18th - 30th April
16.04.2009 - 30.04.2009 36 °C
We arrived in Hospet quite early in the morning after the night train from Bangalore. We got a rickshaw to nearby Hampi where we stayed for two nights. Hampi is a village in central south India and is famous for the temples, ancient ruins and weird and wonderful rock formations that surround it.
On our first day we hired bikes and cycled around the main sites which include Vittala Temple, the Zenana Enclosure and the Elephant Stables (which no longer house elephants unfortunately but are impressive in their own right). We really enjoyed this as the ruins and temples contained some intricate stone carvings, there were some interesting buildings in the Zenana enclosure and all sorts of intriguing landscape and smaller ruins along the way.
The following day we walked up Hemakuta hill so that we could watch the sunrise. The sunrise itself was worth getting up for but it was also nice to see Hampi at a cooler time of day with hardly any people about.
Later that day we explored more of the area on foot which was hard going as the sun is ridiculously strong in the middle of the day at this time of year. In fact it has been said that 'only the most foolhardy or ill-informed tourists dare venture to India from April to September'. Nevertheless, we were there, trudging along, and still appreciating the scenery.
Probably the most interesting part of the day was the coracle ride to Anegundi, a small village close to Hampi. Officially the bridge to Anegundi is 'under construction', however in reality there is no work going on and the site looks as if its been hit by a bomb leaving coracles to fulfil the function of the bridge and take people across the river. Coracles are small, mostly flat, oval rafts made out of some kind of reed with a plastic sheet lining the inside. They don't look like the most sturdy of vessels so we weren't filled with confidence when the one we were about to get in started to fill up with people and motorbikes. Everything and everyone was delivered safely to the other side though.
Whilst we were in Hampi Ellie's friend Will and his mates Bill and Malcolm were also there so we would bump into them at various points in the day and go for dinner with them in the evenings.
When we left Hampi we got a rickshaw back to Hospet at 5.30am and got on our train to Goa. The train, or at least our carriage, was extremely busy and we found six guys on our seats (which were essentially an upper and lower bunk). The guys were quite polite and all got off our seats when we showed them our tickets but we decided to only use the lower bunk and let some of them pile back onto the top bunk. There was some amazing scenery along the way so it wasn't the worst of train journeys although towards the end when we were late and the carriage was roasting we were keen to get off.
The train arrived in Margao and from there we got a rickshaw down to Palolem, a well known place in South Goa. We found ourselves a beach hut and almost immediately went onto the beach to catch the last of the sun and cool down in the sea.
A lot of people complain that Palolem is over developed, which is probably true, but the number of beachside bars and restaurants certainly make for an easy and agreeable stay. We had some really good meals, particularly at Magic Italy. Over the weekend we went to a bar called Cafe del Mar in the evenings where there was a good atmosphere, decent tunes and the FA Cup Semi Finals playing silently on a plasma screen.
One thing that didn't go as planned in Palolem was Mike's bodysurfing. He went over the top of a wave as it was breaking and was thrown into the seabed where he hit his head and cut his face. He is now OK in case you are concerned!
We left Palolem after three nights which was earlier than we would've liked but we wanted to get to Anjuna for the weekly flea market which takes place on Wednesdays. It is actually a sizeable distance between Palolem and Anjuna so we got a train most of the way with short rickshaw rides at either end. We expected the train to be a bit of a nightmare so were shocked when we were confronted with something we were sure didn't exist in India: an empty carriage! The only people in the whole carriage were a couple of kids who were wandering around the train. This was by far the most pleasant and easy train ride for us in India especially as it lasted for less than two hours and there were really good views.
We didn't do much when we arrived in Anjuna and had an early night so we could be at the market early the next morning. The flea market is just behind the beach and is a vast maze of stalls selling everything from incense sticks to carpets, but mostly T-Shirts. We bought a large bag when we arrived and spent the rest of the day filling it up. There were some really good bargains to be had as it is so late in the season. In fact, many traders were saying that it was the last market of the season so they were giving much better prices than usual but you never know whether or not to believe anything they say.
After the market we were knackered and in definite need of a drink. Unfortunately it was at this time that we discovered about the state wide alcohol ban due to elections so we had to settle for chocolate milkshakes on the beach instead. It's a tough life!
We left Anjuna the next morning in a taxi that took us to Arambol. Arambol is a chilled out beach in North Goa and we stayed there for five nights. Again we got a beach hut and spent our time relaxing on the beach, in hammocks at the huts and in the sea (a little more cautiously than usual).
We left Arambol and Goa on a night train to Mumbai. It was our last journey on the Indian railways and we felt almost nostalgic as we found people in our seats and heard the other passengers spitting out the window. One thing that we will genuinely miss though is the call of 'cccchhhhaaaiiiii' from the chai wallahs as they make their way through the train selling their hot, sweet tea that wakes everyone up. It was particularly needed on that journey as we arrived at 5.50am.
Once in Mumbai we got a taxi to our hotel, rested for a bit and then spent the rest of the day shopping and wandering around. In the evening we went out for a good curry, had another curry for breakfast (as you do) then got a taxi to the airport to go home.
One more blog to come....