17 March, 2007

Last Post

Stranger than the feeling of arriving in India was the feeling of returning to England. We were all struck by the quietness, the clean streets, the ordered lanes of the motorway and the lack of so many people. Odd and distracting to understand conversations around us.

It is a wonderful and comforting thing to know that India will always be there.

06 March, 2007

City of Souls

Varanasi is beyond our wildest dreams. We are staying at the Shanti Guest House which overlooks the curving Ganges and the burning ghats. 24 hours a day, bodies are carried down to the waters edge and laid out on the funeral pyres. We have seen a body arrive, wrapped in gold sheets, while families looked on. Children are playing nearby, smoke is rising. People come to Varanasi to die- it is believed that dying here will release you from the cycle of Samsara. However if you are unfortunate enough to perish on the other side of the Ganges, your soul will go straight to hell! Think we'll stay on this side!

The streets are very narrow- a labyrinth of high buildings. You have to dodge piles of smouldering ashes, enormous cows and motorbikes. If you want to imagine Varanasi then just think: Ankh Morpork.

We arrived during the Holi celebration of the full moon and eclipse. Holi is a celebration of Krishna's lascivious nature so it's a bit dangerous for girls to go out in the height of the excitement. People throw coloured dyes all over each other, staining the streets and even the dogs pink, blue and purple.

We have heard a whisper that a mysterious innuit by the name of Nunniwokingak has been seen sipping chai, yes my olds, and speaking in strange tongue. But this is yet to be confirmed.

03 March, 2007

A little from Bombay

A little from Bethan...
The last few days have been spent in Mumbai, a city which has completely suprised me in all sorts of ways. It is cited as the most Westernised city in India. There is definitely Western influence here, and wondering through the city looking up to the balconied buildings, it is possible to imagine that you are in London. A distorted London however, one that has crumbled, one that the paint has chipped away from.
It may seem Westernised, but if it is, it is an Indian take on the West, which is not the same thing at all. I love it.
My sisters have gone on ahead to Varanasi, where I will join them in a few days. They have the camera, so I can only add a photo link to give you all some impressions of the city.

26 February, 2007

Fishing boat bobbing sea

It is nearly time to leave Gokarna and catch the night train to Mumbai. It is easy to spend longer than planned in some parts of India. This town's beginning to feel a little like home to us, and we're falling into its unhurried rhythm.
A trip along the beach took us to a fleet of shipping boats- it was one of these occasions where you say, "let's just get to that next corner, and see what's around it". These are the best kind of walks. We passed a baba (holy man) in bright orange, utterly still, meditating as the sun set. As we approached the pretty boats the fishermen waved, and came up to us. Some of the younger boys asked for pens which we exchanged for a handful of peanuts.
On our way back we found a large dead turtle washed up on the shore. In the distance it looked turtle shaped but we couldn't believe it until we got closer; his shell was broken and his eyes shut tight. Poor thing. We half expected him to trundle off back to the waves. But no, not him, not this turtle!

On another day we all piled into a taxi and took a one hour drive to Murudeshwar, where there is a Hindu temple and a giant statue of Shiva, who sits amongst the hills in meditation. To convey the scale: we were probably no bigger than one of his toes! He has a beautiful, serene expression and in the evening the stone looks blue. There were several other impressive statues; one of a chariot pulled by four horses and another depicting a banyan tree under which sat Shiva and his son, Ganesh.

22 February, 2007


The picture shows a street seller in the shade of one of the two juggernaughts in Gokarna. In the top right corner, can you see the monkey? Later today we are going to visit Kudle Beach. There is another beach further down the coast called Om, due to it's '3' shape. A boat will take you there for Rs50.
Justin is due to arrive in the early evening tomorrow. We've all been imagining what it would be like to stay in a place like this during the rainy season, hunkered down (sorry, been spending a lot of time with an American!) in a little house, writing or painting.
Where we are staying there is a nearby temple from which we often hear chanting; our room is also quite echoey so we're constantly singing. We are hand washing our clothes on a washing stone just outside. Rhiannon is considering extending her trip by two weeks in order to do a Vipassana meditation course. Boomshanka!

20 February, 2007

Goa to Gokarna

We finally managed to leave the beautiful Arambol and caught the train to Gokarna, Karnataka. The journey was exciting, travelling through palm tree forests, tunnels under mountains and wide open lakes. When we arrived in Gokarna, it was festival time so we struggled through the crowds with our rucksacks in the intense heat. We didn't really know where we were headed so we followed the stream of people past a massive decorated juggernaught and dancers with whips! We found a peaceful guest house with cool stone floors and palm trees outside. The only problem is the cockroaches which we have to chase out of our room nightly.

Gokarna is a Hindu town, and everywhere there are depictions and statues of Shiva, Krishna, Kali, Ganesh and a host of other goddesses and gods. There are busy night markets full of light and sound, and a river that one evening was swarming with baby catfish.

We've visited the Ayurvedic health centre where two lovely girls gave us a steam bath and facial massage, all the time chatting in sweet Hindi voices.

Our plans for the next leg of the journey are pretty vague, we would like to see Kerala, Mumbai and Varanasi but may not have time for all.

15 February, 2007

Elen's Arrival

Hi from all three of us! We've had some unusual experiences here in Goa- and have also spent a lot of time swimming and enjoying the lazy beach life- the only option when it gets to the heat of the day. The little cafe's and bars are all temporary, for the season, and everyone is on the move, whether tourist, traveller, worker or holy man.
It was wonderful meeting Elen at the airport- suddenly there she was smiling! On our way back to Arambol by taxi we saw our first Indian elephant! The experience of seeing India for the first time was quite overwhelming. Thick-leaved trees, bright pink flowers, dwellings that range from a tent to a jungle palace and thousands of faces. The feel of the air is like walking into a hot-house in Kew Gardens and the scent hits you the second you step out of the plane.
A few nights ago Elen and Rhiannon had a crazy adventure when we went on a 'guided' tour into the jungle. After a steep climb we encountered a temple with candle lit statues of gods where we sat to watch the sun rise. Our goal was to reach Sweet Lake (which means fresh water) but our journey went on and on through thickening forest, cacti and steep boulders. In the end, our confused and apologising guide was saved by a pack of semi-wild dogs who led us to the river. With some relief we began to see signs of human life- travellers who make their homes in the jungle.
On another day, all three of us visited the same place (much easier to reach along the beach) and had a mud bath!