Hampi to Mysore to Ooty to Kochin.
09.03.2013 - 14.03.2013 32 °C
It was 35 degrees in Mysore when I started this blog entry hence our escape to an internet cafe although it was probably 30 degrees inside. There seems to be a trend here... me starting a new blog entry with a report on the temperature. Really, I'm not complaining (well kind of - but don't we all even when it's weather we dream about?). The reason for the title of this entry is because it's so hot, if Derek and I touch at all, it creates instant sweat so our line is 'no touching!'. We'll be sitting on a bus or train and his leg will touch mine briefly and the tag line is delivered. We are gross. Constantly.
We took the overnight bus from Hampi to Mysore, it turned out to be 10 hours, not 12 like I originally thought. The AC bus we thought were going to be taking did not exist, so non AC it was. The bus however, was pretty cool. MUCH better than the one in Vietnam we took. This one actually had beds! We were right at the front and had a double bed with curtains and had 2 windows which opened and were incredibly necessary. After another medication induced sleep (gravol and Benedryl don't cause dependency, right?) we still barely slept with the starting, stopping, bumps and lots of honking and noises outside all through the night. During a few points we thought we were on logging road and when I saw up to check out the window I was just thrown around our little space so lying down it was.
The bus ride was worth it. We were a little hesitant about going to Mysore because it just seemed like 'another big city' but in fact, was a really cool place. According to our travel book (compliments of my grandmother, Sittie), 'if you haven't been to Mysore, you haven't been to South India'. I totally understand that statement after being there. The MASSIVE palace was completely lit up at night for holiday celebrations, gorgeous public gardens, an amazing market with everything you can imagine - antiques, kitchen appliances/utensils, handmade perfumes sans alcohol and incense, fruit, grains, meat, incredible colored powders for making the 'Hindu' mark on your forehead to spices that electrify and make your tastebuds tingle just at the sight of them, raw sugar in colors I never knew existed (like dark auburn, brownish - and it was delicious!). Just goes to show that our highly processed world of food and all things material come at a cost which excludes any connection with the people who actually produce or process. I love markets! They make you feel like you are connected to the world including the ever so important social side of being a consumer. Talking to the people who work so hard to make ends meet gives you a sense that you are actually supporting local economy. That's what the Western world is missing as many of you are already aware - the human connection. We stroll down grocery store isles and blindly dump foods into our carts without even a sense of where it comes from. There's something about meeting the producers that ignites passion for food, cooking, nutrition and overall good health with a huge focus on bringing people together around meals instead of around the tv (no wonder I became an RD).
Sometimes I wonder why I did though... become an RD that is. I really do like all areas of nutrition but I'm realizing more every day that it's always been the social side of food that has triggered my passion for the profession. Along with my continued desire to learn about people, cultures and societal norms and I'm destined for a career that is not traditional in the RD sense... I'm excited and nervous at the same time for what's to come as I feel I am somewhat shifting into a totally new gear. Working over the past years in all types of dietetic fields has made me realize I love working with vulnerable populations (i.e. seniors, low income, women, immigrants, Aboriginal people, those with disabilities either mental or physical, etc.). Having the opportunities to travel to various developing and developed countries over the past few years has confirmed this - seeing first hand the worst situations that exist for these groups and the hopelessness that exists is frustrating but at the same time gives me hope for a better future for those people.
I pinch myself sometimes... I have the best family and friends anyone could ask for. The mutual support and unconditional love over the years has only made these positive relationships stronger and I don't know how I got so lucky. Obviously it takes work to keep a relationship going and any of my close friends will tell you that I probably keep in touch (too) often but I just can't help it! They know me too well and are stuck with me.
Ok. I warned you that I'd go on these self reflections over the course of this trip. Haha.
ANYWAY. India. Yes. That's where I am right now.
So we were in Mysore for 2 nights and met a girl from the UK on the night bus coming from Hampi who is just great! She's our age and has been travelling for 7 months all over the world - South America, South East Asia and finishing in India. She'll be gone for a total of 8 months by the time she goes back to the UK and she's just loving every minute of it. It's just incredible to meet some other travellers and hear their stories and how long they have been travelling for. Some are going on 1 year, 2 years and more!
From Mysore, we took a bus to Ooty which is a hill station and about 2200 meters above sea level. They are known for their tea and chocolate making. HEAVEN. We get there and didn't have a place booked to stay so grabbed a rickshaw from where we were dropped off and started walking around. We just happened to come across this brand new hotel called Astoria and stayed 2 nights there. We were not roughing it, not one bit. It was the nicest hotel room I've ever stayed in with the most beautiful view of the town built up into the mountains. Only $30/night which in backpacker terms is quite expensive but Derek and I are still living off max $50/day here even with food, accommodations and travel so we feel ok about it. Hah.
Our first day in Ooty, we walked to the train/bus station to find out how to get to Kochin (where we are now) and it was such an amazing walk. People watching is the best. The kids were all getting dropped off by buses from school and they were so cute! They wear uniforms at school so watching them walk down the cobbled streets to their homes with the background of the mountains was pretty surreal. They love seeing foreigners too - they always wave, try to high five you and say hello. Adorable.
Actually, Derek was told that he 'sticks out like a sore thumb' in the crowds. Haha. Luckily for me I can pass for pretty much any nationality - Italian, Spanish, SE Asian, Indian, Mediterranean, you name it! But poor Derek... he is the complete opposite in looks to anyone here. White. Blue eyes. Blond hair. Tall. And he wears shorts (none of the locals wear shorts - only pants or these 'skirt' wraps). That being said, I get lots of stares too and both of us have had our pictures taken awkwardly when we're just standing there waiting to cross a street or stopped to figure out where we are. I usually get out my camera and take a picture of the person snapping our photo and the person always smiles and asks to take my picture in return. It's not that they're being rude at all, they just do not see foreigners very often. Our guide book says not to stare back at locals but I always do and when I smile at them, I usually get a smile back! For some reason, I feel when that exchange happens, we both realize we're not that different from each other, regardless of skin color, clothing, etc. Being friendly to everyone just makes us feel much more comfortable in any country we've been to. Gives you common ground and understanding to the locals that you're not the 'elite white traveller' who is there to only 'check' things off their list and ignore the local people (because those tourists definitely exist).
That evening, we felt it was necessary to have a solid meal so instead of getting our usual curry, rice and naan, we opted for the healthier combination of chocolate and tea. No judging.
So along our travels, we always tend to find a cafe that we like, grab a book and go have a coffee/tea for an afternoon. Well, we found one! It's called Cafe Coffee Day and it's a chain but a glorious chain it is. They employ local youth and encourage creativity within their company. Plus there's AC. That's all I really care about anyway... like I said. It's really hot. But not in Ooty! We're so high up in the hills that it's a nice temperature, about 20-25 degrees and nighttime is even cold!
The second day we were there, I woke up to a call from Tracy and Neil at 7am to talk about our upcoming reunion which then turned into more great phone conversations with some of my best pals - Maria, MC and Dave, Ben and Jemima and Sophie! And my mom! Perfect way to start the day. Then, we took a walk around and ended up hiring a car to take us to the peak which is 3000 meters above sea level. I apparently had forgotten about my horrible motion sickness that I inherited from my father (thanks dad). Gravol was not within reach as I was within minutes of vomiting. Going up these hills on tiny roads with constant curves and bumps did not go well for me. I complained constantly from the moment we were out of the car to go see the (stupid) view from the top (but it wasn't stupid at all, it was breathtaking!) to the trip down to see the tea/chocolate factory. All in all, my personal perception of extreme nausea was worth it. Thank goodness for Derek!
After that, I went back to the room to lie down and stream a show online... totally intelligent... cough cough. Or it could've been Real Housewives of Beverly Hills. No... definitely something more intelligent. Derek headed to the cafe to read and then we walked to get an ice cream and we basically crashed we were so tired and I still didn't feel great from the day of car sickness. We ordered room service (like I said, not roughing it at all these 2 nights) and watched some old movies on tv.
That brings me to today. We were up at around 7:30am for our taxi to pick us up and drive us 3 hours to the train station in order to get a train to Kochin. Bring on the car sickness again, but this time I was prepared and popped some Gravol which thankfully knocked me out for most of the ride. We got to the train station in Coimbatore and were just in time to jump on the 11:15am train to Kochin. We were in non AC sleeper class again and it was hot, but fantastic. It only took about 3 hours to get to Kochin and we grabbed a rickshaw to Fort Kochin where we are now. This is a really cool city, we're so excited to check it out! It's a mix between an Indian and European city which we love. They have Cafe Coffee Day so we're happy.
That was another long post. Apparently I have more to say as I go! Surprise, surprise.
Until next time,
P.S. I am getting all the comments left and I love them!