A Travellerspoint blog

A Very Goan Christmas

Our journey to from Kerela to Goa, and how we spent Christmas!

sunny 26 °C

Happy Christmas everyone! I hope you all had a lovely day!

I thought I would just do a quick update before we leave Goa and head to Bangkok, so so you're all up to date, and have something to read while you're eating all of those leftovers, and finishing up the mince pies!

The day after I last wrote we decided to go on a trip to see an elephant camp, and hopefully get the opportunity to help wash them. He hired a driver and he took us over, collecting bananas on the way, which he explained we would be able to feed the elephants after their bath! We walked down a little dirt track which came out onto the edge of a wide river, where there were three elephants, one larger one, and two babies (that were still pretty massive!) just lolling in the water, having people scrub them all over. The keepers grabbed some coconut shells and thrust them into our hands and showed us how to clean the elephants and we got to work. The skin felt really l\thick and leathery, but was more flexible than I first imagined, and it felt really odd that this huge thing lying in the water was actually a real animal! Until it tried to get up that was!! That was when you really realised how massive they are, and how powerful. The elephants then wandered up the road and we fed them some bananas and took some pictures with them. I have been trying to update my pics for a while but the internet has been particularly slow, so I will try and sort them out in Bangkok. You can also have a look at James' flickr page though, which is http://www.flickr.com/photos/webjames

I think the following day it was time for John to leave and head back to the snow of the Uk, so we went out for brekkie and then said goodbye. It was also mine and Dan's two year anniversary, so we decided to treat ourselves, get dressed up and go out for a delicious meal. Dan had actually booked us into a beautiful restaurant, and the food was absolutely incredible. Dan had a ten course set menu and it was amazing, and we just general had a fantastic anniversary, definitely one to remember!

On the 21st we hopped on our last Indian train and went up to Goa. We had thought we would have to get a bus half way up, but luckily we managed to chat with the TC (the big-cheese on that particular train!!) and sort out a sneaky way of staying on. We arrived in Margoa at about 4am, jumped in a taxi to Palolem where, after much bleary-eyes bartering, we managed to not sleep on the beach, and get a couple of beach huts instead. They were pretty basic, but literally about 10ft from the beach, on little stilts which were really cute. Then the relaxation began. I don't feel like we've really done much apart from lie on the beach and eat for the entire week really, which has been pretty awesome. The night before Christmas Eve we watched 'Its a Wonderful Life' on a big open-air cinema screen which was great, and we attempted to go out on Christmas eve, but ended up drinking outside our huts and falling into bed just before santa flew across the Goan sky.

Christmas Day consisted of us getting up late and wandering down to a place for a big fry up, opening some little pressies that John had brought over for us from home (thank you Mummies!!!) and trying to pretend we felt christmassy, and then we wandered along the beach for a bit and did some shopping for each other. We had booked into a place for a 'Christmas dinner' so we headed down there and prepared ourselves for what was the weirdest Christmas dinner I've ever had. There was turkey covered in gravy (which had a distinct curry flavour) rice, chips, two roast potatoes (possibly the saddest looking potatoes in the world) and a salad all on one plate!! Not exactly like Mummy used to make, so I'm very jealous of all of you, having a proper dinner!!

Since then there has been more chilling, and not much else really. We are just about to leave for the airport, to fly t Calcutta, where we are staying for a day, and then heading across to Bangkok in time for New Year. I really can't wait to get to Thailand, and will be in touch when we get there.

Love to you all, speak soon.

And Have a wonderful start to 2010!!!

Abi xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx

Posted by Abilucy 21:37 Archived in India Tagged train_travel Comments (1)

Indian fun and games!

My attempt to squeeze what we've done so far into a little blog thing!

sunny 31 °C

Hello everyone!!

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

Posted by Abilucy 23:18 Archived in India Tagged round_the_world Comments (0)

All the fishes of the rainbow!

Quick update before I head off to India, and to fill you in on the snorkelling, and explain the ridiculous pics!!

sunny 33 °C

Hello everyone!

As ever I hope you are all doing well, and getting in the festive spirit, I am not at all, as its still 30+ degrees here, surely Christmas doesn't exist in this heat?!?!?

Just wanted to write and let you know how I'm doing just a couple of days before i head off to India.

I arrived back in Cairns on Saturday, and checked into a lovely hostel, which had been recommended by a few people, Travellers Oasis. I then popped along to a massive market and stocked up on some fruit and veg for dinner.
On Sunday, I went snorkelling on the Great Barrier Reef! It was amazing, I've never really been snorkelling before, but I loved it! We sailed out for about 2 hours to get to paradise reef in the morning, and then snorkelled right off the back of the boat. We were given the option of wearing stinger suits, as it is just coming into stinger season, and the ones that hang out at the reef are about the size of your fingernail, and pretty much invisible, so I decided to go for the suit, and not get stung! I did however, manage to look completely ridiculous, but hey, that's what being in a country where no one knows you is all about right?!?!

So we got suited up and i hopped into the water, and started looking at all the amazing fish and corals. It was beautiful down there, literally another world. The colours of the fish were incredible, and I kind of felt like I was actually in an aquarium tank!! The range of corals down there was also amazing, some looked like thick spaghetti, waving in the current, and others looked like big crusty rocks. I did want to touch everything, but obviously you're not really supposed to. Once we had spent about an hour and a half down at paradise reef, we hopped back onto the boat, and had some lunch and headed over to michelmas cay, which is basically a big sandy beach in the middle of the reef. We had about 2 hours there, just to investigate the reef from the beach and from the boat. Again the range of fish was breathtaking, some were huge, and others were teeny tiny, all hiding in and out of the rocks and corals. I did see Nemo and his Dad swimming about, so said a quick hello to them, and I actually saw a real life turtle poking his head out of the water, but unfortunately, this was only from the boat, so I didn't see him up close. No sharks, luckily, but loads of massive clams that look really weird and almost fake.

Once we were all back on board, we started back to Cairns, and just chatted about all the things we'd seen. I really love it, and once I'd got the hang of my breathing and everything I was well away. I really want to try some more, so maybe when we get to Thailand I can have another go.

Since then I've mainly been chilling, trying to organise sending things home, and grabbing some essential toiletries in preparation for India. I set off from Cairns on Thursday at 12.45pm and don't arrive in Delhi until 9am on Friday morning, although I will have been travelling for about 24 hours! Lucky me! But then I get to see Dan again and have a big old catch up with him which I can't wait for! I've had so many crazy dreams about it, I think it will be really surreal to actually be there.

I will send everyone a quick email to let you know that I've arrived in India, but until then, its byesebye from me!

Take care everyone.

Abi xxxxxxxxxxxxx

Posted by Abilucy 22:32 Archived in Australia Tagged boating Comments (0)

A whole lot of R & R!!

There's not much to tell, and it will definitely make you all v v jealous! Look away hard workers!!

sunny 31 °C

Hey guys!

How are you all doing? I need gossip from home, so give me all you got!

I thought I would update you on what I've been doing since my crazy hot tour in the desert! Well the answer is a whole lotta nothing!!!

I mooched around Cairns for about a day and then headed up on Port Douglas last Saturday, and I've literally spent the whole week just lazing around, reading lots, swimming quite a bit, and even biking!! Yes you read me right, biking! I think the only thing I've been working hard on is my tan, and although I'm not the golden brown I had in mind, I don't think I'm quite the flattering shade of pasty I was before. Fingers crossed anyway!!!

I'm staying at Dougies, which was recommended by Lucy, and its been perfect, exactly what I wanted, just before heading to India next week, where I'm sure I'll be in for many shocks to the system!! There are hammocks all over the place, the pool is lovely, there's even a bar right on site - no real reason to leave, ever! But I have ventured out a couple of times, visiting the beach and the market, which were both fun. The local beach is called four mile beach, however it is currently 'stinger season' and they have made a small area for you to swim in that they check for the super scary jellyfish, but other than that its no swimming, so its actually more like 50m beach, or what you can use anyway. Port Douglas itself is pretty tiny, but mostly made up of crazily posh resorts, most of which look waaay out of my league, so yeh Dougies has been the place for me!

So yeh, it's only a short one because I really haven't done anything particularly exciting or interesting! And it's been bloody great!! I'm heading back to Cairns tomorrow morning for a few days before flying to India next Thursday. This time next week I will have a real life boyfriend again! How exciting! I'm planning on doing some snorkelling on the great barrier reef on Sunday or Monday, which I'm planning to book in just a min, so hopefully I'll have something interesting to tell you all when I return from that.

Love you all, let me know how you're all doing!

Bye for now.

Abi xxx

Posted by Abilucy 14:34 Archived in Australia Tagged armchair_travel Comments (1)

Abi on Tour!

The story of my tour of Uluru (Ayers Rock)! I can't possibly do it justice, but when I see you all again, I won't shut up about it, so I'm sure you'll get all the info then!!! Lucky you!

sunny 28 °C

Ok guys, this one is going to be a long one, so go and get a cuppa, a fair few biccies, and settle in for a long one - sorry!

So I arrived in Alice Springs, stepped off the plane into a sauna apparently. The forecast was right, it was about 40 degrees, and I don't think I've ever experienced heat like it. Certainly not in Oxford or Kettering, that's for sure!! I settled into the hostel that I was staying in, and more importantly my air con equipped room, and then braved the oven outside, and went for a quick wander around Alice. It's a very small town, not a great deal to do, with several groups of aboriginal people hanging around on the grassy areas. I later learned that these groups have often been rejected by their own tribes, and have now been cast out of local society, and are often drunk and not part of the other Alice community. It was odd to see, and felt very sad, and also slightly intimidating. I was really keen to learn more about aboriginal life though, and looked forward to finding more out on my tour.

The following morning, I got up at 4.50am, and hopped on the bus that I would spend the next 3 days. There were 21 of us in total, all from different countries or areas, and all ranging in age. I think David was the youngest - it was his 18th birthday on the first day we began our journey, so we tried to make it a good one!! Hayley was our guide, and got everyone to introduce themselves, on our initial 5 hour journey out in the desert. I was sitting next to Eimear, a lovely Irish girl who I hit it off with straight away, and we spent the bus journey chatting, snoozing and being shocked by just how bloody hot it was!!!!
We arrived at Kings Canyon at about 12 noon, and Hayley explained that we were going to do a 3 hour walk around the rim of the Canyon, starting at a climb up 'Heart-attack Hill'. This didn't sound like a clever plan to me, but we headed up, and I gave it a go. Unfortunately, I didn't react too well to the extreme heat (we later found out that it was actually 44 degrees) and I didn't manage to make it up the hill. I was really disappointed with myself, but started feeling really faint, and just generally not good, and I didn't think it was fair on me or the group to push myself and then be ill for the rest of the tour. I climbed back down and went to sit in the shade, with another lovely Irish girl, Sandra. We chilled out for a while, and then did a shorted creek walk which was still really pretty, and incredibly hot.

We then headed to Curtain Springs, which is where we were going to set up camp that night. Curtain Springs was a cattle ranch, which actually covered a million acres! I can't even imagine what that looks like, but it gives you an idea of how big Oz is, and how much land there is up for grabs. We set up camp, and got out our swags, which are kind of like thick, heavy sleeping bags that you can climb into, and keep you off the ground. Bearing in mind it was still about 28 degrees when we actually went to bed, I didn't fancy getting in, so I slept on top of the swag and the sleeping bag, and just slept in my silk liner. Anyway, Hayley and a few people in the group cooked up a great dinner, and we all sat round the fire and tucked in. Eimear, Sandra and Gigi, a lovely American girl on the tour, all sat and chatted, taking in what was around us, and just generally couldn't believe that we were actually out here! It was so great to be out in the middle of nowhere, and when we finally did lie down, looking up at the stars was a completely magical experience. There were hundreds of thousands that you could see so clearly, and it was one of the most amazing views I've ever had. I thought I would feel a bit nervous about all the creepy crawlies and animals that could be around, but I didn't at all, and I just drifted off to sleep under the stars.

The following morning we were woken by Hayley at about 5am, just before the sun got up, and got ready for the day. We had brekkie and then headed off out to Kata Tjuta (the Olgas) which is a group of rocks just a few km's from Uluru. Kata Tjuta means 'many heads' and that's pretty much what the rocks look like. We started our walk at about 8.30am/9ish, and headed off into the rocks. There are quite a few parts of both Kata Tjuta that the public don't have access to, because they are parts that are particularly sacred to the owners of the land, the aboriginal tribes. We walked through some of the rocks, and I was overwhelmed by how huge they were, and how they looked as though they were made up of lots of smaller bits of rock all semented together. The weather was similar to the day before and the heat was completely suffocating at times, but we all made it up to the second lookout and rested there for a while and took some pics. Then a few of the boys (and Carmen - a just-turned-40 yr old Spanish Lady who seemed to take every task completely in her stride!) headed off to do the longer walk, while the rest of us headed back to the carpark. Just to let you know, all of the walks are actually closed at 11am everyday in summer purely because of the heat, so we were pretty hardcore, even if I do say so myself!!!
Once everyone was back, we headed to our next campsite just outside the national park, where everyone now has to camp (before anyone could pitch up a tent anywhere in the national park, so you could sleep right next to Uluru) and had some lunch and then had a swim in the pool which was looovely!!! It cooled us all down for about 5 minutes until you actually stepped out of the pool and back into the heat, and then it was like you'd never been in! We then drove out to the Cultural Centre which is just next to Uluru and learned more about the history of the ownership of the land, and the conflict that has occured between the Aboriginals and the Australian Government, as well as more about the stories that go along with Uluru and why it is so sacred. Again there are areas that you can't take pictures of, and parts that no one knows stories about, as only the local tribes have this information.
It was now about 4.30pm and we headed out to do the Mala walk, which was just a short part of Uluru and had some amazing caves and crevasses to look at. Hayley informed us of the uses of some of the caves, as teaching caves for small boys when they are learning to hunt, and then there was a cooking cave, where the women would grind down some seeds and pulses that are found in the bush, to feed to the rest of the tribe. It was all so interesting, and really added so much to our understanding of this huge rock!The flies were worse than ever on this part of the tour, and just swarmed round us for the entire walk. I think the girls and I spent most of our time doing the same 'swatting dance' and just generally getting slightly irritated by them crawling into your ears and up your nose and eyes constantly!!

Once we had completed the walk, we headed over to the sunset area, where all coach groups go to watch the sunset over Uluru. We had dinner there and just took in the sight of Uluru changing colour as the sun fell in the sky. It was awesome, I loved every moment of it, and just couldn't look at it enough. The girls and I took loads of pics, and there was just such a lovely vibe to it. I wish that everyone I know could have been there because it was so special. I will definietly remember the sight for the rest of my life, and I'm so glad I got to share it with such lovely people. We didn't get the dramatic sunset that everyone talks about, when the rock goes really red, because the clouds seemed to have it in for us, and gathered just before the sun went to bed, but it was still incredible. Hopefully you can get a bit of an idea from my pics (http://www.flickr.com/photos/abilucy/) but it really can't do it justice.

We headed back to camp, and chatted to a real-life drover for a while who actually worked on curtain springs, before heading off to bed.

The next morning, Hayley got us up at about 4.30am and hustled us up onto the bus super quick to get out to the sunrise spot nice and early. Again there were so many coach parties there, but once again the experience was bewitching, especially when we were driving up to Uluru, the sun was just hinting at coming up behind the rock, and the bus was silent - we were all just taking in the sight, and I actually welled up at the intense atmosphere of the moment. The colour change again was unbelievable and I was just so grateful I had seen it. We then headed off to do the 10km base walk. Eimear, Gigi and I walked in a group, and had a good old chat. It again was really great, and amazing to see Uluru up close. It looks completely different to the pictures you usually see, and it's so much bigger than you think.

On our way back to Alice, we stopped off for lunch, and then headed to a camel farm for some camel rides! Apparently there are more than a million feral camels in Oz, which is crazy!! Did anyone know that already??? Anyway, Eimear and I hopped onto Curly, our camel, who was bloody massive! Any Hayley and Gigi went on Holly. We had a little walked and then ran back and Eimear and I were just laughing soooo loud the whole way, it was hilarious!

We arrived back in Alice at about 5pm, and all agreed to meet up for dinner and drinks at 7.30pm at the rock bar in town. We were all looking forward to having a lovely cold shower, and actually looking normal again, and not grubby! We had a great night, so much fun with everyone just chilling out, having a few drinks, and Gigi trying to drag everyone up to the dancefloor, including a group of Aboriginal girls, who she managed to get to know about 2 mins before!!! The next day, there were still a few of us around, and Gigi, Line, David and I decided to go for a free Didgeridoo lesson. I was completely useless at it, but it was funny nonetheless. Then we headed to Bojangles in the evening for a dinner of Emu sausage, Camel kebab (we hoped it wasn't Curly!!), a crocodile meatball and Kangeroo and Buffalo steaks. All the meats were pretty good, but we all kept picturing each animal as we ate!! hehe, not for faint hearted veggies thats for sure.

Ok, well that it pretty much the end of the Tour story. I'm sorry it took me so long, and that it has taken you about as long to read! Yes you can leave your computer now, I'll let you! But basically, it was without a doubt the highlight of my trip so far, I met some fantastic people and I will never forget Uluru!

I'm in Cairns now, and heading to Port Douglas tomorrow for a week of chilling, and then I get to see my boyfriend again - WOHOOOO! I'd almost forgotten I'd got one! hehe (Joking Dan).

Anyway, love you all, and miss u lots and lots.

Abi xxxx

Posted by Abilucy 23:43 Archived in Australia Tagged foot Comments (2)

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