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Published: January 18th 2014
King air plane
and our host Shruddar
I got invited to Bhubaneshwar by my friend Russell but got invited to fly there from Kolkata by his boss in his private plane. We had to be there at 5.30 and then with updates a bit later. The drive to the airport was crazy of course in a classic ambassador taxi – a new one which meant it still had its shock absorbers useful when driving on roads that make the Transkei roads seem tame in comparison in all facets that means bicycles, rickshaw’s motorbikes cars and busses coming at you in all directions and I do mean going the wrong way. I keep on wondering how our black taxi drivers would fare here. Then there is the condition or non condition of the roads. Building roads here is a long process as its mainly still built by hand. You see woman on building sites and roads carrying loads of sand and stone in baskets on their heads or even wielding a pick to break the rocks into smaller stones. Lucky for us the time got pushed back a bit and we make it by 6.15 – to be met by Mr Dada at gate 3 who with his entourage
bathing in the tank
outside the Sari Temple
ushered us through security – India is very big on security and even 5 star hotels now have bag scanners – to wait for the others to arrive. They were almost behind us. Having met Miraj and Shruddah in Cape Town at New Year it was like meeting old friends. We went downstairs and onto a private bus which took us out to the plane where Russell and his co- pilate Rajiv were on the plane. It was a Beechcraft C90 King Air 6 seater. The seats were very comfortable and you sit two facing with a table that can be put up between you and two seats aft. There is a small toilet on board but as Miraj said they don’t use it as it becomes a smelly problem. Ok for me as it was only and hours flight. Poor Terry was feeling very unwell and he was almost the first one to use it!!! The sad thing was it was night time so we could not get a chance to see the view. We did get to see lots of lights and I could make out we were flying over a river estuary by the sea. The cool
thing was coming in to land you could see the city and airport with tower and then a clear view of the runway and perfect landing by Russell.
His house is in a complex a double story with large living area downstairs, a kitchen bathroom and staff room for Santosh and Profil and upstairs two en suite bedrooms we got Rajivs room ( he moved out to another house they own one away from this one) the living room upstairs is dark without windows but it does have 2 doors onto balconies. Russell has equipped it with a large tv and sofa so it’s very comfortable.
The following morning we went to the Sari Temple, Russell has the use of a driver so that is very comfortable and so glad we don’t have to take public transport and find our way to these places. We could only go into the outside temples and up on the viewing platform as we are not Hindus. The inside looked cool calm and very clean outside it’s a tip and utter chaos. Around the entrances there are always many stalls selling offering goods like marigold lays, sweets, coconuts and other food all
from the viewing platform - we non Hindus were not allowed in
beautifully packaged for an offering. Of course everywhere you go there are a gazillion cows – in the road and I mean right in the middle or in fact where they please. Traffic and everything has to go around. They might be standing or lying down whatever takes their fancy. In India cows rule!!!
The days are screaming past so fast and this is the second time I am writing this blog as I lost the first time!! Not sure why I have even lost my internet connection on this computer so will have to come up with some other ideas to get this posted. But that’s later now its getting the story out. We prepared ourselves for a long queue and much inefficiency in getting our train tickets we were told it would take a few hours and perhaps we needed one of the houseboys to stand in line for us. We declined the offer and much to our amazement and especially that of the locals there was a queue for foreigners and journalists that had no queue at all. There was the usual bureaucracy of form filling and we could not get both the tickets we wanted
flowers for offerings
I love the marigolds they use to make these flower lays
we got 2 tier a/c for the long overnight ride thank goodness and for the fun of it making a stop at Vijayarwa for the afternoon and night and then it’s the early morning ride on 3 tier a/c for the last haul to Chennai. Will tell you how that goes in a future episode! We rewarded ourselves with lunch at the food court at the Reliance Mall a basic place to us but not too bad as it had everything we needed and then had a vegetable biriyani that came in clay pot with a lid made of bread dough – it was the most delicious meal we had had so far and another surprise as it was just an ordinary food court and we were not expecting much.
Than it was off to Konark and the Sun Temple. We were not disappointed here either. Of course we had to pay foreign prices which means RS 250 for us as opposed to RS 10 for locals. At least here we could see that our money was being well spent in the restoration of the temple. It was built about 700 years ago – the carvings we fantastic such
intricate work it boggles the mind. There were many local middle class Indian tourist and great interest in the 3 of us who were the only non Indians. We would be called “Aunty can I have a picture with you?” why on earth anyone would want a picture with a middle aged woman like me is beyond me but hey we are sure getting our 15 minutes of fame and if it can make someone happy then why not. The grounds were so clean and the grass evenly cut and tendered its hard to imagine all the chaos a few steps away outside. After a good look around here we were off to the beach and the town of Puri. It was a pity with hindsight that we did not stop as soon as we reached the sea as that turned out to be the best beach. Puri was a hive of activity small streets that I would have loved to walk around but we were not on our own time so whizzed past them on our way to the beachfront. Wow that turned out to be like our beaches on New Years Day packed to the rafters with camels
Russell and me
at Konark not that it shows much of the temple!
and horses for beach rides on top of everything else. As it’s a big local tourist area and I am sure honeymoon destination there are hotels crowded onto the main beach front along with shops selling lungis and sarees, food stalls and souvenir shops and of course your local holy man.
The main drag to the big temple - that we did not go to either as once again foreigners are not allowed in – was enormous as this is where thousands of pilgrims come every year to this very holy site. Big chariots are hauled up this wide boulevard with no space between devotees but that is not happening today even though the usual crowd seems like a lot to me it’s quite empty for Puri. We drove home at sunset catching cameos of life that I would have loved to have taken pictures of or even a video but there was no time to stop.
Yesterday we went to The Tribal History Museum and that has been a real highlight. It was an incredibly well laid out exhibition consisting of 5 rooms each with a different aspect of daily life. The first one was the adornments so beautiful jewelry and cloth, the second one hunting implements etc. we were not allowed to take pictures inside but outside there was a small mock village with the different tribes houses. One style looked like our local huts in the Transkei. The gardens were beautifully laid out. At the moment its Dahlia time and the blooms are bigger than my hand and all come in a myriad of colours. I really like the red and white ones those two colours on one bloom. Everything is laid out in pots which is typically Asian and I love that as each pot dies it just gets taken away and repotted and a new one put in its place.
Santosh the cook has been making the most delicious food. For breakfast I had fresh chappati’s with dhal sometimes chick peas sometimes mixed dhal. Russell and I bought some bhindi (okra or ladies fingers are some other names) and Santosh cooked them up for our breakfast today so yummy I hope that I will be able to repeat the recipe when I get back home. The one difference is that it costs RS40 for a kilo here and I paid R40 for about 250 grams. He has also made paneer in many different ways and of course cauliflower many ways. Santosh cooks all the meals for us as well as the guards (there is one at each house and they own 3 in this complex) plus the guards from across the street where the boss lives and then of course there are the drivers and there a few of those too.
The number one hotel in this city is the Mayfair. Its incredibly beautiful and very sumptuous. Russell took all the staff and me for dinner there in the local food restaurant which was out of this world – garlic nan to die for along with other very tasty dishes like malai kofta which are curd cheese balls in a creamy sweet sauce. On the way out I bought a selection of local sweets so I could get to taste a lot of them we bought a box and made the selection ourselves. I only had a crumb from each one which I might add was at huge personal willpower as they are very tasty and very sweet. Last night Russells boss and his wife took us there for dinner too but this time we went to the Chinese restaurant and the food there was also very delicious. To end the meal we had ice cream coconut and date wish I could bring you guys at home some yummo!!! After dinner we went to visit the newly refurbished family home in which the family are moving to tomorrow. We rocked up there at 11 pm and staff all jumped into action letting us in opening doors as every room was locked to show us around. The family all have their own rooms, bathrooms and dressing rooms. There is a small lounge downstairs for meetings with staff and the such like and another small lounge with dining room and kitchenette for the father whos room is on the ground floor and minor family dinners. Upstairs is the family’s main dining area and lounge other family bedrooms all the same with dressing rooms and bathrooms and a large kitchen and then upstairs is the ladies staff dormitory room inside and outside on the roof along with a pigeon coot is the men’s dormitory. The house across the street is rented for more staff and the family’s pets 7 dogs a husky, English bulldog, puppy Labrador, two Chihuahuas’ and a pug not kept in the same style as my Leni or as well behaved either. The family collect dogs much like their cars a Toyota landcruiser, audi A8, audi sports car, Mercedes benz are but a few in the fleet. The hospitality shown towards me was touching and something I never will forget. I really hope they come back to South Africa so that I can repay them. I did try when they were there in December but now they have spoilt me even further.
Terry and I spent a few hours wandering around the market which we love. The stalls were full of very fresh looking veggies and cauliflower was on the top of the list. I have to say I have never seen so many cauliflowers in my life and they are fondly and prolifically used here in many different ways much to my delight. I am definitely going to cook far more cauliflower when I get home. One vegetable we have not seen here is broccoli. Of course there are mounds of garlic and ginger and chillis the staple of every dish and I have to concur it’s a great flavor to start with.
I cant believe our time here is up and that tonight we are off on the Coramandel express tonight at 9.30 on our way to Chennai via Vijayawara. Santosh made us a huge farewell dinner which I hope I can copy some of the things he made. Indian vegetables, American okra – I preferred the one he made for breakfast the Indian one with chilli and onion and jeera, delicious paneer tikka and crispy honey chicken. What a send off!!!!
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