Time goes on. Things change but also remain the same. The good changes are that Max arrived. We went up to Mumbai and stayed a couple of days after he arrived before taking the train to Goa. I’d heard that the train journey was quite scenic but it seemed nothing too spectacular. I did have the disadvantage that I acquired a case of Bombay belly and was not in the best of condition for the trip. Luckily, I was able to lie flat out all day in an AC 2 carriage that was comfortable enough. We stayed in the Fort area of Mumbai this time which I remembered correctly was quite pleasant and relatively quiet. “Quiet” is not a term usually associated with Indian cities.
Life in Goa has become routine. We drag ourselves to the beach each day for a morning swim and often return later in the evening. Daily conundrums include where to go for dinner. We have socialised with a group of English long termers. That is, those who have returned year after year. Most are sheltering from the British winter. It’s not quite the same for us. Rather pleasant, nevertheless.
We went on anther venture to Hampi (a large site of ruins) that is around 300km to the west in the neighbouring state of Karnataka. Hampi was once a great city and capital of the once great Hindu Vijayanagara Empire from the 1300’s and by 1500 was the world’s largest medieval city after Beijing. It was a focus of traders from Asia and Europe. It was pillaged and destroyed by a coalition of Muslim sultanates in 1565 and been in ruins since then.
The trip was only for a couple of days. We went there overnight in a sleeper bus. It must be said this is not the best way to travel. It was not helped by the awful bus company, Paulo Travel. We had to go out to meet the bus at a place near here. It was a place by the side of the road which was not clear exactly where the bus left from. Eventually a woman arrived on a scooter and herded us up the road. There we were left to wait for a bus to take to Panjim where we were catching the long-distance bus. It was an awful sweatbox with no air conditioning on a rather hot day. It dropped us at a dusty car park with no toilet facilities. More of a hassle to the women. Passengers were mostly foreigners with a large group of Geordies. One of them went into a meltdown on the bus as she thought she could smell diesel fumes. It was a bit smelly but not very bad. But she shouted to the drivers and got them to stop for a bit. By that time, she had puked into a plastic bag. Eventually it settled down but it was like sleeping in washing machine and I didn’t get much sleep that night. It didn’t help that our return train, which we got up at 5:30 to catch was six hours late! Such is the stuff of travel in India. You just have to go with the flow.
Our hotel was out of town and they had arranged for a tuk tuk driver to pick us up. Another driver already thought he had our business and scuffled with ours. A bit of a spectacle after all those hours on the bus. It was a fairly modest place but quite nice in other ways. The owners were very friendly and chatty. They also provided nice food. We powered through the day by hiring a driver to take us round most of the important sites. We were tired by the bus journey but the place was amazing. Not just so much for the ruins as the surrounding country which was covered in large parts by huge boulders. Some of these had been used to create some of the magnificent carved monolithic statues. It was an extremely impressive set of ruins and a quite massive site. We stayed the following night in the neighbouring town of Hospet in a less modest hotel. It was very close to the railway station. We checked out early only to find the train was very late, Luckily we were able to occupy our room again while we waited.
So, into the barely noticeable festive season. Goa, with its Portuguese history, has a fair number of Catholics but still Christmas is pretty low key. We will celebrate with our merry band of expats. Off to Nepal in early 2019 with a couple of other short trips planned to Hyderabad and Pune in January/February. We’ll make the decision where to go after that.