Archive for the ‘Cultural Highlights’ Category

Go, go, Goa….

Tuesday, April 23rd, 2013

Amazing portuguese architecture awaited us in gorgeous Goa! Adam and I have had a few strolls around Panjim and Old Goa and everything is lush and green. The temperature is a cozy 33 degrees…welcome back sweat!!! The Mondovi hotel we staying in was the first built here and the building is quite stunning, featuring a diesel driven elevator! I finally managed to lose my little zip-lock purse, this time with nobody returning it! Seems like I am a hopeless case in that regards, as my team members already returned my sunnys (which broke today), drivers license and iPhone (fell out of Uggi)!!! Fingers crossed that is the end of this, but I don’t think so! We went out seeking out Panjim’s hottest bar last night but to our surprise it had burnt down due to doggy wiring, how ironic! Tomorrow we are off to India’s 2nd highest waterfall and then to a spice plantation!!! After that its off to party central, Baga….got my dancing shoes polished already and will keep you posted! Cheers Markus

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Day 15 – Hiking Day – Root Bridges

Monday, April 22nd, 2013

After 13 days in a Tuk Tuk our legs are like lead and possibly in jeopardy of DVT, the logical thing to do is to get them moving.

Our friends Rama and Rakesh from team ‘Chutney Chungas’ told us of some amazing root bridges in Cherrapunji, 56km from Shillong. They sounded interesting, so we set about looking into a day trip. We visited the tourist information office and learned that the Cherrapunji Holiday Resort arranges guides. We booked a driver and the plan was hatched, another 6.00am start.

It’s not like we haven’t spent enough time on the road. That’s the thing about travel, you create your journey through your efforts and the sacrifices you are prepared to make in etching out your memories.

Unfortunately Carol and Kaitlyn got food poisoning and were sick throughout the night and unable to join us. We think the culprit was the soup at our hotel as Chris was also feeling questionable, but soldiered on hoping for the best.

The Alpine Continental hotel has a few disconcerting factors. There is an overall dampness that permeates all the corridors and rooms. There is the stale stench of urine that wafts up from the lower floors and unfortunately hits hardest just as you approach the dining hall. Lastly, yet again Kaitlyn and I have landed the room (347) that smells like a sewer, clearly issues with the pipes. On the upside it’s well located and the staff are friendly and helpful.

Today Adam and Markus are off to Guwahati, en route to Goa, so it’s just Chris and I from our crew.

The road from Shillong to Cherrapunji is a narrow, continuous winding road that spans 56km. At about 25km’s, I was starting to feel ill. An empty stomach and those endless turns weren’t agreeing with me. Poor Chris had to throw up. Oh dear! -Things were turning pear shaped rather suddenly.

I think we were all relieved when we made it to the resort. A fantastic eco lodge, perched high atop the valley and mountain ranges with spectacular views. We ordered coffee and breakfast and settled our tummies while we waited for our guide. If you are ever in this region, I would definitely consider an overnight stay at the Cherrapunji Holiday Resort. The staff and owner are warm, welcoming and generous with their knowledge.

Ebenezer, a small, gentle man with kind eyes was assigned to guide us. We agreed to try for the 14km return hike and reassess after we could establish how everyone was coping. A hiking group at a nearby table warned us that it was a tough hike and to take plenty of water.

“What goes up must come down” and more importantly “What goes down must come up”. As we descended down a mountain of stairs into the valley, skirting small collections of 3-5 houses, I’m pretty sure we were all thinking the same thing – “we have to make it back up”.

The bridges are moulded and formed over centuries from tree roots. They are quite spectacular. They provide the means to cross over the river and rock pools that flow below. They are powerfully engaging and their agedness and purposefulness instantly command respect. I am always in awe of century old trees, I gently stroke them hoping for some of their wisdom.

http://www.atlasobscura.com/places/root-bridges-cherrapungee

We made it to the double root bridge where village children were washing and swimming in the rock pools. We rested and spent a good 30 minutes soaking in the atmosphere and the uniqueness of this natural wonder.

Unfortunately Rakesh had hurt his calf muscle and didn’t think it was wise to continue on the longer route. I think Rama was relieved. Rakesh & Rama are 2 Indian’s who live in the US and work in IT. There’s a real warmth to them as a pair and as individuals. Rakesh has a quiet confidence and calm about him and Rama is a bounding ball of joy.

Chris was happy to return as his stomach was still dicy and nausea imminent. All that stood between us and our lift home was a 3km incline of stairs. Everyone did well, all things considered. Rama had only gone to bed at 3.00am, so with 3 hours sleep and not much training, I think he put in a sterling effort. It was like the 1000 steps on steroids. The return incline seemed like it was never going to end.

Along the trail of stairs I came across 2 young girls playing cricket on the path and shared my orange and chocolate with them. I love when language affords no barriers and just a mutual desire to connect with another person allows you to converse without words. Just with smiles, gestures and a mutual desire to be understood. Carol had prepared goodie bags the day before and as usual they were full of just the right things.

On the subject of cricket I happened upon some IPL on TV and I must say I never dreamed it possible, but the Indians have sexed up cricket. Pretty reporters make silly jokes in sexy outfits and flirt with the players while they interview them. I’ve never seen cricket look so much fun.

The winding road home was no easier than on the approach and I found myself feeling nauseous again. We returned around 5.00pm to find Carol & Kaitlyn depleted and weary, having not left the room all day.

It was an early night with a few dry biscuits for dinner. Tomorrow we head to Bangalore.

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Uggi, the crowd pleaser

Friday, April 12th, 2013

Seriously, Uggi is a crowd magnet where ever she rocks up! Looks amazing, always nicely oiled, just like her owners!! If we only would get a dollar for every autograph at toll points, hand shakes along the way and motorists waving before they cut us off, I would be well off!! Uggi ran out of juice today (happens about 3 times a day or about every 100 km) and this time it was near a school crossing in the middle of nowhere!! Took less than 30 seconds and about 100 of those schoolies asking questions and sticking there faces into this sexy beast to get a glimps of her – or is it for the sexy looking owners….hmmm, nothing sexy left in our greasy outfits, so it’s, all about her…unfortunatly! Go Uggi, I know you not gonna let us down!!! Buy you another drink tomorrow, cheers Markus

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Day 6 – Rajamundry to Ramachandra (200km)

Friday, April 12th, 2013

Day 6 – The generosity of strangers

Our day began with Priyanka arriving at 7.15 at Hotel La Hospin in a mini van to collect all 6 of us for breakfast.

The car was in pristine condition with air conditioning and suspension that I thought I might never experience again. Who would have ever thought suspension would be something one would pine for. My $50 cushion purchased in Singapore is the Rolls Royce of cushions and is serving me well. A very wise investment for long haul travel in a Tuk Tuk.

A short 20 minute drive through the morning chaos and we arrived at their 2 story home greeted by Suresh and Shiny, their 3 year old daughter, along with a host of other family members. A most lavish banquet awaited us, we felt like royalty. We were served in the living room. Priyanka and Suresh insisted on serving us, they would eat later. We began with a sweet rice dish. It was like rice pudding but with an Indian touch, flavoured with cashews, lychees, ghee and milk. This was followed by another rice dish, less sweet and creamy than the first – both delicious. Next came a savoury dish of coconut and spicy condiments followed by white bread and jam. You have to be full just reading this. That was just the beginning, next came a selection of almonds, dates and pistachio nuts followed by bowls of pommegranate, grapes, apple and papaya, finished off with a brew of coffee, chocolate cake and biscuits. We definitely left well fed and happy. We met these people at dinner the night before and they put all this together for a 7.30 breakfast, that’s first class Indian hospitality.

Suresh works for the government as head of irrigation and Priyanka is completing her PHD in English literature. They have a beautiful 8 year old daughter named twinkle and a 3 year old named Shiny. They showed us such kindness and generosity of spirit and are another beautiful part of our colourful journey.

We returned to our hotel at 9.30am with the mechanics wrapping up the Tuk Tuk services. The hotel arranged for the mechanic to come to the hotel to do the service. It really has been quite smooth going today. Uggi was about to blow a head gasket so we’re all glad we had the service done. Oil changed, air filter cleaned and ready to roll by 10.30am.

It’s day 6 and to date we know of 2 teams that have pulled out of the run.
The Tukin Bandidos didn’t make it out of Cochin, poor buggers had mechanical nightmares and then one of the team members got sick.

John and lois pulled out as John drank a bottle of contaminated water. Ironic given we are driving across India to raise money to combat this very problem. In excess of 50000 pounds has been raised, so thanks to everyone who got on board and donated. You can still donate at http://www.justgiving.com/teams/Uggi

Today bought us back to a mountainous area. There is something magic about driving with mountains to view. We also saw more beautiful rice paddies. Unfortunately today we lost our dolphin mascot. He must have missed the ocean and headed back to sea.

Enroute to our destination Uggi ran out of fuel, this happens about 3 times a day. We were bought to a halt right beside a school crossing and within seconds were swarmed by children. They were so innocently joyous and so perfectly groomed. How is it that we look like the fall out from Apocalypse Now and they stay so perfectly clean?

About 35km from our destination, we came across another team, ‘The Shanty Project’ in a spot of bother. Our resident mechanic and good samaritan Chris stopped to help. He managed to get them started and fingers crossed they made it to Ramachundra. While Chris was fixing things I wandered up the street and found the most divine ramshackle roadside barber. It was unmanned and so i began to take some pics when the barber returned with a client and invited me in to watch as he was about to get a shave. Pics are attached, this one was priceless.

It was pushing 5pm when we got back on the road. Markus did an awesome job bringing us in to Ramachundra in peak hour traffic. We got some great video footage.

Ironically it is in the cities that the animals are the biggest obstacles – oxen, cows and pigs being the main offenders. Not to mention en masse pedestrians that just appear to have no fear. People will stand with their push bike in the left hand lane staring at the traffic honking furiously and hurtling toward them and not even flinch.

We finally managed to make it to Kaitlyn’s ‘Best Western’ hotel pick at just after 6pm. Hands down this is the best hotel we’ve stayed in. After passing a rather comical bomb detection audit on our innocent little Tuk Tuk’s, we were welcomed with cold white towels. I don’t think they looked at us closely enough before giving us these, we disgracefully returned them a very muddy brown.

I am going to attempt to describe what it feels like at the end of 9-10 hours driving in a Tuk Tuk. You are exposed to wind and dust constantly. Your skin is dry and scorched and no amount of moisturiser is going to help. Your hair isn’t hair anymore, it’s straw and no it’s not your imagination, it really is falling out. Your fingernails look like you just dug your way out of Alcatraz and your feet, well they’re not even worth discussing. While the driver doesn’t get the same breeze they are a little more protected from the elements in the central position. There is always a feeling of exhilaration that you have survived another day.

‘Best Western’ your best is our best! Real beds with real mattresses. But still no beer. Markus managed to negotiate beer to be bought to our rooms but no beer allowed anywhere else. Apparently only the rooms are licensed. Perhaps this is a sign that we’re meant to give up the booze.

“To slow is to falter, to brake is to fail, to stop is defeat.”

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