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Published: June 21st 2017
Geo: 20.5312, 75.7487
Riding the train, Kochi to Goa
This started well with an air con compartment with 4 beds to ourselves, which we thought we had booked in its entirety, so we were rather horrified when incessant loud banging at 2.00 am woke us and the conductor turfed Peter out of his bottom bunk for an Indian man to join us, and another arrived later about 6.00. It was a bit intimate, Indian style, and we were decidedly unfriendly, being used to more personal space and privacy. Surprisingly this shabby train with dirty windows and toilet rated highly on the India railways survey, confirming that standards of cleanliness are entirely relative.
We worked out from the timetable that it would be better to get off the train at the 2nd Goa station,which Peter explained to the conductor who said the minimum extra cost would be for 300 kilometres.. Then he asked Peter to step outside into the corridor and suggested a bribe of ten pounds would cover it, presumably straight into his pocket.
We stayed in a lovely old family house in Goa inherited by the hostess and filled with wonderful paintings and artifacts. Her husband had been president of the Sheraton group
so used to running hotels. It was great to be joined that evening by Helen and Stephen, travelling from Chennai and we celebrated with an expensive meal, by local standards. The coconut palm fringed, long beach at Candolin was wonderful, with beautiful warm sea, firm shelving sand, shacks all along the beach for beers at sunset, together with a pool at our house for afternoon swims . Such a nice place it has become a destination for lots of middle aged and older European hippies. 2 days of late breakfasts, a trip to old Goa and walks to the beach flew by before we were all off to the airport for a flight via Mumbai to Allamabad to drive the next day to Ajanta
Visiting the caves involved a long car journey of 2 hours each way, which was full of local life through a farming community. According to locals you need a lot of luck when driving in India. It's certainly an entertainment. There are vehicles of all sorts, lorries laden with huge loads, buses crowded with hot passengers, impatient tourist cars trying to overtake, always white, occasional private cars, large numbers of tuc tucs, motorbikes and scooters, particularly
in the cities, then carts of all descriptions. Then there are the animals ; bullock carts taking their time, dogs lying around all over the place, wild boar snuffling in the gutter, an occasional camel tethered or ridden down the street and cows wandering at will all over the road. Mix in the local population using the street as their workshop to make things, to load and unload goods, to sell from shops and carts, to walk along and across the street negotiating the traffic. In the cities, particularly in a tuc tuc it's quite good fun if bumpy and uncomfortable, on the long distance roads at speed it can be quite scary.he paintings and carvings of Buddha in the Ajanta caves were spectacular and worth the long journey through the cotton and vegetable farming villages. Martin Smith and his wife from Norfolk, who is the great grandson of the British Officer who discovered the caves in 19th century while on a tiger hunt, were there at the same time, surrounded by staff and cameras. It's a hot walk along the valley lined with 29 cave temples and monasteries dating back to BC dates, with lots of shoes off and
on to enter the most religious ones.
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