the end is nigh! (again!)

So we staying up in the mountains until late Thursday morning. Wednesday was spent hiring a couple of (ridiculously heavy and one-geared) bikes, which we cycled along the park road to the lake. Amazingly the cars and auto-rickshaws still seem to think they have to beep every 10 seconds even when driving along a quiet road in a wildlife reserve. I have just about got to the end of my tether with the ridiculous driving in the country… anyway!…

After cycling only a few kilometers we were knackered. Had another amazing thali – served on plantain leaves, with free top-ups of the food and sauces as you like, and only about 40p. The food has been great – I’ve not had anything too spicy (it doesn’t agree with me) – but definitely a lot less creamy and spicy than in England which is good.

We had an aryudevic (which I can’t spell and google doesn’t know) massage which was an experience. I won’t go into too much detail. Suffice to say I have never been so oily in all my life and I can still smell the oil 3 days (and about 6 showers) later. Was very relaxing though and really relaxed the old muscles. Not like a Thai massage where they pull your muscles around more, this is more about improving the circulation in your veins etc… He also read my palm which was a bit mad…. Lucky life? Bet they say that to everyone!

Before leaving we got a 7am boat ride to see the sunrise and try to spot more animals. Wasn’t much happening until we saw 3 elephants in the hillside, an otter eating a fish manically and some nice kingfishers. Bought a few spices and we took the (relatively) relaxing car journey back.

Well it was mainly relaxing, but despite being a pretty good driver, there were a few hairy moments. Firstly his wing mirror (there is only a drivers one) was non-existant. No seatbelts in the back and he chose not to wear his anyway. Overtaking has to be experienced to be believed – especially when there are random cows and bulls in the road. Unfortunately for us when we saw 3(!) petrol tankers in front of us we knew it wasn’t going to be a simple manoeuvre. After one near-crash (when 2 tankers broke and we were less than a metre from the back of the tanker) we took a “short cut” which got us ahead of them but of course the gas tanker van then loomed ahead. To cut a story short – no car journey is safe….. But it was 2 hours quicker than the bus.

Today is the last day. We got up early to see an elephant procession taking place in a hindu temple (I forget the festival name)… 6 elephants, at least 100 drummers and trumpeters and people standing on the elephants’ backs with fans. It was crazily loud and very impressive. Another important lesson – people can set unbelivably loud firecrackers off at these things and they really shock you as you’re not expecting em!

I had a turn for the worst this afternoon due to a combination of malaria tablets, heatstroke (34c today – the hottest of the holiday) and dehydration…. Luckily its all gone now!

So India. An amazing place – a lifetime’s stuff to do and see, and so cheap (50 quid a week is feasible possible – we spent about 100 quid living it up a little)… Amazing beaches, diversity of people and religions… You can get around pretty easily… (if you like roller coasters).

Only negatives. The constant staring (like Morocco all over again), touts everywhere – you basically can’t trust anyone, the whole caste thing (another story entirely), the traffic and beeping, incredibly badly designed cities (so many ugly buildings it’s unreal)…. Oh and the newspapers are basically a selection of press releases – can’t wait to read my Guardian tomorrow!

And the tsunami – we didn’t really go to any affected areas. Cochin (where we are) saw the water level rise lots. I was speaking to a fisherman yesterday who said the fish have gone far out to see so they are basically struggling at the moment. Of course, the east is far worse – and the consequences are going to have an affect for decades to come….

Well back to work Monday – going to be a huge shock….!

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