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Published: February 28th 2010
it's a small world
Susie and I with Jeff
Delhi was a good temperature - 25 degrees during the day, with the evenings cool enough to warrant a long-sleeved t-shirt but back down on the south-west coast in Varkala it's a sweltering 38 degrees and slightly humid with glorious sunshine and a beach - bliss!!
Varkala is definitely a tourist resort - not particularly Indian and just what I wanted for a few days relaxing! The beach sits at the bottom of beautiful red sandstone cliffs and the sea is just lively enough to provide waves to play in when you need to cool off. Each morning and afternoon you can sit and watch the fishermen bring in their nets using a guy on a flat-bottomed canoe ridden like a surfboard to direct it in as up to about 30 guys haul in the heavy nets from the beach.
On our first evening here Susie and I were sat having a drink in one of the cliff-top bars when I see walking along the path Jeff Jones - a colleague from Somerfield/Kwik Save days who we haven't seen in at least 2 years! It was so funny to see someone we knew in the same small resort in
India - he was here for a couple of weeks holiday with a friend and was spending just a couple of days in Varkala and we were only here because the other place we'd thought about going to hadn't been what we were expecting! It's really scarey how small this world can be! Anyway it was lovely to see him and we had some beers the following evening and had a good catch-up. Luckily for Jeff's friend he met up with some other friends so didn't have to suffer us chatting about Somerfield/Kwik Save all evening - he would have found it very boring but we had a great time catching up!
So after a few days relaxing on the beach I headed back up to Delhi.... and caught a train out again to Jhanse. From here I had a 10 minute window to find the express bus which would take me to Khajuraho and as I left the station the rickshaw drivers were obviously waiting too 'cos one of them grabbed me and said 'bus to Khajuraho, quick quick...' and then made me run with my backpack to his rickshaw - when I say 'run' it was more
of a shuffle and he actually laughed when he turned and saw me (although he didn't offer to carry the bleedin' thing!) - anyway needless to say, there was a traffic snarl-up, roads were closed because of some visiting dignitary and we missed the bus by a good 15 minutes! The next bus was a local one and wouldn't be for another 2 hours and would take 6 hours to get there. Anyway, bless him he got on the phone and between him and his mates they managed to come up with 4 of us who'd missed the bus and we got a share taxi between us.
Khajaraho is stuffed full of amazing temples with really detailed carvings including some very explicit scenes from the Kama Sutra - I'm taking notes but as you can see from the pics these guys were obviously pretty adventurous - there seems to be everything going from the odd grope, to group sex to 'horsing around'..... maybe I don't need to take notes on everything!
Khajuraho is really nice, it's quite a small place and really easy to walk around, but everyone wants to speak English so you're constantly hassled. I never
made it 5 steps outside the hotel without being sidelined by someone who just walks along and starts chatting to you, and they want to know the in's & outs of everything - name, age, marital status, where you live, job title, salary, siblings etc. - which is fine but to be honest it gets little wearing - anyway one guy (Babu), who was again genuine and just chatting was at least more open to questions and and I asked him why everyone wants to talk and he said it is genuinely just to improve their language - there's a lot of tourism money in Khajuraho so the better their English the more they can earn as there are some pretty fancy hotels they can work in. Anyway he was lovely and I went to use his internet cafe and he mentioned that he was cooking curry for a French guy and his girlfriend later and invited me along too - bless, and it was delicious!
The other outstanding feature of Khajuraho is the number of parrots - thousands of them, all bright green, and come early evening they fly in big swarms to the big trees on the
main street - which then means you have to run the gauntlet if you're passing beneath because of the all the bird poop! Luckily for once I managed to get through clean (in Udaipur I was pooped on twice in one day!).
So after a couple of nights there I took a bone-rattling 4 hour bus journey to Orcha - the road between the 2 places is I think one of the worst I've encountered in India and they've all been pretty shocking, but this one really took the biscuit - I reckon that the state of the road was probably on a par with anything that Baghdad has to offer.
Orcha is a tiny place, really just a few streets around some palaces and temples and was a nice place to spend a day or two before heading back to Delhi. The only liveliness was that the monkeys were prone to try to steal stuff from you and when I went to have a drink in one of the rooftop cafes I was given a stick to take to my table in case.... luckily they weren't in sight.
On my last train journey (just a short
7 hours!) I was able to see the usual gallery of Indian life - kids cleaning the floors for a few rupees, cripples begging, blind men singing - not really British Rail. Also towards the end of the trip a couple of the hirja's came into the carriage - these are the transvestites that flirt with the men to get money out of them. One of them spotted me just as she was leaving and patted me on the head and said in a very effeminate voice, 'Hello, how are yoooooooo?' I said Hi, and everyone thought it hilarious - though I'm not sure why!! I was hoping to get a photo but they were obviously camera shy and left pretty quickly when I got the camera out.
So I'm spending my last day in Delhi trying to avoid 2 things: firstly shopping for tat with my remaining rupees, it's all very tempting but I have to remember that what looks good here in India is not going to look the same at home. Secondly, tomorrow is Holi - which is the Hindu festival to celebrate the coming of Spring and they mark it by throwing around coloured dye
powders and shooting water pistols at passers-by. The result is that people are covered in bright colours - all over their hair, face, clothes. They seem to be starting a day early here in Paharganj and already I've seen some young boys up to mischief and trying to target people.
I've had an amazing trip and am really lucky to have spent 3 months here. There are definitely some things I'll miss: cows in the street, the delicious food, never knowing what to expect, not knowing (or caring) what day of the week it is, mad sadhu's and naked naga's, the amazing sights, sounds and smells of India and mostly the amazing kindness and helpfulness of the Indian people.
There are also a few things that I won't miss: seeing people poo and wee at the side of the road / railtracks, the smell of poo and wee on the railtracks, 10 hour bus journeys on roads that are more pothole than tarmac, squat toilets (we westerners just don't have the necessary sense of balance when on our haunches).
Hopefully I'll catch up with most of you soon, and in the meantime for my next exciting adventure
I'm stopping off in London for a few days to attend a film premiere - watch out for The Shouting Men at a cinema near you soon!! The red carpet & champagne await......
ps; apologies to anyone who has been getting junk e-mail supposedly from my hotmail account - I seem to have been infected with a nasty cyber-bug!
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