First journey over, off to the next!

Before i recount the last two weeks of my trip India, i’d just like to say that it is my intention to keep up this blog throughout my placement in Japan, so if you would like a bi-monthly update, please continue to look at the blog!

Man, this all seems so long ago!
After the periyar reserve i went to Alleppy to go boating around the backwaters. The most expensive way to do this is by riceboat, which is supposed to be so luxurious but the problem, as with all other rooms, is that the prices are for at least 2 people, and therefore it was out of the question for me! However, i feel that the way i did it, by canoe-d boat, was maybe even better because i was able to go through narrow canals and see what people really live like, though i’m sure they feel like they’re on show considering how popular it is to do tours like this even as a holiday destination for other Indians! It was really nice and calm, though i felt bad for the guy rowing because the paddles weren’t very effective and he was working so hard!

Then i went up to Kochi to wait for the morning train to calicut. At this point i wasn’t sure whether i was going to stay the night or overnight in the wayanad region, up in the hills because i wanted to visit another wildlife reserve there. I decided spur of the moment to head straight into the hills, though when i got there the tourist information office told me they were all closed because of forest fire risk! So i hopped back onto a bus an hour later and took it all the way to Mysore.

In mysore i mainly wandered around, it’s not a very thrilling city, quite dirty, as with most indian cities, but much nicer than mumbai. They have a sultan’s palace there which is nice to see though i didn’t go in, and some nice markets. I took a trip outside to go to this small but tranquil bird sanctuary, and i really enjoyed it, i did a little boat trip and everything – very pleased i was! On sunday nights you can also see the sultan’s palace lit up by 5000 lightbulbs, so i did that, and it gave me a bit of a colonial timewarp as during the hour that it was lit up there was a brass band playing music – not very indian like!

Then i went into the hills, yet again, to a place called madikeri which is in the middle of the coorg region, known for their coffee produce, and at this time of year the coffee plants are in bloom giving off a wonderful and strong fragrance.
It was sad to see on the way that you get beautiful fenced in plantations but right outside there’s litter thrown everywhere, and that upset me a tiny bit.
I found a great place to stay, good value and lots of tv channels (always a bonus traveling alone) and i went for a 8km hike to waterfalls. But again, as with all my expeditions, i was ill-fated and caught in the rain, AGAIN! though i was able to find shelter here and able to comfortably wait until i could stop a rickshaw. The waterfalls were ok, i prefered the hiking in munnar to be perfectly honest. Madikeri was also a bigger than expected having been to munnar, and much busier.
I spent the next afternoon sitting from the raja’s viewpoint just reading my book and catchig up in my journal, i enjoyed that!

Then that afternoon i was off to mangalore, and i wanted to see if i could get a train ticket yet to mumbai from goa. I forgot to mention that when i went to book it in alleppy, the night i wanted (granted it was a sunday), which was 11 days away, had 98 people on the waiting list. 98!!! so i booked the saturday (37 people) because you can get a full refund 24hrs prior to departure. The train system is so busy, also pretty cheap, that you can book 3 months in advance, and the goa-mumbai route is quite popular. Lucky for tourists they have what’s called a tatkal system, where they reserve 15% of all seats and only release them 5 days prior to travel, so at least some tourists have a chance of getting a ticket. And i managed to get one! yay! for the 29th. So i now have 5 days planned at the beach. YES!

From mangalore i went up the coast (this is the western coast btw) to a place called gokarna, which is a little farmers village not well known, but it has some great beaches and isn’t as touristy as goa. It was nice going there, and it was indeed pretty quiet (a cow stole my pineapple! bastard) but i felt that it had been much harder in india to meet people and i was actually wanting to go somewhere more touristy as i needed that contact with other foreigners.
So i spent 2 days in Gokarna and took teh train up to goa.

I never realized that Goa was so big! I’d just assumed Goa to be one place, like mumbai, but actually it’s a reasonably long stretch of the coast with like 30 different beaches most referred to as north or south of panjim, the capital. So then where should you go in Goa? It depends what you’re looking for, because most of the party beaches are further up north, whereas some quieter ones are south. I ended up going to Palolem, which is in the south, and to some the most idyllic of all Goan beaches. I know it’s hard to say i’ve really seen Goa by only going to 1 beach, but i enjoyed it there. It was busy but a nice kind of busy, and i finally met some more people (these german girls) who i had dinner with. The second night i was getting a bit sick, a cold which is still lingering on now. Not much to say about my time in Goa apart from that it was so great to just lie in the sun and swim in a warm ocean and do absolutely nothing else!

I took the sleeper train up to Mumbai (it wasn’t so bad, it was laying on a flat slightly-cushion bench but it worked) and then went straight onto try and make my way to Matheran, or as i like to say, maybe one of southern india’s best kept secrets (at least from foreigners). To get there takes a bit more time because you have to get to a place called Neral by suburban train and it is one of the most densely packed trains in india, so find the ladies compartment if you can (that’s been amazing about travel in india – the fact that mostly there will be a ladies compartment, meaning you’re not being groped all the way. THey do their fair share of staring, but at least it’s from a distance!) and then you take a ‘toy train’ up into the hills. Matheran used to be a colonial hillstation, and there’s no cars allowed (there not even pavement for most of it) and it’s popular to ride on horseback there, and there’s not much to do but relax and go for walks to some stunning viewpoints (i just realized i said and there like 10 times). The views reminded me a bit of the blue mountains in sydney, the way you can see the land formations. It was beautiful, i was so happy i went there!!

And after i just made my way back into mumbai to the airport where i stayed overnight and made my way back to normalcy in Belgium. Well, at least for a little while. on the 20th i fly to japan, don’t know where i’ll be posted yet but yay for another adventure! I’m also going back to London shortly, so i’ve come to realize i can’t sit still anymore…

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