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Varkala to Mumbai

Incredible India!!

sunny 35 °C
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We flew into the South of India to a region called Kerala and it felt completely surreal as we walked out of the airport. We landed early in the morning so it wasn’t quite light outside but it was already hot and really misty, all the men looked like Gandhi in their white (sarong-like) ‘dhotis’, we got in a gorgeous white taxi and had a REALLY bumpy journey along dirt roads past women carrying things on their heads, all the while the driver was bibbing incessantly for no apparent reason! It was fantastic and we fell in love with India immediately!!

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We went straight to Varkala which was gorgeous...

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We spent about a week there enjoying the chilled out atmosphere...

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...and the lovely fresh seafood. This is a Tandooried whole Red Snapper which was delicious and only cost about £7...

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The Autorickshaws were even bumpier than the taxis!...

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From there we caught a train a train to Alleppey – I decided to have a go at shoving my way on like a proper local and managed to bash loads of men, who were elbowing me, out of the way with my backpack to let a woman with a baby on and then snag us some good window seats wooohooo!!

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Alleppey is the base for exploring the Keralan backwaters and we hired a gorgeous luxury Houseboat all to ourselves, along with our very own crew of 3...

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...which included a fabulous chef who cooked us ten times more than we ever needed so we completely stuffed ourselves at every meal! He somehow convinced himself that I wasn’t eating enough though and kept saying to Steve ‘your wife no eat’, and then dishing me up loads more food!

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Our captain let me have a go at steering the boat...

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It’s a hard life...

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It was fascinating watching the day-to-day life on the river and the locals were lovely, saying hello and waving as they passed...

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This man hooked on for a lift and seemed pretty pleased that we wanted a photo!...

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We had a fabulous time on the boat, our crew were lovely and one of them even took us to his village to see his house and meet his family!

Before we left Alleppey we saw some gorgeous material hanging up outside a shop and before I knew it I was being measured up by a tailor and I had myself a proper made-to-measure Indian outfit – ‘salwar kameez & dupatta’ to be precise!...

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Next we went a little further up the west coast to Kochi which is a famous port.

These old Chinese fishing nets are still in use...

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We weren’t that keen on Kochi because it was extremely touristy (and therefore overpriced) and we didn’t think there was very much to do there, so we went on a search for the locals’ area...

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...and found an excellent restaurant where, when we asked for extra parathas, he strolled over to the kitchen counter, grabbed them up in his hand then walked over to the table and chucked them onto the plate! He also wore a floral dhoti (sarong) but somehow managed not to come across any less manly! He, and the other people in there were lovely and the food was definitely the best in town.

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As we were crossing over a bridge we saw some strange looking things floating in the river. It took us a while to realise what we were seeing, probably because we just couldn’t believe our eyes, but it turned out to be discarded animal parts which people were dumping by the barrel-load...

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We thought we’d seen some bad things in the South American meat markets but this is definitely the worst so far, especially because there are houses all along the river’s edge and the smell was unbearable uuuuurrrrrgggghhhhh!!

From there, we caught our first overnight train which I was really nervous about (especially after the disgusting, roach-express we caught in Thailand!) but it was actually really good. It was spotless, comfy, the people were really friendly AND the food was fabulous!...

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Before this trip I didn’t really understand that Goa is a region with lots and lots of different beaches to choose from. We decided to stay at a small one in the far south called Patnem which was very quiet and had a lovely, chilled out atmosphere with restaurants dotted along the beach...

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It has to be the most relaxing place we’ve ever been to, probably not the best preparation for heading up north to the big cities but never mind!...

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Mmmmm, sunset cocktails with garlic naan breads!...

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When we wanted a taste of the more real India we walked into Chaudi, the town about 2kms away...

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Here we tried our first ‘Masala Dosa’ - a delicious pancake-type-thing filled with tasty potato and onion...

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We’d originally intended to move up to a northern beach once we’d seen some stuff in the south, but we’d heard they were a lot more crowded and not nearly as nice so we ended up staying in Patnem for two weeks and exploring the region from there. We caught some extremely bumpy, hot, crowded, but very fun buses!

This is Madgoa, and these cows are wandering along the main roads but seem oblivious to the traffic bibbing and swerving around them!

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Panaji, the state capital...

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A Spice Plantation near Ponda...

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Peppercorn tree...

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Steve got a bit carried away at the buffet table!...

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The family who was renting us our room invited us to join them one day for a big feast to celebrate the Hindu festival of ‘Holi’...

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It was amazing, lots of local families had sort of open-houses and locals went from house to house having a little bit of food and a chat at each one. There was a great atmosphere around the beach and we were lucky to have been there for it...although we could’ve done without the drumming processions that went past our hut in the middle of the night!

Next we caught a bus inland to Hampi which was gorgeous. It’s an amazing place, full of ancient ruins and it felt more like we were in Rome or Greece than India...

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The temples and elephants reminded us where we were though!...

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...As did this fruit stall, where we saw a monkey steal a bunch of bananas and this little boy chase after him shouting!

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From there we went to Hyderabad. It’s a mostly Muslim city and we got the feeling that perhaps they’d rather be part of Pakistan than India, although we could be wrong...

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This stunning building is called Charminar...

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We liked Hyderabad but found it really crowded and noisy and just generally crazy so we were a bit nervous about our next stop; Mumbai (AKA Bombay)!

We arrived very early in the morning at the main train station (CST)...

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We were expecting complete mayhem when we went out exploring but we didn’t find that at all. It was actually a lot less hectic than Hyderabad and had a really nice atmosphere. This is the ‘Gateway to India’...

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The VERY swanky Taj Palace Hotel nearby...

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There are LOADS of amazing buildings all over the city...

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Mumbai High Court...

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It was a bit disconcerting to walk past the guards because it meant looking right down the barrel of a big rifle!...

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This is the Oval Maiden...

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On Sunday there were about a hundred cricket matches going on simultaneously right next to each other - Steve was in his element!...

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Also on Sunday, the usually busy city streets were just full of people playing cricket, it was crazy!...

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This is the extraordinary ‘Dhobi Ghat’, which is an enormous open air laundry where everything is hand-washed in over 1000 troughs...

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There is a beach in Mumbai called Chowpatty but the water is toxic so you can’t swim in it! It’s a lovely place to hang out with the locals, watch the sunset and enjoy a ‘masala dosa’ though...

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There are also some fairground rides like the big wheel, which is run MANUALLY – the men that run it continually climb up to the top and then jump onto one of the chairs/pods and pull it down to the ground!

OTHER PICS:

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These parathas were the best yet and only cost about 3p!

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We absolutely LOVED Mumbai and could’ve easily stayed for longer, if only to enjoy all the fabulous street food and shopping, but annoyingly we’d pre-booked our train tickets so we left after 5 days....

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Posted by Steve-Kay 14:53 Archived in India Tagged backpacking

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