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Reisverslag Crazy gurus, moving sunrises, mad busdrivers etc.
13 februari 2015
Crazy gurus, moving sunrises, mad busdrivers etc.
I'll just start with some serious stuff though. Ofcourse we're not just here to have fun and go sightseeing, there is also some studying to be done. With the emphasis on 'some'. Each Tuesday and Wednesday we go on fieldtrips to NGOs, schools for children with a disability or of low socioeconomic status, or health care centres. So far they have been pretty interesting, with the most memorable being the Spoorthi Dhama organisation, which takes care of abandoned children, elderly, or those with a mental illness. While they provide education, care, food and a home for these people in the best way they can, a lack of resources and funding makes the situation seem particularly dire for the ones with a mental illness. Seeing these people lying on wooden beds without mattress, or tied with their legs to the bed, I think I got my first culture-shock here. However, we've also seen a lot of good things and I'm still amazed by the dedication that these people put into their work.
Something else: since a couple of days, a curfew has been announced here in Manipal. Apparently someone either jumped or was pushed off an appartment block and now nobody is allowed to be out on the streets after 11:30pm. There are nightly police patrols and people are locked into their appartments after 11.30. Not that it matters a lot, everything closes around 11pm anyway, but it seems a little bit extreme to me.
Anyway, let's talk about the trips we've made so far.
Our first weekend in Manipal (which seems like ages ago) we went to Gokarna, a kind of uncommercialised, unspoiled version of Goa. We arrived when the sun had already set and, after stumbling down a dark path, we arrived on Kudle beach (one of the two beaches in Gokarna) and were welcomed by all the fairylights decorating the myriad of bars and hostels on the coastline. We found a place letting some colourful cottages, in a field full of banana trees and laziness. The next day I realised that the beach looked a bit different than imagined when we arrived the night before. A wide stretch of sand enclosed between two green hills. That morning I watched all the old hippies, meditating or twisting themselves into the weirdest yoga positions; the bearded and grey-haired guru's in red g-strings, walking into the ocean with their arms spread wide open; the guy playing "here comes the sun" over and over again; and all the backpackers arriving and settling down on the beach. Almost all bars and restaurants were playing Sixties-music, cold beer was freely available and even though they only had the sickening Kingfisher beer, it seemed like a small paradise to me. On Sunday we walked to Om-beach, named after the Om symbol. Apart from some vague similarity in its shape, it felt a lot less Zen than the name suggests. Groups of Indian men, screaming and rolling through the sand and water, secretly taking pictures of us white people in very 'subtle' way. To be fair, only one week in and most us still looked like beacons of white light, barely distinguishable from the white sand; I would have taken a picture of that...
Apart from the two beaches we visited Gokarna itself, a little town with only one-out-of-three working ATMs and a multitude of stalls, each selling the same kindof souvenirs. Looking for a shirt, I was immediately drawn towards the first stall that caught my eye (read: pulled inside by the shopkeeper and shown every shirt or pair of trousers available, even the sizes XXL). Needless to say, on our way back we all wore either a new shirt, bracelet or paid the ticketman out of our newly acquired wallet.
Studying during the week, travelling in the weekend. The second weekend we took a night bus to Hampi, which took around 8 hours. For those who have taken a night bus in India before, you won't be surprised if I say that I was busier hoping that the bus wouldn't fall over in the next corner than dreaming about fairies or my little ponies. Indian busdrivers drive like madmen and the roads, filled with holes and other mad drivers, do not really improve the situation. Being in that strange frenzy-like state you're in when you've barely slept, we drove to Hampi by rickshaw from the last bus stop. Hampi, lovely, quaint Hampi. Anyone who's going to South India, should not miss out on this beautiful town. Apparently there are around 3700 ruins and since it would be a bit ambitious to try and see all of them, I thought that trying to see the ones that were in the Lonely Planet would be a little bit more achievable. Well, I was wrong. We walked through the almost alien landscape, filled with huge boulders, monkeys and squirrels, to the Achutaraya Temple and then climbed up on Matunga Hill, from where you have the nicest view over Hampi and its surroundings. The next morning I decided to go and watch the sunrise. Nobody wanted to get up early, so I walked all alone through the dark and deserted streets on my way to Matunga Hill. The stray dogs were a bit less cute than during the day and one of them chased me until I passed a group of cows, which apparently were a bit too large and scary for the little coward. While I made my way through the first ruins and boulders, the sky turned purple and somewhere far away the muezzin called for the morning prayer. I decided to sit down in front of a small temple, on a huge boulder just underneath the top of the hill and to watch the sunrise there. And when it came it was just perfect. Coloured birds flying over the misty, rocky landscape ; a group of monkeys sitting on a rock, their faces turned towards the sun, as if even they were enjoying the moment; the sunlight reflecting on the river in the North; and flute music arising from a radio somewhere in between the palmtrees underneath. When I got back wee visited several more temples and watched the sunset from another hill, until the moment when the monkeys tried to steal our dosas, which we bought at one of the stalls. That night we took the night bus back again and arrived around 5 am in the morning, only to get to class again at 9 am.
Sadly we had Saturday classes the two weeks after and we didn't go anywhere. It was quite nice though to stay in Manipal during the weekend and visit some places that were a bit closer by. We went to Malpe beach, the closest beach to Manipal, which was ridiculously busy (it was a Sunday, so that was to be expected). Groups of men standing in the shade, children jumping into the water with all their clothes on, sad looking camels and horses passing by with happy tourists on their backs, and kites everywhere in the sky. We also went to the fair, which does not require much attention seen as it only would have looked good if deserted and in a horror movie.
So, there is only one more thing to talk about and that is our trip to Goa last weekend. Seen as this travel report has become so long, I will just keep it short. Goa seemed a little bit overrated to me in the beginning, when we arrived. We decided to stay on Anjuna beach, as this apparently is the beach most backpackers tend to go to. Walking there, we got offered almost every drug possible, if we said no to their initial (and more innocent) offers for souvenirs, and the beach looked a bit messy. Many of the people lying on the beach were (ofcourse) Russians. Either the 'bodybuilder with hot blonde chick' type, or the 'old with hanging belly or hanging naked boobs' type. However, after finding a room and settling down on a beach chair with an icecold beer in one hand, the whole atmosphere seemed to change. We partied on the beach that night; met a crazy old German hippie the day after; went to the night market in Apora that night (which is really cool); and chilled on the beach again on Sunday, before taking our train back to Manipal.
So, that's what has happened up until this moment. I will try to update this blog a little bit more often the coming time, so that you guys won't have to read (and I won't have to type) this much again!
13 februari 2015 20:04 | Door: Niek
Geweldig verslag weer Thom! En dat engels.....