After we’d explored the Backwaters, it was time to hit the road and show our friend Kez what it’s all about! We’d been worried she might be nervous riding pillion in crazy Indian traffic, but she’d made a decision not to be, so she was cool. Just a little arse-aware (in case we never told you, that’s our word for “my bum f**kin hurts!”) after the long ride.
We entered the land of the Dosa, a sort of crepe or pancake made from fermented rice batter, served with fillings or without and various spicy and yoghurty sauces to dip it in. Yum! 🙂
A long day’s ride came to a close with a puncture in Nila’s front tire. Being on smaller roads through farmland it took a few kilometres of crawling along on an almost-flat tire that made avoiding potholes impossible. When we finally found an tire-wallah, he had it fixed in no time though, it being tubeless. We were ready to call it a day and a pretty winding mountain road took us up to the town of Mananthavadi. We signed into a small, cleanish double room and had a giant rice-mountain-thali for dinner in the restaurant where all the tuck tuck drivers eat.
The day after we had a short ride ahead of us. Regrettably Nagahole National Park wouldn’t let two-wheelers enter (to our surprise, so far every national park let us ride through). Maybe this one actually did have tigers in it. No trainsmash though, we just ended up riding through the beautifully cool mountain landscape and coffee plantations instead. Some people pay top dollar to sit in a tourist-jeep to do this. So we frolicked in our freedom, stopping wherever we wanted to inspect the coffee beans and black pepper plants climbing up the trees planted to shade the coffee bushes.
The aim for the day was Madikeri, a hilltop town where we enjoyed a mad little tuck tuck ride (engine screaming up the hill) to a restaurant serving the yummiest keema dosa and far too many beers. On the stumble home we came across a shop selling some local coffee for Kez to take back and home-brewed berry wines (you can see where the evening is going…). Bemused by our beer-fuelled enthusiasm they gave us some free white chocolates too. Shame they were pretty disgusting.
We had heard that the elephant bathing at the nearby Dubare Elephant Sanctuary starts early in the day and the ferry to catch across to it leaves at 8am. So we got up super early, packed up and loaded the bikes in a rush and tried really hard to ignore our hangovers. The cool morning air helped a lot, as we sped out of the city and along the empty winding mountain roads. The misty scenery was stunning!
At some point Aidan started going even faster, but we missed the boat in any case. The next one wasn’t till 9am. The mist rising from the warm water in the cool morning sun made for a stunning tranquil place to watch the giant tadpoles whizz around the water. We retreated for a coffee at the local cafe in a futile attempt to cure the hangover.
When the boat did drop us off on the other side, we wandered around a little lost no one and no signs to tell us where to go or what was happening. A mahout arrived, riding an elephant bull, steering him by pushing his feet behind the elephant’s ear. The animal had a chain round his ankle and carried another giant chain over his back. The Mahout used that to chain it to a tree and then disappeared, leaving us to watch the people who live here.
As luck would have it, we hadn’t missed anything. Today the elephants were late and we were supposed to wait right here for them. The Dubare elephants were used for forestry work in the past. But new regulations and machinery have rendered them unemployed. So now they earn their keep by entertaining tourists. It sounds all pretty nasty, especially if you look at the chains. But the beasts seem happy enough. After their mornings of training, bathing and elephant riding, they are free to roam the forests of the sanctuary until they are collected the next morning. Today they had meandered off especially far. Soon enough, more and more elephants appeared in the dust, approaching the courtyard walls we sat on.
Quite a few more tourists had arrived by now collecting down by the river bank where the elephants enjoyed a splash in the water. The babies needed some encouragement to enter the cold wet, but soon they tumbled about, trying to playfully drown each other. One of he younger ones came charging at the tourists a few times and was sent back into the river.
One elephant then splashed us with his trunk as he left the water and I quickly hid my camera. You could buy a ticket to join the bath in the water and Kez went n got one.
When we’d had enough, we climbed up the bank where the elephants dried off in the sun and the elephant riding began. We sat in the shade wondering whether to go on a ride when a chicken turned up squawking away next to us. Kez turned to it “Shhh!” and it actually shut up 🙂 It started up again as soon as Kez had gone off to fetch a green coconut. They are apparently good for curing hangovers.
In the end we decided against the elephant ride, since you don’t actually meet the animal. you just sit high on top of it. Elephants are very calm animals that move as if they think carefully about everything they do. Tough I know they can get pretty nasty if you piss them off. I would really get to know one properly, but that takes time and wouldn’t be possible here. Maybe we can do a Workaway placement with elephants one day…
Our next port of call was Udupi, a city known for its cart festivals. We arrived in the early afternoon and had just missed one that morning. Bummer! The next one was the next night, but we didn’t have time to linger for two nights and our room was only available for one anyways. So we munched the strawberries Aidan had found and then went out to explore the town. We found the carts parked up in the town square, which they get pulled around by a bunch of people. They have simple wooden wheels, so it must be quite hard work!
As we turned down a small side street, Kezza had a migraine coming on and wanted to get out of the sunlight. What better excuse to pop into a bar for a beer while her migraine tablets kicked in? Our appearance created quite a lot of amusement among the bar staff and customers of the dingy place. Tourists don’t usually come here.
Then it was our turn to be surprised. A group of women walked in, and women NEVER enter a bar. It’s a man’s world. You never even see women outside a wine shop. They were exited to see us there and asked our names. When we asked theirs, they gave us theirs and then said the oldest one was called Laksmi. We got the joke and burst out laughing, as that is a god. Giggles all round as the women pointed at the woman, calling her god.
Then they settled at a table opposite us and ordered food and beer. One lady suggested we visit the another’s house, pointing into the building behind us. We declined as the lady didn’t seem to happy about it. That, combined with the direction they eventually left in, explained their appearance here. One was the wife of the bar owner and she had brought her friends for lunch.
We finished our beer and were about to resume our exploration of the town when a guy sat don next to us with his small bottle of whiskey and a glass. He fetched some cigarettes for all to smoke and a charades conversation with lots of smiles ensued. With no English and running out of gestures, Aidan, Kez and I resumed our conversation over another beer and our new friend listened intently without understanding a word. But he skillfully laughed at all he right moments and to just the right amount. It was loads of fun.
We bought him another whiskey, which he went and swapped for a few beers for us. Then the whiskey kicked in and he got more drunk by the minute. Had he had a drink elsewhere before? Or was this the sad flip side that Indians who drink are famous for. They are known to drink hard and fast, getting totally legless in no time, and often really violent too. That’s one of the reasons why drinking is just not socially acceptable here. It seemed impossible to return his favour, so in the end we sneaked a bottle of whiskey and a packet of cigarettes into his bag on the way out. (I really hoped his wife wouldn’t find them first!)
As we paid up the bar guy shouted after our friend to pay up too, but he waved about saying we would pay. Hm…! Yeah, all right then, it was only a couple of quid anyways. We said good bye to our friend and thanked him for the fun. But he started following us around. No explaining that he couldn’t come back to the hotel with us would get rid of them. The situation was turning really awkward and we started wondering whether some cultural difference wires had been crossed somewhere.
He told us to wait and went over to a couple of guys by a temple to organise something. They saw our plight and gave us a knowing don’t-worry-we’ll-deal-with-him-just-go look. We nodded thanks and made our escape to the hotel. When it was safe to go out again, we went to a busy restaurant for a yummy dinner and stole all their napkins. The poor guy refilled the tray three times before catching us out. We’d run out of loo paper and by now all the shops were closed.
Another day on the road had us arrive in Gorkana.
We found a super cheap little room on Kudle Beach, an idyllic little palm surrounded cove. The bikes were left behind in a car park at the top and we climbed the rocky path down to the beach.
The days here were spent relaxing in the shady cafe reading books, sipping beer and sunbathing. In the evenings we enjoyed super yummy tandoori roasted fresh tuna for dinner. We met a few other hippie travelers and a couple of Indian girls from Mumbai, who were letting their hair down here. They mentioned how they were also getting quite a few odd looks and there were times when they did not feel safe. I guess, unlike us white girls, they cannot play the silly tourist card and get seen as free game, since they are not well-behaved enough to stay home playing family.
We’d promised to teach Kezza how to ride a bike. So one afternoon she hopped on Nila and zoomed off before I could finish explaining everything to her. And all that on gravel! No matter though, she was a natural, cruising around the hillside catching flies in her big grin.
I set up a slalom of rocks for her and told her of how the bike goes exactly where you look, so she should look at the gap in between. Her eye caught the biggest rock, she panicked, and crashed straight through it, splitting it in half! Luckily she followed my other instructions though and just let the bike drop, jumping off so she got away with just a bruise on her leg that didn’t even go purple enough to show up on a photo. The bike was fine too, apart from the indicator. Nothing that a bit of sellotape couldn’t fix though and it still works 🙂
Not deterred, Kez hopped straight back on an rode about some more, the grin back on her face. Now she wants to do her CBT when she gets back to England. See, riding is just too much fun! Once you start….
We tried to find Halfmoon and Paradise beach after that. They are remote and said to be almost deserted. We had considered camping there but just hadn’t got round to going there yet. Turns out they are quite a trek from the coast either side and it wouldn’t have been much fun to carry all our luggage there. In fact, we took the wrong path and never even made it there. The sun was setting soon and we intended to ride back to Kudle, hungry for some dinner and a beer as we were. Was a nice little walk though.
Another evening was spent walking back into the scruffy little Gorkana town. The beach there is overrun with tourists filing out of and back into tourist jeeps. But the town is cute and looked real nice in the fading light. Thirst (and the need for a pee) had us enter a bar. This one was grimy! Unsure if the just-ash-on-the-floor rule applied here, we asked if it was ok to smoke. The guy fetched us a cut off juice carton from a dark corner and cockroaches scurried out of it as he placed it on the sticky used-to-be-red table. We got out of there after one beer and returned to the beach for some dinner and a few beers there.
A very hung over long ride through pretty landscape had us on another beach in Goa. The same place in Arambol where Aidan and I had been before in fact. Aaand relax! Last stop on the itinerary and nothing to do but enjoy the beach, the cocktails and the sea 🙂
My parcel that my dad had sent months ago had finally arrived Post Restante in Panjim and the nice guys had given me a call to say so. An inexplicable customs charge of 405 rupees was due (no reason given by customs to me or the post office). But it meant my blonde hair dye had arrived! So I got busy peroxiding my long overdue unseemly roots and the dip-dye tips of Kezzas hair.
Oh, and Hatti arrived. A stuffed toy version of the little blue elephant after whom Nila is named. From now on he will be traveling with us, so if you see him in any of the photos…. Him and Munki are already best friends 🙂 And why has Munki gone black? Well, turns out she’s one of those black faced monkeys we’ve seen in the mountains. And she’s all grown up now, so she’s gone black.
Of course we had to introduce Kez to the place that served the super yummy buffalo steak and she fell in love with the cutest little kitty cruising about there.
Of course there were cows cruising along the beach, since this is India. And tiny crabs…
And on Wednesday Kez and I went shopping at the Anjuna flea market. Aidan happily stayed behind to work on his photos and left us girls to it. I had been a little worried taking Kez pillion, but she is the easiest pillion to ride with. We were far too exited about all the awesome pixie clothes and prezzies we found to take many pictures and even the beer break went undocumented. But we did pay this guy his 10 pence to take a picture with his cow.
We enjoyed some days of shopping in Arambol too of course, at one point sending Aidan in with Kez to play the angry husband role that bargained the prices down. Time flew by far to fast, sunbathing, chatting with our neighbours over shisha and beers, stumbling along the beach at night, losing flip-flops in the unusually high tide, talking to crazy guys at beach fires, curing hang overs with swims in the choppy sea and falling asleep over breakfast in the local restaurant. At some point I dyed my newly blonde hair pink with the dye I’d been carrying around since Bulgaria, using the left overs to dip dye Kezzas blonde ends pink too. It looked awesome 🙂