My attempt to squeeze what we've done so far into a little blog thing!
03.12.2009 - 18.12.2009 31 °C
I'm sorry it's taken me so long to update this thing, I think having other real people to talk to, and lots of 27 hr train journeys means I'm not as blog-efficient!
Anyway, how are you all? All looking forward to Christmas? I'm so so jealous of you all being able to snuggle up in the cold and have a real English Christmas, we are all dreaming about Christmas dinner!! So you can officially feel smug, I'll let you!!
So I should probably go back to the beginning, even though it seems as though I've been in Indian with Dan and James forever and ever already!! I met Dan at the airport in Delhi on the 4th Dec, as planned (yes Nanny, he made it, panic over, no need to send the heavies in!!) which was just as perfect as I'd hoped for all of those months and we went back to our super posh hotel room that we'd splashed out on a paid about 20 quid!! It was kind of odd to be back together again, but completely normal at the same time. I was pretty overwhelmed by everything, there are cows wandering the street everywhere, men constantly coming up to you to offer their wares, and I get stared at quite a bit because of my pasty skin (although I thought I'd done quite well with my tan!!!) We went for a wander around the main bizarre in the afternoon and bumped into James in a cafe, and planned to meet him the following day to organise getting the train down to Agra. One thing that people say about India is right, all of your senses are attacked in some form. The smells just walking down the street are different, the sights and sounds are weird and wonderful and the noise!! Beeping is apparently an olympic sport here, and most Indians are winning gold everytime they peddle their rickshaw down the road!
So the following day, after sorting our tickets and having my first 'proper' Indian meal (a 'Thali' which consists of a selection of curries, rice and chapati) we headed to Agra. We checked into a hotel and chilled out, and then went to a ruined palace and temple in Fatehpur Sikri which was really cool the following day. We did get a tour from this guy who bugged us for a while, but it was good to learn about the king who had it built, and who welcomed all religions and showed this by having wives from pretty much each one!! hehe The ride back to Agra was interesting, and we didn't really know if we were going to be able to get back for a while, as we somehow managed to miss the last bus. We ended up squeezed onto a sleeper bus which was packed, but fine.
The next day we decided to get up for the 'sunrise' and watch it over the Taj Mahal from the Red Fort, which was supposed to be the best place. We arrived at the fort in the dark, before it actually opened, the guards not seeming to understand why we were in such a hurry to get up high, but after much messing around with tickets, we finally did, and it was completely, um, not worth it! There is so much pollution in the sky, we literally couldn't see the sun, or the Taj Mahal, so our early morning was a bit of a waste! We wandered around the fort which was really nice, and would have had incredible views when it was originally built. We then grabbed an auto-rickshaw across town to the Taj and went in. It was completely unbelievable. Just exactly like all of the pictures but more beautiful. We wandered around the grounds and went inside and took lots and lots of pictures of it, as that's all you can do to capture some of the beauty. By this time Dan was feeling particularly ill, so we headed back to the hotel to chill out.
After that we began our looong journey down to Mumbai, 27 hours on the sleeper train! You have three bunks that kind of fold down, and luckily we paid for aircon, which is well worth the extra few pounds! We managed to pass our time with some hangman, post-it note game and lots of sleep, and arrived in Mumbai the following day. Mumbai was very different to Delhi and seemed much more touristy and commercial. We stayed in the Salvation Army hostel which was frankly pretty awful. We had seperate dorms so I kind of felt like I was back on my own again, only this dorm had about 20 other girls in it, whereas my biggest dorm in Oz or Nz was 8. We saw different bits and pieces of the city, and were suppose to be extras in a Bollywood scene, but it was cancelled at the last minute (which I was secretly relieved about, as I had heard horror stories about it from a girl in my dorm) and so we decided to head over to the waterfront where they happened to have the 'Earth from Above' exhibit on, which was on in Oxford a while ago in the castle! It was weird to see the pictures that I used to walk by everyday for work in India! Dan and I then decided to try out a local bar and watch some live music, which turned out to be really good, although the guitar player looked like an Indian cross between Jacob and Rob! Check out the pics!!
That evening, Dan's Dad was arriving in the the airport to join us for a while, so Dan went to collect him, and we then had to visit the train ticket office once again to try and organise a train down to Kerela. The train was completely booked and we thought we would have to try and figure out somewhere else to go, when we managed to sort out some tickets from one of the dogdy looking guys on the street! I think if just kind of go along with the dodginess, it can help in certain situations, as you know everyone is out to make money, so theres really not a lot you can do. We then hopped on a boat to Elephanta Island which is just off the coast of Mumbai and which had lots of carvings in the rocks which made up an ancient temple. However the most impressive, and scary thing about Elephanta Island was in fact the inhabiting animals! I had a close call with death after my bag was attacked by a crazed monkey, then we watched a fight between a goat, a cow and a dog. It was all a bit mental to say the least and we were all rather relieved to get back on more solid ground. The following day we got a hill train up to a small town call Matheran and stayed there for a night. we wandered round and saw some amazing views, and then had to walk most of the way back down the mountain to get a taxi!!
After Mumbai it was yet another 27hour journey down to Kerela, where we've been for most of this week. We're staying in a homestay which has been really good, nice to be able to chill out in a lounge again. On our first night here we headed down to the waterfront and saw the chinese fishing nets, which are huge, then watched the sunset from the coast.
In the morning we went out on a backwater boat tour for the day which was amazing. First we were on small narrow boats that seated 8 people and stopped off along the way down the narrow alleys of the backwaters to see some of the villagers working making rope or just getting on with their days We also had a small tour of the forest part which seemed to contain every possible spice you can imagine within just a few short steps. We saw a cinnamon tree, where the cinnamon comes from the bark, we saw nutmeg growing, where every part of the fruit is used as a different spice, and peppercorns, arrowroot and pompolos which are like big grapefruits. It was so incredible to learn about each one, and to see that everything as just growing all around us! We then went across the river on a houseboat to have some lunch, which looked amazing, and the boys tell me it tasted great! For the last part of the day, we got back on the houseboat and had a ride around the lake which was possible the most relaxing thing ever! Literally everyone apart from me fell asleep on the boat, I sat reading and taking everything in which was perfect! It was so peaceful and tranquill, I think we all could have stayed on there forever!!
Yesterday we hired pushbikes and rode round the island a bit further and saw some more of Kochin which was nice, then headed back to the town and the boys ended up helping to catch their dinner by getting onto one of the chinese nets and giving the fishermen a hand! It was great, and Dan and his Dad loved the fish that they caught!
So that brings us pretty much up to date - finally!! John is headed back to Mumbai to catch his flight in a couple of days, and we are heading up to Goa for Christmas (I WILL find somewhere to eat a christmas dinner!!) and then flying over to Bangkok for new year! Mum has just sent me a picture of the snow at home which is crazy! Hope you are all having a great time getting ready for Christmas, and If I don't speak to you before, have a wonderful time, and I'm missing you all loads!!
Love Abi xxx
ps A special hello to Nanny, Poppy, Opa and Oma - I know that you read my blog, and I am missing you all so so much and thinking of you loads. Have a wonderful Christmas! xxxxxx