Our Indian epic adventure must come to an end and while we’ve been thrilled to share with you all some of our amazing memories and photos from the sub-continent, we’re amped to start sharing the new chapter in our existence…
There are some last thoughts to share about India, however, so today we bring you the “B-Sides” of India – the stuff we can’t let you go without seeing condensed (well, kinda!) into one Epic Blog of Indian Goodness. Enjoy!
Temples have featured often in our blogs about India but there are still loads more that we saw that haven’t found their way to these pages. A couple in particular, however, really stood out for us.
First up, the Shore Temple, Mahabalipuram. In case you couldn’t work it out from its name, this 8th century temple looks out over the shore, specifically the shores of the Bay of Bengal. A stunning complex, the location and the different nooks and crannies make this a really beautiful and interesting spot to wile away an afternoon.
The other stand out temple was less about architecture and more about experience – the Jain Temple in Cochi was one of the most welcoming and intriguing places we visited. Not only were we given special allowance to go and wander around parts usually not open to non-Jains (we were on a roll that particular day!) Dan was able to indulge his growing love of feathery friends and frolick with the pigeons. Each day at 3pm there is a rice feeding ceremony, creating a spectacular flurry of activity.
In fact, this wasn’t the only random encounter with animals that Dan had this trip. Actually, counting the above, that’s three separate bird encounters in as many months. However, its not just friends of the avian and bovine variety to be made in India – we’re not even really sure how this happened but we think it was a challenge of manliness to see if Dan could catch a goat, should we ever be dependent on his hunting skills. Or something like that.
Heading away from animals and temples and back to the much more profane world of our bellies for a moment, we feel it worth mentioning a particular aspect of our travels through India that struck us as kinda peculiar. In every town there were more places with signs proclaiming “German Bakery” than we could count. We’ve no idea as to the background of the particular fascination with German (as opposed to any other European baking country!) bakeries but did start to notice a trend – that very few of the places that advertised such bakeries had (a) anything particularly German; or, more often (b) a bakery at all. If anyone can explain this to us, we’re all ears. One place in Udaipur had such stunning cake that we hoarded it in advance of an epic train journey (for which we were very grateful the following day when the train was stranded for hours!) but just missed the border by having the name Edelweiss. Oh well, close enough. And oh, that banana cake!
Keeping with the cafe theme for a moment, we’d love to include a little blurb about an incredibly special place we discovered off the beaten track in Mysore, Malgudi Coffee Shop. This place not only had the BEST cake in south India, AND let Dan behind the coffee machine to make the best coffees we’d had since New Zealand, it also had a pretty amazing story – its the first all woman-run cafe in Mysore and the first dalit (‘untouchable’ caste) run cafe potentially in India. In order to try and break a centuries old taboo that considers certain members of society as ‘unclean’, 11 young women have been trained and employed to bake, serve, waitress, host, cook, clean and manage an awesome cafe in a pretty funky old palace that has been transformed into a model of sustainable tourism by a local charity. Profits are all distributed to charitable and environmental projects in India making it a pretty wholesome deal all round. This should offset that whole beef burger incident!
A particularly memorable autorickshaw was undertaken one sunny Cochi day in a pimped out ‘Ferrari’ auto, complete with pink ceiling fluff, and with sub-woofer blaring Wyclef Jean as we circled the quaint streets. Awesome.
Our friendly driver toured us around, showing us cool stuff like where the traditional laundry service is. Coconuts popped up again, this time in the form of fuel for the ironing.
Continuing on the tour, introductions were made not to a bunch of cranky old women who were preparing ginger for sale. H-J fit in with them just fine. Her future career path?
After discovering our lust for all things coffee, next stop on the Ferrari-Pimp-Mobile tour of Cochi came a local coffee roaster. A lovely gentleman showed us around his shop and roastery before allowing us to indulge in purchase of some pretty tasty coffee beans.
As far as unique little towns go, Hampi is a must see for its impressive entranceway – a walk across some watery rocks, followed by a short boat ride through some of the most impressive and unusual scenery we’ve seen anywhere.
A haven to backpackers, predominantly of the Israeli and Scandanavian persuasions, this removed little spot provided one of the most relaxed but still fascinating few days of our travels. It doesn’t feel anything like what you’d imagine the ‘Indian’ experience to be but its a UNESCO World Heritage sight for a reason worth a peek for the natural beauty, the ruins, the temples, the sunsets and the reservoir.
Memorable experiences came thick and fast during our travels. Being in the country during the festival of Diwali was possibly the noisiest and most nerve-jolting celebration we’ve ever been privy to. Fire crackers, power shortages, fire crackers, fireworks and more fire crackers all erupted for hours on end creating a surreal soundscape and an eerie haze over the Madurai streets which will be etched into our senses for a while to come!
In fact, the more we look through our photos and scribblings from India, the more stories and images emerge of what makes India such a unique country and, more personally, what made this trip such an amazing adventure. There is not enough room on this blog, or perhaps the internet itself, to encompass all that is India. So we’ll leave you with a few last parting shots of India as you’d expect and as you might not.
The wrap up?
Number of scarves bought: around seven. For some reason, this seems to be a thing you end up bargaining for, bargaining hard for and then wandering away and wondering why the hell you now own so many scarves. You don’t particularly wear scarves in real life, unless they’re made of skinned sheep and its the middle of winter. But now you find yourself the proud, albeit slightly confused owner of a half dozen, floating pieces of material.
Number of other souvenir items bought? Actually, very few: A squashed A2 size map of India, bought by H-J somewhere in the middle of the trip for we’re not sure what reason and then rolled up and mashed into her pack. Rolled up paper – good thinking; several hand painted Rajasthani bracelets, minus one which ended up on Ush’s wrist so is now rocking it solo in NZ; a triptych of miniature paintings from Udaipur; a very tacker Taj Mahal shopping bag; and a glossy, heavy hardcover book of Indian street food, carried through most of the trip. Dedicated.
Number of bad ideas: surprisingly few. One half of the couple would say that ever bothering to get up early and see a ‘sunrise’ in India is a bad (or at least pointless) idea but apparently she’s the half that “has no soul”.
Number of freak-out moments: just one, when a bunch of guys all wearing the same shirts were following us around a Delhi mall, talking on their cellphones and hiding behind poles. We were convinced we were going to be trafficked or end up in some Hostel-esque scenario. Oh and that time we thought we were going to get shanked by 8 year olds in Kolkatta. Surprisingly, one thing we weren’t perturbed by at all by was the traffic and crazy busy roads – its actually fun whizzing around through such a vivid landscape in indescribable chaos.
Number of photos: it turns out to be one per kilometre…
India: 20 cities, by plane, taxi, autorickshaw, boat, camel, train, bus, jeep and canoe over approximately 7,500 kilometres.
We were lucky enough to meet literally hundreds of awesome people during our travels but a special shout out must go to our favourite two Indians, our travelling companions Ushma and Chirag, aka Princess Cardamom and Prince Chigs. We hope to hit other shores for exploration with you guys again sometime soon.
See you all in Hong Kong…