Sunday, June 26, 2011

This is One Week Stale....

and the recent update will come tomorrow.

Two weeks in and we already look and smell like backpackers.

Of course the day we are leaving Kerala (Kochi), it is absolutely sunny and warm. Not a rain cloud in the sky. We got booted from out hotel at 6am, so we had some chai and breakfast at our favorite (read: only place we ate at) restaurant and walked around town. It was so beautiful, and had we been less impulsive, would have stayed longer. But we had a monsoon to beat. Since we hastily bought tickets for the train, we got general class. We didn't know what this meant, but we had sleeper the time before, and that was kind of roughing it. We couldn't find a "general" section so we just sat in sleeper, would wait a stop or 2 when someone would come claim their seat and kick us out, and find new seats. This went on for 4 or so hours when we thought we had a winner. Two men across from us got up and left for quite some time. After walking the train several times, I can tell you, there's no where to go. There's a toilet and there's train cars. That's it. When they finally came back they were clearly out of their minds messed up. On what? Who knows. One kept passing out and mumbling to Paul, "Where are you from?" and the other just sat there all mean looking. Then they started whispering to eachother and looking and pointing at Paul and I. Hmmm. I'm not one to be paranoid, but i'm pretty sure they were plotting our murders. Or perhaps just rob us, but so as not to take a chance we wandered on. Only this time there are no seats to be had. Im talking people hanging out of the rafters. We even tried to upgrade our ticket only to be told no, and the train conducter pointed forward.

So now we have train conductors and 2 scheming killers after us and 11 hours to go. We sat in the vestibule for a while, then saw one open seat. I asked to sit and the man graciously obliged and when he saw that Paul had no seat shared his tiny seat with him! This man was clearly educated, I think he said he was heading to Dehli (24 hour ride, ouch!) to attend law school. He was super sweet and chatted us up until the next stop when we were booted again.

The scenery on this train was amazing. We left at 11am, so we could see everything on this beautiful sunny day. It went from country-side with rice paddies and cows to jungle! I even saw an elephant in the woods! The first and only so far. Then right at dusk we got to the coast where you could see the Indian ocean breaking on the beaches. Aside from moving ever hour, Paul and I rarely even talked on the ride as we were too mesmerized by the sights. Paul even got a nice little sun burn on his right arm.

Back to moving. Literally 5 or 6 hours into this and someone kindly asked to help us. I guess we were looking pretty desperate at this point, and she told us, after NO ONE else had told us, that the first car of the train is general class. To avoid our potential killers and being harrassed by the train conductors, we ran up to the first car at the next stop. You can't even get to this car from the main train, you have to get off and get in it. No joke it was like walking into an animal cage. Talk about people hanging from the rafters. When we got on there were 6-7 people per 4 person bench, people sitting in the luggage racks and people standing in the aisles (as were Paul and I). After a short while someone offered me a seat, then Paul, and then we got the 2 money seats at the window. So for the next 9-10 hours we sat. We didn't want to get up to pee because we didn't want the other person to watch all of the stuff, so we didn't . For 10 hours. Or eat. Or do anything but read our books in the dark. Most people in the car were workers. They all got on with big bags of coconuts and promtly fell asleep. I wish I had a picture of how many people were able to sleep in the car. Fact from Lonely Planet: During rush hour in Mumbai a 1400person train holds 7,000. Yeah, so it was kind of like that. But, as with most of our experiences here, the people were so out of the way generous and polite and helpful; something y9ou would never encounter in NYC.

Wearily (up at 5:30 am) we arrived in Goa at 2am. All in all an interesting trip, but definitely no more general class for these kids. We got an awesome hotel in Colva and passed out only to be awoken by what? The monsoon! It found us all the way up in Goa. The entire, Im talking entire, next day was spent on our balcony sipping cocktails, watching the pond in the back turn into a lake. It was really peaceful and relaxing though. The next morning we bused it up to Candolim (<1 hour). During high season these beaches must be amazing, during monsoon, roughly 90% of everything is closed. We did get some great deals on rooms (~$10/night) but there was little to do at night, so we'd buy our Kingfisher Strongs and watch HBO in the room. It was safe, non threatening, and peaceful. And the beers be strong!

We stayed in Candolim 2 nights then moved up in Calagute (much more happening) for 3 nights. We spent the days walking the beaches, going to resort pools, and eating copious amounts of curries and breads! My favorite meal so far has been mixed veg. jal frizy. Yum! I thought India would make me skinny, tis quite the opposite my friend. Oils and fried stuff at every meal!

Beaches in Goa are interesting. The current is so strong you can't swim, so people literally just roll around in the sand at the water's edge. It was all Indians because it's off season, so if women went in the water, it was in their full outfit. I was able to get away with shorts, but Paul and I finally found Fabindia and both bought some tunics. The beaches during high season are littered with shacks, not trash like they are not. We could see the shacks roofs, but the actual shack, obsayeo. This is where everyone gets great cheap food and drinks. During low season, you go to the wine store or little restaurant and try to fend off flies. I would love to go back and see it in it's full glory. We totally lucked out on weather once there. We had beautiful sunny days the entire time with just 20 min bouts of rain. We even got some sweet tshirt tans!

Way too many other stories to include, but this is getting long. Since it's been raining so hard, the train tracks up to Mumbai have been washed out, so we bought cheap plane tickets. We are currently sitting at the Goa airport awaiting our flight. I'm so exicted to see monkeys, temples, and elephants in Mumbai!!!

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