascot beach resort (great view from the room and clean but the restaurant let it down, a lot...as did the grimey pool, one of the reasons we went there). The pool also gave Dean his first bout of Delhi belly, luckily this hasn't lasted long and he isn't in any pain. It definatly didn't stop him from getting stuck into last nights seafood biriyani.

We are now at the Kannur Beach House which is amazing! We love it here. Will tell you more about it in the next blog when we have had our days in Kochin, our next stop.

Miss you all loads.... (Clare have a steak for me-I'm well missing me meat!) Also Marc, Susan is quite right to be mad with you for buying a 25 pound pair of pants from Ebay! :-)

All our love and take care

Sar and Dean xxxxxx

PS... Grandparents-the flowers at Palace Estate were incredible, you all would of loved them. We have included some pictures but they don't do them justice. xxx

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