Tag Archives: flight

Travels and Tribulations: Part 4

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Our last stop – Chennai. The sleeper train brought us into the centre of the city at early morning, where we quickly found a hotel to dump our stuff. After an hour’s kip, we caught a local bus to Cholamandal Art Village. The Art Village began and still functions as a cooperative of autonomous and self-funded artists, painting in the style of the Madras School. Turns out this style of painting is meant to focus on the use of line, but from the gallery paintings and industrial bronze conglomerate sculptures, its use varied so widely, I could only see resemblances of cubism and Matisse – not any obvious philosophy linking them together.

Artistic minutia aside, most of the village was closed due to it being off-season, so we flopped on a bench in the cafe area (also closed) to sleep off the heat of the day. Chennai felt so hot after Kerala! With some lunch eaten, and Roy hobbled by oozing blisters (nice) we retreated back to the city, passing expanses of pristine yellow beach and even designated car parks, with benches and proper footpaths and everything you’d not expect to see at the Indian seaside! It made me wish we’d had more time to spend in Chennai.

To the cinema for World War Z in the evening. Then, eating dinner in a little fast food place, one mosque (lit up on front with a picture of another mosque) had started playing music in celebration of the start of Ramzan/Ramadan. It was so loud that the bass was actually shaking the cafe floor. Outside, even the pavement was thrumming under the beat. Thank god our hotel wasn’t nearby.

At 7:30am however, I found out that there was a mosque near the hotel, and they were playing the entire prayers through loudspeakers for over ninety minutes. Topping it off, a little worm wiggled its way out of the shower head, sending Roy into an angry frenzy. Checking out, we spent nearly an hour arguing with the idiot of a desk-jockey manning the night reception. After repeating our complaint too many times to remember, and explaining to him how to use a phone after he pretended not to be able to contact the real manager, Roy’s belligerence finally paid off. The manager pulled in on his scooter, and went with Roy back up to the room, where another worm obligingly plopped out when the shower was switched on. Thanks to my entomologist boyfriend feigning a profession in water quality testing, the manager scurried to return our 1000 rupees for the night. “Madam, please write [on the receipt], ‘No things in water’.” We’d just been bribed!

The happy zoologist

The happy zoologist

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“Om nom nom humans”

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Only the sexiest crocodiles have a blob on their nose

Crocodile Bank, Chennai

Snoozing

The plan was to head a little down the east coast from Chennai to Mahaballipuram, via the Crocodile Bank. Thanks to google maps (and the geographer misreading them) I accidentally took us to a bus stop latitudinally level with our intended destination, but actually 10km in reverse and across by road. Damn those parallel road systems! I avoided being murdered by Roy for making him miss the crocodiles thanks to a good bus service (phew) and spent a happy afternoon wandering around the centre. It was surprisingly well-designed and had little pictograms for each crocodile’s information board. Under food, one of them had a cartoon of a person. Oh dear.

I went to sit by the giant tortoises whilst he wandered around a bit more, and the biggest – which for some reason I automatically assumed was the only male – headed for a bath and promptly got stuck. It was half cute, half pitiful to watch him get more and more panicked as he kept failing to mount the concrete lip round the pool. His [female] companions had no problems, which just embarassed him further. He eventually escaped though, and needed some female attention to nurture his ego back to health.

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The moment of final escape from the pool

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Pretending nothing happened

After watching feeding time for the smaller crocs, where a Caiman Lizard ignored the morsels being thrown to him and went for the whole bucket instead, we made it to Mahaballipuram. The guest house we chose to stay in had been hit by the 2004 tsunami, and it’s top floor was still missing. Our host recounted how he saw the wall of water coming, and simply ran. I can’t imagine the terror he must have felt. He said he was crying the whole time, but they were lucky that the row of hotels, built right on the beach, had slowed most of its progress before hitting the town.

Walking round the sites the next day, it also emerged that the water withdrawn 150m from the shoreline by the tsunami also revealed an entire historic town drowned by the sea. What remained of the site on land was a couple of temples heavily eroded by the salt air, and a small area of rock-carved temples over-run by tango-stealing langurs.

Leaving Roy to woo a goat down at the bottom, I unknowingly took the hard route up some slippery rocks towards the temples, and emerged on top of a huge boulder to find a proper path laid out round the corner. As I came out from behind a boulder teetering near the edge of the face I’d climbed, an Indian guy who thought he was being adventurous nearly jumped out of his skin when he saw me!

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Only remaining temple on the mainland
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Mahabharata (?) carved in stone

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Travelling in style…

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A temple carved out of the solid rock

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Violent stone murals inside

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Another rock-cut temple

Then we got caught by a friendly stone-mason, who of course took us to his shop ‘nearby’. Whether it was the sea air or because we were nearing the end of our trip, I was happy to go along, and ended up buying a carved marble chess board. After an indulgent full body relaxation massage where I was semi-groped by a young Indian girl lying topless on a slab, we sat out on our room’s balcony over the sea. The tide was in, and the spray was actually getting us wet, so we retreated indoors, as a lightning storm flickered off towards the horizon and stole our electricity.

Next morning, we left for our train back to Bangalore, and spent an entire train journey with a TV screen blaring out Tamil and Hindu music videos and serials full of screaming women. Arriving back into Bangalore East Railway Station, the sinking feeling in my stomach was palpable. Walking out of the station gates, the hugest cow I ever saw seemed somehow like an omen – of what I still don’t know.

Roy and I spent the next two days spending all our time together; ordering Chinese, watching films at the flat, and hanging out with my flatmates. On the day of his flight, we joined my flatmates for a disgustingly expensive but fantastic brunch at a fancy restaurant, where oysters sat opposite bagels and macaroons, and where my stomach became disappointingly small. 2 hours of gorging later, and with Maria carrying a different coloured Macaroon between each finger, we hurried back to pack, and leave.

Horrifyingly soon we were in the airport, and I realised it was too soon. I wasn’t ready to let him go. He had to go through the doors eventually though, and the army guards weren’t going to allow me past security. So I watched Roy walk along through the glass doors, and stood there for a little while wondering when I could also go home. Then I got a bus back into Bangalore, to continue where I left off.

The Adventure Begins

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Today marks the start of my trip.

My flights have just been booked, my travel insurance is paid for. I’m actually going to INDIA!!!!!

I managed to find a really great deal with Southall Travel, who gave me the same flight that all the other companies and price comparison sites were selling, for only £480. Take that BA, trying to charge me £600! So I’m travelling Air India – they have fantastic films in their TV collections, so that’ll help me while away some (3) hours. I’m going to have to take a list of Bollywood  films with me, so that I can maximise my opportunity to buy out every single one.

The insurance company asked plenty of confusing health questions, some along the lines of, “We assume you’ve never been to hospital with this condition, answer yes or no”. Well the answer is I have been, so is that a no for ‘I haven’t been’, or ‘No I disagree with your assumption’? I also had to quickly pretend I wasn’t quite so decrepit as I really am when I saw they wanted to charge me £70 extra for the privilege of being ill.

Following on from which, I got my typhoid jab out the way yesterday, so I’m all vaccinated up!

My flight leaves on January 9th, and I’ll be returning December-ish (depending on how long the Indian Government will tolerate me staying/throw me out of their country). I can’t even begin to express how excited I am now. It’s a good job I booked the flights when I was alone, because I went running round the whole house squealing for about 10 minutes.

I’ve started looking at places I want to visit in between work days as well, and there’s just too much to do in one trip. India is so big that to get from one city to the next takes days by train, and I want to visit them all! My boss (who is Indian) was also asking me yesterday whether I wanted him to set me up with an Indian boy whilst I’m out there. Erm…I’m OK thanks? It’s great though that people keep talking to me about my trip. It’s getting others interested (which spreads knowledge) and helps with generating wider and wider circles of support. So I’ll leave you with a reminder of why I’m going, and why it’s important, to keep spreading that message:

http://www.indiatogether.org/women/violence/violence.htm

Frustration

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Different events are drawing near, and time seems to be running out. I’ve got my first craft fair coming up this Saturday in my village, but I’m already triple booked for that day – what to do!? I’m currently debating whether or not to enlist some parental help in getting my stall sorted, whilst simultaneously working in two other places at once. In addition, my pile of decorations, though looking beautiful and fairly substantial, are still not finished. I’ve been frantically hand-stitching for a whole day and I still have to attach all of the ribbons to hang them with. Looks like my next day off is going to consist of me being locked in a room by myself until they’re all done!

I’ve finally started to bite the bullet on collecting bungee jump sponsorships off people too. I hate asking people for money, and it’s been stopping me for quite a while. However, now that there’s less than a month to go, and given how much I’m dreading the jump, the back of my mind has started shouting at me to make it all worthwhile. Last night I descended on my lovely work colleagues and badgered them all into giving me their autographs…”£100? Yes, just sign here please…”

Things are also starting to become increasingly real. I have my vaccinations booked for tomorrow, thankfully only the one, and all my medications sorted for the year. And I don’t have to take anti-malarials in Bangalore! I’m so glad that I won’t be constantly itching for a year (the tablets don’t agree with me). Though the travel nurse assured me that if I was to go anywhere north of Hyderabad, or into Goa, I must get some. So, basically, I should be taking them anyway, as I intend to go to all those places.

Most of the weekend was spent trawling price comparison sites and deal-finders, and I was ready to book yesterday – I even got so far as ringing the flight agency – only to be told my flights had disappeared (apparently). 😦  Time to start looking again.