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Two months in Limbo

a travel blog by Capto

Having finished 5 years of study, and with a summer free before I start working professionally, I decided I needed to do something which would shock my system. Two months in India should do the trick! These are my adventures, confessions, and general ramblings.
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Anjuna, India

permalink written by  Capto on February 18, 2010 from Anjuna, India
from the travel blog: Two months in Limbo
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Arambol, India

permalink written by  Capto on February 20, 2010 from Arambol, India
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Beached as!

Goa, India

Sorry about the lack of posting lately, but there's not much I can write about lying on the beach, drinking beer, and generally being lazy. So I thought it'd be best to wait a while and collate my stories.

On my last day in Hampi I was sitting with a morning coffee when Ingrid, one of the girls at the guesthouse sat down in tears with a friend of hers. Turns out she'd been for an early morning walk to the Monkey Temple, and had been sexually attacked by a local man. He got so far as to climb on top of her before her defence instincts kicked in, and by gouging at his eyes she managed to get away. Lucky girl.

This was bad timing for me - on the day Glen and I separate to travel alone, I'm confronted with new questions about my safety. Yes, it was silly of her to go walking on her own. But all along this trip, I've laughed off male attention as being a sign of the incredible sexual immaturity here, but harmless. With someone I know being attacked, this view is hard to hold on to. I still feel safe in the tourist centres and while walking with friends. But some of my favourite times are those when I am alone, such as my early morning beach walks. I'm not sure how safe I feel about those anymore.

Ingrid was sadly in the first 3 weeks of a 4 month solo trip, and decided that while she wants to come back some day, she cannot continue with this trip, because she just doesn't feel safe. Fair enough. We were heading out of Hampi to Palolem that night, and I invited her to come along for the trip - she has some friends still in Palolem, and from there she could arrange a flight back to Mumbai, and home. Between the Swiss folk, Ingrid, Olivia (an English girl we met and invited to travel with us too) and me, we started to have quite an impressive sized group!

Once on the bus, I arranged to switch seats with a man to keep Ingrid company. But the poor girl just didn't have luck on her side, and got sick on the bus. I negotiated with the bus drivers to stop the bus for her to be sick (not an easy task), and by her request accompanied her upstairs in a tiny local restaurant to use the family's toilet. Once back on the bus I gifted her the last of my anti-naus which I take on particularly threatening bus rides. She managed to keep it down, and was ok for the rest of the trip. Poor girl.

We arrived in Palolem very early in the morning, and set up camp in a restaurant/bar which was still raging from the night before. We got coffee and breakfast, and waited it out for a few hours until a decent time to go asking about accommodation. While waiting, we got news that there were bombings in Pune, the main city in Goa. The bombings were aimed at tourists, being at the popular German Bakery. 10 people were killed, and there were suspicions of further attacks across Goa. Within 24 hours so much changed! Crazy. Still, we weren't too worried, and nothing seems to have come of it in the meantime.

I spent 5 days on the beach in Palolem, which is stunningly beautiful. It's beautiful white sand, fringed with coconut trees and blue water. The beach itself is quieter than I'd expected, but still shoulder to shoulder lined with restaurants, guesthouses, and shops. Women with armloads of jewellery patrol the beach during the day trying to convince you that you need just ONE more anklet, and make you feel guilty when you say that you really don't need anything. I made friends with one of the women, Shanti (yes Jaz, like Shanti on Shortland St), who promised to bring my puri baji for breakfast, and at the end of the trip I bought a few simple pieces from her, and gifted her some clothes I no longer need on the trip.

We found good, cheap accommodation, and most importantly, the beer is cheap! A 600ml bottle of Kingfisher is 80Rps at most restaurants($2.60), and 50Rps at our guesthouse ($1.60). Awesome! A German man who is taking over our guesthouse next year owns a Thai restaurant behind the place, so we went for dinner one night - real Thai food, cooked by his Thai wife. It was amazing! The best Thai food I've ever had! They made sure it was nice and spicy, and that we had lots of beer. Real thai food is quite unlike anything you can get back in NZ. They can get many of the ingredients in India, and what they cannot get they fly in from Thailand.

One of the guys who works at the guesthouse declared his love for Olivia. You could see from day 1 the way his eyes widened when he first talked to her. Perhaps going too far though, he found her name from the hotel register, and looked her up on facebook! A little creepy...

After 5 days in Palolem, I headed to Anjuna for a few days, mainly to go to the local markets in Mapusa on Fridays. Anjuna beach was dirtier and less pristine, but had surf like down in Varkala. A nice change, but I wasn't going to stick around on a dirty beach. So after getting to the markets (and failing to pick up most of what I was looking for), I headed up the coast once more to Arambol. The beach here is marginally prettier, with the same surf, but feels cleaner. So I have one more real beach day before I finally head to Mumbai, then home. The fact that it's so close is really starting to sink in.

I'll be seeing you all very soon!


permalink written by  Capto on February 22, 2010 from Goa, India
from the travel blog: Two months in Limbo
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Last thoughts

Mumbai, India

When we flew into Mumbai one of the airhostesses we started talking to told us we were in for a roller coaster ride. As the roller coaster docks returns to the dock, and I have survived a full circuit of India, I have come to reflect on my time in this world of its own.

My last day on the beach an older woman approaches me, outraged and ranting about the constant hassle to buy things. She said that this was her holiday, and that she resented being asked every 3 minutes if she wanted to jewellery, stickers, magnets, posters, drums, everything imaginable. She was so upset that she got angry at me when I tried to calm her and remind her where she was. If she'd let me get a word in, I would have asked her to remember that these people have just 2 months to make a year's living for their families. If she wanted a private place she could retreat to, there were big fancy (and expensive) private resorts down the coast. But you cannot come into a culture of necessity and demand privacy!

An hour or two later, I realised just how far I've come on this trip. When leaving NZ, I raised my few doubts about the trip with my Dad - I am a person who need independence and personal space, both physically and emotionally. I knew that this trip would be a challenge to that aspect of my personality in a country where there is no direct translation for the notion of 'privacy' (no, really. I've heard there's no word for it in Hindi). These people are born, live, and die in public. They spend their lives constantly surrounded by their family and friend, and don't even sleep alone at any point in their lives. While I've relished the past week's solitude in travelling alone, this woman's inability to accept this intrusion into her comfort zone made me realised just how tolerant I've become.

Having said that, I'm seriously looking forward to sleeping in my big double bed again, and quiet mornings spend lying in with my book and my cats.

The next morning, as I was leaving for Mumbai, I started talking to an Australian woman who had come to India to step out of her comfort zone. Like me an eternal ornganiser, she wanted to come to a country where she didn't know how things worked, and see if she could cope. After some unfortunate circumstances, and an accident which left her face bruised and swollen, she found herself far out of her comfort zone, and having to deal with it when she felt like a monster. Again, I could give her basic advice, and because we found we were such alike people, I could tell her how my (much milder) experience had challenged myself, and encouraged her to wait it out a little longer. I really think there'll be a turnaround period for her, and the success of learning to cope would perhaps be the best thing that had happened for her.

So stepping back into the Mumbai madness, I can walk down the street with an air such that hawkers do not constantly follow me. While I do not think that anyone can truely master Mumbai, I feel that for me, I have conquered the challenges India has presented to me.

And now it's time to go home and have a REALLY long bath!

permalink written by  Capto on February 25, 2010 from Mumbai, India
from the travel blog: Two months in Limbo
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