Thursday, 6 December 2012

Holiday blog

So here is my holiday blog, finally finished and only a little bit late. Okay maybe a lot late but I guess I’m slipping into the Indian ways; no sense of time or direction. Our host tried to direct us to the post office. He said:

the post office, hmmmm, very very very far away, I will send a boy with you, you will go by auto or maybe taxi, very very far”.

So in we got into this auto (rickshaw) with one of the boys from the hostel. We ask for the post office. About a minute later we had arrived. The post office is literally around the corner from our house. It was very funny. Ever since that day we have walked to the post office however our host still insists on us taking a boy with us just in case it is too far.

For this blog I am only going to write about our holidays as there is so much to tell about everything we did and all the places that we went to. On the evening of the 14th of October, me, Kyekue and Katie (a volunteer in Tangutur) got our 1st overnight train to Chennai. The train journeys in India are very interesting in India. Our train was 1 hour late – not surprising after all we are in India – so we sat on the station patiently waiting with all our bags. Whilst we were sitting there, two men on the opposite station got out their camera phones and started taking pictures of us. This has got to have been one of the most awkward moments of my life. I mean what do I do? Do I look straight at the camera and smile? Do I wave? Do I look away?

Once on the train we were shoved into our seats and told to sleep. It was already late and everyone else was sleeping. Our beds were split up; Kyekue sleeping with a group of women, me in one of the double bunks with quite a bit of room, and Katie with a group of men, who spent the whole night staring at her because of her blonde and extremely curly hair.

We arrived in Chennai at 4am, where we had a little bit of trouble with some auto drivers. We wanted to get the bus from the train station to the bus station where we were getting our next bus to Pondicherry. We were trying to find out where it stopped. We had been informed by the tourist information that it was only going to cost us 12 rupees. So we are wandering around trying to find the bus stop, meanwhile we are stopped by loads of auto drivers who offer to take us to the bus station for 200 rupees each. But we were so determined to get that bus to the bus station so we keep searching. We get told to go to the main road. We get to the main road and supposedly the bus picks people up on the other side of the road. This seems so easy until you consider that in the middle of the road are a barrier and a mangy looking dog. So we are standing in the middle of the road trying to discuss how to get around the dog. I suggest that one of us walks towards it to scare it off but not one of us I brave enough to go towards it, so we have to climb over the barrier to avoid the dog. When we finally get to the other side of the road we walk up and down the road, asking in every shop where the bus stops. We ask a group of people who were standing in a random place at the side of the road, and before we knew it a bus had arrived and we were being pushed onto it. This was the bus we had been searching for! In total this confusion cost us a lot of time but most importantly only 12 rupees, not 200 each.
Pondicherry was our next stop and it was very western. Here we met up with Leah and Kirsty who were going to be travelling with us for the rest of our holidays. We had so much continental food. The morning that we arrived we went for breakfast at a small cafe, where we scoffed on cheese on toast, French toast, fruit salads and omelettes. We did the heritage walk which took alongside the beach. The beach in Pondicherry is little to be desired and consists of lots of rocks. However this was our first view of the Bay of Bengal and it was beautiful and was great for some photo opportunities of Indian fishing boats. That night we went out for an Italian, where I had amazing spaghetti bolognaise. That night I got the best shower I’d had since being in India. The next day we went to the botanical gardens where we relaxed around writing postcards, chatting and taking photos. We also visited the temple which was cute. It was a very small temple which had a lot of little and intricately detailed prayer areas.

Left: Part of the botanical gardens, Pondicherry

Above: Fishing in the Bay of Bengal

In the afternoon we got our next bus to Madurai, where we got another bus to a place called Rameswaram. Rameswaram was truly breathtaking. I had many moments over my holiday where my breath was stopped and the view from the beach at Rameswaram has got to be one of my favourites. We took a jeep tour out to the beach. When you stand on the beach you can see the first island of Sri Lanka. It was amazing. However there wasn’t much else to do here so we took another bus back to Madurai.

Photo; Me and Kyekue on Rameswaram beach

At Madurai we had our evening meal at a roof top restaurant looking out over the dark city lit up by the lights of the temple and the autos. The nights really come alive in India. I have even noticed this at home in Ongole. AS soon as the sun sets, everyone comes out and the road light up with traffic. The next morning we went to the temple, which was huge! Unfortunately I have no pictures from inside the temple as you are not allowed to take camera in. It was a huge shame as I saw some amazing things such as the wedding blessing that were going on whilst we were there; filled with colour, flowers and spices.

Madurai in the Day and the night

We then got a bus to Kanyakumari which is at the point of India, the last bit of land before a big bit of ocean and eventually the South Pole. We ate fresh pineapple and mango on the beach. We also went over to the small island to view the temple. It was a short five minute journey by boat but we all had to wear life jackets. They were the most amazing and fashionable items, being bright orange with glow-in-the-dark patches and they were all the same size so they were very big. It was on this small island that we experienced our first of many southern storms. We all got absolutely soaked but unlike all the other people on the island who took shelter. We showed our true British side and ran around in the rain until we were soaked through, then we just casually strolled back to the ferry in the pouring rain.

Above: Me, Katie and Leah in our life-jackets

Left: The statue and the temple on the island

Our next bus was to Kollam. Yes we took lots of buses this holiday. Our aim of the holiday was to see as many places as possible and to do this we agreed that we needed to sleep on the buses, visit the places and then get a bus to the next place. In Kollam we met up with Ruby and Vibeke. Me and Ruby got to visit a Hindu temple when our auto driver decided that he needed to pray. We had powder put on our foreheads and were given treats to eat – they didn’t taste too good but it’s the thought that counts right? We went for a tour on the backwaters, one of those breathtaking moments. I took so many photos and I still can’t choose my favourite. We were shown all the different plants that they grow on the little islands. I learnt how they harvest coconuts from the trees, how the build their boats and how they insulate their houses. We had tea and tapioca chips in someone’s house. He said it was a shop, but it defiantly looked like their house with just a small table with things for sale on it.

 Me and Ruby in the auto after visiting the temple.

My favourite picture taken whilst on the backwaters tour. I might paint it when i get home.

Our next stop was a place called Alleppey. Here we began the chilled out part of our holiday. We rented out a house boat for 24 hours where we just sat a relaxed. In the evening we sat a watched a tropical storm over the backwaters of Kerala and the next morning I woke up to see the sunrise over the waters. It was amazing. There isn’t much to write about Alleppey as we didn’t do a lot but it was my favourite part of our holiday because I was so insanely beautiful.

Above: Taking a photo of the other house boats. we were staying on a house boat like the one in the picture except ours had a massive balcony on the front which we sat on a relaxed.

Left: the sunrise that i woke up to a 5am in the morning, it was breathtaking.

Fort Kochi was the final place on our holiday before we started to head home. We spent 4 days here and for most of us this was the place where most of us spent all our holiday spendies. I felt truly pampered when I had a head shoulders and neck massage. I had my eyebrows threaded and did some early morning yoga. I ate French toast, honey and fruit every morning for breakfast and each evening we went to a different restaurant and I scoffed on fluffy rice, puffed up parrotas and spicy, creamy curries. We went to see the Kathakali dance show; a play performed only by men, who use no speech or noise, but only their movements and facial expressions to tell 
the story. The play is performed to music played on traditional Indian instruments and everything is very elaborately decorated, even the actors. They paint their faces with different colours so they look like the gods and they dress in over the top, eccentric dresses, which are so huge that only two of the men can fit on the stage at one time. I’m sure at one point one of them got stuck in a stage door.

Photos of the Kathakali dance show.

On the last day together, as five of us, in Fort Kochi, we had a great day at the beach. It was an absolute nightmare of a journey to get to but it was all worth it in the end. The morning of the ‘BEACH DAY!!!’ we walked to the ferry jetty as the beach is on a separate island and we needed to get a boat over. It took us ages to work out what ferry we needed to get and by the time that we had realised what one we needed we had also realised that the ferry we needed left from the other jetty. GREAT! So now we had to walk back the way we had come. We finally got on the ferry successfully and on the other side we got on a bus that took us to Cherai Beach. When we got to the point where we had to get off, the driver stopped the bus. Me and Katie however did not get off the bus! Despite how clear we made it that we wanted to get off at this stop to the women sitting next to us they would not move. I ended up straddling the lady sitting next to me because she would not get up out of her seat for the five seconds she needed to. I’m not sure but I’m pretty sure that being that close to someone, with your legs either side of them is pretty rude in India. But I had no choice. 

Me and Kirsty in the sea
By the time Me and Katie had negotiated all the oblivious Indians on the bus, the bus had started moving and we were being driven away from Cherai Beach and more importantly our three friends who had managed to escape the bus and were now standing on the side of the busy Indian road, waving at us and laughing, as we struggled to explain that we needed to get off. The bus stopped for us and we emerged unharmed from our ordeal – ok, it’s a bit dramatic I know but I will forever tell this story like that. The first time I told it was to Leah and Kirsty the moment I got off the bus. I was so impassioned and excited about what I had just been through that I failed to see the lamp post heading my direction and walked straight into it. Fail of the day, number 2. The beach was great. Plain white sand. Big rolling waves. And a nice hot sun. Which, incidentally was the reason why I went to that beach white and came back looking like a lobster.

Us on our way home
So that was my holiday. Two weeks of chaos, lots of bus journeys, tonnes of samosas and milk biccys, lots of fun and 5 very tired people, cut down into 2000 words. I’ve got to say though despite all of the amazing things we did, the places we saw and the people we met, the best thing was going back to Ongole to all my kids smiling faces. I really did miss them, even their constant demands, their singing at 5 in the morning and even them peeing in my grade 4 classes. Yes, Anosha peed. But hey!! That’s another story yet to be told!!

All that left to be said is ‘Have a great Christmas!’

All my love from India.
Becca xxx

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