Friday, 16 May 2008

looks like i'm the only white boy in town

Wow, what a difference 165 kms and 4 hours make!

The train was amazingly long and it took me nearly 5 minutes to walk from the back of the train (where everybody was literally fighting to get onto the cheap seats) to my second class a/c carriage. The train pulled slowly out of the station and gradually built up speed. As I looked out of the window, passing the poorer parts of Mumbai, I found it strange, to say the least, to see people squatting in between the tracks taking their early morning bowel movements for the entire world to see!

The small town of Nasik (pop.1.2 million) straddles the banks of the Godavari River, which is one of the holiest rivers in India. This town is host to the Kumbh Mela which is held every 12 years. Imagine up to 30 million Hindu pilgrims all coming here to bathe in the holy waters. Luckily for me it’s not on at the moment!

The station was 8 kms from the hotel and a cheap auto rickshaw ride took me all the way. Although I did have my eyes closed on a couple of occasions as the driver weaved his way in and out of the traffic which only sometimes obeyed the rules of the road!

The hotel I’m staying in is 5 times cheaper than the one in Mumbai and it’s so much better. I’ve even got cable TV. It’s nice to be able to watch BBC World to get a non Indian view of what’s happening in the world.

It is a short walk from the hotel to the river and here I feel for the 1st time I’m seeing India. The river is controlled by a weir and some of the flow is diverted into a large shallow tank. Flanked by steps on two sides people come here to wash their clothes and bathe themselves in the holy water. Of course the kids just have fun splashing around.

Along the river banks are temples and shrines with the pungent smell of incense blowing on the wind.

Being here it feels like I’m the only white boy in town and as such I’m getting loads of stares as I walk around. No different to Acton high street really. I’ve had several people come up to me just to talk which is a great change from last week! One family came up to me and after shaking all of their hands at least twice I posed for minutes with all the family whilst photos were taken. Then it was the turn for individual pictures with each family member followed by more handshakes and words of thanks. Sure did put a smile on my face!

After a late afternoon siesta I bimbled around some more by the river soaking up the views at night. By now I was getting hungry and I found a great little restaurant near the hotel. The A/C was on and the beer was cold and cheap. When I was ordering my meal the young man did the shaking of the head thing that only Indians seem to do. Reminded me of watching “goodness gracious me” on the TV

Saturday 17th

It’s my 1st full day here in Nasik and to be honest apart from people watching down by the river there’s not much else to do. You know what, that just suits me fine. In the morning I just sat and watched the waters go by and in the heat of the afternoon I lounged on my bed with the fan on full and the large windows open. Lying there watching BBC world, espn and axn was just heaven. In the relative cool of the evening I wandered around the narrow streets of the old part of town, either side of the river. Last night I found this restaurant near the hotel and tonight I’m back again. I’m in the “posh bit” i.e. it’s got a/c. it’s dimly lit and sparsely populated…nice!

Right now I am glad Chelsea aren’t in the FA cup because ESPN is showing the tennis and all the Indian sport channels are showing the cricket!

For regular followers of my travels you may have noticed that on my photo website the photos have become smaller. The reasons for this are

• No one really looks at the pictures full size
• Smaller photos upload quicker

I’ve started to map out a route, well kind off, and so far I’ve reached Goa. I should get there sometime in June. Hopefully before the monsoon does and I’ll try and avoid the beaches as much as possible. I still want to go diving, which is the main point of going there. For those of you who can’t understand going to Goa and avoiding beaches…I hate sand! Blame my parents and childhood summer holidays in the West Country. Mind you if I find a nice pebble beach that would make me more than happy.

Earlier on in the evening I was hanging out on the steps down by the river when a local sat down beside me. His age was hard to determine and as carbon dating only works on the dead I was slightly at a loss. Dressed in orange from head to foot with a large wooden shaft at his side I guessed he was a Hindu holy man. Like me, he didn’t bother with learning a foreign language which is where the “point to it” dictionary came in. I think I managed to explain my travels to him as did he to me. Mind you the map of India was small and for a skinny man he had amazingly large fingers. I said my goodbyes but when I got up to leave his hand wrapped around my wrist tightly. He talked quickly and intensely but unfortunately the “point to it” dictionary didn’t have any pictures of the metaphysical world. So, with either blessing or a warning ringing in my ears I departed stage right.

10 days in India and so far I’ve had more Chinese food than Indian. When I was in Iran I was hanging out for some dim sum and chicken fried rice! So far the only “Indian food” I’ve had has been chicken curry and chicken tikka both of which I can get in England. I’ll be in India for 5 months so there is plenty of time to taste al sorts of things and enjoy the after affects….
Sunday 18th

A lazy and happy Sunday. Brought my train ticket for Tuesday and hopefully I filled out the form properly and will be seating in an A/C carriage! I’ve even booked a hotel for when I get there and splashed out £8 a night for a room with air conditioning. It will be nice to wake up in the morning with body hair that doesn’t resemble a dew laden lawn on an early spring morning.
As it was a Sunday I lazed in front of the TV, channel surfing and by complete luck came across the French motogp…sweet! For the next 45 minutes it was all ooh’s and arh’s.

In the evening I ended up in your classic Indian boozer and enjoyed a couple of cold beers. Out of the dozen or so customers I am the only one with a beer. These locals sure do enjoy drinking the whiskey. Bagpiper seems to the brand of choice here but I’m not sure if it has ever seen Scotland

Monday 19th

Damn, if you thought I was one idle bastard yesterday, this day would leave you in disbelief!

I didn’t leave my hotel room till round 8 pm. I spent the whole day lounging around watching TV. Just because I’m in a foreign city doesn’t mean that I will be out sightseeing everyday. I’ve been on the road for nearly one year and some days all you want to do is “noting at all”

In the evening I needed to refill the wallet. The 1st atm I went to was broken. The 2nd, 3rd, 4th, 5th, 6th and 7th atm’s all said that there was an error with my card, both of them! Panic…well almost! However the 8th one dished out the cash so I was able to eat tonight and pay the hotel in the morning

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