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Journalist: vonkla
Status: Public
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Start Date: Sep 17th, 2007
Last Update: Oct 5th, 2015
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Description: Also: Cochin to Delhi; North-East; South India, South to North, North India

A summary of our trips
Date Posted: Oct 5th, 2015 at 22:03 - Comments (2)
This journal contains the reports of the latest longer trips to India that we made in the years between 2007 and 2014. We were here earlier in 1982 and 2005.

In January 2007 we fly to Mumbai and proceed from there through Pune, Bijapur, Badami, Hampi and Tirupati towards Visakhapatnam.
Here we have booked a tour through tribal Orissa that ends in Bhubaneswar. From there we go by train to the other side of India. We travel some weeks in Gujarat and Rajasthan before we fly back from Delhi. Mumbai-Dehli in three months

In December 2008 we are off for another three months journey. This time we start in Kerala and go from there to Mysore and Hyderabad. We fly to Bhubaneswar for another Orissa & Chhattisgarh tour which ends in Amarkantak. We continue to Varanasi and Orchha and make a loop through Madhya Pradesh until we reach Mandu and Ujjain. We finish in Rajasthan again. From Kochi to Delhi

By the end of February 2010 we fly to Kolkata. After some days we go to friends near Bhadrak to celebrate Holi/Dol Purnima. During the rest of the trip we visit West Bengal, Assam en North Sikkim. Seven weeks North East

In January 2011 we fly to Chennai to start another 20 weeks journey. The first three weeks we explore Tamil Nadu until we reach Kanyakumar. After a short stay in Kerala's backwaters we continue to Wayanad and Coorg. A great itinerary through the inland of Karnataka brings us to Aurangabad. We take a plane to Jodhpur for a wedding and then to South Sikkim. The rainy weather over there makes us escape to Kolkata.
Mainly in the South

Early 2012 we make our last trip for the time being. Again we start in Chennai from where we travel slowly towards Coonoor. Then we go back to the coastal area of Andhra Pradesh followed by another visit to our friends in Norhern Odisha. We continue by an itinerary that brings us from tribal Odisha through the rarely visited inland towards Bhopal and Gwalior. The last weeks we spend in Punjab
South-East to North-West 2012

By the end of 2014 we are ready for our next journey.
Back in 2005 we traveled 6 weeks with a car+ driver organized by Namste. Kamal, the driver, originates from Himachal Pradesh. He promised to show us around if we want to visit his region.
Now we want to go there and contact Namaste. Kamal still works for them and we make an arrangement for a tour through Himachal Pradesh. Thereafter we continue on our own through Uttar Pradesh, Bihar and a part of Jharkhand. From Ranchi we engage another driver for a trip that ends in Odisha.
Eleven weeks in the North
Eleven weeks in the North
Date Posted: Mar 10th, 2015 at 01:10 - Comments (1)


Back in 2005 we arrived with just a rough plan for a six weeks trip. We had booked an airport pick-up and Delhi tours with Namaste travel agency. At his office we discussed our plans with owner Jawahar and he proposed a tour by car+driver. We accepted this and next day we were on the road with Kamal as driver. It was a great trip. Kamal originates from Himachal Pradesh. According to him that is the best part of India. He promised to show us around if we want to visit his region.

This year we want to go there and contact Namaste. Kamal still works for them and we make an arrangement for a tour through Himachal Pradesh. Thereafter we continue on our own through Uttar Pradesh, Bihar and a part of Jharkhand. From Ranchi we engage another driver for a trip that ends in Odisha.

New Delhi, 2 - 5 October 2014

Our visa are delayed but when we arrive at Amsterdam airport our passports with the visa are at the desk. We fly direct to New Delhi where we arrive just after one o'clock in the night. An hour later we leave the airport, outside Kamal waits for us. It is nice to see him again. He drives us to hotel Park View in Karol Bagh.
After a short night we go downstairs where Jawahar meets us. His office is under construction so we settle the formalities here. Kamal joins and helps us to purchase a sim card. It is nine years ago that we toured through Delhi and we have the feeling there is a lot more traffic but the environment is not as dirty as then. We have no sight-seeing plans for these days, just want to get rid of the jet-lag. Nowadays Kamal lives with his family in Delhi and invites us for a visit on Sunday.

Later in the afternoon we wander through the shopping area around the hotel. It is the last night of Dasara and large posts with idols are erected. The best way to let them stand firm is to hack a hole in the asphalt. In a small park opposite the hotel people also erect a statue. While we have dinner it is set in fire and everywhere is firework. We are tired and don't go out but go to bed early.

Due to the time difference it is over ten before we awake. Without a problem we activate our phone. We are convinced that we also purchased a calling credit but there is nothing on it. Another problem is that my shaving device does not work. Time for some shopping.

It is been 2.5 years ago that we visited India and walking around it feels as we are back at home. Just looking around en ending with some beer is enough for today.

Early in the morning a phone call wakes us. It is Kamal, he wants to know if we are vegetarian. At ten he arrives, dressed in a proper suit, at the hotel. We cross the Yamuna on our way to Northern Delhi. Here and there we stop to buy the ingredients for the lunch. Kamal's wife and children welcome us cordial. After the traditional drink of water we get coffee. Kamal changes his suit for a more comfortable outfit. We have an animated chat and in the meantime we look at travel photo's, including those we sent from our previous trip. On our laptop we have pictures of the Netherlands and of our home, especially the teenage kids want to see them all.
Kamal's wife spends most time in the kitchen, busy preparing the meal. We have a beer and eat a great cooked chicken-dish followed by dal. We are modest eaters, so when it is followed by rice, vegetables, paratha's and more chicken our bellies are congested. Later Kamal changes
clothes again and brings us back.

I go out to buy some water and walking around I reach the Ghaffar market. Times fly when I roam around it. We don't need dinner and stick to a beer.

Shimla, 6 - 8 October


A phone call wakes us around five, we don't understand a word of the Hindi message. The result is that we don't sleep anymore. Kamal arrives before nine and we leave. First we drive across Delhi, along the Red Fort. Today the Muslims celebrate Eid-al-Adha so there is less traffic then usual. After an hour we reach the high-way that leads towards Amritsar. On some parts it is still the old road, There are also new sections with three lanes, but since there are no lines everyone is very creative in using this road.
The environment is not very inspiring but a constant stream of useless phone-calls and text messages keeps us awake. Near Ambala we leave the high-way and from there the trip becomes more interesting.
After lunch in a dhaba we visit the Yadavindra Gardens in Pinjore. Mughal styled gardens with pavilions and long water courses.

But the design is somewhat to formal to our taste, We walk to the end and on our way back we go along along the outer wall. Here we are surrounded by fruit trees and herbs, we like this better.
At four we arrive in Kalka, Hotel Windsmoor looks great but we hardly can enjoy it since we leave tomorrow at five. The town itself has nothing to offer.

Half past five we walk down to the hall where Kamal is waiting. It is a short ride to the station. There we will take the train while he goes by car to Shimla. Our train leaves at 6.30, as we enter our compartment a man examines our tickets and says they are for an earlier train. Kamal talks to the ticket sellers and after an extra payment of 200 rs. we are allowed to board.
We leave in time and after a short time we enter the mountains. Unfortunately it is hazy so we cannot see far. But it is an enjoyable journey. As we climb the sun shines now and then through the clouds.

During stops at the small stations there is time to get down and look around. At ten we get a breakfast, chai, juice, snacks and bread, Mine bread is moldy and I throw it away. Around noon we arrive in Shimla where Kamal waits.

We stay in hotel White. Since the center of Shimla is auto-free it is a firm walk uphill with our luggage. We have a nice large room with great view but the weather is still not cooperative. Monkeys roam around and therefore it is forbidden to open the windows.

We go for lunch to an eatery and walk around the Mall for a while. Due to the early rise we are tired and take a nap.
Later in the afternoon I go out again. As to expect there are tourist all over the place. One of the streets is blocked, they shoot a movie. It is funny to watch this for a while.

Tonight there was a thunderstorm. I didn't notice it but the result is that the views are better. We walk down to the road where we meet Kamal. We drive around Shimla and stop at several viewpoints. The panorama's are beautiful. After somewhat over an hour Kamals tells us that we have seen it all. I think he is joking, but he is serious. The only other possibilities are a horse-ride and trekking, neither of these attracts us.

The two of us spend the afternoon in the town. As often in this type of destinations I have the feeling it is highly overrated. Nevertheless it is nice to walk around and look at the English styled buildings.

For the lunch we go to the Indian Coffee House where we get an excellent dosa. Also we spend some time on the film-set. The clouds become thicker and we go back to the hotel. At half pas two another thunderstorm starts. Happily the rain stops when we go out for dinner. We end in a dark bar and need the light of our mobile to read the menu. The food is fine.

Mandi & Kullu, 9 - 11 October


At half past nine one of the hotel boys assist us and we walk with our luggage to the car. The roads around Shimla are congested and it takes more than half an hour before we are on our way to Mandi. This road is in a good condition but some parts are damaged. In combination with the heavy traffic Kamal expects the trip will take five hours.
The sky is clear and the mountain scenery around us is splendid. Lots of woodland alternated with agriculture on terraces. We drive under the sun but at the horizon we see dark clouds. After a while we reach the valley of the Beas river.
With some stops for chai and lunch it is three o'clock as we arrive in Mandi. Hotel Pajmahal Palace is, as the name suggests, the accommodation of a previous ruler The bed in our room is so huge that there is hardly space around it. But this is no problem since everywhere in the broad corridors sitting corners are situated. And the hotel has a nice garden restaurant.

We don't spend much time here and go to the town. First we walk to the old bridge over the Beas, an impressive construction. Subsequently we wander through the narrow shopping streets, buy a beer and return to the hotel.

We have dinner in the garden, Kamal arrives and we make the agreements for tomorrow's trip to Kullu. In the meantime he finishes our leftovers.

Just after nine we are on the road again. It is too early to visit the large Mata Bhimakali temple, situated just outside Mandi.

I take some pictures of the outside. In contrast with yesterday we drive close to the bank of the Beas. The gorge is rather narrow, unsteady bridges are build across the river. On other places there are hoists to transport goods. As the valley expands on some places there are villages with many tourist utilities. Kamal stops for a puja in the Hagoni temple, this god protects the drivers against accidents.

We ride along the water reservoir, down here the sun does not reach the surface. From here we enter the three kilometer long tunnel, winding and scarcely illuminated. At the other end of the tunnel the landscape changes, it is open en less wooded.

Around noon we arrive in Kullu where we first go to Kamal's sister. In front of her house is a large veranda with a roof where we can sit. She and her family give us a warm welcome and of course refreshments. This is followed by a tasteful but abundant lunch.
A few hours later we go to Sarvari tourist hotel where we get a fine room with a hall and a luggage store. En route we encountered already many processions since the Kullu Mela takes place. Our hotel is on top of the hill, at the foot is the terrain where the Mela is situated. Of course we go down and visit the Mela. Apart of the religious part there are markets for clothes, for utensils, for animals and of course a fun-fair. Although it is crowded the atmosphere is friendly and we enjoy it. We think that at this moment we are the only Western tourists.

Later in the afternoon we walk back to the house of Kamal's sister. Again we get chai and biscuits and they invite us for dinner. We feel that we take too much advantage of their hospitality and refuse this. Her sons are in and like our photo's from the Netherlands and our 2005 trip. It is dark when we leave but the boys guide us via a short-cut and in no-time we are back in the hotel. In the restaurant we are the only guests.

Last night I woke up and thought it was raining but it must have been a dream. We eat our breakfast on the veranda. Kamals arrives before nine and we start. Kullu is famous for shawls. We go to one of the weaveries. The production units don't work but the shop is open, Wiesje buys a fine pashmina for 2100 rs.
We continue along the banks of the Beas. Everywhere are rafting opportunities, but hardly anyone is on the river. Halfway on the road to Manali we cross the river and proceed to Naggar. The palace there is interesting. The walls are build with bricks and wood, without the use of mortar.

There is also a lot of nice wood carving. In the basement is a small exhibition. Only a part of the palace is open for sight-seeing. The other part is converted into a hotel. Somewhat further uphill is the Roerich museum. Apart from the paintings one gets an impression how the family lived. As a bonus we have great views over the mountains.

The sky is still very clear and as we continue we see more and more snow covered tops. At the roadsides there are only hotels. At twelve we are in Manali where we stay in Hotel Kunzam. It is another property of the HPTDC. We agree with Kamal that tomorrow we will visit the Rohtang pass. It means we have to start at six in the morning.

We go out and explore the city. First we have lunch, the spring-rolls are not the best quality. We continue over the Mall and the neighbouring streets. In a shop Wiesje sees a trouser, she wants to find out if it fits and has to change clothes behind the counter.
Then we go to a cyber-café to contact our relatives. It is dark when we are finished and then it becomes cold. Again we are the only guests in the dining room.

Manali – McLeod Ganj 12 – 15 October


At six we sit in the hall of the hotel but there is no sign of Kamal. We phone him and a few minutes later he arrives, he overslept. Half past six we start for the Rohtang pass, the sun lightens the tops of the highest mountains but here in the valley it is cold. For the first time we are glad with a heater in the car.

We start along the Beas. After the registration of the car at a police post we go uphill. With many hairpins we climb through a pine forest. The road is under reconstruction. As result there are some broad sections but for the remainder it is the small old road. Or there is no asphalt and we just drive on the rock ground. Direct next to the road are the deep ravines, it makes the passing with other cars rather scary. Especially as some part of the road are still covered with ice. But the environment and the panorama's are spectacular beautiful.
And yet we are still in the valley. In Kathy we leave that and start with the real pass. The pines are replaced by foliage trees but the leaves are already gone. We pass a great waterfall unfortunately there is no place to park the car.

After an hour we reach Marhi, this is nothing more than a group dhaba's. All the trees are disappeared by now. In the hard wind it is freezing cold and inside the eatery it is hardly better. We have a breakfast of puri. As we have finished, the sun rises over the mountains and the temperature becomes better.
We continue and see more and more snow covered mountains in the clear sky. Men drive flocks of horses up the mountain. They take the short route along the slopes and regular they cross the road and we have to wait. Half past eight we reach the pass.

On the flat terrain it is crowded and we drive a little further. Here it is quiet and we enjoy the beautiful views over the magnificent landscape.

After a while we return and stop at the crowded area. One can hire a horse or a quad for trips through the mountains. In the sun the temperature here is better than down in Mahi. But since we did not hire extra warm clothes we still feel cold. So we stick to a chai before we return to Manali. Now and then we stop to admire the views.

Back in the hotel we take a hot shower to get warm. After the lunch we walk a while in the town and stay for the rest of the day in our room.

With one of the hotel boys we walk to the end of the car free Mall where Kamal waits. We drive back to Kullu, this time at the other side of the Beas as on the outward journey. Both the landscape and the weather are splendid. Just after Kullu we fork into the narrow valley of the Parvati river. I feel that the scenery is even more impressive than that around the Beas.
An aluminum pipe is fastened in front of the bumper of the car. The road is not very good and one of the screws looses his grip. Kamal fixes it temporary but in the next village we go to a repair shop. In fifteen minutes it is fixed.

Early in the afternoon we reach Kasol where we stay in the Purnima guesthouse. It is situated on the bank of the river. From the veranda, before our spacious room, we have a splendid view. We just leave our luggage and continue to Manikaran. My wife has no wish to visit the temple so I go on my own. To enter the temple I have to cross the building constructions of parking garages and the bridge across the Parvati.

From here I can clearly see the steam that is created when the hot water runs into the river. Inside, if I want to go further than the hot bad, I must cover my head. I have not cloth and go back. Next we proceed to the village, as far as I can see Manikaran is very small. The old bridge is very nice but further there is not much to see and we return to Kasol.

After the lunch we walk back to the guesthouse and have a lazy afternoon. On the veranda and in the full sun it is hot. As the sun disappears behind the mountains the temperature drops.

This morning it is cloudy and as we are on the road for an hour it starts to rain. Moreover my wife doesn't feel well so we are not so cheerful. A bit of good luck is that we have traveled this road a few days ago under better circumstances.
Half past eleven we are back in Mandi and go in the direction of Joginder Nagar. The valley is broad, in the beginning we pass many small villages. Then the landscape is again great, this time with a lot of agriculture. The rain stops and the sun starts to shine.

A kilometer or ten beyond Joginder Nagar we reach Chauntra. We stay tonight in the family house of Kamal and this is the nearest town. Kamal buys ingredients for our dinner and of course he meets many friends. We don't drive straight forward to his house but take a smaller road through the hills. Beneath us lays the Kangra valley. Our first stop is by the house of one of his uncles. In the car he has a bag with clothes for the children. There are five houses on a row somewhat down the road. The middle one is destroyed by a big rock that tumbled down in the monsoon, happily no one was hurt. After a chai we continue and a little further Kamal's sister and a nephew wait for us. The house is not reachable by car and they help us with the luggage. It is a five minutes walk over a small path through the rice field. Wiesje steps into the brook that we have to cross.

Kamal's father and mother give us a cordial welcome. They live in a rather large house. Until a few years ago Kamal's wife and children lived here too. The house is expanded with a second floor, everywhere around are piles of building materials. We sit on the veranda with water, chai and other refreshments. It is five o'clock and the farmers return to their homes, an uncle joins us.

We sleep in Kamal's old room and when it gets dark we and the men go inside for a drink. The father does not stay long and then the ladies come to enjoy a small drink. Kamal's sister is going to marry and the family has fierce discussions about the ceremony. Of course we don't understand a word but their facial expressions make it clear that they disagree about it. We talk with the sister, she does not participate in the discussion.
Half past eight we get a fine dinner and soon after that we go to sleep.

The loo is in a separate structure, quite an adventure to visit it in the middle of the night. Around seven we rise, the sun shines again. We start with a chai, in the distance whistles the train on the Kangra Valley railway. Kamal and his father have long discussions about the rebuilding of the house, off and on we get a translation. Wiesje has still problems with her stomach and skips breakfast. We are not in a hurry and I take a walk through the rice fields.

At twelve we leave, mother and sister join us. It is a nice opportunity for them to visit a relative in the hospital. While we drive through the valley in the sun, the mountains are covered with clouds. As we approach Dharamsala there is nothing else to see than hotels. Beyond the city we take the steep, and partial bad, road to McLeod Ganj. Auto's are not allowed in the village and we take a rickshaw to hotel Sahiwa, situated close to the Dalai Lama temple. The room is fine. But we can stay only one night. The day after tomorrow it is booked by visitors for the India – West Indies cricket match.

My wife takes a nap and I go out. Everywhere here are market stalls and small shops. The main area consist of two streets. Of course it is crowded with tourists and monks. Again a town thats is not my favorite and because of the clouds there is nothing to see of the environment.
At nine I go alone to the dining room. There is no choice of food and the waiters are so indifferent that I decide to leave. Now they offer to get the food from some place else but I refuse. It is dark in the streets and apart from the restaurants everything is closed. Fortunately I have a perfect dinner. When I walk back a group monks with flashlights walk just in front of me. I am happy with their enlightenment.

Jalandhar 16 – 17 October


Our original plan is to stay here another day for local sight-seeing. And then tomorrow we leave for Jalandhar and take the night train to Lucknow. Both of us are not attracted to McLeod itself and the cloudy weather makes a trip through the mountains not appealing. In combination with the fact that we have to find another hotel we decide to shorten the trip with one day and leave to Jalandhar now.
When Kamal arrives we discuss this with him and he agrees. This time we walk with the luggage to the car-parking. From there we drive back to Dharamsala and further through the Kangra valley. Just as yesterday here below it is sunny and the scenery is great and diverse. After Kangra the road goes uphill. We cross the Beas again, by now it is already a broad river. The road we drive is perfect, and goes through woodland with a lot of monkeys. In the middle of nowhere we eat a perfect lunch in a modern restaurant.

At the border with Punjab Kamal goes to the office where he has to pay the border tax. He grumbles when he comes back to the car but he doesn't tell us the reason. At three we are in Hoshiarpur and although we have nothing to do there he goes into the city asking everyone for directions. We get irritated and then he explains that at the border he had to pay the tax by internet. His phone does not have that option and now he drives without a permit. He is looking for a customers office in the town. After an hour he finds it, but there he cannot pay either. He calls someone in Delhi who makes the payment. But since he has not a prove he is still insecure.
At five we are in Jalandhar and half an hour later we have a fine hotel. The room in Maharaja Special is 2000 rs without taxes. in our room we say goodbye to Kamal, it was great to have him again as driver. And he was right, the landscape in Himachal is fascinating. While we are talking, his Delhi friends sends an SMS with the internet address for the tax receipt. I go with Kamal to the lobby but we cannot find this address on the computer there. He phones his friend again and the personal will help him on the computer, so again I say goodbye.
As we go to the dinner hall Kamal is still in the lobby. He just got the receipt. A good timing, now we have a fine dinner with the three of us before we part for the last time.

Jalandhar is not a tourist destination. There is a small entry in my Footprint guide mentioning the Rainak bazaar. My wife is not interested. According to the desk man it is rather far and I take a cycle rickshaw. The bazaar is large area with consecutive market streets. It is indeed great and I roam around for nearly two hours.

Back in the hotel we mail the folks back home and Wiesje arranges a hotel in Lucknow. Late in the afternoon we pay the bill and drink a few beer. Then the hotel taxi brings us to the station. It is crowded on the platform. For the first time we have 1AC seats. Of course it is more spacious then 2AC but for us it is not worth the extra money. We are tired and sleep at half past ten.

Lucknow, 18 - 21 October


Although we travel luxurious we don't sleep well. Our co-passenger has locked the door, the next person has to make a lot of noise before he opens it. And as he leaves in the middle of the night he is noisy again. In the morning we talk with one of the other passengers, an Australian. He owns a bakery in Varanasi and is married to a Dutch women. Her birthplace is 25 kilometers from ours.
With a delay of an hour we arrive at eleven in Lucknow. On the platform we are welcomed by a man of the tourist organization. We go to his office in the hall, sign the guest-book and receive a map of the town. He shows us the stall of the pre-booked auto's. Yesterday we phoned hotel Amarpreet for a room. When we arrive they deny this and say they are full. My wife gets irritated and then the hotel woman gives in. But the room is so small and dark that we don't want it. The rickshaw driver brings us to another hotel. In Sky High there is a small and clean room for 2250 rs. A little above our budget but we are tired and stay.

After a short rest I go out to explore the vicinity. At one of the stalls I buy my first Lucknow street-food, a perfect sheep snack. We had the idea that we stay in the outskirts of Lucknow but is by foot a quarter away from the station. The hotel has only room services and somewhat later we go to a nearby restaurant for a good lunch. Then it is time to find a beer shop. The first one sells only liquor and I must walk somewhat further.
At noon we had delivered our laundry and at seven it is back. Clean but still wet and we spread it out all over the room.

The staff speaks hardly English and this results in a strange breakfast. This morning we want to visit the Hussainabad area. The first cyclist doesn't understand anything but the next one gives the impression he comprehends it. I know it is quite a distance and accept the 100 rs he asks. This brings him in a good mood and he sings when it is easy cycling. After a while I have the idea that the cyclist takes the wrong direction. Fruitless I try to persuade him to inform for the right route. A long time later he asks someone and with a large detour we reach the Bara Imambra.

In a tourist mood we take a horse and carriage for a tour along the monuments. All of them are large and impressive. After our return we enter the Bara Imambra. The many buildings inside the complex are immense and we spend a lot of time here. Since we don't want to climb we skip the labyrinth. As always many people want to take a photo of us, Wiesje even gets a baby in her arms for a photo shoot.

With our ticket we are allowed to enter the other monuments but we have seen enough and take a cycle to the Chowk. As always these market areas are our favorites, it is great to walk around. We try to find a cyber-café, everyone points us in the same direction.

When we are there it is just a computer training center. With another cycle we go back to the hotel.
Our next destination is Jaunpur and since we arrive just before Diwali we decide to reserve a room now. The man on the other side of the phone speaks only Hindi. We go to the desk-man of our hotel and he makes the reservation for us.


Half past ten we take a cycle to the Residency. I somehow had the idea that it was one big complex but it is a large compound with several ruined buildings. It is only interesting in relation with the historical important events. This is of course also the reason for the visit of large groups school children. One girl asks us to write our names in her exercise book. The rest follows and pushes around us. Now we an idea how uncomfortable this is for celebrities.

The small museum shows images of the same ruins. We must leave our luggage in the cloak room, although there is a watchman it is self service. After a visit to the cemetery we leave the compound. With the help of bystanders we organize a rickshaw to the Harzat Mahal Park. We enter it through a somewhat obscure back entrance.

The somewhat shabby umbrella palace is now an drugs research center but looks abandoned. At the official entrance of the park stands a watchman, this is his territory and he refuses us the passage. We cannot convince him and walk back.

After a lunch we walk to the tombs of Ali Khan and his wife. Again imposing buildings situated in a nice green park, just as the other places we visited today.
We get tired and decide to return to the hotel. Later I go out and look for a cyber café. The first one has a free day, the second one doesn't function at all but than I find an active one. On my way back I buy beer, I have to wake up the vendor. As I leave he sleeps again.

We are lazy this morning and it is after eleven before I go out to explore the neighbourhood. Diwali is approaching and all over the streets are temporally stands where they sell the goods to celebrate the festival. Larger shops have extra displays in the street for luxurious sweets and other gifts. In a back alley men transfer large color TV's from a truck into cycle rickshaw's.

In the afternoon we take some street-food, before we go visit the Botanic Garden. We manage to get an auto for 150 rs. As often here the driver takes the wrong direction. He refuses to ask for help and we let him stop. He is not happy with the 50 rs I give him.
The cycle drivers here neither have an idea where our destination is and above that they charge too much. At last we get another auto and after a short time it is clear that also he has never heard of the Botanic Garden. We want to give up and tell him to drive us back to our hotel. Then he starts to ask and after a while we arrive at the Garden. But at this time it is closed for the public. Our driver is still with us and we return to the hotel.
Tomorrow we have an early start so we order our breakfast and pay the hotel bill.

Jaunpur 22 – 24 October


Half past seven our breakfast arrives and when we have finished we go down. Soon an auto stops and before eight we are at the station. We both have some minor stomach problems, not ideal for a travel day.
As we enter the station of Lucknow the board shows a delay of four hours. It is crowded on the platform and there is no place to sit. Again a man of the tourist offices helps us. He suggests to take a bus. With our health problems we decide not to hang around but to hire a taxi. The price at pre-paid taxi booth is 3800 rs for the four hour trip.
An old driver comes with a car nearly as old as himself. He fills the tank, put air in the tires and we are off. The road is reasonable with occasionally large potholes.

With quite a lot of traffic jams and a short lunch stop it takes over six hours and it is 4.30 as we arrive in Jaunpur. We have telephonic reserved a room in Hotel River View. The desk man is not very friendly but without problems we get it for 1080 rs. Regrettably with a view on the street instead of the river. The personal speak little English but they are friendly and show us around. There is a restaurant, a garden bar and beer shop in the complex.

We leave the hotel and arrange transport to the center of the town.

Near the Shahi bridge we order the cycle driver to stop and walk to the bank of the Gomti river. Many men take a bath while fishermen are on the river. From here we have a fantastic view on the bridge with the blue structures.

Tonight is the start of Diwali, on the bridge merchants sell all kind of goods. We look around and somewhat further we ask a shopkeeper for a cyber-café, he escorts us toward it.
With our vague map of the city as help, we try to find the Jami Masjid. I see the remainders of a mosque and assume that we found it. Somewhat disappointed I take some pictures. As we walk back, a man points into another street and there we find our goal. It is an imposing building, the base is a meter or five above street level.

It has a high portal instead of minarets. Inside it is quiet, the only other visitor is an old man who studies the Koran.
We go back to the hotel for some rest. In the afternoon I go out on my own. According to my map there are some other sights near the hotel. The only one I find is the tomb of Feroz Shah. I wander around in the narrow streets and arrive at a cluster of Muslim monuments. A man tries to explain them to me and I think it are some burial memorials.
A group of boys has gathered around me and say they know something 'nice'. I go with them to the edge of the town. Here live the farmers and there are some local Muslim shrines. Around one of them a group women have some service.

They invite me to look and give me some chips.
Since it is Diwali the restaurant is closed and we get a simple meal in the room. The road to the center is rather dark and we decide to enjoy the fire-work from our room.

For tomorrow we want a taxi for Mirzapur and ask the man at the desk to arrange this. He refuses or maybe he doesn't understand it. We walk to the town for a travel agent and pass hotel Raghuvansi. It looks more sophisticated than ours. My wife asks if they can help us. No problem, the price is 8 rs per km and the car will arrive around 10. We pay an advance of 500 rs.
We continue to the Shahi bridge. Here and in the rest of the town it is not as crowded as yesterday. But her live many Muslims and their shops are open. Yesterday, on our way to the hotel, we passed the fort and now we stroll in that direction. Along the imposing wall we reach the entrance porch, a ticket costs 100 rs.

The area between the thick walls is mainly covered with grass, here and there are some buildings. Two men with sticks escort us, we think that they are self appointed guides and try to get rid of them, without success. Some English speaking students join us and explains that these men will open the buildings for us.

We leave the mosque aside but visit the Turkish Haman. It is an interesting maze of corridors, rooms and stairs. All the other visitors are kept out until we leave.

The guards stay behind and with the students we visit the rest of the fort. From here we have a magnificent view over the Shahi bridge. When we leave the fort the students stay behind with their friends.
From the walls we have seen the Atala Masjid, the other great mosque. When we are at the entrance the Friday prayer just has ended.

We are asked to wait a little to give everyone the change to finish his personal prayers. After a minute of ten we enter. The building is in the same style as the Jami Masjid and again very imposing. Also here an English speaking man explains everything. In front of the mosque are some eateries where we eat our lunch before we go back to the hotel.

Mirzapur, 25 – 27 October


After the rebate of the advance our hotel bill is 1101 rs. The man insists to receive that last rupee. Just after ten o'clock our taxi arrives, it is a Bolero, much bigger than our regular cars. As often the driver doesn't speak a word English. For 1000 rs. the car is refuelled and we are on our way. The road is bad, the first 20 km takes an hour. The country around us is flat and green.
Around one o'clock we cross the Ganges and reach Mirzapur. Without a problem we find hotel Galaxy. The one-way distance is 80 km., with the agreed price this makes a total of 1280. We already paid 1500 rs. and of course we don't expect a refund. In contrast the driver wants another 200 which we refuse to pay and let him grumble. Our room is rather small and costs 1400 rs. No restaurant, we lunch in our room.
In the afternoon we explore the town, the center is compact, pleasant busy and absolutely not tourist. In other words it suits us.

Soon we reach the Naar Ghat, not broad but with steep steps to the Ganges. It is surrounded with all kind of temples. We stay there a while before we continue to the Pakka Ghat. It has a similar structure. Here you can cross the Ganges in a rowing boat.

When we walk back to the hotel we wait for a large group monkeys that crosses the street. Somewhat further a cow is dying. Just as by a broken truck some stones are places around it.
To-morrow we want to visit Chunar Fort. The man at the desk calls a car owner and my wife settles the details. For 2500 rs we go to the fort and, as far as we understand, some other destinations. For dinner we go to a veg. restaurant in the neighbourhood. The menu is only in Hindi but we succeed to get a decent meal.

Half past nine the our taxi arrives. We clarify again that we want a day trip and not only a visit to Chunar fort. The man agrees, he is just the car owner, the driver waits outside. Needless to say that he does not speak English. His boss assures us that he has given him instructions for a full day program. We have to pay the trip in advance.
The road to the fort is good. Suddenly the driver takes a side-way and via a narrow viaduct we avoid the railway crossing. Shortly after that we stand high above the Ganges at the entrance of the fort. The driver joins us and he has to give a lot of information to a guard before we may enter, there is no entrance fee. The fort is underwhelming, we visit a small temple, a deep well, a marriage hall and a building at the river side. We know these particulars since an English speaking boy has joined us.

The view over the Ganges with the pontoon bridge is fine, although it is hazy so so we cannot see far away. In the background a new bridge is under construction. The terrain is much bigger but we are not allowed to walk further. In half an hour we have seen everything. When we leave the boy suddenly says he is an official guide and wants 200 rs., we are friendly and give him 50.
The driver wants to go back to the hotel, we order him to phone his boss. He talks with him and we go to a remote temple.

Maybe it is an important one, but for us it is not really interesting. Again the driver announces this is the end of the trip. Now we talk to his boss. The man gives the impression that he has no ideas for other destinations. I have read something about Tanda Falls and that will be our next destination.
We leave the main road and continue over a small path through the rice fields. Then we enter the hills and now we drive through an arid area with cactuses. The Fall is a combination of many rapids in the Sirsi and is very attractive.

It is busy with people who picnic and bath, rubbish in the surroundings is the result. We continue along the reservoir of the river and make another stop at the dam. From there we return to the hotel.
In the afternoon we are busy with tuning the upcoming weeks of our trip. One of our plans is a visit to the Sonepur Mela. For that we want to reserve a hotel in nearby Hajipur. There is something wrong with the phone numbers we have. Then I find another one on the net and we have a room during the beginning of the Mela.

As many towns Mirzapur has a clock-tower, it is called Ghanta Ghar. The manager tells us in which direction we have to go. Just on our way we hear a regular sound coming out of a building. We look inside and see men knotting carpets.

It is done by a semi-industrial method. We are allowed to look around but the men stop with their work and just stare at us. Only for the photo they act as if they are busy. We walk further and enjoy to observe the work of many other craftsmen.
After a while we ask someone for the Ghanta Ghar and we walked already far too far. We take another road and after a while we arrive. It is not a stand-alone tower but a part of a church and naturally somebody convinces us to look inside.

We ask a policeman how we can reach the Bariya Ghat. He escorts us towards the road that leads to the Ghat.

Everywhere in the town we see cycle rickshaws that transport sacks filled with wool. Close to the ghat these cycles are loaded. One of the man asks us to take a photo. Next he points that we must enter the building. Some men sit there at a desk and we ask them if we can visit this spinning factory, as we think it is. They offer us a chair and we have to wait. After a while we sign the visitors register and are guided to the director. He explains that he runs a carpet export firm, the wool we see goes to weavers in the villages around Mirzapur. He goes with us to a hall where his employees show us the different types of carpet.

After lunch in an eatery we walk back to the hotel. We need some money and I visit four ATM's, all of them out of order, before I find a working one. To-morrow we leave for Sasaram. We had RAC tickets but they are confirmed.

Sasaram 28 – 29 October


At seven we have our breakfast and half an hour later we go down The receptionist arranges a rickshaw for us and within a quarter of an hour we are at the station of Mirzapur. The train is delayed by an hour. The sleeper calls is already overloaded awhile together with us many others board. Wiesje has a middle seat and squeezes herself between the other four persons. My side upper is occupied by a young man. He refuses to go and I only can get rid of my backpack. Of course he has no reservation but neither my RAC ticket shows a seat number. Another passenger checks my PNR on his mobile and convinces the young man to leave. As I climb up another man joins me, so I sit rather cramped.

Next stop is Mughal Sarai where we stay for an hour. A group somewhat aggressive looking man have so the time to load an enormous amount of luggage. Al kind of packages, cooking utensils, stools and so on, no idea where they store it.
After the next halt many passengers grab their belongings, we join them and stand for half an hour in the queue. We can hardly move but the people of the catering manage to continue their work.
Half past one we arrive in Sasaram. There are no rickshaws in front of the station, we walk the 50 meter towards the main road. With the help of some bystanders we get two cycles to hotel Maurya. The city is one big street market. In the hotel just one man of the staff speaks English. With his help we get a spacious room for 1900 rs. For our lunch we go to the restaurant. They don't have the dishes that we want and the food we get is not very tasty.

In the afternoon I go to the market, they negotiate mostly fruit, vegetables and sugar-cane. When I walk back the Sher Shah Suri Tomb shows in the distance. In the hall off the hotel sits an armed guard.
When we go for dinner to the restaurant our English interpreter asks if we have complaints. We tell him about the lunch, the dinner is good. When we are back on our room he asks again if everything is fine.

Apart from the famous tombs there are some other sights around Sasaram we like to see. The man at the desk of the hotel does not speak English neither do the other men who site there. Again the English speaking staff member comes to translate. After a lengthy discussions the conclusion is that the Kaimur Hills area with the falls is unsafe and Rothas fort too difficult to reach. What remains are some temples and an artificial lake. When they mention a price of 5000 rs we don't even start to negotiate.

Instead of that we walk to the Sher Shah Suri tomb. A student asks if he is allowed to come along with us so he can practices his English. The tomb is constructed with the use of large stone-blocks and is enormous impressive as it rises from the lake.

Inside are several graves and at the outside some remains of the original ornaments are still visible. By stairs one can go down to the terrible dirty water. But these stairs are in such a bad conditions that we don't dare to use them. We spend quite some time the to admire the tomb.
In a distance we see the tomb of Hasan Khan Sur and walk towards it. This tomb is constructed on the same way, but is smaller and not surrounded by a lake.

Many young people hang around and practice their limited English. But we understand that today the people worship a local deity and that everyone is free. Many take a ritual bath in a river but we find that too far away. Instead of that we go back to the main tomb and walk around the lake. We end in a kind of park, a dilapidated stairway leads to the remainders of and old city wall.

We continue through the shopping streets. Men are constructing a tableau with deities, doubtless to collect offerings for the festival. The center is not attractive and we return to the hotel. Due to the festivities the dining hall is closed. But a bit further we find another good restaurant. The rest of the afternoon we stay in our room. According to the hotel staff to-night the other restaurant is also closed and here we can only get an omelet without bread and coffee, a minimal diner.
As far as we understand tonight a procession goes through the town. I go out to have a look. The streets are cleaned and extra lightened but there is nothing to see.

Gaya, 30 October - 2 November


This morning the kitchen staff is back and we order breakfast. Around eleven we check-out. For the two nights we have to pay 4000 rs, a way to much for this hotel. With two cycle rickshaws we travel to the station. It is crowded on the streets as well as on the platform.

The train arrives just in time. As often we have to conquer our sleeper class seats. We manage but also this time we sit in different sections. Half an hour before we arrive the other passengers are queuing and we can sit together.
Outside the station in Gaya there are only large auto rickshaws. We have a reservation for a hotel Sarbar. We think it is close to the station but we don't know where so we need transport. The first driver asks 300 rs, another offers a shared ride for 50 rs. Just on our way my wife notices the hotel and we tell the driver to stop. Then it becomes clear that this auto goes to Bodhgaya. We leave and walk to the hotel where we get a clean room for 1500 rs.
After lunch we wander through the streets around the hotel. We have visited numerous places in India but never seen such a dirty market area. All the rubbish is thrown in the streets and everywhere are rats.

And due to the Chhath puja festival most shops are closed so there is hardly any distraction. But at the good side are the many tableau's with deities, some of them are real humorous.

Near the hotel is a travel agency where we arrange a trip to Rajgir and Nalanda for tomorrow, it costs 1900 rs. Subsequently we go for a visit to the local Vishnu temple. Without success we try to arrange a cycle rickshaw. A bystander tells us it is rather far and that we need an auto. All the shared rickshaw's that pass are full and we walk to the station. There it is easy to find transport.
We know that we are not allowed to enter the temple. But we didn't expect that a high wall surrounds the complex and so there is not much to see.

Through the cremation ghat we reach the river and the other ghats. The riverbed of the Phalgu is very wide and there floats just a little water. On the sandy bottom many groups have there lunch and leave their litter.
We decide to walk back to the hotel. With a stop for chai and another for a snack it takes 1.5 hours. This part of the town is not very interesting.

In a week we want to visit the Valmiki Tiger resort. We mailed them before we started the trip but now we have to confirm everything. We phone there office but they want a mail. The wifi in the hotel doesn't work and I go to an internet café.


It is before eight, and we still have our breakfast as the travel agent arrives. The driver is with him and we are lucky that he speaks some English. We drive through Gaya towards the Phalgu. The bridge is under repair and we cross the river by a small temporary bridge. From there we travel through a flat country with occasionally a strange formed hillock. The quiet road is a renewed and broadened but the many long bridges and the village passages are still one lane.
When we diverse towards Rajgir the landscape becomes more rocky. Our first stop is at Nalanda where we arrive at ten o'clock. The entry fort the site is 100 rs. Most visitors arrive by bus. Just after us a large group Germans arrives. A good opportunity for us to redirect all the people who want to take a picture of us to them.

The ruins consists of brick stones, on a few place there are remainders of sculptures. A number of the monasteries and temples are under reconstruction and therefore not, or partly, accessible. This also goes for the main temple. I try to come nearer and a guard points me to a point from where I can see the stupas. He makes a photo of me and earns his tip. Although Nalanda is not very spectacular we stay there over two hours.

Next destination is Rajgir. We are not interested in the rope-way and know that the temple with the hot springs is only for Hindu's. For the remaining sites we leave the choice to the driver. Firsts he brings us to the modern Japanese Buddhist temple, inside are many golden statues. Next are the remainders of the old temple Maniyar Math.

At the caves of Sonebhandar scholars try to climb the rocks, the guards chase them away. At last we go to the viewpoints that mark the battlefield of
Our driver does not want to stop for a lunch so we are hungry when we are back in Gaya. Many families stay in the hotel and the children practice their English with us.

Half past ten we walk to the station for a shared auto to Bodhgaya. We have completely forgotten that a few days ago we had transport for 50 rs each. As a driver offers us a price of 150 rs. we accept this and it is enough for a private auto.
The trip takes about half an hour, we drive along the river and stop at the market area. Bystanders tell us that we have to cross that and so we arrive at the back-entrance of the temple.

Over the long corridor we walk to the other end where we get the free ticket. Now we go back, nearly to the point where we entered the complex. At the control post the man tells me I have to buy a ticket for my camera. So I have to return to the entrance. Again on my way to the temple I notice that mobiles are strictly forbidden. I don't want to return again and put it deep in my pocket. Of course I warn my wife about this. There are separate check-points for men and women, and everybody is investigated twice. I enter without a problem but they discover Wiesjes mobile. She has enough of the regulations and I continue alone.

Without shoes I go to the main temple. There stands a long queue and it takes a long time. The reason is that from the other side large groups pilgrims get right of way. Inside it is forbidden to take photo's but everyone does it. The Buddha statue gets a clean cloth. There is little space in the temple but it is enough for the real devotees to stretch out and pray. I wander a while along the other temples and of course the Bhodi tree before I go back to my wife.

We want to visit some of the other temples but between noon and two o'clock only a Chines temple is open. We have lunch and decide to go back. We liked the luxury of this morning and take again a private auto. Just as in Gaya someone registers which of the drivers has a ride. Outside the town we tell the driver he can pick some extra passengers, they are not allowed to sit in our bench.

Hajipur & Sonepur, 3 - 6 November


Our train is due to leave at 1 PM so we are not in a hurry and have a lazy morning in our room. Check-out time is at noon and by that time we walk to the station. The platform opposite ours is
crammed. After a while an overcrowded train arrives. People hang outside the doors and bicycles are attached to the windows. Gaya is the end station for this train and after a while it departs just so crowded.

Our train is nearly in time and since we sit ChairClass we don't have to fight for our seats.
It is after four o'clock when we arrive in Patna. Outside the station is a pre-paid taxi boot. For the distance of 15 km they ask 1000 rs. Very pricey we think but everyone assures us that this is correct and we have no choice. Half past four we drive off and after 50 meters we stand in a traffic jam. This stagnation lasts until we reach our hotel, Anamika Tower, two hours later.
The men at the desk act as if they don't know anything about our reservation and tells us that we just can stay for 1 night. We insist that we have an agreement and after a while we get a room for 4 nights. It is a spacious AC-room for 2000 rs. on the busy roadside. Unfortunately the boiler is out-of-order and we get another, smaller room, but it is a quiet one at the backside.
We want a beer in the bar but women are not allowed in. So we depend on the room-service.

Our original idea was to visit Patna, but since yesterdays traffic problems we decide to stay here and take a leisure day. Somewhere I have read about a boat trip to the ritual bath that sadhu's take at the start of the Mela. The men at the hotel-desk don't know about this and act further also not very cooperative. So we decide to take our chance in Hajipur.
The hotel is situated at the side of the NH77 and we walk a few hundred meters on the roadside towards the nearby Paswan Chowk. From there we wander to the center. The town is clean and the shops are relative modern. We ask people for a travel agency but just a few speak English and they don't know i Finally someone tells us to go to the railway station and there we find the small office. But it is just a ticket-seller and they only tell us that we need an auto for Sonepur. Nothing about boat rides or organized trips.

We go back to the hotel, on the way we see an elephant parked near a tree. Maybe her destination is the Mela.

According to the newspaper 2.500.000 visitors are expected, amongst them only 250 foreigners. At ten o'clock we are on our way and walk to the Paswan Chowk. Many shared auto's stop there but no one goes to Sonepur. A young, English speaking, man explains that there is no direct connection. He goes halfway and takes care of us. The first leg is over the high-way up to the real junction for Hajipur. The boy guides us to the next auto. He gets out at the station but in the meantime he has found a new guide for us. We have to change auto's one time again, ever leg costs 10 r. Our guide gives us the names of the transfer points so we know it for the return journey.
We stop at the beginning of the enormous market terrain, it covers not only the whole village but also the areas around it.

Some stands are ready and start the sale. Other merchandises unload the building material and just start the construction. This is also the fact with the fair attractions. We wander from street to street and enjoying everything. There are many visitors but it is not really crowded. At one of the ghats people are resting, probably waiting for to-morrows activities.
We are invited into a Sikh-temple, get a head-scarf and have a chat with the leaders. They offer us breakfast but we are not hungry. With white wooden posts a path is defined to lead the mass to the Kali Ghat. Now the fences are used to dry clothes.

We go inside the Hariharnath temple. When we want to leave the chairman calls us back. We have to sit on a couch, talk a while with the officials and write an entry in the guest-book. Some women police offers have to step aside, they are obvious offended. We feel somewhat embarrassed and don't stay long.
Already we are here for some hours but did not see any animal. We ask around and are told to go to the other side of the Mela. There we arrive on a field where we see oxes. They stand in small groups and the owners live in shelters between them.

When we walk further there is a much larger area, also covered with oxes and people. It is difficult to estimate how many animals there are but it are hundreds and hundreds. Some boys drag us along to a tent where they have a porcupine.

We are getting tired and although we have only seen a part of the Mela we walk slowly back. The sadhu's arrive for to-morrows ritual batch, now they are more interested in buying convenience goods. While we go back to the village we discover other large parts of the Mela but leave that for to-morrow.
With the notes we made, the first part with the shared auto's goes smoothly. It is rush-hour and at the point where we have to go to the high-way is is difficult to find the stand. A man helps us to cross the road and leads us to cycle rickshaw. With this on a four-lane road is rather special.
At five we are back in the hotel.

We have decided to avoid the probably overcrowded opening and leave the hotel at nine. Since we now know the schedule of the auto's we assume it will be easy to reach the Mela. And indeed as we arrive at the Paswan Chowk we get the first auto immediately. But far from the first transfer point the highway is blocked. An unridable bypass brings us somewhat further but then we have to leave the auto and walk through the slums to the main-road.
Countless people walk here in the direction off the market, while just as many are on their way back. We ask if there is any transport possible and some people think that we have a chance at the railway station. So we join the mass and start to walk. At the station it becomes clear that also from here the only way to reach the market is on foot. From yesterdays rides with the rickshaws we have the idea it will be a long walk. My wife is afraid that this will be too strenuous and reluctant she returns to the hotel.

It is very crowded on the road but in the beginning one can keep walking. Only when there is some entertainment, such as a girl walking on a tight rope, there is some hustle. The road from Hajipur to Sonepur is smaller. Besides people from all directions get together here and have to go by this road so the tempo reduces.

Both roadsides are occupied with hawkers. But since all the visitors are disciplined and keep left, an exception here in India, the crowd keeps moving. And so we approach the Gandak river. A lot of people take their ritual bath on this side of the river. But the bulk proceeds over the long and narrow bridge. So I arrive at the Mela and am pleasantly surprised that the walk lasts only 35 minutes.

Most people go in the direction of the ghats and the temples. I go on to one of the parts we didn't visit yesterday and soon see a signpost leading to the cattle and horse markets. I see some cows but continue and reach the horse market. Where ever you see between the trees, groups of horses are tied up and also here the owners live in tents between the animals.

On a long open strip horsemen show the capacities of the animals, they are rather crude towards them. And everywhere between it people walk and sit, but the atmosphere is relaxed and friendly. I roam around and at the end of the terrain I discover some auto's, so there must be a road connection from somewhere.

When I walk back I see in the distance another group tents. I walk towards it and here are even more horses. Here I also take my time to look around and just as want to proceed to the cow market I have a talk with some boys. As I ask them were the elephants are they insist to show me the way. While we are talking we go the terrain near the ghats. There they give me the last hints and go there own way.

Also here the animals are standing in small groups under the trees and it is difficult to count them. But I estimate there are over thirty. I see some other foreign tourist with there guide, one of the elephants gives them a garland and of course this attracts the spectators.

I am now several hours on the market and my legs get tired, as those of many others. In one of the restaurants I take a lunch. After that I feel reasonable fit but decide to go back. Since the distance is less then we thought it is possible to make another trip with my wife. The road is not so busy anymore. From the center of Hajipur I take a cycle back to the hotel. My wife doesn't wish to go anymore and we stay in the room.

Gorakhpur, 7 November


Although we should like to visit the mela again our reservations for the Valmiki Tiger resort make this impossible. Since we have no idea about the traffic situation we leave early. The men at the hotel-desk are not responsive in hiring transport to the station. Again we have to walk over the highway to the chowk and take a cycle from there. Traffic in town is back to normal and half past nine we arrive at the station, two hours before the train departs. While we wait we hear an endless announcement of security and behavior rules. In the meantime someone from Valmiki phones us, with all the noise I have no idea what he wants.
I ask the station manager for the position of our coach. He gives me completely wrong information and we have to run a long way as the train arrives. It stops just for a few minutes and we board at an arbitrary coach. A wise decision since the train starts immediately. It is crowded and we struggle to our coach, after some instigations people leave our side-seats.
The first stop is in Sonepur, from a distance it looks quiet. Around four o'clock we are in Gorakhpur. There are many hotels across the station but most of them are full.

Hotel Vardan provides us with a simple room for 800 rs. No hot water and just 1 towel. We phone the Valmiki number but now there is someone who doesn't speak English. Later someone calls us back with a vague story and we get a text message from a guide. It becomes diffuse.
Since we have no idea about ATM's in the reserver area we collect some extra money. Then we go to a bar-restaurant for dinner. In this bar Wiesje is allowed to enter. In the road it is pleasant busy. On all sides drivers offer us a ride to the Nepalese border.

West Champaran, 8 – 12 November


When I inspect the last phone and sms numbers I discover they are all from Birendra Soni, he seems to be our guide and will meet us at the station of Bagaha.
Our train arrives at 10.15, neatly on time and not crowded at all. But it takes half an hour before we depart. We travel through a nice landscape full of lakes and rivers.

There is no pantry-car but locals sell peanuts and bananas. We have to wait again before we cross the long bridge over the Gandak river. In the meantime Birendra calls that he is delayed too.
Our train is to long for the platform so we really have to climb down. Outside Bagaha station a bunch of drivers offer their services and we retire to the station hall. A short while later we get a call that our car is waiting outside. It is a large Tata Dicor pick-up and together with Birendra is Chandan who drives the vehicle.
We set off and soon we drive on a single lane road through the jungle. Birendra explains they are not professional guides but a group that want to promote tourism in the region. They act together with the forest department and we are their first customers. They have many ideas for the coming days and it sounds great. Only the trek through the hill we find too strenuous. Since we are a pilot group we only have to pay for the car.
The trip itself is great and we pass through several tribal villages. In the fields people fabricate
black sugar.

And then we drive again through the dense jungle. After a while we arrive in Kotraha. It is in the middle of the jungle and the Eco hut is rather primitive. We don't see ourself stay her for four days and we proceed to the hotel in Valmiki Nagar.
It is a small township and the hotel is far outside it. The location is great, just a 50 meters from the Ganak river, which is here the border with Nepal. Again we have serious doubts since it is so isolated. Birendra has already told us that Narkatiaganj, a town on the other side of the reserve, has a good hotel. An additional advantage is that they live around that place so it makes planning a lot easier. For us this looks the best option.

We take our time to look around and it is half past five before we are on our way. Soon it is dark. First we ride along a nearly unending irrigation canal followed by a ride through the agricultural countryside. We pass numerous small villages with the usual unlit cars and pedestrians. And of course the road is as bad as to be expect. But the four of us get along fine and we get more and more ideas for our stay.
Half past seven we arrive in hotel Boddhi't, for 1500 rs we have a large AC room. Anal, another member of the group, fixes everything. The restaurant is next door. I ask were the beer shop is and a boy is send to get it. After a while he returns, he cannot find it so we end with a whiskey, before we go to bed.

We wake up at seven and discover that an invasion of bugs eating the post of the bathroom door. We warn the staff and they immediate take adequate action. The restaurant serves only one type of breakfast, this morning it is omelet.
Half past eight Birendra arrives and we plan the activities for this and the coming days. After an hour we depart. Today Anal drives the car and Chandan sits on the cargo deck. After a few minutes we stop at the farmhouse of Anal's family, one the largest living and work domains in the town. His father is waiting for us and we talk with him, while we wait for the tea. In the meantime the others disappear with the car, we wonder what is happening. After a short time they return with two plastic chairs and cookies, now the tea can be served.
Then we really start with Birendra and Chandan sitting on the chairs on the cargo deck. We drive through the agricultural region and Anal explains everything about the crops we pass.

Our first stop is at a temple. The story is that a wife of emperor Ashoka was so good for the people that out gratefulness, over 1000 years ago, this temple was build. Here she is worshiped as a godess. The temple is renewed but at least the idols look very old to me.

During the whole trip we pass through small tribal villages. The people are two different cultures. One group lives here already for ages. The other arrived 500 years ago from Rajasthan after loosing a fight in one of the many wars.
After a while we reach the farming fields of Anal's family. Their main product is sugar cane. On many fields the cane is as good as ready on other fields workers plant for the next harvest.

Just put a piece of cane in a trench, add fertilizer and water, cover it with soil and it can grow. On the terrain stands a large farmhouse with around it the huts of the local workers. The farm is exploited on an environment friendly basis. They have cows and the dung is processed into cooking gas. Chandan is an engineer and has designed the process. Of course everything is explained to us. In the meantime the cargo deck of our car is filled with straw so the chairs cannot move anymore.
The farm borders on the tiger reserve. In the old days the family was hunting there, no they protect the wildlife. We go to a little fen or well at the edge of the jungle. It is very clear and we can see the water bubbling from the bottom. To reach it we had to ride through friable sand and on the way back the car is stuck, with the help of a passing herdsman we can continue.

Now we go through the jungle in the direction of the Nepalese border at Raxaul. The wood is often very dense and then we pass sandy river-beds. First we have to report at a forest office, here another friend of our 'guides' joins us. Next we go to the Indian border police and he allows us to pass. We cross the Sariswa river, not a big obstacle at this time of the year.

Then we stop by a clutter of eateries in no-man's-land. Her we enjoy our lunch of sheep curry. The forest officer pops up and tells that we are allowed to enter Nepal. The border troops pay no attention to us. We walk to a small mill propelled by the water of a rivulet. It grinds corn for chicken food.
Without any problem we return to India. Again we drive through the jungle until we reach another forest office. One of the officers climbs into the car and leads us back to the Sariswa river. Here people extract gold out the river.

They hold a coarse board in the water and hope that the small gold parts sticks to it. The particles are so minuscule that you can hardly distinguish them. I walk barefooted towards them, not a pleasure over the sharp rocks.
We continue our journey and around Rampurva we stop by two Ashoka pillars. They are not erected anymore and one is broken in parts. The bull and lion capitals are kept in the museums of Kolkata and Delhi.

Nearby is the Buddhist temple since Buddha should have changed his clothes here for an ascetic garb.
At high speed we continue to the Bhitiharawa Ashram, where Ghandi started a campaign after his return from South-Africa. The ashram closes at half past four and we are a few minutes late, the guard refuses to let us inside.

Nearby Birendra has his own Ghandi center. His aim is to explain children the principles of Ghandi's ideas. While he tells us about his ideals someone else has called the boss of the ashram and we are allowed to get in. Only the school contains part of the original building and inside are some utensils, the school-bell and a grind stone, used in that period. Further a lot of photographs. It is dark by now and there are not much lights so we don't stay long.
Again we drive through the dark country side. We are tired after the long day and are glad to be back in our hotel, it is six o'clock. The beer-shop is found and we relax for a time. Birendra's lives next to the hotel and he has invited us for dinner. Half past seven we are there and talk about todays trip and those of the coming days. Birendra works in Darbhanga and leaves tomorrow. We intend to visit that town also, so we will see each other again.
The dinner is fine and the conversation is pleasant but we want to go to bed and leave around nine.

Around half past nine we depart for to-days trip. This time Chandaun drives and Ashok, another member of the group acts as guide. First we go to Chankigarh, a small village a few kilometers out of Narkatiaganj.

A steep hill, a meter of 20 high, rises isolated out of the fields. We approach it trough a small, meandering road. Then we discover the remainders of stone wall amongst the bushes on the hill side. The hill is all that remains of a two thousand years old fort. On the backside a crumbling stairway leads to the top. The stones are baked from a mixture of clay and rice. Now they are porous and as one breaks them you can see the structure and the grains. We climb to the top but nothing of the fort is recognizable.

Then we drive to a village named Lauria Nandangarh. Here stands one of the Ashoka pillars in his full glory. Only the lions head is somewhat damaged. The story is that the English soldiers shot it with a canon, they expected to find gold. On a short distance is the artificial hill from which they fired the canon. Certain is that they covered the pillar with graffiti, the oldest names date back from1780.
Now it is time for something completely different. In the planning stage Birendra proposed a visit to a sugar fabric while the production process is going on. Apparently this is not possible and we go to one where the start-up procedure is in full swing. Besides sugar they extract ethanol and bio-gas from the debris of the canes. With a safety helmet on our head we get a guided tour which lasts for over an hour. Especially the shredder and the control room are impressive. Although we don't understand all the details it is very interesting.

Nearby is an excavation site. According to the explanation boards the experts doubt between a stupa or an old fort. A Korean tourist is there together with two monks. They believe obvious that it is an important stupa. The remainders are build from brick-stone and it is rather large. It is easy and nice to walk around it.
Half past two we are back in the hotel. We ask if there is a cyber-café in the town. Nobody knows it but Anal arranges a dongle for out laptop. Then we take a quick lunch since at 4 o'clock Chandaun is back for a short tour through the town.

The first stop is at the local temple. It is close to the town's sugar factory. You can smell that is is working.
Then Chandaun asks if we are interested in a to see a new, small shopping center. We are curious what this means in a laid back town as Narkatiaganj.
On our way we pass the dentist practice of Chandaun's brother. Of course we go inside. The treatment of the patient in the chair is nearly finished. Then we get a chai while the next patient waits without any protest. The dentist shows us some parts of denture plates, the technicians that fabricates these has his workshop on the family farm.
The shopping center is a three store building. On the first floor is a modern supermarket and on the top a cloth store. We look around but don't need anything else than some lychee juice. On our way back we pass the beer-shop. We try to call someone back home but our phone does not work. Then we see that there is only a credit of 23 rs left and hope that is the reason.


The first thing I do is upgrade the calling credit on my phone and then it works fine again.
We have a quiet day, the only thing on our program is to visit the farm of Chandaun's family. We leave around ten and have another guide with us. Later it turns out that he can explain us everything about the agriculture. First we drive again in the direction of Chankigarh and then continue over small roads along the fields and through many villages.

Chandaun's father welcomes us. He runs his farm on an ecological base and Chandaun designes the machinery they need to do this. While the men explain this to us we walk through the fields towards a table and chairs under a canopy. In front of us men are erecting a huge greenhouse. In the winter some crops need a shelter but they don't have to heat it. Next to us women carefully pluck the weeds from a field. Of course we get the traditional welcome water drink followed by apples and bananas. The father is too active to stay seated and plucks seeds from different plants for us.
Then we make a long excursion around the farm. First through the fields where cabbage. and sugar-cane grows. Then to the part where young plants and flowers are nursed and also a lot of polar trees.

Close the the house is a pump. With solar energy the ground water comes from a depth of seven meters and is then transported through a pipeline of three kilometers. Another pump is used to generate electricity, this one runs on bio-oil. In the stables are about 45 cows, from their dung gas is processed by an ingenious system.
Around the farm house grow vegetables and fruit for their own use. We walk through the village where the laborers live.

A woman twines rice-straw into a rope. Behind the village is a workshop were men fabricate and maintenance all the equipment.
It is time for lunch and we return to the farm.

Inside the dental technician and his assistant do their job. We eat on the veranda with a great meal of puri, curry and sweet rice as desert. Of course there are some flies and a servant is ordered to wave a cloth and try to chase them away. The situation reminds both of us at the old TV comedy 'It ain't half hot mum'. Half past one we go back to our hotel.
To-morrow we go to the tiger reserve. At four o'clock Chandaun and Anal come to talk over some details, they will stay there with us. Since it is unclear if there is good food in the camp they will buy it here and take it with us.


At ten o'clock Anal and Chandaun come at the hotel. While we pay the hotel bill, Anal arranges that we get a discount. Again we have another passenger with us. He, Chandaun and the luggage share the cargo deck of the car. First we buy some food and beverages, half an our later we are on the road. In Ramnagar we do some more shopping and, to our astonishment, two other men climb in the car. When we ask about this Anal tells us that they are relatives of Chandaun and they more or less invited themselves, they will pay their own costs. We make it clear that they should have informed us in advance since it is our trip.

After Ramnagar we proceed by small roads to forest camp near Gobardhana, were we arrive around noon. The camp with eco-huts is situated at the edge of the sanctuary. Our huts are fine and some others, including a small restaurant, are under renovation. We have not made explicit arrangements about to-days program and are somewhat surprised that Anal and Chandaun disappear.

A group monkeys roams around the camp and men use a slingshot and a lot of noise to chase them away. We wander around, first a walk through the jungle and then over the camp. There we discover that Anal and Chandaun prepare our lunch. There is a larger building for the forest officers where we enjoy the meal.
At three o'clock two forest officers join us and with the whole group we are on the way with our car. After less then a kilometer we stop and walk through a small path into the jungle. The forest officers have machetes and they need them to clear the way.

We have to pass a small stream. They cut branches from the bush. Herewith they create small islands and we can cross with dry feet. Now we follow a sandy path covered with numerous footprints of tigers, leopards, bears and of course deer. It is impressive and at this moment we are glad we don't see the animals. We continue to walk through the jungle and after an hour we return to the car.

We drive over a long sandy path, the jungle is just beside it, so it is nearly impossible to spot animals. During the monsoon this path is damaged by the heavy rain. It is getting dark and the men who repair it are going home. We must cross several riverbeds, steep with loose sand, and since we don't have a four-wheel drive we sometimes have to push the car. The end of this trip is a ruined hunting lodge. In their young days Chandaun's relatives spend there a week on a tiger hunt.
When we drive back it is completely dark. We stop by a post where forest officers sit near a campfire, they stay there the whole night. We continue on a path where the maintenances still has to start and the road is terrible. At the end we must cross a large sandy river-bed. A meter of twenty before we reach the solid ground our car is stuck in the sand and the tires loose their grip.

The forest officers have to chop a lot of branches before we conquer the sand. It takes half an hour before we can proceed. The next part is so bad that there is hardly any distinction between the path and the forest. We believe that we still have to travel for a long time but suddenly we are on the road next to our camp. We arrive there at seven o'clock and did not see any animal.
Time to relax, the leading officers stops by for a chat. He wants our ideas of possible improvements.
The man joins us also for the dinner, a lot of chicken but again tasteful.
Half past ten a Bolero of the forest department arrives. We sit with a forest officer and the driver in the cabin. All the others including another forest officer sit on the deck. With the help of flash-lights the men try to spot animals. The only 'success' are some deer, a wild cat and rabbits. Nevertheless it is a nice experience.

On our way back we pass a bullock car with a sleeping family, no idea where they go at this time. It is after midnight before we return, take a drink and go to sleep. At the moment that we dim the lights, the generator stops and it is completely dark.

Gorakhpur, 13 November


We have a short night since at half past five the Bolero is back. It is dawn but soon there is more light. We now get a good idea of the scenery of the sanctuary. For the greater part it is a dense jungle where it is difficult to spot animals. But due to the heavy rains in the monsoon and the resulting water floods there are many broad, sandy river beddings such as the one we were stuck last night.

Here we see the footprints and other tracks of animals. Numerous are the holes that bear make by their search for insects. We follow these rivers as well as the jungle tracks but again we don't see animals, apart from some deer and a peacock.
At seven we are back in the camp. Men are again busy with chasing the monkeys. Everyone is chilly and Chandaun makes a campfire. A little later there is tea and breakfast.

We leave and around eleven we are back at the house of Anal. We get some refreshments and a lot of food for in the train. One of the men checks the train timings and it seems to run on schedule. At one o'clock they bring us to the station. There it becomes apparent that the train is delayed. Meanwhile workers are replacing the sleepers of the track on which it must arrive. After a while they fix it temporary and stop the work.

As an engine passes the whole track surges up and down.
With a delay of two hours our train arrives. Anal en Chandaun help us with the luggage and we say good-bye to them. At seven we arrive in Muzaffarpur near the station is hotel Meenakshi. We are tired and after a beer and some food we go to bed.

Darbhanga, 14 – 20 November


Today we continue towards Darbhanga. The days in Valmiki were rather intensive and now we are somewhat exhausted. This makes us abandon the idea of traveling by bus and at the hotel desk I arrange a car, it costs 1600 rs. The manager advises us hotel Rama Residency and since we just have reserved a room there we are convinced of our choice.
The car, to our pleasant surprise it is an Ambassador, arrives at half past eleven. We criss-cross through Muzzaffarpur until we reach the four lane high-way to Darbhanga. Just before the toll booth the driver turns to a one lane road. We pass some tiny villages in this agricultural area and on the other side of the booth we are back on the high-way.

Around one o'clock we reach Darbhanga. Along the walls of a big fort we reach a pleasant market center with some hotels, but ours is not here.

The drivers inquires several people and it turns out that we stay in another part of the town. Frequently the divers asks for the direction and everyone tells that we have to continue.
And then someone tells we are too far. The road is to busy to make an U-turn and our drivers takes the tiny roads of a residential area. Happily we don't encounter oncoming traffic. We have no idea where we are but after a while we are back at the same point. Now the driver phones the hotel, we must drive 10 meters rearward and via an unsightly bystreet we reach the hotel. It has taken us one hour to reach it.
For 1050 we have a spacious non-AC room. The hotel has no restaurant and it takes an hour to deliver a lunch by room-service.

Later in the afternoon I walk to the main road to buy some beer. When I ask for the shop the man is so kind to escort me towards it. There are just a few other shops here, no restaurant and there is nothing interesting to see. And as I walk back along the path to the hotel I have the idea this is not enlightened in the evening. All together this hotel feels like a bad choice and we decide to move to Tower Chowk, the area we visited this morning. As the room service for the dinner takes again a very long time we are more sure about this.

When I order breakfast I select a wrong phone number and get another guest on the line. We are both confused, he thinks that I try to talk him into breakfast. At the desk we arrange transport, 400 rs is at the steep side, but we have a large car. And it is further than we thought. We have the idea that Darbhanga consists of a number of joint villages without a real center. We pick hotel Ashoka where we get a small room for 1250 rs, also here is no restaurant. The staff is extraordinary helpful.

First we visit a cyber café, fortunately we have the mail on a USB-stick so we don't have to stay long in the cramped cell. Then we explore the area, central are a clock-tower and a mosque, Behind these is a large street market. Striking are the many cows on the road. Somewhere on the second floor of a building is a bar-restaurant were we have lunch.

As often I go out on my own to explore the neighbourhood. Also here the area with the shops is not very elongated but there is a lot to see. The fort we passed yesterdays is only 10 minutes away. For dinner we go to the bar again.

We ask the man at the desk where we can have breakfast. He directs us to a passage at the other side of the street. This passage is dark and cows block the entrance to another hotel. But at the end is the remarkable modern and clean restaurant Rajasthani, which has an elaborate choice of food.

At eleven we walk towards the fort. The very high walls are either well conserved or else good reconstructed. At the other side of the street live the producers of potteries and statues in the local, colorful, Mithila style. Through a striking gateway we enter the inner ground of the fort. Here we see a weird mixture of buildings. There is a brand-new luxury hotel, next to it apartments are under construction. Somewhat further stand parts of the old remainders.

Most of them are heavy damaged but everywhere inside people live. Others stay in primitive sheds behind the buildings. But everyone is pleasantly surprised by the visit of foreign tourists and shows us around. At the far end of the terrain stands a temple, of course this well maintained.

We decide to walk around the fort. At one side the walls are used as the backside of houses and somewhat further the wall disappears totally for a quart of the total length.
After finishing this round we go in the direction of the former palaces, now used by the university. A guard gives us the idea that we are not allowed to enter the premises. In the chai stall we talk with some boys and they tell us that the entrance of the campus is somewhat further.

But just across the road is a religious festival and we visit this first. All the visitors have there best cloths on, especially the women wear beautiful saris. It is crowded and we follow the mass. An artificial lake is surrounded by temples. One side is quiet but at the other end all kind of religious ceremonies are performed. People encircle the temples and a group men sings continuously. Of course there is also a fair where we have lunch.

After a tour over the campus we walk back to the hotel. On our way we see some other, dilapidated, palaces.
We didn't plan the upcoming part of our trip since there were always trains available on short notice. But when I look at this now there are only wait-lists. This means we have to change our plans. We decide to take it quiet and stay here for some more days then we intended.
For tomorrow we arrange a car for Kusheshwar Asthan to visit the bird sanctuary. Now we discover that we have a problem with our cell-phone. Incoming calls are ok but we cannot phone anyone. With a hotel-boy I go to a phone-boot, but at Sunday-night all shops are closed. For dinner we go the bar-restaurant, we are regulars now with our 'own' table.

At eight we go to Rajasthani restaurant. Although they are still cleaning the tables we can order breakfast. Back at the hotel the car is already there and the manager instructs the driver. Outside the city are numerous brick kilns but somewhat further the landscape becomes more attractive. Mostly agricultural but alternated with wood and water, the latter mostly filled with hyacinths. The several waterbirds that we see give us a good feeling about the bird sanctuary.
In Kusheshwar Asthan is also an important temple complex and our driver stops in front of this. The priests encircle our car and are very pushy. We are not in the mood for this and tell the driver to go to a parking place. Without success we try to make clear to him that our goal is the bird sanctuary. We stand at the edge of a bare mud area which is just dried after the monsoon flood. It is hazy but in the distance we see water. A boy who speaks some English ask us what we want. We explain him about the birds and he gestures towards the people who walk through the wetlands.

We decide to give it a change and the driver accompanies us. By an unstable bamboo bridge we cross a brooklet, the bridge is to short at the end are some stepping stones. Over another, longer, bridge we cross a real river, here we have to jump and get a wet foot. We follow the path along the river. Except some crows, the other wanderers and a few fishing huts there is nothing to see. After half an hour we arrive at a bridge of stone, without a road to use it. We don't think we are in the right place and walk back.

Since we have no other ideas how to reach the sanctuary we decide to go back. In Kusheshwar Asthan is a traffic jam because the ox-carts cannot pass each other. In Darbhanga a truck unloads meal for a bakery and blocks the road completely. After a while the driver is send away by a police officer.
Since we still have the problem with our phone we go to a phone shop. One of the shop assistants is very helpful. Changing sim-cards, trying these in other phones and many other attempts. After nearly an hour he concludes that it is hardware problem. He directs us to a nearby Nokia repair shop. They try something and then it works, the advise is that we select manual the network provider.
Back in the hotel we want to make a call and again the phone does not work. Back to the shop and now they tell us that we must use the 2G network instead of the standard 3G. It is six in the evening and now we can phone again.

There is not a lot of tourist information about this region, but from what I have read nearby Madhubani looks interesting. We ask the man at the desk how we can go to there. He tells that we have to walk to the next chowk for the shared auto, it costs 10 rs to the bus stand. This is a large and busy terrain. For our bus we are directed to the back of it. The seats are so tight that I only can sit on the middle of the rear bench. We have to pass all the other buses and it takes a long time before we are on the high-way. We pay 70 rs and don't get a ticket.
After a while we leave the highway and through many small villages we reach the bus stand of Madhubani. This is next to the market area and shopping center.

But there is not much to see except and old temple. We ask someone and he tells that the palace and other sights are in villages outside the town. We have not the spirit to organize a visit and walk back to the bus stand. This time we have a private bus, a little more spacious and we pay 100 rs.
Back in Darbhanga the shared taxi driver refuses to take other passengers. We appeal to him and he tells he will bring us for 200 rs. We are not crazy, let him stop and leave the rickshaw. I offer him 10 which he accepts but only after a long time. In the meantime we walk to the hotel, it takes just a quarter of an hour.
The whole day we have exchanged text messages with Bihendra, one of the guys we met in Valmiki. He has a job in Darbhanga and arrives tomorrow. The last text arrives just before we go to bed. He will be in the hotel at seven in the morning .

And it is even earlier when he arrives. He is tired since he has traveled the whole night. We talk a while about his work with Medecins Sans Frontieres. After half an hour he leaves, we will see him at his work later in the morning.
Half past ten he is back with a car+driver from MSF, we have to sign a document that we travel at our own risk. MSF has here a project to fight against malnutrition. The emphasis of the programs is to help the people in the villages. Birendra's job is to act as intermediary between MSF and the Indian authorities. In Darbhanga is a hospital where they treat children which suffer of more than malnutrition only. The mothers of these children stay with them. The accommodation is hygienic but severe and the staff does everything they can. Yet it is not a cheerful visit.
Birendra takes the rest of the morning off and goes with us to the local museum. The collection is not very impressive and all the written information is in Hindi. After a lunch we take an auto back to the hotel.

Tomorrow we go to our next destination, Begusarai. Due to the full trains it will take us two days with a night stop in Mokama. Fruitless I seek the internet for a hotel in this town. We have promised Birendra that we will buy some toys for the children. Late in the afternoon he and one of the staff members come to our hotel. We talk a while, show them our Dutch photo collection before we go to the shop. It does not take that much money to fill a large bag.

The whole afternoon Wiesje has stomach problems. During dinner it becomes worse and she vomits. Back in the hotel she goes directly to bed but doesn't sleep much.

So we stay here for another day and will tomorrow travel by car to Munger. We call Birendra and ask him if knows where we can hire a car. After a while he phones back. It is nearly 200 km and the trip costs 5600 rs. For that price we can keep the car a day for sight-seeing in Munger.

Wiesje stays in bed for the most of the day, the only food she can eat are small parts bananas. Now and then I go out on my own and walk to the market area and the temples around the lake. The festival is over. Not the most joyful day of the journey.

Munger, 20 – 25 November


The prayer call from the mosques awakes me at five in the morning. The health situation of Wiesje has improved enough. Our taxi will be at at hotel around eight. Due to the one-way traffic the hotel is not easy to reach for a car. Birendera calls us and tells that our driver is on his way and will wait at the same crosspoint as Wednesday.
One of the hotel boys helps us to carry the luggage. At the crosspoint there is no car and we phone Birendra again, now he tells us to go to the next square, again no car. After several calls it becomes clear that the driver went to the hotel and now he is on his way to us.
Besides the driver there is a men extra on board, I think the owner of the car. We cross the city to his house where he leaves. Now I can sit in front and my wife lies on the back bench. It is ten o'clock when we really start. Just out of town an upcoming car blinks with his lights and our driver stops. That other car is the MSF car we had Wednesday and the driver collects the money for the ride.
It is hazy and there is not much to see. During the first part of the trip the road is fine but it gets bad as we come closer to the Ganges. Just before the river is an enormous transfer-point for sand, big trucks are loaded here. The whole road is covered with sand as is the dilapidated bridge. This is closed for freight trucks. A continuous row of tractors transport the sand and other goods over the bridge. The wind blows the sand from the trailers, On the other site are also numerous transfer points. After chai and food, for me it is breakfast, we continue over a good 2 lane toll way.

Half past two we arrive at Munger. The first hotel we inspect is full, somewhat further we find Raj Palace. Situated in the heart of the center it has a somewhat gone glory. For 1500 rs we have a spacious, old room. The lift does not exist anymore, the shaft is still there but at the ground floor the entrance is hidden. Wiesje still doesn't feel herself healthy. If we accept the car for another day, we have to organize trips. We don't think this is a good idea and tell the driver that he can go back.
We sit a while at the room before I go out shopping.
The center of the town is nice with street vendors everywhere. I can find beer and a cyber café. My wife likes some curd, this is nowhere available and neither I see a proper restaurant. So it is room service again. We have no phone at the room, for every order we have to walk three stairs down to the desk. But the food is good and here they serve curd.

Now, at the end of November, it becomes obvious that it is getting colder. We don't use the fan anymore and in the night we need a blanket to keep us warm.
At eleven we go out. We have a vague map and use it to try to walk to the fort. We interpret it completely wrong and after a while we are at the part of the city where the new bridge over the Ganges is under construction. We take a cycle which brings us to the other side of the town.

Through a red gate we enter the fort terrain and continue by foot from there. We don't see any ancient remainders, we ask some boys about this and they tell us that nothing is left. Wiesje gets tired and we decide to take a cycle back to the hotel, we are there in no time.
Later I go out on my own, the fort is indeed just a few minutes walking from the hotel. I cross it until I reach the Ganges. A ferry is fastened at the pontoon and at the riverbank are some smaller boats. People embark these with there luggage, some have a bicycle. And then the vessel sails off to the other side of the river.

Back in the center I eat some very tasteful samosa's in a small eatery. I walk around and although there is nothing special to see I like it it here. Everyone is friendly and relaxed. In the streets are remarkable few cars. I think that makes it so pleasant to walk around.

We are getting lazy and it is almost noon before we go out. We start with the ghat I visited yesterday afternoon, now there are no activities. Next we walk across the terrain to the Southern gate. Here are few old tombs and the the remainders of the original buildings. To reach the tomb I have to climb a stairway.

A caretaker allows me to look through the fence. He puts some ash on my forehead and asks for a donations. Of course he is not satisfied with the 10 rs I give him. On the other side of the gateway is the old moat. It is dry but the walls are under reconstruction so I guess in the coming years there will be water again.

A little further is another ghat where we have chai and go back to the hotel.
Yesterday we noted a funeral procession inside the fort and in the afternoon I try to locate the cremation ghat. In front of me I see some people, they carry a lot of goods and the way they walk makes it clear they are on their way to a ferry. I follow them for a while and then I notice a tower near the Ganges and go over there. No idea where it is used for.

Walking along the river I arrive at another ghat. The entrance and temples around it give the impression that they are rather old. From here I have a clear view on the new bridge. I continue in that direction and arrive at the jetty for the official ferry.

Later we go together for another sauntering through the center. Back in the hotel the boiler doesn't work. Again I have descend the three floors and ask for a bucket hot water.

This morning two men clean our room. One sweeps the floor while the other uses a wet newspaper to clean the table. With a wet cloth the bathroom and the floor are mobbed and the job is done.

According to internet sites Kashtaharini is worth a visit and we order a cycle driver to bring us there. It is the same ghat that I visited yesterdays. It is quiet and we sit a while to watch the river where many dolphins swim. I have a look at the waterside and go down until my knees in the quicksand. I climb out and 10 meters further the sand is hard and I flush my trousers. In the hot sun it dries in no time.

We walk along the river until we reach the ghat with the pontoon. While we are there the large steamer that connects Kolkata with Varanasi arrives. It takes a time before it lands and in the meantime we talk with some men. They are here for the cremation of their grandmother. The tourist in the boat have to wait quite a wile before they may go ashore. We don't want to wait for this and go back to the hotel.

In the evening I go for another ramble around the market area. While I feel completely at ease the passengers of the cruise ship walk around with a police escort.


Today we want to visit Sita Kund, a hot well situated a kilometer if six outside Munger. According to the hotel manager a shared taxi is the best way to go. Of course the taxi's start from several points and it takes some time before we find the right one. When we sit in the rickshaw the drivers quarrel who's turn it is and we must change into an old jeep. Regular new passenger halt the car including a mother with children and a goat.

We stop by an enclosed terrain. Inside are some temples, a few filthy water reservoirs and the fine maintained well. A school class is just inside and the teacher want us with them on the group pictures. The gas that heats the water rises with big bubbles. We get the change to feel how hot the water is, I guess it is over 60º C. Outside the enclosure the water is used for bathing, of course men and women are separated.

The landscape around is attractive and in the distance we see some temples on a hill, too far away for a walk. We take a chai and go back to Munger.
In a week or so we arrive very early in the morning in Ranchi. We search the internet for a hotel with 24 check-in and reserve it. We have to pay direct but during this process the computer crashes. In another cyber-café there is no internet at all. And also the ATM machines don't work. The only thing we can do is have a lunch and go back to the hotel.

For tomorrow we want a taxi to Sahibganj, the man at the desk tells us that only the manager can arrange this. Later in the afternoon the electronic problems are solved. After all these days we discover that there is a bell in the room where we can contact the room service. Unfortunately the man doesn't speak English and I must go down to order diner.
The last three days there are meetings in a nearby center with a lot of unpleasant music. Mostly they stop at ten in the evening, but today it continues after we go to bed.

Sahibganj, 26 – 30 November


The manager is back and while I order breakfast I arrange a car. Usually we take an Indica type but, since the quality of the road is very bad, the man advises a bigger one. I agree and we get a Tata Suma for 3800 rs. It is only 140 km and we are not in a hurry. The car is due to arrive around eleven but of course it is half an hour late.
Again we have a driver who hardly speaks English, worse is that he doesn't drives pleasant. To our astonishment he stops in some villages, obvious to settle things for himself. To makeup for this he treats us on a chai. The first part of the trip is nice, we regular ride along the Ganges. The road is reasonable, with some potholes, and I think we didn't need this type of car.

But around Bhagalpur this changes. Here are numerous brick kilns, which leads to a an enormous amount of freight traffic. The roads are not resistant to it and the surface has complete disappeared. This leads to a lot of dust in the air and we continue at a very low speed. After a bridge the trucks have to wait aside the road and we can speed a little. All together to trips takes much more time than we expected. I ask the driver to stop for lunch but there are no eateries. At half pas three he finds one and although we think we are nearly in Sahibganj we eat some snacks.

In the next village our side of the road is blocked up by two rows of cars. There is no upcoming traffic and our driver follows his predecessors into the remaining free lane. Then cars from the other side appear and now it is a completely standstill. Nobody takes any action. The engines are switched off and even the horns keep silent.
After an hour a man gives instructions to the truck drivers in the row next to us. They move until there is enough space for us to cross and we form a new row on the pavement. Now the upcoming traffic can roll on. We stand near a railway crossing. As a train passes there is a gap in the upcoming traffic and the unavoidable occurs, the free space is filled up again.
It is after five o'clock and it is getting dark. We phone our hotel and explain why we arrive late. The driver disappears and returns with an English speaking man. He suggests that we go with him for the rest of the trip. First we find this weird, then we get the idea they are send by the hotel and we just have to walk to the other end of the traffic jam. We phone with the hotel, they talk with the man and assure us that it is save. Everyone takes some luggage and we start to walk to a car in another row.
We are flabbergasted but it turns out that there is a plan. Now and then our row starts to move, mostly for a meter of ten. Step by step we reach a crosspoint and then cross the railway. From that point the traffic runs smoothly. It is half past seven, the passage took us nearly four hours..
Just half an hour later we are in Sahibganj and through dark back streets we arrive in hotel White House. For 1200 we have a fine room on the ground floor. We say goodbye to our temporary drivers, in contrast to our idea they have nothing to do with the hotel. The staff is friendly and helpful and gives us a computer print with all the tourist sites in the region. I ask them for a beer shop, we are told to wait and get soup instead. As I explain the misunderstanding someone gets beer for us.

We like coffee with our breakfast but here they serve ginger tea, brr. The hotel stands in a back street but via an alley it is close to the market in the main road. Locals from the neighboring villages sell food. From here we continue to the center. The town is not very attractive and has none historical buildings. According to one of the inhabitants an office building build in 1809 is the oldest. The shops are situated along the main roads. School is finished and the children go home in packed cycle rickshaws.

In the afternoon we take a cycle to the jetty at the Ganges where the ferry just arrives. It is fully loaded with four trucks, some cars, motor bikes and many passengers. Within half an hour it goes back with a similar load.

Next to the jetty is the cremation ghat, people just arrive for a ceremony. We continue to the following ghat were we sit and watch the river life. Another cycle brings us back to the station. From here tracks run straight into the city. It gives the impression that this rail is closed down. Saleswomen have put their trade on it. But a single locomotive comes along and they must clear the track.

In the hotel we arrange a car for tomorrow. At least we want to visit Rajmahal, Udhwa Bird Sanctuary and further other interesting sites. With the print we got yesterday as starting point, we work this out. Here the price for a car is 1500 rs + the costs of the fuel.

While we have breakfast the car arrives. The hotel manager gives the driver instructions about the things we want to see. We get accustomed to a no English speaking chauffeur.
Half past eight we start. The scenery is nice and we drive through many tiny villages.

In Maharajpur we go inland via a small road to the Mhoti Jharna fall. We walk towards it and visit the rock temple behind the fall. It is a beautiful and serene place. Next we return to the main road and drive further along a distributary of the Ganges. At the other side of the road we see the hills.

The first stop is at the temple in Kanhaiyasthan, dedicated to Krishna. The footprint of a important saint proves that he has visited it around 1500. Then we go to remainders of the fort of Baradari located on the bank of the Ganges. On the others side of the road is the big Jami Masjid mosque.
Half past eleven we arrive in Rajmahal. Again on the bank of the Ganges stands the Sangi Dalan.

This pavilion is all that remains from a large palace. We want a chai, but here are no refreshments. The driver gestures he knows a place. I assume that we go into the town and visit the Muslim monuments. Some of them I can see from the car. The driver continues and stops at the other side of the small town. After the chai he continues and we find a visit to the town not worth the hassle.
We drive away from the Ganges through a rather flat country. It is a great landscape with a lot of trees and small lakes. Everywhere people are working on the rice fields. Near Barhawa we visit the Bindabasini temple which has some fine statues. One a nearby hillock stands a tall Hanuman statue.

The driver wants to see our print-out with the tourist attractions. He points out a photo of a fall. I think that it is the one we already visited and say it was nice, and point to the Udha bird sanctuary, our next destination. I think the driver gets it. We continue and soon we take a new good road. But through the villages it is still the old bad one. At a checkpoint officers examine the car and luggage, no idea why. In Barhait the driver takes a small road. After a while we stop at the gate of another temple.

A long stairway leads to the entrance. My wife has no desire to climb. Barefooted the driver and I go up. At the top we need to wash our feet, as I do it to quickly the drivers helps me. We are at Shiva Gradj, this is the photo the driver choose. Just a little water comes down and is captured in bottles. Behind the fall is the holy cave.
Back on the main road we go back to Sahibganj. Partly through a hilly road through the jungle. The trees are chopped down as part of the reconstruction of the road. Via a new road with sharp curves we reach the hotel. It is half past three and although we did not do all the things we wanted it was a nice trip.

We have no special plans for today and I decide to take an up and down trip with the ferry. My wife didn't sleep well and likes to stay in the hotel. We are told that the ferry goes at nine o'clock. Half an hour before that time I leave, eat some puri's in an eatery and take a cycle.
There is no boat to see but people form a loose row before the ticket office, men and women are separated. It is relaxed, one can leave his place, walk around and take the same position afterwards. After an hour people start to push and as the boat comes into sight a parallel row is formed.

At the cremation ghat a ceremony starts and the wind blows into our direction. When the boat starts to unload the ticket window is still closed and as I see the mass of people I decide to skip the trip. Within a quarter I walk back to the hotel.
In the afternoon I go out for a walk to the other end of the town. Here is a an attractive shopping area.


We go to a cyber café to send some pictures to the people in Netherlands. The connection in the first one is so slow that we leave it, the next one is fine. Then we roam again through the streets. In the eatery we visited the previous days the owner shows us a video of the environment, it is the Mhoti Jharna fall we visited yesterday. Then we continue to the other market area. While we are watching street tailors the owner of a candy shop invites us. He offers us his best sweet, rice chips with brown sugar.

Our train leaves around 5 PM and we go in time to the station. There is no pantry car so we have to take our own food, snacks and bananas.
We find our seats in the 2AC an travel together with a non talkative passenger. At the next station a large group boards. It is the grooms party on their way to the wedding. First many of them, with a lot of luggage, come in our compartment. We tell them we don't like this and they assure us it is temporary. And indeed they leave to their seats, spread all over the wagon.
The leader tries to swap seats so they can sit near to each other. He comes and goes counting the whole time, it is funny. After two hours he has accomplished it. For us it means that we change our co-passenger for two men of the group. We have both an upper bed and they offer Wiesje a lower one.
They have much food with them and offer us to share. But we has just finished our snacks and are not hungry. One of the men speaks good English and translates for the others. In this way we have an animated conversation. When we tell that we have pictures of Netherlands on our laptop others join us to watch these. Then they offer us a drink. Of course it is forbidden but they find a wedding is worth the risk. With the curtains closed we empty a bottle of whiskey.
Half past ten we go to bed, it stays noisy for a long time.

Ranchi, 1 – 2 december


Despite the rumour caused by the people of the wedding party, I sleep deep and just wake as someone shouts Ranchi. It is the last station of this train so we don't have to hurry. We drink a chai at the platform and take an auto to Hotel Accord where we arrive at half past six. We wait in our room until it is time for breakfast. After a nap I walk to the station in the hope to obtain some tourist information, no luck.

For the upcoming Jharkhand and Odisha trip we have organized something. On previous journeys we became friends with Pratap, an Odisha driver. We have contacted his boss and although he doesn't organize Jharkhand tours he has made a rough itinerary for us. He has also supplied us with hotel information.
In the afternoon Pratap arrives, as always it is great to see him again. He tells us that he has a quarrel with his boss and doesn't work for him anymore. This implies we just have to pay the car and have to arrange everything else by ourselves. Pratap has had a long drive and takes some time to rest. When he returns we start to plan the first days.
Tomorrow we stay in Ranchi and someone from the hotel will guide us around. The day after we go to Betla Forest. When we phone hotel Van Vihar they tell they are closed due to renovation. The hotel inside the park has no availability but after many calls we find a room.

After breakfast we start with the sightseeing trip. We cross through the town which has notable many trees. The first stop is the Ranchi Hill. It is a long climb by the stairs to the Shiva temple on the top. Although it is a little hazy the panorama over the town and the lake is great.

There are many paintings of the deities and our co-driver wants that we pose by each of them for photos.
We walk down and drive to another part of the town where Pratap settles his required permits. We stay outside and visit a large flower market. Next we go to the Rock Garden situated on the other side of the lake. Although we don't find this garden very spectacular it is nice to walk around. According to our guide there are no other interesting sites in the town.

We have decided to bring some table clothes for our neighbours, who take care for our house, and go the center for shopping. It is difficult to park the car here. The only option is that Pratap stays with it and the co-driver comes with us. We don't like this idea and go back to the hotel.
Here we have another look at the proposed Jharkhand trip. It has some very long travel days and we re-arrange it to avoid these. In the afternoon I go to the desk of the hotel and ask where I can upgrade the credit of my mobile. They send someone out to do this for me. The hotel has a 24 check-out policy. We arrived at half past six in the morning, but they are generous and we can stay until half past seven.

Betla, 3 - 4 December


We have to rise early and take only a banana for breakfast. At the desk I have to fill an evaluation form. At seven we start, it is quiet in Ranchi. Pratap is not familiar over here and asks regular for the route. Outside the town we drive for a short distance over a six-lane road and divert then to a smaller road. It is agricultural land around us. The harvest is done but the oxes are busy with the thresh.
In a small village we stop for breakfast. There are two chairs and we are more or less obliged to use these. In Chandwa we taken another road and continue our tour through a hilly and wooded area.

The road becomes worse but it is not far and around noon we arrive in Betla.
Pratap phones with our hotel and at the end of the village a man waits to conduct us to our quarters. We stay in a Forest Bungalow at the edge of the hamlet that Betla is. It is rather dirty and they don't serve food. There is also no running water, we get some buckets, and that for 850 rs per night. With Salim, the manager, we arrange trips for this afternoon and tomorrow.
Pratap and I walk to the village and order lunch in a dhoba. There is also a canteen inside the wild-park where we will have dinner. They have a limited choice and we must order in advance. It is half past one when we have finished our lunch and soon the car is there.

Salim and a driver accompany us. First we drive back across the road we traveled this morning. After a while we divert into a small road and cross the railway. This crossing is always closed for road traffic, just when an auto arrives the barriers are opened. We reach the broad Kechki river, the large sandy bank are used for picnics. And thus polluted with enormous much litter. Close by was a bridge but some years ago this is ruined during the monsoon.
Next we go to the entrance of the park for the required registration. A guide comes with us. Before we go inside we drive to the Palamu forts. The most important one is upside a hill, since we don't have so much time we decide to skip that.

From the older fort, build by the father, only a few remainders are left. A gate, a mosque and some walls and buildings. And the beginning of and underground tunnel. According to the legends the queen used this to go for bathing in a lake. In its has-been glory the site is still imposing. We take the car to the bathing lake, it is several kilometers.

I don't believe the tunnel goes that far.
Now it is time to enter the park. On a short distance of the entrance we see many deer and monkeys. But for the rest of the trip the wild is restricted to some gaur, jackals and a peacock. The jungle itself is beautiful and divers.

Around five o'clock the trip is finished. We buy some beer and go back to the bungalow. When the caretaker switches a tap at the outside, we have running water. It is already cold and it is not easy to get an extra blanket. By this temperature it is not comfortable for Pratap to stay in the car. He sleeps on the floor in our room, we become a real family.
We go to the park for dinner, it tastes reasonable. We are all tired and sleep before nine.


When we wake at seven there is no electricity. To get some light we open the front door and the cold enters the room. We walk to the restaurant in the wildpark. Although we ordered yesterday-evening it takes a long time before it is prepared. Outside the safari elephant starts his first route. When we are finished the jeeps arrives, again we have Salim and his driver. They promise us a big waterfall and many wild animals.

Just outside the village we see an adult and a young elephant. According to Salim they are not domesticated but we have our doubts. We go to the entrance at the other side of Betla and this is a long drive. For the most part we have one lane roads through the jungle, we drive with high speed. We pass several small villages and in one of them we have a chai break. We attract lot of attention, one women sets herself on some stones to observe these strangers.

We continue and and cross the Koel river. Apart from some monkeys we don't see any wildlife. In the next village Salim asks bystanders for the direction. First we think that he doesn't know the region but it turns out that we are looking for a local guide. We find him and the men talk with each other. Of course I don't understand a word but it is clear there is some problem. Nevertheless the guide joins us. And after a few kilometers through the wood we understand the problem: the waterfall is completely dry.

We continue to Maromar, the other gate of Betla where several park officers live. One of them joins us, he carries a big ax. We leave the road and follow the wild tracks, in this part of the park the elephant herds live. We drive for over an hour through the splendid jungle but don't see anything but poop and footprints. We walk around the lake where they usual drink but again no sights. Back on the road we continue to the Sugabandh falls.

These rapids are fantastic. We talk with a large group school children who have a day-out. The teachers roast peanuts and offer us a bag.
At two o'clock we are back in Betla. While we wait for the lunch Pratap and I walk to the point where we spotted the elephants. A mahout is just training the adult one. Then the safari elephant arrives and both of them disappear. In front of the eatery is a water pump and the elephants come here to drink. In turn they fill their trunk with water. We are also allowed to pump. When an animal is finished he empties his last trunk on the road and walks away.

After lunch we walk to the stable where the little orphan elephant stands. He makes an enormous clamor while the mahouts prepare chapati's for him. We spend the afternoon on the veranda. In the evening the villagers bring in the cattle. Yesterday a panther killed a goat and they are afraid it will happen again. Regular there is no power and around nine we go to bed. Pratap snores with a volume that keeps us awake.

Netarhat, 5 December


At five the prayers from the nearby mosque awake us. And soon after that the baby elephant makes it clear that he is hungry. We linger for a while in our beds before we depart around eight, together with the young elephant.

Up to the Sugabandh falls we take the same route as yesterdays. Since Pratap drives more relaxed we now can really enjoy the landscape. After the falls it is an agricultural environment with many small tribal villages. Regular we stop to look around.

After a while we reach the plateau on which Netarhat is situated. The road is in good condition and winds through a Sal wood. At the top it is again farming land, alternated with some woods. It is remarkable how few people and traffic we see. This suddenly changes as trucks, loaded with bauxite, come from a side-way. From here on the road is completely ruined.
After a while I see a sign to the sunset point but don't realize we have to take that road. But when we descend from from the plateau it is clear that we are too far and turn around.

We take the side-way and soon arrive at Prabhat Vihar, the tourist hotel of Netarhat. A room has the strange price of 1013 rs. There is a restaurant where we order lunch. The sunrise one can observe from the roof terrace, now it is an ideal place to rest.
Our plan for tomorrow is Hazaribagh, stay there and head the next day South. But with these roads I think it is too far. Lohardaga lies on a more logical route and according to Google there is enough to see in the surroundings for half a day. Pratrap is happy with this, in turn he arranges a hotel waiter to escort us to the sunset point.
It is two o'clock by now and there is still a power cut. After lunch we get a bucket hot water so we can clean ourselves. At four we leave for the Magnolia Point. It is already clouded and my wife expects there is nothing to see and stays in the room. Through a nice scenery we drive to the sunset point.

There is a platform where people can sit and wait for the supreme moment. Some statues tell the story of the legend. There are more visitors and I have a chat with a Kolkata family. Tomorrow they go to Betla and I tell them about our experiences. Around five the sun disappears in the clouds.

Prarap utilize the waiting time to replace a tire that slowly deflates.
We like some beer but there is no real shop in Netarhat. The waiter knows somebody but they are sold out. At the end we get two cans for 150 rs. each. Back in the hotel it is completely dark. By touch I stumble through the hall, but soon a man comes with a torch and next the generator is switched on. When we go out for dinner Wiesje forgets that the door is closed by a bolt. She pulls firms and the bolt falls off. We tell it to the manager and it solid repaired.

Lohardaga, 6 December


I did not set an alarm for the sunrise, and since it is still hazy as I wake up this was a good decision. Prapat has a problem with the car, the dynamo is broken so the battery is not recharged. Here is no garage and we hope we can make it to Lohgardaga.
At nine we start, the way down the plateau. A bauxite truck has a flat tire and stands in the middle of the small road. There is just enough space for us to pass. On the other side a long row trucks is waiting. The trip down takes less than an hour, the road in the plain is under construction.

Half past eleven, ten km before our destination, the battery is empty. With the help of some bystanders we push the car in the shoulder. Pratap takes the battery with him in a shared auto. We wait beside the road. Everyone gazes at us but just a few people start to talk. After some hours two men on a motorbike arrive with a battery and soon after them an auto brings Pratap back.
At two o'clock we are in hotel Divya Palace and get a small room for 600 rs. There is a nice large suite but for one night we find this somewhat overdone. With the car in the repair shop we cannot visit anything and just take a walk along the main road. Since there is nothing attractive to see we go to a cyber café.
Half past six Pratap returns, the car is fixed. Of course we have dinner with the three of us. Although the hotel is very simple the service is great. The owner is young man in his late twenties, he speaks perfect English..

Chaibasa, 7 December


We did not order it but when we leave our room at half past seven a man brings a bucket hot water. First we continue by the bauxite route. In a village some aggressive dogs attack our car, it is good that we have the windows closed. From Kuru we take the same route as Wednesday, back to Ranchi.
Our destination is Chaibasa at this is specified on the signposts. But Pratap has a hand-written route description and goes in the direction of Ranchi. We drive through the outskirts of the town. After many questions we are back on the 6 lane road, near the junction to Chaibasa.

Around Ranchi there is again a lot of agriculture but after some time we reach the Sal woods. It is a great scenery. Close to the road are the Hirni falls. Here is still enough water to admire these. The road has is good and bad stretches but the bridges are terrible.

Around two o'clock we leave the forest and reach Chakradharpur. I'm hungry but there is no dhaba so I buy some streetfood. An our later we arrive in Chaibasa, in hotel Askash we have a small room for 1000 rs. We walk through the market area. Also here is nothing special to see, just a standard Indian town. We cannot find a beer shop and back at the hotel I ask the desk man. It is near the bus stand. At the moment I leave the hotel a man, who was in the lobby, comes outside and takes me on his scooter. Our hotel has no restaurant and for dinner we go Annapurna, the other decent hotel in town.

Keonjhar, 8 December


This night I start to suffer from diarrhea and take a pill. For breakfast I eat just some bananas. But my fellow travelers can neither find a suitable breakfast and have only chai. We leave around half past seven. Again the road is renewed but the bridges are under construction and thus terrible obstacles.
In Jaintgarh we enter Odisha and have breakfast. This region is familiar for Pratap. We take a small country road towards Khiching. The first part is extremely bumpy but very nice through the woods and tribal villages. In Khiching we take our time to visit the temple.

It is a new build replica, the carvings are very nice. Next to it stands a smaller and simple temple, for the children there is a play ground. Everywhere in the the surroundings stonecutters practice their work. Often they use machines but occasional they use a chisel for the finishing touch.
At one o'clock we arrive in Keonjhar. Several years ago we stayed here in hotel Plaza but this seems to be closed and we end in Ankita. They want 950 for the room but Wiesje negotiates it down to 800. We have to pay in advance, I have only 1000 note and they have no change. I assume we can settle that with the payment of our lunch. The restaurant is in the basement of the hotel, it is dark and the floor is under water. For lunch they serve only thali or soup. We have no appetite in these and when we decide to try our luck elsewhere they suddenly have noodles. The whole time they play the same, rather irritating, song. Back in the hotel there is nobody at the desk. We shout for a while and then a man comes and presents us the key of the room.

We take a rest. Around three Pratap comes along and we go the center of the town. First to a temple, outside stands an enormous big temple wagon. Next we want to visit the palace, it now accommodates a school and visiting is not allowed. A few kilometers outside Keonjhar are the Sanaghagara falls. It is clearly a tourist outing with a large car parking and a picnic spot. But the falls are really worth the visit. After we have watched them we go to top where a remarkable small river supplies the water.

Back at the hotel we want to explore the vicinity by foot but apart from the main roads there is nothing to see. When we go for dinner the hall of the hotel is completely dark. I go back to our room and take a torch. Then someone turns on a light. The floor of the restaurant is still wet and they play again the same song. Irritated we tell them to play something else but they turn out the music. The food is fine. Back in the hotel it is dark again. The owner makes some light, his excuse is that we are the only guests. The sheets of our bed stink and the diarrhea still troubles me. Traveling is not always a pleasure.

Dhenkanal, 9 - 10 December


In spite of that we have a good night. At eight o'clock we stand outside the hotel where a man sells breakfast, we have puri and chai.

We depart and stop in a small village to see potters at work. In the next village is a market. Although it is in the building-up stage we spend here a long time.
In Ghatgaon we visit the Maa Tarini temple complex. In a separate small temple a priest sacrifices the coconuts. Before the main building waits a long row of people who want to offer these.

Since I just want to look I don't have to queue. Bare footed, of course, I enter. Photo equipment is not allowed inside but there are no other restrictions. Several priests sit in a basement, with fires everywhere. Around it stand the devotees who present their coconuts. The milk is offered to the goddess.
The road to Jajpur is under reconstruction and converted into 4 lanes. But at this time it is a bad ride. Everywhere one sees ruined houses and uprooted trees. Near Anandapur we stop at a textile village. Although we have visited places like this before it is still fascinating to see.

After Jajpur we take another road, this leads us along a stretch of big steel factories. It is in the middle off the day but due to the smoke it looks like evening. We are glad as we leave this behind, now just plain rice fields are nice to see. We divert into a country road and this is really great. It is half past three and the cattle go to their stables. Further wood and rice fields, a sign warrants for crossing elephants.

After the bridge over the Brahmani river we arrive in Dhenkanal where we stay in hotel R.K. Regency. The AC room with hot water costs 800 rs.

As we depart at half past eight there is a dense fog. We cannot see further than 100 meters. It is scary to drive but fortunately there is hardly any other traffic. Half an hour later we are in Joranda and the sun starts to shine. Here we visit the Mahima monastery. This is a group of temples and lodgings where the monks live. Some of the men don't wear anything but a cloth that covers there private parts.

The sphere is relaxed, everyone wants to pose for a picture. With the help of Pratap we talk with some of the men. They arrive here voluntary at the age of ten, these children live by families in the surrounding villages. The monks have no contact with there family and don't tell each other from which place they come. But they are curious about our origin and most of them have a mobile. We visit most of the temples which are build in total different styles.

Monks and laborers together do the maintenance work. At eleven we return to Dhenkanal, now the fog is gone and we see that we travel through a lovely scenery.
We visit a small village where the craftsmen produce bronzes using the lost wax method. We look around for a while. Everyone is buzzy with preparing or finishing the figurines but nobody moulds.

In a nearby dhaba we order some snacks. It tastes good and the owner brings us all kind of extra specialties. I don't know if he puts in on the bill but I have only to pay 50 rs for the three of us, and the man refuses a tip.
Then we continue to Nuapatna another textile village. Outside is a weaver factory with many machines to produce clothes but special things are woven by hand. The village itself is rather stretched out. All over the place they make textiles using the tie and dye method. For 2600 rs. Wiesje buys a beautiful shawl.

Back in Dhenkanal we have a look at the palace. The owner lives there so we can not visit it. But for 15.000 rs one can spend the night there, a little over budget.

Village near Bhadrak, 11 – 13 December


At four I wake, again suffering from diarrhea. I take a pill and spend some time at the toilet. Today we are not in a hurry and I wait until things go better. At half past ten I feel alright and we start. Tonight we sleep at Prataps house and he has loaded the car with food, mainly vegetables and some goldfishes for his son.

We drive back to Jajpur, nearby we stop for a visit to the Chhatia Bata temple. We are allowed inside but taking pictures is forbidden. There are many statues some of them rather gruesome. Slowly we realize we have visit this temple already during our 2009 trip.

We continue over the 4-lane road to Bhadrak and from there to Pratap's village. His family, dressed in their best clothes welcomes us cordially. Since our last visit daughter Mama is married and she is here with her son Ayush. When we go to the village for shopping Wiesje carries him. Pratap and I follow them and this combination attracts a lot of attention.
The family lives on the second floor of their family building. A hall, two large bedrooms, bathroom and a small kitchen We get one of the bedrooms.

My entrails still trouble me and I go to bed early. Wiesje keeps talking with the family. Later she tells me that Prataps father killed himself by jumping from the roof. Pratap's wife is afraid that his ghost haunts around.

In the middle of the night I spend again some time at the loo. Happily the diarrhea is over after that stay. At seven we wake up, the weather makes it clear that wintertime is approaching. Today we will visit the school where Liku, Pratap's son in law, works. We assume that he is teacher at a local school. But the school is in another village, and we drive the 20 km with a rickshaw. The land is completely flat, here and there are the concrete escape towers, used as protection when a cyclone passes.

The personal of the school waits for us and escort us to the room of the principal. It is a three class secondary school. Liku is not a teacher but the administrator. We talk a while about the Dutch and Indian school systems and get a tour. It is examination time but the pupils are not bothered by the break.
For the lunch we go to the family house where Mama and Liku live. The food is perfect but much to much. The family wants that we take a nap so they can have their meal together. But we are not tired and in turn someone sits with us while the others eat. Many neighbors come to have a look at the strangers. Everyone is allowed inside but it is clear the some are hardly welcome. And of course there is a long photo shoot.

Later we go back to Prataps house. He has bought some new chickens and by nightfall it is a hard job to put them in their hen-house.

Around the house are many coconut trees and a man cut away the old and dead leaves. And of course the ripe nuts. The leaves are used for heating and are divided between Pratap and his brother who lives on the floor ground. I help to gather them and discover that the edges are terrible sharp. Pratap spots a scorpion and kills it.

In the village we visit the schools where the two youngest children get their education and talk with the teachers. Wiesje has promised to cook and has planned to make something with chicken and peanuts. There are no chickens on the market and Pratap has bought fish, no combination with the nuts. So he and my wife go on the motor bike to another market. The chicken are very fresh and slaughtered behind the house. I like the chicken dish but the family prefers the fish.

Further we have no plans for today, we sit a while on the roof and I walk a while through the fields.

Bhubaneswar – Amsterdam, 14 – 16 December


The holiday is nearly over and we say goodbye to the family. The farewell is cordial but I have the feeling that both parties found our stay a day too long. We leave at ten and after a three hours ride over the high-way we arrive in Bhubaneswar. We still need the table clothes and want to do some other shopping. Pratap drops us in near a market and mall area and takes a nap in the car.

We spend the night in hotel Samit Royale, for 1600 we have a nice AC room. It is three o'clock and if we leave tomorrow later then four we have to pay for another day. Thus we ask Pratap to bring us to the airport at that time.
It is nice to have a shower and have some time for ourselves. In the evening I do the check-in for the Bhubaneswar Delhi flight.


And this morning I do the same for our Delhi Amsterdam flight. We have a long night traveling ahead and most of the time we loiter in our room. After a last walk in the streets around the hotel it is four o'clock. Pratap is already there and brings us to the airport where we say farewell to each other.
After an hour the departure procedure starts. The check-in luggage is examined in the hall. The man spots the bottle whiskey we bought. We have to open the bag just to convince him that it is secure packed, and he puts a label 'fragile' on the bag.
Around seven we take off. We fly Indigo and I was completely forgotten that I ordered food during the booking process, they serve a veg. sandwich. A quarter past nine we land at Delhi domestic. Outside is a travel desk, by presenting both flight tickets we get a free ride on the shuttle bus. The halt is at the other end of the parking terrain, somewhat obscure under a viaduct. Several buses stop here, a man assists us to take the right one. Half past ten we arrive at International. The KLM counter is already open and around midnight we have finished all the procedures.

We have to wait another three hour before we are allowed to board. As always I don't get much sleep in a plane. In the morning we get breakfast. The orange juice glides from the board tight into my crotch, rather sticky. But it is dried as we land at noon (Indian time), in the Netherlands it is half past seven in the morning. An hour later we sit in the train and a few hours later we are back in our house.

From South-East to North-West, 2012
Date Posted: Aug 5th, 2012 at 02:16 - Comments (1)
During our previous trips we covered a lot of India. This time we want also explore some not so often visited regions and have planned an itinerary that starts in Chennai and ends in Amritsar.

Chennai, 25 - 27 January 2012

It is exactly a year after our previous journey. Again we start in Chennai and even stay in the same hotel. At half past ten we leave the airport and take a pre-paid taxi to hotel Kanchi. This year we have decided to use our mobile. In the afternoon we walk to a nearby shopping mall and buy an Airtel sim card. Including a deposit and a lot of paperwork we have to pay 200 rs.
We are back in Chennai since we have an appointment here. In the late seventies we were the contact between a Dutch ngo and a local school. During our 1982 family trip we visited it. Last year we wanted to see the ladies who are in charge again, but they were out of town. Now we have mailed them and settled a new meeting for tomorrow. My wife calls them and then it turns out that we have used a wrong date. The only possibility to see each other is this afternoon. So jet-lagged and tired we take a rickshaw. It is nice to see each other after such a long time.

Due to this meeting we did not make other plans for today. The museum seems to be a good idea but it is closed on Friday. Besides Wiesje has blisters on both feet so walking is unpleasant.

We stay for a while in the room and in the afternoon we go for an hour or two to the Marina. The traffic is a mess and the police has a lot work to do to keep it moving. When we go back our rickshaw has to make a detour to avoid a traffic jam. The driver wants more money for this. We get off, walk around the blockade and take another rickshaw to the hotel.
We phone for a room in Trichy, only hotel Femina has one available. Rather steep for 2000 rs.

Trichy, 28 – 30 January

Our train to Trichy departs around seven thirty so we have to rise early. At this hour no breakfast is served but all the personnel lines up for a tip. We ignore most of them and take a rickshaw to Egmore station.
In our wagon sit a bunch youngsters, many of them share our benches and it is a little cramped with thirteen persons. It is noisy but this keeps us awake, when they get off we fall asleep.
Half past one we arrive in Trichy and go to our hotel. We have a rather large AC room and the price is inclusive tax and breakfast. A major disadvantage is the area, rather dull and far from the centre.

Annex to the hotel is a travel agency and we try to arrange a taxi for a visit to the peacocks in Viralimalai. It is completely unknown to the man and since he hardly speaks English we cannot make an appointment.

For 100 rs the rickshaw driver brings us to the bazaar around the fort. It is a nice area and we walk there for several hours before we return. My wife's blisters still hurt but with another pair of shoes it is not so painful.

After lunch we take the bus to the temple complex in Srirangam, this is a lot cheaper, only 12 rs. The outer circles of the complex is just a part of the city, inclusive heavy traffic. Then we enter the holier part where we remove our shoes. A tickets is required for photo's and a visit to the watch-tower. A young man leads us to the entrance of the tower. The fence is closed and it takes some time before the the guard is back. From the top we have a great view over the towers of the temples.

The young men offers to guide us around, he wants 400 rs. and we accept this. As non Hindu's we are not allowed to enter the inner area of the complex so we can just visit a small part. Our guide is a nice and funny lad but does not give much information. Nevertheless there are enough great things to observe.
With the bus back to the hotel. For dinner we go to to a nearby garden restaurant. It is cheap and so is the quality.

After breakfast we go again by bus to the fort area. First we wander through the bazaar and then continue in the direction of the fort, high up a hill above us. We don't see an entrance, only a flight of stairs who seems to lead to a temple. We round the rock completely and end near the small temple where we started.
We ask again and hear that those stairs are the entrance. I go alone, the admission fee is 3 rs and 20 for the photo's. The stairs are build in, quite comfortable in the heat. The sides are decorated with several statues. After a severe climb I stand in the sun, from here there is a great panorama over the town. In the distance I spot Srirangam. On the top of the rock is a temple, although these stairs are in the full sun I decide to go. Sometimes I have a fear of heights and half way feel a little uncomfortable but I return safe.

For next Saturday we have a reservation for the toy train to Coonoor. We don't want to stay here for that period and decide to explore Erode and its surroundings..

Erode 31 January – 1 February

This night it rains heavy and in the morning it still drizzles. But by nine this stops and we walk to the nearby bus stand. There is a bus waiting and we install ourselves on the rear seat. The route follows the North bank of the Cauvery and is awfully nice. We drive along a small tributary river and through a lot of tiny villages. Now and then we stop for new passengers and then we continue in a high tempo. The bus gets more crowded and the scenery gets less attractive. Half past twelve we have a longer stop in Namakkal and two hours later we arrive in Erode.
We go to Club Melange where we can get a room for 1000 rs., it is rather cheap since the hotel is under reconstruction. There is a bar in the hotel and a separate one outside. So I don't have to shop for beer and we take one on the the edge of the swimming pool. Tomorrow we want to do a day trip and the man at the reception assures us that he will arrange a car.

The noise of the market right behind the hotel wakes us early. There is no price list for the breakfast and the waiter calculates the bill by head, afterwards we realize that is is rather costly for what we got. Our driver arrives and talks with the personnel about our trip. We want to go to a nearby fort but they say it is closed. For the rest we have hardly any influence on the arrangement and the temples and other sites that they add. Finally it is a trip off 280 km for the price of 1500 rs. and 8 rs. each kilometre. We can negotiate a little but it remains overpriced and we cancel it. All in all we are irritated and decide to leave tomorrow. To be certain of a sleeping place we call the Nanda Lodge in Mettupalayam.

With a rickshaw we go to the bus stand and from there to the Bhavani Sangameshwawar temple. The temple is situated on an island but there is a bridge. The conductor advises us a rickshaw for the last part, some women say it is walkable. To be sure we take an auto and indeed it is just a short distance. The entrance is free, we just pay 25 rs. for the photo equipment. It is a stretched out collection of all types of temples. Not the most spectacular but it is very nice and we spend there some hours. The views over the river are great. We are the only westerners and are a main attraction for other visitors, many of them take a picture of us.

We walk back to the bus stop and it takes some time before we understand that the bus stops twenty meter before the signpost. This is a luxury bus and the tariff is 16 rs. for the both of us.
Back in the restaurant the kitchen is closed and at four in the afternoon there is no food in the eateries around the hotel. So we take some bananas. At half past six we take a beer at the side of the pool and later we have there our dinner.

Mettupalayam, 2 – 3 February

This time we let the waiter write a bill and pay a lot less. After check-out we take a rickshaw to the bus stand. Once more we take the rear bench and at ten we are on our way. Just as I pay the tickets the bus takes a roadblock and the rupees fly around. Via a not yet completed highway we travel in the direction of Coimbatore. Now and then we go to a village for a stop. Every time the ticket seller must write down how much tickets he sells. It is not a very fascinating scenery around us. It gets better when we drive by smaller roads to Mettupalayam where we arrive at half past twelve.
The Nanada Lodge is close the bus stand and for 520 rs. we have a tolerable room.
According to the manager there is nothing to do in the town, disappointing since we have to spend another day here.

Around five we walk to the station, just 10 minutes away, and makes some photo's when the train arrives. I spot a notice board of a travel agent but nobody knows where that office is. We have a chat with Mose, the night porter of the lodge, and tell him what we want. He promises to arrange a car for tomorrow.

The driver promised to arrive at eight o'clock, half an hour later Mose calls him and somewhat later he is there. Together we make a rough plan for the rest of the day. The price of 1800 rs is higher than we expect but when we see the luxury car it is understandable. The driver does not speak English but Mose does and we are happy that he accompanies us.
The first stop is near a simple temple in the outskirts of the town. We visit this because it played an important rule in a Tamil movie. Adjacent to it stands a school, we have a look inside and of course disturb the lessons.

Next we visit the Vanabadrakaliamman temple, where our companions go for breakfast. Before the temple stand two huge statues, inside are just devotees. The priests want me to join them. After a while the four of us walk to the river. Since a few years there is a bridge but the previous used round coracles are still there. Mose and I hire one and for 100 rs we make a trip over the river.

In this regions are many cocos and areca palms and we visit one of the plantations. Our journey leads us over small roads and through tiny villages. It is very pleasant. In a tribal village we encounter an old lady, according to her family she is over hundred years of age.
Now we leave the fertile valleys, drive through a barren rocky scenery and end near a temple on top of the hills. My wife and I climb the stairs, at the top priests and musicians wait for us and the other visitors. The temple as well as the panorama is nice. The driver knows a holy cave at the other side of the road. He guides me over the steep path, on both sides live sadhus. After an energetic climb we see the cave far above us. We gasp both for breath and decide to leave the last part to the sheep that wander around. Near the temple the preparations for a feast are in full swing. People built the fairground attractions and the godess makes a tour.

It is time for lunch but on our way to the restaurant we pass another temple. It is just a few minutes before closing time so we have just a quick look. As in many temples the beautiful old parts are overshadowed by new constructions.

Mose suggests that we continue the excursion with a visit to a nature park. On our way towards it we see a wholesalers vegetable market and that is more interesting. The driver knows a lot of the people that work here. In vast warehouses large piles of carrots, beans and cabbage are piled up.
A little further is a cotton spinning-mill. After a short chat we are allowed inside and get a guided tour. First the cotton is crushed and processed into thick knots. In succeeding steps these knots are transformed into thin threads.

Gradually we get tired and tell the men that we have done enough. But we have to make another visit to a village where the inhabitants produce sari's, of course they try to sell them. The vendor has also a machine which fabricate paper chai cups and an emu farm.
We drink another chai and at half past four we are back in the hotel.

Coonoor, 4 – 6 February

Half past six in the morning we leave the hotel and although the station is nearby we take a rickshaw. As soon as we board the TTE controls the tickets, people with wait-list tickets follow him, hoping for a seat. Our fellow passengers don't have much luggage so we can stow ours beneath the benches. For breakfast we buy some wada and bananas.

The trains departs on time, we sit in the first cabin and since the engine is at the backside, we have a good look at the track. The first part goes through a flat area with palm plantations. At the start of the climb the train stops and everyone walks around. Then the steep climb starts, between the running rails is a rack rail. It is a curved course with now and then a tunnel. At the backside of the wagon sits a group they yell each time we enter one. Every five kilometre, that is roughly half an hour, we halt and tank fresh water for the engine. The passengers can walk around, happily there is a clear sight. It is a great and alternating trip and we enjoy every minute.
A quarter past ten we arrive in Coonoor and take a rickshaw to Hotel Vivek. We have a luxury room, for 1300 rs. we have a balcony and a separate bedroom. Beneath us the tea pickers are at work.

After lunch we walk to nearby Upper Coonoor where we visit Sim's park. It is situated in a little valley and contains many impressive trees and beautiful flowers. Tomorrow we want to do some sightseeing and back in the hotel we arrange a car. In the evening it gets chilly and we pull on a sweater.

Our driver picks us up before nine. His English's is very good and he has a great knowledge of the flowers around us and the tea culture. It is sunny but from the valley the clouds climb quickly upwards along the slopes.

The fist stop is Lamb's Rock, still just visible. Later we walk through the wood towards Dolphin's Nose. But now it is to misty the see anything further away. Nevertheless it is alternating and captivating. Over the narrow road we drive back to Coonoor. We get an explanation about the tea culture we now can distinguish a well maintained tea plantation and know that the type of tea-shrub depends on the height.
We take another valley in the direction of Kotagiri, the road is better and the sun shines. The last stop of the day is Kodanadu view point. The road leads us through tiny tribal villages, near one is a small temple one gets to crawl to get inside.

Of course forbidden for tourists. Then we cross an enormous huge plantation. According to the driver it is owned by Tamil Nadu's prime minister. At the viewpoint the atmosphere is clear so we can enjoy the panorama off the valley and the rocks around us. Late in the afternoon we are back in the hotel.

Around ten we check out and take a rickshaw to the bus stand. The bus towards Coimbatore just leaves but within a quarter the next one arrives. The journey by road is by far not so nice as by train but a lot faster. After an hour we are in Mettupalayam and another hour later we arrive at the bus stand of Coimbatore. It takes another three quarter with the city bus to the railway station. We bring the luggage to the cloak room and go for lunch. In the afternoon we go to the internet and mail the folks back home.
The train starts at half past four and is far from fully booked. A group women sleep in other compartments but sit and chat with us. For the first time we have a train where an an official cleaning company picks up the waste. By ten we have had our dinner and go to bed.

Vodarevu, 7 – 9 February


It is still dark when we get off the train in Chirala, a town in the coastal area of Andhra Pradesh. Enjoying a chai we wait for the daybreak and arrange a rickshaw to Vodarevu. During the trip there is a dense fog around us but near the coast the sun shines. The road leads through the small fishermen village, at the end the driver stops, we are at the beach. We explain that we have to go to the Sip&Dip resort. He has to ask for the direction. Over a track through a group of fishermen cots, with the accompanying garbage belt, we enter the walled resort. The manger is already up and for 700 rs. we hire a spacious, but rather run-down cottage. It has see view but the sand just in front of the cottage is filled with paper plates.

They don't serve breakfast for this we have to go to a stall in the village. And for lunch we must buy our own fish on the beach. In one of the several eateries we get tasteful puri's and dosa's for 28 rs. In another stall we buy a cup of coffee.

Next to the beach. A hundred meters from the coast the fishing boats lie at anchor. With small vessels the men bring the fish ashore. The large fishes are displayed in rows and auctioneers immediately sell the whole bunch. We have the idea this often fails and that local women try to catch as much as possible, meanwhile quarrelling with each other. In the next days we understand more of the process. It is a fascinating spectacle and we spend quite some time here.
Then we walk a little further and have the beach for us alone, it is not a bathing strand. When we return we have still no idea what fish to buy and the auction is nearly over. Then we spot large prawns. For thirty pieces, nearly a kilo, we pay 250 rs and for 10 rs. more a women cleans them.

After a short rest I go explore the rest of the village on my own. Around the houses the people dry the smaller fishes and of course repair the nets. As usual everyone asks about my origins. A young man is pleasantly surprised that I'm from the Netherlands. Pikki's education is paid by Dutch people and he has visited our country. He is a cook now and leaves in a few days to Malaysia. Together we walk to his mothers house, he is curious about the resort and I invite him to come along. While we are talking our prawns are served, tasteful but very spicy. Pikki tries them, says he can do it better and offers to cook for us tomorrow. Next morning we will buy the fish. The lunch is served on paper plates. The waiter throws the remainders on the sand just in front of the cottage.

Pikki goes home and we want to take a rest. With the power-cut the flies come in and I go again to the beach. It is high tide, there are no fishermen but many people from Chirala take a bath. In the evening there is a smaller auction, mostly different types of shrimps and crabs. The manager of the resort sends a boy to buy a beer for us, and is so nice to put in the fridge. For dinner they serve a reasonable meal of chapatis with egg-curry.

At half past seven I walk to the beach where Pikki is waiting. He shows me around and again I'm caught by all the action around us. At the moment that men unload a boat, needy people try to snatch some fish and guards try to prevent this. Pikki honours his name and is very picky in choosing our fish, at last we have a tall one for 370 rs. He takes it to his home to prepare.

It is half past eight by now so time to go to the eatery for our breakfast, we are greeted as regulars. Next we visit the beach again, nearly all the fish is sold and it is quiet. We slender through the village, everyone is welcoming, pity enough the people speak just a few words English.

By noon we walk towards Pikki's house. Although I know the general direction we need to ask several times and he is anxious waiting for us, we are ten minutes late. Just as yesterday his mother is at work in Chirala and he has invited some friends. We chat for a while and then Pikki sends them away and serves the food. Sitting on the floor we enjoy the delightful prepared fish. The head seems to be the best part, but we don't dare to try it. He has cooked so much that there is enough left for tonight's family dish. The friends return and after some more talking we go back to the resort. A village idiot follows us and only leaves when we act that we are angry.

Later in the afternoon I go for a swim. The water has a splendid temperature and the breakers are strong enough to roll me over. Silly that I didn't get in yesterday. And of course we walk around for another time.
The dinner and the beer are as good as yesterday. Our original plan was to stay here another day and leave Friday early morning to catch our reserved train in Guntur. Now we have seen how poorly the transport is we decide to leave tomorrow.

At seven I bring the last visit to the beach, Wiesje stays in the room. Big ice blocks, used for cooling, lay on the sand. The auction has not started yet, the men are busy to bring the fish ashore.
One off the boats is capsized in the breakers. The crew reverses the vessel and threw most of the fish back. But one of the beggars has also a good catch. Little by little I understand more of the procedures. I follow the women with their buckets full of fish to the village. They bring them to packing factories in the village. They are paid for each load and therefore they are constant in a hurry.

After breakfast we tell the manager that we check out and that we need a rickshaw to Chirala. There is also a bus but we don't think it is suitable for us and our luggage. Not that the rickshaw is much better, it is a transport vehicle with a couch provisional fixed into it. It is a bumpy ride.
In Chirala we wait a short time for the bus. This is the only one during our whole trip where the luggage fits in the overhead racks. It is a nice ride through an agriculture area and within two hours we are in Guntur. The Annapura Lodge is on the other side of the road, for 800 rs we have a large room with AC. The town, at least the area around the hotel, has not much to offer.

Rajahmundry, 10 – 15 February


Our depart is scheduled at noon so we have a relaxed morning. The train arrives just half an hour late, our CC compartment is not fully occupied and we can store our luggage in the racks. For lunch we buy two portions samosa, my wife is not very hungry and shares hers with some beggars. We travel through an agriculture area. More passengers board and at the end it is standing room only.

By five o'clock we arrive in Rajahmundry. The station is outside the town and after a ride across the city we arrive at hotel Surya, situated nearby the other railway station. For 1000 rs. we have a large AC room, it looks very clean but there are plenty off small cockroaches.
We explore the neighbourhood a it looks quite pleasant. Back in the hotel we ask for a beer shop, one of the men gets the beer for us.

As always in hotels with a 24 hours check-in policy it is noisy the whole night. We wake up in time since yesterday we are told that the laundry pick-up is at eight. Nobody comes and it turns out that we just have to place it in the corridor.
The main reason for our visit is the boat trip to Punnami. On the internet I found many offers, most of the offices are located at the Bund, they all bear nearly the same name. We enter one of them, no one speaks English but another travel agent assists. I like the two-day trip, the bamboo huts look reasonable and at the end we choose this instead of a daytrip, the costs are 4000 rs all-in.

Along the Bund flows the broad Godaviri river, close by is the Markandeya temple. This is a collection of several smaller temples scattered inside an enclosure. There are so many of them that it is difficult to have a good look at the separate ones. As part of the celebrations the devotees run around one of the temples.
On the banks of the river we watch the always pleasant activities of people, washing and bathing. Men unload by hand boats loaded with sand. Near the large bridges is a temple ghat.

We sit a while on the stairs and watch the activities. It is possible to boat here, just a few people are interested. We think that the hotel is not far away and decide to walk back, take a wrong turn and end in the vivid Main Street, a real shopping centre. Wiesje buys pants and after that a rickshaw brings us in no time to the hotel.
In the afternoon we roam again in the streets around the hotel and discover a nice, small local market.

After an early rise we take a rickshaw and arrive shortly after seven at the travel agency. They have arranged an English speaking guide, we will meet him at the boat. The bus arrives and we, as only foreigners, get the best seats in the front. At eight we start and drive over very bad roads through a lovely scenery with tiny villages.

An hour later we stop in Pattiseema, we sit next to the door and get off. Then the bus accelerates and we panic, bystanders calm us down, this is the embarkation place. A young man introduces himself as Previn, he is our guide. A narrow path leads to to the river where several large boats are waiting. Walking over sand-bags and a small gangway we board. One of the crew gives us coins for our breakfast and we sit in our chairs on the upper deck.

It is ten o'clock as the boats departs. The trip leader tells stories in Telugu, alternative he plays loud music. The atmosphere on the boat is as on a school-trip. After half an hour we stop near the Gandiposama temple and Previn and I visit it, together with the other passengers. It is crowded and atmospheric, for me that is enough and I don't enter the sanctuary. After another half hour we stop by a police station, photographing is forbidden. The crew bring large messtins on board, this is our the lunch.

We continue over the broad river and then stop near a checkpoint. The entrance to the protected area, 10 rs., is included in the trip price. The ticket inspector counts the number of passengers, as he notices two foreigners he wants 400 rs more. We refuse to pay, since we only can talk with Previn it is a difficult discussion. The captains leaves the ship and talks with the leading officers. After a while he returns, now with a bill of 150 rs. Again we refuse to pay since we have an all-inclusive trip and we find that the travel agent has to pay this. Previn settles the problem.

We now enter the Papi Hills, even here the journey is not very spectacular and we find it rather disappointing. From a new announcement I understand that we must go downstairs for lunch. That is true but the passengers are called in groups and I arrive at the wrong moment. Of course I get food and find a seat somewhere on a bench. By two o'clock we see the bamboo huts on the bank but we pass and continue to a tribal village and temple up on the hill. The locals here sell all kind of handicraft.

An hour later we and another couple embark at the Kolluru resort, the boat continues directly. It is hot and it is a long walk through the sand towards the huts. I guess there are a hundred of it. Ours is disappointing, a bamboo frame on piles with a heavy tent-cloth above it. The frame is covered with mattresses and bedding, there is no room for chairs.
But we have a splendid vision over the surrounding scenery. So here we sit and as we understand there is nothing to do here than wait on tomorrow's boat. Previns suggests to change our plans, visit Bhadrachalam and take the bus back from there. We have our doubts but at last decide to do this.

By five we are called, in the centre of the camp coffee, tea and pakora's are served. All the guests, not more than 25 are assembled. Later I try to walk around the camp but soon I am stopped by the fence around it. By the time that it gets dark it turns out that the electricity in our hut is not working so we move to another one. The bright spot is that Previn organize a bottle of beer with some nice fish snacks. The camp-fires are lit and at the same spot where we had tea now the dinner is served. Fish, chicken, rice and curries, it tastes well.

The hard underground of the bamboo frame combined with a developing cold makes that I don't sleep well. In the middle of the night we go together to the toilets, a hundred metre away from our hut. Watchdogs bark and immediate the watchman turns on a light.
At seven Previn brings us a cup of coffee. In the meantime the personnel cleans the campground. The part of the camp where we stay is flooded in monsoon time. High above are some permanent buildings where we have breakfast. Here is also a primitive bathroom.

Previn is very vague about today’s scheme but around ten we walk to the river. He has given us the idea that he has arranged our own transport but we join a group of men, they have rented a small boat. It is a group from Hyderabad and have got this trip, as a reward, from their company. With 12 men we board in a rather small vessel. The first stop is the village on the other bank that we visited yesterday, this time we stay on board. Then we continue up the river, in this small boat the trip is more rewarding.

At noon we embark and plod along the friable sand to the bank and say goodbye to our companions. Previn claims that our car is here but that we have to wait for the driver. To put it mildly, we are not happy with the situation. This is just a boarding point for the boats and the nearest town is kilometres far away. Gradually it becomes clear to us that Previn just has arranged a lift with the Hyderabadi people. After the lunch the driver arrives and half past one we depart in a minibus. The journey through many small villages is nice. The fields are filled with red pepper, rice and tobacco.

By three we arrive in Bhadracham and now really say goodbye to our hosts. Since we have a bus journey of five hours ahead for us we want to hurry, something Previn cannot understand. The walk to the temple is rather long and then Previn suggests we hire a hotel room for an hour so we can clean ourselves before the visit to the godess. We refuse this and he and i take a quick lunch before we go to the temple. No idea about the spiritually aspect, but for me the temple is not very spectacular. Special is a big rock, the devotees seems to receive a message from it.

Then we hurry with a rickshaw to the bus stand. When the bus arrives it is half past four. Previn runs ahead and is able to secure three seats for us. But bad luck again, they are reserved seats. In the meantime the bus is overcrowded and we struggle to get outside. It is getting late and we decide to take a taxi despite the price of 2800 rs. Soon it is dark and then is driving not our favourite so we are glad as we arrive in Rajahmundry at nine.

We are tired after these two days and take it easy. Just spend the morning with a visit to an ATM and the internet. For tomorrow we want a day-out to the backwaters of Konaseema and go again to the travel agencies at the Bund. But the only trips they offer are those with larger boats and we don't want to repeat that experience.

Along the river is a small park and while we sit on the bench I have a look at our map. Yanan, a part of Pondicherry is not far from here. We find some information on the net, it looks good and we decide to give it a try.

At nine we arrive at the bus stand, there is an information desk and the officer explains that we have to change bus in Ramachandrapuram. He also tells us our bus starts from platform number 23. The highest number we see is 22 and after a lot of questioning we discover that our platform is outside.
Soon the bus arrives and we find a seat. The road goes along a canal, at one side is an industrial area, at the other side are paddy fields. After an hour we arrive in R and the bus conductor escorts us to the Yanan bus. This departs immediate and now we ride through a terrific beautiful scenery, the rice fields are dotted with groups of palm trees, it is just like a picture of the tourist office.

Shortly after noon we are at Yanan, a very laid back town. Most buildings are painted white, and the policemen wear the same caps as in France. We take a rickshaw and order the driver to make a tourist tour. The first stop is not a temple but an elderly home. We are invited inside and escorted to the director. He expresses that apart from 50 senior citizen they also accommodate 10 orphans and all is paid through gifts, we get the hint. The English teacher shows us around. Men and women live apart in 4 or 8 bedded chambers, they have just a bed and a trunk. Nearly everyone lays in bed and as we look through the doorway the inhabitants want to stand up, quite embarrassing. It is clean and well maintained, the home has also a medical centre and a nice garden. The children have a box of their own.

We continue our trip to the river which has a splendid boulevard. And of course visit the usual mix of temples, churches and mosques. One of them is situated near a canal, with the small boats it resembles Kerala. We try to persuade the driver to a journey through the countryside, but he does or will not understand this. Each time as we leave the built-up area he returns. After one and a half hour we have seen all the streets and pay him.

We take some refreshments and start the route back. This time we have to wait long for the bus arrives and also in Ramachandrapuram we stay for an hour. We have a seat but this bus is so full that passengers hang outside the doors. By six we are back and take a rickshaw to the hotel.

Vizianagaram , 16 – 19 February


Half past seven we leave the hotel and it takes some time before I find a rickshaw. In the railway station is a restaurant and we take our breakfast there. The train runs half an hour late and the sleeper class is overcrowded. It is hard to convince the others that we have reserved seats, some leave but I sit with five on the three seat bench. The splendid landscape around us compensates a lot. At the beginning it resembles that of yesterday, later it gets more arid. In Vizag some new passengers board, they shout at the passengers without reservation, they disappear and now we sit just with six men.

Half past two we arrive in Vizianagaram where we take a room in hotel Vytla. We sit a while in our room and then start to explore the town. Our hotel is in the station area and this is clearly not the centre. Nearby is a large artificial lake, at the other end is the fort. It is getting late, we decide to go back and leave the rest for the coming days.

Breakfast is served in what looks like a parking basement, the food maches with the place. We want to visit Kumili and Bavikonda Hill and ask the men at the desk if they are in the same direction. The four of them are not sure about this and we decide just to do Kumuli by rickshaw.

The driver takes us first through the centre of Vizianagaram and next it is a pleasant ride in the country side. The temple complex in Kumili is nice. It is old and a little worn-out but restoration is in full swing. We are an attraction for the priests and the villagers. Several gods are worshipped here and in each sanctuary another priest guides us while a villager translates. Surprisingly nobody asks for money but of course we donate for the restoration. The Bavikonda Hill with the Sri Rama temple is not so far and we can see it. To reach the temple requires a solid climb in the full sun and we skip this. Instead we decide to take a chai in a cool shed.

By two o'clock we are back in the hotel, the restaurant is overcrowded and it takes a while before we can share a table with some others. When we are finished others take immediate our chairs. In the afternoon I decide to walk around the nearby lake. It is nice but it takes over an hour it, much more time than I expected.

My wife has troubles with her stomach and wants to stay at the room. I visit the town centre on my own. Yesterday we passed a market and now I walk towards it. It is smaller than I thought. Opposite is the entrance of the fort. The impressive walls are intact, the buildings are converted in education institutions for girls.

A broad shopping mall leads from there to a clock-tower. Around this a vast market area is spread out. A great place to keep me busy for quit some time, a few hours later I return to the hotel.
In the evening we stroll together in the neighbourhood around the hotel, the papayas taste great.

Since Wiesje feels much better we take a rickshaw to the clock-tower area and explore the market area and the streets around it. Many of the market vendors ask if we want to take a picture of them and they have great fun with the results. Some days ago my wife bought a trouser, it does not fit proper and we see a street tailor which can fix it. With a shared rickshaw we return to the hotel.

Another town we wanted to visit from here is Bobbili. Since it is situated between here and our next destination, Koraput we decide to travel by car instead of a bus. The travel agent does not now the distance, the price he asks is 9 rs per kilometre and we accept. We always eat very little in comparison to Indian people, for dinner we order often just one dish and as we not even finish this the waiters keep laughing.

Koraput, 20 - 23 February


It is nine in the morning when our car arrives and we leave Vizianagaram. It is Maha Shivaratri and everywhere stand long queues in front of the temples. The driver is good but, even for Indian standards, he uses his horn very fanatically. In Bobbili we stop in front of the palace and enter through the gate.
Here and there white, rather run-down, buildings are situated. As we look around a man asks us to enter one of them. He shows us a room filled with photographs of an important man and his family. From the guides poor English we understand this are the owners. On the second floor is an museum, for a visit we need approval from someone elsewhere. We walk in the direction towards a group men. At that moment the man from the photo's arrives. He is hailed with great respect. As the owner hears that we want to visit his property he orders a man to show us around.

In a shed stand some old cars, they fall apart by lack of maintenance. Then we visit the museum. A hall with fine pillars is filled with many utensils and memorabilia once belonging to the former rulers. The staircase is beautiful ornamented. Another man guides us around the compound and insists that we must visit a guest-house. Some elder men with an equal old Jeep follow us. It is tempting to go with them but we are afraid that it takes to much of our time and we refuse. Without success we try to explain this. Only when they spot our car it becomes clear and disappointed they go back.

We continue our trip through a mountain area. First over a good road with great views, the last part before Koraput it is very bad. By two o'clock we arrive after a trip of 175 kilometre. We stay in the new and clean Raj Residence and pay 1100 rs. for a room.
Five years ago we visited this area on a organized tour with a car + driver. This time we want to make our own plan and try to locate a travel agency. As we don't see one we ask the men on the desk if they know a guide. We get some phone numbers but with our mobile we cannot reach them. With the hotel's land-line we have more success but all the men are occupied. I have read about a travel agency, Grace, and ask their address.

But since the hotel has its own agent we are persuaded to deal with him. He can arrange a car for a reasonable price but indicates that we cannot go to the tribal areas. After a lot of doubts we accept it. According the man there is, apart from the tribal museum in Koraput, also one in Jeypore. Although we never heard about this we trust him and tomorrow we will start there.

In the middle of the night the music from the Jagannath temple awakes us. Just after eight we have breakfast and are pleasantly surprised that our driver is already there. He has an old car, my front seat has only the sleeping stand. After a stop by a laundry were we get towels to cover the chairs we are on our way.
The road to Jeypore is in a bad condition with big holes, especially in the hilly part. The driver knows nothing about a tribal museum here and everyone he asks agrees that the only one is in Koraput. The only thing to see in this town are the remainders of the old palace. Only the antique carriages are worth a second look.

Next we go to the Natsura dam, the views over the lake are not so special but on the slopes of the dam is a nice garden with many bougainvillea and other flowering trees. For other visitors we are the main attraction, they stand in line to take a picture of us. The last stop is the Srirama temple in Dumriput at the other side of Koraput. Outside stands a big Hanuman statue. By one o'clock we are back in the hotel after a hardly rewarding trip.

The only benefit is that I have seen the office of Grace's and visit it. They offer several nice day-programs and we decide to do some of these.
We still have problems with our mobile and get the message 'ban on outgoing calls'. I consult the owner of an Airtel shop he does not understands it and directs me to a customer care office. While I try to find it, a bystander comes to assist. I'm glad that he comes along with me. The shop is closed but the man knows the back-door. They personnel tries to help me but also they have no idea what causes the problem. They give me a phone number in Tamil Nadu but nobody picks up our call.

Just after eight we wait in the lobby. A car, larger than we ordered stops, the driver cleans the windows and enters the hotel. It is our car and we get it for the same price, 1900 rs. as we agreed. As usual we need fuel and as the nearby gas-station is re-filled we have to cross the town. Our driver, Mahoun, does not speak English but he manage to make it clear that he still must have breakfast.
All together it is about nine as we really start and go around 60 kilometre back in the Vizianagaram direction. Then we take a cross-road, it is small and full potholes but the scenery is great. First we travel through a narrow valley with much agriculture and than we start to climb. Mahoun points to some far away towers on top of the hills. Those are our destination. In the beginning it is woodland around us and then we reach a rough area with only low vegetation.

After another 15 km. we reach the watchtowers at Deomali, the highest point in the region. Since it is clear we have a good view over the landscape. We stay for a while and wonder why many of these towers are deliberate ruined.

Back over the same road and near Semilgude we leave the highway again and go to Nandapur. We don't know what to expect here and neither does Mahoun. He calls several times with his boss and then we stand still near a temple on a hill. To top of this hill is sacred and is worshipped inside.

The last stop on today's plan is the Nageswari fall. But we cannot reach this by car, we don't envy the walk of 3 km. and go back. In Nandapur is a nice local market, that is more to our taste.
By 3 o'clock we are back in the office and have a chat with Firoj, the owner. We mention the problems wits our mobile and he takes control. After half an hour, with the help of several others and many calls it is clear. We have missed the verification sms and now our sim-card is deactivated. The only way to solve this is by returning to Chennai, of course that is no option. We fill a new form and one of the men assures us that we have a new card by tomorrow. Firoj offers to drive us back to the hotel but we tell him we have to go to an internet first. No problem, we can use his computer and then he drives us back.

Mahoun and Firoj arrive together at half past eight. The latter gives us a new sim-card, an Uninor this time, and leaves to his office. We take off into the Jeypore direction, this time we take another road through a great scenery. It is apparently a new road, the first part is good to drive but then we continue over a rocky surface.

At the entrance of a village this is blocked and we take a cart track through the fields. No road for a normal car but Mahoun manages to complete the detour, After a great journey we arrive in Machkund. In two hours we covered 50 kilometres.

We have no idea why we are here and it is clear that it is also Mahoun's first visit. He phones with Firoj, ask several villagers and then we stop near a small shop. It become apparent that we need some kind of a permit. It takes half an hour to accomplish and we pay 5 rs for it. A young man joins us, he knows the region and speaks some English. Criss-cross over small roads we reach a plateau from here we watch the Duduma fall. Since here is also an electricity plant photographing is forbidden and even if we walk a little further the watchman comes in action. Somewhat further down the road we can climb over the rocks and have a spectacular sight over the river.

Next we visit the tribal market in Ankadeli. It is not so big but very colourful and many Bonda's attend it. Mainly women dressed in bright blue clothes. The men are mostly gambling and everyone is drinking, we stick to a chai. There is one other tourist couple, also from the Netherlands. Via another path we reach the border with Andhra Pradesh. We stand high above the river with waterfalls all around us, it is awful nice. Then back to Machkund to drop our guide and then we return to the office of Grace in Koraput.

We pay for the trip and the sim-card. As far as I understand, we don't have to bother about registration this time.
The preceding days we have made appointments for our next stop in Chandoori Sai and Firoj will bring us tomorrow. It is nearly five o'clock before we are back in the hotel. Somewhat later we have to buy toilet paper. The shops were we expect this don't sell it, we have to go to the bakery.

Goudaguda, 24 – 26 February


It is early in the morning as I wake up and I decide to visit the Jagannath temple. There it is very peaceful at this time of the day. Five years ago I was here also and again it is obvious that memories are not reliable. I remember the somewhat scary sculptures but don't recall the total setting, glad I came back.

Around ten we leave, this time Firoj drives. He firsts gives us a tour along all the governmental buildings. Then we drive over a small but good road through the country side to Goudaguda. This is a very small village, we see the drinking guests of wedding parties but there are no signboards for Chandoori Sai. Firoj asks someone and it turns out that we are already close to the resort. We cross a dry ditch and stop in front of a closed fence. We rattle it and the owner, Leon, with his three feminine assistants come to welcome us.

The resort looks great and we get a large residence with a veranda. Around us is a nice garden and over the fence we see the hills of Orissa. Leon shows us around and under the pleasure of a good cup of coffee we chat. Since we are the only guests he has all the time and tells expressive about his life here.
The lunch is served, home-baked bread with tomatoes, Italian style so is all the food during our stay.
The women that work for him live in the village. One of them speaks reasonable English and all three escort us for a village tour. First to a big pottery and then we watch the dancing at the wedding parties. Of course we visit also the street where the ladies live and then have a walk trough the fields. From a hilltop we have a great panorama, Chandoori Sai is close by but hidden behind the trees.

Together with Leon we make some plans for tomorrow. Sunday we leave from here. We have a train ticket from Rayagada but he tells us that we can board in nearby Kakiriguma. We sit in front of our apartment, the sky is filled with fire-flies, quite a different atmosphere compared to our standard overnight stays. At seven there is a power-cut, the generator does his job and we eat in the great hall. An hour later the power is back, and so is the music from the wedding parties. Back in the room we hardly hear this.

Half way the night I wake up and have to go to the toilet. It was seldom so quiet in India. Breakfast with a large omelet and a matching mug coffee. The morning we spend with reading, puzzling and talking, the ladies cut the grass with scissors. Later I go for a walk in the surroundings. Partly it is dry while other areas are irrigated and used for agriculture.

Around noon Leon takes us to a local market. It is not such an extending one but as always we enjoy it, such spots are never boring. Three o'clock we are back and get an abundant lunch. Bread with tomatoes and rice with several curries.
To digest this I take a walk at the other end of the village. The scenery here is also dry and barren. The road continues and after a while I take the same route back.

After breakfast I go for another walk. This time I take goat paths in a hilly area. After some time I see, still far away, the railway and the road. Since I'm afraid that I get lost by trying to find a circular path I return. Today there is another marriage, close to the resort the fires for the meal are burning. We hear the music from the village. A group of women walk along the resort, they escort the bride. After a while we go to the party. The young couple presents bidi's to everyone, we also get some. Of course the people drink a lot. A few elder women dance, most of the other people sit and watch.

Then we visit the pottery again. The sun has dried the pots and now they are piled up with wood, straw and dung beneath and around them. Tonight they put the fire on.
We take the preparations for our departure, pack our bag, take a shower and pay the bill. Leon prepares a dinner for us to take and then he drives us to the railway station. Every night there is a powercut around this time, the station is completely dark when we arrive. Pocket torches and mobile phones provide the lighting as I buy a general ticket for the first part of the trip. The train arrives, we say goodbye to Leon and board through the first door we see. Inside we walk to the 2AC and inform the TTE. Just like we hoped our seats are free. The TTE has a pupil with him and together the fill the forms for the upgrade.
We enjoy our diner, lasagne and pie as desert, talk for a while and go to bed.

Bhadrakh, 27 February – 1 March


In the middle of the night we are back in Vizianagaram, from here the train goes in the opposite direction. Now we sit nearby the constant whistling locomotive so we get hardly any sleep. We are on our way to our friend Pratap. In the morning we try contact him but the connections are poor. The idea is to meet in Bhunaneshwar but it turns out that he is still away for his work. So we will continue on our own to Bhadrak. Now and then another man calls us, we don't get who that is.
With a delay of three hours we arrive in Bhubaneshwas. Fortunately we have plenty of time for our connection. Half past eleven the next train departs and again the Sleeper class is overfull.

Shortly after one we arrive in Bhadrak and have now time to phone at our ease. Pratap explains he will arrive tomorrow and we must take a taxi to his house. We give the phone to the driver and P. gives the man the direction to the village.

Not far out of the town a car approaches. The two men stop our taxi, we are flabbergasted. Then it becomes clear that one of them is Liku, Prataps fresh son-in-law. He is also the other man that phoned us. We change cars and continue.
At two o'clock we are in the house and get a cordial welcome. A friend of P is engaged and takes the lead. Soon we have lunch and a beer, in the meantime we have the usual chats. Since a few days there is no electricity, another new experience for us.

After a short rest we, and a lot of children, go for a walk through the village and the fields. Although it is our third visit we still draw a lot of attention. Afterwards, when it gets dark, we sit on the roof and drink another beer. Most of the time we talk with the young couple, Mama and Liku, she tries to learn us the names of her new family. By nine we have dinner and go to bed. As by our previous visit we get a room for ourselves, the rest of the family sleeps in the other room and the corridor.

Around six everybody is awake and we join the family for breakfast. We lounge around the house watching the daily affairs and play with the four young dogs. The girls give my wife an Indian style make-over. Pratap phones, there is a transport strike so it will be late before he arrives. His friend is warned and walks again with us through the fields.
Liku has a bike and with the two of us on the back we drive to the school of the youngest daughter. First we visit the headmaster and then have a look at all the classes. As always they are to small for the many children.

Next to Liku's home, he and Mama have an own room in the clay build family house. In the courtyard Mama gives a demonstration of her cooking skills, our tasteful dinner is served in the only room in which fits a table. Then we are obliged to take a rest in the conjugal bed. Now the family members have not to entertain us and can enjoy their own meal. We are so tired that we immediately fell in sleep.

Afterwards one of the relatives transforms Wiesje in an Indian lady, inclusive red nails, henna painting, make-up and a sari. For the photo-shoot I wear Liku's wedding hat. Of course we visit the local temple and my wife joins, for a short time, a volleyball game.
In the meantime Pratap has arrived and we go back to his place. It is nice to see him again. Due to the strike he had to use more then 20 different types of transport between Puri and Bhadrak.

There is still no electricity and we sit on the roof with the light of pocket torches. From the village comes the sound of music and we assume there is an wedding. But it is a memorial gathering in honour of a man that passed away ten days ago. The three of us walk towards the large tents, in the first one we sit a while on a chair, then we enter the next tent. Cooks prepare food on open fires and we join the many people sitting on the ground. Everyone get a leaves plate and the food is served. I'm still no master in eating with my fingers in this position. Needles to say that we are again in the focus of attention.

The music continues until six in the morning and shortly after that we get up so everyone can take their belongings out the closets in our room. Once outside the youngest daughter takes us to the village, it is time to present us to some elder relatives and the best time is before breakfast.
Around eleven an old Ambassador rides in front. With the family we start a tour through the hamlets in the countryside. It becomes a mixture of visits to temples and family. The first temple is closed. Pratap searches for the priest, the man is now building worker. When he is finished with the mortar he changes his clothes and walks with us to the temple. It is just a simple tower with some nice carvings inside.

Also the little sanctuaries in the other villages are charming. In between we we visit the extended family house of Pratap's wife and a rather large farm. Of course everyone welcomes us with drinks and sweets.
Back home it is time for lunch and a siesta. New is the internet café in the village. It is rather primitive, we lie on the ground with a laptop but it works. So another peaceful day ends.

By one o'clock loud music awakes us. We look out of the window and see a marriage procession passing by. A decorated car and a lot of light. In the morning we take pictures from the family so we can send them a photo-book. By ten the taxi is there and we say goodbye to everyone except for Pratap. He has to go work and accompanies us.
The train departs in time, the three of us sit on the site bench. We are provided with a lunch and we finish it early so P can take the tins with him. Around two we arrive in Bhubaneshwar were our friend works and get off. Half an hour later we leave the train in Khurda Road. We bring the luggage to the cloak room and for the first time we experience that the employee asks for locks on the bag-packs. We don't have these and at last he accepts our bags.

We have a few hours before our next train and spend most of this time on the internet. Just to be sure of a room we phone a hotel in RajNanadagon our next stop. We have success and our mobile is still working. Then back to the station. Since train stands here for half an hour we have all the time to find our seats in the nearly empty carriage. After dinner my wife tries to use her laptop, the train shakes so much that cursor jumps away. I have an upper bed and by ten I climb into it.

Rajnandgaon, 2 – 3 March


We sleep well in the train but wake up early. Soon a breakfast of coffee and omelet is served, in the meantime we enjoy the alternating scenery. Around eleven we arrive in Raj Nandgaon. The train stands here for just a minute so we are in a hurry. An elderly couple blocks the door, they just stand there to greet some relatives. A little rude we push them aside. Outside the rickshaw drivers jostle around us. We mention the name of our hotel and one will bring us 30 rs. It turns out to be a cycle and we prefer an auto, that costs a little more.

The hotel is not far away but it is situated at a road that just is transformed into a highway. To make space for this, the adjacent houses, and also our hotel, are partly pulled down. The owner is restoring it but we don't want to sleep in a building site. Our driver knows another hotel in the centre and brings us to Laximinanayam. For 1200 rs they offer us a rather small room, but since this has no electricity we get a larger one for the same price.
While we refresh ourselves a policeman knocks on the door. Foreigners are a curiosity here and he asks why we are here and how we travel. Our I-tickets are so intriguing that he is happy with a copy of it.

Next to the hotel is a restaurant where we eat an dosa. Back in the room I make a raw concept for the next weeks of our itinerary. Our next destination is Gondia. A hotel-boy has a train schedule and we choose the morning train. In the afternoon, when it is less hot we stroll through the centre. It is pleasant busy with not much motorized traffic.
The hotel restaurant serves only dosa's and snacks. This afternoon we discovered another one and there we have our dinner. On the way back we buy our traditional beer.

The first thing I do is walk to the station. There are no queues, I fill in the form and hand it to the officer. He holds a long speech, of course I don't understand a word of it. But his decision is clear, he does not process my enquiry. Confused I go to an internet and find out that this train is not bookable for such short distances. There is another train with availability. Since booking through Cleartrip does not work I return to the station for another, this time successful, attempt.

Our guidebook has nothing about RajNandgaon so I have googled some places and we try to locate them. The first one, Rattan store, is nearby. No idea what make this special, for us it is just an ordinary shop as one sees everywhere.
We have written down the sights and with the help of some bystanders we get a cycle to the Mata Sheetla Devi temple. It is a new temple, build on the remainders of an old one. Inside are nice statues and an electric operated drum. The priest sends for an English speaking man who explains all this to us.

Behind the temple is a large lake. At the other end is a palace and we walk towards it. The first gate is open and we enter, the next one is more or less closed but we walk on. A large poster gives us the idea this is an military institute. Just as we want to leave a man approaches us. He explains that this is a state college of which he is a teacher. The last ruler dedicated that his palace should be transformed into a school. The man escorts us to the office of the principal, who is not there, But we are seated and get an welcome drink. Several teachers join us for some talks and in the meantime the principal arrives. We make an entry in the guest book and one of the men shows us some of the classrooms. We leave the palace at the backside. Here at the lake the fishermen dry their nets. Since it is not so far we walk back to our hotel.

Later we go out for dinner. This morning when I walked to the station the shops opened their doors. Now, at nine in the evening, they close again. The streets are occupied by the cows, dogs and goats.

Gondia, 4 – 6 March


As the other day the breakfast in the restaurant is very rudimentary. I take some unfamiliar food, Wiesje has just curd. Our train leaves at noon so we take our time. The hotel-boy arranges two cycles for us to the station. The train is in time and we make the short trip to Gondia. The scenery is nice with woodlands alternated by rice fields.

Half past one we arrive, here stand only cycle rickshaws and we take one for each of us. Our hotel is at the other side of the railway. The viaduct is too steep to cycle so the men have to walk. Once we crossed this it turns out that they don't know the hotel. They cycle around, ask here and there and after a while they reach hotel Pacific. For 1310 rs. we have a spacious room.

After lunch I go out to explore the town. I hear the trains, walk in that direction and find out that we are just a short walk away from the station. There is a footbridge which ends near the centre. Now, at Sunday, most shops are closed but it looks as though Gondia is a vivid city. There is also a large market area. After an hour and a half I return to the hotel.
From here we travel to Chhindwara and my intention was to do this by train. First to Nagpur and then with the metre gauge. It is a long ride and the most scenic part we will travel in the dark. So we change our plans and decide to take the bus.

Tomorrow we want to visit a wild-park and we go to the lobby and arrange a car. According to the men we can easily visit Nagzira and Nawegaon in one day, a nice surprise. They don't have any idea about buses to Chhindwara but explain that the bus station is on a walkable distance. It is too far to be nice but we reach it. There is an information desk and they declare there is a direct bus at nine in the morning.
From here we take a rickshaw to the centre. First to the internet. For the registration they even need the visa information. Next we upgrade our Sim-card, an easy process by phone. Since we don't trust that the card will last for long we put only 50 rs on it.

Now we start with one of our favourite pastimes, roaming around in the unknown streets, shops and markets. We have a great time and when we get tired there is always a chai or juice stall. We see another restaurant. I have a look inside and immediate the owner wants to book me in his attached hotel. After a few hours we go back for a rest.

A few kilometres outside Gondia, in Naga, is an old temple. In the afternoon we ask an rickshaw driver. He pretends to know it and for 100 rs we are on our way. After a few moments he stops by an English speaking friend of him. With his help it becomes clear to the driver what we want. He now asks the double price, still a reasonable amount in our opinion.

We drive over the highway and reach Naga. Most buildings in the village are large blue painted family farms. After a short time we reach the temple, parts of it are old and weathered. Many pilgrims visit the place. The driver knows another temple further inland but since the road is blocked we cannot reach this.
We walk through the village, our drivers feels himself responsible and stays very near us. The villagers are just as fascinated by us as we are with them and their activities. Of course we have to take pictures, especial from baby’s. But this time also from a farmer and his somewhat aggressive bull.
Back in the hotel we are informed that they have arranged a car for tomorrow but we can only visit Nagzira.

Shortly after seven the driver arrives. Since he does not speak a word English he gets his instructions from the desk man. For breakfast we stop by an eatery at the end of the street. The previous days I often saw people eat a rice dish. I give it a try and from now on poha stands high on my breakfast list.
In high speed we drive towards Nagzira. Halfway we pass many workers, wearing different coloured safety helmets. They travel by bike, bus, cycle or just walk, I estimate there are several thousands. Their destination is an electricity plant in Tirora.

Half past eight we reach the sanctuary. I fill many necessary registration forms. Since they are written in Hindi I need a lot of assistance. The man sums up some amounts and the result is 962 rs, a rather reasonable entry price. But I just have to pay 300 rs. A guide joins us and we enter the park.
Nagzira is mainly woodland where we spot many monkeys, deer, sambar, nilgau and of course all kind of birds. As far as tigers concerned we just see the footprints. The accessible part of the park is not so stretched out and we take most trails more than once. It is great trip, at this time of the day we don't see many other visitors. After an hour or three we have seen enough and take a chai just outside the fence. Then we drive with the same speed back to Gondia.

To be sure if a room in Chhindwara Wiesje phones a hotel, surprisingly the man there speaks fluent English.

Chhindwara, 7 – 11 March


After a dosa breakfast we go half past eight to the bus-stand. At the information we ask which is the bus to Chhindwara. The men talk it over and hand me a note. We have to wait an hour for the bus to Balaghat and from there take another one. In the sun it is already hot and we look for a shady spot. Before we sit, one of the men points us to a bus that leaves earlier. We join the other passengers and have plenty room for our luggage on the back-bench. The driver starts the engine, proceeds ten metre, stops alongside another bus and leaves. For unknown reasons we all have to board that bus. We just find two seats for us and the luggage, it is rather cramped. En route more passengers board so it becomes very crowded. At the border of Madhya Pradesh most people get off.
Half past then we reach Balaghat. Men shout loudly the destinations of the different buses. Ours is a smaller private one with a separate luggage compartment. Within a few minutes we are on our way. As usual the conductor sells the tickets. In the following towns a peculiar method is used. At the beginning of the city a man comes in and sells the tickets to all the passengers who board here. At the end of the town he splits the profits with the conductor and leaves.

The first part of the journey goes to an agricultural area but soon we enter the woods and climb with hairpins in the direction of Seoni. There are some problems in front of the bus. It is so crowded that we cannot see it clear. One of the passenger vomits or something falls, but a lot of people get wet and dirty clothes. In Seoni we have a break of a quarter. The passengers have time to make themselves decent. The two conductors clean the benches with newspapers. Some scoops of sand on the bottom finish the cleaning process.

Back on the road two men get a quarrel, a lot of shouting and one pulls a sharp awl. The conductors calm the situation. But this trip stays tumultuous. Another man chows tobacco and spits regular out of the window. In several cases the spit flew back through the rear window in the face of one of the conductors. He threats to expel the offender.
But everything ends and just after three we are in hotel Saket. In contrary with yesterdays phone-call nobody at the desk speaks a word English. We manage to get a room and since the best one is just 1000 rs. we take that. It has a nice view over an artificial lake. After a while we discover there is no electricity. When we go down to complain the owner and his nephew have arrived, one of them we had on the phone.

We want to explore Chhindwara and ask them where are the highlights. They assure us there is nothing special to see here. We go for a walk around the lake and from there we proceed in the adjacent streets. Before the temples and at the corners stakes are erected. Back in the hotel we here that these are lit tonight as start of the Holi celebration. The hotel has a garden restaurant with good food where we are the only guests.
After nightfall I go back since I'm curious if the celebrations have started. People makes sacrifices but the fires are not lit yet.

During previous trips we have had our share of the Holi colours and we stay in the hotel. Most of the personal has a day off but we manage to get a simple breakfast. We spend the day reading and puzzling. It is difficult to get the lunch, an occasional cook warms some sausages and serves this with fruit.
I still want to have a ride with the metre gauge and we decide to go by train to Sausar and return by bus. At six in the evening I walk to the station for tickets. It is quiet, nearly all shops are closed. There is no availability for tomorrow so I buy tickets for Saturday.

This night I fell sick with vomiting and diarrhoea. Most part of the day I stay in bed.
In the afternoon it gets better and I feel well enough to undertake something. With a cycle we go to the tribal museum. It is mostly uphill so the cyclist has to walk, this way of
transport still embarrasses us.

The entrance fee for the museum is just two rupees. It is nice with many utensils, music instruments ant objects of art. There is no English information but we hardly miss this.
One of the coming days we want to visit Patalkot. We ask the owner of the hotel how we can organize that. He starts with an elaborate description of the route and ignores my interruptions. Only after he has finished I can explain that we need a hired cat. Of course that is no problem.

When we rise at half past six I feel healthy again. We walk to the station where we have poha and a cup of chai. The train is already waiting and we sit spacious in the sleeper class. School girls and a young chai vendor ask us to take photos.

The train leaves at half past eight and the first part of the trip we travel through a rather flat area. The preparations for the gauge conversion are in full swing. The TTE joins us and tells that it will be completed in three years. Most stations are in the middle of nowhere and at the tiniest station the man's service is ended. As farewell gift he gives us some oranges, the local product. Other passengers follow this gesture and at the end we have so many that I put some in our backpack.

The second part of the journey is downhill through the woodlands, it is very nice but by far not as spectacular as the trip to Coonoor. More people board and it gets very crowded. Half past eleven we are in Sausar and leave the train, together with many other passengers.
We follow the crowd to the road an ask for the Chhindwara bus stop. It is just here but it will last an hour before it arrives. So we have plenty of time for a chai. Just after our first sip we are warned that the bus arrives. It is full and we both have to stand. But the passengers are nice and we get both half a seat. At every stop villagers board, they sit calm on the floor. That is wise since during the hilly part we rock to all sides. After an hour we are back in less half the time of the rail trip. This bus continues to Pachmarhi and seems to be the only one.
Back in the hotel we finish the arrangements for tomorrows Patalkot trip and ask for the price of a car to Pachmarhi. With the bus we arrive rather late and the luggage will be difficult to store.

We have hardly seen anything of Chhindwara and after lunch we go to the centre. It is small and besides some temples not very rewarding.

After an hour we are back at the bus stand from where we walk to the hotel. A young man starts an English conversation with us. He follows a language course and his teacher, who walks behind us, stimulates him to practice. Close to the hotel is a modern shopping hall which we want to visit and there we say goodbye to him. We just look into the shop and don't buy anything. Still, as we leave, we are asked to make an entry in the guest book.
Back in the hotel the owner gives a lengthy explaination about the Patalkot trip, it costs 1250 rs. A few people join the conversation and then I realize they are Assis and Doulat, the pupil and his teacher. Assis claims he knows Patalkot and asks if he can join as guide. Also Doulat wants to come. It will be cramped with four passengers in an Indica. Since we have no luggage we agree but tell the men that we leave at eight and don't want to wait.

Shortly before eight Ankit, the driver, is there as is Doulat. We phone Assis but he is still at home, bad luck for him.

First we drive in the direction of Tamia. halfway there is a roadblock. A lorry has overturned and a breakdown truck tries to get it back on its wheels. It takes a lot of time, Ankit gets impatient and drives careful underneath the drag-rope. Doulat is car sick and we change places so he can sit in front. But also there he regular hangs his head outside the window. Ankit is quite religious, by every temple that we pass he respectful greets the gods with his horn.

The scenery around us gets better and better, in the nearness of Tamia it is a great hilly landscape. Just before the town we take a crossroad. There is a small eatery where we have breakfast. The landscape is still hilly but gets more harsh while the road gets worse. After some time we reach Patalkot.

Near the viewpoint is a long fence and from there we can admire this beautiful valley. It looks as if the slopes go vertically down for several hundred metres.
From the viewpoint a, so to see endless, flight of stairs leads to the tiny villages at the bottom. With the four of us we start to descend. After a hundred steps we bump into two Indian families. They are from Nagpur and just hired a local guide. He leads them via a small path to a river and caves at the bottom. It sounds special and when they invite us to join them we decide to do so.

Before the descent starts we wait until some locals, carrying heavy bags on their head, climb up to the path. Half past ten the expedition begins. After a few minutes we realize it will be very heavy but decide to go on. The path deserves hardly that name, often it is invisible and then the only indications are white painted rocks. A few times I slip away, fortunate without hurting myself. The Nagpur ladies manage to walk this on city shoes. But the views around us are overwhelming. After nearly an hour we arrive on a more flat and grassy track and take some rest. We have only one bottle water with us, the others have nothing. They refresh themselves with the water out a muddy source, we don't dare to drink this.

We are still not half way and continue through the woodlands. Often the track is no more than the rocky bottom of a dry river. This all becomes to much for Wiesje, her leg starts to hurt. At half past twelve we reach the nice brook at the bottom of the valley. Everybody is glad that we made it so far. We rest for half an hour and those who like this go with their feet in the alga filled water. A little further is the temple. It is a simple one, beneath the overhang of a large rock stand several idols.

It is only now that we fully realize that there is no easy way back, we have to climb the same 5 kilometre. For my wife this becomes an ordeal and after every few hundred metres she has to take some rest. The Nagpur families are very sympathizing and stay with us. But after some time we tell them and the guide that they better can move on in their own tempo. Soon they are out of sight and the four of us continue. I seek a stick for Wiesje while Doulat and Ankit in turn help her. The men walk alongside the trail, take my wife by the hand and drag her upwards.

Another group with a guide descends. When they see us and hear how far it is they return. Their guide takes his big knife and cuts a proper stick. Sometime later our guide returns after he has dropped the others at the top. Then I remember that I still have some of yesterdays oranges in my backpack and we share these.

Everyone is relieved when we reach the stairs, even this last part is heavy. Exhausted we reach the end, it is five o'clock. After a short rest to recover our breath we drive to the nearest village. Finally we can drink. We are too tired to eat and since Doulat never eats outside his house only Ankit orders a meal.

It the dark back to Chhindwara. Doulat is car sick again and Ankit chows tobacco. He spits regular outside the other door. And we sit exhausted on the back bench. We are happy that we have save completed this trip. It is clear that in this condition it is ridiculous to go to Pachmarhi. So we decide for tomorrow we will take a car to Hoshangabad.
Eight o'clock we are back in the hotel. Everyone sees how exhausted we are and want the whole story. Doulat and Ankit leave with a significant tip, without their help we never made it back. A hotel boy goes to buy some beer. One of the bystanders is a masseur and he gives my wife a good treatment. We eat a little snack, refresh our selves and sleep early.

Hoshangabad, 12 -13 March


When we wake up I'm only stiff and tired but Wiesje can hardly walk. We go down where the boss informs us that he did not order the car for Hoshangabad since that trip is more expensive than to Pachmarhi. To us this is obvious and since the price is just 2600 rs. for a total distance of 400 km. we tell him to confirm.
Around ten Ankit picks us up. We depart but in the town centre he announces that we first go to see Doulat. His small education centre in an apartment above the bus stand. Of course we have to visit it and have some small talk with the pupils.

Than we are on our way and drive in the same direction as yesterday. Close to Tamia we stop for a chai, Ankit takes this opportunity to make a darshan in the opposing temple. The trip leads through a stunning and varying landscape. The two lane road is in perfect condition, apart for a short track around the junction to Pachamrhi. There is hardly any other traffic.
Around Piparia the scenery changes into wheat fields. Back on the main road the traffic is heavy. Of course we stop for a lunch. At three we arrive in Hoshangabad where Ankit brings us to the modern Namada hotel. The fence is closed and we end in hotel Hazuri. Normally my wife inspects the room but due to her physical condition it is my turn. It is not much but what can one expect for 450 rs. and I take the room. As Wiesje sees it she is not happy with it.

I feel fit enough for a walk through the town. Most shops are closed and it is not very cheerful. The Holi celebrations are not ended and youngsters are still throwing paint. The are so nice to ask first so I stay clean. The road to the ghats is blocked in a way that only pedestrians can pass. Around the entrance are numerous temples. There are few activities at the gath, just people who try to get rid of their colours.
When I go for beer I see that Namada is open but they have no vacancy. Our hotel has no restaurant, for dinner we have to go another hotel. This looks much better but we are so engaged with ourselves that we simply forget to ask if they have rooms. There is a lot of police in the streets. People behave as if they expect riots on this last night of Holi. All together we feel not happy with our situation.

To make things worse this night we are troubled by mosquito’s. We decide that we don't want to stay here and leave for Bhopal. In the morning we walk again to hotel Sant Krupa for breakfast. A cow enters the restaurant but he is not allowed to order.

Before we depart we want to find a hotel in Bhopal on the internet but this is not open before eleven. So we have plenty time to visit the ghats. Although many shops are still closed the general atmosphere is more vivid then yesterday. On the banks of the Narmada the sadhu's install their shelters. A large group women cross the river with all kind of merchandise and the first groups pilgrims roam around.

We reserve a hotel and are back in the hotel at half past twelve. The manager, the staff is very helpful, arranges a car and a quarter of an hour later we are on our way. The area through which we travel is not very attractive and their is heavy traffic on the road. After a chai stop we arrive around three in hotel Ranjeet and get a fine room for just 850 rs.
We have a quiet afternoon and make some plans for the coming days. A great plus of the hotel is that they serve beer so I don't have to do any shopping.

Bhopal, 14 – 16 March


A knock on the door wakes us, the boy asks us to order breakfast. We are not fans of room service and tell him we eat in the restaurant. When we arrive the personnel is still cleaning the hall but of course we can order.
I need a haircut, three hair dressers stand next to each other. The one I choose asks 30 rs, a head massage is included. After some shopping we take a rickshaw to the Taj-ul mosque. It is an imposing big complex with high-rising minarets.

Just as we arrive it is time for the noon service. Those devotees who are in time wash their feet in a basin, the stragglers enter the mosque unwashed. After the short service is completed we enter the mosque. A part of it is converted into a madrassa where young men study the Koran.
From here we walk towards the centre and visit internet. There is a mail from Emirates airlines, the Amritsar - Delhi flight by Kingfisher is cancelled, we are transferred to an Air India flight. Around us is the old bazaar of Bhopal, a fantastic area to stroll for a long time.

Back in the hotel we get our laundry back, it is not cleaned since the dhobi is on leave.

This time we take breakfast in the room. It takes some time and we get only half the items we have ordered. This is our second trip to Bhopal and we decide to go to some less visited places. Tomorrow we want to go to Bhimbetka and arrange a car, today our goal is Islamnagar.
According the man at the desk we can reach it by minibus, the stand is nearby the hotel. We ask around which bus we have to take and board. Since it is overcrowded we hang in the aisle. After a few stops we obtain a seat. The other passengers ask for our destination and it becomes clear that we have to proceed after the final stop. The conductor helps us and arranges a rickshaw for 100 rs. We drive about six kilometre over a narrow road through the countryside. Then we cross the remainders of an old fort and stop before the palace. The driver refuses to wait.

The entrance fee to the palace is 225 rs and a guide shows us around. His English is rudimentary but we understand that once the kings lived here. The garden is beautiful. Also the rest is nice and partly renovated. The guide opens the doors so we can go inside, one of the highlights is a bathroom.
Outside is a small shop where we can have a drink. Before we order a man approaches and invites us to visit another palace. Also this is closed with a fence but he has the key. This is really run-down and parts are too ruinous to enter. From the roof there are great views over the town, in a distance I see other old buildings. Since Wiesje still walks troublesome we don't explore them.

We have no idea how to return. To our surprise a small minibus stands at the road with Bhopal as destination. Since we don't know how frequent it rides we board at once. Now we go for only 10 rs. back to Hamida Road.
Late in the afternoon we go to the immense large vegetable and fruit market. Parts of it are indoor. Behind it is the meat market, this smells not so fresh and soon we return to our hotel.

Half past nine our driver, called Rewe, arrives. Again one who speaks hardly English and the hotel clerk helps us to finalize the program. With high speed we drive towards Bhojpur. The last part of the trip takes us over a small inferior road through the cornfields. At the end of a barren ridge we see the square remainders of the temple.

An enormous hall with a very high linga inside and some sculptures is all there is ever completed. Next to the temple is the clay slope which is used to drag the large stones.
A wide road with a surface of broken stones leads us to Bhimbetka. Rewe has never been here so he regular has to ask. After some time we reach the highway to Hoshangabad and then it is a short distance to the site. We have to pay 400 rs entrance fee for the car and the people. From this entry point we must continue for three kilometre. Through and imposing rocky area it brings us to an parking place.

From here a path of 1400 metre leads us along a number of caves and shelters. Many of them contain the famous rock paintings. These beautiful paintings are clearly to view and often very detailed. Here and there stand information boards. The last cave contains the painting of a large bull and from there we walk back over a slightly different route. There are not many other visitors under which just one foreigner. We end the sight seeing at the same moment and he starts to walk to the entrance.

Since we have a vacant seat we offer him a lift to Bhopal. Rewe thinks he can take advantage of this and wants more money. Of course we refuse this, but when we later ask him for the price of a drop in Vidisha his lowest offer is 1500 rs. I think he takes his revenge in this way.
Since we now have an Indian mobile I go to the internet and complete my IRCTC registration. After half an hour I still have not received the OTP code and return to the hotel. Once there the SMS message arrives, I go back and finish the process without further problems.

Vidisha, 17 – 20 March


Exact at 10 Rewa arrives, our luggage fits hardly in his Suzukli Alto. Again he drives in high speed, this time we drive through the cornfields. The road is perfect, we pass Sanchi and at eleven we reach Vidisha. On internet we have found the name of a hotel and Rewa asks regular to find it. After a while we reach a hotel. Rewa insists he has to look first, I guess he arranges some commission. Then we have a look and we decide to take a room. Just then I see that we are in Suroska, the hotel we selected. It is a reasonable hotel where nobody speaks English, the small AC room costs 1000 rs.
After a short period in the room we go to explore the town. The station is nearby and from there we continue our way, but this is not a very attractive neighbourhood. We have to wait a long time for a railway crossing. It is amusing how every biker and cyclist ignores the bars. On our way back we take a wrong turn and are in a better area. In one of the shops I buy some trousers.

Late in the afternoon I make another stroll on my own. Soon a good English speaking man is addressing me. He introduces himself as Ashish. We talk a while, he offers to show us around and gives me his phone number. He leaves, I forget to ask him where I can find a beer shop. So I search for it, cross the attractive centre and ask again. A young man points towards a small street. I take it and arrive at the beer shop near the busstand. From here it is a walk of fifteen minutes back to the hotel. I tell Wiesje about my meeting with Ashish and we decide to phone him. He answers the call but is on his way to Bhopal and will stay there a day.

The noise of the railway station wakes us early and given that we stay here for some days we decide to take another room. This one is larger and is on the street side. The restaurant is not open in the morning, again we depend on the room service. We get a SMS from Ashish, he offers to make a plan. Today we want to visit the Udaygiri caves which we can manage on our own.

We walk to the station where we hire a rickshaw for 200 rs. The caves are a few kilometres outside the town. At the entrance sits an elderly guide, he explains that there are caves to the right and to the left. We first go to the right and he opens the fence of the very simple cave. Then we continue along the path that passes into a difficult stair. For my wife this is still too strenuous and I go alone. At the top are a closed tea stall and the ruins of a temple. There are some more ruins but I see that the visitors are chased away by bees and I don't give it a try. The panorama is great. Deep beneath me I see other caves, I can walk towards them but I return.

These caves are also reachable through the next entrance and our driver brings us. The admission to the small terrain is free. The caves are shallow so we can see the statues through the fences without hiring a guide. The sculptures at the outside are severely damaged.
Our rickshaw driver wants us to visit Sanchi, this we have already done during a previous trip. It is hard work to convince him that we just want to see local sites. After a chai we go to the Heliodorus pilar. Here is also a guide, he wants that we sign the guest-book. Next to the Bijamandal temple at the other side of the town. The fence is closed with barbed wire. Another visitor arrives and he arranges a young boy to lead us to the fence at the other side. It is a mosque is build on the remainders of an older Vishnu temples and is so ruinous that it is hard to image how it ever was. The terrain around it is filled with wreckages of statues.

Early in the afternoon we are back in the hotel and have lunch. In the hotel is a kind of political meeting. I call Ashish, he is at that meeting and as it is finished he and a friend come to our room. So far as we understand both are farmers but they have also a house in the town. For tomorrow we want to visit Udaypur and Ashish will arrange a car but does not mention a price. He invites us for dinner at his house.
At eight he picks us up and in ten minutes we walk to the remote street where he lives. Many people wait in the room. They greet us and most of them disappear. As welcome we get a glass water followed by chips and fruits. And of course there is beer. In the meantime the cricket match India – Pakistan is on the TV and regular someone comes to view parts of it. Some friends arrive and together we have a chapati diner. Again we try to get a rate for the car but get no answer. With a little too much beer we climb on the back of the bikes and Ashish and a friend drive us back to the hotel.

This time I go to an eatery a buy poha for breakfast. Around nine Ahish and the driver arrive. The man owns a large but very old vehicle with a hole in the floor. Moreover the horn does not work, we always thought that implies total-loss in India. The price is 10 rs a kilometre and is not negotiable. Ashish disappears and we pick up another guy, who speaks some English and will act as interpreter. First the driver refuels, reduces the pressure in the tyres and then we start.

The road we take is under construction, some parts are very bad other parts are just rocks. Half past ten we arrive in Gyraspur. The temple is on the edge of the hills and we see it from far. In the village we take a chai. Opposite us is the so called eight pillar temple, these pillars are all that's remaining. The Mala Devi temple is also in a bad condition but it has nice carvings at the outside. The entrance is closed and we just enjoy the beautiful views around us. Then a man on a bicycle arrives, he has a key and opens the temple. Inside the pillars and walls are crooked, we disturb the rest of the bats. Back to the village we stop near the remainders of another large temple complex, what rests here are four pillars and some arches.

Before we go to Udaypur the driver inflates the spare tyre. This road is terrible bad. The first part goes through the woods further on we see strange, temple shaped, hills. The driver stops at every water pump since his car is very thirsty. At one o'clock we reach Udaypur. The temple is in the middle of the town. The streets are nearly too narrow for our car but the driver manages to reach the temple. This one is beautiful preserved or restored with nice statues and carvings. Around the central sanctuary stand several smaller ones.

The original intention was to go from here to Ashish's farm. He phones that this trip is cancelled and that we will meet in Basoda for lunch. When we call him again he does not pick up the phone. The lunch is in some rather obscure eatery. We think that the men choose this one because meat is served.
Back in Vidisha we pay the driver and then search for an internet. We cannot fine it and everyone directs us into another direction. As we find one it is out of order. When I buy a bottle water I ask again. The man speaks no English and indicates to a narrow spiral staircase. On the third floor are some computers. It is dark, we need our torch to see the keyboard, but it works.
After dinner we try again to get in contact with Ashis, it is fruitless.

We are rather tired. The idea was to visit the fort in Raisen but we decide to stay here. Most of the day we spend in our room, alternated with walks through the town. Tomorrow we leave for Datia, Wiesje calls the only hotel that we are aware of. The man does not speaks English so she cannot ask for a room.

Ashis gives us a ring, yesterday an uncle of him suddenly died and he had to organize the ceremonies.

Gwalior, 21 – 25 March


In the morning we pay the hotel bill and walk to the station. The train is twenty minutes late and crammed. In the daytime everybody seems to board in the Sleeper class, the TEE controls only those passengers listed on his reservation chart. Our seats are occupied and only after we act angry and raise our voices the others give us some space. I sit with five on our bench, Wiesje has more comfort with three other passengers. Of course, as we have installed ourselves, they turn out to be nice persons, a group on the way to Kashmir.

Half past two we are in Datia and take a rickshaw. We show the driver a note with the name of the hotel. Soon we ride outside the town and it turns out he is on his way to the MP hotel. We let him stop and take us to the hotel of our choice. But they have no vacancy as neither have the two other hotels in town. Near the last one a man does not believe this, but his mediation does not change anything. Since we are not interested in the MP hotel the only solution is Gwalior. Our new aid recommends Hotel Shelter as a budget option. We call it and reserve a room. Considering the time we decide to take a car and the rickshaw takes us to the taxi stand. After some negotiation we get a taxi for 1500 rs.
After a delay of an hour in Datia we are on the move again. The first part is a perfect four-lane road but it is not completely finished. So we alternate racing with bumping, for the last part we take the old two-lane road. At five we arrive in the hotel. The budget price is 2800, rather expensive for us but we don't wish to look for another one.

After the complementary breakfast we take a rickshaw to Urwahi gate of the fort. According to our guidebook this is the easiest access. At the parking place a man uses his map to show us how far it is to the entrance and how stretched out the fort is. For 400 rs he offers a car. For a moment we hesitate and then decide to accept this offer. Of course he is a middleman and for urgent matters we get his phone number. It is a narrow and steep uphill road and we are happy that we don't have to walk. The driver drops us near the palace and tells us that the visit takes at least an hour.

The entrance price for the Man Mandir palace is 100 rs. A part of the murals at the outside is preserved and there are nice sculptures. First we walk to the big and impressive entrance gate from where we have a great panorama. Then we enter the palace. My wife does not like cellars but she decides to join me this time. We have a torch with us but despite that Wiesje returns after the first stair. I take the time to explore the several stores. When I'm in the fresh air again I don't see my wife and am afraid she got lost in the cellars. So I go back and don't see her there either. After some time I go to the entrance and a guard points to the corner where Wiesje sits. Behind the palace is another group of temples but we don't want to pay the extra 250 rs for the entrance.

As we arrive at the parking area our car is not there and our phone has no connectivity. We walk to highest point around but this makes no difference. Then we hear our driver yelling. According to him he had to refuel the car but we think he serves simultaneous another group. We drive along the various other temples on the plateau. The first ones we visit are the Sas and Bahul temples, for these is our entry-ticket valid. That applies also for the Mandir temple. Alls these temples are very different from construction and all worth a visit.

The trip comes to an end and we drive back. The steep road has only one lane and a long row of cars is waiting. Neither arrives a car from the other side. Our driver phones and goes halfway downwards. There stands a truck that cannot make the climb and blocks the road. We have to walk along the blockade where another taxi waits for us. This gives us the opportunity to have a good look at the immense Jain statures alongside the road. On the lower parking place are so many rickshaws that the drivers lower their prices without any haggling from our side.

We go to an internet in the centre of Gwalior. I still have to synchronize my Cleartrip and IRCTC accounts to be able to use them. I try to do this but don't get a SMS from IRCTC. Amother problem is our mobile, there is no shop where we can recharge it. Back in the hotel we tell the man at the desk about this problem. They send a boy but it shows that in Madhya Pradesh one cannot recharge an Uninor simcard.
Our train tickets have Datia as boarding point and I walk to the station to change this in Gwalior. On a scratch of paper I have to write an official request. I handover this together with the printed tickets and the officer make the changes. I don't get the tickets back so on my way to the hotel I print them again in internet café. Back in the hotel the OTP code of the IRCTC has arrived so to the internet again and without problems I finish the synchronisation.

Our idea for tomorrow is to visit the Datia palace and we ask the desk clerk if he can arrange a car. For today we have a look at some tombs here, I have written their names on a paper and show this to a rickshaw driver. He does not understand it and goes inside the hotel where the personnel explain it. For 80 rs, a little steep, he brings us.

I think that these tombs are on different locations but they stand together in a park. The Ghaus tomb is huge and has many decorated windows. We have to cover our head before we are allowed inside. I pick a green shawl from the pile. The fence around the grave is filled with small notes and flowers. The Tansen tomb and the other ones are rather simple.
When we leave the compound our driver is waiting. His price was including the return trip but we want to room around here. Unfortunately the neighbourhood is not very attractive. Also the market is overflown with flies so we don't stay long.
We have a drink and take a rickshaw to the chhartris. When we arrive it is not yet three o'clock and the park just opens after an hour. We don't want to wait and go to the Scindia palace.

It is an enormous and pompous complex. The interior design corresponds with this. Unbelievable what a abundance. In the dining room a railway track runs over the table to transport the drinks. In another hall gigantic candelabra hang from the ceiling.
Back in the hotel the clerk confirms the car for Datia. Not far from the hotel is a garden restaurant where we go for dinner. Annex is a bar, in front of that stand two armed guards. They deny us the entrance to the garden but the waiters convince them that we are harmless. The beer and the food taste good.

The car arrives at exactly half past eight. The driver has his 'brother' with him, this time we accept the extra passenger. The man leaves the car as we take the road to Sonagiri.

At ten we stand at the foot of the hill with the temples. Boys run towards us and offer a chair to carry us around. But we are not so old that we have to use these. Of course at a Jain sanctuary we must take off our shoes off and leather items are forbidden. A perfect English speaking young man introduces himself as a guide and asks 250 rs. for his services, we accept his offer. There are 77 temples on the hill and in the last decades nearly all of them are painted white. We climb in a moderate tempo and in the meantime the guide explains the history of the Jainism and the individual temples. He selects those who are worth a visit. Some of them are very old while other are build in recent times.

On the top of the hill stands the most important temple, here a continuous service is going in. From where we stand we can see the palace of Datia. There is another path across the hills to descend. This is difficult to walk, certainly while it is hot already, so we take more or less the same road back. Also here the hot stones trouble our barren feet. Men closes the temples, at the hottest time of the day the hill is closed.
From here to Datia is a short distance, the driver parks the car at the entrance of the town and we walk to the Bir Singdheo palace. Again a guide offers himself and together with a French couple we take him. After some haggling he is satisfied with 200 rs.

The palace is seven storeys high. From the two lowest levels we see only the stairways and we are glad we have our torch with us. The next two floors we watch elaborate. Great sculptures, wall paintings and mosaic. And of course splendid views over the town. The upper three levels are so ruinous that it is not allowed to visit them.
Half past three we are back in the hotel. In the room we order a drink. The waiter makes a very deep bow and leaves the room walking backwards. In the hotel is a big reception and we eat again in the garden restaurant. This time we are at once allowed to enter.

We are still in bed as the phone rings, the clerk asks if it is true that we will check-out to day. For the umpteenth time I tell them that we leave tonight. Immediately they call again to ask if we pay by cash or card. A friendly wake-up call.
After a lazy morning we take a rickshaw to the park with the chhartris. The fence is open. Spread in a large garden stand seven tombs with the appearance of a temple. A large part of the garden is now used to grow vegetables. Many young couples visit this quiet place We walk around until four, by that time the doors of the chhartris are opened. Inside, besides the tombs, stand the partial dressed statues of the rulers. There is music on the background.

After dinner we go at half past nine to the station. The train arrives at another platform as planned and our coach is far away from the place where we expect it. It is good that the trains stands some time here. We have an lower and an upper berth, a lady has already occupied the lower one. She claims she can not go up but she is with a group and mutual they change.

Patiala, 26 28 March


My wife hardly sleeps in the train since she is troubled by the noise the other passengers make. In contrast with this I sleep well and even don't notice that we pass New Delhi. Around six I'm awake. Soon we get a chai to start the day. In Ambala Canton, where most of our fellow travellers descend, we get our breakfast. Just after eleven we arrive in Patiala. The rickshaw driver asks 100 rs., since we have no idea how far it is we accept. There is a festival and the road to the hotel is blocked now this is the market area. The police man refuses to let us pass, but an appeal on his commanding officer solves the problem. In Green's hotel we take for 1500 rs. an Ac-room.

After some rest we are ready to explore the city. The Kali temple opposite the hotel is the heart of the celebrations and people line up to enter. We walk to the centre and try to recharge our mobile but also in Punjab this is not possible for Uninor. For foreigners it is neither possible to buy another sim-card. The centre is stretched out and enjoyable. With a cycle we return to the street market near the hotel. Most trade concerns toys, utensils and of course offerings for the temple rituals.
Late in the afternoon I go to the Baradari Gardens. It is just some five minutes away and lovely place to stroll around.

The service in the hotel is very slow, it takes an hour before we have completed our breakfast. I have written down some sights in Patiala and ask the personnel if we need a taxi. According to them an auto rickshaw is fine. The tourist office is closed and we walk to the rickshaw stand. One of the men speaks good English and pretend to know the places. For 350 rs. Satnam will show us around.

We start with the Sheesh Mahal, a palace and museum. Due to restoration we cannot go inside. In front of the palace is a large, but now dry, lake. A suspension bridge connect both sides. We walk through the nice garden around the lake. From here we have a good look on the big palace.
Next stop is the Moti Bagh. I expect another palace but it is a Sikh sanctuary. Around the temple are demonstrations going on. As far as I understand the murderer of a prime minister will be hanged within a few days. For some people he is a freedom fighter, for others a terrorist. Tomorrow it is a holy day for the Sikhs and then there is a general strike.

Before we enter the sanctuary we must wash our hands and feet. I also have to cover my head with a cloth. Satnam, he is a Sikh but has no turban and is clean shaved, accompanies us. Inside is the tomb of a saint, the priest stands behind it and the visitors sit in front. A colourful picture with all the turbans. We walk around the grave and set ourselves at the side. The priest starts a service, the devotees stand opposite him and answer the priest from time to time. Then they all kneel and bow, it is an impressing happening. Satnam has taken food inside, it got blessed and then he shares it with us. Remarkable is that everyone takes pictures of the ceremony.
Satnam asks if we want coffee, and to our surprise he takes us to his home. With his wife and son he lives together with his mother and his sisters family. His father was officer in the security force and killed during the aftermath following the assassination of Indira Ghandi.
After the coffee and the inevitable cookies we continue our trip to the Dukh Niwaran, another Sikh temple.

Of course we undergo another purification ritual before we enter. It is crowded, crush barriers and waiters control the mass. We enter a big hall with a gold-painted ceiling. In the middle is an exposure of holy swords where everyone drops his donations. Priests crawl around and gather the money. Through an exit door we leave the hall and stand near a large square water tank. Many people take a bath, men put the dagger in their turban. We round the water and visit a small museum with an exhibition about the history and the persecution of the Sikhs.

We cross the city and go to the old Qila Mubarak fort. A large porch vault is the entrance to the terrain. Also here the main building is closed due to restoration. The Durbar hall is open it is enormous and now and museum. On the wall the paintings of the former rulers and a lot of weapons. The painted shields are beautiful as are the decorated doors. Old cars and a carriage complete the collection. We walk around the fort, this is in a fair condition, the other buildings are ruins.

There is indeed also a Mothi Bagh palace, again at the other side of the town. It has 15 dining halls and according to Satnam 365 bedrooms, one for every wife of the ruler. Now it is a sports academy and we are only allowed to visit the garden. There stands a railway carriage, the Maharadja won this with a bet.

We are getting tired but Satnam wants us to visit a modern Krishna temple. We have to wait some time before it opens. Then we go back to the hotel. It is half past four and we have completely forgotten to lunch.

Everyone assures us that today Punjab is closed and we have a relaxed start. Later in the morning we walk to the bus stand. Only the information desk is open. Our next destination is Firozpur. There is only one direct connection, very early in the morning. A better option is to go to Bathinda first and take another bus from there. We go to the centre, all the shops are closed. In the streets we see many police and military, they control the small scale demonstrations. There is a lot of tension and we rush back to the hotel.

Later in the afternoon we walk to the Baradari Gardens. There are two sections. The 'Rock' part with birds in cages closes within ten minutes after our arrival. This is enough time to see it all, the rocks are artificial objects constructed from concrete. The larger section on the other side of the road is more rewarding. There grow many flowers and special trees. Some of them are the home for large colonies of bats. Just a few people use the training circuit.
In the town it is quiet now but the shops are still closed. Adjacent to the Kali temple is a farm. We look inside and get a guided tour. On the ground floor are the stables for some 200 cows, in the first floor stand the bulls. The milk is used inside the temple.

Bathinda, 29 – 30 March


We wake up early and the restaurant is not open yet. Before eight we are on the street. There is just one cycle rickshaw, the driver insists that there is enough space for us and our luggage. It just fits. It is a short ride tot the bus stand where the bus to Bathinda is about to leave.
Half past eight we are on our way, without even a cup of coffee. As usual the bus makes several stops before leaving the town and by that time it is overcrowded. At a given moment we sit with seven passengers on the rear bench. The road is fine but the scenery consists again of dull wheat fields. There are remarkable many police controls and checkpoints.
Around noon we arrive in Bathinda and decide to stay here instead to continue to Firozpur. We have the name of a budget hotel, Sun City, and a rickshaw drops us. It is a very nice hotel but the tariff is much higher then on the internet site. We can afford it and, with a discount, we take for 1700 rs. a comfortable and spacious AC-room. Of course we are hungry and order coffee and a lunch. Before she can finish the meal Wiesje feels herself sick and goes to bed.

I go out to buy bananas and somewhat to drink, not far from the hotel is a nice shopping area. On the way towards it I see also the hotel that we selected, it has nearly the same name as ours. But it looks grim and I don't think we liked to stay there.
We sit a while in the room and I decide to visit the Qila Mubarak fort. I take a rickshaw and tell the driver to go to the fort. After a short ride we stop near the railway station, the man has obvious no idea of what I want. He talks with some colleagues and one of them brings me. The fort is constructed with bricks and the walls are immense high. The entrance is completely restored and also at the inside repair work on the walls is going on. The terrain between it is completely empty.

At one side is a large gathering of Sikh's, I don't feel the need to attend this. A boy asks me if he can practice his English by showing me around. We climb a stair in the wall that leads to a porch. There is an opening to the top of the wall from here but it is closed by a fence. My guide explains this is due to the restoration and here is also the end of his tour.
Near the entrance is another stairway by which I reach the top of the wall. Here is a small Sikh sanctuary. I take off my shoes, wash my hands and walk on. Besides the temple four men hold a small service. One of them points at my head, I take my handkerchief but he offers me a cloth. The temple is small and sober but offers a great view over the town. The men invite me to join them, when they have finished the recital of verses they offer me a chai. We sit and talk for a while.

I walk around the outside of the fort, large parts of the walls are crumbling down. It is not far to the hotel so I walk back. My wife still does not feel well and I have dinner on my own.

Since Wiesje still feels sick we stay a long time in the room before I go for a walk. By now I know that route and go to the bus stand. From there I continue to the centre. In this part are several small markets and remarkable many butchers. In no time I am near the fort again. From here I start to explore the bazaar for a second time. Striking are the many men on the street which dye shawls.

Later in the afternoon we go for a short walk together.

Firozpur, 31 March – 1 April


Fortunately my wife feels well again but yet we decide to hire a car to Firozpur instead of travelling by bus. The hotel manager arranges one for 2000 rs. Uncommon to normal the driver arrives half an hour before the scheduled time. But then he tells that we have to go to his home since he has forgotten his drivers license and we know we are still in India. It is about two hours drive and again mainly through endless wheat fields.
Already in the outskirts of Firozpur the driver asks bystanders for the direction to our hotel. After a long gathering the men give us a direction. It is correct and at one o'clock we arrive at the Mittal Guesthouse. It is an imposing building in colonial style and we like it immediately. For 1700 rs. we have a large room. Before we have unpacked a boy tells us to go to the desk. The receptionist apologizes, she has not consulted the reservation book. Tomorrow there is a wedding party and we can stay only for one night. She has already arranged an alternative. We don't want to install ourselves twice and decide to leave now. Although it is only a hundred meters a taxi is arranged and the boy goes with us.

Hotel Kay Sons is in the same price class, but modern without any charm. The main reason for out stay here is a visit to the border ceremony at Hussainiwala. It is a copy of the more famous ceremony at Wagah but in a smaller setting. After lunch I go to the reception and ask how we can accomplish this. If we want they will try to arrange a car for today but tomorrow is a better option and so we decide.

The centre of the town is nearby and on the way I pass the beer shop. Firozpur offers nothing real special but roaming around in the small winding streets is great. On many spots the streets are covered with clothes to provide some shadow. On the way back I buy a beer, rather cheap for 70 rs. The restaurant we choose for dinner has also low prices, these match the quality.

Now it is my turn to have some physical problems, happily Imodium stops the diarrhoea. We go to the internet where we have a long chat with a, now in Canada living, Indian man.
In the afternoon we get for 600 rs a car to the Hussainiwala border. Just after four the driver picks us up. It is a rather short ride to the Pakistan border. In the last part we cross some bridges which are in a very bad condition. The driver parks the car and accompanies us to the ceremony. We have to line up for a simple registration procedure and get a note with the number of persons of our group After a superficial security check we walk together with the other visitors to the border. Guards shout and direct everyone to one side of the road.

The borderline diagonal crosses the street and tribunes are erected on both sides. Men and woman are separated. The Pakistan tribunes are higher and all are already packed. In front of our side stand chairs for the VIP's, as the only foreigners there is also our seat.

Half past five the ceremony starts. Six soldiers from both countries execute it. Turn by turn the man march forward in parade step, stretching their feet as high as their shoulders. The public encourages fanatically their own soldiers. When all the men are on the spot each of them performs a show to impose the other side. They stamp with the feet on the ground, do rifle exercises, look angry, stick out their chest and make threatening gestures. The public goes wild, sings patriotic songs and cheers loud, the Pakistanis make the most noise.

It is fantastic and the Indian soldiers do their exercises just before our nose. After half an hour the buglers arrive and the flags are ceremonial lowered. The border terrain is so small that one of the soldiers must cross the border to accomplish this. When we walk back the car the regular border troops take their position.

Back in the hotel I go for beer. I get another brand and when I open the bottle it is stout and tastes like licorice water. I want to trade the unopened bottle but the standard beer is sold out. With the help of a bystander who speaks English I get my money back and go to the next shop.

Amritsar (and back), 2 – 6 April


This night I have again an attack of the Delhi belly. In the morning it goes somewhat better and we decide to stick by our plan and leave for Amritsar. But instead of the bus we take again a taxi. The hotel arranges this and we get the same driver as yesterday. At half past nine we depart. The first part of the route leads us over small roads, around us wheat fields and brick-makers. Then we reach the high-road that goes to Amritsar.

We know that the Grand hotel is near the railway station but it is in a bystreet and we pass it several times before we see it. For 1600 rs. we get a large AC-room. The hotel is build around a triangle shaped garden. Outside the room are chairs from where you can enjoy this. Here it is very tranquil despite the heavy traffic around the station.
I have still problems with my bowels and we stay in the hotel. Both of us feel that the intensive way of travelling that we like so much becomes to hard now we are in our late sixties.

It becomes monotonous but today again we don't feel healthy. We are glad that we stay in a comfortable hotel where it is no punishment to stay in the room and the garden.

At the end of the day we take a rickshaw to the Durgiana temple. The structure of this Hindu temple resembles the image I have of the Golden temple. It is a beautiful scenery, just a few devotees and tourist visit this place. We have the impression that the temple stands in a nice shopping area. At the cross-point are many shops but after a metre of fifty there are just ordinary houses. Close to our hotel is a market where we spend some time. We look at a flash light without the intention to buy it, the seller asks 450 rs. When we walk away he offers it for 200 rs., so we take it.

We want to visit the Golden temple early in the morning. At eight o'clock they don't serve breakfast in the hotel and also the eateries around it are still closed. Again we start the day without breakfast. The rickshaw driver asks 100 rs., the hotel cleaner says this is too much and negotiates it down to half.
Of course there are already many visitors around the temple. We deliver our shoes and I buy a cloth to cover my head. Just like all the others we walk around the central pond.

Everywhere people are praying and many take a bath. Also here the men put their dagger in their hair before they go into the water. It is a serene and peaceful setting.
We have no impression that it is crowded but on the path to the central temple stands already a long queue. I take my place, as I stand between the crush barriers I see that there are two different queues. I'm in the slower one, every five minutes a group can enter the temple. The people in the other row constantly move on. Inside the temple is much smaller than I expect. The pictures on the television give this idea.

There is little time to stay inside, guards push on the people to make room for the next ones. It is so crowded that I miss the stairways to the first floor. Queuing takes three quarter, the visit, at the most, three minutes. But there is much more to see and we stroll a time along all the other temples in the main building. In our condition we don't take the risk with the temple food. Some where outside is a rather modern eatery. There we have breakfast. before we go back to the hotel.

In the evening I visit the temple again and take a cycle rickshaw. The elderly biker does not manage to cross the viaduct and I have to walk and push the rickshaw. The illuminated temple in the moonlight gives an overwhelming impression. The queue for the Golden temple is as long as this morning.

This is the last day of our trip, tonight we fly back home. We had booked a code-shared Kingfisher/Emirates flight. Due to the problems with Kingfisher we now fly with Air India to Delhi. There is internet in the hotel and try to check-in. It works for the first leg but in the hotel I cannot print the boarding pass. The check-in with Emirates does not work. We tell the hotel people that we leave in the evening and pay the bill. Also we arrange a taxi to bring us to the airport.

We spotted an internet near the Golden temple and their we print our boarding pass. Nearby is the Jallianwala Bagh, especially impressive because you know what happened there. With a shared taxi we return to the hotel.
After an elaborate lunch we pack slowly our luggage and hang around in the garden. Strictly at six our car is there and within half an hour we are on the airport. The flight to Delhi is a domestic one but lands on the international terminal. Within an hour we are there, it is about eleven o'clock.

The plane is late and we leave around five in the morning, so we have a long time to hang around on the airport. In Dubai the plane halts a long way from the gates and we need to wait for the bus. All together it is eight o'clock when we are there and our next flight leaves in half an hour. Ground personnel leads us along a short way to the security, we get our seat numbers and soon we take off.
In all the consternation one of our backpacks stays behind. It is neatly delivered at our home the next day.
South India 2011
Date Posted: Jul 7th, 2011 at 23:35 - Comments (2)
Mainly the South

It's winter in the Netherlands and for us that means it is time to visit India again. The original idea is an extensive journey in the South followed by a flight to the North and a visit to Sikkim. Shortly before we leave we get an invitation for a wedding in Jodhpur and include that in our 10 weeks itinerary.

Chennai, 25 - 27 January 2011

We train to Amsterdam, take the Emirates flight and arrive in Chennai at 8.30 am. Within an hour we pass the customs and get a pre-paid taxi. It is Republic day and the cab driver gives us a small Indian flag. At ten we are in hotel Kanchi, we mailed previously to announce our arrival and they expect us.
We take a little rest before we go out for a walk. It is a quiet part of the town, most shops are closed today. After a while we stroll around Egmore station. We don't recognize anything, no wonder since our previous visit was in 1982.

Due to the time difference and jet lag we are not very active and it is noon before we go out. The rickshaw driver in front of the hotel insists that it is 100 rs. to Fort George and challenges us to verify it at the hotel. We do it and they advise us to walk down the road and take a rickshaw from there. Here we get one for 60.
The security guards at the fort have a quick look in our back-pack, other people are inspected more conscientious. Only the walls and canons of the original fort still remain. Within these walls are barracks, old crumbled buildings and a church with a beautiful garden. It is close to the sea and an hour later we go to the Marina.

There are a lot of shops on the beach and we pass them as we make the rather long walk to the sea. A lot of people are paddling, there is some wind so it is nice to walk along the coastline. But the sun burns and we return to the hotel.

It is again noon before we leave the hotel. We have to do some shopping and want to go to the Bharati Salai. We hire a rickshaw and try to explain this to the driver. He does not understand us and when we see some shops we stop. We buy what we need and walk again to the Marina.
Before we have decided what to do next a rickshaw driver stops. He offers to bring us for 50 rs. to the St Thomas church and the Kapleeswarar temple. We accept this and tell him we don't want to go to emporiums. The white cathedral is nearby, it is nice but not a place to visit for hours. And then the driver tells the temple is closed until four o'clock. To pass away the time he suggests some shopping and laughing we accept this. In one of the shops we buy a nice table-cloth.

After a chai we arrive at the Kapleeswarar, the temple is pleasant but not too impressive. The driver annoys us by constant asking extra money for his daughter. To get rid of him we tell him to drive us back to the hotel. While we are en route the man says the car is cracked and we have to wait for a mechanic. As we refuse that he arranges a colleague for the remainder of the trip. By six we are back in the hotel. Since we leave quit early tomorrow we settle the bill now.

Chidambaram, 28 January - 1 February

At 7.30 am four men come to the room to help us with our luggage, by the time we are outside there are even more. At this time of the day it is difficult to negotiate with a rickshaw driver so we have to pay 100 rs. for the short ride to Egmore station.
About half past nine the train departs. With us in the compartment is a nice family, they keep eating and cannot believe that we don't want anything. After a quiet journey we arrive in Chidambaram. On forehand we have selected some hotels but due to wedding parties there is no availability. The rickshaw driver has some other addresses and we end in hotel Grand Palace. The small AC room is with 1350 rs. somewhat overpriced.

We will stay in the town for some days and the hotel and the location don't make us happy. So after a good lunch we walk to our original choice, hotel Akshaya, and reserve a room for tomorrow. It is in the centre of the town, next to the main temple. We walk along the broad streets that surround it. Chidmabaram is a quiet and pleasant town. We have to phone the family back home and just as in previous years we don't have a mobile with us. For the first, but not the last, time during this journey that we learn that the number of phone boots is shrinking.
The good thing of our hotel is that there is a nice garden restaurant and bar.

At 8.30 in the morning the phone rings and someone asks if we want breakfast in the room. I tell them that we come down but to our surprise they bring it nevertheless. We send it back and go to the resaturant. There is only Indian breakfast, not my wife's favourite so we order coffee and one dosa. They serve the coffee but the dosa never turns up.
We go to Akshaya, for 660 rs. we have a reasonable non-ac room. We are still hungry but the restaurant is closed until 11.30. Back in the room there is a powercut and we discover that we have hardly any daylight. We ask if they have a room with more light, the answer is maybe tonight.
After the brunch we explore the town. En route to the Kali temple we walk through remote streets with traditional build houses. The people are friendly and helpful to show us the way. The temple is closed until 4 pm so we just have a look at the outside and the big tank in front of it. Surrounded by children we continue. We buy some sweets for them, as always a great success. When we reach the main road they stay behind.

Somewhat later, while we are talking with some boys, a rickshaw stops. The driver is just touring with his family and they assume that we are lost. His wife speaks fluent English and after some small talk they invite us to their house, and we accept. The house is small, a living, a kitchen and a bedroom. The latter is for the son, the rest of the family sleeps in the living. As welcome they offer us a glass water, we take the risk and take a small nip. Then we get soft drinks and biscuits. After quit a long conversation the man drives us back to the centre, he does not want to be paid so we give him some money for his grandchildren.
My day-pack is worn out and for 340 rs. we buy another. After that we visit the big Nataraja temple. In the street to the entrance are the usual shops. It is already dark and inside there is not much light so we don't see the details of the sculptures. Everywhere priests hold their services and in between they have a conversation with us. It has a great atmosphere. Back in the hotel we change to a better room.


Today we want to the mangrove woodlands near Pichavaram. According to the hotel employee it is simple to do this by bus. He makes a gesture towards the street but we don't understand what he means. Outside we ask some bystanders and they advise to take a rickshaw to the bus station. The bus is just leaving so we have to wait an hour.
At noon we leave, when we depart the bus is not fully occupied but that changes before we are out of the town. It is a nice ride through tiny villages in an agricultural environment and takes nearly an hour. The bus stop is near the boating facilities. A row boat is 220 rs for two hours further 40 rs for the photo equipment and one rs. entry fee. We have to wear a life-jacket, the first part is over a broad river. The rower has a tough job, rowing in the wind and the stream.

But then we reach the mangrove area and enter it through tiny channels, sometimes so small that it is impossible to row. The boatman speaks hardly English but despite that he manges to explain us a lot about the ecosystem. It is a great trip even while there are no birds at this time of the day. Back on the mainland we lunch in the nearby restaurant and have a look by the fisherman. Then we take the bus back, it stops in front to the hotel.

The plan is to arrive in Madurai by a day or ten. During this period we want to explore more then the main tourist spots. A hired car is most suitable for this. We explain it to the hotel receptionist and before we have finished he points towards a man in the hall. Mani is a driver, he speaks reasonable English and we have the idea that he understands and can concede to our wishes. We hire him for 9 days starting tomorrow, the price is 20.000 rs.

I want to visit the Naturaja temple by daylight and it is beautiful. On the outside we admire the many colourful sculptures, and as we enter the complex there is also a lot to see. Everywhere are small temples where priests and devotees worship their gods. We just look and don't join the services and we have no problems with deceiving priests asking for donations.
The bindings of my new day-pack are to short and we ask every man who sits outside with a sewing-machine if he can fix it. But these are only suitable for clothes and it takes some time before we find a shoe-maker, for 10 rs. he solves the problem.

Kumbakonam, 2 - 5 February

While I pay the bill, Wiesje has a discussion with our driver. He tells he cannot go with us and that his 'brother' will take over. We had made it clear that we had not a specific route in mind and expected him to show us nice and not too tourist places. But the new man wants to know precisely where we want to go and on top of that speaks hardly English. So we refuse the change and as we want to postpone the whole trip Mani is suddenly able to drive.
We go to his house, pick up his belongings, and are on our way. From the discussions we got the idea that we are going to Tranquebar but after a while it turns out to be to Gangaikondacholapuram. It is a nice trip in the countryside. On the fields around us it is time for the rice harvest, the men throw the harvest on the road so the traffic assists with the threshing. We continue along a large lake with a lot of birds and so we reach Gangaikondacholapuram.

The temple is large and stretched out. The most impressive for me is the location in the middle of nowhere, the city, where it once was a part of, has disappeared. The temple is decorated with an considerable amount of beautiful sculptures. Around it are many smaller temples and huge statues of a bull and a mythological animal.
By noon we arrive in Kumbakonam, for 880 rs we have a large room in the ARK hotel. Unfortunately it has no restaurant so we roam through the town and lunch. Everywhere we see temples and temple wagons. Striking are the many jeweller shops.
We have the feeling that Mani does not really undetstand what we like and make a list of the things we want to do in the coming days. At three we are looking for him, he is sleeping in the car. We wake him and then he suggests to visit the temple behind the hotel. That is not our idea and we tell him to go to Darasuram. He obvious does not like this. The man starts to irritate us, in the car he niggles at his shirt the whole time and every minute he controls the handbrake.

The temple is great, it is old and not used for worship any more so the statues are not coloured. In a corner a man shows a small museum with remainders of the coloured ceilings and an exposition of the history.
Next we drive to Swamimalai and visit a 'factory' where they fabricate bronze statues following the lost wax method. We get an elaborate explanation, five man work on the different stages of the production. We are so fascinated that we forget to take a picture.
In the meantime Manni has studied our list and say that tomorrow we should go to Tranquebar but we want to stay here and visit Thanjavur. In the room Wiesje tries to get hot water, the result is that she takes a cold shower with her clothes on. Later we get the water in a bucket.

Today we start with a short ride to Thanjavur. Mani did not have breakfast and drops us before the temple. This is again a gigantic and impressive complex. In contrast with yesterdays temples it is visited by many other tourists. We start with all the smaller temples before we enter the main sanctuary. We stay here for some hours and go to the car parking. We have to wait a long time before Mani shows up. We are not amused, to put it mildly, but he seems to find it normal. Next we visit the palace, not very much remains of the building. Inside the tower it is dark until a watchman turns on the light. The adjoining museum contains a lot of good sculptures and also the library is interesting. It is cute to discover there is a Dutch history book dated 1750.

A great ride through the countryside brings us to Thiruvaiyaru, we know that there is a music school. We have to ask a lot of people before we find it. It is situated outside the village. We ask if we may enter and a man brings us to the principal. She explains that the goal of the school is to preserve and teach traditional Tamil music. We are allowed to attend the lessons but now there is lunch-break and we have return over an hour. We use this time to eat in the village.

In front of the school women fabricate roofing from palm leaves. They take one leave and twine this skilful in a large screen. We wait in the hall of the school. A group girls sits on a large cloth and turn on a cassette player. Together they sing and clap their hands, next they talk which each other while the music continues and after a time they sing again.

The principal accompanies us to other classrooms. First to a group girls who are studying the veena and next to a boy and girl playing flute en percussion. All this is in the main building and the sound of the different groups troubles each other. There are some new, separate build, classrooms and when we walk to them we see an exited group gathering together. The pupils have discovered a snake of a meter or two and kill it a dozen times. Then we attend a long demonstration of percussion and nadaswaram musicians, we like the music. We make an entry in the visitors book and give a donation before we leave.

At four we are back in Kumbakonam. Out idea is to leave to-morrow and visit Tranquebar en route to Karaikudi. According to Mani this is too far and we have to overnight in Tranquebar, we have our doubts about this. At the internet I try to locate hotels and I only find a resort of 3500 rs. not the places we like. Wiesje and I talk it over and decide that we don't want to continue with Mani, tomorrow he can bring us direct to Karaikudi and that is end of service.

As we start to tell him the change in plans, Mani says he does not feel well and has asked for a replacement. That makes it easy for us, we tell him we don't need the other driver and that he can go. We get a refund on the advance money we paid, and in a few moments he disappears. We decide to stay here and hire a car for tomorrow to make a trip in the environment, it costs 1600 rs. Curious if this goes better.

At nine Sethy, our driver for today arrives. We explain which places we already have visited and that we now want to explore the countryside. He says that he understands it but the first stop is the Raaghu Bagavan temple in Thirunageswaram, one of the so-called planet temples. There are a lot of devotees and as usual there are several routes to the sanctum, for the shorter ones you have to pay more. People are already waiting for the darshan that starts in an hour. We don't join them. The temple and atmosphere are nice and peaceful while a temple elephant walks around.

Sethy shows a list of more than hundred temples and we repeat our mantra of small villages. Just outside the town we tell Sethy to stop by an old village temple, big statues of animals and gods are erected around it. Next we take some pictures from harvesting farmers and now Sethy really understands our interests. It is the start of a dazzling tour that brings us deep into the inland. The roads become smaller and end in sand trails. Everywhere are rice fields alternated with sugar cane. Palm trees, lakes and rivers make it very diverge. All the time we stop to make pictures of the nature, temples and the big statues that are all around us.

Most of the time we don't know where we are but at last we arrive in Konerirajapuram and visit the larger Nataraja temple. This one has very colourful frescoes on the ceiling. While Sethy takes a nap we stroll through the town. And on we go, by the next village are the statues outside greater than the temple itself. The priest here allows us to take photos even from the sanctum. Gradually our head becomes overfilled with images of the temples and we want to skip some. But each has something special. One is used by labourers to fill bags with rice, in the next the locals take shelter for the heat and we cannot stop our visits.

Female shepherds look after their cows, with Sethy as interpreter we have a chat with them. Then it is two o'clock and time for lunch, for the three of us I pay 62 rs. At this time of the days the temples are closed and we are tired. We just let us ride along a tributary of the Cauvery and enjoy the views of the landscape. From a distance we hear music and encounter a funeral procession. As we pass them the dancers wave to us and when we take pictures they jump as mad as they can. The last visit is something completely different. In large stables shelter 400 cows from different species. It is clean as a whistle and here we must remove our shoes for hygienic reasons.
By four we are back after a spectacular and unforgettable day.

We have the idea that Kodikkarai will be a nice alternation after all the temples so that is our goal for today. Half past seven we start, of course again with Sethy. It is quit a distance so the tariff for this day is by the mileage. Sethy starts to stop again by every statue but this will take to much time and, due to the distance, we also cannot take the remote roads. After an hour we are in Thiruvarur. We just stop here for breakfast and don't visit the temple in the lake.

Also here it is rice harvest time and a large terrain is used as a temporary depot. Near Nagapattiman we reach the coast. From the road we have a great view over the harbour and the sea. We drive parallel to the sea but to far off to see it. Around us rice fields and lakes with a lot of birds. The landscape changes and we enter a large area of salt-winning. The land is flooded with seawater and as the water evaporates a brown salt mass remains. Then we arrive in the woodland around Kodikkarai. At the beginning is viewpoint nearby a footprint of Ram. To reach it we must climb a stair dotted with monkeys.

At eleven we reach the Cape, we have the idea that it is possible to hire a car or boat and explore the sanctuary. But it is off-season and there is just a kind of deer-camp which we don't visit. Asking for 'boating' we are guided to the beach. But it is nearly storming, even the fisherman don't go to the sea. We walk around, it is great with the waves and a lot of colourful shells on the sand. The fisherman maintain their vessels and Sethy talks with them. One man joins us and guides us to another group. According to him they dare to take us for a trip but we don't take the risk. With our own car we visit some viewpoints, the nature is beautiful but there are hardly birds. Only at the water- inlet for the salt winning eagles fly and catch fishes.

Back on the road two dogs chase each other and run into the car, one of them dies. A little further a group labourers asphalts the road, as often the work is mostly done by hand. We make a short stop in Velanganni, visit the great white cathedral and walk to the sea. Here even women, covered in their sari, go into the breakers. We drive the same road back to Kumbakonam. All three of us are tired and somewhat disappointed, the day was not what we expected. At six we are in the hotel. We drove nearly 300 km and pay 6.5 per km. for the extra milage.
We arrange that Sethy will drop us in Pudukkotai tomorrow.

Thanjavur, 6 - 7 February


Sethy picks us up at 8 o'clock and off we go. We are in no hurry and visit a temple on our way to Thanjavur. Then we have breakfast and proceed to Karaikudi. Slowly the agriculture changes from rice to sugar cane and the scenery becomes less cultivated. Along the road they sell fresh branded cashew notes.
After some hours we are in Karaikudi. We have selected some hotels but this information is useless since all hotels are booked up, due to wedding parties. So we have to go further and reach Tirupathur, here Sethty informs at every lodge but again without success. By now it is two o'clock and after lunch we decide to go back and try our luck in Pudukkottai. The only availability here is a 4-persons room, so dirty that I barely look at it.

The only solution is back to Thanjavur. After some more efforts we get, for 1550 rs, a small room in hotel NewYorker. A long driving day for 40 kilometres.

Yesterdays search learned us that the wedding parties last also for two days and we stay in Thanjavur. According to our guidebook the fort is also worth to visit and we take a rickshaw. It is behind the temple and between the restored walls it is just a play ground. A small train, a cable-way and pedalo's complete it. It is great for children, we don't stay there very long. Just outside an elderly man addresses us. After the usual small talk he invites us to accompany him to his house. He has a lunch-break from work and soon we sit with his family. When we met, the man wears a western costume but he changes this for a dhoti. The family invites us to join the lunch but we are not hungry and just take some titbits.
Next we explore the rest of Thanjavur, near the market are the remainders of the city walls. Back in the hotel we arrange a car to drive us to Pudukkottai. For dinner we go to the nearby hotel Yagoppi.

Pudukkottai, 8 - 9 February

The cars arrives at nine thirty and in an hour we reach Pudukkottai. For 1100 rs we have a reasonable AC room in hotel Mari. After a short rest we go and explore the town. It is a relaxed place without a sign of tourists.

The roads are unpaved and dusty, it is a laid-back place and great to roam around. We cannot find a restaurant and go back to the hotel for lunch. The dining-room is under reconstruction. The tasteful food is served in a cheerless meeting room.
According to our Footprint there is a nice city temple and we want to visit this. We ask the men on the desk how we can find this. Unfortunately not a person speaks English but finally they arrange a rickshaw and instruct the driver. We arrive at a temple and as soon as we enter a man starts to guide us around. It contains a mixture of Jain and Hindu shrines and it is more a kind of charitable institution. Just behind it is a large tank and a city farm. Slowly we walk back to the hotel, everyone we meet is extremely friendly. When we observe goldsmiths a bunch of children translates the conversation.

Back in the hotel we drink a beer, they serve so many snacks with it that we skip dinner.

We arranged a car for today but as we are in the lobby there is no sign of it. I get the idea that the employees have forgotten it. Of course they assure us 'no problem' and 'just five minutes' and indeed after a quarter there is a car. From something I have read I have the idea that there is a Ayyaman temple in the neighbourhood but nobody has heard of it. So we instruct the driver to show us the nicest and most scenic places in the region. The man his job is taxi driver in Singapore. He is on leave and speaks enough English.

The landscape is flat and dry with many lakes used for the badly required irrigation. We drive to the village Sittannavasal, nearby is a large rock formation dominates the scenery. In the rock is an old Jain cave with the remainder of paintings. We are early and official the site is still closed. But the driver sees a man who has the key and he shows us the relative small cave. We pay him just the half of the entrance price. From the entrance of the cave we have a great panorama over the serene countryside. But that will change soon since a fun-fair is build and nearly ready. As we drive back I observe stairs that lead to the top of the rock, there are the shelters of the monks. By now the office is open and to enter I have to buy a ticket for the cave too. It is a steep climb in the full sun I don't want to spend another 100 rs. for this.
Next we go to the fort in Tirumayam which is of course also situated on the top of a rock. Besides the restored walls there is not much more left than a canon. A scary stepladder lead to a small Shiva temple in a cave.

At the bottom of the fort stand two larger temples. One looks great at the outside but the driver tells that the other one is more interesting. The pillars that support the roof are made from one piece of stone and decorated with beautiful figures. The priest just opens the sanctum for a puja and we follow him. The big castle rock is the backside of the temple. It is decorated with one large bas relief sculpture with many gods, one of them lies down. We stand aside and as the priests handles the offered coconuts he talks with us before he continues the service. At the end he explains the meaning of the sculptures to the devotees and repeats this in English for us.
Along the road to Pudukkottai stands a sign with 'prehistoric site' but we cannot find anything but a very old and ragged bridge by which we must to cross a river. Back in the town we go to the city temple. It is the same we wanted to visit yesterday. Since it is after twelve it is closed but a man opens a rear door and shows us around. Inside the beggars get a meal.
We expect that the driver waits outside but there stands a stranger. It is the drivers friend. He lives nearby and we have a drink in his house. Since we want to visit the countryside the driver takes us over small roads until we enter the backyard of a house. Here lives another friend, he serves us all kinds of fruits. His brother married yesterday and the young women obvious feels herself not at her ease.

The friend speaks fluent English and joins us. Through agricultural areas and small hamlets we drive to a temple with an enormous horse statue in front. The temple itself is new and colourful. We continue to another temple where the priest constructs an immense statue of Hanniman. While the men explain which crops are cultivated we go to another friend. He has a farm and here we get a tour around the fields. In the towns we often have seen the milkmen with their motorbikes, here one comes to buy his stock. The last visit is to the former high-school of the friend. There are so many children that the classes are inside as well in the open air.

We drop the friend at his house but as we want to leave there are troubles with the gear-box. The driver can only partial solve the problem and with only the fourth gear working we drive back. It was again a fantastic day and we have no problem to pay the agreed 1500 rs. It is five o'clock and since we had no lunch we are hungry and have dinner as soon as possible

Madurai, 10 - 11 February

Half past nine the diver arrives, the car is repaired. In a high tempo we drive to Madurai. The environment becomes rocky with many stone pits. We visit a memorial for freedom fighters and have a short stop to give a package to a brother of the driver. The last part we travel on the four lane road with the usual neglect of traffic rules. In Madurai we go to a large girls college, another brother of the drives owns a teashop on the campus. So it is a fine chance for a family visit while we get tea and a snack.

Just before noon we are in hotel Chentoor, we phoned them yesterday. The 2000 rs that we have to pay for the small AC-room is overpriced. From the roof terrace there is a splendid view on the Meenakshi temple. But is is so windy that the lunch nearly blows away from our plates.
In the afternoon we visit the town. I buy some cloths, a trouser and two shirts for 1650 rs. And then we go to the temple. Around it are a lot of touts but we don't find them extremely pushy. It helps of course that every answer from us begins with 'but we visited 30 years ago...'. But we do not recognize very much, we remember that the streets where unpaved at that time. We don't enter the temple, just walk around and do some sight-seeing before we return to the hotel.

Since we have visited so many temples in the last days we did not plan to visit the Meenakshi. But yesterday, when we saw it again, we changed our minds. At the entrance everyone is searched, we have left the contraband in the hotel and have no problems. Also at the inside the temples differs from our memories, one thing that we know certain is that at that time the tank was filled with water. But it does not matter, it is a fascinating and impressive temple and we stay for a long time. There are a numerous visitors, a mixture of devotees and tourists.

In the afternoon we take a rickshaw to the Thirumalya Nayaka palace. Not so much of it remains, but the enormous pillars are impressive as are the sculptures against the here and there painted ceilings. Also the museum has an elaborate collection of statues. There are remarkable many India tourists and school classes. We walk back to the hotel, the rickshaw driver we had earlier spots us and gives us a free ride.

Tomorrow we have an early start and without success we try to get some sandwiches for breakfast.
Half pas eight we walk again to the temple for the closing ceremony. It is less crowded as I expected. Someone tells us where we can see the ceremony and at nine we and some other tourist take our places. The the sanctum, forbidden for us, is filling up with devotees. We foreigners push each other aside to catch a glimpse but there is nothing to see. We only hear the sound of the ceremony. At ten the inner doors are closed and next a procession of musicians and priests which carry the image of Shiva pass by. Here and there they halt briefly by the statues of other gods and then they approach Parvati's bedroom where another rite starts. We leave before it ends and return to our hotel.

Kanyakumari, 12 - 14 February


Early in the morning we walk to the station where we have breakfast with coffee and some snacks. The train is on time and before seven o'clock we are on our way. We share the compartment with a few ladies who just awake. They don't speak a word English but they are cheerful and noisy. In the meantime they makes themselves presentable and leave the train at the next station.
As always in the sleeper class there is enough amusement from sellers, beggars, drag-queens and other people. We travel through a diversified scenery with a lot of ponds, rivers and strange formed rocks. Just after eleven we arrive in Nagercoil and take for 200 rs a rickshaw to Kanyakumari. We go to hotel Maadhini and get a non-Ac room for 900 rs. It is on the top-floor, from the room we cannot sea the see but from the large corridor with window-glass and a large balcony we have a perfect sight.

After some rest we go to the beach beneath the hotel. The wind is blowing hard and all the fisher boats are on shore. From here we walk to to centre, it is a nice but touristy town. With ragged vessels one can visit the rocky islands in the sea. It does not attracts us but a long row of passengers is waiting. After a while we go the point from where we can see the sun disappearing in the sea. It is very crowded and the fairground attractions have a lot of customers. People stand on the rocks in the sea before the coast. Sunset is at half past six but a few minutes earlier the sun disappears in the clouds at the horizon. Everyone disappears.

I want to witness the sunrise and by six I go to the same point were we were last evening. Buses drop new visitors and we all walk in the same direction. Everywhere along the coast people stand, often a row or five behind each other. The beggars are still sleeping but the trinkets and souvenir business starts already. Again the clouds obstruct a clear view. From the island we hear someone blowing on a shell and everybody jubilates.

A quarter of an hour later we can see the sun and everyone leaves the shore. In the meantime men take a sea bath and are rewarded by the priests. The horses start there rounds and even, if it is more than hour before the boats start, a long queue waits at the ticket counter.
After breakfast we walk along the fisher-ships on the beach. On Sunday nobody embarks but the men are busy with maintenance. The leakage in the bottom of a boat is sticked with synthetic material. Men repair the fishing nets and provide them with new beaters. In the streets behind the beach others put fresh bait on long lines. Also all kind of financial transactions are settled.

In the afternoon we go again to the sunset and just walk around, it looks just like combination of a flea market and a fair. Just as yesterday the sun disappears in the clouds.

At six I look outside but since it is still cloudy at the horizon I go back to bed. By ten we go to the station where the train waits. We travel again through a beautiful scenery, alternating all kind of trees, bananas and many lakes. We have nice chats with our fellow travellers. A young women takes a voluminous book but just phones or sleeps, she does not read a word.
Half past two we arrive in Kollam. The hotel that we have selected is booked up, the rickshaw driver knows another one and we have a look. It is far outside of the town at the beach and very dirty so we go back to the centre. After some other attempts we end in Dana Castle, a large AC room costs 2500 rs, but since we don't need the AC we get it for 1200.

Kollam 15 - 17 February


When I ask for a continental breakfast the hotel staff sends a boy to a shop. He returns with a whole bread and a pot jam. Since the latter is mouldy I end with water and bread.
For today we have arranged a boat for a backwater trip, with 6500 it is rather costly. We have to pay in advance at the hotel desk. A rickshaw is included in the price and escorted by hotel personnel on a motorbike we ride to the All Season's boating club. It turns out that we have hired a 10-seater motorboat, John-Peter is the skipper. Water, juice, fruit and a table are loaded and off we go.

First we sail along the banks of the Ashtamudi lake, here are many luxury resorts. On the lake we see a lot of small fishing boats, the man catch mainly shrimps and crabs. And everywhere around us are Chinese fishing nets. Along broad canals we proceed to Munroe Island. A man with a small canoe waits for us and with him we visit the small canals on the island. For us this is the best part of the backwater experience. Some people give us a demonstration about the making of coco rope. Besides the inevitable palm trees here also grow mangos and cashew-nuts. After an hour we go back to JP.

We sail around the island and cross again Ashtamudi lake. We take rather a lot of water and become soaking wet. Gulls fly in our wake seeking for food while vessels with small sails pass us. Near the harbour for the sea fishers er drink a chai. A friend of JP has to go to the other side and we act as his ferry.
Half past three we are back at boating club. We had a nice day. The personnel cleans the boat and throws the cans and other garbage into the water.

Tomorrow we take the ferry to Alleppey and we go to the jetty to arrange this. As soon as we are there a travel agent addresses us. He sells tickets for 300 rs per person. Since we arrive late it is convenient that he also can reserve a home stay. In Dream Nest we get a room for 500 rs., pick-up included. Today's ferry leaves and we watch the departure. After that we walk around the centre of Kollam, there is not much to see and we go back to our room.

In the afternoon we ask a rickshaw to bring us to the fishing harbour. Four drivers have to consult each other before they know where it is. The road along the shore is converted into a high-way. As everywhere the fishing boats rest on the beach. We talk with some of the fishermen and in the meantime more boats arrive. None of them has fish on board. As we walk along we discover the reason since a little further is the auction. The fishermen bring a great variety of fish, from small ones of 10 cm to large ones of over 2 meter and also cuttlefish. The catch is immediately sold to merchants and individuals. The larger fishes are cleaned on the spot. Crates are filed with a mixture of small fishes and ice.

We walk further and the neighbourhood gets shabby and there is no sign of a rickshaw. The owner of a tea stall waves to us and we take a chai. A little later we are back in the civilised world and get transport back to the hotel.
I go to buy some beer and as in every town in Kerala the shop makes you feel like an addict. A row of 25 men, standing between crush barriers, waits for the counter. Next to it others form a second row. These men give money to friends in the first row and they buy a double order. At the counter is a separate window where I have to pay and with that note I can get the beer, 50 rs a bottle.

As farewell the hotel serves us an abundant continental breakfast. Then with a rickshaw to the jetty. We collect the tickets and board. The luggage is stored downstairs and we sit on the upper deck. In the meanwhile men repair the engine and as they have fixed the problem the captain makes a test round before the real start.
The capacity of the boat is 200 persons but there are no more than 80 aboard and with 20 persons on the upper deck we sit comfortable. A crew member introduces himself as Sam, he speaks a little English and tells that he is our tour guide. After a short explanation he leaves for hours.

First we cross the Ashtamudi lake and then follows a large stretch through canals. On the banks the backside of the villages are situated, despite all the palms it is not the most scenic part. The water becomes overgrown with water hyacinths. Sometimes we sail close to the see, just a dike separates it from the canal. Numerous small ferries connect the villages along the water.
Just after noon we stop in a resort and have a very tasteful lunch. Half an hour later we arrive at the ashram off the 'hugging mother'. For myself I associate an ashram with a rustic life, but here stand a number of high apartment buildings. A few people embark whilst others board. On the next lake we see an enormous amount of Chinese fishing nets, many are ruined. They are placed in two rows and it looks likes a guard of honour as we sail between them. Half way the lake we encounter the ferry that comes from Alleppey.

We continue again through the winding canals, workers maintenance the waterway by restoring the banks and dredging the channel. At four o'clock we stop again for a short tea break. The ship's propeller is filed wit plants and the crew dives under the boat to clean it. Until now there were mostly palms around us but now the scenery changes into paddy fields. We drop some passengers at a resort before we arrive in Alleppey at half past six.

A rickshaw driver and a young man on a scooter wait for us and together we go to Dream Nest. The room is large and clean, without chairs. Other guests, two French and a British couple sit in the living room around the table. For beer we have to go outside, for food also or cook for ourselves. I start with a beer expedition. Again a great crush at the counter but I manage. Back in the home-stay the French guests change it with a cold beer from there stock. They have shrimps and we get a plate. Further they have prepared delightful crab and we get also a share from this. The enjoyable evening ends with community singing.

Calicut 18 - 20 February


We rise at half past six, pack our belongings and leave the home-stay. A lorry with an elephant on the bin passes. Soon afterwards a rickshaw stops. When we arrive at the station we hear that the train is delayed and I buy some banana snacks for breakfast. The first part of the trip, until Thrissur, we did some years ago and it is through the same somewhat disorderly tropic landscape. The scenery of the last part to Calicut is much better.
The pre-paid taxi booth gives us for 1 rs. a note that just says that the fare is by the meter. Wiesje and I think of each other that we want to stay in the Calicut Tower. On the 7th floor we have for 1015 rs. a large non-ac room.

In the hotel it is obvious that Calicut has strong connections with the Arabic world. The hall is filled with men dressed in their characteristic clothing. They sit there the whole day, drinking tea and doing business.

From the Footprint information I got the idea that the interesting part of the town is near the see and we take a rickshaw. First we walk along the beach, it is very dirty with more shit then shells. We return to the houses and ask where we can find the traditional mosques. A group men deliberate and arrange a rickshaw for us. It is on the other side of the city.
When we stop there a man addresses us and offers us a free guided tour. The largest mosque is under restoration and covered in plastic but we can visit the other ones and they are nice too. The substructure is constructed with stone while the rest is build with wood . It is completely different from the standard mosques. Large family houses are build in the same area.

In the evening we go to Manchira, a park and lake in the centre. A man on a motorbike stops and ask 'from where are you'. As soon as he hears we are Dutch he starts a tirade about the wicked way that unmarried people live together in our country. We walk to the Sugar Market Street, just a few shops sell this speciality. We buy a piece but it is to sweet for our taste. In an old hotel the tourist organization has an office. There are some tours but not in the weekend. Yet we decide to stay another day here and then leave for Kalpetta.


Wiesje telephones with the Green Mount homestay in Kalpetta and they have a room available. We have some shopping to do, one of the items is an eye-liner for Wiesje. First she tries a beauty parlour but they are only interested in a total treatment. They send her to the shop next door, so to see a fancy clothes store. A hostess accompanies us to the first floor where two sale girls wait. A boy carries the package downstairs where three man pack it and settle the payment.

The hotel has over ten floors but just one elevator. Today there is a large wedding party so it costs a lot of strain to get downstairs. The hotel clerk has forgotten to arrange a rickshaw and he picks one from the street. The driver does not speak a word English. With the help of the parking guard we tell him that we first want to visit the Kadalkundi bird sanctuary and then the harbour of Beypore. The driver goes straight to the beach at Beypore and asks us if this ok. We don't want to stay there and then it becomes obvious that he does not know the region. He discusses this with a colleague and we change to that rickshaw, the guys split the fare.

First we cross the river with a ferry. This consists of three vessels tied to each other and with a wooden platform on top. There is place for nine cars/rickshaws, numerous motorbikes and pedestrians. Then we follow a bumpy road, cross some other rivers before the drivers stops and announce: beach. We try to convince him that our goal is birds but he does not understand it. As we imitate the flying his answer is: airport. Bystanders stop and interfere but since nobody speaks English we give it up and go back.

We stay an hour or so near the fishing harbour. Men unload by hand large ships, the catch goes immediate in trucks for further transport. By six we are back at the hotel. Despite the fact that it was totally different than planned it was a very nice trip. The hotel guard sees that we give the driver a small tip and claims his share.

Wayanad, 21 - 24 February


The car arrives by ten, the price for the drop is 1400 rs. The winding road goes through many small hamlets and the scenery is attractive. During the first part we are surrounded by palms, later there are more rubber plantations and bananas. After a chai we reach the ghat road. It has nine real hairpins and for the rest it is also only curves. We constant drive through the woods and see many monkeys. At the end of the climb we stop at a viewpoint. Since it is hazy there is not much to see.

By noon we reach Kalpetta, the Green Mount Cottage is at the end of a steep, narrow side road. Only Mrs. Lopez is present, she does not speak English. The driver talks with here and so we understand that our room is available at six o'clock and that in the meantime we can use an older room upstairs. Soon Martin Lopez, the owner, arrives and he shows us the room we get tonight, it looks fine. With him we plan trips for the coming days after which we have a home cooked lunch, very tasteful.

In the afternoon we go to the town. Along the busy high road are many shops and houses, much else there is not to see. Even a beer shop we cannot find but Maxwell, the son guides us to the bar of the PPS hotel. While we enjoy our drink the youngsters which stay in our room come back, pack their belongings and leave. The room is cleaned and we move in. It is real huge with a sitting and a sleeping part and a large bathroom, further a fridge and a balcony. And all that for 1200 rs.

Punctual at eight Shamir our driver for the next days, arrives with a rather old 4-wheel. For today's trip the price is 1600 rs. Since we have only a vague idea about the region we let Lopez and Shamir decide the itinerary and this works out great. We start through a hilly scenery, with a lot of woodland, plantations and small scale agriculture. Shamir notices a lot interesting items and stops regular to show us all kinds of vegetables and spice plants.

At ten we reach Kuruva, where we have to cross the river. Not many visitors at this hour but everyone has to wait since there are elephants on the island. In the meantime we chat with a group of students. We are the first visitors and as a couple we go by rowing boat instead of the raft. There is a marked path through the jungle. At one side grow large trees and a lot of bamboo and on the other side is the river. Now it is quiet and peaceful but we hear the students coming. The path ends at the river. The students overtake us and cross the river by climbing over the rocks. This is too adventurous for us and we walk back by the same route. Now we encounter many people and often we are halted for a chat and a picture.

The next stop is the Pazhassi Tomb, a memorial and museum to remember fighters who battled the English around 1800. On the way to the Banasura dam we stop again every time as something interests us. It is a great way of travelling. At the dam we have to climb over 160 steps to reach the reservoir. It is a little strange weather, the horizon is hazy and we can not see far but the sun is burning right above us. We don't go for boating on the lake but walk a nature trail, disturbing many young lovers.

The last stop is Karalad Lake, this is nearly totally filled with water lilies. There is a path and I want to round the lake. It is pleasant but at the opposite end it becomes swampy. I must find my way with the help of shelves, the last one is to small. I fall and get muddy and wet feet.
Half past four we are back in our room. The sun has already disappeared for an hour and now a big rain and thunder storm starts, it causes a power cut. Two hours later all things are back to normal. During the dinner we and Lopez discuss tomorrows trip. It is a pity to hear that the wild-parks and Eddakal caves are closed. But at the other hand the road trips give us even more satisfaction than the sights we visit.

It is again hazy as Shamir picks us up for today’s itinerary. This time we visit the Southern part of Wayanad, this is a region with many tea plantations. As anywhere in the countryside children walk to their school. A very bad road brings us to the top of the Kanthanpara falls. During the monsoon it is all water but now we can climb down over the rocks. The fall itself is not too spectacular but together with the environs it is splendid place to explore.

After a while we continue, first by car over an unpaved road and next we walk through the woods. Here people cultivate ginger. The path ends high above the Sunrise valley. We can see far around us but as often these days the weather is not helpful. Deep down us we see a river while another fall tumbles down the opposing rock. We enjoy it here for a time before we return to the car.
On one of the tea plantations it is harvest time. Standing on the road we take some pictures. The supervisor does not raise objections when we enter the field, on the contrary he explains us the work. The women must pick at least 21 kg to earn 130 rs, if they pick more it is paid by weight. The pickers use a scissor with a catch-pit. Herewith they trim the bushes and empty the leaves in a bag they carry with them.

If this bag is full they overload in a large cloth, every women has her own and they tie the points together. It is lunch time and the ladies take this bale on their head and walk down the road. Everyone is cheerful, tries to communicate with us and wants to see the pictures. The harvest is weighed and recorded, one of the ladies has picked 27 kg this morning.
We continue to Chambra Peak, again through tea plantations. Along the road grows pepper, we always thought pepper plants are small bushes but now we see that it is a climbing plant. Also here it is harvest time, men use primitive stepladders made of bamboo and collect the berries. We don't climb to the top of the peak but just visit a watch-tower on the lower slopes, we just have to walk 500 meter and are happy that the sky is clear.

After the lunch we visit Pookot Lake. Larger and more visited then yesterdays Karalad. We find it less attractive but there is an easy walking path around the lake. When we return to Kalpetta it starts to rain again but this time it is just a short shower.


Today we start at the Karapuzha dam, the road is on the same level so we don't have to climb. We cross the dam to the remainders of an old fort, the sight is great again. In this region grows eucalyptus. We stop at a small factory where the obtain the oil from the leaves. The big branches are used for heating. The oil evaporates and the damp is cooled down.

The small museum of Amabala Vayal exposes statues and traditional utensils. From here we see the mountains with the Eddakal caves. Nearby is a agricultural institution here they nurse a lot of beautiful flowers in different variations.
Another nice ride brings us to the Phantom Rock, a large pillar with a separate rock on top. From here we have great view about the countryside and a large rock in the form of an elephant. But behind us workers crush the mountain. They drill holes, put dynamite into them and the result is chunk of stones. A part of these is crunched into coarse sand.

At one o'clock we arrive in Sulthan Battery where we have lunch. The Jain temple is closed at this time and we roam around, it looks a nicer place than Kalpetta. From the temple just a hall has survived the time and a short while ago vandals demolished the statues.
We know that the Muthanga park is closed but the road cross it and we decide to make a trip up and down the road. The best time for this is at the end of the day so we drink chai at a tea stall. And again a heavy thunderstorm starts. At four we start and it is nearly dry.

Along the road we see many deer, boar and even, rather close, a black bear. A Langur family sits quietly in a tree. Shamir drives very slowly and spots most of the wild. The bush is diversified and attractive with large open areas. After half an hour we are in Tamil Nadu, drive a little further and return. Now it is raining heavy again and the half open car gives little protection so we are soaking wet. At the end Shamir spots in the distance some elephants, we stap out to make some pictures.
Due to the heavy rain they show only grey spots.
It is a long drive back but happily the rain stops. Half past six we are back in Kalpetta, there it was dry weather for the whole day.

Coorg, 25 - 27 February
We have to rise in time since the new guests are expected early. They arrive as we want to settle the bill so it is a little hectic. At 8.30 we leave with a different driver in a big car. First by known roads and then through the Tholpetty wild-park. With this speed we don't spot animals. The road to Coorg is good but this changes dramatical as we cross the border with Karnataka. But the scenery is the same, hilly woodland with coffee plantations.
Our driver does not know this route and asks everyone he sees. We leave the green hills and drive a while trough a more scorched terrain. But even here farmers manage to cultivate rice. A last steep climb brings us in Madikeri. We stay in hotel Hilltown and despite this name it is down town. But we mange to find it a pay the driver the agreed 2750 rs.

In the hotel we have a rather small room for 935 rs. We go for lunch to the restaurant but this is closed due to a protest strike in the town so we use room service. Since Wiesje has a bad cold we visit a doctor in the nearby hospital. He has immediately time for us while a real sick woman lies in the bed behind him. For the consultation we pay 100 rs, for the medicines 110.
As we walk through the city we observe an outstanding number of policeman all over town. Most of the shops are closed. As you can expect in a city in Coorg the roads go up and down. It is a nice place with a fine market. Close to the hotel is a travel agent and we arrange some trips. For tomorrow local sightseeing and Sunday to Dubare.
Later I go to buy beer. Just as I have paid, some police-cars race through the street. All shop owners close the shutters and I return in a hurry. But in the next street it is calm again. Nobody can explain us the kind of the problems.

We have a lazy morning, our driver arrives at one o'clock. The first goal is Abbi Falls.

We drive over a climbing road, not my idea of a pleasant walk as Footprint suggests. Probably they mean the path from the parking to the falls. It is a scenery spot visited by many other tourist. We chat a while with an Indian who lives in Europe and is back for holidays.
Back in Madikeri we visit Raja's Tomb, the in Muslim style build graves of Hindi rulers. Also here policemen walk around. A few days ago vandals have burned the door of one of the tombs and we have the idea that this might be the cause for the strikes.

Inside the wall of the old fort we visit a palace and an into museum converted church. In the small temple a man holds an extensive worship without the help of a priest. Raja's Seat is a nice public garden with a great view. The last visit is to the Omkareshwara temple but it is closed at this time of the day.
Just after three we are back in the hotel, to late for lunch. Later we walk to to the travel agent and make the arrangement for tomorrow. A trip to Dubare and some other places for 1200 rs. In town we see still a lot police but most shops are back into business.

The driver arrives at half past eight. In an up tempo we drive to Dubare, the road is winding but this does not prevent our man to overtake every car he sees. Around us again many coffee plantations, since many high trees provide shadow to the plants it looks like woodland.
After an hour we arrive in Dubare and wait with other tourist for the boat that goes on and off. As we arrive an elephant is bathed.

Many spectators throw water and touch the animal. For this privilege you have to buy a separate ticket, a guard controls this. We take just a general ticket. Now and then an elephant carrying a large trunk trudges along, he manoeuvres with it and stands for a photo shoot.
Next it is her turn to bath. A guide gives a broad explanation about the physics of the elephant and the way they are trained.
A little further is Nisargadama, an island in the Cauvery. For 30 rs. we may cross the suspension bridge. The cultivation is mainly bamboo and, just as in Wayand, it just has flowered so it looks rather dull but we see already the numerous offspring. But it is a nice to walk, at some places we can descend to the river. A deer park and an elephant that makes his rounds complete the entertainment. Nature lovers can use bird watching spots.

The last stop is at the Buddhist Golden temple in Bylakuppe. The complex is very colourful. In the main hall stand three enormous gold-painted statues. And of course a lot of wall paintings. Just as we think we have seen it all, monks outside beat the gongs. Hundreds of monks enter the hall and sit in long rows on their pillows. The leading monk begins with a sermon which is alternated with shrill horns and loud drumming. After a while all the monks recite, on the rhythm of a gong, long phrases out of there books. Now and then there is an intermission with music, other monks serve drinks. It is very impressive but after nearly an hour we continue. On the compound are other smaller temple halls and in all of them groups of monks accomplish the same service.

Just before three we are back in the hotel. First we arrange a hotel in Hassan and next the transport. Since we did not really liked our driver we decide to go to the taxi stand to hire another one. But our man stands there in the row so that would be a little clumsy. Back to the tourist office where we arrange another driver. The price for the drop is 1700 rs.
The Omkareshwara temple is not far from the hotel and I decide to visit it, from a tourist point of view it is not very special.

Hassan - Arsikere, 28 February - 2 March


When we pay the bill the hotel staff gives us all kind of information concerning Coorg, a little bit late. Nine thirty we leave in a large car, the driver is real good. The first hour it is still coffee plantations around us but then the environment changes and we enter the dusty Deccan. At this time I realize how extra ordinary green regions like Coorg and Wayanad are. After the usual chai we arrive at twelve thirty in Hassan where we have a large non-AC room for 880 rs. in hotel Suvarna Regency.

In the afternoon we walk to the tourist office. According to them there is not much to see in the town itself. Yet we decide to stay here for an extra day. For the day after tomorrow we arrange for 2500 rs. a car to visit Belur and Halebid with a drop in Arsikere.
Our hotel has four different restaurants, we diner in the rooftop garden with a nice beer.

First to the station where we buy tickets for the coming journeys. It is quiet and the ticket officer has all the time to discuss our plans. Then we roam around the town. We see a small temple but it is closed. On the other side of the road is a public garden and we know there is a museum inside. For 2 rs we buy tickets from a woman who sweeps the surroundings. We enter the building and it is an aquarium, well kept but not what we are looking for. The next complex is a swimming pool and then we notice the museum. It is small but there are some beautiful carvings and also the temple car is splendid.

A wagon builder constructs wooden wheels and we watch this for a time. And of course there is a market, a favourite pastime for us. Wiesje buys bangles, it takes a lot of pain and strain before she has these around her arm. All the vendors ask us to shoot photos of them. At the end of the day we make another round. It is a nice town with pleasant people. What strikes us is the outstanding quantity of ox and horse carts.

Accompanied by the man of the tourist organization the driver arrives at 8.30. He has a lot of his own stuff in the trunk so we have some problems to store our luggage. The driver is very young, does not say a word and drives very slow.

But it is not far to Belur. There are just a few visitors. The outside of the main temple is equipped with numerous splendid and detailed sculptures. The guide, which we have hired, gives a exhausted explanation. He let the sun reflect in a mirror and uses the beam as indicator. There is so much to see that I cannot absorb everything. And then we have not seen the interior. It is rather dark, but for 10 rs. we get the assistance of a spotlight and so we can admire the beauty. We have the guide for an hour after which we admire everything again in our own tempo and visit the many other temples on the compound.

A road through a hilly landscape leads to Halebid. It is by eleven now and around this temple are many vendors and a lot more visitors. This temple is also very attractive, with a total different type of sculpture.
From here we continue to Arsikere, in the town the driver keeps going. I ask him where to he brings us and the answer is to the station. A coincidence is that we are near the Mayura Lodge. It gives the idea that it is closed but then we discover the entrance in the parking basement. The price of the room is 190 rs. and for 50 extra we get the remote control for the TV. But the man insists on an advance payment of 500 rs. And all this we have to arrange without much English. The room is small without a real window.

In another cellar across the street is a restaurant. We have a quick look at it and find it too dark and grubby so we walk out. Three employees run behind us and we let them persuade us to return. We get more light, thin plastic glasses and real napkins in stead of a piece of newspaper. The food is not too good but with a lot of chicken.
Back in the lodge we try to find out how far it is to the railway station. After 10 minutes it becomes clear that it is 5 minutes by rickshaw. Then it is time to make a walk through the town. It is obvious that few tourists visit Arsikere and stroll around in places like this is a great pleasure.

We encounter a temple where many people gather. The priest invites us and explains that this night all over India special Shiva ceremonies are held. We stay a while and are allowed to film every aspect of the ceremony. A remarkable good English speaking boy explains everything to us. Later we encounter a procession to the worship Shiva.
We find a restaurant that looks better than that of this afternoon. Upstairs is a table and after a while a man, who speaks a few words English explains that we have the choice between dosa and paratha, for 2 dosa and mineral water we pay 180 rs.

Chitradurga, 3 – 5 March


At seven o'clock we rise and take a banana for breakfast. By the clearance of the bill I get the money back and as in a real hotel someone takes our luggage and arranges a rickshaw. The train arrives at nine, just half an hour late and we board in the second seating. It is cramped with 2x three chairs in a bus arrangement. The biggest problem in these train is the small space for the luggage but with the help of fellow passengers we manage.
The reason for the night stop in Ariskere and now the train to Chikjajur is our fear for travelling by bus. We assume that we can find a car at the station for the journey towards Chitradurga. At eleven we arrive in Chikjajur and as we leave the station we stand in the middle of nowhere. We ask a man and he points towards the direction of a crosspoint.

Soon we are in the village and see some people stand together, this is the bus stand. A man asks our destination and we tell him that we want to go Chitradurga. He advices to go to Holakere first, from there depart many direct buses. Some minutes later he comes back and says that from here there are only slow local buses to Holakere and proposes to take a shared rickshaw. It is a large one and with six man we drive over a bumpy road, after half an hour we arrive at the bus station. Soon a bus comes and we find seats in the back. The luggage stands here and there on the floor around us. Our mentor leaves the bus before us and instructs another man the guide us for the rest. In Chitradurga this man arranges a rickshaw and at one o'clock we are in hotel Amogha. For 600 we have a large room.
Except the bananas we have not eaten anything and it is time for a brunch. After a nap we contact the family, visit an ATM and walk around the main street. For dinner we go to the bar-restaurant but the manager sends us through the kitchen to the family hall.

We are in Chitradurga to visit the fort and take a rickshaw. After a short ride the man stops and announces "the fort". It does not look the right place but he assures that it is ok. As we walk into the direction he points we stand in the lobby of the Aishwarya Fort hotel. They help us to find a more competent driver.

By ten we enter the fort. The guides are rather persistent but after a while they leave us alone. First we walk over the path along the lower side. At the far end we see stairs and presume that is the real entrance to the fort. Halfway some signposts point to specific places, it is by a steep flight of stairs. I want to go and Wiesje stays behind. Crossing the gates of the consecutive walls I arrive at the top of the hill. Along the path stand various temples, build against enormous rock boulders. On the top are the remainders of more temples and palaces in an fantastic, rough scenery. I wander around and realize that this is the central point and walk back to my wife. Parts of the fort are under reconstruction and men carry the large stones on their back to the top, this method is not changed since the original building started. A young man climbs the walls, just using his hands and feet.

Together we climb the hill again, we have all the time to enjoy this impressive site. Of course there are more tourist but it is not crowded. After a drink we take a path downhill but it it leads to a cave without a way out, it is part of one of the legends around the fort. But the consequence is that we have to climb up again. There are other branches but we get tired and go back. I take a quick look by the stairs at the end but there is nothing special to see.
Yesterdays bus journey has taken away our fears and we go to the bus station and ask if we can reserve seats to Haveri, our next destination. That is not possible but the bus departs every half hour and so that can not be a problem. From Haveri we want direct to Banavasi. Some days ago we mailed that we shall phone the tourist home when our arrival date is fixed. We call, the man who answers does not speak English and we decide to send them another mail.

For 50 rs. a rickshaw brings us to the Chandravalli lake. The driver drops us near a fence, warns for the monkeys and disappears, the civilized world is more than a kilometre away.

The lake is beautiful situated between the same type of rocky hills as the fort, I guess that the latter is at the other side of the mountain ridge. We follow the broad path that runs around the lake. After a while a sign points towards caves up hill, as we climb we feel in our legs yesterdays efforts. When we sit and rest a group of young men arrives. After the standard questions they enter a hall with pillars and disappear out of sight. After a while we too go inside at that moment the boys return. Behind the hall are all kind of voids, I have to climb up and down to reach them. Big boulders form the walls and roofs sometimes connected by some bricks. There is no clue that points to the original purpose of these place.

We continue around the lake and in the bushes we see a group peacocks. At the end of the lake we cross a stream, the main path goes straight ahead but we follow a smaller branch alongside the water. After a while it ends and we seek our way over the rocky slopes. It leads us back to the lake and a watering place for the buffaloes. A little further we encounter a fence, manage to climb it and are back near the monkeys at the entrance.

Outside the terrain a small van arrives, the owners convert it into a stall with food and drinks. It is ingenious how they do this, just using rope, sticks and cloths. A rickshaw brings new visitors and the driver agrees to takes us to the hotel for 30 rs. When we are there he suddenly wants 60, we refuse and angry he walks with us to an English speaking shop-owner. He advises, for goodness sake, to give another ten. The driver refuses this, the money falls on the ground and we walk away.
In the afternoon we call again the tourist home in Banavasi. This time an English speaking man answers. We tell him that we go to Haveri by bus and take a car from there. He explains that we also can take the bus to Sirsi and another to Banavasi from there. The conversation is exhausting since he keeps talking and we tell him that we will stick to our plan.

Banavasi, 6 – 11 March


Eight o'clock is to early for the cook but some time later he arrives and we get our dosa. As we arrive at the bus stand we hear a man shouting Haveri. On our question he confirms this is our bus and we hop into it. It is half full and after a smooth ride with few stops we arrive in Davangere. Everybody gets off and we think it is for a coffee break. But no, end of service and we have to change. The other bus is waiting and we continue, in Ranebennur we stop for coffee.

One o'clock we arrive in Haveri. All went so easy that we decide to take a bus to Sirsi.
But noway, when I leave the bus a man asks if we are bound for Banavasi. It is a taxi driver, send by the hotel. I give him my backpack and my wife, who has no idea of this, shouts "there goes our luggage". At the same moment another man hands me a cell phone. Since Wiesjes English is much better then mine I give it to her. It is the manager from Banavasi, he tells that the men stand there for some hours waiting for some foreigners in the bus. As soon as he knows we have the taxi he starts talking about lunch. We decide to take that in the hotel.

Soon we drive through the countryside, first it is only agriculture around us later we see more forest. Three o'clock we arrive in Banavasi. The drivers stops before the temple and phones Brahma, the manager. He arrives and guides us to the tourist home outside the town. It is hidden in the trees, the door is still closed by a roll-down shutter. A few minutes later Basavaraj, the housekeeper arrives with the key. The simple, spacious and clean rooms are situated around an inner-court. From our window we have a great view over the countryside. There is no restaurant in the tourist home and for lunch we walk to a small eatery, called a Khanavali. The food is sober and tastes reasonable.

The driver is still with us and brings us to the Gudnapur Lake. Here stand the remainders of the summer palace of the royals and a jain temple. Back in the village we pay the driver. The chairman of the Madhukeshwara temple committee welcomes us and promises that tomorrow he will give us a temple tour.
Back in the hotel we make plans for tomorrow. The food that they bring for dinner is cold and tastes not good. At ten the gate is closed. We are the only guests, Brahhma and the housekeeper sleep also in the hotel.

I wake up by daybreak and go for a walk in the environment. The front door is still closed but the housekeeper opens it. I take a path into the fields, it is a little hazy. After a while I see a temple and walk around it. Basavaraj, probably afraid that I get lost, follows me. After a while Brahma joins him and they gesture that I must come back. My walk disturbs the morning routine. Basavaraj must heat bathwater and fetch breakfast.

We visit a local sculptor and his small exhibition. It is at his home and afterward we have chai and talk with his family. Though the narrow, winding streets with traditional houses we walk to the temple. A ceremony that is a part of a Kannada festival in Belgaum has just ended. All the notables are still there and we are introduced to them. The mayor treats everyone on a glass sugar-cane juice.
We return to the hotel while we wait on the veranda a snake of a meter of two crawls before us. First we visit the pineapple factory of Dr. Rauf. A large stock of fruits is peeled, sliced and tinned. Most work is done by hand with the help of a few simple machines, everything is very clean. And of course we get a glass fresh juice. Next we visit some plantations of ginger and bananas.

We like it here and decide to stay another three days. Together with Brahma we plan the itineraries. We indicate the things we want to do and he makes day-trips of it. Five o'clock we walk to the temple since we fit in the chairman's schedule. First we get a lecture about the basics of Hinduism and the history of Banavasi. Then the conversation is expanded to cricket (it is world cup time) and football. Later he and one of the priest show us the temple. Special is the Nandu, he is squint and so he can watch both Shiva and Parvathi at the same time. After two hours as well the 76 year old chairman as we are tired.

But we are not ready yet. Two elderly ladies make all kind of flowers from the stalk of a aquatic plants. Together with all other materials these are also used to fabricate wedding crowns. We watch this process and of course are dressed as bride and groom.

Half past seven we sit in front of the hotel watching the monkeys in the trees. Brahma and a driver arrive and off we go. Through a great scenery of forest alternated by small scale agriculture and lakes we drive to Soraba where we have breakfast. Next to Belligavi, a small town where we visit some splendid, not often visited, Hoysala temples.

Then we go to Yelkundli, a sacred place in the woods, again a great ride through the countryside. Brahma nor the driver have ever been there. They keep asking and at last we reach the village. A farmer steps into the car and guides us for the last part. It is a not very extended forest but with a great variation of huge trees, I think this is the original vegetation. The whole site is sacred so we have to walk barefooted, but fortunately there is a stone path between the trees.

The next stop is by a temple in Keladi, before this stands a decorated temple car. The temple itself consists of two parts, one has beautiful wooden carving. By now it is two o'clock and we go to Sagar for lunch.
In the afternoon we visit some other temples and the source of the Varadha river. Next is a factory where they produce clothing in the traditional way. Unfortunately it is after five and they just close.
It is dark as we return in Banavasi. We wash ourselves before we visit Dr Rauf. A self-made man who is now an expert on the pineapple culture for which he has an honorary degree. As we arrive the table is filled with pineapples, juice, bananas and all kind of biscuits. Due to language problems the conversation is a little difficult at first but when his son joins us it gets very animated.

A few hours later we are back in our room and take a little nap. At midnight we go again to the Gudnapur Lake where a religious festival takes place. A platform on the bank is used as temple. In the lake floats a large raft with the statue of another deity. All around us is a lot of light, music, prayers and firework. On the stairs in the water three priests process the offerings. After a while the musicians and a lot of others board the raft. The base of it consists of two vessels and four man start to row around the lake. Large and loud explosions in the water escort them.

We make a short visit to the market, it is two o'clock before we go to bed.

We have a lazy morning and I walk to the town and the river to take some pictures. Over 30 men stand around the sheds of the temple cars. With a lot of efforts and shouting they pull the cars outside. After all the temples of yesterday it is time for something else and we decide to visit Gudavi Bird Sanctuary and have lunch in a nearby home-stay. Gudavi consists of a rather small lake and the surrounding forest, and as the locals warned us, there are no birds at this time of the year. So we go direct to the home-stay. The owners of the Madhuvana welcome us cordially and after some chat we get one of the best lunches we have eaten in India. Then Manchale family show us the nice rooms they have and guide us around their farm.

Half past four we leave them. Along nice small roads with again a great scenery around us we proceed to Chandragutti where another stair of 200 steps leads to the nice rock temple. From the top we have a great view. Near an altar lies a stone, when you lift it and it does not feel heavy you are in love.
In a village on our way back to Banavasi walks a tame elephant, for 10 rs. I got blessed.

Again at eight we start with the trip, first to Sirsi for breakfast. A long ride over small roads through the woods leads us to the Unchalli waterfall.

From the parking area a steep path downhill leads to a viewpoint. It is a great panorama. Beneath us are more viewpoints and we decide to climb down. From the last one the sight is indeed the best but we have to climb nearly 300 steps to come back to the road.
We continue to Manjaguni and visit the local temple. According to Brahma this one is very old but we don't find him very rewarding. All around the place workers are busy with the restoration.

Another ride through the woods leads us to Yana. We park the car and walk though the dense and humid forest. Suddenly two bizarre shaped rocks appear, bold and very impressive and about 100 m high. Of course there is a temple beneath the rock. We visit this but to reach a holy lake and cave we must climb barefooted a rocky path and that is too much. For Brahma and the driver it is no problem so they go and we walk quietly to the car.

After lunch we go to Sahasraling, the river there is filled with stones and sculptors have made numerous linga's and other sculptures. It is not to comfortable to reach the rocks but once you sit in the river it is worth all the efforts. We make a walk along the river before we return to Banavasi.
This is the last day and we pay the bill. The room is 650 rs a night and above that comes the food and the cars so the total is 9400 rs., tomorrows drop included. And of course we make an entry in the guest-book.

Haveri 11 - 12 March


At seven we awake because a macaque family jumps on the roof. We have breakfast and make us ready for the journey to Haveri. But Dr Rauf has called and invites us to observe some agricultural activities. Behind his house are large depots where the harvest is stored. Women peel enormous piles of betel-nuts. Others sort by hand the coffee beans according to their quality.

The last visit is to a field where they process ginger. First the bark is partly removed to make the drying easier. Now the men remove the remainder of the bast before they pack the ginger in bags.
At eleven we say goodbye to our hosts and two hours later we are in Haveri. In Hotel Hoysala we have for 840 rs a large AC suite, consisting of a room and a separate bedroom.
Haveri is a small, dusty and it is hot. We go to the internet to buy train tickets to Belagaum. No availability so we travel by bus again.

They don't serve breakfast in our hotel, for this we end in hotel Hitaishi Palace. It looks more comfortable than ours. We are tired after the strenuous last days and stay on our room reading and watching TV.

In the afternoon we go out for a walk and enjoy the quiet atmosphere. Remarkable is the great number of men and boys that play the drums.

Belgaum, 13 - 15 March


We drink a chai in the tea stall opposite the hotel before we walk with our luggage to the bus station. The bus to Hubli leaves at nine o'clock and soon we are on the highway. The grain has been harvested from the fields and large herds of cows and goats eat the leftovers. After just one stop we arrive at ten thirty in Hubli.
Half an hour later we are on the road again, this time in an AC bus. As always the driver starts extremely slow to give the late comers a change to board. Since this bus has curtains before the windows we can not see much outside. We drive directly to Belgaum and at one o'clock we sit in our room in hotel Adarsha Palace. For 1000 rs we have a non AC room, the bathroom has mirrors everywhere. After a little rest we go to the top-floor for lunch.

On the ground before the hotel stands an enormous tent, it is part of the exhibitions to promote the regional culture. It attracts numerous visitors and we join them. But here are only books in Kannada so it is not very interesting for us. Elsewhere in the town are other cultural events but we are to lazy to visit them. We have to make a phone call and see then large herds of buffaloes running through the streets.
On the inner-court of the hotel is an extra dining room, the guests can watch cricket on large screens, we take our dinner on the rooftop.

This morning we visit the fort in Belgaum, besides the remainders of the outer walls not much is left. Inside is a Muslim burial site and a mosque. I am allowed to enter this but have to cover my head with a plastic basket. A military camp is situated inside the fort. Fresh recruits get drilling lessons, they have to learn this on a hard-handed way. The park inside the walls is a relaxed place to walk around. At the end we visit two ancient temples, a beautiful lotus blossom is on the ceiling of one of them.

After some rest in our room we visit the vibrant market and shopping area. For tourist Belgaum is not very interesting. But we have tickets for tomorrows overnight train and stay another night.

The man at the hotel desk has also no ideas what there is to do in the town. We take a rickshaw to the Kapileshwar temple. The origin of the temple is very old but it looks colourful and modern. On the terrain all kind of smaller temples are erected and a lot of devotees visit the place. We think that we are in another part of Belgaum but as we start to walk we soon are in the same market area.

At twelve we are back in the hotel. Reconstruction is going on and in our room the drilling troubles us so much that we move to the hall. I go to the internet, on the street I miss a step and fall flat on the road, fortunately without injuries. All bystanders are very concerned.
Then it is time to go to the station, the train arrives, a little late, around eight. We have an upper and lower berth in the 2AC. An Indian family uses all the berths but without a problem they move to their own seats. The family consists of a women, her children and her in-laws, the old man is blind. The young woman is busy with feeding all of them, she and her children sleep in our compartment.

Ahmednagar, 16 - 17 March


Since the family members regular visit each other we have a restless night. At seven thirty we rise and an hour later we arrive in Ahmednagar. With a rickshaw we search for a hotel, the first two are booked up. The next one, hotel Pushkaraj, is somewhat further away. We call them and they have a vacancy. For 1100 rs we get a small AC-room, we have to wait in the hall until the room is cleaned.
In the afternoon we go to the bus station to inform ourselves concerning the bus to Aurangabad, the depart is every half hour. Then to the internet to mail the home front. We have no ideas about this place and also internet is not very useful. But with regular asking we manage to find the market area. It is quit a distance from the hotel, with a rickshaw we go back.

Dinner is in our garden restaurant, an inner court with many flowers. It is busy, pleasant and the food as well as the beer taste well.

According to our information there is a fort here and we ask a rickshaw driver to bring us. The man does not understand it and we go with him to the desk of the hotel. They explain that the fort is far outside the town and that it is used by the military so we are not allowed to enter it. We decide to go again to the centre to roam around there.

For 50 rs I get a haircut and head massage. The town has nothing spectacular see but it has a relaxed atmosphere. Besides the Hindu temples there are many, mostly small, Muslim monuments. Inside one of the mosques is a Ganesh temple, now they rebuild the outside. Notable is that many men are still dressed in the traditional white clothes.

Aurangabad 18 - 23 March


A man sleeps on the floor of the restaurant while we have breakfast he wakes up as his phone rings. With a rickshaw we go to the bus station. The bus just leaves and we wait half an hour for the next one. Just before it arrives someone tells us that we have to buy tickets on the platform. Quite a lot of passengers take the bus but everybody has a seat and we manage to store our bag-packs. It is a good thing that not every one has so much luggage. We drive over a highway and the only break is halfway in a restaurant. Half past twelve we arrive in Aurangabad and take a rickshaw to hotel IRA, for 900 rs we have a fine room.

After the lunch we take a rickshaw to the tourist office. This is only open in the morning and the dependence in railway station gives the impression that it is closed for ever. With another car we go to the City Chowk in the hart of the shopping centre. Here the clothing of the people is a mixture of traditional Muslim and farmer clothing alternated with modern dressed young people.
Back in the hotel I make a list of all the monuments that I find in the guidebook. Apart of the caves it are mostly mosques. We expect to have dinner in the pleasant bar-restaurant of the hotel but women are not allowed inside and we end in the cheerless hall where we had lunch. But the food tastes good.

Somehow I have got the idea that nearby the bus station is a travel agency where we can arrange a city-tour. When we walk in that direction a man offers to show us the city. He wants 300 rs and above that we must pay for the transport. It does not sound as a good idea and we reject it. At the bus station non of the sign boards is readable for us but obvious there is no tourist office.
A rickshaw driver speaks to us in English, he looks reliable. We make an arrangement with Massy, for 350 rs. he will show us around. The first 'guide' turns up and claims a commission, the driver gives him some change.

Of course the vehicle has to be filled up before we go to the Panchakki or Water Mill. Massy wants that we take a photo of the numberplate of his car so we always are able find him again. We expect a large mill, such are used in our country. But we enter a large Muslim style complex with many large water ponds. The first basin is filled via an artificial waterfall and from that pond the water is running into the next ones. In the buildings around around the water an important man is buried. It is a nice and serene place. As we walk towards the fall we see under it the water driven millstones. According to the explanation the water is transported from the surrounding hills through a kilometres long tube.

I tell Massy about the sites we have selected but according to him we can better visit some museums and we decide to do this. On our way towards it we cross the area where once stood the city palace, nothing is left of it. The first museum is surrounded by a beautiful garden filled with flowers. As we enter the building it looks as if it consists of just one round hall. But after we buy the tickets a fence is opened and corridors lead to other exhibitions rooms. A man accompanies us and turns the lights on and off. It is a nice collection of all different objects. From here we walk to an old palace, the Soneri Mahal museum. In contrast this is situated in a barren scenery surrounded by brown hills. In some rooms we can see the old battered frescos, other parts are repainted. If the new colours are similar to the original situation it was very colourful. In both museums we sign the guest-book and see that they are not much visited.

In the hills around the museum are the Aurangabad caves. We start to visit the eastern group, the ticket seller is not in his office but sits in the shadow of a tree. Together with a guide we climb in full sun the stairs to the caves. The man has a flash light with him and with this it is possible to have a good look at all the different statues. The largest cave contains a complete temple while others never have been completed. Next with the rickshaw to the western group. The tickets are valid for both groups, the guards phone the numbers to each other. Two of these caves are conquered by the bees and we may not enter them. The other three are not so spectacular as those we already visited.
Back to the city where we have a chai in front of the Bibi Ka Maqbara. At the other side of the fence a group young man is drinking and throwing paint at each other. They prepare themselves for tomorrow's Holi.

The Bibi Ka Maqbara is a memorial in the style of the Taj Mahal. But it is less elegant and build with cheaper materials, so is only the lower part covered with marble. But it is still great and impressive and as a plus point it is less crowded than Agra.
Before we have lunch we go to the Jami Masjid this is a sort of madrassa. My wife is not allowed to go inside and photography is forbidden. It is a large square with small apartments around it where a lot of young boys are boarded. At the end a huge building, probably the school but also a no-go area.
Then it is time for a perfect biryani lunch. According to Massy there are further only mosques and shops to visit. We have seen enough of these and go back to the hotel. For tomorrow we make an appointment for to Ellora. Massy gives us his cell number. I have to write it down since he has never learned this.

Today it is Holi. We have celebrated this already during previous trips. To avoid the paint throwing we have an early start. It is before seven when Massy arrives and it is still quiet in the town. We pass Daulatabad and make some photos since now the situation is optimal in connection with the sun light. Large processions walk along the road towards traditional Holi ceremonies. The men are in front and wear mostly traditional white clothes, the women wear sari's, some of them carry a plant on their head. Of course there are also priests and a deity in his travel temple.

We take our breakfast in Ellora, I am stupid enough to order two plates so it takes some time. In the meantime we see many more guidances, they walk into both directions.
Half past eight we go to the caves. There are just a few visitors at this time and therefore I think it is best to start with the Kailasanatha temple. Massy convinces us that the temple receives better light later on the day and we start with the Buddhist caves. The first caves are not very special but some of the next ones are huge and spectacular. A big stupa is build in one of them, inside is an enormous echo effect. A man sings to demonstrate this, I think he is just an unwanted guide. But then I see him outside, sweeping the environment. It turns out that each cave has his own caretaker. After some caves we sit on a bench against the rock-face but not for long. Monkeys on the top throw purposeful stones towards us.

In the next cave the caretaker gives me a tour through the three store building, as in the other caves I'm glad that we have a flash light with us. He opens a door behind which are the remaining of frescoes. In the last Buddhist caves are remarkable many status of woman. At this time more visitors arrive and as often we are an extra photo opportunity.

After visiting some beautiful Hindu style caves, with of course a total different style of sculptures we reach the Kailasanatha temple. It is a little crowded by now but we have all the changes to examine everything. I won't try to describe it but it is very impressive and we stay for more than an hour. At the end I walk along the edge of the rock above the temple, it gives a good impression of all the labour that has been necessary.

Massy drives us to the four Jain temples, they are at the other side of the complex. These too have there own character and are splendid. Another ride brings us to the remaining Hindu caves. The first one is immense huge and in the next one Massy arranges the caretaker to guide us around. There are more caves but according to them there is nothing special to see. We don't mind to skip them, it is half past one and we are overloaded with impressions.

We take a lunch in Ellora and go back, we are tired and decide to visit Dautalabad tomorrow. In the town the Holi activities are over by now. But as we want dinner the restaurant is closed. In the next hotel they only serve a simple standard meal with water, this is the other side of the festival.

Massy is timely again and half past ten we are in Daulatabad. The entrance is formed by thick walls with gates, they are positioned in right angles to each other.

After that we arrive on a large terrain with many remainders of wells, temples, mosques and palaces and we take all the time to witness everything. There is also a small museum but this is closed. This part of the site is dominated by the Chand Minar, a 30 meter high victory tower. Maybe you can climb to the top but we find it too high to do this.

Through more gates and stairs we encounter a bridge over a deep moat and thereafter we are on the inner court. Original the entrance to the next part was through an underground maze but now there is a stairway. At the top of this we still have to enter a cave and proceed by stairs in the dark. My wife does not like this and goes back and I'm glad I have my flash-light. It is just a short passage and I feel the bats flutter through my hair.
Then starts a climb over a long flight of stairs, nearly always in the full sun. If there is a flat piece of ground a temple is erected. After a tiring climb I reach a white palace and I think I have reached the top. I take a rest and enjoy the views, the Chand Minar is now far below and a miniature. In the palace sits a water vendor and he gestures that I can go further and so I arrive on the top of the palace. From here another stair leads to the last bastion but I have not the courage to continue.

The way back is a lot easier. Three boys tell me that Wiesje is waiting downstairs, they made a photo with her and now they must have mine. For people with small children the climb is to heavy and they often return half way. A mother and child take advantage of my light in the cave.
At the entrance of the fort we have a drink and return to the hotel. We are rather exhausted so we spend the rest of the day in our room.

We are by now familiar enough with Aurangabad to walk to the centre. It is just nine o'clock and most shops are still closed at this time. An hour later many have opened their doors but near others the personal stands still on the street waiting for someone with the key. Everywhere the streets and houses are still coloured as a result of Holi. We wander a time through the city before we return to the hotel.

Tomorrow we fly to Jodhpur and we go to the internet for the check-in. We see a small eatery and want a lunch. But this is their opening day and they just serve free drinks.

Half past six we wait for Massy in the lobby. He is on time and brings us to the airport. The security check is very severe. Since we have just an inland flight to Mumbai and next to Jodhpur we don't expect this. On this small airport we just walk to the plane but in Mumbai a bus waits for us. The arrival and the departure hall are adjacent so soon we sit and wait again. At twelve we depart and an hour later we arrive in Jodhpur.

Jodhpur 23 - 26 March


While we were preparing this years trip we got in invitation from Govind to attend the wedding of his brother. We accepted this and that is the reason for the detour to Jodhpur.
Govind and some of his friends stand outside the airport and greet us cordially. With two cars we drive to Durag Niwas where we get a traditional welcome. While we greet the family the personnel prepares the inner court for the festivities. Wiesje and another girl go shopping for party clothes.
At four the first musician arrives and start to play, gradually his colleagues join him, about seven of them play the coming days.

The priest comes and with the help of others he manages to span some ropes between the balconies and adjust chappatis and other lucky symbols on these. Next he prepares a home altar whereupon, accompanied by loud drumming, a symbol of Gannish is carried inside. The first guests arrive. It are almost only women and they disappear in the family rooms.
Shakti, the groom, appears at six. He is dressed in traditional white clothing and wears a turban with a long loose end. He sits on a pillow and opposite all the women take their places, their heads covered by the sari's. One by one they bless and congratulate him. They offer Shakti food and rub his head and clothes with a yellow paste. The last ceremony is with baskets filled with rolling pins and grain. This may not make any noise otherwise there will be quarrels in the future.

A catering service brings food and meanwhile more and more guests arrive. Young man install sound equipment on the balconies. The Rajasthan musicians keep playing and the women perform traditional dances. Many guests wave with money above the dancers heads and subsequently give this to the musicians. We are told that the money catches the evil ghosts so they cannot disturb the couple. Since the musicians are outside the caste system the ghosts do not harm them.
Then the traditional music is pushed aside by modern techno and another type of dance is performed. Guests keep coming and there is enough to drink for everyone. While the music styles alternates each other we protect our ears and sit with other elderly people on the street side. Around one o'clock the party is over.

The activiteis starts slowly after the long night before. The musicians begin to play and we get some background concerning the ceremonies. The family is proud to descent from the Rajput warrior classes and celebrates the wedding in this style. These first days is just for the groom and his family and friends. The bride has her own party. Remarkable to us in the coming days are the many presents they give to each other, the elaborate meals and above all the division between men and women. All the guests of the hotel and the volunteers are invited, they often ignore this segregation.
After our breakfast we go to clock-tower and market area. We drink a lassi and I buy some summer clothing.
The non-Indian guests are asked to wear traditional clothing so with four of us we go to a shop. Our visit is announced and we all buy a Jodhpur trouser and a matching shirt. I purchase also a pair of mules. We don't need turbans, these we get as a gift.

Around five o'clock the inner-court is equipped again with pillows and carpets. Guest arrive and the relatives exchange gifts. Of course Shakti gets his share, the real sense of this and other rituals is beyond my notion.
In the meantime we have changed into our new clothings, except for the trousers they are just for tomorrow. I get my turban it is a small piece of cloth, over 10 meters long. An expert winds it on his own head until it is nearly finished, then he puts it on my head for the fishing touch, it is tight over my ears. The turban dresser assists also numerous Indian.
It is after eight and guest are still pouring in but it is now time to leave for the reception. With some others we walk to the end of the street and take a rickshaw. The party is on the lawn outside a large hotel and we are the first to arrive. The space is divided in two parts, separate for men and women. We westerners do not accept this and take a table in the men department. Govind and Shakti appear fully dressed and Govind explains that Indian men feel unpleasant with the women around them and grumbling we split. We, the men, have chairs and tables, a fine buffet including meat, a lot of drinking and a professional orchestra with dancers. The women have just a few chairs, vegetarian food and music of the 'home' band.

The evening passes with talking, eating and (much) drinking. By midnight many of the Indians leave and the ladies join us. As Wiesje and I leave a police officer orders his driver to take us with him. In Durag Niwas it is still party time, we have a drink outside. It is pleasant and it is four o'clock before I realize this. One of the houseboys assists me to the room.

I have quite a hangover so after breakfast I return to bed and later on Wiesje also takes an extra nap. It helps, so we are able to enjoy ourselves again as at the end of the afternoon the ceremony starts. Just as yesterday the inner-court is provided with pillows and carpets and the priest accomplish several rituals. Shakti sits again in his fouled shirt and the women provide him with different gifts. Then it is time to dress ourselves for the wedding. My turban is wrapped again and happily not as tight as yesterday.

It is after seven and we go outside where the police music-band plays and the white horse waits The people, or better children, who carry the light boxes arrive. Then Shakti, dressed in great cloths, comes out of the house, accompanied by the singing of the women. After a photo session the Rajasthani women sing a farewell song, they stay in the house. Shakti sits on the horse, then the music and this is followed by the men while the feminine guest close the procession. Around us the children with the light, during the walk many bulbs have to be changed. We go towards the end of the street and continue from there with cars. The music has a prisoners car, the light has their own transport and a real horseman gallops the horse.

After a short ride the procession is lined up again, this time Shakti closes the row. I find it quite impressive, with their great turbans, clothing and a sword on their side the men bring alive the paintings of the Rajput era. We pass some triumphal arches and arrive at the wedding centre. A sentry with a broom asks for a symbolic payment before we may enter the premises where the brides family waits.
Shakti has to sit on a podium and we on chairs in front of him. The male family of the bride and later his own relatives join the groom. A priest performs all kind of ceremonies and in the meantime we get refreshments. Afterwards Shakti climbs on his horse and goes to building where his bride waits. Here the feminine relatives of the bride welcome him. As far as I understand the next ceremony is not for men, so I leave my wife alone. Later she tells me that the bride lies on a bed, covered with a blanket which is removed by Shakti. And of course new blessing ceremonies follow this encounter.

In the meantime the men go to a large marquee, on each table stand bottles with liquor and of course there is beer and a lot of food. Around ten we walk to the wedding building, Shakti and his wife come out and together with her parents they sit around a fire. Another long sets of rituals is performed. We stay for some time and by midnight a car brings us back to Durag Niwas. There we hear that the women had their own party, including a great parody on the behaviour of the Rajput men.

When we return from a visit the centre a removal-van is unloaded. All the new furniture stands in the inner-court and I cannot believe it fits in Shakti's renewed room. But during the afternoon everything finds his place.

At three o'clock outside a drum sounds, Shakti and his wife Rajeshwari enter the premises. They are surrounded by the women. Seven plates with a chapati are put on the ground. Shakti shifts them with his sword and his wife piles them up. This performance is repeated four times. Shakti's mother and grandmother come outside, they welcome Rajeshwari and offer her jewellery. The newly wed go inside to the altar and perform there all kind of ceremonies. Everyone wants to see this and tries to make pictures. At the end Shakti goes to his room and the bride joins her new sister in law.
Outside another pile of gifts, mostly clothes, is gathered and handed out according to a strict protocol. Also Rajeshwari brings a large crate with presents.
The bride comes outside, covered with many veils and says thanks to the musicians for the fact that they have taken away the evil ghosts. It is half past seven now and many guests disappear but after an hour they and others return. Now it is time for an informal party but we have to leave. We say goodbye to everyone and take a car to the station. The train to Jaipur has two different numbers and that gives some confusion. A fellow traveller eats his dinner and a mouse walks around. At eleven we depart.

Sikkim 27 - 31 March


After all the festivities we are a little uptight and don't sleep well. Besides we arrive in Jaipur around five o'clock so it is a short night. A rickshaw driver offers to bring us to the airport for 200 rs. But it turns out that he is not very experienced. There are two terminals and his colleagues have to explain him from which one Indigo operates. Once we are on the way we get the impression he does not know the quickest route but since we see regular airport on the signboards we don't worry. He is apparently in doubt and wants to know if the terminal number is on the tickets. By the light of the street-lights we cannot decipher this.
But at last we arrive at the right terminal and are so early that we have to wait for the check-in. The security checks are severe, it is even forbidden to have batteries in the cabin luggage. It is a budget flight and the crew demonstrates the security measures in the old fashioned way. At ten o'clock we land in Kolkata.
The depart time for our next flight is delayed and we wait in the crowded hall. When we are called to board the gate doesn't show our flight number. We and a lot others are confused. Then it becomes clear that two flights board through the same gate. On the platform we must pick the correct bus.

We fly at two o'clock and an hour later we land in Bagdogra. The temperature is 26º, quite a difference with Jodhpur's 37º. Also here you can get a pre-paid taxi and for 340 rs we drive to Siliguri. We sleep in hotel Vinayak, the price of the room is 800 rs.
We negotiate with a cab driver in the hall to bring us to Ravangla, he asks 2500 rs. We think it is too much and walk to the taxi strand. Here we can hire a car for 2000 rs. On our way back to the hotel we discover and explore the market area. What strikes us after such a rapid transfer to the other side of India that the nightfall is an hour earlier.

Half past eight we sit in the lobby. The rain pours down and there is no sign of our driver. We have his mobile number but get no answer. Te good thing is that after a while the rain stops. Outside is another driver but he has not a license for Sikkim. He advises us to hire a car at the tourist office but we hesitate. Others join the conservation. As they hear that we want to arrange the IPL at the border they all agree that that is not possible at Melli, the frontier place for Ravangala. We have to go to the tourist office.
This is still closed but bus ticket seller confirms the permit story. Our temporary driver arranges a car for 2200 rs and drives us back to hotel to collect our luggage. The office opens at ten and the first clerk arrives even before that time. In half an hour the formalities for the IPL are done.

At last we are on our way. There is a lot traffic on the road and due to the low-hanging clouds we cannot enjoy the views over the Teesta. Of course the route is the same as last year, we even have lunch in the same restaurant. But then we cross the river and reach the border. From here the road contains many potholes and is very narrow. In case of oncoming cars one driver must go back to be able to pass each other. First we drive along the river but then we turn and go steep up the mountains. After we have passed Namchi it starts to rain again. Now and then we drive through the clouds while next to the road there is an abyss of over hundred meters. It is not very pleasant and we are happy to arrive in Ravangla. It is three o'clock by now and the rains stops.

Ravangla is a small village with a lot of hotels. Our first choice is several kilometres outside the centre and it looks as if we are the only guests. This does not attract us and we go back. In hotel Meanamla we get a room, with a discount it is 1000 rs. The personnel wears thick sweaters and ice caps. They need it, the temperature is below 10º C. When we sit in our room we see a glimpse of the sun and cloud covered mountains. There is no heater in the room and even worse there is an opening of at least 5 cm under the balcony door. We put a pillow before that and wear all the clothes that we have. But for this temperatures this is not sufficient. The dinner is fine and we get a jug with warm water so we can warm our hands.

I have set the alarm in the hope to enjoy the sunrise view but it is cloudy and I return to bed. At seven we get breakfast tea and rise. For just a short moment there is sun and I can take a few pictures of the snow covered mountains around us.

Half past nine we start to walk and explore the vicinity. Just outside Ravangla a Buddhist complex is under construction. A statue of nearly 40 metres and furthermore temples and guest houses. The road towards the complex is broad and brand new. But for the rest it is a slippery old mud road, not steep but difficult to walk with many holes filled with water. Now and then it is raining so it is not a cheerful stroll. The road is under reconstruction, a truck filled with sand has to turn on the small road, a frightening sight.

We ask how far it is to the nearest monastery and when we are told it is more then six kilometres we decide to go back. Near Ravangla we discover the path through the Mainam Sanctuary, it is steep uphill and too hard for us.
By noon we are back in the hotel. There is a powercut and we get a cold lunch. Later I wander around in the village and the environment. With better weather you must have great panoramas. Our plan is to continue from here to West-Sikkim. But we cannot get any reliable information about the weather there. Since we don't want to stay another week in this cold and damp weather we look at the trains to Kolkata, but these are all booked up.
For tomorrow we arrange for 2000 a car for local sight seeing. In our room we discus what to do in the remaining days. Then Wiesje gets the inspiration that we can also fly from Bagdogra. It is to late now to investigate if that is possible.


This night it was pouring with rain and it is still cloudy when we wake up. The personnel thinks we are leaving and comes for the luggage. But it is just for a day trip that we start at eight. We drive along the same road as we walked yesterday. The rain has worsened its condition, a four wheel is more suitable than our standard car.

But we manage to reach the new Ralang monastery. At the outside it is not very special. The monks have emptied the big hall in order to clean it so we don't stay long. Yesterday we got a note from the tour operator with the sites we will visit. According to this we now go to the old Ralang monastery but the driver says that is impossible and we cannot convince him.

By the same road back to Ravangla and then into the direction of Namchi to visit the Temi Tea garden. Again the clouds make it impossible to really enjoy the views. We know that it is possible to visit the factory and again the driver denies that. But we insist and indeed we may enter and an English speaking manager explains the production process.
The next stop is the Bio diversity park, a beautiful a hill garden with all kind of trees and plants. Now and then it rains a little but we can cope with that.

A short drive brings us to the big Buddha statue in Samdruptse. This one is finished and beautiful painted with gold. As we arrive the head is covered by the clouds but it appears for the photos. All these places are close together as is the Rock Garden. It is set up at the slope next to the road. We climb down, first by stairs and concrete paths, the last part the route is made of rocks. Also here are beautiful trees, plants and ponds and of course great views. We don´t go to the bottom of the park and that is a wise decision since we are exhausted after the climb back to the road.

Back in Ravangla we visit a building where women knot carpets. They do it in a special way, according to Wiesje it resembles knitting. An experienced woman does this in a fascinating tempo. In another room new wool is delivered and weighed. Nearby is another small monastery.
Half pas three we are back. There is again a powercut so we first have lunch, the momo´s taste me well. Then to the internet and tomorrow we can fly from Bagdogra. Since we arrive late in the afternoon we reserve also a hotel in Kolkata. Then back to the travel agent and hire the same driver for the drop, the price is 2500 rs.
Today it is India Pakistan in the cricket tournament. All the personnel watches it on a TV in the hall but as we ask for dinner they fix that quickly. Back in the room we watch the rest of the match and try to understand the rules. India wins, it is eleven o’clock and outside is a small firework.

The driver arrives at half past eight and has already a passenger. They both disappear and with the help of the hotel personnel we store our luggage. When the driver returns he is irritated that there is no room for his 'brother' and gets pissed off as he understands that this cannot be changed. The whole journey he does not speak a word and drives fast but without taking any risks. We start the trip in the clouds, later it is raining and around Siliguri we see the sun sometimes.
Just after twelve o'clock we are at the airport and have plenty of time since our flight starts at half past three. An hour later we land in Kolkata and for 235 rs we take a pre-paid taxi to our hotel. It is rush hour and some streets are blocked for election rallies. It takes an hour to reach Sunflower Guesthouse.

With a ruinous elevator we reach the fourth store and go to the next floor where the reception is. For 1250 rs we have a small AC room, we need this since the temperature is here again 30º.
After a while I go out to buy some beer. I rattle at the fence of the elevator and the lift comes up with an operator. The lift is controlled by a handle with three positions: up, down and stop, there are holes in the wooden floor. I have asked for the direction towards the beer shop but take the wrong turn at the end of the street. I see a lot of restaurants but no beer. A man guides me and of course he expects a reward. The benefit is that I know where we can eat.

Kolkata 1 - 7 April


Our rooms are on the 5th floor but on the 3th there are more and also a breakfast hall. I don't know where they prepare the food but it takes quiet some time before it is served.
This is our second visit to Kolkata and we are glad to be back in this fascinating city. The Sunflower guesthouse is close to Sudder Street. It is there that we go to the internet and mail the folks back home. And then of course to the New Market. We ignore the touts and go inside. Crows fly in the part where meat is sold.

As I take some pictures a guard warns us that this is forbidden. For lunch we go to a very small eatery. The chapati baker sits on the street and hands the chapati's over through a hole in the wall.
The afternoon we spend in our room, and make plans for the coming days. By nightfall we walk along Park Street. The road and the footway are crowded. Some old mansions are still there but most of the buildings and shops are brand new. For dinner we go again to Gupta's.

The Indian Museum is nearby and after breakfast we walk towards it. It is an enormous complex with a very varied collection. Since we have different interests we each take our own route. On the ground floor are great collections of beautiful statues and coins. I like also the halls with the expositions of the life of all the different tribal people. But the large collection of minerals I appreciate less. The first floor contains expositions of fossils, herbs and skeletons of animals. All together we are here for over three hours.

After lunch we stay in our room and watch the cricket final. We just go out for dinner in a very small eatery. Despite the match there are a lot of visitors but they keep watching. The people who live on the street have other worries. This neighbourhood is a fascinating mixture of exclusive hotels and shops confronted with the basic versions of the same and street trade.
In the guesthouse we watch the remaining of the match. It is eleven o'clock when India wins. A street party starts and lasts for some hours.

After the festivities the personnel is not alive before nine o'clock. For the visit to the Zoo we need a taxi, the first ones refuse to use the meter but at last we succeed. At half past ten it is quiet in the Zoo. A great renovation plan is carried out and there is a mixture of new and old stables as well as building sites. But it is nice to roam around. More and more visitors arrive, by noon they spread out their blankets for lunch.

With another taxi we go to the Victoria Memorial. Since there are so many one-way roads it is impossible to establish if the driver takes the shortest way but we have our doubts. The memorial is a big, somewhat bombastic building situated in a large formal garden. Many visitors are here and see the somewhat strange combination of exposures: the English rulers, the history of Kolkata, the Indian leaders and Mother Therasa. We leave through the back entrance and a policeman is so nice to help us with a taxi. This driver knows the short cuts and in no time we are back in the hotel.
Tonight it is difficult to find a restaurant, before most of them long rows stand on the street.

One upon a time I have read an article about Dhanyakuria, a small village North of Kolkata and we think it is nice for a day trip. The travel agency that we ask to organize this has never heard of it. At the internet I print a road map and with this we return to the office and arrange a trip for Wednesday.
For the visit to Kalighat we take the metro, the entrance to the station is so inconspicuous that we pass it several times. A ticket costs just 4 rs. The station is clean and spaciously. The trains run every few minutes so we don't have to wait long. All the passengers are very helpful to get us off at the correct station. On the street we try to orientate ourselves, immediately a man asks if we want to visit the Kali temple and points the direction. We walk through narrow streets and at every corner someone stands to guide us. It is amazing and no one asks for money. It is so quiet around us that it does not feel to walk in an overpopulated city. But this changes as we reach our goal.

The temple is so built-in that it is not possible to get a proper overview of it. Inside it is crowded and dirty. For 100 rs we are allowed into the inner sanctum but as we see the mass of people we don't do this and just walk in the other parts. The neighbourhood around the temple is nice with many small shops, not all of them sell offerings.

Today we want to visit the Biological Garden. We take the metro to Esplanade and take a bus from there. After questioning several people we know the number and the point where the bus stops. The busses hardly stand still and you have to board immediate. As one with another number, but with B. Garden on it, arrives we take it. The route is obvious not the shortest. We travel through the city, over the Howrah bridge and along the station. It takes more than an hour, and that for 14 rs.
The entrance to the garden is not free of charge. Photography is allowed but we must leave the water bottles outside. It is an extended park with numerous trees of all kinds but without much explanation.

And it is so quiet, no traffic rumour just the whistling of the birds. Without any plan we wander around and after a time we reach the famous Banyan tree. From there we go back, partly along de Howrah and after some hours we reach the entrance. Thirsty of course. The bus back to Esplanade takes one and a half hour.
We pay the hotel bill because we leave here tomorrow. As we then have a car at our disposal we use it to move to a hotel near the airport. For six nights we pay 8200 rs, breakfast included. Dinner we have in a very small Bengali restaurant. Chicken and fish, both taste well. An Indian man joins us, we eat with our fingers, he asks for a spoon.

The car should be here at eight. So early the hotel personnel is still sleeping and the lift does not work. So we carry our luggage to the street. But no car is there and we wait some time. Since we have no mobile I have to return upstairs and call the travel agent. He assures me that the car is coming and when I'm downstairs the luggage is already in it.

It is not the driver that we have arranged and above that he does not know where we want to go. So first to the travel agency where the man gets his instructions. Kholapota is the largest town in the neighbourhood of Dhanyakuria and it is clear that he has never been to this place. But the diver speaks some English and we take our chance.
Next to the North Star hotel a little off the DumDum Road. We stayed here last year and know approximately where it is but we overlook the entrance and drive to far. I walk back and succeed to find it. A small AC room costs 870 rs.
It is about ten o'clock when we start for the real trip. The drive is a nice guy. He is so unsure about the direction the he inquires at every crosspoint. Slowly we leave Kolkata and stop for a breakfast of puri's and chai. There is a lot of traffic on the road and we travel through a successions of villages but still it is great to be on the country side again.

As we approach Kholapota the driver asks for Dhanyakuria and it turns out that we just enter the village. A large crowd gathers around us and wants to know where we exactly are looking for. But we don´t know nothing more then that we want to see palaces and mansions. At least someone understands it and tells that we must take the cross-road. Along this road is a high wall and above that we see the upper part of a palace but no entrance. The driver is very helpful and keeps asking and so we find a pink mansion, Gaine Bari, it is surrounded by a large garden. A women has a long discussion with the driver and the result is that we are allowed to enter. The owners live in Kolkata and use the house just one week a year during the Durga Puja festival. The housekeeper shows us the corridors and some of the servant rooms. Back in the garden is a private temple. The priest wants to start a ceremony but we reject this. The other palaces in the village are difficult to find. One is converted in apartments and another one is ruined.

Then we go back to the palace at the road and find the entrance. Some guards stand at the gate and they allow us to take some distance pictures. Although the trip is not that what we expected it is nice and satisfied we return to Kolkata.

By ten I go to the internet for the check-in procedures of tomorrows flights. As that is finished we are ready to go to Kumartuli, the potters quarter. We ask the man at the hotel desk if we can reach it by bus but he advises us to take a taxi. A hotel boy halts one on the street and without resists the driver turns on the meter. He does not exactly know the potters street, but Wiesje spots some puppets and we let him halt.

Everywhere we see clay puppets. The first thing that strikes us is that the puppets we see all have cracks and no hands. As we look around we understand that this is part of the making process. The start is a straw model which is coated with a clay layer. When this is dry a new layer is added. The heads, hands and foots are made separately by using a template. When the body is finished these are attached and then the puppet is painted. At the final stage they get there clothes. The statues vary from small figures to large groups. Also here the modernisations starts which results in puppets from polyester. It is an amazing quarter to spend a lot of time.

With another taxi back to the hotel. In the afternoon we make our last walk of this trip in the quiet streets and markets around DumDum road.

Travelling home, 8 - 9 April


The day starts at six o'clock and we pack the last things before we settle the bill. A hotel boy gets a taxi, for 150 rs we drive to the airport. Outside someone sells coffee, 20 rs is expensive but we take it since we did not have breakfast and it tastes fine. The custom formalities run smoothly and are completed at eight o'clock. Finally time to buy some sandwiches.
The plane is not even half full and Wiesje occupies four seats and takes a nap. We change planes in Dubai and depart with a delay of half an hour. We don't gain any time during the flight and have the misfortune that in Düsseldorf our luggage is the last that comes out. There is no way that we can catch our train and have to take an expensive taxi to Arnhem and continue with the train from there.

It is after midnight, our time, when we arrive in Groningen and take another cab for the last leg to home. After a glass of wine we go to bed.
It is still dark when I awake and need to pee very urgent. In the hotels we always have a torch next to us and, accustomed to this, I try to grab it. Nothing, in a little panic I wake my wife "Wiesje do you know where we placed the torch in this hotel?". "No"she responds, "where are our backpacks, maybe we did not get them out". She rises and feels around her to find some light while I sit with my legs crossed.
After a while Wiesje says "Here is the sink, use that if you need so desperately". I do it with a great feeling of relief. My wife continues to seek, finds the light and opens the bedroom door. Now she understands it: "Jan we are at home".
Seven weeks North-East
Date Posted: Jan 2nd, 2011 at 01:52 - Comments (1)
Seven weeks North-East

Seven weeks North East

In April 2009 we competed a 3½ months journey. This trip was somewhat too long and we thought that we had enough of India, at least for some years. We start to think about something totally different for our next holiday. Because of all kind of reasons these plans don't unfold as we hope.
And we have an attractive invitation from friends to celebrate Holi in Orissa with them. Combined with a long time wish of mine to visit Kaziranga and our curiosity towards Sikkim we plan an itinerary of seven weeks.
We start in Kolkata, next Northern Orissa and then a trip through West-Bengal, Assam and Sikkim.

Kolkata, 23 - 27 February 2010
Early in the morning a neighbour brings us to the nearest railway station. Light rain let the last snow disappear, we had it for two months. Four trains later we arrive at Düsseldorf airport. We fly again with Emirates with a stop in Dubai.

Seven thirty local time our plane lands in Kolkata. We are amongst the last passengers that leave the aircraft. It is already hot, humid and a little hazy. We walk towards the airport buildings and get then a new type of form. It is the time of the Swine Flu and we have to fill a lot of questions about our health and the counties we recently visited. There are no tables so everyone sits on the floor or lean against the walls. All passengers must pass a screen to control their body temperature and then we line up for the customs. All together it takes 1.5 hour and in the meantime the loudspeakers call that our flight has to collect the luggage.
We change some money and arrange a prepaid cab for 240 rs. In less than an hour the yellow cab brings us to hotel Green Inn. My first impression of the town is that Kolkata is that of a busy but not a very hurried metropole. There are many trees and a lot of street-life with markets anywhere on the side-walks. As we stop for a traffic light we observe a man examine a baby, acting that he is a doctor.

We had send an e-mail to the hotel and got a kind of confirmation. They expect us, have even a copy of the mail, and for 1200 rs. we have a small AC-room. When I fill the register the manager decides that we are friends and offers us a larger room for the same price.
After some hours rest we go to explore the vicinity. We are not far from the Suddar Street area and I think that I know in which direction we have to walk. As soon as we are outside the hotel we start to like Kolkata. Of course it is hectic but is is that in a relaxed way. Along the road, on the pavement, is a string of street sellers so there is not much room left for the pedestrians but there is so much to see and enjoy. As in previous years we want 20.000 rs. from the ATM but the machine gives no money. On our way to Suddar Street we pass the New Market, a four store building with small shops. There is a car parking in front of it, the vendors use the cars to show their merchandise. And of course a lot of touts who try to persuade us to enter.

Wiesje wants to shoot some film but our cam recorder does not work. Now the touts are useful and one of them escorts us to a repair shop in the market. The repairman consults a colleague and tells that he has to replace a part of the mechanism. It will cost at least 4600 rs, and as we hear that a new one is less then 20.000 we decide to see if we can buy one. 'Our' tout works for a jewel shop, we go with him and Wiesje buys a snake ring. After firm bargaining the price drops from 1800 to 1000 rs.
Sudder Street area is also a nice area to roam and further there are a lot of small hotels, internet places and shops. On our way back to the hotel there is another ATM. Here we see that the maximum withdrawal nowadays is 10.000 rs.
In the hotel there is only room-service, not our favourite. So we go out for dinner. The street life is vibrant, but by nine most shops are closed.

Due to the jet-lag we sleep until nine-thirty so we have a late start. The man at the reception desk advises the E-Mall for a new camera and he fixes a taxi for us. The driver uses the meter and I pay 2x the tariff + 2 rs, in total 50 rs. The mall is a pile of different shops and we discover one which sells camera's, for 15000 we buy a Samsung. The salesclerk disappears as soon as we have decided and points to a girl to explain the working of the camera to us. Another girl must write down all the serial numbers of the 500 rs. notes on the bill.

This part of Kolkata looks much more modern than the area around our hotel. We walk around and after a lunch we take a taxi back to the hotel. This driver knows his way and we just have to pay 22 rs. We make ourselves familiar with our new toy and then go to the streets to try it out. Crossing some very busy roads we reach a park with sports fields. We decide that is to far too go the board of the Hooghly and return.
Saturday we will leave Kolkata and visit friends in Orissa. So far all the arrangements were made by E-mail with the travel office for which P. works. He has some days off unless there is a last minute tour booking. So we don't know exactly what to expect. We try to contact P. and as we don't have a mobile with us we go regular to a telephone boot, without success.
(Two trips ago P. was our driver during a great itinerary through the tribal belt of Orissa. We got along very well and he told us that sometimes guest stayed a night in his house near Bhadrak. We did that during our next trip and get acquainted with his family. During that trip he invited us for a Holi celebration in the future; and here we are.)

We have still problems with the jet-lag, we just fell asleep by six so it is again ten o'clock before we have breakfast. As we still can not reach P. we call his boss. He tells us that P. is at home and expects us, besides he has a new mobile number. We try this one but get still no connection.
Owing to the bad nights we are not very adventurous and decide to walk to the old English centre. We know the global direction and so we walk along. Sometimes through small alleys and then along roads with heavy traffic. Policemen stop the pedestrians who want to cross with a rope until it is safe. There is nothing special to the colonial buildings but we like the feeling of the city more and more.
A street is covered by cloths, there is some demonstration and people can sit on it to listen to the speakers. We want to the BBD Bagh but everyone we ask points us in a different direction. At a certain moment we cross the railway and end up by the Fairlie Ghat at the Hooghly. We sit a while at the bank and watch the ferries. They are filled with new groups of demonstrators, on the boat the are quiet but as soon they embark they start to shout slogans. We walk through the Millennium Park and are surprised by the many young couples that sit on the benches.

We want a taxi to return to our hotel. De first driver refuses to put on the meter and gives a fixed price. We refuse this and step out. After some more attempts we find one who turns on the meter. By this time we are so familiar with the city that we observe that he takes a detour but we don't know how to change it. At least we have to pay 40 rs. less then with the first driver.
Without success we again call P., we will see what tomorrow will bring.

We fill our bag-packs and leave the hotel by ten thirty. The hotel-boy arranges a cab and half an hour later we are at Howrah. It is a vast station and our platform is on the other end. It is a firm walk over a foot-bridge and at the end we even must cross some roads. The train is waiting and we take our seats in the sleeping class.
Just before noon we depart. At once the food vendors come along but we are not hungry yet. By the time we want to eat there is no vendor to see and we have to do it with chips. The first part of the journey we share the compartment with three man playing card and one sleeper. In Kharagpur the three card players are replaced by six other passengers, it is cramped. The landscape around us is very nice and varied. There is a lot of agriculture ground, especially rice, but also many ponds and woodland.

With hardly any delay we arrive by five in Bhadrak. We have mailed with which train we arrive and assume that P. will be there. But we are wrong. Outside the station we wait some time while taxi drivers regular offer their services. Then I go to the telephone boot and after a few attempts I get P. on the line. The connection is bad but it is clear that we have to arrange the transport ourselves. Of course we have his address. At the market place he will wait for us.
(P. lives in the country side on a walking distance from a small hamlet. A few kilometres further on is a little town with shops, they refer to that as the market.)
I go to the group taxi-drivers and show them the address. The first one sees an opportunity and asks a ridiculous 1000 rs. One of the others notices the phone number of P. and calls him. After a consultation of a minute of ten there is an agreement, for 200 rs. we take a rickshaw.
The twilight falls when we drive out of Bhadrak. We pass some small hamlets, here and there we see illuminated small temples. It is completely dark when we, after half an hour, arrive at the market place. P waits with his motorbike and it is great to see him again. He guides the rickshaw to his house. The condition of the road is much better than last year and the big surprise is that the second floor of his house is ready. There he has two rooms, a kitchen, a bathroom and a large corridor. Underneath live the families of his brothers.

The welcome of his family, wife, three daughters and son, is so hart warming that it is nearly unbelievable that we had only seen each other for one night over a year ago. We talk, the children speak English too, drink chai and give them some presents. We get one of the rooms, the family sleeps together in the other one. Another good thing is that they have a well, the water is also drinkable for us.
After a while we walk to the village. P tells that the name for Holi in Orissa is Dol Purnima and that the festivities take several days. During these period the idols of the temple gods are placed on palanquin, these where the small temples we saw. In the night they are carried to a central temple where in the morning the priests perform ceremonies. Tomorrow there is a celebration at the main temple of the village and now we have a look. There are some preparations but not much to see yet.
A bunch of children gathers around us and we give them some sweets. We visit different relatives, they remember us from last year, for us that is difficult. Back at the house it is time for dinner. At nine we go to sleep. There is no glass in the windows but there is a mosquito net. Fulfilled with all the impressions we find it difficult to fall asleep.

Holi / Dol Purnima 28 Feb - 3 March

We often wake up and hear the music of passing groups. It is the day before Holi so the moon is nearly full and we see the enlightened palanquins pass in the distance. It gives the suggestion of images of a bygone era. Then we fall asleep and wake up as P turns on the light, it is half past five.
In the dawn we walk to the village, it is a little hazy. Near the village temple the idols of a fifteen deities stand in their small temples. A priest, assisted by some helpers, accomplishes all kind of rituals. Amongst others he offers coloured powder and flowers to the gods. On all sides is the sound of women blowing on cunch shells. But there is more rumour. In a sharp contrast with this ceremony the bearers sit in a corner of the area and watch a Bollywood movie on the TV.

It is full light as we walk back and have breakfast with backed potatoes, bread and bananas. P and I take the bike and go to the market. In a nearby neighbourhood the milkmen reside, this afternoon they celebrate their festival. We visit one of the men and get a complementary breakfast. As a part of the festival those who can afford it distribute food to poor people. Large family groups walk from house to house. Then we go shopping, my offer to pay the groceries is mildly rejected, of course this does not apply for the beer. For 300 rs we buy also two chickens, they are immediately slaughtered.
As we drive back we stop by a farm where another celebration takes place, this time with just three shrines. While I take pictures four musicians gather around me and give me an aubade. Of course they have to be rewarded.

We have a dvd with us with the video from last years visit and back in the house we play it on our laptop. It is great fun. The elder girls (18 and 17) are busy preparing our lunch so we regular stop the show. Then it is time to visit a teacher in the village and discuss the differences in schooling in both our countries. But after a short time one of the girls comes and tells lunch is ready. After a tasteful meal of chicken with rice we take a rest.
At noon P drives us again to the milkmen village, together we sit on the back of his bike. We visit again the same people as this morning. The ceremonie is not started yet and in the meantime we talk in very simple English with our hosts. A music band passes and it is followed by a group of shouting people, as far as we understand they go to a political meeting. P leaves to collect the rest of his family and we visit another household, as always there is chai and something to eat.

The milkman parade starts from this house. The same three temples I saw this morning are carried on their palanquins in front of the parade. They are followed by a group professional dancers and stimulating, clamorous music. Many of the young male villagers join the dancers, while other people watch. The dance lasts for almost a quarter of an hour. All this time three milkman with beautiful cans are quietly waiting. Then, as the procession starts moving, the wife of one the milkman notices that his outfit is not correct and gets a scarf. After fifty meters the parade stops, the dancers start again and the next milkman is waiting to take his place.

And so it goes on and on. As long as the villagers are dancing the professionals take there rest, they just keep the dance going. There is a transvestite amongst them and she collects a lot of money. A man approaches us. With the help of one of the few English speaking bystanders he asks us to join him. It is a local politician and we refuse the invitation. After a few hours the procession is halfway. We get weary from all the impression and ask P to drive us back. With his young son on the petrol tank we travel as a real Indian family.
By five everyone is back in the house. From here we hear the rumour of the ongoing ceremony. We take a shower, play the rest of the video and drink a bear. During the traditional powercut we sit by the light of candles and torches. The local deity will come at nine for a special ceremony but it is Indian time. We get sleepy and go to our room. By eleven the sound of drums warns us. Out of the dark a palanquin appears. By the light of a torch the puja is accomplished. Wiesje and the other women have to cover their head during the ceremony. After fifteen minutes the men disappear in the night.

We don't sleep well and the whole night we hear the rumour of the parades with the deities. Early in the morning we get tea and by seven P brings us on the bike to the main temple in the outskirts of the market village. En route we notice that we have forgotten our money and papers. P drives me back. Wiesje waits between the villagers. An English speaking man looks after her, of course she stands in the centre of interest.

Fifteen idols are gathered in front of the temple. Again all kind of ceremonies and offers are accomplished including the gifts of a lot of paint powder, no wonder since it is Holi. Not only the priest but many others bring their offers. Breakfast for everyone is served in the temple. The men eat first, when they are finished the women follow. We are invited to join them but we feel us to much a bystander to do so. Instead we get a plate of food outside. After breakfast it is time to colour the people. The priest ask friendly 'may I' and then we get a lick of powder over the head, just as everyone else. And the offering ceremonies continue.

After a while P drops us in front of a great, modern house and he disappears to arrange a rickshaw for the rest of the day. We sit on the terrace and get the inevitable chai and biscuits while we relax and enjoy the environs. We hear music coming nearer and there is the parade of all the palanquins from the temple. This time there are no dancers. They stop by each house for a rite and so it takes a lot of time before the procession disappears slowly along the road. In the meantime P has come back. He drives us to the town where we buy some paint to celebrate Holi ourselves. With the hired rickshaw we go home. For the younger children (ages 5 and 9) it is great fun to use the paint, the older girls keep aloof.
But we don't have much time to play. The rickshaw waits and we go on the road again. P, his young son and we in the back, two other men sit next to the driver. It is a ride of nearly an hour over bad, unpaved roads. Some of the the paddy fields are fresh and green, other fields are harvested and brown. We arrive in a larger town, Kalimanga or something like that. In the outskirts their stands again a row of deities. A little further we stop, one of the men who rides in front is our escorts since P has other business to attend.

We walk to the centre and encounter many people full of colours and slowly we come near the market place where everything happens. There are more then fifty temples brought together and everyone brings offers to the idols. It is immensely crowded but everyone is cheerful and there is a relaxed atmosphere. A lot of the people wish us happy holi and ask politely if the may colour us. We accept it and get handfuls dry powder in our face and hair. As the only tourist everyone gathers around us but it is never annoying. And despite all the powder we can safely use our cameras. Of course there is a normal market too.

Our guide becomes nervous as we wander around and sometimes split up, but we don't see any harm in it. After one and a half hour we return to the car, and look terrible colourful. P has been shopping and looks still clean as a whistle.
Again we hear loud music and the temples we saw at the begin of the town are carried to the gathering. In front of us is a small temple and the bearers walk with the palanquins around it. First in a quit tempo but at the end they are running and then the parade continues to the centre. It is tempting to follow them but we have other plans.

The sister of our guide lives in a nearby village and that is our next destination. The concrete road is just wide enough for the rickshaw and is half a meter above the surrounding paddy fields. We are happy there is no upcoming traffic other than some cycles. In the village there is no sign of holi colours to see. It is obvious that our visit is good for the status of the family. They collect some chairs and immediately there is tea and food. Proudly they show us the house but unfortunately they have a problem. The thatched roof has holes as a result of monkeys who break into the house and steal food. A large group family members surrounds us and P cannot translate every conversation so we often use gestures. Then another English speaking man arrives, he helps with the small talks and as a reward of his support we visit his house.

On our way we pass a temple and are invited for a puja. As part of it we get some food, a leave, banana and milk, in our hand and must eat it. Afterwards we have to rub with our hands through our hair. Wiesje did not finish her banana and gets the remainders in her hair. The inevitable bystanders laugh. And of course our new host also gives us tea, biscuits and a tour through his house. After a while we return to the rickshaw and make the journey home, it takes one and a half hour. We pay the rickshaw and of course reward the guide.
P's family laughs their head off as they see our new look.
Quickly we take a shower and most of the colour disappears. By now it is three o'clock and time for lunch, not that we are hungry after all the biscuits. Immediate I transfer the photos to our laptop so everyone can enjoy them. P and one of his daughters plant peanuts, the girl has to do the hard labour. We take some rest before we walk to the village to visit P's grandmother and some other relatives. And of course we drive to market for some shopping.
At seven thirty is the powercut and we sit on the roof drinking our beer, it is cool and very peaceful. A relieve after this hectic day. An hour later it is dinner, photo and sleeping time.


Today we have a quiet start. As usual the girls make tea and serve it while we are still in bed. Then a breakfast of bread, marmalade and bananas. Afterwards P and I go to the market for vegetables and a fresh chicken, while Wiesje and the girls go for a walk. And then the food preparation starts again. A rickshaw will pick us at eleven and before that we need to eat something. Happily nobody is real hungry so we leave before we have lunch.

We travel with the whole family. P and his eldest daughter ride the bike, while the rest of us take the rickshaw. We go to another village where today it's festival time. It is again a mixture of procession and market. Yesterdays event was larger but today there are more music and dance groups. Paint powder is hardly used, the priest offers to colour me but I friendly decline. The parade with the palanquins proceeds very slowly. We recognize some of the dance and music groups from the other days. New is a group of percussionists with large plumes on their drums. While playing they jump around and it gives the impression of large, dancing birds. It must cost them tons of energy, they play for hours in the burning sun. Another group wears big masks. I guess it's good that their is no doping control.

Of course we draw every ones attention, they spring higher and play louder as we take pictures. But again it is a joyous atmosphere. We walk down the parade, at the end some groups take a rest and take refreshments before they start their performance.

Then it is time to visit the market. All the female members of our group get stamps on their hands and fingers. And of course we buy other useful and pretty articles. We drink lassi at a stall with a lot of ice in it, it did not harm us.
After that we travel further to visit other relatives. As always we feel somewhat uncomfortable with all the special attention we get. Often we get the only, mostly plastic chair, this time we sit on thick pillows. In this house the rooms are divided from each other with walls of just a meter high.

About two o'clock we are back at the house. The food is heated and after the lunch we take a nap. Afterwards P and I go again to the market and pay some more visits. And then this day has almost gone. During the powercut a quit beer on the roof, then dinner and bed.

Wiesje awakes at six and it is good that she does. The youngest two children have to go to school today and their uniforms are in our room. The boy goes to a private school and is dressed like a little gentleman, his sister wears a simple blue dress.
P is already to the market and comes back with a large fish. We sit at the back of the house while he cleans the fish and cuts it in slices. Normally the cooking is done inside but the fish is baked on the outside oven. For the eldest daughter, during our stay she and her sister usually cook, has never done this before and gets instructions from her parents.
Men are working in the fields behind the house and we roam around while we are waiting. A boy climbs in a coconut tree and we drink the juice. As result we are not hungry when our breakfast of fish and chapatis is ready but of course we eat some and it tastes fine.

We give a contribution for the cordial hospitality we P and his family has given us. They try to persuade us to stay for another day but we find that our visit is long enough. Besides P has to return to his job, he lives in Bhubaneswar for most time of the year. P calls the Tourist Lodge in Bishnupur and we reserve a room.
By ten o'clock Wiesje goes to the schools and makes some pictures. As the youngest girl is back she wants me to go with her to a nearby small farm where her friends live. And again I get the inevitable chair. The only place for it is in the full sun while everyone else sits on the ground in the shadow of the veranda. After a few moments I join them. The purpose of this visit is of course some pictures.

Before we leave we have lunch, the remainder of the fish is the foundation for a soup. Then it is time to leave. We have a touching farewell with the girls. P goes on his inevitable bike while his wife and son join us in the rickshaw.
Much to early we arrive at the station. We tell the family that they don't have to stay but they insist to wait with us. A quarter past three the train arrives, the son starts to cry when we say good-by. This marks the end of an unique and fantastic experience.

Our seats in the train are occupied but without a problem they make room for us. There are a lot of families with children on the train, we talk with a couple about our trip. It is seven o'clock as we arrive in Bishnupur. A fellow traveller arranges two rickshaws for us, the price is 60 rs. It is dark and the ride through the quit town takes nearly half an hour. To arrive in such a way corresponds with my ideals how travelling should be.
Since the man at the desk of the Tourist Bungalow does not speak English there is some confusion about our reservation bur we get a non-AC room for 550 rs. A guide, his name is Bannerjee, shows up and offers to take us on a temple tour for to-morrow, we are not ready for this yet. Before we settle down I go to the internet. B accompanies me and stands behind me when I check the mail, later he escorts me back to the hotel. Happily this hotel has a bar. After a shower we go for dinner, not that we are very hungry. P calls and asks if everything has gone well. The two of us have a lot to talk about so it is rather late before we go to bed.

Bishnupur 4 - 5 March

Today we are lazy and it is after nine before we have breakfast. By noon I walk into the town. Next to one of the large temples stands Bannerjee. He asks where I'm going and is apparently afraid to loose a potential customer. But I have no special plans and roam around the town, it is very quit. Since it is 35º it does not last long and within an hour I return.

Later we finalize our plans for the next days. Tomorrow we have a tour with Bannerjee, to avoid the heat the start is at eight. The day after we travel to Bardhaman.
For dinner we want a more cosy restaurant than that of our lodge. During my walk I have seen a signboard and we take a rickshaw towards that place. The restaurant is at the back of another hotel, through a dark alley we reach a small room with four tables. No atmosphere at all, the food is cheap but not tasteful. It is not far from our hotel so we walk back.

During our breakfast Bannerjee arrives and he wants to leave at once. We finish our meal and at eight o'clock we start. We sit in a cycle rickshaw and B rides in the front of us on his own bike.
The monuments are scattered around the town so we have a complete city-tour. The temples are build with bricks. Original some of them were white plastered, that is mostly gone. Others are decorated with beautiful terracotta ornaments. The constructions are totally different from temples in other areas. To enter the four best preserved temples we have to pay 100 rs, the rest of the sights are free.
As soon as we arrive at a monument B begins his explanation and wants to go to the next one when his talk is finished. But we want and take more time to explore the temples. Besides temples there are also remainders of palaces and forts. And of course some shopping is part of the tour.

All together is is a very pleasant morning and it is good that we had an early start. We return around eleven and it is already very hot.
At the end of the day I visit the local museum. The collection is nicer then mostly in these local museums. There are three guards, I am the only visitor. As I want to leave they call me back and unlock two other closed rooms. One is devoted to music and the other to local art. The latter contains again beautiful terracotta statues.
We ask the man at the hotel-desk to arrange a car for tomorrow. The driver arrives to make the appointments. He barely speaks English and another guest translates. The kilometre price is 6 rs. and by a distance of somewhat more than 300 km that makes 1900 rs. We used our map to calculate the distance and think it is less but the driver insists. He likes the map and makes a copy of it.

Bardhaman 6 -7 March

We rise early and before eight our driver is there. The luggage goes in the back of his old Ambassador and off we go. Even according Indian standards this man uses his horn unremitting. The speed is barely 60 km but with the condition of the car and the road it feels like speeding. As the car trembles the drivers door continuous opens itself.

But the landscape we pass through is again great, small-scale agriculture consisting of rice and vegetables fields. Later we drive through extended woods, it is clear that these are for timber production. Whole areas are cut down, just tree stumps of a meter high are left, a sad sight. But a little further young trees are planted.
After three quarters we are in Panchmura, the village of the terracotta statues. The driver drops us near a shop. They sell beautiful objects but don't manufacture anything. The big horses, more than a meter high, are fantastic but don't fit in our backpack so we buy some small stuff. Then we roam through the village and see everywhere people that make the statues. Everyone makes a segment and after the baking process the sculptures are assembled. It is a traditional village with, besides the potteries, a lot of farmers. It is easy to forget the time and we stay here for more than an hour.
Since we think that the distance the driver mentioned is too much we are alert on the road signs. And so we observe he takes a detour. We travel by Duragpur and from there over a very uninspiring 4-lane road.
Around one o'clock we arrive in Bardhaman. We have the address of a hotel (Monohar) and the drivers asks bystanders the route. We end in the centre but don't see it. So he turns around and tries again. At least we find it in a very narrow side street. As we stop the road is completely blocked. Wiesje inspects the hotel and the porter immediately unloads the luggage. In the meantime I have trouble with the driver who insists he now wants 2100 rs. I pay him the amount we earlier agreed and go inside the hotel. The AC-room is with 2200 rs. overpriced but we don't have the drift to walk around with our luggage and stay.

After a while we take a cycle rickshaw to the station. We are here to take the narrow gauge train to Katwa and are not sure if it is still running. But it does and tomorrow we can buy the tickets.
Bardhaman is very vivid town with many markets and shops. We enjoy it and it is nearly dark as we return to our room. The hotel has only room service but on the plaza at the end of the street is a restaurant. During our walk we saw a signboard for a rooftop restaurant and that attracts us. But it is only the signboard. A friendly youngster knows another restaurant and escorts us to that on the plaza. It is cosy and the food is good. Afterwards we go for a last stroll, it is nine and the shops close.

We prepare our own breakfast and take a rickshaw to the station where we arrive before seven. I ask for tickets to Bardhaman, quit stupid since that is where we are. But all ends well and for 18 rs we can go to Katwa. Wiesje wants to smoke and outside the station we get company of an older musician and young man who offers us a chai.

The train is due to leave soon but does not arrive before eight. It consists of four wagons. The engine occupies the half of the first wagon and we board the other half. Bardhaman is the end station and the train leaves after a few minutes. We wonder why the other wagons remain at the platform. Just outside the station the train stops and all passengers must get off. The train proceeds towards an unstable turntable. It is manual operated and for the children it is a nice distraction. After some messing around the operation is successful and we collect the other wagons.
With a delay of more then an hour the trip starts. There are many passengers but everyone has a seat. Direct outside Bardhaman we see the activities concerning the broad gauge conversion. Trucks drive on and off and deliver sand for the new embankment.

Also at the stations the construction work is started. The total distance is 53 km and takes four hours to cover this. We drive slowly and often stop at the small stations. It is great but due to all the construction work it is not so romantic as we expected.
Halfway we stop for a while so the train from the opposite direction can pass. The second part of the journey is really great. Now there is no sign of the conversion and we drive literally through the rice fields and the small villages. On the fields grow not only rice but also vegetables and there is some woodland. It is time to harvest the potatoes. Children carry large sacks and take the train for a free ride to the next station.

At noon we are in Katwa and take a rickshaw to the bus station. Now we know how to orientate us and go roaming around in this very quiet town. The sole of Wiesje's shoe is broken and we go to a shoemaker. Surrounded by a lot of bystanders it takes quit a time before he has fixed it. No one speaks English, as I try out to find the costs a women lifts one finger. I have no change and show a hundred. Of course she nods, it is steep but I pay. (here is a video of this journey)
In an eating along the road we take a great tali. As we leave a young girl tries to convince us that we must follow her. After a while it becomes clear that she is ashamed that the cobbler let us pay too much. We must return with her to collect the change. We are so touched that we decide it is all-right so, to convince her is very difficult.
For 55 rs we take the bus and return to Bardhaman. It is crowded but we have a seat. After only 1.5 hour we are back.

Murshidabad 8 - 10 March

Seven thirty we enter the station, yesterday the train departed from platform 2 so that is where we go. To be sure we ask an officer and he tells maybe it is another platform. And indeed just before the train arrives we hear that is the fact. We rush over the footbridge and there stands the musician we met yesterday, he claims that he knows where our coach will stop. We follow him and when the train arrives we stand before the unreserved class. Since it just halts for a short time we board. As to be expected there is only standing-room left. A kind man offers Wiesje his seat but she refuses. In the other end of the wagon our musician and a friend play and collect. An hour later we are in Bolpur and go to our reserved seats.
Neatly on time we arrive in Rampur but for the remaining 60 km to Azimganj it takes another 1.5 hour. Often we halt for a long time, a fellow passenger explains that a new railway to Murshidabad is under construction. In the meantime the old line to Azimganj is reopened. It is a great ride, again through small villages and a beautiful scenery. The paddy fields are alternated with woods and ponds. One o'clock we are in Azimganj on a very small station.

The only thing we know regarding the trip to Murshidabad is that we first need a ferry to cross the river. Outside the station stands just one cycle rickshaw. Naturally the driver does not speak English, yet we try to explain our wishes to him. As always bystanders interfere, one of them speaks good English and is of great help. The next complication is that, according to the locals, we are already in Murshidabad. They think we are looking for a hotel in this part of the town and here is just some hostel. As we mention hotel Manjusa it is clear to them that we must cross the river. They call another rickshaw and after a vivid deliberation we have to pay 30 rs. and go the ferry.
It is a bumpy ride to the Bhagirathi river. On the landing place some flat boats lay in the river. The first rickshaw wallah boards with us. As the ferry is loaded we depart and quick we cross the river. Everyone stands on the bamboo deck. At the exit we must pay the passage, 2 rs. each. The driver still accompanies us to a shared taxi. He does not want any extra money, I have to force something in his pocket.
We sit in the back of the 4-wheel and have enough elbow-room. De road is bad and dusty so the back cover is closed. After a quarter the taxi stops near the palace/museum and here we descend after paying 40 rs. We don't see the hotel but a man asks us if we are looking for Manjusa. He gets his horse and carriage and brings us. We don't have to pay him since during the ride we arrange a day-trip for tomorrow.
Manjusa has a clean, basic room for 500 rs. The hotel is beautiful situated on the bank of the river and surrounded by a large garden. Next to it is the palace, we pass as we walk to the centre. The coming days there is a festival and the construction is in full swing. Murshidabad is a quit town with monuments scattered all around it.

By six we sit on the balcony overlooking the river. The festival starts with a sound and light show. We decide to visit this tomorrow and now we just relax, listen and drink a beer while boats cross the river. The show last for one hour and is followed by popular music. Manjusa has no restaurant and the crowded stalls around the festival just serve quick foods like egg-rolls and pasta. Not bad for a change. By ten the the festival ends with a firework.

We have a non-AC room and although it is warm but with open windows and under a mosquito net we sleep well. It is a luxury to have a breakfast of toast, banana and coffee on the balcony .
At eight we leave, a bumpy ride through a stirring scenery brings us to the Katra mosque and fort. The charioteer tries to guide us but his English is just sufficient to mention the names of the rulers and some other general information. But it does not bother us, we have all the time to witness the monuments. The rest of the morning we visit all kinds of temples, palaces, mosques, manors and beautiful gardens. There are so many of them that, although I write my diary as soon as we are back, I cannot recall all the individual sights.

In some of the palaces an extra guide is obligatory. For me the most imposing place is the worn out Jafarganj cemetery, the burial ground of the Nawabs. But most enjoyable is the ride through the diverged surroundings of Murshidabad.
Half past ten we are back, the charioteer wants to do another trip this afternoon but we have seen enough and pay him 300 rs. The hotel staff is surprised that we are already back and are afraid that we missed a lot of sights. Above the desk hang pictures and so we can explain what we have seen, combined with the price is OK. For tomorrow we arrange a boat to the Char Bangla temples.

We sit in the garden overlooking the Bhagirathi river where something large swims We assume it is a dolphin since they live here. In the afternoon we go to the Hazarduari palace/museum. There are a lot of people attending the folklore festival. As so often we are the only foreigners and draw the attention of a TV-crew, they want our impressions of the festival. Wiesje her English is much better than mine so she does the interview. The museum contains a nice collection of weapons, paintings, ivory and old cars.
In the evening we return to the festival, tonight there is only music. It is crowded and we stand to listen, soon someone brings us chairs. Later we visit the stands with folk art and return to our balcony. From there we can hear the music as well and enjoy a beer in the meantime.

In the morning it turns out that the hotel personnel has forgotten to arrange a boat. No problem, a shout over the river and by eight the boat is there. The deck is seven by two meter and consists of cloven bamboo, a simple carpet is our seat. It is an upstream journey of more than an hour, just pass Azimganj. We navigate close to the banks, these are more than two meter high so our scope is limited to the river. Everywhere women are washing and cleaning while on the river we see a lot of small fishing boats.

The skipper escorts us to the Char Bengla temples. As the name suggests there are four, situated in a squire standing close to each others. The outside of three temples are decorated with splendid terra-cotta figures. They are very well preserved or restored and very impressive. The fourth temple has a total different type of decoration. A guard opens the temples, inside they are very sober with tree linga's all pointing into the same direction. Behind this group are some other, more ruined temples. While we go back Wiesje spots a dolphin close to the boat. Downriver it goes faster and in three quarters we are in the hotel. The the ferryman gets 350 rs. and we had another great trip.

The rest of the day we spent on the bank of the river. Tomorrow we want to go to Malda and ask the people of the hotel to arrange a car. The driver will be there at eight o'clock in the morning.

Malda 11 - 14 March

We have breakfast on our balcony and see again some dolphins in the river. The driver comes from Malda, he takes a rest and by nine we leave. The man is very small and the bench of the Ambassador is pushed so close to the front that I have barely room for my legs. But it is a nice ride. As everywhere in Bengal the landscape is pretty, a lot of rice and further trees and other vegetation to make the attractive variation.

Further on we travel through a watery region, small ponds with a lot of birds. We pass a lot of tiny villages, sometimes they consist of no more then a few clay houses. Later on we see more industry and the traffic gets busy. We cross the Ganga over a large barrage and the other side of the river is mango tree land.
At one o'clock we arrive in Malda. Our hotel Kalinga is next to the highway but a little difficult to reach via a parallel road. For 1000 we have a moderate AC-room, it is on the backside so the traffic does not trouble us.
The restaurant is on the top and not very attractive. The most of the day we spend in our room and arrange a car for tomorrow.

Just as we depart the toilet breaks down. We call a servant and he promises to let it repair. He also takes care of the laundry.
The driver waits for us, a nice man who speaks reasonable English and drives very carefully. The last part of the road to Gaur is terrible. This road leads to Bangladesh and is under construction so it may be better now. The monuments are spread out over a large hilly area. Mostly mosques but also watch towers and the remainders of palaces.

The country around it is sprinkled with mango trees and small lakes. We ride from site to site, go out the car and have all the time to wander around. Most ruins are known for a long time, but the driver refers to one spot as 'new site'. A few years ago a mango tree on top of a hill tumbled down and so revealed some stone walls. The rest of the hill is excavated and now reveals the ground floor of a large palace. It makes you wonder what is hidden beneath the trees of the other hills. All monuments are free and just at the last one we met the first other tourists. And of course there is a guide who gets angry when we don't use his services. At twelve we are back at the hotel. We make another appointment for tomorrow and don't have to pay the driver.

The toilet is repaired but the laundry is back in our room, the laundryman has a three days leave due to a wedding.
Close to the hotel is the market area, extended and covered for a great part. Wiesje needs some elastic band and we see a lot of shops before we find the right one. But since we love markets this is no punishment.
Tonight we have dinner on the roof terrace of our hotel. This is much better than the canteen inside where we had lunch yesterday.

At eight our driver picks us up and we go to Pandua, in the opposite direction of yesterday. Our speed does not exceed 50 km and the driver explains in this manner he avoids any risk. At least he overtakes some vans but they are the tail of a file. As upcoming cars approach us the driver takes the roadside and drives behind a bus. Then the bus stops, we cross the line of vans and take the other verge. When this gets to narrow we crawl back into the file. A cycle rickshaw tries his luck on the talus and falls down, happily the man jumps in time.
Soon after that the traffic moves again. In Pandua we take a small road and halt by some old mosques. Four man go with us and two of them explain something, both we reward with 10 rs. Then further to Adina where we visit the remainders of an enormous mosque.

After a chai we continue to the deer-park. The trip to it, through small villages, is more rewarding than the park itself. In a wood, with fences around it, lives the herd. By noon we are back, the price for these two days is 1300 rs.
We ask the man of the front-desk if there is anything else of interest in Malda and the answer is clear: no. So we just go for another stroll around the market and shops.

Today we have all the time in the world but we wake up before seven. Later in the morning we walk along the river. A few boys want a chat with us but their English is too limited. We sit on a wall and overlook the scenery. In the river lies a dead cow and the dogs cram of it. Around it the people take their bath, wash their clothes and try to catch fish. We get a push against the shoulder, a cow wants to pass. Now and then the path leads us through the narrow lanes of the neighbourhood before we can walk back to the river.

Then we leave the water and wander around in the outskirts of Malda. We stop and see a baker producing biscuits. I grew up in a baker family and know that this type of oven was used in Europe until eighty years ago. The man gives us some fresh baked cookies. And or course we stumble into a market, it is very relaxed and everybody is cheerful towards the unexpected visitors. This market is not suitable for vegetarians since the animals are slaughtered on the spot. We drink a chai and see some craftsmen at work. We enjoy the quit life around us and sometimes I forget that I am just a tourist.

By one o'clock we are back in the hotel. It is hot again so we spend the afternoon mostly in our room. We have dinner on the rooftop and then it is time to pack our luggage. Half past eight we take two rickshaws and go to the station. It is further from the hotel then we think.
We are an hour early and the platform for our train is still unknown. But an official warns us as soon as he knows it. The train is a half hour early and we install us. At ten we depart to Guwahati.

Guwahati, 15-16 March

The train to Guwahati shivers so terrible that we have a bad night and wake early. Since the windows are damaged and dirty we hardly see anything of the scenery. Half past nine we arrive. The local taxis are pricy, the drivers ask160 rs but after bargaining we get one for half of that price. The first hotels where we want to stay are booked and we end up in Fame City on the road to Siliguri. For 1800 rs we have a large AC room with balcony.
After a rest we go and explore the town. Our first impression is that of a busy, not so attractive city. The bazaar is on the sidewalk before the regular shops, just now and then there is a continuation into an dead end alley. This makes it difficult to roam around. On the streets is a lot of traffic.

After a while we reach the Brahmaputra and decide to visit Peacock Island. It is quite a walk before we see the ferry and we ask how we can go down to the river. A man points us a small path and over the area of a timber factory and an unstable footbridge we reach the ferry.
Just as we board the small vessel a thunderstorm starts, we are glad with a roof above our heads. Happily it is just a short shower. The Peacock Island is rather small, just some stairways to the temples on the top and not very interesting for common tourists.
We walk back to the hotel and decide to see if we can book a train to Jorhat for the day after tomorrow.

In the train reservation office Wiesje takes the ladies queue. As it is her turn the man tells we must use the foreigner counter. He collects our passports, leaves his counter and goes to the other one. The result is that the other ladies have to wait. At the foreigner counter he squeezes the man there to handle our tickets first so the queue here is also unhappy.

For 350 rs. we take a rickshaw to the Kamakhya temple in the outskirts of the Guwahati. It is on a steep hill but our driver manages to get there. The temple is not excessive decorated but the place has his charm. It is busy but serene and the priests are not pushy. Everywhere goats and other animals walk around, determined for offering. Long rows wait to enter the inner part of the temple, we have not the urge to join them. For the first time since we left Kolkata we see a group of Western tourist and of course they are Dutch.
Back in town we go to a phone operator. We have the address of a resort, Mou Chapuri, near Jorhat and want to know if we can stay there. After four calls to different numbers we make contact and reserve a room.

Jorhat, 17-21 March

Five o'clock the hotel reception wakes us and soon after that breakfast is served. Before six we are on the street and take a rickshaw to the station.
Our train arrives on the last platform so we have to cross the station. It is a great ride through a scenery where flat land is alternated by hills. In the beginning the agriculture is mostly rice, further on tea plantations prevail. All together a great mixture of natural areas and small towns. The train is of the CC-class and the personnel keeps it extraordinary clean. It is fully occupied but in Dimapur most passengers get off.
When we approach Jorhat the train personnel starts to carry the luggage of the passengers to the preceding carriages. We follow them and at the station we understand this action, the train is much to long for the platform. Rickshaw drivers gather around us and advise their hotels. One shouts Mou Chapuri and since we know that the price should be 150 rs. he has to accept this. Over a very bad road we reach the Neamati Ghat within an hour. There is a shed with the name of the resort and two man are waiting for us. Together we walk through the slush towards a small boat. After a short trip over a narrow canal followed by a walk through reed land we reach the resort. It is on the bank of the Brahmaputra, in the monsoon time this is an island.

At the first glimpse the resort looks fantastic but after a closer look we see the damages that the October tempest has caused. Because of this damage we get a discount of 40% on our luxury cottage. The room stands on stilts, the bathroom is beneath on the ground. We make a tour around the resort and see all types of accommodation, play-ground and climbing towers. We are the only guests
I walk to the very wide river and since it is a little hazy I can hardly see the opposite side. On a field the personnel plays cricket, they don't stop before it is dark, just in time to start the generator.

Our contact person, Bibhuti, arrives. We think he is the manager but he is an English teacher and assists with foreign guests. For tomorrow we arrange a trip to Majuli island. The restaurant has a limited choice but the food is fine. We talk a while with Bibhuti and by ten we go to bed.

So far to the east the sun rises early and as I wake up at five thirty the day has already begun. By eight the skipper arrives and brings us back to the Neamati ghat, this is the starting point for Majuli. The ferry is a large barge with a cabin for the passengers. On the forward deck is space for three cars. For 40 rs we buy two tickets and embark. The passenger cabin is not high, crowded and we sit on benches, so it is not very comfortable. Then we hear a lot of noise, the crew fills the metal roof above us with motorbikes.

By nine we depart and an hour later we approach the island. The river streams fierce so it is not easy for the crew to get the boot to the landing stage. Cars are waiting and for 400 rs we hire one for half a day. The first part of the route to the village Kalambari has no regular road. It is sandy and the driver takes the least bumpy paths. In the village I must register at the police station. The man copies all the information of our passports in a large book.
Our first goal is the Aunati Satra. The centre of the Satra is a large praying hall, sober with some big statues, one of them is Garuda. A priest prays and feeds the pigeons. Behind the hall is a temple with many splendid statues of Vishnu. Around the hall are rows of small cottages where the 400 monks live. We see just a few of them, more then half of the monks prepare a festival somewhere else.

And the temple services take place in the morning before the ferry arrives. The whole terrain is sacrificed and we must walk bare footed. In the museum we see a lot old utensils and musical instruments. All together it is nice but a little disappointing.
On the way back to Kalambari the driver tells about a Satra where monks manufacture masks. It is 22 km and on this roads that is more than an hour. We find that to far and tell him this. In the village the driver takes me to a man who speaks fluently English. He asks me what my problem is, I am stupefied since I don't have one. Then it becomes clear that the driver does not understand why we refuse his proposal. As this is cleared we go to Na Satra. It is smaller then Aunati but the construction is alike.

After a cup of chai we go to the tribal area. All the houses are build on stilts and beneath them, in the cool shadow, the women are weaving. These people belong to the Mishing tribe but I think they call themselves 'missing people' and am flabbergasted. They are very cordial and show us their houses. And of course we buy some textiles.
By one o'clock we are at the harbour and soon the ferry departs. Now we go upstream and that takes nearly two hours. And the benches of this boat are just wood so it is a long journey.
On the Neamati ghat we watch the vivacity while we wait for the hotel boat. It is loaded with students who have made a day trip to the resort. By four we are back, talk a while with the the manager and Bibhuti. As Wiesje goes to the toilet in our cabin she screams, there is a fat rat. Now we understand what causes the tooth prints on our soap.

Today we just move to Jorhat and are not in any hurry. We make a statement in the guest-book, pay the bill and after breakfast we go for the last time to the Neamati ghat. A rickshaw brings us to hotel Paradise where we get a non-AC room for 690 rs.

We have enough plans for the next days but no idea how to accomplish them. We ask the man at the hotel desk for advice and he orders a boy to bring us to the Tourist Lodge. A very competent travel agent helps us. The first thing we arrange is transport and lodging for Kaziranga. The governmental tourist lodges are fully booked so the man arranges a private hotel. He writes the name DRDA and phone number on a stretch of paper and also his own phone number. Transport costs us 1500 rs. Sunday we want to visit Sibsagar and arrange a car for the same amount. As the agent understands that we don't have specific plans for tomorrow he suggests the Gibbon sanctuary in Mariani. We have to be there early in the morning and the car will pick us op at five o'clock. Then the agent changes his mind, an hour later is early enough. It is not far so the price is 700 rs. which includes the 300 rs. entrance for the car into the park.

We wake up, drink a glass of water and at six o'clock we stand in front of the hotel. No car and after twenty minutes I walk to the hotel desk and ask the man to phone the travel agent. At that moment the driver arrives. We have to go so early since the gibbons forage in the morning and after that they withdraw into the forest Now we are afraid that we may be too late and are pissed off. But the driver speaks not enough English to explain this to him.
Half an hour later we drive through Mariani and stop before a crumbled building in the woods. It has the words 'Gibbon reservation' on it. The driver yells but gets no answer. Happily a cyclist passes and on his instructions we turn into a country road. After a while we cross the railway, by this time we think this trip will become a disaster.
But then we arrive in a small hamlet where men wash themselves at the pump. We get a chair and have to wait. As one of them is dressed the paperwork and payment can proceed. The entrance price is 250 rs per person and 500 for a still camera.

Our guide is impressive and carries a shotgun. Together we take the car and drive into the forest. Soon we encounter a photographer with companions, they go on foot into the bush. We follow them, the jungle is so dense we often loose sight on the others and I have the feeling that we are miles away from the civilized world. The whistling of a passing train and the driver his mobile phone prove the reality. In a tree we spot a gibbon and some other monkeys. So the trip is at last not a complete waste.
After a while the guide leads us back to the path and after a short ride we continue by foot. Everywhere around us we here the gibbons 'sing' and as we approach a large tree with fruit we see them clearly. They jump from branch to branch and next to another tree. It is a great sight and we stand a long time watching them. As we walk back to the car we see other, smaller groups. The guide explains that each family has his own territory. The man speaks good English and tells us a lot about the sanctuary and the animals. The rifle is just for the show, he carries the patrons in his pocket.
Driving and walking we explore the rest of the reservation. The trees are covered with orchids, unfortunately not blooming yet. There are a lot of beautiful butterflies, birds and squirrels but we don't see large animals. Half past nine we go back to the hotel and take our breakfast.
Later we roam through the city. Since some days Wiesje is looking for new shoes and here, on the market, she finds them. Jorhat is a very relaxed town with friendly people. For instance we are looking at a shop with washing machines, the system of them is different from that in Holland. The owner approaches us and invites for a tea. There are quite some guests in the dining room of the hotel, many come to our table for a small talk.

Half past eight our driver, the same one as yesterday, arrives. It is an hour ride to Sibsagar via a decent road. Around us are rice fields, the tea plantations are further away and we see only their entrances. Near Sibsagar we stop by a group of statues to honour local heroes who fought a battle with strange invaders.
Then we visit the first temple of the day. Little is left of the original decoration. A guard arrives to collect the entrance fee, only16 rs for all of us, before he opens the gate. After this we continue with the sight-seeing. As usually it is an alternating succession of temples and palaces. It is Sunday and many Indians are here for a day trip, we met a young student we also saw near Mou Chapori.

The tickets for foreigners are of course more expensive, the price is mostly 100 rs. It is obvious that Sibsagar is not often visited by strangers. The tickets are wrapped in a separate package and for the giggling children we are an extra attraction. The travel agent phones and wants to know if we are satisfied with the day and we tell him it is great.
Again the style of the buildings is completely different to what we have seen elsewhere. One of the temples is decorated with strange animals, a combination of crocodiles and elephants. The images of men resemble those of the medieval period in Europe. The driver accompanies us into the monuments, mostly he can enter without paying. His English is slightly better then we thought and sufficient to explain what we see. In the town are many artificial tanks with of course temples around it. Also around the houses are many ponds and canals.

The last palace we visit is in Garhgram a 20 kilometre out of the town and than it is time for lunch. The driver knows a good restaurant it is on the way to Jorhat. I have a tali with bony fish but it tastes excellent. Then we drive back to Sibsagar and visit some Shiva temples which are still in use for services.
Three o'clock we are back in Jorhat. We go to the ATM and take some extra money since we have no idea if this is possible in Kaziranga.

Kaziranga, 22-25 March

Half past eight we depart with again the same driver. The route leads through a diverge scenery with tea plantations, forest and rice fields. We stop for a chai, in the village the tame elephants walk on the roads. Kaziranga is just two hours ride.
The driver does not know where our hotel is and asks here and there. The name DRDA is just known by some people but after a time we find it. The hotel is situated beyond the lodges of the ATDC and so brand new that builders still work on the upper floor. It is on a island and can only be reached over a bamboo footbridge. Nobody in the hotel speaks English so it is good the driver is still with us, now he act as our interpreter. The hotel does not really expects us but they call one of the phone numbers that we have and than this problem is solved. The next question is if we want a guide, a good idea since we don't think it is wise to go to the rhino's on our own.

Our driver leaves and we go to our room. We are a little confused and wonder how this soyourn will turn out. But soon Sanju, the guide, arrives. He is a young man who speaks very good English. With him we make all the arrangements. Tomorrow we start with an elephant and jeep safari and after that we will decide for the coming days. During our conversation the desk clerk and another man join us. The latter is the man who has been phoned. I assume that he is the hotel manager and ask if he can arrange transport for us, no problem of course. With the help of Sanju we order lunch and in the meantime we keep chatting. Now we understand that the name of the hotel is Gramonnayan Bhawan and that DRDA operates it. It is an organization which arranges work for the local people. Behind the hotel is the village of the mahouts and the personnel is recruited from there. They speak only Assamese so that Sanju also has to translate for tourists out of other parts of India. And the 'manager' is just a travel agent.
The lunch is simple, rice, potatoes with onions, fish and vegetables. But is is served as if we stay in in 5-star restaurant. Sanju leaves and we walk to the village. That is just a small market with some hotels along the road. Via the normal way, along the tourist lodges and tea plantation it takes half an hour. On our way back we walk through the village of the mahouts and this is a lot shorter.

In our room it is not very pleasant with the noise of the building workers above us. We sit on the veranda before the hotel and the staff serves us tea with a biscuit.
Sanju comes back and at half past six we walk to the booking office. It is necessarily to book and pay the elephant safari in advance. I must fill some forms and pay 3550 rs (see here for tariffs). We book for the first safari and the driver will come round five o'clock.
For dinner we have again no choice, this time the dish consists of rice with chicken and potatoes. Besides us an large Indian family are the only guests.

We get up at 4.30 and it is still dark, half an hour later we sit in front of the hotel. It is remarkable how soon the light increases and dawn starts. This night it has been raining and it is still cloudy. After fifteen minutes the four-wheel arrives and we climb into it. To our surprise the driver enters the hotel. After a short time he returns together with Sanju. Our guide slept in the hotel to be sure that we are on time. While we waited outside he stood knocking an yelling at our door.

Within a few minutes we are in the resort where the elephants are waiting. We stand on a platform and the mahout drives the animal towards this so we climb more or less easy on the elephant's back. We sit astride at it takes some time before I feel comfortable. The group consists of five adult elephants and two babies. The terrain is open with grass of about a meter high. Soon we spot the first rhino's, it is remarkable how quiet they keep grazing as we approach them. The mahout is a nice man and demonstrates how he leads and controls the elephant. When we take pictures he positions the animal so we can make the best shots. As we proceed the grass is so high that it grows above our head and we can only hear the rest of the group.

Besides the many rhino's we see buffaloes, deer and birds. At one spot another mahout takes our camera so we have a picture of ourselves and the rhino's. After more than an hour we return. I am so stiff that it is difficult to dismount.
Back to the hotel for a quick breakfast and at eight we start with the jeep safari to the Central range. The weather remains cloudy, sometimes a splash of rain and rather cold. In the meantime the elephants have completed their second safari and wander around. We continue out trip through the great nature, extended grass fields alternated with forest, rivers and lakes. Everywhere we see animals as deer, wild elephants, buffalo's and rhino's. Some fruit is thrown on our car, a group monkeys sits above us. In the wood we discover a Muntjac and in the river swim small turtles. We are satisfied but according to Sanju there are a lot more animals when it is sunny. This range is the most popular in Kaziranga and now and then the four-wheels form a file as the first one stops to observe a rhino.
By eleven we are back in the hotel and take a rest. Then lunch and at two o'clock we go to the Western Range. Part of the entrance price to the park is a fee for the guards and this time we get one with us in the car. These men have a double function, they protect the visitors and in the meantime the try to prevent poaching.

Again we make a large loop through the park and at immediate we see some rhino's, buffalo's and elephants. Large parts of the grassland are burned on purpose, this looks cheerless. It is done to make the young loots grow better and rhino's love to eat fresh grass. We finish the trip near a large lake. It is still hazy so we cannot see very far but on the other side graze at least a dozen rhino's.
By five o'clock we return to the hotel where the tea and biscuits are ready. It is a pity that we cannot communicate with the personnel but they are very friendly. Later we sit on the veranda before the hotel. An Indian family wants to know everything about our life in Holland. The dinner is again pullow with chicken.

This morning we do some sight-seeing. First we go to a tourist resort that is still under construction. The objective is also to give work to the local tribes and also try to preserve their culture. The cottages are build in their traditional style.

Then we go to a friend of Sanju, she shows us traditional Assamese clothing. It is not only showing, both of us get dressed. Great fun of course. The visits to a coffee an rubber plantations are disappointing, both have a rest period in this time of the year. On a nearby picnic place we talk with people of a ngo, they educate children who are freed from child-labour. Today they have a trip and we give them a contribution for a snack.
In the afternoon Sanju suggests to visit the eastern Agoratoli range, a 20 km away from our hotel. He constantly phones and as we are in the village he asks if his girl friend may join us. No problem of course and now it is clear to us why he wants to take this range today. We get again a guard with us. This part of the park is less visited and we see just a few other gypsies. But enough animals, two rhino's close to the car and a lot more in the distance just as many buffalo's and deer. For the first time here the sun shines now and then. One rhino gives the idea he wants to chase our car.
The driver provokes him a little and Sanju is not happy with this. According to him rhino's are more dangerous than tigers. The rhino turns his back on us.
A little further the drivers stops suddenly. Around the curve he spots a tiger jumping over the path. We see only the footprint. The trip continues along a large lake and the bank of the Brahmaputra. In a forest with many birds, the guard collects elephant apples and wild vegetables.
After a few hours we return to the village and Sanju treats us on a snack. His friend takes a rickshaw and we drive to the hotel. It is getting dark and quite cold in the open car. The promised pork is not available so the dinner is again pullow with chicken.

Today we explore the most Western or Burhapur range. This part is the less visited and the paths are overgrown with vegetation. Again we have a guard with us and he guides us to the less accessible sections where we have more change to see animals. There are a lot of monkeys, wild boars and so many deer that it feels like visiting a deer camp. A group of buffalo's rises one by one as we pass them. We cross the grassland to another path and there we see the rhino's.

One of them approaches the car and when he makes preparations to run the driver gets out of the way. But there stands a group of buffalo's, when the driver blows his horn they move and we continue.
It gives the idea that we are in the middle of nowhere but when we climb a watchtower we see that the main road is not far away. On the way back the buffalo's and rhino's are bathing together. Another rhino turns his back towards us and shows he has the shit on us. The sun shines sometimes and makes this two hour trip very nice. We are the only visitors.

By the lunch they serve the promised pork and it tastes good. We have now seen all the four ranges of Kaziranga. But we don't like to stay in the building site that the hotel is and decide to do the Bagori range for the second time. Again we see a lot of rhino's, elephants and buffalo's, sometimes close to the car and then further away. Near the lake we spot an osprey and numerous rhino's.
Back in the hotel we say, with a tip, farewell to our driver. In the nearby shop we buy a wooden rhino as souvenir. We are tired from the three safari days. Kazingara is great but afterwards I think that a two day visit is sufficient too. The travel agent pops up, we pay the rent for the car to him. And of course we pay Sanju, he is a great guy and a fantastic guide.

Tezpur/Guwahati, 26 - 30 March

We arranged another car for the drop to Tezpur. The driver arrives an hour earlier than we expected. While we have breakfast he cleans the car. We pay the hotel bill, 6500 rs for sleeping and eating. Sanju drops by to wave us goodbye and half past eight we leave. We don't like the drivers riding behaviour since he is speeding. We cross the Brahmaputra over a large bridge (5 rs. toll). Ten o'clock we are in Tezpur and we want to stay in hotel Luit. The driver does not know it and asks someone as soon as we enter the town. After a long discussion one of the bystanders comes into the car and guides us. The hotel is on the other side of the town. For 1200 rs we have a large AC room.

After a while in the room we go to the city. The sun starts to shine and it is immediate a lot warmer than the previous days. Our first impression is that Tezpur is a nice place. We lunch in a family restaurant, to enter one must ring the door bell. Then back to the hotel and change into thinner clothing. We have some global information about the sights in and around the city and want some assistance. The man at the desk has no ideas and points us towards the tourist lodge. It is a little difficult to find but as we are there we learn that they have just the same list as we have. They suggest to take a rickshaw for half a day. On our way back a travel agency offers us a full day by car for 700 rs. We think it is too much and decline the offer.
Later in the afternoon I go out to buy some beer and am amazed by the prominent presence of armoured police.

As we leave the hotel in the morning our laundry hangs on the line behind the hotel. Our intention is to hire a rickshaw but we bump into a taxi stand. According to the drivers are some of the sights inaccessible by rickshaw so we take a car for 650 rs. We show the driver the list with the places we like to visit and tell him we don't want to shop. As often we have to refuel petrol before we are on our way.
The first stops are on some hills near the Brahmaputra for great views over the river, unfortunately it is again a cloudy and hazy day. Naturally there are also some nice temples, Wiesje buys an oil lamp and incense for a sacrifice. We want to go to a tea estate but here nobody is working. The young diver is a nice person after a while he suggests that we should have a tea break. We are surprised as he stops at his own house and invites us inside. He makes the tea and after a short time his wife joins us. They have just one room in the family house. Wiesje has the only chair, I sit on the bed and they keep standing.

Then we go to the Bamuni Hills by a bad, steep and small road. On the top we buy a ticket and enter the park. We disturb some love couples who use this as a getaway. The clouds are thickening and we hear the thunder so we return before we have explored everything. After a short visit to an artificial tank we go back to the hotel.
Just as we are there a thunderstorm with hailstones starts. It does not last very long so in the afternoon we roam again through the town. But it looks like that is going to rain again and we go back, just in time.

The thunder and rain continue for the major part of the day. Since we did not have a particular plan for this day we stay on our room. Tomorrow we return to Guwahati and it is convenient for us to find a 24-hour hotel. In the afternoon the rain stops for a while and I go to the internet café. On Sunday nearly all the shops are closed and also the cyber-café shuts the door at half past four so I have no time. When I'm back it rains again.

We travel tomorrow by car and the hotel manager arranges something. The owner tries to talk us into a big car for 4000 rs, we go for a smaller one, that costs 2500 rs + 100 for the driver.

And it keeps raining the whole night. The driver arrives at half past nine and his boss gives the last instructions. En route we want to visit the temples of Madan Kamdev, and no one seems to know their exact location. The constant rain turns into heavy showers as we depart. The driver does not turn on the fan and the sight through the blurred windows is bad. I open my window but this does not help much and I get wet. The driver takes a cloth and sweeps his part of the window. I try to clean my share using the same cloth but I grab his scarf. All together it is not a comforting ride, and we are glad that the rain showers become less frequent. Lucky the scenery is great. Normally the just harvested rice fields are brown but after the rain they now turn green.
About noon we reach Baihata Chariali where the temples should be. I notice a small post with Madan Kamdev and we stop, drive back and continue underneath a large new gate over a narrow road. The driver asks everyone he sees if this is the right direction and so we stop at a stall where women sell temple gifts. A bus with Indian tourists stands also here. We ask and they all say that this is the entrance. It is a steep muddy slope, very slippery after the rain but we manage to reach the top. There we see the stairs to the official entrance on the other side of the hill.

On the top of the hill is an enormous pile of broken statues, temple walls and other stones. A group men is busy to reconstruct a temple, in my opinion they just place parts that fit more or less upon each other. There are also two small temples where priests conduct services. But I don't understand in which way anyone could determine that the sanctuary original consists of 24 temples. We roam around and spot another terrain. Amongst us are the outlines of the other temples and a lot of remainders from the structures. There are many statues consisting of two animals, one on the top of the other, it is not clear if they mate or fight. The head of the upper one is usually gone. I wonder if other rediscovered temples did look like this before the restorations. And then it starts to rain again so we seek shelter in the canteen of the builders.

By the stairs we descend to a museum where the finest statues are kept. Official it is not open but foreigners are allowed inside. The Indian family follows us and is hardly tolerated. The statues are spread out while workers whiten the ceiling, this shows.
An hour later we enter Guwahati. We tell the driver that we want a hotel nearby the station. After a while it becomes clear he does not know the city and he shows us the whole town. Near the centre we try to find a hotel but they are fully booked. We finish on the road to Shillong, I go from hotel to hotel and at least I find one for 1500 rs. The driver has parked the car on the opposite side of the road. I don't risk my life by crossing it and wave them to follow me and go to the hotel. It takes awhile but then they arrive too.
As we check in the 1500 rs. was for a single room we have to pay 2300 but we decide to stay. Original we planned to stay one night and walk around in the city tomorrow. Due to the weather we take the hotel for two nights.


We sleep very well in the soft bed and a paper in the morning is also comfortable. As a result of the hotel problems here we decide to book a hotel in Kalimpong and go again to the internet. The first one we choose has a room available. We visit some of the bazaars but the clouds become alarming and we return to the hotel. Just in time before the thunder and hail storm start.

Half past nine in the evening we pay the bill and hire a rickshaw to the station. The train stands on the platform and we take our seats. The seats around are occupied by families who also have visited Assam. We talk a while with them, the train starts and by eleven we go to sleep.

Kalimpong, 31 March- 2 April


Our seats are near the emergency window and that makes a terrible noise. Above that one of our fellow passengers is a clamorous snorer so we don't get much sleep. But all things come to an end and around eight o'clock we are in New Jalpaiguri.
The long footbridge crosses the shunting yard and at the end the drivers are waiting. We ask for a shared taxi to Kalimpong but they all insist that this only runs out of Siliguri. From the station the only transport is a bus or a private car. In the meantime they scrupulous pass by the the pre-paid stand (as we find out when we return). We don't want the bus and hire car for 1200 rs.

Through the outskirts of Siliguri and extended forests we reach the Teesta river, which we follow upstream. The road is winding, steep and in a bad condition. There is a lot of traffic and our driver often overtakes other cars. But the spectacular views over the river and the mountains make us to forget the risks. The Teesta runs far beneath us, the sun is shining and alongside the road monkeys beg for food. After a tea break we cross the river. A mountain road leads us to Kalimpong. The road is so steep that, besides many hairpins, a circular turn is necessary to gain enough height.

Half past ten we arrive and go to the Deki Lodge. The gate seems to be closed but after a while the friendly boss arrives. Together with his assistant he carries the luggage inside. I pay the driver and completely forget that I have already paid for the petrol. No wonder that he is extremely cheerful when he leaves. For 1050 rs we take the room on the top floor. It is not very large but we have a nice balcony. The view over the city is great but the mountains disappear in the dim atmosphere.
We are hungry and take a breakfast, after that we walk into the town. We are lucky since Wednesday is market day and the locals of the surrounding villages attend the haat. In this mountain town there is no flat road and walking around is tiresome.

We take a rest in a little park before we return to the hotel.
Clouds roll down from the mountains, there is a steady wind and it gets chilly. In the past the lodge had internet facilities but now we must go to the town again. On the way back we feel the steep slope in our legs. We drink a bear on the central terrace and order dinner. The owner/cook persuades us to take an egg-curry, if we want another course he has to shop first. The egg-curry, a kind of watery omelet is not tasteful. We go to our room and hear the thunder in the distance. We are not surprised that there is a powercut and sit by the light of a candle. As we go to bed it starts to rain.

I wake up by five and it looks as if the sky is clear so I go to the balcony. Slowly the sun rises above the mountains. But it remains too hazy to shoot nice pictures and I go to bed again.
According to our travel book there is an orchid nursery near Kalimpong and we ask the boss if we can visit this. According to him there is not much to see and he advices a visit to the Durpin monastery. On the way back we can visit a nearby cactus/orchid nursery. He arranges a car for us and with a schematic map of the city we go to the monastery situated on the top of a hill. The temple is surrounded by military camps. Durpin is beautiful painted, at the inside as well as at the outside.

And of course there are numerous praying wheels and flags. The serenity of the place is highly disturbed by the constant trial landings of a helicopter.
After a while we walk back, the map is not very helpful so we wander down the hill. But as always there are nice people and after a while we find the cactus nursery.

The beautiful plants grow in greenhouses, inside these it is hot and dry. After a refreshment we continue and reach the auto road we used yesterday. Now it is a complete traffic jam and we are a lot faster in town than the cars. It is two o'clock by now, we are hungry and we lunch at Gompu.
Back to the hotel we have an lazy afternoon on the balcony. It is cloudy again and a little to fresh to sit outside. We move to the central terrace that is more sheltered and warmer. For dinner we go to Gompu again, it tastes fine.

After breakfast we take the steep road uphill to the beautiful ornamented Tharpa monastery. As we go inside a monk points us where to look and turns silently the lights on and off. We ask him something and then he gives us an elaborate explanation about the temple and Bhudism. Now we understand that the high seat is reserved for the Dalai Lama and that Tharpa monastery belongs to another sect of Buddhism then Durpin. This explains the differences in the paintings. Outside he shows how we can reach the neighbouring monasteries.

First we visit a simple constructed one. More then a hundred children are accommodated here, today they stand in the row for a medical treatment. An older monk shows us the kitchen and the prayer room. From here we go downhill in the direction of the city centre. It is weird weather, we walk in the sun and are hot, still it is to hazy to enjoy the panorama. Via some steep roads we reach more small monasteries and then continue to the Tongsa gompa. Beautiful decorated a the outside we expect it will be the same inside, but it is closed. After a while a monk opens the door and we enter, to our disappointment the walls are scanty decorated. Next we walk along an ashram and a catholic church. It is Good Friday and a priest invites us to wait for the procession. We decline this and make another visit to the market area. Back in the hotel we arrange a car to Gangtok, our next destination, the price is 1300 rs.

Gangtok, 3 - 5 April

Around nine we leave and go back down-hill to the Teesta. Whenever possible, ant that is often, the driver switches off the engine. Subsequently we continue through the river valley. It is again a great journey but not as spectacular as Wednesday. There is a lot of traffic on the damaged road. The first stop is in Rangpo, the border city of Sikkim. We have already a visa and here we get a stamp with the date of our entry. All the information of our passes is written down in a book.
We follow the Teesta for a while and then we climb again. But first it is time for a tea break. The hotelier gave us the address of a Gangtok hotel, our driver calls them but there is no room available. He pretends to know another hotel and we decide to give that a try. By noon we reach the outskirts of Gangtok where this hotel is situated. They neither have vacancy, besides that it is far above our budget. The man at the desk calls some other hotels and we get a room in Little Wing. The driver get his instructions, asks now and then and so we end high above the city. We have a reasonably room for 1800 rs and get a discount of 20%. The view through the windows must be great but it is still hazy.

We order lunch and it takes quit some time to prepare this. The personnel needs to buy all the ingredients before the cook can start.
Transport in Gangtok is by shared taxis and we try to hold one as we want to go to the centre. With the assistance of the manager we succeed. The city is outstanding clean and full of high buildings. We walk up and down the Mall. In the tourist office we ask for some information and get a complete Sikkim booklet. For the ride back to the hotel we manage to get a taxi without any help.

At six the phone rings, the receptionist asks what we want for dinner. We just have decided to eat outdoor and tell him that. A few moment later the cook stands at the door and asks the same question.
The walk to the Sikkim Retreat is not pleasant. It is dark, no pavement and there is a lot of traffic. The dinner is good. When we walk back we buy a beer, just 40 rs a bottle. As we read in the tourist booklet that a trip to North Sikkim is possible for two persons we decide to change our plans and go for it.

At seven o'clock we wake up by a knock on the door. The hotel-boy brings us a surprise bed tea. He insists that we order breakfast immediately, we do this and tell him we will be downstairs by eight. Within an quarter they serve the toast in our room, we send it back. And when we are going to eat there is just dry toast, a boy is send to shop for the marmalade.

Later we take a taxi to the tourist office and inform which travel organizations are authorized to arrange a Northern Sikkim trip for foreigners. The mention a few and since Blue Sky is next door we take them. We reserve a 3D/2N trip to Yumthang for 14.500 rs. and are so excited that we forget to ask what is in the package. They just need three pass-photo's and fix everything, we start Tuesday. For tomorrow we arrange a car for a day-trip in Gangtok and Rumtek, this costs 1250 rs.
After this we explore the city by foot. We walk down the Mall and a little further we suddenly stand on the piglet market. The animals sit in big baskets, the vendor lifts them at their back-legs to show. After the purchase they go into a jute bag, screaming loudly the whole time. Behind the market are butcheries, each selling the flesh of one type of animals.

Further down the street is the vegetable market and behind that is the four-store market building. On the ground floor is the continuation of the vegetables trade and on the other stores all kind of goods are sold. Dressmakers process the just bought textiles on demand. From the top of the building there is a great view over Gangtok.
Half past three we are back in the hotel. It looks if a thunderstorm is coming so we stay in our room. At five the cook want to know our dinner order so he go can go shopping. The meal is simple but tasty.

Today there is no bed tea and the breakfast is again a surprise party. The car should be here at nine but does not show up. Half an hour later we ask the manager to phone the tourist office. A little later the driver arrives and takes us to a sort of headquarters. There waits the man of the travel office and he gives the driver his instructions. Obviously something has gone wrong.
The first stop is the Banjhakri waterfall. Around it is an energy park demonstrating the possibilities of green energy. Further there are many statues and artificial huts representing the live of the original inhabitants.

Next we have a long ride to Rumtek monastery. We drive over the hilly terrain through forests, alternated with rice fields on the terraces of the slopes. The road is not so good but the scenery is great. At the entrance of the monastery area we have to register again at a military post. From the fence it is a steep climb uphill. It is obvious that this is a tourists high-light, there are a lot of visitors. The monastery is great but not so exuberant decorated as those in Kalimpong. A disappointment is that the colourful statues inside are wrapped into plastic. We cannot leave the monastery by the front-gate and are directed to the backside to visit the Golden Stupa. I'm looking for something huge and do not expect that it is inside, behind the prayer room.

After a cup of tea we take the main road to Gangtok. Part of the trip are several 'view points' but due to the cloudy and hazy weather there is not much to see and we skip most of them.
In Gangtok we visit the white Dro-Dol Chorten and the nearby Tibetan Namgyal museum which contains a fine collection Buddhist objects. We miss out the visit to the rope-way and continue to the Enchey monastery, high above the city. As usual a visit to an local art warehouse is part of the tour. We end in the flower show with a magnificent exhibition of orchids.

At four o'clock the tour ends and since we have to do some shopping we get off to the Mall. Later we take a taxi, we know the routine by now. In the hotel we must again order dinner at once. While we are sitting in our room the hotel-boy comes with a note that, due to a meeting the restaurant, all four tables are occupied and the dinner is served in the room.

Northern Sikkim, 6 - 8 April


Despite the fact that we will come back it is naturally that we pay the bill for these days, only 4600 rs. for food and lodging. Just a little late this time, our car arrives with three man. One of them is the travel agent. The hotel manager complained the whole time that there is something wrong with our visa and now he can explain and solve that problem, he just needs another copy of our passport. We think that the third man is another tourist and we are angry since we have a trip for the two of us. As we complain the travel agent explains that Passing is our, obligatory, guide.

By ten o'clock we start and at once it is obvious that Karma, the driver, leads the expedition. The 'guide' is 21, has just left school and this is his maiden trip. Karma, who is proud to be a Lepcha, teaches him the local names of plants and places.
From Gangtok we go down to the Teesta river which we follow upstream for the whole day. It is a fantastic ride. The whole time we go up and down through a magnificent scenery. The road is terrible bad and often damaged by landslides but who cares. Road workers repair this and leave a small path for the cars. Worse is that there is an attempt to enlarge the road, on these stretches we drive over the bare rocks.

Our first stop is Kabi Lungchok, the place were, a long time ago, the leaders of the Lepcha and Bhutia people swore blood brotherhood. A holy stone stands as the witness of this and Karma explains everything. As we continue we pass a large number of waterfalls, sometimes so close to the road that we drive through the stream. All of them have names, I just remember the Seven Sisters. We have all the time and stop regular to enjoy the panorama. Now it becomes clear what Passing's task is, he accompanies us as we walk around while Karma stays with the car.

The mountains are for a large part covered with a varied forest with beautiful flowers as orchids and rhododendrons. Also we perceive a lot of cultivated cardamom. And where ever possible are terraces for rice agriculture. We pass many control posts and every time Passang shows the permits and often leaves a copy behind. At one o'clock we stop for lunch and get a traditional Sikkim dish.

The government builds barrages in the Teesta to produce electricity. Deep down us we see the ongoing work, the river streams through a temporally tunnel. By Chumtang we take the road to Lachung. As often today we must again wait for the labour of road workers. Outside the car we see the first snow covered mountains. Close to Lachung is the last stop near the Bhim Nala falls, in my opinion the greatest falls we have seen today.

At six o'clock we arrive in LeCoxy resort where we have small room, no chairs, a lot of blankets and an electric heater. Immediately we get tea and Passang regular asks if we need something. On our laptop we have photos of the Netherlands and later we show these to him, Karma and another driver. The drivers suggest we should drink millet but according to Passang this is to strong, he even is perplex as we ask him to buy some beers for us.
An hour later it is time for dinner, simple but good. In total there are about twenty guests. It is fresh despite the heater and we go to bed early. After an hour the cold wakes me and I put some more blankets on.

As I wake up a six o'clock the sky is clear and I go outside to take some pictures, many other guests have the same idea. The sun shines behind the mountains.

After breakfast our trip starts. At the end of the village is a sharp hairpin bend and immediately the mountain road begins. The air becomes clear and for the first time in the last weeks we see a deep blue sky. We pass a few hamlets and then we are in the midst of nature. The only disturbance are some military posts for the permit control. Along the road flower a lot of primroses and soon the first rhododendrons appear. All around us we see snow covered mountains, waterfalls and glaciers. We are very lucky that exactly today we have a good sight.

Near the road we spot a herd of yaks, Wiesje wants to leave the car and film them but according to Karma this is dangerous. He hardly has time to stop and drives as speedy as possible over the bad road. The higher we come the bigger the rhododendrons grow and form complete forests. Most of them don't flower yet. And the mountains around us become more barren.

After an hour we reach the Yumthang valley. We assume that this is the end of the trip and prepare us to wander around. But Karma wants to go further and just then it becomes clear to us that we also visit Yumesamdong. Since the weather is still perfect Karma does not want to spend time here.
We are totally overwhelmed by inhospitable scenery around us during the next part of the trip. First we travel trough deciduous forests and then pine trees take there place. The rhododendrons stay around us until we reach the tree limit. The road continues with many hairpins and after a while we are as high as the snow covered mountains we saw at the start. The road becomes worse and worse, a bridge is destroyed by the river and a path through the rocks leads to a new build one.

Half past ten we are in Point Zero, the end of the road. Only footpaths continue in the direction of the border. With many other tourists we stand on a hight of 4800 m., just as high as the supreme tops of the European Alps. The ground is covered with a tiny layer snow, enough to make it a great first time for Passang. We wear not the right clothing for the windy and cold weather, Wiesje stands barefooted with her sandals in the snow. But the views are breathtaking we just take a quick walk.

After an hour we start the ride back. This time Karma gives us all the time the time to take pictures, he stops just as we ask it. At Yumthang we go for a walk that ends by a sulphur spring and take time for a cup of tea. A girl who works there gets a lift, she will be astonished by us since we still want to stop for each new view. It is good that we did not waist time this morning as now the clouds start to appear.

By three we are back in Lachung and have lunch. Later we drive to the local temple. It looks as if it is closed but we climb over a fence and enter. Karma explains that the only purpose of this barrier is to keep the cows outside. Monks are here only at prayer time. The men celebrate the worship in the morning and have other jobs for the rest of the day. In Sikkim people are not prosperous enough to support full-time monks. We also get a clear explanation about the different types of Buddhism in Sikkim and Tibet. Through Karma's explanations of the paintings we observe these in different manner.
Back in the hotel a good dinner completes this great day. We chat a long time about this wonderful world with some other guests.


After breakfast we leave Lachung at eight, apparently everyone is impressed and tired from the last two days since we are silent for most of the time. What a luck we had with yesterdays weather, now it is cloudy and grey again. The road is of course the same as on the outward journey only the traffic is a lot heavier. During a long part of the day we try to overtake the cars of a military column while another one encounters us.
Half past eleven we are in the same restaurant as Tuesday. It is owned by a friend of Karma so it is a more or less obliged stop. Since we are so early the fire is not on and we have plenty of time to enjoy the views over the rice covered hills. The lunch is great again, one of the dishes is a fern course.

A thirty kilometre before Gangtok we take a side road to the Phodong monastery. Here is a school for monks. The young kids rattle off the prayers together, the older ones study on their own. Again Karma explains everything to us. Somewhat higher upon the hill is the Labrang monastery. We enter it by climbing over the wall. In an annex painters restore the wall paintings, outside young monks play cricket.

We ask Karma if he knows a driver for tomorrow, he phones a friend who will drive us to Mirik for 2500 rs. It is half past three when we are back in our Gangtok hotel and say farewell to Karma and Passang. Together with the nature they made this trip unforgettable.
After a while we decide to go to the internet café in the centre. Man repair the road so the ride takes some time. On our way back we have the same driver. As the other passengers step off he asks if we have a moment so he can go to the butcher. Next we ask him to stop so we can buy a beer. Now the engine refuse to start and since the hotel is nearby we decide to walk but then the motor does his duty and we drive the last few hundred meters.

Mirik 9 - 11 April


At three o'clock in the morning some new guests arrive and that makes a terrible uproar. After we complain it becomes quiet but at six the tumult starts again. So we dress ourselves and order breakfast.
Before eight our diver is already there and we leave. At this time of the day the traffic is heavy and it takes nearly an hour to leave Gangtok. Then we go downhill to the Teesta again and follow the river until Rangpo. The paper work at the border does not take much time.

We cross the Teesta and continue by a steep road, with very sharp hairpins, uphill in the direction of Darjeeling. Is is another great trip through a Sal forest, many monkeys jump around. After the climb we stop at a viewpoint, deep down us is the confluence of the Teesta and the Rangit rivers. The road keeps climbing and the clouds come lower. Around us the slopes are covered with endless tea plants. Then we drive trough the clouds, fog is never pleasant and certainly not on a mountain road.
After a while we reach the Silguri - Darjeeling road, alongside us is the narrow gauge. In Ghoom we take a minor route to Mirik. The fog stays for the most time and we cannot enjoy the panorama. So it is also no use to stop by the viewpoint from where you can overlook Nepal.

One o'clock we are in Mirik, we cross the place to reach the lake where the hotels are concentrated. We stay in Jagjeet and have reasonable spacious room for 1000 rs. After lunch we walk around the lake. Near the hotels are a lot of tourist shops and people can hire boats or horses.
Back in the room the inevitable powercut starts. We here the rumour of the generator but nothing happens. Soon we get some candles. We go for a romantic dinner wit candle light, but the restaurant is in a separate building and there the electricity works. Back in the hotel it is still dark, we hear that labourers cut the generator cable.


In the morning we walk to Mirik, along the lake it is not far away. The sun shines and it is pleasant weather. Yesterday, when we passed the town, I had the impression that Mirik is larger than it really is. Just a few streets with shops and a market, but is a nice place.

Back near the lake we see a couple that we met in Lachung. They stay in Darjeeling and like the non-tourist feeling of Mirik. At a local taxi stand we inform about trips in the vicinity. They all go from viewpoint to viewpoint and since it cloudy again we don't think that is a good idea.
After the lunch we arrange a car for tomorrow and reserve a hotel in Kolkota. They want a conformation by email, the connection here is so slow that it takes half an hour to accomplish this. Despite the misty weather we climb to the monastery above the lake. The large temple is closed but a smaller one is open for visitors. To enter we must pass a group of carrom playing monks.

Sunday I awake early and as it is sunny I walk to the monastery to make some pictures. Now the beauty of the town and lake is clear to see.

The rest of the morning we spend reading in our room. At noon we have to checkout and pay also the 1200 rs for the car, the driver will arrive at three o'clock. We leave the luggage at the desk and go for another walk around the lake and through the town. It is strange weather. Where we walk it looks as the sun will shine while heavy clouds hang above the hotels on the other side of the lake.

After lunch the car waits and we set off. It is quit a long distance through the tea covered mountains and the driver keeps a steady tempo. After a while we reach again the main road from Darjeeling and drive parallel to the narrow gauge. In the meantime a heavy rain is started. On a stretch without curves the driver increases his speed and then the car gets into a spin. We have the luck that there is no upcoming traffic and the driver manages to keep the car on the road. For the rest he drives careful.
By five we are in NJP and wait a while in the car until the rain stops. We store the luggage in the cloakroom where the rats run around. The environment of the station is cheerless, especially now after the rain. A parking place, a market and a few hotels. A group of children bring away the dead body of a friend.
We go back to the station, eat something and wait until the train arrives at half past eight, with just 30 minutes delay. We share the compartment with two ladies, they have a lot of luggage so it takes some time to store everything.

Kolkata and Netherlands, 12 - 13 April


We have a good night sleep in the train. In the morning there is no breakfast, only coffee. At nine we arrive at Kolkata's Sealdah station. It is hot and crowded, a great contrast with the previous days. The station has two exits and we take the one that leads us to the private taxis. They ask 400 rs., much to much, and we walk the the pre-paid stand. The man knows the Dum Dum street of course but not the North Star hotel. He considers with someone and they decide that the fair is 135 rs.
It is a long trip, first to reach the street and then to the hotel which is at the other end. The driver asks regular and then we see a signboard. The hotel is situated a little away from the road. The room is not very spacious but ok for one night. It is half past ten and we order breakfast.

We have quit some ideas to spend the day but we are tired and the heat troubles us. So we stay in the neighbourhood. First to the internet for the check-in procedure for our flight. Then to all small cigarette shops since Wiesje wants a stock to bring home. They don't have their brand and in the meantime I get it steaming hot so we go back. In the hotel they inform us that it is nearly 40º.
Late in the afternoon we go for another attempt. Now we walk to the other side of the road. First we stumble across the market. Near the bus station the cigarette expedition ends successful.
In the hotel bar we have our last Indian dinner and beer, both taste well.

Tuesday, a hectic travel day
Half past six the wake-up calls rings. Then breakfast and an hour later the hotel boy arranges a taxi for us. It is just a quarter of an hour to the airport. Our luggage passes the security and we stand in the row for the boarding passes. It is a slow procedure and there is no separate desk for passengers who did the electronic check-in. The lady who helps us handles simultaneous two phone calls. We are most concerned about the correct labels on our backpacks and as there are no names on our boarding pass we think that is a novelty.
After changing the last rupees we proceed to the customers and security desks. They look a long time upon the documents but give the necessarily stamps. I pass the personal security but the lady who controls Wiesje persists a name on the boarding pass. The staff tells us that we both have to go back. Lucky the female employee of Emirates takes command and sends a man to collect new boarding passes. In the meantime my day-pack fails the control. We have completely forgotten that a month ago we put a knife into it. Of course they keep the knife, to get the pack I need to show my boarding pass. We become a little nervous but than the man with the passes is back. Next problem, the officer who must have these passes declines them because there are no stamps on it. Now the Emirates lady takes the passes and goes back again and at last we can proceed. The plane stands about 20 meter from the exit but we are obliged to take a bus, together with a few other late comers.
The boarding pass for our connecting flight lacks also our names. We ask the crew and they suggest to ask the ground personnel in Dubai. As we arrive there the advise is to collect a new pass and we do that. And then, as we are at the control post, the lady looks at it and tears it to pieces. I nearly explode. The problem is a missing bar-code but here she can produce a new one on the spot.
For the rest we have a smooth flight to Düsseldorf, and just have four trains to go to reach home. The first train brings us to Duisburg, but we cannot find the connecting one to the Netherlands. I assumed that this went every day but it is a bi-weekly. I think we have to spend the night here but Wiesje has a better idea. We hire a car to the first station in the Netherlands. With a speed of more than 160 km we race over the four-lane road and reach the station on time.
For the rest no excitement and five o'clock in the morning (Indian time) we are back in our home.
From Kochi to Delhi
Date Posted: Jan 2nd, 2011 at 01:50 - Comments (1)
From Kochi to Delhi

In December 2008 we are off for another three months in India. This time we start in Kerala and through Karnataka, Orissa, Chhattisgarh, Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan we travel to Delhi for our flight back.

Kottayam 9 - 12 December 2008

Tuesday - Wednesday

It is cold and snowing when we leave our home in the Netherlands at eight o'clock in the morning. Friends bring us to a railway station from where we go to Düsseldorf in Germany. We fly with Emirates to Dubai and arrive there at midnight local time. A few hours later our flight to Kochi leaves and it is again eight in the morning as we land.
In the slow moving row by the customs we get familiar again to the queues. We change money and take a prepaid taxi to Kottayam, for the last 90 km we pay 1400 rs. All with all the formalities don't take so much time and within an hour we are on our way.,The start in the real tropical climate is quit a difference with our previous visits which started more in the north. We drive through a beautiful hilly landscape. But after the long trip we are tired and fall nearly asleep.

On internet the Vembanad Lake resort looked good but the reality is different. The cottages are completely surrounded by high flats and the only one available is damp. To be honest, the manager is reluctant to rent it to us We go to the nearby Hotel AidaI, a business type of hotel where we take a non AC-room for 950 rs. The room is at he front side and we have the inconvenience of the traffic noise.
After the lunch we lie down and later take a short walk to the jetty where the ferry to Alleppey starts. Of course there is a powercut, it just happens while I'm loading our photo battery. This gives an short circuit at the moment that the current returns and our loader is finished. The day ends with a heavy thunderstorm, a great way to start a holiday.

As result of the jet-lag we don't sleep well and are still tired as the night ends. From Kottayam we want to visit the Kumakarom bird-sanctuary. According to the hotel manager we should be there at six in the morning, and now we have our doubts about it.
By noon we walk to the centre for a new loader. It is not more then ten minutes and we go first to a large photo shop. From there we are send from shop to shop until we find a small store which sells al types of loaders. Kottayam is busy city with a lot of shops but nothing very interesting to see. We take a drink and lunch before we return to the hotel. It is hot and we have still to acclimatize so a shower is wonderful.

At six I go out and in front of the hotel a rickshaw driver asks if I'm interested in a temple festival with elephants and traditional dances. We must decide at once since the ceremony is about to start. I go back to Wiesje and we go for it. Anil, the driver, is a special type. On the back of his chair are quotes of Kafka and other famous writers. He likes to read literature and when we tell we are Dutch he mentions the books of some of our writers.
It is not far to the temple. The inhabitants of the village decorate their houses with oil lamps. The temple has a wall around it and the central building is also filled with small lights. In the hall priest prepare five elephants for the ceremonies. The crowd is gathered before the hall. A rectangle is free and garnished with larger oil lamps and numerous incense sticks. The music is loud and slowly the elephants appear. The middle one is dressed up as a divinity, the others carry priests. From the other end of the rectangle another god, in the form of a peacock, dances and approaches slowly. It is a fantastic experience. Many people leave after some time but still more are coming, the ceremony takes the whole night. We watch it for a time but after a few hours we want to go back.
In the meantime we talk with Anil about all kind of things. He will take us to Kumarakom and pick us up at seven to-morrow. He owns a copy of an article that a Dutch writer wrote about him. He shows it to us and to our surprise it is written in Frisian. Wiesje promises to make a translation of it.
Off topic
In the Netherlands we have Frisian as a second official language. About 600.000 people can understand it. We are born in that part of the country.


Up at six but Anil is late and after a ride of half an hour it is eight when we arrive in Kumarakom. For a wild sanctuary the entrance price of 95 rs. is cheap. The park is not very extensive. Helas even when we walk through the smallest paths there is nearly a bird to see or hear. The explanation is that we are too late and the birds are on the lake by now. For 300 rs. we hire a small fisherman's canoe.
This is our first encounter with the back-waters. Just as in the sanctuary the nature is great with palms an banana trees everywhere. First we navigate on a wide river. On the shores the people are busy with washing, cleaning and other activities. After a while we approach the Vembanad lake. The water is covered with large fields of water hyacinths. Of course we see some ducks and other birds but the scenery makes this trip a great one.

And there is something else. We had already decided not to take a houseboat trip. When we see the long line of ships sailing behind each other, some of them with people watching television, we are sure that this is nothing for us.
After a few hours we are back in Kumurakom, time for a snack and chai before we return to the hotel. In the afternoon Wiesje buys a nice blue tunic. When she wears it the paint sticks on her body.

Alleppey 13 - 16 December

Before we leave we phone with Johnson's Nest, a homestay in Alleppey. They have a room and promise to pick us up at the jetty. The ferry leaves at half past eleven but we have no idea how crowded it will be. So we leave the hotel on time and have more than an hour to spend. There is no ticket counter, we must buy the tickets later on board. The boat is already there and is old and worn out, but looks reliable. We bring our luggage on board and walk around. There we see Anil waiting for new customers. Wiesje gives him a rough summary of the Frisian article.

The boat leaves on time. There is a seat for everybody, the price of the tickets is 20 rs. The first part we navigate through canals, on the banks we see houses and small villages. The ferry acts as public transport and stops often to load and unload passengers. We also stop to let the crew open the small foot-bridges. Gradually we leave the civilized world and see a fantastic scenery with palms and all other types of tropical plants. There are a lot of birds, mainly ducks.

When we approach the Vembanad lake we see again the fleet of house-boats. In the vicinity of Alleppey are many restaurants on the waterside. By the jetty the touts swarm on board and try to persuade us to go to the next stop. The boatman knows better and indeed a driver waits for us.
Johnson's is situated in a quit neighbourhood of the town. We have a large room, our balcony is halfway the stairs. We are just in time for the lunch, Johnson's wife Angela is a great cook. Johnson offers several excursions, we go for the secret beach and a boat trip. This afternoon we wander through the city. In the evening we enjoy the quietness of our balcony with a beer. As the traditional powercut begins we get candle lights. We don't see mosquito in our room so we try to sleep without the net.

This is not a smart idea and halfway the night we awake from the itch and hang the net. Early in the morning we wake up by the singing in a nearby church, this service continues for a very long time. At the other side of the road the prayer calls from the mosque regular joins the rumour. Wiesje did not sleep well so I go out on my own. Soon I find the way to the beach. It is quiet on the streets and also on the sandy beach. It is not very scenic and slowly I stroll back.
Johnson's knows a, as he mentions it, 'Secret Beach' a kilometre of 10 out of the town. At one o'clock we go to it with a rickshaw. A friend of Johnson's owns there a restaurant and we enjoy a great lunch. Through a small fishermen village we walk to the beach. This is a real tropical delight, just as one sees on the posters. Sand, palms, children playing, fishermen working and hardly a tourist.

We sit down and absorb the atmosphere. It still astonish us that, as in every beach we have seen, there are no seagulls but just crows. The crabs dig themselves in the sand but the crows pick them out and they also eat the remaining fish out of the nets. We slander alongside the sea, after a few hundred metres we see some small resorts, it looks as if they have just a few guests. In the meantime the fishermen prepare their nets for the next catch. This preparation takes a long time and we decide to go back to the restaurant for a beer. After a short time the rickshaw driver arrives and we go to the guest-house.
On Sunday Angela does not cook. We go out for dinner to hotel Prince and have another beer on our balcony.

At ten the rickshaw driver is there and he brings us to a wharf a little outside Alleppey, where our trip with a country boat starts. Another man guides us to the water. A small rowing boat with a canopy against the sun and a few cushions and benches to sit on waits for us. We pay 2500 rs for a trip of six hours. Two old man, in their seventies as they tell later, come on board and pick up a peddle.

First we navigate on a broad water, at the waterside we see many house-boats. And still more are under construction. As everyone tells us, the tourist industry is not booming. We leave the canal and go further through very small waters, only suitable for this size of boats. It is a fantastic trip everywhere palm, banana and mango trees. Between these vegetation little house are scattered around. Often the ground on which the houses are build is lower then the water, so the bank is also the dike. Behind the houses are the paddy fields.
Later we row on the same route as the ferry and stop to enjoy a fresh coconut. A tamed eagle sits next to the stall. Without a warning they put the bird on my hand, it is a little frightening. We make a little stroll on a path so small that it is difficult to pass each other but everyone we meet is very friendly. The inhabitants have constructed plastic shelters before their house to obtain some privacy. Many people here have fishing eagles.

We paddle further through small canals and it is indescribable beautiful. The boatman speaks enough English to name the plants and the birds that we see. For lunch we go to a restaurant on the shore for a thali.
Then we row for a while stream up a river, it is hard work for the men. And then we enter a polder, the land is lower than the small canals in which we sail. The banks are nearly half a meter high so we have a great panorama. By three o'clock we go back and for our bodies that is good. Our muscles and backs have enough of sitting on the benches. It takes still one and a half hour before we are at the jetty. Of course our rovers deserve a tip
We organize a rickshaw back to Johnson's. For dinner we have tapioca, something new for me. It tastes a little like potatoes.

Since Johnson wants to paint our room he asks if we will change. The advantage of the new one is that the balcony is directly connected to the room. At the end of the morning we go to to centre of Alleppey. Besides all the vessels it is not very interesting, just some shops and so.

We do some shopping, lunch and take a rickshaw to the beach. It is quiet there but the scenery can not be compared by that of the 'secret beach'.
Back at the Nest we pay the bill. Sometime later we go downstairs for our dinner. Nobody is there but the food is on the table. So we warn the lady in the other room and dinner with the three of us. In the meantime the family returns. With a beer on the balcony we enjoy our last evening in this great place.

Kochi/Ernakulam 17 - 20 December

Before we leave Johnson show us his garden, beautiful with a lot of orchids. In the back of these garden are two guest cottages. Our breakfast consists of cheese sandwiches and too strong tea and then we take a rickshaw to the station.
The train is on time and after a journey of an hour we arrive in Ernakulam. Outside the station is a pre-paid system for the rickshaws. For 1 rs. we get a paper with our destination and the price of the ride. We have the name of the hotel on a paper. The first driver refuses to go but the next one brings us. It is busy in the lobby and we ask at once if they have a free room, the answer is no. Or second choice Hotel Biju is around the corner and has a reasonable room for 600 rs. When I walk down to fulfil the registration I learn that it was the last one.

We take some rest before we walk to the nearby jetty. Of course don't recognize anything from our visit of 25 years ago. We want to walk along the waterside but our path leads us off the waterside. So we come closer to the busy centre, eat something and go back to the hotel.
For a bottle of beer I have to walk 10 minutes, the selling point is a very dark. First I must pay at a counter with fences and give the receipt to the bar keeper. It gives me the impression as it is something illegal. Our hotel has no restaurant and we choose one in the neighbourhood. The service is worse but the food is tasteful.

After a good night sleep we go for breakfast to the nearby India Coffee House. Back at the hotel we arrange for tomorrow a backwater cruise with the KTDC.

Then we walk to the ferry and are in a quarter of an hour in Fort Kochi. There it swarms with rickshaw drivers, they all want to show us around, the further we walk from the jetty the lower the price becomes. We use our feet and go to the Chinese fishing nets. The men operate the nets but we don't see any successful catch.
We stroll further alongside the water and then turn to the centre. This is fulfilled with tourist shops. Of course we visit to the Dutch cemetery and see some churches.

After lunch we walk through a residential area to the Mandacherry district, another tourist area. Here we see the Dutch palace, it looks more as a farm house, and the synagogue. This is situated in a dead end street with shops witch 'exclusive goods'. All the shopkeepers invites us for a free visit. It is great fun to pass them twice twice with a lot of laughing from both sides. Slowly we walk back to the jetty and are around five in the hotel.
In the hall is an internet connection so it is easy to mail to the family and buy train tickets for the one of the upcoming trips.

Shortly before eight a small bus from the KTDC collects us from the hotel. Together with an 86 year old Swiss lady we cross the town. In the outskirts a bus with other tourists from Kochi waits for us. We are now with a group of thirteen persons the ages range from 6 to 86. Also here it is a bad time for the tourist industry, other years there were forty people in a group.
After an hour we stop and embark a kettavallum. The guide explains the day-program and tells more about the history of the back-waters. First we navigate over broad rivers with small islands. Everywhere we see the tiny boats of the mussel fishers.

After an hour we anchor at one of the larger islands. We look around in the small village. A man taps the juice of the flower of a palm, within six hours the fermentation starts. By a herb garden the guide gives an ample explanation of the use of the herbs in the Ayurveda. Back on board we get a banana leaf with a delightful prepared portion mussels. Some people go for a swim and then we return.
As soon as we arrive at the landing-stage a great lunch is served on board. It is a pity that nobody is hungry after the mussels. The bus brings us to the country boats and the group splits up.

And so we row into the small canals. In contrast with the Alleppey region the land is here above the water level. This makes it more natural and again very scenic. We visit a village where the woman make rope from the fibres of the coconuts. At the next stop we get a coconut but so short after lunch it is to much. A group priests plays the drums and walks from home to home. Then we navigate back and see a lot of birds, including many kingfishers.
Half past five the tour ends and we take the bus. First to Fort Kochi and then to our hotel so it is six o'clock before this fantastic but tiring day is over.

At eleven we leave the hotel with the idea for some shopping and a trip to Vypeen Island. The small stores are situated in large concrete buildings which makes the town not very pleasant. It are mostly clothes shops and everyone is completely filled up while in the corridors the new stock waits. Then we watch a Christmas market in one of the by-streets and we continue our stroll through the back alleys until we reach the vegetable market. Nice as always.

We have a rough map of the city and see that the jetty to Vypeen is nearby. We walk to it and find out that nowadays all the ferries start at the main jetty. Along the water side is a boulevard and it is a pleasant walk. A lot of vessels in all sizes are for hire. Some for a round-trip others are expensive sail yachts. As we arrive at the jetty it appears that we have to wait for another hour. By then it will be half past two and we decide to skip the trip. We have lunch and a quit afternoon in the room. A television station in Kerala shows English spoken films and we watch one of the Jaws films.

Thrissur, 21 - 24 December

At nine we take a rickshaw to the station since it is quit on this time of the day it does not take long. A train, apparently not ours, waits at the platform. We know the place and number of our coach and go to the signal. Then the train identification has changed and it is ours. The coach number is relative to the engine and since the train goes in the opposite direction as we expect and we must walk back. The half filled train departs on time. The trip goes through a region with all kind of small agriculture and in somewhat more then an hour we reach Thrissur.

We go to Lucia Palace and have a wide room with a reasonable view for 777 rs. The hotel is situated in a quit street but when we go for a walk it is just a few minutes to the centre. This consists of a hill with a park and a temple in the middle. Around the park is a circular road. We parade the full circle inclusive the side streets. Despite it is Sunday it is busy but not tourist. Most shops are closed but on the pavement before the street merchants display their goods.
Back in the hotel we go to the bar for a beer and later we have dinner in the garden restaurant. This is divided in two parts, the smaller section is for families the big part is for the men. It is animated and the food is good.

This afternoon we want to visit the Kathakali school in Cheruthuruthy. In the hotel we arrange a car for 500 rs. Around two the driver, who doesn't speak a word English, arrives. He has a dispute with the receptionist. That men also speaks hardly English so we don't understand the cause of their agitation.
By a busy road we drive in an hour to the school. A friendly guard explains that the school is closed during the December holidays. So we have no choice than to go back. Our mood does not improve as the receptionist welcomes us enthusiastic assuming that we had a great trip. It takes some time before he gives the appropriate reaction. We take comfort with a beer in the bar.
For dinner we go of course again to garden. We had noticed posters with an announcement that on November 13th there is something special. We ask the waiter why the announcements are still there and it turns out that from that date on they serve traditional Kerala food. It is prepared in the garden. Wiesje takes mutton and I go for the beef. The food is very tasteful although a little spicy and with 183 rs still cheaper than the breakfast.

During these days the hotel is prepared for Christmas celebration. In the hall stands already a big tree in the hall, now men enlighten the parking place and the entrance.

We don't have train tickets for Kannur, our next stop, so we drop in an internet café. It is oppressive small and just as we are checking our mail there is powercut and of course no generator. So we do some sight seeing in Thrissur and visit a huge catholic church, something else then the usual temples. The next internet spot has a generator. We try to reserve but the trains to Kannur are fully booked on the day we want to travel. So we must reschedule and we want to take the time for that.

After lunch we return to the hotel and arrange a car for tomorrows trip. We decide about the next part of our itinerary and book the tickets. Then we want to visit the big temple in the centre but as non Hindus we are not allowed to go inside. So we stroll around the small alleys around the centre and within a 100 metres we walk into a farm with a lot of cows.
For dinner we take again Kerala food and make our choice at the cooking place. The cooks explain everything and of course we don't grasp all the courses. It is great fun and we get a good dinner of fish and shrinks. People here have their dinner late, at ten o'clock it is still very lively in the garden.

At eight we leave with another driver, he too speaks nearly a word English. Our goal is the elephant centre in Punnathur Kota, close to the famous temple town Guruvayur. With hands and feet we try to make it clear that we don't want to go there but we fail. The town is full of pilgrims and the driver tries to find a parking place. And we keep telling "no temple, go to elephants". At last he understands it.
Punnathur opens at nine, just at the moment we arrive. More than sixty elephants are sheltered here, between their jobs in the temple ceremonies. The entrance fees are again particular, 25rs for a person, 50 for a camera but 1000 for the video. Trucks unload large piles of cane, this is the feed for the animals.

Some elephants transport the cane to their companions, most of the animals are chained. At the same time it is wash hour. Some elephants are cleaned with hose pipes whilst others use their own trunks or take a bath in a pond. It is nice to be here but it resembles a zoo and after a few hours we return.
We have shoot our first video film and want to watch it on the TV. To our consternation we don't see anything. We have an old tape with us and when we try that one it gives a disturbed picture. Something must be very wrong.
Of course we go for dinner to the garden. After all the meat of the last days we want a vegetarian dinner. As we arrive the family part is fully occupied. We go to the men's part and sit in front of the kitchen. So it is again Kerala food. We did not noticed it before but the waiters here are wearing a dhoti while those in the family part have black trousers and a white shirt.

Kannur 25 - 29 December

Thursday, Christmas
Normally we don't reserve a hotel but since it is Christmas and we arrive quit late we call Palmgrove Retreat. They have a room so that is settled. I make a last stroll through the city, it is very quit on the streets.

After lunch we go to the station. It is again a CC class but the seat numbers have gone. We take our chances and at the next stop it appears that we have the wrong seats. It is a rather scenic trip, we ride through large palm woods and cross a lot of rivers. Near Bekul the train goes close to the coast.
Just after six we arrive in Kannur, a police officer helps us to arrange a rickshaw. Palmgrove is outside the city and gives a clumsy impression. First they tell there is no room available but after some talking they find something. It is a small room in the old building, for tomorrow we are promised a better one.
Our Christmas dinner we have on the terrace, an unappetizing sticky rice dish. They don't have coffee and we prepare our own on the veranda.

The bed is very hard and small but we are so tired that we succeed to sleep. In the morning the manager tells that it is not sure that we can change rooms. So we decide to go to the town and look for another hotel. But before that we want to know what causes the video problem. We find a photographer who has knowledge of it and who is very helpful. After a lot of experiments it is clear that the recording part is damaged and that in Kannur it cannot be fixed.
We have more luck with the hotel, in Green Park we get a reasonable room for 850 rs. So it is back to Palmgroove, pack, pay and at twelve o'clock we have moved. The hotel is close to the centre and the railway station, our room is at the street side. We hear loud music. Through the window we see glimpses of a ceremony, we think it is some kind of wedding party.
Kannur is a relative small city and has a tourist bureau in the railway station. The officer is about to leave but takes all the time to help us. He gives us a map of the city and tells that there are boating options and daily Theyyam performances in Parassinikadavu, a 20 km out of town. But also that in a temple opposite our hotel a Theyyam ceremony starts at four o'clock.

The ceremony is in front of a small temple. There are some other tourist but it is clear that we are just bystanders. The main priest or deity is painted with a large coronet, decorated with flowers, on his head. He jumps, dances and accomplishes all kind of rituals, assisted by other priests. All kinds off foods are offered. The whole time there is a deafening music from drums and trumpets. And regular all the priests walk around the temple. By now we realize that we saw this also from our hotel room a few hours ago. The deity sits down and the devotees approach him. After a gift they get a special blessing or personal advice, he takes a lot of time for each individual.
After a while I want to go to the winery, the hotel man advises to take a rickshaw. It is indeed difficult to find, in a back alley with crush-barriers before it. At six it is quiet in the temple and we think the ceremony is finished. But at half past eight there is music again and after our dinner another short service starts. At eleven it is over.

At five the temple music awakes me and I go again to the temple. This time there are two deities. One is the same as yesterday but in a thinner version, the other one is obvious more important. They just put on their coronets and a dozen devotees are already there. The ritual consists again of music, dances and the blessing of food, knifes and peoples. It looks like the upper god has silver balls before his eyes and he cannot see much. The others priests often support him.
The devotees keep coming, some stay whilst others leave and go to their work. I'm the only outsider and rather impressed. Making pictures makes me feel uncomfortable but nobody objects to it.
At seven the deities take their seats and the devotees approach them. A young women whispers a minutes long story to the first god, repeats it by the second one and goes then back again. I'm tired and go to the hotel for an hour of sleep.
At eleven we take a rickshaw to Fort St. Angelo,on the seaside outside the town. Build by the Portuguese, then captured by the Dutch and later by the English. The entrance is free, officers of the tourist police supervise the few visitors. Two of them give us a free guided tour. One is off duty and with him we walk to the taxi stand on the highway.

From there we go to the lighthouse, not much to do there and as we leave we notice it is closed. With another rickshaw we drive to the Payyambal beach. A small entrance fee and then we can walk along the seaside. For lunch we have fired bananas in a stall near the playground.

Today we visit Parassinikadavu. It is mainly a temple and Theyyam centre but according to the tourist office it is also possible to do boat trips. We hope that will be something like the backwaters. We decide to take a bus. A rickshaw brings us to the station and an official points us to the right bus. All seats are occupied but for Wiesje the conductor finds a piece of a bench.
At the next stops a lot people are boarding. Slowly I am pushed backwards and have just one hand to clamp me on a bar and cannot move. And then I'm lucky that I'm taller then the other passengers so I can see something. Wiesje sits with four on a bench and has a child on her lap. Despite the packed crowd the conductor manages to swing himself from front to back and sell tickets. The last part of the road is rather winding and I can hardly stand on my feet. We are glad that after 45 minutes the ride is over.

Via long stairs we descend to the water. The temple is on the bank and since we follow the crowd we walk right into it. But we are not here for a ritual bath and go the other way. It takes some time and efforts but we find the boating place. We hire the only available type, a motorboat, large enough for 10 people. We just make a round over the lake, no small canals and as we navigate to the other side we see a dam. This is just an artificial lake where nothing resembles the backwaters.
We climb the 260 steps to the bus stop and are so happy that this time there are not many passengers. Now we have the opportunity to enjoy the scenery.
Our idea was to spend new year in Kasaragod. But we decide to go to Mangalore, it is larger and perhaps we can fix the video there. So the afternoon we use for planning and book a train for the 30th.

We want to visit the fisherman's village we noticed when we were in St Angelo. The hotel receptionist speaks very little English but seems to understand us. He writes something in Malayan on a scratch of paper and tells we just have to show it to a rickshaw driver. We do so and arrive again in St Angelo, the benefit is that we can now point out our destination.

Ayikkara is the name of the village and there is also a nice museum but today that is closed. An inhabitant points us to the direction of the sea. We walk between the houses until we reach a dike of rocks, clamber over it and reach the tiny beach. We stroll to the end and continue through the village. So close to the city it is a total different world. We watch fishermen who repair their nets and slender through the small streets. At a stall we have a drink and everyone gathers around us, contact is only possible by means of gestures. We continue and every time we are unsure an inhabitant shows us a direction. Sometimes it looks like a dead end but behind the laundry the road continues. We pass a crèche where one woman takes care of a forty children aged from two to five. They sing a Indian version of Brother John and we do the Dutch one. At last we go back to the main road and take a bus to Kannur.

Mangalore 30 December - 2 January 2009


While we pay our hotel the young women behind the desk gives a shy smile, her male colleague explains that she has dreamed about me, it is time that we leave. One of the hotel boys takes our luggage and we walk the station.
The train is old with hard benches. A beggar gives the passengers a written story of his misfortune. After a while he collects them again and hopes of course on some support. The landscape is a mix of agriculture and villages, most of the time we stay close to the sea. At one o'clock we arrive in Mangalore, just half an hour late.
The hotel we want to see is Poonja International. The first rickshaw driver says that we cannot afford that and asks an exorbitant price for the ride. So we take another rickshaw. The hotel is indeed quit expensive with a costumed doorman, not our usual style but we decide to stay.

The reception has no information about Mangalore. The tourist office should be further on in the city at Lighthouse Road. All asking we find the street but no office. In an internet café we print a map of the city and look for some more information. The address is good and tomorrow we give it a further look.
The road before the hotel is a building site. The original houses are demolished and new large concrete flats arise. For dinner we go to a bar behind one of these buildings. The food is good as is the beer and it is even allowed to smoke here.

Wednesday, New Years Eve.
On IM I have asked for the name of a video repair shop, the nearest one is in Hyderabad, so we try it here.
The hotel receptionist directs us to a large electronic shop. They give us the address of another shop, there they redirect us and after a few shops we stand before a small repair company. Too bad it is closed, the neighbour tells it will open in five (Indian) minutes.
In the meantime we continue the search for the tourist office. It turns out that is has moved. We go to a commercial tourist agent, the friendly owner explains that there are not many interesting things to do in Mangalore.
Back to the repair shop, the owner has arrived but cannot repair the video but he calls a colleague. He draws a map on a piece of paper and so we find it. We explain the problems and the man promises it will be fixed by to-morrow.
According to our town-map it is possible to reach the harbour through the winding streets behind the hotel. And we are convinced that there also will be a restaurant to lunch. It is a nice stroll but the alleys lead us to all different directions so it takes quite some time before we reach the harbour. On the quay we see big piles of rocks and sand. Men shovel this in bags, others put these bags on their heads and load the ships. It is extreme heavy work.

We take the local ferry to a peninsula on the other side of the harbour. Here are a lot of small shipyards where workers repair the fishing boats. They also build new ones and use therefore the timber of unrepairable old ones. We still have no lunch so we take some street food. Then we cross the area until we reach the seaside and return. The incoming boats are overloaded with children at the end of the school day.
For the celebrating of New Years Eve the hotel is illuminated. The terrace is prepared for a dinner with flowers and the music is playing. The setting has not our preference and we go to the same restaurant as yesterday. It is not before ten that the first visitors arrive on the terrace. We look down on it from our room, most tables stay empty and it does not look very animated. At midnight there is some fire-work in the town, nothing spectacular. The streets remain quit and half an hour later the party is over.

Thursday, January 1, 2009.
We decide to go to Ullal, a beach roughly five kilometres South of Mangalore. According to the hotel staff is is easy to reach by bus, we must take line 4. A long file of buses leaves slowly the station, we see number four, raise our hand and the driver stops. The bus is not crowded, we makes first a tour across the city. The conductor knows how to whistle and with his mouth he signals the driver when to stop and start again.
Ullal is not far and we step off in the centre. The sea is still far away so we take a rickshaw. The beach is disappointing, small and filthy and with protecting rocks. These are necessary because the currents are strong. Soon the rocks come near the sea and we continue through a small village. At the end of it we are back on the beach where fisherman sell their catch.

The bus goes also to the beach and for the return journey we take it direct from there.
Around six o'clock we pick up the video, it is repaired for 1900 rs. We only have recordings from the Kottayam days.

Our train leaves tonight and we have our room until one o'clock and we stay as long as we can. When we try our video camera we notice that not all the options work, so back to the repair shop. It will be fixed in a few hours. My shoes need to be repaired and for 10 rs a street shoemaker does the job.

With a rickshaw to the station where we store our luggage in the cloak room. By now our video is working again and we make another visit to the harbour. On the peninsula we take a different route. It leads us along a lot of small shipyards and ends in a fishermen's settlement. As we walk back the school childred leave, a large crowd accompanies us, the girls walk with Wiesje, the boys stay with me. On the ferry I see a tear in my trousers and we buy a new one.
The train starts in time but after a while it halts for an hour. Since we are scheduled to arrive at 4.30 it suits us. At eleven we go to sleep, the pressure on my ears tells that we are climbing.

Mysore, 3 - 6 January

At four o'clock I wake up as the train stops somewhere between Mangalore and Mysore. All the personnel is asleep so I cannot ask where we are and we decide to gather our belongings. A good decision since half an hour later we arrive in Mysore. The rickshaw driver asks 50 rs and at this time we don't have the urge to bargain. As always we have a list with the names of some hotels but stupidly we did not check if they have a 24 hours check-in. The first two of our list are unlit, our driver yells, someone comes out and tells that there is no place.
Then we let the driver decide and end in the, a little crumbled, Royal Heritage. A small room without a shower for 950 rs. We take a nap and at eight we are ready to start the day.
We take a rickshaw to the tourist office, my Footprint mentions that they organize a tour to Belur and Halebid. Unfortunately this is not so but there is another tour and we book this one for Monday. Outside we take a rickshaw to the Devaraj Market. The driver offers to show us around so it will become a shopping tour.

The market is large, busy and as always a great place to be. The next stop is the spice market but first we go to a shop where they fabricate and sell all kinds of salutary oils. The owner smears all kinds of oilon our arms. At the end we buy something against flies. One drop should be sufficient for the whole body, we never tried it. After the spice market we visit a luxury gift shop and then we have enough of it and let the driver drop us in the centre. Tomorrow he will pick us up for a tour around the town.
We eat a dosa and return to the hotel. We pass the busy bus station where a hundred rickshaws are lined up, waiting for a ride. Our hotel does not have a restaurant and we have to walk again along the bus station. In the dark it is somewhat scary.

We are hardly surprised that the rickshaw driver does not show up and let the hotel arranges a car. For 950 rs. we make a trip to Somnathpur and Srirangapatna. The driver speaks hardly English but the car-owner does and he is happy to join us.
It is a ride of an hour to Somnathpur. We drive through the country side, it is harvest time. On some fields the harvesting is done by large combines while on other areas the farmers cut the rice by hand and use the road for trashing. The last part of the road is in a terrible condition. The companies which process the teak trees drag the stems behind a car and so remove the asphalt.

The temple of Somnathpur is a beauty with a lot of fine carving especially on the outside. We are lucky to arrive between the visits of two large groups so we have the time to observe everything quietly. By the most monuments the entrance price for a video camera is higher than that for persons. Here it is the opposite, 25 rs, for the camera and 100 for us.
We continue our trip on a road between a lot of rice-fields. The rice is harvested and large herds of sheep are lead into he fields to eat the left-overs. The shepherds carry the newborn lambs on their shoulders.
Because the highway cross the town we cannot notice that Srirangapatna is an island. Everything here is to honour Tipu Sulatan he fought his final battle near this place. We start our visit at the Gumbaz, the tomb that Tipu build for his father and where he himself also is buried.

Next to the summer palace. The inner and the outer sides are beautiful decorated with paintings. At the exterior are large paintings of battle fields. Inside there are portrait galleries, the ceilings of each room have a different pattern. The place where Tipu is supposed to have fallen is marked by a simple stone. For the rest there is not much to see, the remains of the fort are ruined and only restored at a few locations.
We are hungry and our guides drop us at the Amblee resort where we have lunch at the border of the Cauvery river. Half past three we are back in Mysore.

By seven o'clock we walk to the City Palace. The gates and all the buildings are illuminated with thousands of lamps, it looks like a fairytale. After an hour we leave and just at that moment the lights go out, at eight the show is finished.

This night Wiesje has a mild attack of the Delhi belly so we have to cancel our day trip with the tourist organization. After a quit morning we have lunch in the nearby Ritz Hotel. We just walked into it and it looks more pleasant than our hotel, the restaurant has a covered terrace.

Next we go to the palace to visit the interior. The rooms and halls are huge with colourful walls, tiled floors, wood carvings and beautiful processed windows. Especially the reception hall that overlooks the square is impressive. It is crowded with large groups of children. Outside the main palace are temples and museums. Guards whistle in an irritating way since they want that everyone takes the same route.

Our train starts at eleven in the morning, Since our check-in time was half pas five we have to leave by that time or take the room for another full day. It is not negotiable so we pay. Half past one we are in Bangalore and take a, not very tasteful, dosa in the stations restaurant. The train to Hindupur leaves nearly an hour late and with a little more delay we are around seven o'clock in Hindupur.
With a rickshaw we go to hotel Palla Residency and get a large room for 650 rs. After dinner we walk in the streets around the hotel. It is quit, what a relief after the expeditions around the Mysore bus station.

Hindupur, 7 - 9 January

Our hotel serves no breakfast so we go to a small eating in the neighbourhood. Of course they have only Indian food and finally I start to like this type of breakfast. There are just a few tables and chairs, most people eat standing.

Today we have no special visits on our mind and we wander around the town. I like it, no tourists and everyone is minding his own business. People look surprised at the strangers and ignore us. It is not until the school comes out that the standard questions start. Back in the hotel we sit reading and watching on our balcony. We cannot use our electric equipment so I buy a plug adapter. For 15 rs I have the top quality and now we can make or own coffee.

Today we visit Penukonda and at nine o'clock we negotiate with the drivers on the taxi stand near the hotel. First they want 1000 but we get the price down to 800 rs. The driver is a young man who speaks some English.
It is nearly an hour to Penukonda, a very quit, small town. Our first visit is to the Babayya Darga temple which has a combination of Muslim and Hindu characteristics. Wiesje needs a headscarf and is not allowed to enter the sacred places, those are just for men. We are not allowed to take photographs inside. A priest leads a service and we both attend a part of it. A man shows us around but sadly he doesn't speak English. Around the buildings are graves and between this the people live and cook their food.

Outside the town is an enormous statue of the sleeping Kumbhakarna. Two towers are erected to make it possible to see the whole statue, but one stands now in the middle of the trees. The statue is so huge that there is a foot path inside.
Since the Sher Khan mosque is closed we drive through the city gate and along some ancient temples to the Gagan Mahal palace. It is neglected and the obliged guide uses his fantasy when he shows us around. From the palace we see the remainders of the fortification on the hills around. The weather is cloudy and mopish so we don't see it clearly. This is the place where the rulers of Hampi went after their defeat, but it cannot be compared with that. We visit some temples before we drive back, now it is really raining.

We hire the driver for tomorrow to visit Lepakshi. He keeps telling that we also must visit Puttaparthi and as he lowers the price to 1400 rs. we accept it.
In the restaurant in Hindupur the banana leaves lay on the table. Before we can ask anything a tali + banana is served. It tastes fine and is only 30 rs. each. As we have washed our hands the table is already waiting for new guests.

At nine the driver arrives and within half an hour we reach the temple of Lepakshi. A very good English speaking guide has a great knowledge of the temple and explains everything to us. Original there were seven rounds to go before one reaches the sanctuary, nowadays only three are left.

The first one is sober, the walls are build direct on the rocks. The next round is full of sculptures such as a large cobra and a, never completed, dancing hall with statues of numerous gods. There are nice details in the carvings. For instance there is cow with three heads, by covering two of them with your hands each time another image of a normal cow appears.
The last round consists of another dancing hall, gods with their music instruments and wonderful frescoes on the ceiling. In the sanctuary is an image of Veerabhadra and other deities. Priest offer their services and than a peculiar situation arises. We may photograph everything and just as the priest lights the fire my photo card is full and I have to change it. Just outside the town is a huge Nandi.

Through a nice hilly landscape with a lot of weathered rock we drive to Puttaparthi. Shortly before noon we arrive in this centre of the worship of Sai Baba. The railway station, hospital, police station and all the other public buildings are new, have a lot of frills and are sugary painted in rose and white. In a enormous stadium a celebration takes place. I get the impression that a lot of motorbikes are blessed. But then it is twelve o'clock and we must leave the stadium.
Our driver takes us to the ashram for lunch. Their are separate restaurants for men and ladies. I join the queue, take a plate and go to the men who serve the food out of large mess-tins. A little further sits a man at a table, there I must pay 15 rs. I sit down and a few minutes later the driver joins me. Later Wiesje tells she has never seen the cash desk.

We take a walk trough the ashram, their are large apartment buildings where the pilgrims stay. Of course there are also many temples, mainly painted blue and rose. It is extremely clean, white dressed devotees are constantly sweeping the roads.
We walk in the streets around the ashram, everywhere pilgrims amongst them many westerners, and a lot of souvenir shops. It is certainly not our type of town. We need to pee and go back to the ashram to find a toilet. By asking the always friendly volunteers we find it. In the paths long rows of pilgrims are waiting for a darshan. We go to the car and by five o'clock we are back in Hindupur.
We pay the hotel for the three days we stayed here, leave the luggage behind the reception and go to the nearby restaurant for a meal. As we look for a rickshaw to the station our driver sees us and brings is for free. There is hardly anyone at the platforms, by nine our train arrives. Most passengers are already sleeping.

Hyderabad, 10 - 12 January

I sleep well and wake up at five o'clock as the other passengers start to roam round. An hour later we are in Hyderabad. We take a cup of coffee before we go to the rickshaws. The first hotels that we see has only hot bucket water and since we want a shower we end in Rudmini Riviera. For a relative small room we pay 1650 rs, quite expensive compared with the accommodation we usually have.
We refresh ourselves and go to the breakfast buffet, which is included in the hotel price. We recharge the batteries of our cameras and as this is done I leave the plug adapter into the contact. It overheats and causes a short-circuit. The desk-boy sends a mechanic who solves the problem and repairs our plug.
In the room I hear a very irritating hum but Wiesje hears nothing and calls me an exaggerator. I think she is deaf. As we change places we discover that there is a hum except in a small part off the room.

In 1982 we visited Hyderabad with our two teen-age children. After the hectic of Mumbay is was a remote and quit town. I still clearly imagine the four of us in a rickshaw. We drove on a nearly empty road to the Salar Jung Museum as a police officer tried to stop us because of overloading. Our driver ignored him, went into some back-alleys and stopped. He was afraid for the fine and refused to go further. Also he wanted more money, we did not want that and a women came out of her house and assisted us. We were near the museum and walked to it.

What a difference with the present circomstances. We take a rickshaw to the Char Minar and the traffic is hectic. We wander through the bazaar there are a lot of shops for trading embroidery, bracelets and other jewellery. Far more interesting are the all the tiny workshops in the small back alleys. Here they produce all these products and the people are proud to show their skills.
After a lunch consisting of some snacks we walk further and reach the animal market. Many birds such as full coloured chickens, crows, ducks and song-birds. And of course little dogs, rabbits, goats and many other animals.

The rickshaw driver who brings us back is not familiar with our hotel and stops at the other side of the road. He claims that it is a detour of two kilometre to reach the front of the hotel. We step out and cross the double four-lane road; it is just another fine episode of 'how to cross an Indian road'.
As we lay in bed the hum is so loud and gives a disturbing reverberation. We complain at the lobby and get another room. The hotel is strictly vegetarian and we are looking for a non-veg dinner. To find it we walk around the smaller streets behind the hotel. After a minute the heavy traffic is forgotten and it feels like we are in a great village with a local market. But we don't see a good restaurant and walk back to the entrance of the hotel. There we see the neon advertisement of a non-veg restaurant at the other side of the road. It is dark now and we don't want to risk our lives for a piece of meat.

The nights are colder here and for the first time on this journey we need a blanket. We want to do some sight-seeing. The hotel has a travel-desk and for 900 rs. we hire a car.

First we go to the Qutub Shahi tombs, the burial ground for the rulers of Hyderabad and their families. All the important persons have their own tomb, the largest is more than 50 meter high. The other people are buried in more sober graves. Little is left from the original tiles on the tombs but with their simple appearance they are very impressive. A guide lifts the cloth from a coffin so we can see the inscriptions. Then he stands in a corner and sings loudly a prayer so we experience the fantastic echo. It is so peaceful here we enjoy of wandering around with just a few other visitors.
This is rather a contrast with the crowds in the Golconda fort. The citadel is situated on top of a hill, a lot of houses are build between the outer wall and the fort. We go through the entrance gate, look around and then join the numerous visitors who climb the 360 steps to the top, for the most part we walk full in the sun. The stairs lead us along all kind of, partly restored, elements of the complex. Besides the fortifications there are a small mosque and other temples. From the top we have a splendid panorama of Hyderabad, unfortunately it is somewhat hazy.

We did not have a lunch so we buy some chips and biscuits from a stall. There are hardly chairs but we get those of the vendors. We go down at the the others side of the fort. Here we see very well the combination of the natural rocks and the build structures. At the bottom is an exposition with pictures of the fort before and after the restoration. Remarkable a lot of it is reconstructed from little remainders. Tired we go back to the hotel.
Yesterday Wiesje did not eat much of her dinner. The waiter has noticed that and he advises us to take one portion of a local speciality, it should be enough for us both. He is right and it tastes good. On the table next to us sits an Indian family. We think that the new daughter-in-law is introduced and that she is uncomfortable with the situation.

Nothing special to do so first we arrange a car for tomorrow to Bidar, it costs 2250 rs. Then we take a rickshaw to the centre and are dropped in a street with a lot of jewellery shops. These don't interest us and we visit a modern shop centre. Before we can enter the central hall there is a stringent security check. In the centre is an internet café but we don't see it at once. So we walk from one floor to the other and every time we are checked again. At least we find the café and their is a waiting list.
As we walk through the streets we come in a neighbourhood with streets full of shops just for mobiles. New ones as well as second-hands and a lot of repair centres too, it is amazing. We ask for an internet and a young man points us the way, of course he asks 'from which country' and after our reply he answers in Dutch. He is employed by one or other company.

Later in the afternoon we go to the Hussain Sagar Lake. According to the map it is close by and we decide to walk. Soon we are lost in the winding streets and decide to take a taxi. A good decision since it is in a opposite direction but indeed not far. Near the lake is a kind of playground. By the entrance is again a, in our idea overdone, security check. There is a separate row for man and women and we are exhaustive searched. We have even to show that the video camera really operates. The park is just a small playground with a pond and an artificial waterfall. And there is an opportunity for boating. It is again such a situation where everyone wants to take a picture of us. As we want to go nearer to the lake the security agents halt us.
In fifteen minutes we walk back to the hotel. In the dining room celebrates a family the birthday of one of the children. They brought their own cake, all the other guests and the employees get a piece.

Bidar Jan 13 - Jan 17

Today we leave Hyderabad for Bidar with a taxi, it costs 2250 rs. We start at half past eight and the driver, who speaks hardly English, is crossing Hyderabad and inspects a lot of gas stations. we wonder why but at last he finds one where they can check the exhaust gasses of his car.
At eleven we arrive at the border of Karnataka and we go to the control post where I pay the 200 rs. tax. It is just half an hour to Bidar but regular we must show our papers. We have the addresses of a few hotels and stop in hotel Mayura, and get a simple, spacious room with hard beds.

After a short while we go to the city. According to our guidebook and other information it should be a very picturesque city with winding small alleys. But what a disappointment, all the roads are just modernized on a very blunt way. The fronts of the houses are demolished and the inhabitants are building new walls on the remainders. The monumental buildings and the city gates are still there.
Another advantage is that our hotel has a very fine garden restaurant with good food and a beer license.

It is time for the laundry, Wiesje makes the list and I bring it to the counter. First the man and I have a discussion which items are on the list and I have to impersonate a bra and underpants. Then the bag is emptied to see if the numbers match.
Apart from the garden restaurant there is a breakfast/lunch canteen. Later we go to the fort. Bidar is a small town and soon we walk along the huge walls. The entrance is free and through a number of giant gates we enter the fort. Just a few remainders of the buildings are left on the immense court. At many places builders are busy with reconstruction works. It is a dry region but in front of the museum is a garden with grass and hedges.

The outer wall of the enormous fort is more or less intact and just because there are not many buildings inside it is impressive. Due to the reconstruction some of the remainders are closed with fences. We are looking through it and then invited to enter it.
In the afternoon we wander through the inner city, here the charm of the old times is still present. Before we realize it we are again near the fort and have to walk the same way back as this morning.

Tomorrow we fly from Hyderabad and via the hotel we arrange a car for 2100 rs. Then we are going to visit some sites in the outskirts of Bidar. First we walk to the Papnash temple, a small temple in valley one and a half km from the city. On our way back we pass Barid Shahi Park, inside this park are the cenotaphs of the Bidar sultans. Unfortunately it opens at four o'clock. Through the fence we look inside and one of the gardeners, they have just their lunch break, opens the gate for us. The park is well kept and their are statues of shepherds and farmers, so natural that from a distance they look as real people.

In a small restaurant we each take a half portion of biryani with a lot of meat, for us together we pay 30 rs. Our next goal is Nanah Jhera. En route we see a nice park, of course it is closed. But we see other persons inside and we join them, it is a memorial park with a lot of beautiful flowers and trees. Beneath us we see Nanah Jhera, another tomb and it is a firm climb. We are a little tired and decide to take a rickshaw back to the hotel.
After some rest we return to the centre of Bidar and visit some old mosques and the madrassa.

A group children accompanies us. We have to do some internet business,. In the café we get a small paper with the start time of our session. We drop it and it falls under the table. With the light of a cell phone the owner tries to find it, a lot of laughter and no success.
The restaurant is busy, yesterday was a holy day and the inhabitants were not allowed to drink, today they catch up.

Just as we awake the hotel employee calls us and tells that the bill is ready and within half an hour he calls again so I go down and pay. Our driver arrives around ten o'clock. He knows a short cut so we avoid the state border and the tax. After a cup of chai we arrive in Hyderabad the driver takes the by-pass and we arrive at the airport at one o'clock.
It is a modern airport but in the hall where we have to wait before the check-in there are no refreshments available. After two hours hanging around we can proceed and then we discover that we still have to pay airport taxes. One of the employees of Indigo takes care of that. Although our flight-back is too heavy we are allowed to take it with us. In the departure hall we eat another biryani, here is the price 180 rs for one meal.
Around four o'clock we can board, the security control is very stringent. After a smooth flight we land at six in Bhubaneswar. We were here two years ago and return here for another trip with the same travel agent through the tribal belt, this time mostly in Chhattisgarh. With a taxi we go to the hotel and contact our travel agent. It is a pretty surprise to hear that we have the same driver as during our previous itinerary.

This day we keep for 'house-keeping' activities, I transfer the photo-card to a CD, we mail and phone with our relatives and more such things. Around five Pratap, our driver, arrives and we drive through Bhubaneswar to the office of his boss. We go to the outskirts of the town, along broad roads , the sides are decorated with mural paintings and sculptures. In the car we phone to say hello to Babuli, our guide of two years ago.
In the office we make the final arrangements and return to our hotel.

Bhitarkanika, Jan. 18 - Jan. 20
We leave before eight, it is rather foggy and everyone drives full speed. It is good that we have a four-lane road without ghost drivers. The fog has gone when we leave the high-way and proceed to the Chatia Bata temple. Before we visit it we take our breakfast in a small eating-house.
The temple complex is beautiful and there are shrines for many gods and build in a great variety of styles, with fine carvings. From one god you only can see his face through a mirror, otherwise it is to dangerous for the visitors. According to Pratap this temple contains many elements similar to the great temples in Puri and Bhubaneswar, which are not open for non-hindus. It is a relief that the priests not force their services and do not ask for money.

The next stop is Udayagiri and old Buddhist site with monasteries and many stupa's. The entrance is free but a guide is required. He walks quick up the hills. We follow in a slower tempo, it is hot and their is no shadow. First we visit a large stupa and a monastery with a lot of sculptures of Buddha and then go to a terrain with 500 small stupa's, many of them are damaged. A sign says no photographs but the guide says 'no problem'. Another guard protests loudly and we wonder if this is a method to get extra money. We don't know and of course don't pay. Here are also the remainders of another monastery and a deep well.
We proceed to Ratnagiri, another Buddhist sanctuary. Here we have to pay a few rupees for the entrance but there is no guide. The ruins are on top of a steep hill, as far as we can see the surrounding country is flat. Here again we see stupa's, sculptures and monasteries, they have been more restored then in Udayagiri. There is a small museum with the finest sculptures.

We have to return to the high way and continue in the direction of Bhadrak. We cross many rivers, they are nearly dry at this time of the year. The longest bridge is five kilometres over a stream of a few meters.
After Bhadrak we drive on small country roads with many potholes through the tiny villages. In one of these villages we stop for a visit . The walls of the houses are beautiful decorated. Nobody speaks English but everyone is cordial and we may film all the things we want. We have visited often such hamlets and it still
fascinates me but at the other hand it makes me somewhat uncomfortable to film everyone busy with his or hers daily affairs.

It has been a long day in the car and we are glad when we arrive in Chanbali. We sleep in Aranya Nivas, a typical OTDC hotel. The room is rather small with a balcony. There is no hot water and dinner must be ordered in advance.
It is six o'clock and though we are weary we want to stretch our legs and go to the town. There is hardly street light so it is very dark, the traffic is mostly cycles and just a few cars. The market is still going on by the light of candles, oil lamps and electric generators. It is nice but soon we feel so tired that we walk back.
Half past eight is our dinner ready, cold rice with some chicken and shrimps, the coffee is excellent. There is a large family group in the dormitory the children play all over the hotel.

At five o'clock the family is awake and the tumult starts again. Later on we are told that the manager locked them in the dormitory for the night and they start cooking in the morning.
Our intention is to leave to Bhitarkanika at seven-thirty but there is to much fog. Half an hour later the sun starts to shine and we go on board. It is a eight meter boat with a crew of two men, they and Pratap stay with us during the trip.

It stays misty and we are just able to see that we sail on a broad river. Now and then we encounter small fishing boats. After a while the fog returns so we cannot see the shores any more and the skipper throws the anchor. Soon we here another boat and the sight gets better. We have missed a canal and have to go back. We go on full speed since, according to our guides, it is important to be the first visitors. This last week the sanctuary was closed on behalf of the yearly counting of the crocodiles and therefore it is probably that there are many crocodiles on the banks.

At the entrance P. fixes the necessary permits. As soon as we are on our way we see the first crocodile. I estimate that we see more then twenty larger, a meter or three, ones and numerous smaller. Mostly they stay on the bank, sometimes they slip into the water. The rivers we sail are quit wide with muddy shores and woods behind it. On other places the mangrove trees reach out to the water.

Besides the crocodiles we see also a lot of deer, monkeys and birds. We spot four different types of kingfishers. In a small creek we go ashore and walk through the mangrove forest. The bird colonies are empty but we see a big lizard.
Then we go to Dangmal where we will sleep. It is a walk of a quarter to the resort. We have a simple cabin with a solar light. The restaurant is provided with electricity so we can recharge our batteries there. In the resort is also a nursery where they breed the eggs of the crocodiles. When the young ones grow up the go back to the nature. In two ponds stay two larger crocodiles, they lived here to long for a successful return. One is very aggressive.

By a small path through the woods we walk back to the water for our next trip of boating and walking. At five we return and see another water monitor lizard in front of our cabin.
Our solar light gives enough light to read but after one hour it is over and for the rest of the evening we use candles and go to bed early.

While we have breakfast Pratap joins us and tells that there is a problem. We have a permit to visit Ekakula Beach today but the local official orders that we are not allowed to go there and has blot out the permit. We want to talk with him but he is not in his office and we have to wait.

In the meantime we walk to the village behind the resort, it is very small and consists of mud houses. We find that there is a privately owned resort with large tents, electricity, good chairs and hot bucket water. The owner shows us around and it looks better then our place. As we go back the functionary has returned, in English he says that he regrets it and further on he talks mostly with P. As far as I understand the place is prohibited for foreigners due to military reasons.
The only thing to do is to make a similar trip as yesterdays, we let an Indian family join us. Of course we take a different route and the scenery stays fantastic. When we walk back from the landing-stage to the resort we take a different path through the mangrove. We have to cross creeks by small wooden bridges, some are so unstable that they swing when we pass them.

For a lunch of crab and fish we go back to the village, the restaurant is very primitive, as plates we use a piece of a newspaper but the food is good. A new road connection is under construction, it must be ready by the end of this year so things will probably change quickly then.
In the afternoon we make our last trip, it is high tide so there are just a few crocodiles but many deer, birds and a kind of flying fishes.

Northern Orissa, Jan. 21 - Jan. 23

At eight o'clock we depart and after saying goodbye to the last crocodiles we sail back and are at half past ten in Chandali. Pratap lives near Bhadrak and we sleep this night in his house. Before we leave Chandali we buy chocolate and sweets. A short distance before Bhadrak we leave the main road and by some small rural roads we arrive at our drivers place.

There are two houses, an old spacious mud-house and a new one build with concrete, just the first level of this is finished. The whole family, parents, wife, sun and three daughters are waiting for us. We receive a traditional welcome with shell whistle, garlands, and a flower in the hair. And of course we are blessed and sprinkled with rice. All the neighbours are looking. Just as we have got acquainted with everyone we get a great lunch of rice, chicken, vegetables and various curries.

Afterwards we walk with the daughters and their grandfather to the village. Many other children join us. First we visit the school where we talk with the teachers, meanwhile we hand out the sweets. Then we go to all the relatives of the family, the eldest daughter, who speaks good English, calls every older person grandfather, the rest are uncles.
After a while we go back to the house. P. shows his motorbike and one by one we make a ride, visit the neighbours, and talk to other visitors. We talk with each other and we show them some pictures of the Netherlands and take photographs.
The dinner is also excellent and then it is nine o'clock and time to sleep. The parents live in the mud house and the rest of the family sleeps there too for this night. So we have the king-size family bed for our selves.

In the middle of the night we stumble together in the dark to the loo on the backyard and manage to find our bed again. At six we hear rumour and get up. It is light but the temperature is still low. The family wakes up, one by one, the noise we here is caused by the cleaning of the dishes we used yesterday. There is one pump and we use them also for our own morning rituals. After a breakfast of baked potatoes with beans alternated by toast with jam it is time to say goodbye and at eight we leave.
After a while we visit a village where every one is busy with the silk production. The cocoons are brought in from somewhere else but all the processing is done here. Some men are drilling for water. The system is the same as you see in documentaries of the oil industry but here it is done by hand.

Later on we visit a tribal village where the women make plates from sal leaves. They stitch the leaves to each other with small branches. Older ladies greet us by touching our feet, this is normal here but it makes us uncomfortable.
We stay tonight in Keonjhar when we come near it we pass hundreds of lorries which are standing along the road. In the centre of this town two high is a crosspoint of two high-ways and from this side the drivers must wait until six before they may proceed. And now it is four o'clock.

The beds are hard and since the hotel is near the high-way it is very noisy. So it is not a penalty to leave at seven thirty. Just outside Keonjhar is an OTDC hotel where we have breakfast. As soon as we are on the road again we drive into the steep hills. The scenery is beautiful but the road is terrific, big holes, nearly any asphalt and very much traffic since it is a main road between Kolkata and Mumbai.

Also this day we visit some tribal villages and then proceed to Gonasik, one of the sources of the Baitarani river. Quite a difference with the broad river on which we boated to Bhitarkanika. A blind priest plays on a stringed instrument and sings a song. Another priest gives us his blessings.
At six we are in Sambalpur where we stay in the Parantha Niwas just as two years ago.

Chhattisgarh - Amarkantak - Katni, Jan. 24 - Jan 30.

Early in the morning we leave Sambalpur and visit some textile villages along the road before we have breakfast. The roads in Orissa are very bad, in Chhattisgarh they are better, P. speeds our Ambassador sometimes up to nearly 100 km. There are just a few villages here but enormous supplies of rice.
In the afternoon we leave the high-way and drive to Sirpur. Around this place are several old temples and monasteries. First we visit an old brick-temple, a man wants to guide us, we tell him we don't need him but he keeps walking behind us. When we each walk into a different direction he is very confused. The temple is rather damaged but still impressive. Near the city are monasteries and on the other side of the road some temples.

From both sites only remainders are left, a restoration is going on. Sirpur is nicely situated along a river, in the town itself are numerous temples in various styles. They often stand on the inner court of the houses. From here it is still nearly two hours driving to Raipur. A busy industrial town with a lot of traffic and pollution in the air.

We start at 6.30 in the morning and it is quiet in the city. The road is good and after two hours we have covered 150 of today's 400 km. At nine o'clock we stop in Kanker for our breakfast. From here the road climbs with odd hairpins to a plateau with a total different scenery and less agriculture.
At noon we go to Narayanpur and visit the weekly market of the Moria people. Colourful as always and few tourist, at least no westerners. A policeman wants to have a copy of our papers, he agrees that we bring them to the station before we leave.
We stay two hours at the market and drive back to the high-road. A little further on we stop in Kondagaon, a place where the inhabitants make statues of terracotta and iron. It is Sunday and nobody is working so we just look around. We visit a sculptor/writer named Baghel and buy a copper ashtray. Just before Jagdalpur we stop and see how people process sugar-cane on the traditional way into chunks of black sugar..
At 6.30, twelve hours after our start, we arrive in Jagdalpur where we stay in the Rainbow hotel.

It is 26 January, Republic day, there are all kind of festivities and the music wakes us at six. We start at eight o'clock and after a short ride we arrive in Ammaguda, a tribal village of the Madia people. There is a big parade of the younger children, they and their teachers are shouting and singing. We look at the village life, everyone is very welcoming. Everytime as we stop to observe something interesting the inhabitants offer us drinks and a chair. A man harvests the first juice from a palm tree and we get a cup of it.
We stay there a few hours after that we visit the tribal market in Tokopal, it is situated on the other side of Jagdalpur. We arrive here at noon, the market is just beginning and again we enjoy ourselves. Nearby in Mumun is another market and it is also a cock-fighting location. We have to choose between this and the Chitrakoot falls and go to the latter.

To reach them we have to pass Jagdalpur again. The falls are impressive even at this time of the year, a few months after the monsoon. Nearby are some trees with numerous bats. On our way back we stop and visit memorial stones which the tribals erect for their deceased.
A family fabricates bricks, simple with mud from the surface of the earth, water out off a pond and dry them in the sun.

We stayed this night again in Jagdalpur and go to the Thirathgar falls. They are inside the Kanger national park, the ticket-office for the park is in Jagdalpur. It is a short drive and again a beautiful place. We start at the top of the falls and by 350 steps we walk down to the bottom. No visitors just monkeys around us, we do not have time to go further into the park.
After visiting another tribal village we arrive at the Pakhnar market, this one is situated in the woods.

At two o'clock we are back in Jagdalpur and start off to Kanker. En route we buy some small iron statuettes. At seven we arrive in Kanker where we stay in Hotel Lake View.

Again an early start at 6.30 and as so often we have our breakfast along the road. Thirty km before Raipur we visit the nice temple in Rajim. It is situated on the bank of a river that is nearly dry now. It is not allowed to use the camera inside the temple but P. makes some arrangements with the guard and for a small fee this problem is solved. There are many temples in the complex with fine statues and carved doors. A lot of people attend the services. At the end of our visit we have to write something in the guest book. The previous entry is from more then a week earlier.
At the road we see a caravan of nomads with camels carrying the belongings of the group, they are from Gujarat. As we stop for lunch there is another group of them with a large herd of goats.
During the rest of the journey we stop often along the road, whenever there is something interesting to see.

At five o'clock we arrive in Kawardha, a small town rarely visited by tourists, there we stay in Hotel Supreet. This hotel has no restaurant and together with P we walk to an eatery at the roadside. He has washed his clothes and is now in his pyjamas.

Around eight we leave to visit the Mandwa Mahal and Bhoramdeo temples, it is a ride of one hour. The first one is rather small and lies solitary in the landscape. The carvings on the outside are very explicit and erotic. Those on the inner walls are more sophisticated.
Around the Bhoramdeo temple workers build facilities for the tourists. We are the only western visitors.

The temple resembles those of Khajuraho but is not so carefully restored. According to P this is done to give it an more authentic look. Beside it is also an old brick stone temple.
Afterwards we drive in the direction of Khana over a poor mountain road, the scenery is beautiful. First we visit another tribal village and go then to the market in Chilpi.
We go back to Bhoramdeo region, have lunch in a small resort and take a look at the expensive Jungle Retreat. On our way back we visit another village, Rababa I guess. At five we are back in Kawardha, and take a stroll through the town.

Amarkantak-Katni. Jan. 30 - Feb. 3

This morning we leave for Amarkantak. The hotel-owner says it is only a trip of a few hours, P has never been there. We take our time and stop often to look at something interesting. P often asks bystanders about the direction and they tell him it is more the four hours driving. So now we have to hurry to reach our destination. Just after twelve we reach Amarkantak where P's boss reserved a room for us in the MP tourist hotel. With a big hug we say goodbye to the driver who was our fantastic companion for the last weeks.

We store our luggage and go to the village. Amarkantak is very small, it is situated around a temple complex wherein the source of the Narmada river. Around the village it is hilly with forests, sources of other holy rivers and a lot of temples and ashrams. It is situated at an altitude of 1000 meters and the evenings are quit cold. We did not see any foreign tourists. It is rather noisy as a result of the loudspeakers from some of the temples but they are quiet during the frequent long power-cuts.
While we are in the internet-café a man from the hotel arrives and tells that there is a problem with our bookings. It appears that the reservations are made for two weeks earlier and today the hotel is fully booked. The manager has already arranged a room for us in hotel Sarvodaya. This hotel is in the middle of the village, the room is not so nice but it is the only other decent place to stay. As dinner the hotel serves only thalis and we must order them in advance. In the village we do not notice any other nice restaurant. All together we are not so happy.

Next morning our mood is better, we have breakfast in an eatery in front of the hotel. A man which speaks good English introduces himself as Yadoo, the guide. We talk with him about the things that are possible here but we want to think it over and he leaves. Later on we decide to hire him and a car for the next day, the hotel manager arranges this.
In the Narmada river are several weirs and long after the monsoon, there is still water and there are some nice lakes. We walk along the river and cross the dams.

After twelve hectic days with a car we need a quiet day so we don't do too much. Just enjoying the scenery and wander around on a site with fine old temples.

We are still eating our breakfast as the diver arrives. We go to the ashram where Yadoo lives and at half past eight we depart. The car is a four wheel drive and we need that today.
The start is a visit to some of the beautiful lakes that the weirs have created in the Narmada. Then to a very clear pond with the house of three sadhus. Of course there is a story connected with this place and this is true for most of the places we see this day but I don't remember the details.
We have a wonderful day visiting temples, waterfalls, view points and holy men and women. Sometimes we stay close to the road and then we drive and walk deep into the sal woods. Amarkantak is on the edge of the hills and at many points we can look down for a hundred meters.

Near the Kapildhara falls we watch a female sadhu and her assistant, they offer things in a small fire. Rice, sugar cane, and a lot of things we do not recognize. While we sit there the monkeys jump around us and Yadoo smokes a joint. He is 70, lived as a hippy in Goa and smokes weed since that time. Next we visit another string of lakes and small streams.
After lunch we go to a sadhu who lives deep into the forest. He only wears a loincloth and has rubbed his body with ash. He lives in a clay-house with a fire in the middle. We sit a while with him and then we walk deeper into the forest towards another waterfall and view-point. It looks like autumn in Europe since the trees loose their leaves.
We visit some new temples and the source of the Son river. Half six we are back in the hotel, rather tired.


Today there is a great sadhu festival and the whole night there is a lot of noise, singing and drumming. At ten, before the festivities start, we have to leave and go by car to the station in Pendra Road, 30 km away in the valley. As often the train is delayed, this time by an hour.
It is a really slow train and at every stop many people step in with a lot of luggage. There is no catering on the train and we get hungry since we only had a few bananas and biscuits.
When we arrive in Katni, a rickshaw brings us to Pankaj Palace where we get a room and a decent meal with a beer.

By noon we walk to the city. Katni is not a tourist town but we find it a pleasant place to wander around. The road-plan is disorderly and we never know where we are exactly. Many houses have wood- or stone-carvings, there are a lot of small temples and markets, so there is a lot to see.
We have to leave the hotel at seven pm and walk again through the city. Although it is dark it is still very busy. We have dinner and at 10 o'clock we walk to the station, the train is delayed and arrives at 11.30. We have to walk a long distance over the platform to reach our carriage. The platform is full of sleeping people and since they also have a lot of luggage we can hardly pass.
Some guys sleep in our beds, we wake them up and they move. Now we can lay down and leave for Varansi.

Varanasi, 4 - 7 February

I wake up as fellow passengers turn on the light. They get off in Allahabad, it is four o'clock and we go to sleep again. The train is on schedule but now stands still for a long time. The result is two hours delay and we arrive at ten o'clock in Varanasi. We want to stay at the Asi Ghat. Our rickshaw driver asks if we want to see some others hotels. Since we pass them on our way we agree. They are not what we are looking for and so we go to the Temple on the Ganges. There is only one room free and this is not available before five in the evening, we like the hotel and take it.

We have coffee and breakfast on the roof top, from here we can see the Ganges. Although we are a little tired we decide to walk along the ghats. Our previous visit was 3½ years ago but it feels as we never have left the ghats. But what a difference with the last weeks. That period we travelled in less visited areas and now we must get used to all the tourist and all the people offering boats, guides, hash and all the other things.
But it is fantastic to be here again. We saunter onwards to the central Dasasvamedha ghat, halting every time as there is something that attracts our attention. And that is quit often. From the centre we go through the small alleys behind the ghats back to the hotel.

As we arrive our room is ready. It is rather small and situated between the reception and the kitchen, so very noisy. But it is just for one night, tomorrow we transfer to another one. The meal on the roof terrace is suitable for all westerners that means not very spicy.

With a cycle rickshaw we go to central ghat and explore the riverbank further upstream. After the cremation and Scindia ghats we see less tourists. And a few ghats further they and the touts have completely disappeared and only cows, and people cleaning the laundry remain. The steps are less maintained and it all ends as just a normal river bank. At this point we climb by a stair to the city. Here also are a lot of winding small streets with many of temples. We manage to orientate ourselves on the river and so we don't really get lost.

We find a small chai stall and drink outside meanwhile chatting with the neighbours. One of them owns a real "Dutch coffee house", it takes us a while before we realize that he sells weed. The streets become more crowded and suddenly we are in the main-street behind the central ghat. The lunch we take is so spicy that the tears roll out of my eyes.

Back in the hotel our new room is available. For 1200 rs we have a rather specious one with a view on the Ganges. In an internet café we book train tickets for Jhansi and make a walk in the dark along the ghats, it is quiet in the environment of the Asi ghat. Before dinner on the roof we tell the waiter to prepare it on the Indian way and now it is quit tasteful.

At six in the morning I go to the ghats on my own. It is dawn and a little hazy. There are already a lot of people by the river. Many take a boat whilst others take a ritual bath. The spirit so early in the morning is totally different as in broad daylight. Less tourists and more devotees. After a while the sun breaks through the fog. On a very slow way I wander to the Dasasvamedha ghat. Here it is very crowded with bathers and numerous priests conduct their rituals. By now the sales of flower garlands and other offerings starts. After a few hours I get hungry and walk back to the hotel, without stops it takes half an hour.

After our breakfast I take a nap. And then we decide to go to the ghats again. While we watch the ceremonies at the burning ghat I'm nearly run down by a funeral procession. I have a cold and when we wander through the small streets I get exhausted. We are lucky to find the chai shop of yesterday and then take a rickshaw back to the hotel. Time for another nap.
From the hotel we can see the pontoon bridge near the fort and at four we go in that direction. We hope that it is possible to walk along the riverside. But there is no path and we continue along small lanes between the houses and a cattle path. This leads us to the river and there the path ends. The fort is still far away and we decide to go back. We try to walk by another route but come to our sense and take a rickshaw.

It is our last day here and again we use the ghats to walk to the centre. Observing the live alongside the river never bores us. During our visit in 2005 we wandered in a bazaar and now we try to find that again. We both don't remember where it is situated exactly and after some efforts we give up.
Next to the Dasasvamedha ghat is an observatory. We buy a ticket and two boys with long sticks accompany us. On the first floor is a palace with nice painted ceilings. The instruments to observe the firmament are on top of the building. They are of the same type as those in Jaipur but here are not so many and everything stands close to each other. Now it becomes clear why the boys are with us, with their sticks they chase the monkeys away.

At noon, in the full sun we walk back over the ghats, not the most wise thing to do. After lunch we lay down and at four we pay our bill.
A rickshaw brings us to the station, our train towards Jhansi stands there already. There is no pantry car so I look for some food. As a fellow passenger claims that we can order food in the train I just buy some bananas.
The train leaves on time and then it comes true that their is only chai available. Before we stop in Allahabad Wiesje and her cigarettes have made friends with the personnel and one of them goes with her to the food stall. At eleven we have dinner with samosa's and chips. Then I climb in the upper side berth.

Orchha, 8 - 10 February

After a good night sleep we arrive, with a delay of an hour, at 7.30 AM in Jhansi. With another tourist we share a rickshaw to Orchha. The price is fixed on 225 rs. and the driver offers us a cup of chai before we depart. So early in the morning it is still cold .
Since there is a religious festival in Orchha many people are on their way to the town, a lot of them walk. The driver tells he knows a good hotel and since we don't have anything special in mind we decide to inspect it. Our companion goes her own way. For 700 rs we get a large room, a bath with hot water, a balcony and a roof terrace with a splendid view over the town. It takes some time to prepare the breakfast and we chat with some other guests.

In ten minutes we walk to the centre. It is already crowded, besides the devotees there are of course many sadhu's, beggars and traders. Unthinkingly we assume that the ceremony will be at the riverside but as no one else goes that way we return. At noon the ceremonies start, we are in the midst of a crowd and are more or less carried into a temple. To get out against the stream of incoming people is difficult.
We take a lassi in Ramraja and watch the rather strange mixture of pilgrims and tourists walking behind the flag of their guide. And all this in the setting of the impressive monuments. Of course their is a market. The beggars and saddhu's line up and everybody offers them some food. In a corner narrators tell stories standing next to full-coloured posters. After a while we go back to the hotel and take a nap.

In the afternoon we visit the centre again, it is still crowded and for some rest we go to the beautiful Betwa river. We cross it by a small bridge, when a truck rides on it we must save ourselves on the rocks. Near the bridge is a bar where we order a beer. After a while it is served in a large mug, bar means just coffee-bar. This restaurant is just open and the owner does everything to attract customers. A bad thing for him is that the locals use the bank as public toilet. We take a snack and it is dark when we return to our hotel. The ceremonies are still going on though it is not so crowded any more.
Near the hotel we hear drumming and singing. In a house across the hotel women peel green peas. The neighbourhood prepares the wedding of the hotel-keeper's son. We join them for a while. Because of the festivities the restaurant is closed. We go back to the town for dinner again at Ramraja. In temple the priests are still conducting ceremonies, the devotees sit on the market place. The shops close and tired as we are we sleep at ten.

Everybody, including the hotel personnel, is busy to decorate the street for the wedding party. For our breakfast they must interrupt it and the owner is glad as we say we eat outside. In return we get an invitation for the party. We have our breakfast in the eating-house near the river. Some young men take the orders and then leave to buy the ingredients. In the same sequence as the boys return the food is served.

We walk to the chattris which are situated at a picturesque place near the river. Nearly all cenotaphs are restored and surrounded by a wall with a closed gate. Just one building near the river we can visit, around it the restoration continues. Then we wander around the walls of the other monuments and just as we disappointed want to leave a guard arrives. For 100 rs he opens the gates and we can visit five of these wonderful memorials. Through a small stairway in the walls of one of them I climb to to the top and enjoy the great views of the environment. When we want to leave the guard opens another gate and we visit another grave. By noon we are back in the hotel.

In the afternoon we want to visit the Lakshmi Temple, situated on the other side of our hotel. It is nearly abandoned. Only a flute playing monk, a market woman and a guide are there. The guide explains that we need a ticket and that the selling point is at the fort. That ticket also covers the entrance for this morning's chattris.
Back at the hotel the wedding festival starts. The guests arrive and we get all kind of snacks. In a nearby inner court 10 man prepare the dinner. Everyone contributes money as a wedding gift, and this is carefully administrated. Of course we too give a contribution, an uneven amount the bring bliss. My gift is a little elaborate since I don't see through that other people ask for a change.
As always only men are outside, the woman stay in the house. Wiesje visits them and comes back with her feet painted red with henna. The story behind it is that we have now seven other lives together.
Later there is a self-served buffet with delicious food. It is served on clay plates and cups. Besides the festival tent a couple washes these dishes non stop. A cow, goats and dogs eat the remainders. At this time the women join the party. By ten the first guests leave and we go to our room.

Again no breakfast service this morning so once more we go to Ramraja, as regular customers the owner nearly exults when we enter.

The nearby fort-palace is as nearly always an overwhelming bunch of palaces and ruins inside the walls of the fortification. We don't hire a guide but by one of the palaces a warder joins us. He has keys and opens the doors of a lot of rooms with frescoes. These are very damaged but the remaining fragments witness their original beauty. The palaces itself are enormous and high. The guide leads me through narrow stairs to the top. The panorama from here is great but their is nearly a balustrade and since high locations are not my speciality I'm glad to be back on the ground again. Together we observe the other parts of the fort. Everywhere are notice boards but the origin of some of the remainders is so vague that the boards give more then one explanation. But that does have any influence on the impressive of this site.

After a few hours and a lassi we go to the great temple, also called Ram Raja. Originally build as a palace it is again an enormous building, without much decoration. A self-appointee guide takes me via a stair in the wall to the next floor. This stair is really scaring, it is complete dark and some steps are missing. I don't climb to the higher floors.
For lunch we go to the eating-house at the river but since they serve nothing it is again Ramraja. There are a lot of restaurants in this street, one even offering 'Dutch food' something as an vegetarian hotchpotch, but we like Ramraja the most.
We stay some time in our hotel and for 1500 rs we arrange a car to Chanderi. Then we walk to the Lakshmi temple, the priest plays on his flute as we climb the stairs. With a guide we enter the temple and then the teamwork between him and the priest becomes clear. As new visitors arrive the latter plays a special tune and so the guides knows that new customers arrive. Our guide speaks hardly English but we don't bother since we can admire the paintings on the ceiling without explanation.

Around seven we sit again in the garden of our favourite restaurant. It is busy tonight and we sit on one of the long tables near the open fire and have a beer. At eight the sound and light show in the fort starts and we see glimpses of it. We have ordered dinner but with so many guests it takes a while and then a thunderstorm starts. Everyone gathers insides or, as we, under a shed. With a parasol above the fires the cooking continues. Of course the unavoidable power-cut takes place and an worn-out generator is started. Our dinner arrives, the rain stops and soon the garden is ready for new arriving guests. As we go back to the hotel we encounter some wedding processions.

From Orchha to Mandu. Feb 11 - Feb 19

Wednesday 11 February
The manager of the Shri Mahant hotel has arranged a car for our journey from Orchha to Chanderi. We leave at half past ten, we have to drive back to Jhansi and then we follow the high-way to Bhopal. After a while we take a small road through a rocky area. Despite the barren ground there is agriculture possible since there are many irrigation canals. Later on we stop at the big artificial lake that feeds them. From there the last part of the trip goes through the hills and over a new road we arrive at Chanderi.

There are two hotels in this city. One is owned by the tourist organisation and is a few kilometres from the town. We go to the other, Shree Kunj that is situated near the centre. The old part of the hotel is run down but they just opened a new wing and we get a room for 900 rs. We order a lunch, they serve just one dish it is take it or leave it. The cook and the waiter keep talking with us while we eat, and naturally a power-cut starts.
Afterwards we walk through the city, Chanderi is a nice small but lively town. Since it is not a tourist centre we draw a lot of attention but on a well-mannered way. Even the children don't bother us with their standard questions and of course there are no touts. And the most amazing thing is that we hardly see litter in the streets. On the hill above the town is the fort, the city walls are for a part intact and there are a lot of old monuments. It is a good place to visit and we are glad that we decided to come here.

Back in the hotel the power-cut is over but there are still problems with the electricity. Every time when they switch it on there is a short-circuiting. It takes some time but then it works. Our room has also his shortcomings. When we want to take a shower the hosepipe breaks down and the TV is not working. The personnel, young boys, do hardly speak English but they repair everything and act as it is a show.
For our dinner we go to a garden restaurant. The menu is in Hindi but a young man translates it for us. The food is fine. Since we have so little information about Chanderi we decide to take a guide for the coming days. The hotel manager promises to arrange one for us for tomorrow. Before we are back in our room a hotelboy asks if we want to hire a friend of him as guide.

As breakfast we have toast with a lot of fruit. In front of the hotel the guide, the one arranged by the manager, waits for us. Muzaffar, or Kalebhai as everyone calls him, speaks fluent English and makes a reliable impression. Since we know little about the things to do we let him make the program. This morning a heritage walk through the city and then one and a half day with a car to visit the surroundings of the Chanderi.

And off we go. Kalebhai is very proud of his city. He is the local historian and knows a lot of it and tells about it in a way that infects us too. Many of the old buildings are under restoration. There are governmental funds for this and since there is a deadline a lot of work is in progress. We walk through the narrow streets and visit a wide variety of gates, palaces and a big mosque.
Before we are allowed to enter a Jain temple we have to wash our feet and undo ourselves from all leather and modern equipments. Inside we see a lot of statues and K. explains the Jainism to us. When we leave two priest arrive, totally naked and they use peacock feathers to clean the streets before their feet.
Our guide knows many inhabitants and regular we stop for a chat and chai. After visiting more palaces we leave the city and go to a lake with some fine statues en temples around it.
After lunch we go with the car for a trip, a friend of K. joins us. Chanderi is situated in a valley surrounded by hills, on top of which the old defence walls are situated. We visit one of the gates before we go to an old hunting palace. It is nice to have the company of two historians who disagree about a lot of the history.

There is a another Jain temple with a giant statue carved out of the rocks. In the historical museum are a lot of things that Kalebhai had found. He does not get any credits for this and is not amused, to put it mildly, about this.
We drive further and after a while we leave the road. Through the barren land we go to a river. In the distance the crocodiles lie in the sun. But we are here for the prehistoric rock paintings. We climb down and under the inclined rocks are shallow caves with a lot of paintings. Probable they are not the best paintings in the world but it is unmistakable to recognize what they imagine. The most impressive is that we may visit this without any guards and as a bonus their is a spectacular view over the river. Through a small canyon we climb to the surface.

At six we are back in Chanderi where we sit around the camp fire before the hotel. K. performs also the art of calligraphy and writes our names in Hindi and Urdu (see my Avatar). Kalebhai has invited us for dinner so we walk with him to his house. He lives in a part of the city with a lot of weavers and minimal street lights. K's wife and daughter have prepared the food but just the three of us eat it on the roof of his house. It tastes fantastic and in the meantime our host tells us his family and personal history. With the light of his mobile phone K escorts us back to the main road.
In front of the hotel the personnel and some guest still gather around the fire. We don't want to join and instead order a beer in our room. It takes four man to bring it and really we drink just a few bottles.

Today after an Indian breakfast we have to change to another room. The boys move our luggage with a lot of fuss.
Today we make another car trip with Kalebhai. At nine we leave to visit the Koshak Mahal a large monument erected to remember a victory and used as relief work for the inhabitants. From the original 7 floors only 3½ are left.

Our next goal is a group of a thousand years old temples. We stop near some houses, walk through the fields and cross the river before we reach them. One is just behind a farm, a little further on stands a group. The temples are small and provisional restored, the carvings are reasonable intact. A local guide joins us and we drive cross the country to two abandoned temples. Two priest live near them in a hut and they prepare chai, of course we make pictures. According to K. they have never seen a digital camera. They roar with laughter as they see the picture of themselves together with my wife.
We continue with a visit to the Jain sanctuary of Thruvanjo. The more then 24 white painted temples contain a lot of statues, but we see hardly the differences between them.
From here it is a journey of an hour to Kadwaya, K. calls this place little Khujaraho. The temples are scattered around the village and are smaller and have less sculptures then those in Khajuraho, but they are older. By each of them is a guard and every time we have to write something in the guest book. There are just a few westerners who did the same in the past months. All together it is impressing, In the meantime Kalebhai attends his Friday service in a mosque.

Our last stop is at a very curious place. After the Muslims captured the place they converted the old Hindu temple into a mosque. When the Hindu rulers returned it became a Hindu temple again. Next to it is a monastery, inside it is very dark so there are a lot of bats. In the nearby school we drink chai with the teachers. In the meantime the schoolboys rattle off their lessons while one of them stands in front. Even when we visit the boys continue.
Half past five we are back at the hotel and have to pay the car rent of 1620 rs. for two days. The rest is 'as you please'. Sunday they will bring us to Lalitpur.
As usual the hotel staff sits around the camp fire and we join them before we have dinner.

We have a quiet start and then we go to the fort. It is a heavy climb with a lot of stairs and at the end a steep path but the panorama is beautiful. From the old fort only parts of the outer wall are original as are some of the buildings, the rest is new. There is also a monument for a massive jauhar that took place when Babur conquered the fort, Kalebhai told us that story yesterday.
Via another road we return to the town and wander through a weaver district. Today it is market day, nice as ever. A long row people with jerry cans waits until they can buy there ration of two litre oil. In the evening we make a stroll outside Chanderi. Also here it is quiet and clean with a lot off ruins.

Back in the hotel the dining room is closed so we take dinner on our room. I smash a beer glass and ask for a new one. Due to the language problems three man come to clean our room.

Kalebhai has to pick up tourists in Lalitpur this afternoon. Since this is also our destination we drive with him and have the change to visit Deogarh. At seven we start and after breakfast in a roadside restaurant we visit the remainders of the Vishnu temple, dated around the fifth century. There is not much left of the temple but the sculptures of Vishnu are fantastic.

On the way to our next stop, a large complex of Jain temples, we pass the same naked priests that we saw in Chanderi. One is accompanied with followers who carry water and other things for him, the other, a well fed man, walks alone. We have seen a lot of Jain temples in the last past days but these are, in my opinion, the best with a lot of temples and statues in different styles. According to K there are more then 3000 statues of the Jain saints.
Behind the temple are the remainders of the fort situated in a protected nature area. And after a while we overlook the river. We walk down the stairs to the banks, there are a lot of caves where monks used to live.
Back in Lalitpur we get a room for 850 rs. in hotel Ashoka. After a mediocre lunch Kalebhai and the driver leave. This part of Lalitpur, near the station, is situated apart from the city and there is not much to see. But there is an ATM and as we ask for internet some students take us to their school, I don't think it is official. Later on we discovered that we could also use the computer in the hotel.

Our train to Khandwa is due to leave at half past eight in the morning. When we pay the bill the hotel owner informs us that the train has a delay of an hour. We stay a while in the lobby but as everyone is staring at us we decide to walk to the station. Halfway I discover that I still have the room-key, a speciality of me, and return. The station is a walk of just five minutes. We sit down on a bench a have a sluggish conversation with a teacher who hardly speaks English.
Two and a half hour late the train arrives. It is eleven in the morning and most of the passengers have their curtains still closed. We share our compartment with three older men, regretful we can not communicate with them. We can hardly see anything through our window. The scenery between Bhopal and Itarsi is nice but for the rest not very stunning. So altogether it is a rather boring trip and we are glad when we arrive in Khandwa at half past seven.

We take a rickshaw to the Grand Hotel, a somewhat old but very clean place with a charming atmosphere. Later the owner tells us that it original was a part of an English army camp. I guess we sleep in the officers quarters. For 700 rs we have a room with a bathroom and a room for the luggage. The owners son runs the place, speaks fluent English and turns out to be a great host.
Our original plan was to stay one day in Khandwa and arrange a car for the trip to Mandu, eventually with a stop in Maheswarh. But according to Kalebhai we should visit Burhanpur. After a fine dinner we discuss our plans with the owner and his son. They too say that Burhanpur is worth a visit so we decide to go for it. They will arrange the car and also for the trip to Mandu, besides they offer to make a hotel reservation for us in that place.

Despite the harsh beds we have a good night. We make our definitive plan for the next days; to-morrow a day-trip to Burhanpur and then in one day to Mandu.
Our room is pretty and cool but as we walk outside it is muggy and hot. As so often we wander through the town and after half an hour we reach the centre. It is a laid back place with a lot of houses with carvings instead of modern concrete buildings. For an Indian city there are remarkable many trees. As transport we see more horse rickshaws then the cycle ones. At least for a day it is nice to be here.

After the lunch we go back to our room. This morning we brought our laundry and it is back already, the only thing is that we still have to dry most of it. The manager arranges a car for the next two days for 3300 rs. and he tries to find a hotel in Mandu but until now without success. We have a fine dinner in the garden, mainly a big lawn used for parties.

At eight a Suzuki Maruti with a driver who speaks hardly English stands in front of the hotel and we leave. The first hour we drive through an uninspiring agriculture area than it changes into a wild hill country. Already from a big distance we see a fort on top of one of the mountains. When we are near it the driver stops at a chai stall and I must follow him. Inside are pictures of the fort and other monuments. And it becomes clear he wants to know if we wish to visit the fort. I nod and we go.
Via a very bad road we go to the Asirgarh fort. It is five kilometres on a rocky steep path with hairpins. Sometimes the road is so narrow that the driver has to fold in the mirror and at other moments it goes alongside the abyss. We are happy that we only encounter a motorbike. They turn around and follow us to have a close look at these crazy tourists. In the front of the fort stands a big tree where we park the car. There we notice that it is also possible to reach the fort by a footpath, walking in the burning sun.

As many of the Indian forts it covers an enormous range. The entrance gate and walls are reasonably kept as are the mosque and a big stepwell. These parts have undergone a minor restoration, the rest of the compound looks as it was just discovered. Some weeks ago we were at the Golconda fort near Hyderbad, there were pictures showing how it looked before the rebuilding. Here we see that situation in reality. We walk around for quite a time, one of the things that amazes us is the large amount of wells and ponds still filled with water. The view over the surrounding landscape and the dinky-toy cars on the high-road are also spectacular. The way down towards that road takes us twenty minutes.

Twelve o'clock we are in Burhanpur. First we drive along the high city-walls and then through the centre of this busy town. The streets are small and winding and often we stand still in a traffic jam. From what we see it looks like a fine place to stay for a day or two but we have only a few hours. We stop at the palace near the river, the Hamman in the garden is nice with beautiful tiles. On the riverside stand imposing ruins and, as so often, under reconstructions. Because of that large parts are not accessible. There is a lot information about other sights but most of them are 20 or more kilometres out of town so we decide not to visit them. This morning, when I looked at the pictures of the fort, there were also some off a small palace on the other side of the main road and we decide to visit that on our way back.
But first it is time for lunch there is a hotel, Ambar, with chalets and a large garden restaurant. But it is so hot that we take our lunch inside.

Near the fort we take a country road and after visiting a temple we see in the middle of nowhere a charming small palace called Moti Mahal. The story is that it was erected for the mistress of a ruler of the fort. You can see the fort from here and so the lovers could stare at each other. Two men who live in a cabin nearby guide us around, via a stair on the outside we reach the second floor. We must be careful for there are bee nest all over the place and they seem to be very aggressive. We visit the hut of the men and then we leave. Half past four we are back in Khandwa.
The manager informs us that he has reserved a room for us in hotel Maharaja in Mandu so we leave tomorrow.

Thursday 19 February
The hotel boys sleep in the lobby and when our alarm goes off at five o'clock we hear the hotel telephone. The owner wakes his personnel so we can have breakfast. The driver wanted to start at six but he is half an hour late. He needs a cup of chai and refuel the car before we leave, the benefit of this is that it is dawn when we are out of the town.
Eight o'clock we arrive in Omkareshwar, it is still quit and we can drive up to the parking place near the foot bridge. At this time of the day most of the shops are closed and just a few beggars have taken there place on the bridge. But there are a lot of monkeys and one grips the shawl of a lady, her companions try to take it back but the monkey is to fast.

It is a real pilgrims place. While the boatsmen bail the water out of there old boats, the first pilgrims take their ritual bath. We try to walk along the river but the stairs bring us back to the main street with all the shops that are standard in this type of towns. All the roads and stairways lead us to the main temple in which we are not really interested. If it is due to the early time, the lot of litter in the town, to much spirituality, or something else I don't know, but it is not our place. Of course you can walk around the island but we have no time to do that. After an hour we walk back to the car while the stream of pilgrims begins to arrive.

At eleven we arrive in Maheshwar another river town with a fort, palace and temples. We drive through the city and stop near the small palace. It is now a museum dedicated to a princess and not so interesting, neither is the small temple behind it. From the fort around the palace we have as always a fantastic panorama over the river. Of course also here a lot of people their ritual bath. But in contrast with Omkareshwar we like the atmosphere here. We descend the stairs, alongside it are factories with many sari weavers. Half way down there are some nice temples and then we reach the riverbank. We walk up and down the ghats and sit a while in the shadow. On the river the regular mix of boats and baths is going on. A bride accompanied by a group of women performs all kinds of rituals, she gives the impression that she is not really happy with it.
By this time we are hungry and walk back to the car. The chauffeur does not know a restaurant in the city so we drive on and stop somewhere at the highway. The first place has more flies then guests but on the other side of the road there is a better one.
We drive on the highway that leads to Indore and a twenty five kilometres before we reach it we take an exit into a small country road. The journey continues through small villages in a hilly landscape. Each time as the diver sees someone he asks if we are going in the right direction. Then we make a turn and go directly into the mountains. For the most part the road is very poor but at some places it is renewed. From the high road to Mandu is less then an hour but we have the impression of a much longer trip.

Our reservation is in the Maharaja hotel, this is very basic and we decide to try our luck elsewhere. The Malwa Resort of the MPTDC looks good and they have a room available, but when we tell that we will stay four nights there is a problem. The reservations are made centrally and they have to contact the headquarters. After a lot of telephone calls we hear that we can stay.
It is four o'clock as we walk to the small village and immediate observe some of the famous buildings. There is an internet connection but it is so slow that it is quicker to deliver the mail ourselves. We just look around a little before we go back to the hotel.
Of course then there is a powercut and with a candle we sit on our balcony drinking a beer. At seven the generator starts and we are able to take a shower. We have to order dinner in advance, the manager is also the cook.

Mandu, 20-22 February

As mentioned by so many people Mandu is a fantastic place to be. Maybe it is a little difficult to get there but for us it was worth the effort. It is great to wander around and visit the monuments.
This morning we walk to the village and visit the Jami Masjid, Hoshang Tomb and other monuments in the centre. Then it is back to the hotel for lunch and the afternoon we spend on the balcony to relax. It is quiet in the hotel since we are the only guests. It is not before four o'clock that there is electricity available.

I go out for a walk and when I return there is again a powercut. The generator is not working so we sit with the light of a candle. Dinner we take at hotel Rupmati. There is light and we have a delightful meal on the terrace. As we walk back the contrast with the dark MTDC hotel is enormous. The managers excuse for not starting the generator is that we are the only guests and even went out for dinner. My wife gets a little angry and that helps.

It may be true hat the best way to explore Mandu is by cycle but we had observed the distances between the various sites. We are in our mid sixties and decided to do it the easy way and hired a car for 700 rs.
Popi, the driver, arrives at nine with his Suzuki Marata,

We start at Rupmatis Pavilion on the south end of Mandu. From the parking place it is still quit a climb to the edge of the plateau but from there we have a marvellous view over the plains. We visit the Pavilion and walk back to the car, drive to the next ruin and so we explore this great area. Near the Sagar Talao lake is an echo point where Popi loudly shouts my name.
After the lunch we visit the Royal Enclave. The restored Jahaz Mahal Palace and the ruins behind it are one of my favourites. In the afternoon we end our trip at the Delhi gate in the north of Mandu. By then it is half past three. We make an arrangement with Popi to drive us to Ujjain for 1600 rs. Before we return to the hotel we visit the market.

Although there are more rooms occupied in the hotel they don't start the generator before seven o'clock. We meet our neighbours, two friends, they are here for the weekend. With the four of us we have diner at Rupmati. It is a pleasant evening, we are entertained by a school class, they are rehearsing a revue and do musical chairs.

Today we do nothing special and after breakfast we sit and read on our gallery. At eleven our neighbours are coming back, they have already completed quite a program. After some small talk we say goodbye since they have to leave.

A tourist bus stops at the restaurant for lunch, when we want to have ours it is such a mess that we decide to eat in the village. Later on I wander for the last time through the fields around the hotel. It is indeed amazing that everywhere you look there are big and small remainders of old buildings.
Tonight we have dinner in the restaurant of our hotel. I want chicken but the meat is frozen to the freezer. With a lot of effort the cook liberates the animal. The other days the manager prepared the food, today there is a genuine cook, he uses to much salt to make the dinner eatable. When we order coffee there is one cup for the both of us.
Then it is time to pay the bill. I must check the vouchers, but they are written in Hindi, so that makes no sense. There is a lot of laughter when the men understand this. Since we are not very satisfied with the hotel, to put it mildly, we want to fill a complaint form but there is only a guest book.

Ujjain 23 - 24 February

We arise at six, it is still dark and no electricity. Yesterday we bought some bread and jam and take that as breakfast. It is a pleasant surprise that Popi arrives at seven sharp, he has a driver with him. Our backpacks go on the roof-rack and off we go.
The road to the north is by far not so spectacular as the one by which we arrived in Mandu. En route we see large herds of sheep and a group nomads with all their belongings on donkeys. The driver knows his way and we pass Indore through the outskirts and we are at half past ten in Ujjain. We stay in hotel Ashray, the only room left is a large AC room for 1200 rs.

The day passes with a visit to the internet café, lunch and reading. At five we take a rickshaw to the Ramghat. The ride goes criss cross through the town, mostly via very narrow streets, when the driver stops we are a hundred metre from the river.
On forehand I had the idea we would arrive in a smaller version Varanasi but the impression is totally different and the ghat has his own characteristics. The Shipra river is relative small and we cross it by a foot-bridge. As we look around a young man approaches us and explains that there is a special ceremony tonight. He had come just for this event, the cheap hostels are completely full so he has to spend the night at the station. After a while talking we continue and walk on the quit side of the river. It is not stretched out and over the next bridge we cross the river again and walk back. On this side are numerous small temples.
We sit down and wait for the ceremonies to start. At half past six as the daylight vanished it begins. On both sides of the river people sing and make music. As it darkens the priests light the torches and accomplish their rituals. It ends when it is completely dark. The fountains in the river are lightened and everywhere people conduct their own services.

We walk around for quit a time before we take a rickshaw back to the hotel.

We have promised to send a birthday card to the son of our Orissa driver. It is not easy to find one but we succeed. For a stamp we have to go to the post office in the clock-tower. The counters are on the street side, for the counter there are a ladies and a men's row. Since the first one is the shortest Wiesje joins it.
In the meantime I observe the large tempos which are used as local transport. We ask which one will bring us to the bazaar.

After a while the car departs, a driver, a ticket seller and fourteen passengers, the price is 4 rs. We reach the bazaar and wander around the picturesque narrow streets. So we arrive in front of the large temple. An enormous long row is waiting to enter, we don't join it and walk further to the ghats.
We are curious about where the station is so we take a tempo to there and go with another one back to the clock-tower and from there we walk to the hotel.

Jhalawar 25 feb - 2 March

Around eight we are at the station, the train halts there for half an hour and is just arriving. We travel CC-class and then it is always more difficult to store our back-packs. When I put mine in the net it slips out of my hand and I can just grab it before it crushes an older lady.
After a smooth trip we arrive at half past eleven in Ramganj Mandi. We hope to find a taxi for the last 30 km. but there is just a rickshaw. The driver does not want to drive to Jhalawar and brings us to the bus stop in the centre of the town. According to him there are no taxis here.
After a few minutes another rickshaw driver comes along and he takes us for 300 rs. to our destination.
Around Ramganj Mandi are stone and marble mines, this results in a terrific scenery and road conditions. The last part of the journey this improves and after an hour we arrive in Jhalawar. We stop at the RSTDC hotel in the town but here and in the other hotel in town we can only stay for one night. After that all is complete since there is a large wedding party.
The RSTDC resort is a little above our normal budget but since it is off-season we stay for a few nights we get a discount. For 1340 rs. we have a nice cottage where we can sit outside in the shadow. Around five o'clock I walk in fifteen minutes to the town. Jhalawar is a nice, not spectacular, quit place. The minus point is the, even for India, enormous quantity of litter in the streets.

During my walk I look without success for a beer-shop. I ask a rickshaw driver, he does not speak English but with the help of a lot of bystanders I can make myself clear. We drive back the part of the town close to the resort and there the diver drops me, here the shop must be. I don't see it and ask again. A man brings me to a shabby concrete building.
I walk back and after all these efforts the beer tastes good. Tomorrow we want to visit Jhalarapatan a small neighbouring town. We ask the manager how we can reach it and he offers to bring us.

At half past nine we leave and Mr Singh drops us near the Sun temple in Jhalarapatan. First we wander around in this very charming town. The city walls are still intact and there are no other tourists and the inhabitants are very welcoming..

We stand opposite a large building and cannot figure out the function of it. Some men stand outside and tell us that it is the high school, they are the teachers. Before we realize it we sit with a large group in the principals office. He must sign countless salary slips in the meantime we talk with the English teachers. Other teachers are taking pictures. Just as we want to leave the chai and biscuits arrive.
Outside a town-gate is a small temple, the people who live there invite us immediately for a visit. It is dark inside but the lights are turned on so we can use our video. Meanwhile a devotee continues with his prayers.
A little further is a wedding party inside a large tent. Today they celebrate the ring-ceremony and we must join them, meet the groom and dance with the male guests. They invite us to stay but we decide to move on provided with a blessed coconut. .

So we arrive at the lake and the nearby herbal garden, of course there a temples inside it besides many plants and a lot of bee nests. Near the lake is a restaurant where we have lunch. After all the time in India we are still shocked when the waiters dump the plastic litter into the lake.
Now it is time to visit the Sun temple, on our way an Indian boy taps at my shoulder, behind him is Nicole, a young woman from Germany. She works here as a volunteer and we join them to visit the house where she and the other volunteers live. After chat and chai we leave our coconut there and go again to the Sun temple, which by now is closed. One of the volunteers had pointed out the way to the Jain temple Shatinath. Outside are some big elephants and inside it is decorated with beautiful murals. And old lady claims she is the guide and walks around with us, the money disappears of course in her pocket.

Since the Sun temple is still closed we call Mr Singh and go back to our cottage. When we sit outside our neighbour joins us for a drink. Delphine is a French lady who speaks fluent Dutch since she lived in Amsterdam for some years. We have a lively conversation and have dinner together.

We are somewhat tired of travelling and decide to stay another two days even if it means that we probably have to skip Jaisalmer.
Although there is no train station in Jhalawar there is a ticket office in the palace. Because the only internet café we have seen does not look so adequate we decide to book our tickets in that office. Without a problem we get tickets to Jaipur on Monday and afterwards in the evening to Bikaner. Then we go to the internet to cancel the old tickets. It looks chaotic but we are astonished about the fast connection.
The city palace is nowadays used by the court of law. Inside there should be fine mural paintings. I have read that the people who work there are willing to show the paintings. So we ask a lawyer and he guides us, but unfortunately the entrance door is locked and we are not allowed to enter through an office. The three of us walk to the other side of the building, ask again and now three more men accompany us. One of them is a prosecutor and he takes the lead. He tries some doors, all of them closed and so we are again in front of the office. After some small talk we may enter. Behind the office is an archive, the dossiers are wrapped in textiles and piled up.

We get an extensive tour along the great paintings. We go from room to room through dark corridors and stairs by the light of the cell phones. In the rooms the men open the shutters and so we can admire everything. Afterwards the prosecutor takes us to a nice park with old armoury.

Today we visit Gagron fort. It is about 12 kilometre and according to Mr Singh we can cycle it. There are two bikes at the resort and we may use them for free. The first one is fine and nearly new, the other one is old an has a nearly flat tire. Besides the chain is too long and does not work proper, so this bike is useless. For 50 rs we hire the bike one off the staff members and depart.
Afraid to get lost we ask at every crosspoint which road leads to the fort. The track is reasonable and not too hilly, just on two slopes we need to walk. Needless to say that we draw a lot of attention. It is still hot, above 30 degrees. So we are glad that after an hour we reach the fort and sit down in a chai stall.

We leave our bikes there and walk through the village to the fort.
We miss the entrance and walk alongside the restored wall until we reach the river. The fort lies in a curve of this river and from the bridge we have a great view. We walk back to the village and take another path to the gate. Inside the fort there is also lot of restoration going on. We explore the whole site until we are at the end and look down on the river.
After a while we walk back to the chai stall and return to the resort. We arrive just in time for the lunch.

For tomorrow we need a taxi to Ramganj Mandi , we ask Singh and he will take care of that. Now this problem is solved we once more go to the city. The temperature is above 35 degrees, no wonder that we find it quit hot these last days.
In the palaces is also an old theatre but it is closed and we decide to visit the museum. While we are looking for it we meet again the prosecutor, the man who showed us the paintings. According to him the museum is also closed. He is on his way to a private performance of traditional dances and we join him.
It takes at least an hour before it starts and as someone else says that the museum is open the three of us go there. The collection consists fragments of statues, and parts of collections of the former ruler such as shells, paintings and miniatures. On the first floor is the public library. The librarian shows us around and explains the way people can lend a book. There is also a large collection of old English books.
We go back to the dance but it is still not clear when it starts and as we hear that performance goes on for more than two hours we decide to leave.

On the way back I have a hair-cut for 20 rs. Besides the chalets in the resort there are also huge tented accommodations. As the season ends they break them up. Tonight there is a party by the police force. I have the impression that for most attendants it is a obligation.


The cook of the restaurant act as driver and brings us to Ramganj Mandi. The train is just a little late and leaves at a quarter to twelve. There is no pantry car so we buy some snacks in Kota. By five o'clock we are in Jaipur and have six hours before we catch our next train.
We take a rickshaw for an hour of sight-seeing. But as to expect, the driver is just interested to bring us to the shops. We have dinner in a luxury restaurant near the station to celebrate our upcoming wedding anniversary. After this lush meal we walk to the station and seek the platform of our train. It is at the outside since it is the old metre gauge, this line is now cancelled.

Bikaner, 3 - 8 March

Despite the shaking of the old train we sleep well. At half past seven we arrive in Bikaner and take a rickshaw to Vinayak guest-house. We book a simple but spacious room for 300 rs. As we arrive only the old owner is awake but soon his son Jitu appears. He leads the hotel and during our breakfast he explains the tourist possibilities. I'm attracted to a camel-safari but Wiesje has her doubts.
After a short rest we walk to fort. From the outside it is a stronghold with thick walls, inside it is luxury palace where each maharadja contributed his halls. A splendid audio tour supports the visit. For a tip the usher shows us some beautiful painted, normally closed, rooms.

After that we look for a opportunity to lunch, the only place near the fort is full. It is hot and windy, the sand is in the air so the terrace is no option. Besides I have an infected nose, am tired and want to go to bed. After a few hour sleep I feel better and we return to the restaurant for dinner. The wind is gone and now it is great to sit outside.

The infection causes me a bad night and we decide to see a doctor. Jitu accompanies us to the nearby private hospital. The doctor gives it a look, decides that it is not his speciality and directs us to the state hospital. There Jitu asks something at the reception and we go to a consulting-room. The doctor sits inside, the door is open and a row of at least fifteen people waits. Jitu speaks to the doctor and I can take a chair in the room. In the meanwhile the doctor continues his treatment of a women. Behind his chair is a bed with a curtain around it, that is all the privacy. Then it is my turn, a quick look and a description for two different pills and an ointment. We buy them at a pharmacy and return to the hotel.

I take rest for the remainder of the day. Jitu and Wiesje go by bike to the camel farm. First they visit the museum and then to animals. The main purpose of the farm is the camel milk. The foals start to drink and then the milkers take it over, each camel delivers a litre. On their way back they visit a turban museum.

I feel better this morning and we arrange a city tour, at the guest house they know a skilful driver. Jitu will work out a plan for a three day auto and camel trip. On our way to the centre we pass a ropery where they fabricate kite-lines for fights. A little further woman filter the waste water of the silversmiths in the hope to find some remainders of the metal.

The driver parks his rickshaw and acts further as a guide. We witness the many havelis, build a hundred years ago by merchants with the purpose to show their wealth. Now the owners have moved to the big cities and these houses are only used during festivities. The havelis in Bikaner are decorated with carvings at the outside, our guide tells that inside they are sober.
Next we visit Bhanwar Niwas. It is a large haveli converted into a luxury hotel. A staff member shows us the lush rooms, all with different decorating. The beautiful painted Bhandasar Jain temple is the following location. Here are a lot of pigeons so we walk barefooted through the shit. After a visit to the market we return to the hotel. It was a great way to see a city and that for just 150 rs.
Jitu has made a plan for a two day trip to the Shekhawati region including a visit to a wild-park. It will be to hectic to include a camel safari and we accept this.

As we walk to the internet café a street dog bites me. It does not look serious, even my trousers are undamaged, so we continue. In the café I inspect my leg, as the owner hears the story he strongly advises us to take a rabies injection.
We take a rickshaw to the private clinic we visited yesterday and they direct me to the ER. My leg is disinfected and I get a large bandage around it. Annex to the hospital is a pharmacy where Wiesje buys the medicines, injections against tetanus and rabies and more pills. And a schedule for four more injections in the coming weeks. The worst thing is that I'm not allowed a beer and that on our wedding anniversary.

I remove the bandage from my leg, the wound looks fine. Vickey, the driver, arrives and together with Jitu we leave. In the desert around Bikaner are surprisingly many trees. The result of irrigation and more rain in the recent years. The road is good and after a chai stop we reach Fathepur.
The havelis here have mural paintings on all the walls but just a few are well maintained. Mostly a guard and his family are the sole inhabitants. Jitu knows some of them and we are allowed to go inside. It is free but for taking pictures we must sometimes pay a few rupees. A boy offers to guide us to other havelis and we go the smaller roads and see a lot of them. Some of the havelis that we visit are half ruined and from the outside we look straight into the rooms.

Another is still inhabited and restored in the original colours. Now we can imagine what an overwhelming colourful sight this city once was. One haveli is restored with modern paint, it is possible to visit it but we save the100 rs. During all the hours that we are here we don't see another tourist.
A drive of half an hour brings us to Mandawa where we stay in hotel Shekhawati, a former haveli. It is half past two and we have lunch before we take some rest. At five o'clock a local guide gives us a city tour. The havelis here are not as splendid as in Fathepur but since Mandawa is in the guide books the tourists come here. A bus load of French is surrounded by beggars and touts. Some members of the group give money so they attract even more public.

Mandawa is relative small and gives the impression of a real desert town. Peacocks walk through the streets. And of course here are also beautiful havelis, a lot of them are converted into hotels. After a visit to an also splendid painted temple we return to the hotel.
For dinner we go to the roof terrace. Just as yesterday in Bikaner there ls a lot of music in the city. The youngsters start the Holi preparations. After our meal we stay on the terrace, the personnel leaves. If we want we can take our next beer out the fridge but we don't need that.

At eight we are on the road again and ride to the Padar Haveli museum in Nawalgarh. The building is used as school for a long time but now it is completely restored. Inside are all kind of exhibitions regarding the different facets of culture and history in Rajasthan, Some sections are nice while others are boring. How great these havelis are by now we have seen enough of them.

At Dunlod is a fort/palace converted into a luxury hotel. It is one of those visits which are just nice because it is so clumsy. The ticket seller/guide hides his newspaper as we arrive and acts as if he is very busy. He shows us the large hall and whispers his explanation as if someone lies in state. There are many books but it is so dark that it is impossible to read. Once outside the man tells the the maharadja still lives here and he may not be troubled. The rest of the palace has nothing special and the rooms are relative small and costly.
In the afternoon we go to Tal Chhapar a wild sanctuary near Churu. The important animals here are the Black Bucks, but there are also other types of deer and Nilgau. And of course a lot of birds amongst them cranes, eagles and vultures. Jitu is a studied biologist and his speciality is a type of lizards that live here in holes in the ground. We drive a few hours through the desert like wild park.
Half past seven we are back in Bikaner. An Australian couple just arrived and we tell about our trip while we have dinner together.

When we wake up our dinner guests are leaving with Jitu to make the same itinerary. At ten I have to go to the hospital for my next injection, my leg heals well. Next we go to a photo shop and make some hard copies of the photographs as we promised to Jitu.
We are in the centre and cannot find a decent place to eat. On advise of a policeman we walk into the direction of the railway station. The first we find is a self service restaurant. After the lunch we see of course a lot of other restaurants.

The rest of the afternoon we spend with reading, writing and talking. The owners give, as a souvenir of our stay, Wiesje some nice bangles and I get a carved walking-stick to chase the dogs.

Jodhpur, 9 - 15 March

At nine we arrive at the station the train is already waiting. There are just a few passengers but a lot of beggars, musicians, shoe polishers and sellers. But hardly something to eat or drink. We travel through the desert, only near Merla there is more agriculture. Three o'clock we arrive in Jodhpur. and take a rickshaw to Durag Niwas.
Downstairs we don't see anybody but from the first floor, where the Sambhali project resides, comes a lot of rumour. Govind shows up from there and greets us with a loud shout. He is totally painted because he has a Holi celebration with the girls. Mukta and the rest of the family join us and it is the reunion of friends. Govind brings us to our room and goes on with his party. We too take a look, it is great fun but I'm not in the mood. Wiesje joins them and of course is instantly red and wet.
We take a lunch and go for a nap. The rest of the day we stay in the inner court. Most guest are here for longer a period, working for the Sambhali and other projects.

At eleven we go to the city and there a great festival is going on. We did not know it but today it is Mawlid al-Nabi and the Muslims celebrate this with a big parade. People sit in carts and rickshaw but also on camels, horses and bikes. We watch it for a while and then go our own way. Of course some streets further we encounter the procession again.

On the clock-tower market we buy some metal platters. The women in the shop don't speak English and a neighbouring textile seller assists. Of course we must then visit his business and subsequently he wants to take us to a spice shop but that we reject. We take a lassi and want to do some more shopping. But the parade keeps going on and we decide to walk back to the guest house where we enjoy an elaborate lunch.
Tonight a large group tourist arrive and the guesthouse is completely booked up, some of this group are lodged in the next-door hotel. The long-term guest of Durag Niwas are asked to stay a night on the roof. We sleep inside the living section of the guest house, and well in the bedroom of Govind and Mukta.
The group of a 25 people travel with a large red truck and get a traditional welcome with music and garlands. Most of them have dinner here and and so many orders are nearly too much for the kitchen, But with each other we have a very pleasant evening.

Wednesday, Holi
This night it feels as if we are part of a big household. Regular there is rumour from the family in the other rooms. In the morning the guests who sleep on the roof go through our room to the toilet. Of course we awake early and gather together with the long-term guests on the inner court. The travel group goes to the town but Govind has arranged Holi festivities around the guesthouse.

He presents large piles of pigment powder and snacks on a table near the entrance. The hosepipe is connected and the chaos begins. We rub each other with paint and then throw with water. It starts somewhat uneasy but as we are joined by family friends it became a great mess. We chase one another and at the end everyone is red. In the meantime groups of singers and dancers arrive and perform. They don't have to be afraid of the paint.
After a few hours we have enough of it and take a shower. Afterwards we are still red. There are still musicians and we listen to them with a beer in hand. It is great. At three o'clock the festivities are over and we also have back our own room.

Everyone is tired and hangs around. Mukta prepares a simple dinner. By ten we want to go to bed as Govind invites us to go for an ice. During all our previous journeys we never dared this but now we try. It is at the other side of the town and there are a lot of visitors, often families with small children. Later we visit Lucky, a friend who lives with several households in a large house. We drink tea and all the family members come to see who these nightly visitors are. It is after midnight before we see our bed.


Until some days ago I still had the hope and wish to make a trip to Jaisalmer but after more than three months travelling we don't have the spirit to undertake this. Besides I have to go the the hospital for another injection. A hostess conducts us to the ER. An assistant asks if I want to see the doctor but I don't think that necessary. In the pharmacy they don't have the prescribed medicine and we have to wait.
In the meantime the treatments in the ER continue. The three beds are continue occupied. Again the lack of privacy strikes us. A doctor comes to me and examines careful my recipe. After a long time he declares that the injection scheme is wrong but than he realises that this is already my third shot. We can use an alternative drug and he will give me the injection personally. For this privilege I pay100 rs above the 20 rs. for the hospital. Of course we must also pay for the medicines.

In the town centre we buy some clothes to take home and lunch in Nirvana, a rooftop restaurant above a temple. Then back to the guesthouse for a lazy afternoon and evening.

We had asked Bunty, the manager, to show us some pictures of his new born son. Besides that he takes all the photographs and DVD's of his 10-day wedding ceremony. We watch some of it but the total show is to much.
A rickshaw driver charges us 200 rs for a trip to Mandore. The temple like cenotaphs of the former rulers stand in a park-like environment. A lot of monkeys run around. In a small museum is a weird collection of sculptures, paintings, scale models and a dead crocodile. Next to it is a long line of haut-relief sculptures of heroes. At the end of the park stand the remainders of the old palace, the entrance is closed to the public. I climb to the ruins of the old fort above the palace.

Back in the guesthouse we have to change rooms again. People had reserved our original room but never contacted the guest house again. Now they suddenly appear. After lunch we go into town. Friend Lucky builds a guesthouse and a restaurant and has invited us to come and see. We go to the nearby bangle shop of his family and one of his brothers guides us around. When we are back in the shop we get a glass carrot juice, obvious not our favourite.
The evening we spend with talks with some of the long-time guests. The subjects differ completely with the standard conversation between tourists.

Another lazy day, we do some shopping. Our hair is still red and everyone smiles and says 'nice colour'. The rest of the day we read and chat.

Since our first visit in 2005 we have never been in the fort area. Today I return to it and stroll around. It is quit and nice. And of course I get lost in the winding streets. A group of small children directs me constantly into dead-end alleys. Together we have great fun about this. Another, a little older, boy comes around and guides me in the right direction.

One of the other hotel guest wanted to improve the live of at least one Indian. He saw a boy with a harelip and wants to arrange and pay the operation. He takes the boy and his parents to a hospital. There it turns out that there is even a sponsor program for this. But now the boys grandmother comes with the argument that the gods created the boy with this handicap. A lengthy puja is needed to satisfy them before an operation is possible. The costs of the puja are something like 11000 rs.
We have dinner with some new guests and then our taxi arrives. During the constantly changing of rooms I regular forgot to look after my Bikaner walking-stick . And now, when we step into the car, I nearly leave it behind.
The train is about half an hour late and just after eleven we depart.

Alwar 16 - 17 March

Despite the hard benches I sleep well but it causes Wiesje pain in her back. Shortly before eight o'clock we arrive in Alwar and take a rickshaw to hotel Imperial. We get a large simple room, with an inside balcony for 500 rs. Hot water but no shower and only room service.
Later in the morning we walk to the City Palace. It is badly maintained and completely utilized by offices. On the roof is a museum and we climb all the stairs just to find out it is closed, off course since it is Monday. We have a look at the inner courts before we walk around the palace. Behind it is a big tank beautiful surrounded by ornaments and temples. On a steep hill we see the remainders of a fort. A great view and we sit quite a while in the shadow.

For more information we take a cycle rickshaw to the tourist office near the station. The man there speaks hardly any English, has no information and as far as we understand they don't organize anything. With another cycle-rickshaw, the common method of transport, we go for the lunch to restaurant Delhi. A modern place with good food and nearby our hotel.
The afternoon we are again lazy and by the evening we stroll through the centre of Alwar. Chaotic and pleasant and as ever and as so often we are the only foreigners.


Wiesje her back gives her a lot of trouble another reason for us to do nothing challenging. By ten o'clock we slander to the city, most of the shops are still closed. The street is a half meter lower than the sidewalk. The latter is half open at the front side and underneath it runs the drainage canal. Men clean it, they crawl through the outlet and threw the waste on the street. There it is shovelled in a barrow. In the silversmith area they inspect the rubbish careful.

According to our guidebook there is a big ceremonial carrot near the palace. We cannot find it and nobody knows anything about it. Alwar has a winding bazaar with a lot of markets and shops. Most of them stay closed so it is not so lively as it could be. Also our restaurant is closed, so we have dinner in a bar.

Delhi 18 March

We pay the bill and the hotel boys arrange a cycle rickshaw for each of us. As we take off one boy runs after me, again I forgot to take my stick. At the station we hear that the train is half an hour late. A porter stays with us, he hopes to carry our luggage and a young man asks if he can practice his English with us. We sit with them on a bench and after some time more then 15 men gather around us. As everyone's curiosity is satisfied they disappear. The last one is the porter and he is so nice to tell us where our wagon will stop.

After a quit journey we arrive in Delhi Canton and a taxi brings us for 200 rs to hotel Airport Inn. During our previous trip the roads around Mahipalpur were still under construction, now it is a smooth trip. At three o'clock we are in our room, just as previous year for 1500 rs.
After lunch in a luxury restaurant we check in for our plane and buy some more shirts. The neighbouring street with the market is a victim of the modernisation. The street is a mess, new houses are build and the market is in garages beneath them.
We have dinner in the same fancy restaurant, this time there is music. We have just finished reading the White Tiger and some people behave like Mr Ashok.

Back to Netherlands
Thursday 19 - 20 March
At eight o'clock the taxi is there. For 200 rs it brings us to the airport. Needless to say that again I almost forget my stick. Of course I'm not allowed to take it in the cabin, it gets a label and follows the suit-case.
Neatly on time the plane takes off at a quarter to eleven. Three and a half hour later we are in Dubai. An hour later the plane to Düsseldorf departs where we arrive a half hour before midnight Indian time.

But here it is just seven pm. We are pretty surprised that my walking-stick has survived the trip. We buy train-tickets to Groningen and walk to the platform. There we see that from another platform we can take and earlier train and we go for it. As the train leaves I realize that my stick still stands on the first platform.
We need to change three times but all trains are in time and just after one o'clock in the morning we arrive in Groningen.
For the last 20 km we take a taxi. In India I always sit next to the driver and intend to do that again. But out of habit I take the left seat and the driver asks if I will take over his job. After a journey of in total 22 hours we are back in our house.

The first night we can hardly sleep and it takes quit a long period before we have back our Dutch routine.
From Mumbai to Delhi
Date Posted: Jan 2nd, 2011 at 01:49 - Comments (2)
Mumbai-Dehli in three months

Wednesday 3 – 1 2007; Netherlands - India
It is ten o'clock in the morning and we are about to leave for our 90 days trip to India. We are Jan and Wies from the Netherlands born in 1943 and it is our third trip to India. In 1982 we went with our children for three weeks and in 2005 the two of us were there for 6 weeks.
We fly to Mumbai and rent a car at the airport to Pune, we have train tickets for Bijapur. From there our plan is to go by Hampi and Tirupati to Visakhapatnam. We have booked a tour through Orissa which starts there and ends in Bhubaneswar. Next we go to the other side of the country until we reach Jodhpur and then to Delhi from where we fly back to home.

the route
From the north of the Netherlands we go by train to Amsterdam and fly with BA to London and further on to Mumbai.

Thursday 4 – 1; Mumbai - Pune
With a little delay we arrive in Mumbai after a quiet flight, it is about noon as we pass the custom. In 1982 we also arrived at this airport and of course it is totally changed. During that trip we have seen enough of Mumbai so now we go directly to Pune. We know there is a good bus connection but to avoid all problems we have decided to rent a car at the airport. We find this services on the airport and they have fixed prizes. Wies starts to negotiate and gets a 500 rs. discount, so the price becomes 3300 rs.
We go at once and after s short ride through the outskirts we leave Mumbai. There is a real high-way to Pune and after a stop for chai and the first of an innumerable number of water bottles, we arrive there about 5 o'clock. We go to Homeland, on their internet-side it looks as a nice hotel but it is disappointing. Since we are tired after a trip of 26 hours we don't want to look further and stay their for the night, it costs 900 rs.

near the station
We walk around in the neighbourhood and go to a restaurant for dinner. They don't have a beer-permit so we buy some bottles in a shop and drink it in our room. This will become a nearly daily routine.

Friday 5 - 1; Pune.
In the hotel hot water is only available until nine so we have to wake up in time. Then we go looking for another hotel. After a few minutes we find National where they have a three person cottage for 625 rs. It is very basic but we can sit in the garden and that is a wonderful idea. So we go back, check out and walk to our new shelter.

Hotel garden
The railway station is nearby and there is also an Internet connection. The tickets for the first trips we have bought at home and here I buy the train-guide. We are still tired, look around a little and stay with a book and plenty of water in the garden.
When we are going out for diner I'm not hungry an when the meal arrives I get sick and can leave the restaurant just in time. I walk back to the hotel and afterwards as Wies has finished her meal I have already gone to bed.

Saturday 6 – 1; Pune
After a bad night I feel better but sleep a lot during the day, the rest of the time we sit in the garden. We have bought a sandwich bread and jam and while we make our own coffee it is just like a picknick.
To-morrow we will really start with our trip, the first destination is Bijapur. Since we want to travel by daylight and don't want to start early we have split this journey in two legs and stay one night in Solapur.

Sunday 7 – 1; Pune - Solapur
We have all the time since our train leaves about noon. The station is nearby so we can walk to it with our two back-packs, a day-pack and a flight bag. Everyone at the station is very helpful and so we are soon at the spot where our sleeper-class wagon must stop. The hotel-manager comes after us because I have taken the key with me.
The train is just a little late and together with us a school class we go on board. We have our own seats but the boys sit around us with two or three in one seat. And just as on a school trip at home they start with eating and offer us food to.

They hardly speak English but after they have found their English teacher he can act as an interpreter and we can talk together, they go for four days to Mysore and Ooty.
In the corridor it is busy with vendors of fruit, chai and water, there are also beggars and some of them perform a trick before they ask for money.
At four we arrive in Solapur and for 1200 rs we get a suite at hotel Pastham. We walk around a little and have a nice diner in the garden.

Monday 8 – 1; Solapur - Bijapur
This night Wies gets the Delhi belly but fortunately she is able to travel on and at 8.30 we are at the station. The train has more than a hour delay and is somewhat older than yesterday. But we have plenty of room with just an Indian couple with us, she is constant sleeping, he doesn't say a word. There are just a few vendors and a boy who is earning money by sweeping the train. The land around us becomes dryer and dryer, in the wells you can see how low the soil water is.
The train speeds up and by noon we are in Bijapur where we take a rickshaw to hotel Samnat. For 350 rs we have a fair room and stay just opposite the Gol Gumbaz.

In the afternoon we make a walk in the neighbourhood around the hotel. The schools are finished and we have a lot of children walking with us asking what's your name, where are you from without waiting for an answer.

Before the Gol Gumbaz
We have dinner on the roof terrace of our hotel, it is so dark that we need to go a lamp to read the menu. It is cheerless and the food is not very tasteful but that is also due to our condition.

Tuesday 9 – 1; Bijapur
I have slept well and I'm healthy again but Wies is still tired. The breakfast in the restuarant consists of idli's and wadi's not our favourites, I take some and Wies drinks only coffee. Fortunately we have still some bread and jam and eat that in our room.
I take a rickshaw and go to the city, it is very lively and there are no foreign tourists. As a result there are no touts so you can wander around quietly. I go the markets and climb a few fortresses with big cannons, by noon it is getting hot and I go back to the hotel.

That is situated on the main road. From our room we have a view on a smaller road, the people there are busy by manufacturing brooms from palm-leaves.

Wies still does not want to go out and so when it cools down I go for a walk to the station and in the streets around the hotel. There is nothing special to see but I love to see how the people live here. The schools are finished and all the kids ask me for my name, it is the only English sentence they know.
For our dinner we go to a hotel , a few minutes walking down the road, here we can eat in the garden.

Wednesday 10 – 1; Bijapur
After a good night sleep we leave our laundry at the hotel-desk and walk again to the next hotel for our breakfast because there they have toast with jam.
Then we go across the street to the Gol Gumbar, an enormous mausoleum. As foreigners we have to register with our name, address etc. Through one of the towers you can climb to a gallery at 33 meter hight. It is a narrow stairs with high steps. Halfway I go back and Wies hasn't even tried it.
Next we take a rickshaw to the market, we wander around, everyone is friendly and asks from which country we are. From a merchant I get some peanuts.
By nightfall we go again to the market area. It is nice but not as colourful as we expected.
We eat on the terrace of our own hotel. In the dark a bus stops by the now closed Gol Gumbar. Everyone comes out and looks through the gate, many are peeing against the wall around the monument.

Thursday 11 – 1; Bijapur
This morning we make a city tour with a horse and carriage for 250 rs. It is a bumpy ride along the many impressive monuments of the sultan period but a wonderful way to explore the city.

To-morrow we leave for Badami and we go to the tourist-offices to find out which is the best way to get there. There is an early bus but that can be very crowded so the easiest way is to hire a car. The taxi-stand is opposite the office and Wies negotiates with a group of ten drivers and after some arguing she reaches a fair price of 1200 rs.
After a walk through another part of the city we return to our hotel. We diner again in the hotel garden. In a store we buy some beer and drink it as usual on our room.

Friday 12 - 1; Bijapur - Badami
The driver is early, he needs money to buy fuel. In the meantime we have breakfast and by ten we are leaving for Badami.
The roads are in good condition and there is not much traffic. In the beginning the surroundings are barren but later on there is a big artificial lake so there is much agriculture. After a cup of chai in one of the villages we are passing it is one o'clock when we arrive in Badmi. It is a little difficult to find the hotel of KTDC, and then there is no room available, but after some talking with the manager we can get one with a defect shower.
During the lunch a group of about fifty children arrive. They are very disciplined and in half an hour they have finished their meal and cleaned the dishes. Then they have time to make contact with us, it is difficult because no one speaks English. Afterwards the cook asks us if the meal was good, it was all-right, and by him we arrange a car for to-morrow so we can make a trip to Aihole and Pattaddakal.

When there is a power-cut we leave the hotel and go to the town. Badami is a small place build against a rock-face with a main street, a few side roads and a small centre.

Before the caves
It is a busy but nice town. Our hotel is at the end of the city and from there you can easily walk on the country-side which I do, alongside the road there are farms and the people are doing their daily routines. By six o'clock it is dark and by a candle-light we drink our evening beer.

Saturday 13 – 1; Badami
We have to pay separate for the breakfast and since the waiter has no change we get a free bottle of water.
We leave at eight, the car before the hotel is not ours but the driver brings us to to taxi-stand. There waits our driver, a nice man with an old Ambassador. We go by small roads through the country side and little villages. The trip on its own is very lovely, it is a green fertile environment. After an hour we arrive at Aihole. The remainings of the old seventh century capital are scattered al over the village.

There are so many of them that some of the ruins are used by the locals as a living. The important temple groups have a fence around them and for the biggest one you have to pay for the visit. It is early and there are few visitors.

The next stop is Pattadakal an enormous temple complex, a young man makes drawings from the statues and Wies gets one from him.

The last visit is to the temple of Mahakoota, to be honest we have seen enough for one day so we don't stay to long there.

Inside Mahakoota
One o'clock we are back and in the afternoon I go to the caves of Badami. In contrast with the places we visited this morning it is very crowded with many buses with tourists and I restrict myself to looking to the crowds. Around the nearby lake it is more quiet.

Our plan is to leave here on Monday to go to Hampi. Since we are not sure if we will like it to stay in the small guest houses in the village we have decided to take a hotel in Kamalapur. The manager of our hotels has phoned them but the KTDC hotel there is full and so we stay another day in Badami.
At evening we go to the town for dinner and end up in a busy restaurant where they have a separate room for women and white tourists. The waiters are surprised that we don't want to eat in there. In the other dining room there are only men, and everyone is looking at us. It is noisy and you can notice that they sell liquor here but we have a fine dinner.

Sunday 14 – 1; Badimi
This morning we transfer to a room with a working shower, in the first one we had to wash ourselves with a bucket above the Indian style toilet. After we have installed ourselves we walk to the town for some e-mailing. Then we go the lake and sit there just looking at the people. Many women are washing the clothes and children are bathing together with their dogs. There are water-bikes to hire but no one uses them.

Against the hills that surround the lake are statues of people and scenes in the different stages of the evolution of mankind, they are nice and so realistic that later on our video it looks like you see living people. We start to walk around the lake but halfway there is a rocky part so we go back to the centre of Badami. There we have the lunch and go to the hotel for a lazy afternoon.

Monday 15 – 1; Badami
I'm awake early and go to the cave temples. It is quiet on the street before the hotel and people are sleeping near their shops. In the centre the water from the lake is flushing through the open drains and everyone use it for cleaning and fills buckets with water.

By the caves there are a few visitors. There is a sign warning against the monkeys and that is necessary. Two men leave their shoes before entering a temple, a monkey takes one of the shoes and sits with it on a nearby rock. The man looks for his shoe, discovers it and goes to the animal. You can see at his gestures that he politely asks the monkey for his shoe, he even makes a bow, but no luck. Some times later the shoe is thrown to a group of scholars.
On the outside of the temples there are all kind of statues, on the inside there is not so much to see but from the terraces you have a fantastic view over the city and its surroundings.

After a late breakfast we go to the market together. We always thought that the farmers are selling their own products there but here we watch that wholesalers sell the vegetables to the market vendors. Porters carry huge sacks of onions and other products. They empty them partly so the market women can inspect the contents. The woman start to bid and there is a market master who records the transactions. If the wholesaler has sold all his merchandise the whole group goes to the next one, except the women who succeeded to buy. They hire other porters to carry away the sacks which are as big as these men.

Chai stall
It is warm, about 30º C. and in a stall we buy a cup of chai and some snacks. Then we walk further on through the back-streets of this lovely village. A young family asks if we want to take a picture if their baby, we get their address so we can send it to them after our trip.

For the lunch we go to a busy family restaurant. A little girl is peeing between the tables, her family is so busy that they don't notice it.
By two o'clock we are back in the hotel, by nightfall the driver for tomorrow shows up and we agree a price of 5 rs. for a km, so the trip will cost us 1600 rs.

Tuesday 16 -1; Badami – Hampi (Kamalapur)
It is nine o'clock when we leave. At first he roads are small but later on we take the bigger roads, they are in good condition. Everywhere around us are big rocks, so to see the remainders of old mountains. By the restaurant where we stop for a chai is a nursery for tomatoes and peppers, they are protected by foils against the dust. The last part of the trip we drive on the busy road to Bangalore and arrive so in Hospet. From there it is not far and about one o'clock we arrive in Kamalapur.

For those who are not familiar with this place a short explanation. The reason people come here are the ruins of Vijayanagara. Hampi is a small village with many guest houses that is situated in the centre of it and Kamalapur lies next to the site. After a walk of ten minutes you reach the first ruins.
Apart from the KTDC hotel there is not much to do here. The first night we have a 1200 rs. AC room, later we will move to another room. Our room is good, the dining room is cheerless, but the waiters are nice.

Wednesday 17 - 1; Hampi
We leave our luggage at the desk so they can transfer it to the new room and of course at first nobody knows anything about this arrangement.
Then we go the village and rent two bikes for 5 rs. an hour. The one that I get is reasonable but Wies has one with big bolts and nuts to fix the saddle. It is difficult to ride on them and the terrain is hilly so when it climbs we often have to walk.

From the main-road we turn off into the first country-road and soon we are in the middle of the impressive remainders, the whole scenery is overwhelming. But our path disappears after a while and so we have to walk and arrive after a while in the middle of a banana plantation. As we leave it we are at the back of the elephant stables and want to take a rest under a tree. Alas this is a part off one of the sites for which you have to pay an entry-fee. We are here illegal and a guard sends us away. He walks after us until we are outside the gate. Since we already had decided to visit this places in a more comfortable way, we go further on our bikes.
We visit many but not all off the ruins and after a while we are back on the main road. From there we go in the direction of Hampi but the entrance road to the village is to steep for us and the bikes so we drive back and at one o'clock the trip is over. Wies her bottom hurts from the big screws in the saddle.

The luggage is in our new room. The hotel consists of apartments which each consists off two rooms and in front of it you can sit. And that's what we do for the rest of the day apart from some shopping for beer and water.

Thursday 18 - 1; Hampi
We have decided to leave from here on Sunday, the next stop will be Tirupati and we have to buy train-tickets. Since we also need cash we take the bus and go to Hospet. The bus stand is a few minutes away from the hotel and the bus arrives soon. At first there are not many passengers but that alters soon, the guard whistles when the driver must stop and when he can start again. Then he sells the tickets, for us that is 14 rs each.
At the train station we find the reservation desk and buy the tickets. Since we take an overnight-train we want to travel 2-AC, with our old-age discount we pay about 1000 rs. We are number 3 / 4 on the waiting list so we are not sure if we can leave.

We wander through the city, it is untidy and not very attractive. After the lunch with a delightful dhosa we go back to to bus station. It is half past two and this time there are not many passengers.
It is sugar cane harvest time and on the road there all kind of trucks and ox wagons overfilled with cane this because there is a sugar factory nearby. On a rail-road crossing this causes a traffic jam but after a while our bus can go further.

Friday 19 - 1; Hampi
Today we go for an extended visit to the remainders of Vijayanagara and hire a rickshaw. After a negotiation with a good English speaking driver we agree to pay 400 rs. for the whole day. It is a pity but it turns out that he is not our driver, he made this agreement for the driver witch is in front of the row and our new man speaks hardly a word English.
The first place we visit is the Vitalla temple, to go inside there is fee of 500 rs. This ticket is also valid for the Lotus Mahal, for the rest it is a free visit.

This is a wonderful temple complex which lays somewhat apart from the other monuments, after we have looked at it we drive back and go to the terrain that we visited earlier on out bike.

What you see is impossible to describe everywhere are remainders of palaces and temples in a barren and rough landscape. It is unrealistic with hills and large boulders which look if they could tumble down at any time. There are smaller hills of stones in which we recognizes the remainings of sculptures. This is one of those places you never forget.
We drive from monument to monument leave the rickshaw visit the place and go further. After some hours we arrive in Hampi, the rickshaw has to stay on the parking place outside the village.
The driver goes with us and guides us to the big Virupaksha temple we stay a while on the inner-court. We don't go inside, it is two o'clock and we want to lunch. I guess the driver is afraid that we will disappear without paying and he stays close to us. As we promise to be on the parking place at half past three he goes away reluctantly.

There are a lot of restaurant and we go to one with a rooftop. It is a nice place to sit, the preparation of our food takes some time but it is very tasteful.
After this long lunch we do have less then an hour to wander around and that is to short. As we walk to the car the driver is waiting on the street.
At four we are back in the hotel, there we meet some quit old archaeologist from Gujarat. This is their first visit and I wonder how they cope with the rough terrain.

Saturday 20 - 1; Hampi
Since we had so little time in Hampi yesterday we are going back to-day. At half past nine we are at the bus stop. Many buses are passing by but we have to wait an hour for one that goes to Hampi.
On the way to the river-crossing, our first goal, we are passing a shop where they sell rings. Wies is looking for a snake-ring since a long time and here they have them. The one she likes is 800 rs. but as first customer etc. she gets it at last for 500.
I want to cross the river with a cornacle but they are replaced by a motor ship, that is the modern improvement, so we skip the ferry. We wander around the small streets, drink a chai and walk along the large main road to the end of the village. I climb to steps and go further over a rocky path and then below me lays a big temple.

Together we go to the river another majestic place. Here we find the cornacles, now you can hire one for a trip up and down the river, we don't do it and keep walking.
In the Mango tree restaurant we take the lunch, it is a fantastic place to sit and relax and afterwards we take the bus again and go back.

River bank

Sunday 21 – 1; Kamalapur – Hospet
Our train leaves at 22.00 hour so we have a lot of spare time today. We take a long breakfast in the garden of the hotel, pay the bill and order a rickshaw which brings us to the station. There we put our luggage in the cloak room. On the IRTC internet site we have seen that we are now on top of the waiting list. We go to the reservation office and ask them if they know more but there is no new information, they tell us to come back at two.
So again we walk around in Hospet, visit the market, have a lunch and as we are back on the station the reservation counter is closed because it is Sunday.

On the station the ticket collector assures us that it will be all-right but that he knows it for sure by nine o'clock. We stay some time on the platform, there are many people with a lot of luggage and it is amazing how everyone gets into the train, of course the second class is overcrowded.
After a while we are going back to the city and stay a while at the bus station. On the roof off one the buses, apart from the standard luggage, they load some bikes, an car for a disabled person and a lot of passengers. The bus is apparently so over-crowded that some of the passengers leave it.
We have dinner and return to the station. Happily our tickets are confirmed. There is a German teacher who takes the same train and he and Wies go regular outside the station to smoke a cigarette. Half past ten the train arrives, we get our bedding-rolls, talk a while with our fellow-passengers and then we try to sleep on our lower berths.

Monday 22 – 1; Hospet - Tirupati
Our companions wake up at three and and leave an hour later so we don't sleep very much. At seven it is light outside and we can get a cup of chai. The breakfast consists of wadi's and idli's wrapped in a banana leaf.
At nine we arrive in Tirupati and walk to hotel Bhimas which is close to the station. The clean room has a reasonable size, is situated at a dark corridor and and we cannot see anything from the window but what else can one expect for 325 rs. We always drink black coffee but they don't have it, that is our biggest problem.

Tirupati itself is an ordinary India town but crowded with pilgrims on their way to Tirumala. At the station there is an office from the APTDC. Of course it is lunchtime when we arrive there but at three it is open and we book a bus trip for tomorrow For 300 rs. each we shall visit five temples around Tirupati but not the one in Tirumala. While we are at the station we also purchase train-tickets to Nellore for Friday.
We have a fantastic diner in a small restaurant opposite the station. For beer you have to go to special wine shops where they sell all kinds of liquor.

Tuesday 23 – 1; Tirupati
Since they don't have toast for breakfast we bought bread and jam yesterday. As for the coffee, for situations like this we have our own powder coffee and a water-boiler with us. But bad luck, the plug does not fit so no coffee, just water.
At half pas eight we go to the APTDC office and together with a Nepalese couple they put us in a rickshaw which brings us to a travel-agency at the other end of the town. The bus arrives and we leave with a group of about twenty persons. We are the only westerners and the nice guide takes ample time to explain everything to us. For most of the temples we have to pay some extra so we don't have to wait in the long queues.

The first temple we visit is the Kapliewara in the outskirts of the town. We leave our shoes in the bus, that saves time and money but our feet are burning after the walk on the hot asphalt. There is a large crowd of pilgrims, they have to wait between fences while we are directly guided to the sanctuaries. Everywhere there is music and there is much light in this temple. In one of the buildings that we pass the priests are counting large stocks of money, it may be disrespectful but it reminds me of Dagobert Duck. The idols of the gods are deep in the temple covered with flowers and everywhere are fires. The priests perform the rituals in a fast way and we are just looking, more or less overwhelmed. On the way out everyone gets some rice, it don't like the taste of it.

Next we drive to the temple in Kanipakam, I want to be smart and keep my socks on. But alas you must enter here through a water basin so now my socks are wet. In total we visit five temples and although we write down our impressions as soon as we are back in the hotel even then the details were not clear to us.
We drive through a very varying scenery from one place to another. For us this is also a part of the trip, while our fellow-travellers are sleeping. On a restaurant with a terrace alongside the road we stop for the lunch and then we go on, the most remote temple is 70 km from Tirupati.

The last temple that we visit is at Srikalahasti and for me the most impressive one. We walk through narrow corridors and that gives the impression that we walk in a cave. I can imagine that in the old days this is the way the temples of Hampi looked like. In this temple they worship various goddess and for everyone there are different ceremonies. On the fore-court the temple elephant gives his blessings, here we are allowed to film.
At six we are back in the town, tired but with a head full of impressions. Groups of pilgrims walk singing through the streets.
We have diner, take a beer and go to sleep early.

Wednesday 24 – 1; Tirupati
Today we don't have any special plans and take our time. About eleven we go an internet-café opposite the station. It is at the back off a small shop and and a girl of about ten years old turns the computers on. There are no letters left on the keyboard but happily Wies can type blindly. It is a very slow connection so I cannot go to the IRTC-railway site.

Afterwards we wander through the city and do some shopping in a super-market. Tomorrow we go to Tirumula, the men at the APTDC office tells us that the buses leave before the station, of course you can walk up the hill but we are not that fanatic.
The best thing of the day is that we find a restaurant where they serve black coffee. Tonight we have dinner in another large restaurant where the rats walk along the wall but no one pays any attention to this. While we walk back the personnel of the wine-shops wave as if we are old friends. The same applies for the people of the restaurant that we visited yesterday. It is logical that everyone recognise us since we have not seen any other westerner these days.

Thursday 25 – 1; Tirupati - Tirumula
We have discovered that by day-time mice are using our bed, in the evening they sit behind the window fence and by night we just hear them squeaking.
Today we go to Tirumula by bus, the ticket counter is next to the station and the bus stands opposite the road and leaves as we take the last seats. After a ride through the town we stop on a enormous parking-place and there again is a ticket-seller and a security-officer. He examines our day-pack but we don't have any contraband. Then we drive for half an hour up hill on a winding road and it is a good thing that this is a one-way road. Our bus is not that fast and is continuously overtaken by other vehicles. As so often the views are wonderful. Our bus stops in a neighbourhood of hostels and as everyone leaves we follow the crowd but they disappear in taxis and we are left behind.

We hear the sound of music, walk towards it and soon we arrive at the shops and market around the temple. Of course they sell many caps for the protection of the clean shaven heads.

By the stairs we walk down to the terrain around the temple, it is crowded and there is the constant sound of holy hymns. Big canvasses are erected under which people are sitting, praying or sleeping. The temple elephants are coming followed by a deity on a throne surrounded by priests. It all stands on a platform carried by a large number of men. Professional crews are making pictures and we shoot them, bystanders tell us that we have luck because today this is a special ceremonial day.
Around the temple is a wide path with steps which we use as a stand and sit down on it. Before us there is a constant procession of groups of pilgrims. Each group has his own singers, musicians and flags, it feels as if we are part of a fairy-tale. We sit and walk there for some hours and enjoy everything we see. In the afternoon the deity is carried again around the temple.

The rows for the darshan is extremely long and we have no need to join them. It is incredible how quit the people are waiting behind the fences.
Later when we go back, by a road with many hairpins, we see the pilgrims footpath, it is nearly empty now.
When we started our India trip we had a general idea of the route but for the Orissa part we made an arrangement with a travel agent and therefore we must be in Visakhapatnam on the fifth of February. For safety we bought e-tickets for different days to reach this city. Now, since our plans are more concrete, I want to cancel the superfluous tickets. Finding an internet-café is harder then the cancellation itself.

Friday 26 – 1; Tirupati – Nellore
At nine we walk to the station, we have plenty of time and I use it to buy the tickets for our next journey to Vijayawada on Monday. Since our train starts from here we can get aboard soon. We have the side-berths, the other places are occupied by a family that has been on pilgrimage. In no time all of them are asleep.

The train leaves in time and after a nice ride of a few hours we arrive at half past one in Nellore.

Our plan is to take a somewhat luxury hotel, but these are all booked up and we end up in a similar den as we had the previous nights. A bonus is that here is a laundry services.
We have two reasons for a stay in Nellore. We want to go to the beach and there is a pelican sanctuary in the neighbourhood. The latter is a ride of more then 90 km, we find that to far away and skip it. The hotel-staff tells us there is a bus to the beach Maipadu and the station is direct behind the hotel.

There on the information-office no one speaks English but a couple of boys tell us that we have to go to another bus station. We don't understand in which direction we have to go and they write a note in Teluga for us. As we walk further some good English speaking students start to talk with us. After some chatting we tell them our problem and they bring us to the bus station, a sandy ground behind a fruit-market. After a while we say goodbye to our guides, look around in the city and then walk back to the hotel. There is a power cut and the rooms are so dark that we have to sit in the hall if we want to read something. Another bad thing is that we cannot find a beer shop. All these things together make that we decide to leave on Sunday and I go to station and change the tickets.

For diner we take a rickshaw to Mayuri restaurant and enjoy a good meal. As we walk back we encounter a market with a fun fair. It is nice to go to it, there are all kind of attractions, much music and we are more or less the top event. Especially Wies when she takes a large candy floss.

Saturday 27 – 1; Nellore
There are no sheets on the bed so we have to sleep under our own fleece blankets. Also there is no breakfast so we are self supporting once again. At nine we go to market and then to the bus station. There is no information desk, and we ask the bus drivers, which now and then arrive, if they are going to Maipadu, but no one goes in that direction. Together with other passengers we sit sociable under a roof of palm leaves, wait and exchange sweets. A fair English speaking man sits next to us, and he takes over our enquiries. We get the impression that he also goes to Maipadu. Father David, as he introduces himself, is connected with the Anglican church. After nearly two hours waiting and asking everyone the general conclusion is that something has changed and that we have to go to yet another bus stop.

Bus station
Together with father David we go there and as we don't see the bus immediate we take for 130 rs a rickshaw. In the meantime we understand that the father helps us just out of kindness. The rickshaw is quite large so the three of us sit in the back together. On the way the driver sees two young woman with a baby and he takes them also in the car. When he wants to take yet more people Wies yells 'no' and he obeys.

It is a nice ride through a landscape with many fish-pounds, coconut trees, rice and banana fields. At the beach we say goodbye to father David and thank him for his aid.
For us it is strange that there are no dunes between the land and the sea. The latter is just a few metres below the inner land. And also odd is that there are no seagulls, just a few crows. A row of new fisher boats lays on the beach, by the inscriptions it is clear that they are donated after the tsunami. The remainders of the old vessels are also still there.
It is a nice quite beach, we walk along the waterline and sit in the sand. A few people are taking a bath in the sea. A fisherman is working with a big net, he has some fishes and buries them in the sand. Then he takes the net with him and swims far into the see for his next attempt. It is quite relaxing to spend here some hours.

There is a small stall where we buy something to drink and in the afternoon we take a rickshaw and go back. It is good that we missed the bus because that stops in the village which is a few kilometres from the beach.

Back in the hotel the lady next door comes to our room and offers us some fruit. She keeps talking but knows just a few English words. Later on her daughter, who speaks very good English, and her husband arrive and we go to their room. More people arrive and since there are only two chairs they sit on the bed. About nine o'clock we go to our own room.

Sunday 28 – 1; Nellore – Vijayawada
Our trains starts at half past twelve so we have all the time of the world. As we arrive at the station the first thing we hear is that the train has a delay of four hours. There are other trains to Vijayawada but then we have to take the unreserved class and that is so overcrowded that we decide to wait. They regular announce that the railway company is very sorrow that our super-fast train is delayed. At last it arrives at six, more than 5½ late. Although there is always much to see at the stations this is just too long to be nice.
Since we could not get a proper meal at the station we are glad that we can have dinner in the train, for 35 rs we get rice, two gravies and some chappati's, it is not really tasteful. What still shocks us that everyone throws the foil packing out the window and finds that normal. We do the same but feel uncomfortable with it.

At ten o'clock we are in Vijayawada, the better hotels don't have any vacancies and we end in a lodge for 400 rs. This time there are no windows, no chairs and no hot water but there is a beer-shop next door.

Monday 29 – 1; Vijayawada
For our breakfast we we go to one of the more costly hotels in the neighbourhood. That one has still not a room for us but in the nearby Manorama we can get a room of 1200 rs on the 7tth floor. It is a luxe suite with large windows and a view over the city.
I sleep a lot because I don't feel so well, it's a mild attack of the Delhi Belly. In the afternoon we walk to a part of the city where there are a lot of shops with luxe, modern articles.

Tuesday 30 – 1; Vijayawada
Annex to the hotel is a travel agency and we ask there for some information of places we can visit in Vijayawada but there is nobody who speaks English. With the help of the receptionist of the hotel we discover how we can make it to Bhavani Island.

Bhavani Island
We take a rickshaw to the jetty and for 40 rs. we cross the lake. I have read somewhere that the island is a nice place to relax with a boating-club and the opportunity to walk around. But in reality there is a restaurant by the landing-stage and some apartments with paths around it. The rest of the island is blocked with bramble-bush. Further there is place where you can buy chips and lemonade and climbing-ropes for the younger ones. We sit a while and look at all the vessels that pass.
Back on the main land we go to the APTDC tourist office at the station but this is closed since it is a holiday.

Wednesday 31 – 1; Vijayawada
Today we want to go to Kondapalli, a village where the inhabitants make wooden toys. This time there is an English speaking man in the travel agency and we arrange a car for 500 rs and also one for tomorrow when we want to go around to the Undavalli Caves and Ameravati, that costs 900 rs.
Soon our driver arrives, he doesn't speak a word English and gets his instructions from the travel-agent. First we drive on a quit motor-highway but then we turn off into the hilly country. These hills may not be that high but the road goes steep up and is in a bad condition. After half an hour we find ourselves amazed at the feet of a huge fort. Lucky enough there is someone who speaks English and explains us that this is the fort of Kondapalli and that later on we will go to the village, it is all part of the package.

In the fort is also a museum with pictures and drawings of all the forts in Andra Pradesh. Further you can walk around in the remainders of this extended, 600 years old, fort. Beneath us we see the village
We go back over the same road, drive around the hills and in the village we take a sandy road and at the end we see the fort above us. Here are the shops where they sell the toys. Around it are the men busy making the toys and deities. Wies asks a shop owner how they make them and we get a detailed explanation. Everyone has his own task, from cutting the rough parts to assembling the puppets while other men paint them. Of course we buy something and take all the time to look around.

In Vijayawada we let us drop at the Kaleshwara Rao market in an older part of the city. This is a more friendly and cosy part then the more modern neighbourhood of our hotel.
Back in the hotel the travel agent comes with the bill, it is more than the 500 rs that we agreed before because we made more kilometres. Since we did not make any agreements about that we refuse to pay the extra and he accepts it. We also tell him that for tomorrow we insist on an English speaking driver.

Thursday 1 – 2; Vijayawada
At ten we go to travel-agency. The agent suggests some more places, besides those we select. We accept his suggestions and will see where we are going. The driver, who indeed speaks very good English. arrives and after we have paid for the petrol he goes to the Kanakadurga temple at the edge of the city.
Our minds are still full of all the temples we have seen in the last weeks so we decide not to go inside and just walk around. One of the temple guards sees us and we have hardly a choice, he takes us to the entrance for the special darshan and insists that we go inside. It is an electronic wired gate and makes all kinds of alarms since we have our day-pack with the camera and so on our back but we can go in. We follow our own path along the waiting queues and in no time we stand in front of deity and the priests with their ceremonies. In this temple there are more deities that you can worship but we skip that and go outside. Our driver does not believe that we were inside being back so quickly.

Over the Prakasam barrage our journey brings us to the Mogalarajpuram cave, first through the small village and then up the hill. It is a small temple and for the main cave stands a row of pilgrims but we climb the stairs to the upper caves and enjoy the view.
Since there is an interesting story about the deity of this cave we want to go inside and are looking for the special darshan entrance. Of course no one speaks English here and as we see a board saying tickets for 50 rs we think that this is what we are looking for but that is not the case. As the priest understands what we want we get half of our money back and another priest takes us, against the walking direction of the pilgrims, into the cave. In this temple the ceremony is done for a group of pilgrims together and we join them. They worship a deity who got, as a reward, all the food of the world and he was so holy that he returns half of it to mankind. The priest puts water and food on the head of his statue and in a hole in the wall. When this overflows all the pilgrims get a part of this.

From here it is not far to the Undavalli caves. These are old Buddhist caves but there are also beautiful statues for Hindu gods. When I am on top of it I have a fantastic view over the agricultural environment.

Through this scenery we drive in a hour to Ameravati, also on the Krishna river. First we and the driver want to lunch and when I want to pay he has already taken care of that. Around lunchtime the temple is closed, and to be honest, we don't mind. Now we have plenty of time to walk along the river. Young women are walking through the water looking for oysters and around them children are swimming. A lot of boats sail over the river.

Afterwards we go to a square where workers are erecting an enormous Buddha statue and then to the museum with the remainders of the big stupa.
By a one-way road on the dike along the Krishna river we drive back. We are around 3 meter above the surroundings and over the tops of the banana trees we see the river, it is fantastic, just as the rest of this day.

Friday 2 – 2; Vijayawada – Visakhapatnam
It is a travel day again and at nine we are at the station. Next to us stands a family also bounded for Visakhapatnam and we chat together. The train arrives about ten, half an hour late, and just before it rolls in there is an announcement that we have to go to another platform.

We share our compartment with three Indians in western clothes and a Frenchman dressed up like an Indian monk. He sits on the bank with crossed legs, falls asleep and nearly tumbles down.
At a station the three men are replaced by an older Indian couple in traditional clothes. Their family has other seats and as we move on they all come to our compartment. Finally we are with twelve people on the eight seats.

It is around five o'clock that we, with an hour delay, arrive in Visakhapatnam. As usual we selected some hotels from our guide-book but these are all booked up and the other ones in the same streets are above our budget. The rickshaw driver says he knows a good hotel and brings us to Hotel Prince. It is fine, the room-price is 670 rs. and it is close to the centre.

First I go to an internet-café and mail to Jahir, the owner of Adventure Holidays & Tours, our travel agency for Orissa. So he knows where he can pick us up on Monday. For dinner we find a bar-restaurant where we can get beer by our tasteful rice with shrimps.

Saturday 3 – 2; Visakhapatnam
For today we don't have any special plans and after breakfast in our room we go to the office of the tourist organisation of Andhra Pradesh and ask them if they organize day-trips. We decide for the tour to the Araku valley, a combination of train and bus. It starts tomorrow at six o'clock at the train station.

Then we take a rikshaw and let us drop at the Ramakrishna Beach. It is not a very wide strand along it runs a boulevard with high buildings. At the beginning of the beach there are some stalls for food and drinks and around it are some people. As we walk along the sea we hardly see anybody and in contrast with our Northsea beaches there are no seagulls and few shells. Well we see a lot remainders of flower garlands. On the beach is a museum of war ships, including a nuclear submarine.

Between the rocks men are catching crabs and other see-animals . One approaches us with two fresh see-hedgehogs. He cleans one of them and for 10 rs we buy the skeleton. Three buses stop on the road and all the occupants, grown-ups and children, run yelling to the sea. Probably it is the first time that the see it.

We eat something at the stalls on the beach, it tastes likes the surroundings, dry and sandy, even the street-dogs don't like it. Then we go back to the hotel.
So tomorrow we have an early start and we make some arrangements for this. The man at the hotel desk promises to wake us at five and he also shall arrange transport to the station.

Sunday 4 – 2; Visakhapatnam
It is good that we set our alarm at five because the hotel-boy does not wake us. When we are downstairs a rickshaw driver, who sleeps in has car, is wakened and drives us to the station, the streets are very empty. All over the station hall people are sleeping on the floor, we walk careful between them and go to the office of the APTDC. As it opens we get our tickets and the man tells us by which train we travel. With the aid of some Indian fellow travellers we locate it. We sit in a second-class carriage with wooden benches and closed shutters.

This compartment is reserved for the APTDC trip, someone sends the other passengers away. At seven the train starts and we get a breakfast of idli's, wadi's and a bottle of water. Soon we drive into the mountains where the train stops at every village. Here everybody is allowed to go into our part but happily most off the people, many which a lot of luggage, stay in the portal. We drive through a fine mountain scenery, there are many tunnels and between them are the fantastic panoramas on the Aruka valley.

At eleven we leave the train at Simliguda and continue by bus. The first stop is at a botanical garden with many roses and other flowers, palm trees and a toy train. For lunch we go to an APTDC hotel and stand in the row for our food, there are to less chairs so we eat sitting on the ground.
After a visit to a small museum with tribal arts we go back to the hotel where tribal people perform a dance for us. We enjoy it but we feel uncomfortable when fellow-travellers join the dancers.

Then we go in the bus again and make a trip through the beautiful valley, we look at everything around us while nearly everybody else sleeps. By the description of this trip a visit to a coffee plantation is mentioned and especially this is something we like to see. The bus stops in the middle of the road, the guide points to a coffee bush and we drive on. Somewhat later we stop in a curve of the road and leave the bus for a short time. Again the scenery is fantastic and probably every bus stops at this point since here are the usual sellers, this time with coffee and whiskey.

By the next APTDC hotel we stop for chai and snacks and after another spectacular ride through the mountains we arrive at the Bora Caves. We have more than an hour to visit the cave with a guide. It is huge with sinter at some places. Half past four we leave and drive over small mountain roads, I'm glad that it is still light. Once we are out of the mountains we go through a string of villages and are back at seven in Visakhapatnam.

Tired as we are we order dinner at our room. We are a little ambiguous over this day, we have seen wonderful things bit also spent too many hours driving.

Monday 5 – 2; Visakhapatnam
Today we start quiet since we are still tired after yesterdays trip. After a late breakfast, with coffee this time, we go to the internet café, an ATM and more such things. By noon we take a rickshaw to the fishing harbour. It is quit there at this time of the day, on the deck of some ships the fishes lay to dry and at the shore men are knotting fishing nets.

We walk to the bay next to the harbour, there also a lot of small fishes lie to dry between the tiny wooden huts. Most of the men are playing card under a shed. Between the remainders of many old rowing-boats there are also some usable vessels. Two men are busy to caulk their boat with a rope of about seven centimetre thick. There are many kids and as always all of them want on a picture. After a late lunch in a very nice restaurant we go back to the hotel.

Half past seven Jahir, our contact person with Adventure Holidays & Tours, arrives at the hotel. He and the driver Pratap stay in another hotel and tomorrow at eight they will pick us up. Jahir will accompany us to Rayagada where a local guide will take his place.
For dinner we have delightful large shrimps with a bottle of beer. Then we take a shower and go to bed.

Tuesday 6 – 2; Visakhapatnam - Rayagada
The alarm goes off at half past seven and we order breakfast. It does not arrive and after an hour we hear that there is no bread so we get some idli's. The coffee is served when I pay the bill.
Our Ambassador stands in front of the hotel with Pratap in a white suit. Apart from some bottles with water we also get a bunch of bananas. The bananas here are small and taste wonderful, in the coming weeks I get more or less addicted to them.

First we drive on good roads through the country-side of Andhra Pradesh. At some point we wait by a railway crossing. As usual this takes a long time but since they paint the crossing barriers we have to wait until this is ready.
Jahir gives us al kind of information about the tribal people we will meet and explains all the things we see around us. We stop by a group women along the road, they perform a ceremony to celebrate the new harvest. They fed their chickens with the first rice off the new harvest. After the chickens have swallowed it the priest saw the birds head with a blunt knife.
High in the palm trees there hang buckets to collect the juice, while the sellers stand at the feet of the tree.

Later on we stop and see the traditional way of sugar making. The cane is crushed and the juice is put in big flat tanks. The remaining of the cane is used to heat this juice until it is thick molasses. The men put this in buckets to cool off. As we walk to it Wies falls and hurts her ankle.
After the lunch we cross the border with Orissa. Here the roads are not so good and the village that we pass consists merely of cots with walls of mud or wood and roofs of palm leaves. At some places stand house of stone, build by the government.

After a wonderful ride through the countryside we arrive around three in Raygada, hotel Jyoti Mahal. It is a little odd that everything is organized for us. Wies her feet is blue and thick but she can stand and walk on it. So we go around the hotel, at this time off the day most of the shops are closed.
Later on, in the restaurant, we settle the business part with Jahir. We made these arrangements some months ago, it is all inclusive, except of course our beer. The first ten days we travel with a guide and driver in the tribal area, somewhat more into the inland than on the standard journeys. Later on we go to Chilika lake and Puri. The guide, Babuli, joins us and sees what is expected from him. Together we drink a beer and Wies and I get our dinner.
Tomorrow we have breakfast at six and will depart immediate afterwards, so we go to bed early.

Wednesday 7 – 2; Rayagada - Jeypore
We wake up before five o'clock and after the usual morning pursuits we start just after six. Our luggage just fits into the car since there is a lot of other stuff in the boot.
It is just beginning to lighten as we ride through a valley with a beautiful scenery. Regular we pass small lorries loaded with people and goods also on their way to the market in Chatikana.
As we drive Babuli explains a lot about the environment and the several tribal people (or mountain people as they are official called) that we shall visit in the next week. He also gives us some background information over him and Pratap. The latter is employed by the travel organisation while Babuli is a free-lancer. They have made many tours together, it is of course early to judge but we have the feeling that they are good couple to travel with.

It is eight o'clock when we arrive in Chatikana, Babuli and Pratat are satisfied since we are the first car. It is quiet because the market is not started yet. We drive through the village until we are at the feet off the mountains. We leave the car and take a step path into the hills. The Dongaria Kondh arrive by this path from their villages, some of these are over 20 km away. They carry different kinds of nutrition which they cultivate or collect in the woods. Further they sell rings, armlets and knifes. We stand in a curve of the road and enjoy everything we see. Constantly small and large groups are coming down and Babuli explains everything to us.

Since we were so early there where no other tourist at first but now they slowly arrive. A group Itallians stays with us, their guide is a friend of Babuli. Tomorrow we go to the village where he lives and he buys bananas and pineapples for his family. Other people from the village arrive and start negotiating also. As long as the tribals are passing we can freely take pictures but for a close-up we have to pay.
As the big groups tourist are coming we go to the market itself. With the money that the tribals get for their products they buy everything they need such as dried fishes, clothing, soap and so on.
At ten o'clock we leave and go to a small village. The headman comes to Babuli and together we walk around and observe how the people are living. Somewhat later, by an isolated farm, a vendor on a bike sells all kind off toys. Wies buys something for the children and everyone is happy.

Market along the road
We dive the whole way back to Rayagada, have lunch there and then we continue our tour to Koraput. We drive through a splendid river valley with , now, a lovely stream. In the monsoon time this must be different since some of the bridges are destroyed by the water and replaced by temporary ones. Later on we drive through the hills with many woods and between it rice in paddy-fields.
In Koraput we visit a temple, the images are scary. In the tribal museum we get a too detailed explanation from Babuli about all the differences between all the tribes.
At six we arrive in Jeypore and stay in Madhumati. We enjoy our dinner in the garden. Many of the the other guest where this morning on the market and go also to Onukadalli.

Thursday 8 – 2; Jeypore – Onukadalli
It is six o'clock when they call us for breakfast, in the dining room a group of Italians is eating our meal so we have to wait a little. We will be back here in some days and leave our laundry in the hotel.
Yesterday we have seen that Babuli stands high in the hierarchy of the local guides, he also speaks the language of many tribes. He asks us if it is all-right that the Italians join us at the market road and we agree. It is just after seven as we leave. Again it is a race between the drivers to arrive first by the market but they don't take any security risks.

Today we go to Onukadalli the home village of Babuli. Just as yesterday we go first to the mountain path where we watch the Bondo people passing by. It are mainly the woman, dressed in strings of beads with a loincloth. They want to sell all kinds of ornaments and have more aggressive manners then the people yesterdays. They are also very keen to receive money for pictures. Most of the men carry an axe or a bow with arrows.
About ten o'clock the big groups of tourists are coming and we walk back to the market. The people here are different but the goods are of the same kind as yesterday. In a separate corner men sell palm wine and even at this time it is busy. A relative of Baboli runs a restaurant and there we take chai.

In the meantime Baboli has gathered five Bondo woman who will sing traditional songs for us and the Italians. First they need a bucket of palm-wine, for drinking they use a gourd and while singing they keep drinking. We also try a draught, it is a little sour. It is a strange kind of music but it has something special.

After dinner we visit another little hamlet and from there we go to the top of a waterfall. It is a stiff walk but it is very beautiful and we rest some time at the top. When we go back to the car it is clear that Wies her ankle hurts her too much so she cannot make the trekking day that is planned for tomorrow.

After visiting Babuli's family we drive along a broad rocky path into the inland. After a drive of nearly one hour through a reddish desolate landscape we arrive in another small village. This will be our home for the next two nights. The “camping site” is between the dormitory for the nubile girls and an open stable. For our washing we have to use the communal pump, the toilet is in the fields.
We walk between the huts and see everyone busy with their daily work. Woman pound the grain with a heavy wooden stick, another is weaving an apron from bast while little boys make baskets from little papers. One woman takes Wies her shawl, she can use it to carry her grandson and will hardly return it.

Baboli and Pratap are busy, in the trunk are two small tents, sleeping-mats, sheets, pillows and a complete kitchen equipment. They make the tents ready, beneath the ground sheet they put a armful off straw.

Our tent
Some time later they start to prepare our dinner. We drink a beer and half of the habitants sits around us, everyone is cheerful.
At six it darkens and the only light comes from a flash light and some candles. At seven our dinner of rice, dahl, vegetables and fries is ready and after Pratap and Baboli are finished there is still a lot food left which is divided between the villagers. Nine o'clock we turn in, my blanket and pyjama are disappeared. They turn up again while every one is laughing.
It takes some turning and shuffling before we find a good position to sleep. It is very primitive but it will help that we always have camped during our European holidays.

Friday 9 – 2; a village near Onukadalli
Our “beds” are not very comfortable and it is quit cold so we sleep uneasy. About four we are wakened by the distance sounds of drums an a flute, it stops half an hour later. An hour later we hear the first people in our village. Half past six, as it begins to lighten I get up. The village is coming alive and the women have cleaned the dishes of yesterday. I walk between the huts, a man sits with a group of boys around a fire and invites me to join them, but since we have no ways of communication I stay just for a minute or ten.

After breakfast we set out and walk through the village that consists a thirty houses. Babuli knows everyone and so we may enter every place. The people drive the cattle, all young ones, out of the stables and clean the houses and paths. The older women carry thick necklaces and 15 cm big earrings.
Through the fields we walk to the neighbouring hamlets, they are similar as ours but yet different in details. The walls of the houses consist of clay or bricks, some are grouped around paths while in other villages they are scattered around. Also the clothing of the inhabitants vary.
The women are working, the men drink palm-wine and the children walk with us. All together it gives an overload of impressions.

A group of man is digging a well with a diameter of three metres and they are now at a depth of five metres in the rocky ground, somewhat further we see the remainders of an earlier fruitless effort.
The witch-doctor leaves his drinking companions and we follow him. First he goes to an older couple, the man is sick. The priest cuts some skin from the woman's cheek, if she does not bleed the man will recover.
Two children of another family have fever, the rituals of the priest are strange to us. First he counts his fingers, puts five rice grains in his hand and speaks banishments. He puts the grains in a scrap around the wrist of the children. In yet another village the rites for a dead baby are just over when we arrive.

Our village
After walking and gliding over the small paths we are back for a lunch of jackfruits. In the meantime Babuli has learned that the music that we heard this night was the start of a wedding ceremony and we can visit it. After ten minutes walking we arrive in the village. The young couple, they are about 15 years, comes out of a hut and sit together. All the people get as a welcome some rice on the head, we too of course. So the ceremony starts, we stay a while and look at the different rituals.

Then we must go back because by the tent some of the women will sing their music. We think that they are old but when we ask it they believe that they are forty or so. Afterwards we go back to the wedding-party, many off the guests are dancing on the music of a band There is an other couple tourists but they are sent away.

Wedding party
The young couple is still there, the priest makes some gestures with a candlestick, throws some rice and then they are married. Now it is time for the gifts, one off the relatives keeps a record of this, it is mostly money. Since we donate also we are allowed to film.
On our way back we meet the other tourist, they are not so happy with their guide and ask about our experiences. We tell them and their answer is 'Oh!, you have the fabulous Babuli'.

In the village the eight girls who live in the dormitory are making a wedding gift, the bride is a friend of them. As we have dinner at seven it is dark again. Pratap and Babuli prepare all the food that we have with us so many of the villagers get their share as thanks for their hospitality.

There is more wind tonight so the candles blow out and the only light is from a little fire. The girls return from the wedding and as the rest of the people go to their homes they start to sing. At first in two groups about a quarrel between a boy and girl and then they improvise a text about us. Babuli translates now and then and it is funny. By the time that the fire is out it is nine o'clock and the last song is that the guest have to go to bed and so we do.
In the tent we talk about how fantastic the experiences these days were. Speaking of culture shocks, this is a heavy one and it is hard to describe how it impressed us.

Saturday 10 – 2; back to Jeypore
Because of the strong is wind, it is extra cold tonight so we don't sleep well, Wies is coughing. At half past five the village comes alive and I listen at the sounds. After half an hour I get in my clothes and walk around, sometimes later Wies calls that I must come quickly. Our tents stand just beside the farmland and the villagers change the irrigation system so now the water flows to our tent, we can grab our goods just in time.

Before eight we leave this overwhelming place and go to a 'normal' village for breakfast. Babuli has bread, we have nes and after some puri's we are ready to continue the trip. Through the wooded hills we go to a dry and barren area in the nearness of Gupteswar. Of course it is always warm but here it is extreme hot and dry. The farmyards in the hamlets are fenced with bamboo and wood to keep the pigs outside. In the village are only old men, which look after the children, and some young mothers, the rest of the people is on the fields. They sell bamboo utensils and parrots. The young birds are taken out of the nests and when the are grown up they cost 100 rs. In the heat we walk to some other, similar hamlets and there waits Pratap with the car.

In Gupteswar we have again a delightful lunch. There is also a temple on the hill, Pratap and I climb to it. After 160 steps we stand in a cave by a linga of Shiva and can go back.
After a few hours driving we arrive in Baligaon at another tribal market. We are now so experienced that we can distinguish the different tribes. It is a large and vivid market with hardly any tourist. Here they sell vegetables, fruit, clothes, dried fish, tobacco and so on. There is also a cattle-market with many cows an ox's.

It is already four o'clock when we leave this market, according to the program we shall visit a textile village. But all of us agree that this is too much and we drive directly back to Jeypore. There we get the same room as a few nights ago. Our laundry, that we left behind, is also clean. Since we are out of the market circuit there are just a few guest and we must have dinner inside. We are very tired and go to bed at ten.

Sunday 11 – 2; Jeypore – Magura
As so often these days we have an early start and half past seven we are on our way. According to the program we have half day of trekking from village to village ahead. So we are surprised when we stop in a hamlet near the road, it is a new settlement build by the government. A wedding ceremony is just over and the guests bring their presents to the home of the groom, most of it is liquor.
Meanwhile Pratap recruits fifteen young girls for a tribal dance. Reluctantly they start and try to walk away as soon as possible. We know Pratap has to organize this because dances are part of the program but we feel ill-at-ease the way it turns out, so no such arrangements in the future.
Across the road is another village, and although the distance between them is just a hundred metres the inhabitants barely have contact with each other.

While we drive to the next place Babuli tells us that he noticed how tired we are and that they adjusted the trip. Also the weekly market which we should visit is cancelled due to the elections. Now we drive through the country and visit the hamlets of different tribes. In one of the places it gives the impression of a lazy Sunday afternoon while in another village everyone is busy making baskets of bamboo.

Wedding ceremony
Then we drive back to Rayagada and after lunch we continue to Putassing. In one off the villages there is a Hindu wedding. We stop and are immediately invited to join the ceremony and are welcomed with a cup of chai. Most of the guests speak English, they explain the service and ask us all the usual questions.
The moment we arrive the bride, hidden in veils and accompanied by her father and sister, sits on the ground. The priests is opposite her leading the ceremony. To us it gives the idea that he invents every next stage at the moment that it is executed. After a while the bride goes into the house and the groom arrives, now another priest leads the ceremony. Since we have a long ride ahead we cannot stay and leave after an hour. We get some addresses so we can send them the pictures we made.

Then we drive again through a wonderful scenery and pass a steep mountain, with 1400 metre one of the highest of Orissa. Alongside the road a man harvests the palm-juice, we wait until he climbs out of the tree and get a bottle of it. It is a little sour, Wies likes it but I don't. At five we arrive in Magura where we sleep in the Inspection Bungalow. It is a large stone building with some primitive rooms in it. Pratap and Babuli go shopping and prepare then our diner of chicken, vegetables, rice and chapatis.

Monday 12 – 2; Magura – Rayagada
At seven thirty our caretakers bring a breakfast of bread, omelet, papaya and black coffee to our room. Half an hour later we are on our way to Puttasing, again it is a spectacular ride through the mountains. The first part of the road is renewed but after that we drive over the bare rocks. A enormous boulder is tumbled down on the road and a new lane is constructed around it.

At ten we arrive in a small village near Puttasing. In the original plan we should have camped here but this was cancelled because of the insecurity during the elections. Pratap has friends here and he visits them before we go to the market. Three women who have to go to the hospital join us. The market is not as colourful as some of the others we have seen and it is also smaller, I guess here are about a thousand people.
We walk around together as a police officer commands us to follow him to the office. But before we reach it Babuli sees us and he convinces the man that we are trustful people. There is one other couple of tourist and by accident they are also Dutch.
Everywhere on the market are men campaigning for the elections and try to make as much noise as possible. Most have there speakers on a car but there is also a group with a generator and an amplifier on bikes.

After a while we drive back to the village. Here again we will have a tribal dance, while we are waiting Pratap disappears to his friends and we try to communicate with the locals. The older women have ten cm big slices of wood in their ears. We walk around through the fields and admire the beautiful wall paintings in one of the houses. In a nearby village there are more, so we drive and walk to it. This hamlet consists of five houses and apart from the paintings we get a serenade from a lady on a typical instrument.

Back in the main village we discover that we have no lunch in the car apart from some old bread, a banana and a cup of chai. Above that we are short of bottled water. In the meantime the women are ready to dance but the musicians are still working on the fields and nobody knows when they will be back. Since our mixed feelings about these dances and the fact that we still have a long ride ahead Wies and I decide that we want to leave. Pratap and Babuli are astonished but we insist. They are afraid that we are angry bit is is just that we are tired of waiting.
On the way we visit some small tribal villages and again it is clear how these tribes differs from the majority of the Indians, on the roof of the houses lays half a cow to dry.
This night we stay again in Rayagada and just before there we arrive we get a flat tire. It is changed quickly but later on Babuli tells that it took them a long time to find someone who could fix the inner tube.

Tuesday 13 – 2; Rayagada – Taptapani
This is the last day that we travel through the tribal area. To be honest we feel that we have seen sufficient of it. The long days of travel combined with the constant stream of all kinds of impressions are overfilling our brains.

Dongaria Khonds
It is cloudy today as we drive to Chatikana once again. Last Wednesday it was crowded as we were there visiting our first market, now it is quiet and only the skeletons of the market stalls are left. We drive into the hills and stop by one of the villages of the Dongharia Khonds. Babuli warns us not to take pictures otherwise the inhabitants will be angry.

The hamlet consists of the three groups of approximately ten houses. First over an unstable bridge and then crossing a stream by stepping stones we walk to the village. Between the trees we see cassava, pine-apple and banana plants. The people in the village are busy with their daily jobs, we sit down look around and absorb everything. The hair of the women, old and young, is crammed with pins. Beneath us the boys play cricket, except for the ball all equipment comes directly out of the wood. How strange as it looks but the slow game just fits here.

We go back to the car and drive further in the mountains, the road becomes so bad that we have to walk to the next village. These houses are build alongside a street and everywhere the people dry tamarind. They are not used to tourist and Babuli feels uncomfortable with their
behaviour. We don't notice it but at his advice we leave quickly.

And then we drive back into the direction of Rayagada, eat something along the road and have another 180 km to go over bad roads. A heavy rain starts, just as we drive through a region where tigers and elephants live.
In this area it is election-day and in the villages stand rows of trucks with teachers and civil servants. They have left their normal jobs to regulate the voting. The 'problem' for us is the ban on alcohol. Together with Babuli, who likes his whiskey, I go into the back streets. Two men behind a fence take the money and return after a while with beer and booze.

It is dry and five o'clock as we arrive in Taptapani. We stop for a short visit to the warm-water well and go then to the OTDC hotel. This one is really declined glory, the rooms are in separate concrete buildings with a balcony that nearly falls off. As soon as we arrive we must order our dinner. At eight we go to the cheerless restaurant. But together with Babuli and Prapt we make the best of it and have a nice time. We are curious how Pratap keeps his uniform so white, he tells that he washes it at night and hangs it on the big fan to dry.

Wednesday 14 – 2; Taptapani – Barkul
It is foggy when we start at seven and after a short ride we stop in another small village and see how the people start their day. Some are already busy while others sit around a fire and try to get warm and to wake up. So in the hazy light once again it looks like a fairytale.
When we are back on the road the sun starts to shine through the fog which gives a fantastic effects on the wonderful scenery.

We are going to a region where Tibetan refugees have a settlement. They have their own villages, the houses are build from stone but the stables and sheds are made from wood.
Babuli was here four years ago and is looking for a nice, small Tibetan temple, but he cannot find it and everyone he asks directs us to an big temple which is still under construction. At last we go to it. Next to the temple is a cloister and one of the older priest welcomes us. He tells that the new temple replaces the one we are looking for.

We have a bad timing since everyone is very busy for some important visitors. But the monk takes all the time to show us one off the older temples and, in opposite to other holy places, we may film everywhere. With a young student-monk we go upstairs to the library. The books are made from leaves and have pages of a metre long and twenty centimetre high, the books are wrapped in cloths.
Another young student brings us to the new temple, the builders are locals from India, while the huge Buddha statues are constructed by men from Nepal. For one statue they need twelve lorry's of clay mixed with raw cotton.

In another part of the complex there is a school for monks, the younger ones are reciting hymns while the older ones get English lessons. In yet another temple some very old monk are teaching their younger colleagues.
Behind the cloister the party ground is made ready for the Canadian guests, everywhere wave the pray flags just as one sees in Tibetan movies.

We drive back to Taptapani and on crossroad outside this place we stop. For Babuli this is the end of the trip and he hopes to get a bus to Jeypore from here. (Later we hear that he got a hike from some French tourists and in return acts as a guide for them.) It is a strange feeling to say goodbye so in the middle of nowhere after more than a week of intensive travelling together. We truly know that his knowledge and personality made this trip so wonderful.

Now he is driver as well as guide Pratap becomes much more talkative. While driving he spots everything what is interesting and stops directly so we have all the time to look around. A few examples I remember are a group women who have covered the road with dahl and thresh it by beating on it with sticks. Shepherds wear big hats of palm leaves so dense that they are waterproof, I try one it is heavy. In one of the villages there are heaps of rice covered with clay alongside the road. This is there way of storrage.

We arrive on the busy way from Chennai to Kolkota, part of it is bad while others stretches are a four lane highway.
At four we arrive in Barkul; at the Chilka Lake. We stay again in a OSTDC hotel but this one looks fine. It is situated outside the village and from the balcony we overlook the large lake. After a beer the three of us have dinner, Wies and Pratap have crab and I take shrimps.

Thursday 15 – 2; Barkul – Satapada
We begin to get used to the early starts and at seven we go to the boats. We have one for ourselves, it is about twelve metre long and two wide. The skipper needs some assistance to start the outboard motor and he takes one of his helpers with him. We know it is to late in the year for watching the seasonal birds and now there are just a few left. Fishermen are busy with their nets, the water is not deep since they can walk around. It is cloudy but dry and there is no wind.

Chilika Lake
After three quarters we land on Kalijai island, on it is a temple to remember a young girl that drowns while she it going to her wedding. At this time of the day there are more souvenir sellers than tourists.
While we are rambling around the wind starts to blow and as we go back our boat rocks heavy. We like it but Pratap is not that happy, in the meantime the crew bails out the water and assures us that there is no danger and of course we arrive dry and save.

Half past nine we sit in the car and drive alongside the lake. At the end we go to a small textile village. Five years ago it was crowded here with tourists but since that time everyone goes to the tribal areas and nobody comes here any more. Even Pratap has not been here in those years. The headman is glad to see us and shows how they make sari's and aprons and of course we buy something. Also they produce silk, the cocoons are boiled and one of the old ladies twins the thread rolling it on her leg.

We drive further by a small road through the fields. The harvest is ready but everywhere we see palm trees and ponds while we pass a lot of small villages. In one of them we stop by a pottery and the owner gives a demonstration. Further on the fields are situated more low and still filled with the water of the previous monsoon. The rice is growing in the flat fields which are crossed by ditches and it looks a little like the grasslands in our homeland.

Painters are concentrated in another village. The artist etches his drawing in a prepared palm leave, after the sketch is finished he rubs ink into it and so he gets a very detailed pictures.
Near Puri we are back on the main road, and go from there to Satapada. This is situated on one of the islands that lay on the seaside of Chilika Lake. These islands are connected to each other by bridges. Also here it is election day so now Pratap and I go to the black market.
In Satapada we have again a good looking hotel of the OSTDC with a room that overlooks the lake. By this time we are so tired of travelling that we are in bed before ten o'clock.

Friday 16 – 2; Satapada
Today we stay in this place and we don't have to hurry. We go sailing again and at half past nine we are on our way in the same type of boat as yesterday. First we want to find the dolphins that live here and soon we see them. They don't stand on their tail like Flipper, we see just their back and tail while they are hunting. There are quit a lot, sometimes in groups while others swim alone.

Next we land on one of the island with a small temple and then sail to the tidal outlet that connects the lake with the sea. We embark on the sandy strand and walk around. On the sea-side we see the remainders of many turtles. At our way back we see again some dolphins and at last one which his head out of the water.

After the lunch we have the afternoon to ourselves and we need that rest. First we take a nap and then sit for a while on the balcony. But after a while I get restless and go out. It is not hectic, there is a dolphin museum and the tourist are here just for a boating trip. On the waterside fishermen inspect their nets. Since Satapada is the last island that is connected through bridges to the mainland you must take a boat to cross the lake. Whole families as well as business men go on board of some older ferries which transport them across. On the other side of the hotel is one of those small villages untouched by the time. Women are chatting or sweep the foot way, men play card and the children are playing together. And everyone stares at the white tourist.

At diner a Japanese dolphin expert joins us. This is his second year here and he never has seen a dolphin with his head up. He tells that there are about 120 dolphins left. The service in this hotel is extremely slow and so the Japanese orders also his breakfast for tomorrow. It is a big fun when the waiter brings it now. While we are eating there is a power cut and we eat by the light of an oil-lamp, matches and a mobile phone until the electricity is up again.
When we are filling or backpacks a thunderstorm starts and the electricity is gone again.

Saturday 17 – 2; Satapada – Puri
This power cut lasts the whole night so the fan is not working. With the balcony door closed it is too hot to sleep and with the door open the mosquitoes trouble us so we have a bad night. Later on we hear that there are just a few guests in the hotel and therefore they did not start the generator.
On the road to Puri we stop by a fisherman, he walks through the water, chases the fishes with an open basket and then tries to grab them. While we are looking he catches nothing, the kingfishers are more successful.

At nine we are in Puri, after the rain it is muggy and the roads are slippery. We walk towards the Jagannath temple. As non Hundu's we are not allowed to go inside, next to it is a library, from the roof of it you can look into the courtyard. Of course we have to pay, according to Pratap you can bargain it down to 20 rs., they ask 200 and we cannot get it down to less than 100 rs. Wies doesn't realize that this is the only spot where we can see inside and walks away. Since we are both tired and easily pissed off we walk grumbling in the streets around the temple. At last I go to the roof alone, I cannot climb that high so the view is not as good as I expected.

We go back to the car where Pratap is waiting and then to the, very fine, ORSTC hotel. First we take a nap and after the lunch the three of us walk over the beach to the fishermen's village. It is a large sandy coast and after while we arrive by the boats on the beach. A group of men pushes them through the breakers before the motor can be started while other ships come ashore with fish.

The catch lays on the beach, the men shake the nets to get the little fishes out of it. There are also eel and other bigger fishes, they even have caught two sharks.
Women buy the fish and take them to the village adjacent to the beach. There they clean them and the remainders stay as food for the craws. We walk through the village and arrive then on a road in a tourist region. Everywhere hotels and travel agents.

Half past six we go to the beach in Puri, here we see again another aspect of this city. There is a really boulevard with all kind of shops and on the beach is an extended, colourful, souvenir market. Of course there are many small places to eat. In between the priests do their ceremonies with much fire and music, while in the meantime you hear the waves on the coast. As a contrast there is a cremation field at the boulevard, here also are the fires are burning.
Back in the hotel we drink a beer together before we have dinner.

Sunday 18 – 2; Puri – Bhubaneswar
Again an early start and at seven we leave the hotel. We drive through a region rich of deer but the only wild we see is a jackal. We stay close to the coast, sometimes we ride along the see and so we arrive in Konark.
The sun temple is very beautiful and impressive. We take a guide and he explains ample about the way the temple is constructed and how the wheels act as sundials. He also clarifies the meaning of all the sculptures, with a lot of emphasis on the more erotic ones.

Treshing rice
We walk back to the car for the last part of the trip to Bhubaneswar. Everywhere farmers are busy with ploughing and planting as well as harvesting rice, in this climate it can be done in the same period. Pratap gets regular a phone call from his boss Jahir because he must pick up new guests this afternoon. So after an early lunch we arrive by noon in the Sambit Palace hotel. Jahir has reserved it for us, it costs 600 rs.

Jahir is in such a hurry that he cannot wait until we fill up the evaluation form, we shall send it to him by mail. We say goodbye to Pratap, it is as leaving a friend, and promise to send him the pictures we made and then off they go. It is a very abrupt end of an unforgettable round trip and now we are on our own again.

The rest of the day we sit in our room and walk a little bit around, we have to digest all the impressions of the last ten days. It is good that we keep a dairy so we can recall all the things we have done.

Monday 19 – 2; Bhubaneswar
After six weeks we need a haircut and find a saloon close to the hotel. I'm the first victim, after the cutting the barber powders my hair and gives me an extended head and shoulder massage with a lot of knocking and pinching. Wies laughs but that changes as she gets the same treatment, by her the massage is done by one of the girls. Meanwhile we get a cup of chai and one and a half hour later we are neatly cut for the astonished price of 60 rs.

We walk to the station to book our journey to Sambalpur. The queues are long but someone points us the special women and tourists queue and so we have the tickets soon. After a tasty lunch in a restaurant next to the station we go to the tourist organisation and book a city trip for Wednesday.

Back in the hotel we watch the video film we made during our stay Vijayawada and the first days in Orissa, it is just a fortnight ago but it looks like ages. It is good that we have some quiet days after the intensive travelling of the last weeks, I'm so tired that I go to bed at half past nine.

Tuesday 20 – 2; Bhubaneswar
A rickshaw brings us to the lake in the centre of old Bhubaneswar. Everywhere around us there are big and small temples. A very tiny one is erected in the middle of the road, on both sides a priest can do a worship for two persons.

We wander around and with the support of the map in our guide book we find our way and just look around, absorbing the atmosphere. In one street all the houses are painted with figures to remember the wedding days of the inhabitants. On another place, as the streets become small alleys, somebody sends us back, it is a dead-end road. We sit down at the lake to rest but by doing this we disturb the bathing of the men so we go to another corner. After lunch we go back to the hotel.

Later I go to a photo shop and transfer the photos to a CD for 50 rs. pro card. We have dinner in the Venus Inn, it is cosy and the meal tastes fine. Then it is again time for an early night.

Wednesday 21 – 2; Bhubaneswar
Since we have to be at the station at half past eight we order the breakfast on our room. It arrives a lot quicker then in the dining room. The waiter has also a delivery for another room, he smells which pot is filled with coffee and which one with tea and tells “I am a Christian”.
From the station, where an ODTC office is, we are directed to a bus and after a short ride we stop at their headquarters. The participants of the city tour must get off, we are the only ones. After an hour we are with eight persons, besides us four Indians, a French girl and a Japanese man. With the driver we just fit in the car. The man of the tourist organisation explains us the program and off we go, the driver keeps his mouth shut almost the whole day.

The first goal is the Nandankanan Zoo, a twenty km outside the town. Here waits a guide who gives us a fast tour. The only thing that is really special are the white tigers, the other animals you can see in almost every zoo. But it is a nice zoo, the animals have plenty of room and it is intriguing to hear that wild elephants enter the park at night.

Next we go to the Udaygiri and Khanagiri caves, the are situated on hills opposite to each other. It are Jain caves, the oldest are from 200 BC and the Udaygiri are the best conserved.

Since you have to pay an entrance for these, it is quiet inside. We wander around and it is hot in the sun. Some of the caves look like honeycombs, most of them are simple, others have nice carvings. I also take a quick look at the Khanagiri caves, here it is very crowded and the caves are locked with plate-glass so you cannot see anything from the interior.

By now it is half past one, we go back to the city and have lunch at the OTDC hotel. We foreigners share a table and the other two get one bill together, the waiter probably thinks that they are a couple.

After the lunch we drive to Dhauligir where a modern white Buddhist temple is situated. It is on top of a hill and the views are fantastic. There must be the remainders of one of Ashoka's pillars but I cannot find them. Then we go back to Bhubaneswar to visit the temples over there. Happily we go to others than those we saw yesterdays, the temples are not used any more so we can look inside. They are very beautiful carved.

Next we go to the museum but since we are behind schedule this is about to close. If we pay some extra we can go in for a short time but nobody is interested. Finally we go to the Lingaraj temple in the hart of the old city, this one is forbidden for non-Hindus.

We were here yesterday also and know there is a platform from where you can see into the compound. It is free but a group of boys trie to convince us that we have to pay 500 rs, we laugh of it and give them 10 and off they go.
It is six o'clock when we are back in the hotel. This time we stay here for diner, it takes again an hour before we get something to eat.

Thursday 22 – 2; Bhubaneswar
For some days Wies has ear-ache and we decide to see a doctor. We ask for one at the desk and they advise us to go to a clinic. There Wies gets a card with a room-number and a waiting-list number and we wait in the crowded hall. Many patients lay there motor-helmet on a spare chair so the rest of the people have to stand.
After half an hour it is Wies her turn and as everywhere during a visit she must take off her shoes. It takes five minutes for the diagnosis: ear infection. The consult costs 100 rs. and for the half of that amount we buy the medicines in the the pharmacy.

Then we walk back to the centre. In this new part of Bhubaneswar the roads are wide and straight so it is easy to find your way. We end in a huge market place and from there we are quickly in the neighbourhood of the hotel. There are a lot of people on the street because a murder is committed in another hotel.

We must make up our minds for the rest of our journey. We have train-tickets up to Jalgaon from where we will visit the Ajanta caves. For the last part of the trip we wish to stay in Jodhpur and from there to the airport of Delhi. For the three weeks in between we have several ideas and now we decide to make a trip through Gujarat starting in Vadodara. So in the afternoon I'm beginning to make an itinerary. For dinner we go again to the Venus Inn, this we like a lot better then our hotel.

Friday 23 – 2; Bhubaneswar – Sambalpur
At six o'clock we wake up and half past eight we are at the station. There we are informed that the train is delayed for nearly two hours. So I have time to buy tickets for the Jodhpur-Delhi stretch. Now I go directly to the women/tourist queue and observe how the locals use this. The ladies stand in the row, many accompanied by a man. At the ticket office the man does all the talking and finally his wife may pay. It takes half an hour and then I have our tickets.

On this station workers are constant sweeping and swabbing the platforms so it stays very clean. As the train arrives we have six places for us together and we can easily stretch out. This times the entertainment consists of beggars and drag-queens. There is no lunch aboard so we take some snacks. Along the track there are no big cities, only small towns with some agriculture around it and for the rest it is barren land. For a greater part of the journey there is also a lot of industry Then the landscape becomes more hilly with many small rivers and lakes, very beautiful.

Halfway the engine has to go to the other end of the train, this takes some time so it is half past three as we arrive in Sambalpur. The rickshaw stand on the viaduct outside the station and it takes us a while before we discover it. The first hotel we try is the Phantanivas, again from the OTDC, and we take it. It is an old but clean hotel and we have a large room with a balcony.
Hungry as we are we take a cup of soup in the dining room, a cheerless room with a sigh that says don't spit on the wall.

Annex the hotel is a bar where we can buy beer. In the garden of the hotels big tents are erected for a wedding reception. The kitchen personnel is busy preparing food for the party so the assistant-manager has to cook and serve our dinner and we chat with some of the wedding guests.

Saturday 24 – 2; Sambalpur
Despite the noise of the wedding party we have a good sleep, it is so cool that we don't need a fan. After breakfast we go to the centre of Sambalpur, it is a nice place to walk around and not that hectic while there is enough to see for a few days. It strikes us that there is no hassle from children asking the standard questions. The market is narrow and crowded, they sell mainly fruits and vegetables.
After a while we sit on the bank of a lake, and as it has happened before we sit opposite the men's bathroom and it is obvious that they like some privacy.
We meet some young people, as so many others they will make a picture from us and them together. We ask why everybody wants to do this and they explain that an old Sanskrit legend states that guests are like gods. So if you are on the same picture it is good for the soul of everybody, this is a nice thought.

After lunch in a grand hotel we go back to our modest one. The climb in the sun is hot so it is good to rest in the shadow of our balcony. At the desk we arrange a car with an English speaking driver for to-morrow. We want to visit some villages where the inhabitants manufacture all kinds of textile. To be sure we ask if they work on Sunday and that will not be a problem. The assistant-manager is very helpful in arranging everything.

Sunday 25 – 2; Sambalpur
At nine we are waiting for our driver but nothing happens. The hotel-clerk that arranged everything for us is off duty and his substitute assures us that there is 'no problem' and refuses to take any action. In a back-office I see a man reading his newspaper and he happens to be the manager. I explain the situation, he will take care of it and rings a bell. After a while he comes to us with the explanation that our car is stolen and that he has arranged another one. Half past ten the car is there with a driver who doesn't speak a word English, but the hotel personal guarantees us that he knows the scheme.

First we drive to the Hirukud dam, we think that we can walk on it but it is only possible to look at it from a belvedere. It is a long mud dike with a barrage in it. Unfortunately the sky is not clear and therefore the views are not good.
Then we go to the textile villages, the driver can make it clear to us that we ride on the road from Mumbai to Kolkata, it is a teriffic two-lane road with of course much freight traffic.

We pass the first village we want to see and stop in Barpoli. Then we notice that the driver is totally unknown here. He drives around until he sees a child and that guides us to a sari-weaver, everyone there assures us that nobody else is working because it is Sunday. So we decide to go back and at three we are in the hotel, our complaints don't make any impression.

In our room we try to complete the itinerary for the Gujarat leg and notice that we need a car to do the things we want. We will try to arrange it when we are in Vadodara. In the evening I go to the bar for some beer. Somebody taps on my shoulder and when I turn around the man asks 'how are you doing'. I cannot believe my eyes when I stare at Pratap, he and Jahir stay here tonight.
The four of us go to the bar, take a beer and have a lot of talking to do. Wies is the only women since ladies are not allowed inside officially. We ask Jahir if he knows a travel-agent in Gujarat, we get an e-mail address and he will contact their office. Then we all go the dinner room. Pratap keeps laughing every time he remembers the way I looked at him in the bar.

Monday 26 – 2; Sambalpur
A rest day, the only thing we do is walk to the city and buy some second-hand books. Due to our train reservations we have to stay quit long here. Although it is not a very inspiring city it is good for us to take a break after more then six weeks travelling.

Tuesday 27 – 2; Sambalpur
The local tourist information says that the 'leaning temple' in Huma is a must since it resembles the tower of Pisa. We arrange a rickshaw for 250 rs. It is a trip of nearly an hour through an agricultural environment with small villages. The upper part of the temple is leaning but since it is only fifteen metre high the effect is not that spectacular.
But it is situated in a fantastic landscape along a river in which swim big fishes. It is forbidden to catch them this brings misfortune since they are consecrated to Shiva. Little boys take the risk and try to capture the small ones. For ten rs. I go with a small rowing boat. Across the river are two immense modern statues of Shiva one standing and the other laying.

As usual there are many monkeys in the temple, these are not interested in the fish-bait that is sold. Our drives buys some biscuits and that is is more to their taste.
At one 'clock we are back and makes some arrangements for to-morrow. Our train leaves from the station in Jharsguda so we must hire a car to reach that city.

Wednesday 28 – 2; Sambalpur – Jalgaon
We have to leave the room at eight so we must rise in time. A lot of paperwork has to be done before I can pay the bill, 2500 rs. for five nights, and then we have all the time of the world since we have ordered the car for three o'clock. The chairs and couches in the hall are good and we spent our time with reading and of course we go for the last time to the city. We check our mail but there is no post from the Gujarat travel agent.

The car is in time and on a good road we drive in an hour to Jharsaguda. There we store the luggage in the cloak-room and look around the station. As we go into the ladies waiting room a attendant sends us back, Wies is well allowed to sit in the men's part.

We walk through the city, next to the station is a long shopping street, and eat something. Back to the station we hear that the train is an hour late so it arrives at eleven o'clock. In the dark we find our beds. After the conductor has checked our tickets we get the bedding rolls and make ourselves ready for the night.

Thursday 1 – 3; Sambalpur – Jalgaon
Despite the snoring around us we sleep well, the man in our compartment is awake at six and puts on the light to read the newspaper. Half past seven we are up and soon get our breakfast, bread with omelet. Our fellow travellers are a Sikh couple and besides 'good morning' they don't say a word and at ten they are asleep again.

We kill the time by reading, puzzling and looking to the ever changing landscape. Sometimes it are bare plains with occasionally trees with fierce red flowers, and an hour later we travel through woodlands. Wies goes regular to the toilet to smoke sneakily a cigarette. The train is somewhat delayed and after more than fifteen hours we arrive in Bhusaval.

Since we want to stay in Jalgaon we hire for 450 rs. a car outside the station and reach it within an hour. We selected Hotel Plaza by ourselves but the driver tries to get commission from the owner but he is not falling for it.
For 900 rs. we get the biggest room there is, very clean with a good hot shower, and a separate sitting section. In Jalgaon there is regular a power cut for some hours and as a precaution we get a candle to enlighten in the toilet. To-morrow we want to go to Ajanta and according the hotel-owner we can easy do that by bus. He will arrange a rickshaw to bring us to the bus station.

We take a stroll through Jalgaon an average busy Indian town with nothing special. We see an internet-café and send a mail to the travel agent in Gujarat.
Next to the hotel is a good restaurant and we have a tasty meal enjoying our beer. Wies is again the only woman in the room, quit ordinary in an eating-house where beer is served. We buy another bottle and drink it quietly in our room.

Friday 2 – 3; Jalgaon
It is before six as we wake up and as so often we prepare our own breakfast of bread, jam and powder coffee. The owner is waiting in the hall and writes down detailed instructions how to go to Ajanta. The rickshaw is there and before seven we are at the bus station and take the bus to Aurangabad.
We have plenty of space and after a pleasant ride of an hour we are at the entrance of the cave-complex. Two man are waiting for us, they are very modest but yes they are shop keepers. Near the road is a special shopping centre and this is also to place where the shuttle to caves starts. The shuttle service begins at nine so we first take coffee and then go with the men to their shops. Both trade in stones and gemstones and after a lot of bargaining we sell some presents for people at home.

The we go to the shuttle there are only six tourist for the AC-bus, so we have to take an ordinary bus and go up with the workers. After four kilometre we arrive by the stairs and climb further. The about thirty Buddhist caves lay in a curve of a few hundred metres half way up the hill. They all consists of a hall with pillars and behind that a statue of Buddha or a stupa. Some caves are decorated with fresco's, heavily battered but what is left is still very beautiful. The many sculptures are of course in a much better shape. Since we are so early it is not crowded and we even don't have to wait for those caves with a limited entrance capacity. I visit nearly all the caves including one with two floors and some caves which are unfinished.

Wies is what more selective. At the end we see some old Japanese ladies who are carried around in chairs by four men. When the ladies enter a cave we pay the porters a lunch and may try the chair.
We go back to the shopping centre where one of our 'friends' is waiting again. But as we say that we only take a lunch he leaves. Then we walk to the road, there is no official bus stop but when we wave the bus stops and the second one goes to Jalgaon.

At two we are back and keep it easy for the rest of the day. There is an e-mail from the Gujarat travel agent with a proposal for a full package tour with heritage hotels. That is not what we want so we mail him our ideas. The power cut today is from four to eight and we wait in the hall and chat with the owner and some other guests. We had the impression that Holi with the paint throwing takes place tomorrow but it is a day later and that is the day we travel again.
The guests tell us that the restaurant has a roof and there we have a meal with them. It is a nice evening, we exchange a lot of experiences and there is enough beer.

Saturday 3 – 3; Jalgaon
So we have an extra day to spend here, according to the hotel owner there is not very much to do here and we take a day off. Since Wies coughs a lot she stays mostly in the room while I walk regular to the internet-café to mail over the Gujarat trip. With a mixture off the ideas of Vikram Dooth, the travel agent, and ours we plan a nice trip.
Tomorrow we will travel with the same train with which we had an five hour delay in Vyaijawada. It starts at ten this morning in Chennai and in the evening it is still on time.

Sunday 4 – 3; Jalgaon – Vadodara
At seven we wake up and prepare ourselves for the next stage. The hotel owner is rightfully proud of his place and shows us some of the smaller rooms, these are also spotless. Half past eight we walk to the station, it is just a few minutes away. There is still no sign of the Holi festivities. For the variation the train is in time. As always on day trains we travel sleeper class and this time we have the side berths, all the other seats are occupied too.

As the train leaves at nine we see the first youngsters changing their clothes in preparation of the paint throwing. We travel through an agricultural area and since the harvest has taken place it is somewhat dull.
When the train drives slowly through the outskirts of the cities it is wise to close all windows. Everywhere groups of young peoples are trying to throw the paint in the train. Once someone closes his window to late so some of us are a little red.

At five o'clock, according to the schedule, we arrive in Vadodara. The hotels are close to the station so we decide to walk but we take a wrong turn and get lost. A rickshaw brings us to hotel Apsara, Wies inspects it but it is very dirty. In the meantime a man tells me about another hotel and we try our luck there. Just a few blocks away we end in hotel Rainbow. It is on the 7th floor of an office building, the rooms are small but clean and we pay 550 rs.

The Holi festivities are over and the streets are heavily coloured. We diner in a 24/7 restaurant opposite the hotel. The waiter who takes the order speaks English but the other personal doesn't. When we ask if they have black coffee the answer is “sometimes”. Later on we walk around and see that we are indeed close to the station. The only disadvantage is that there is no beer in Gujarat but this we knew beforehand.

Monday 5 – 3; Vadodara
Wies is still coughing so we both don't sleep so well and decide not to exert ourselves today and take the breakfast at the room. As we order new bottles mineral water they simply refill our old ones. It takes some time before they understand what we want.
We exchange some mails with Vikram Dhoot, the travel agent of Harsh travels, and come to an agreement. A car and driver for ten days costs us 22000 rs. the meals and hotels etc. we pay separate. We start here on the 8th and the tour ends in Udaipur. Later Vikram calls us at the hotel and we confirm the agreement.
In the afternoon I take a walk in the neighbourhood and figure out how we can reach Champaner, the bus goes every quarter of an hour so that is easy. Then I go to a park, in it is a Zoo, a toy-train and a lot of flowers, it is a nice place to relax.

Tuesday 6 – 3; Vadodara
This morning we take a rickshaw to the centre of the town. First we stroll through the more modern shopping streets but then we discover the old centre. That is one of the things we like most, wandering through the tight winding streets with markets and small shops.

After some hours we are back by the more modern shops where Wies sees a fine jeans. Unfortunately it is not in her size but in the next shop she has more luck. Inside a customer and one of the vendors have a conflict and they nearly start a to fight before the client is put outside the shop.
The trouser sellers are men but there is a girl to take Wies her measures. In the store roam at the back of the shop she can see if the pants fits. It is a little to long but a salesclerk takes the jeans and after five minutes he is back and now it fits perfect. In the meantime there is a powercut and the personnel experienced prepares the generator and starts it.
We wander further and come by a tank with an enormous statue of Shiva. There is a side walk around the lake but it is difficult to walk over it since here live many homeless people.

Later in the afternoon we go together to the park and enjoy ourselves. In the park lays a jogging track and many persons, including women use it. However in this heat, it is about 35ºC, most people suffice with a solid walk.
In the hotel district where we stay there are many restaurants so we regular choose another one. In this area as well as in the rest of the town we see a lot more beggars than in the other cities that we visited until now on this journey.

Wednesday 7 – 3; Vadodara
It is about eight o'clock as we walk to the bus station. There are just two free places in the next bus to Champaner and off we go. First half an hour through the city and then on the highway with now and then a detour for a stop a small village. At ten we arrive at an abandoned area and according to the conductor this is Champaner. From our travel information we don't have an explicit idea what is exactly to see here, an old city, mosques or a fort, and how we can reach that.

There is a tourist desk and the man, who speaks barely English, tells me to take a taxi to Manchi. The rickshaw drivers ask 100 rs. so we try our luck with a shared taxi. These go to different destinations and we find one that goes to Manchi. Nearly twenty persons in a landrover and each pays seven rs.
We sit tight in the back and despite clamping ourselves we shake around while we go up the hill. The destination looks like a small village, we follow the other passengers and arrive at a ticket seller and then see a cable car.
It is quiet but according to the crush barriers that is not always the case. The cabins looks fine and no more than six people are allowed to go in, and they check it. We travel with a couple that was in our taxi.

It is a quiet trip and I expect to arrive by an abandoned fort or something like that but it is somewhat totally different. The street goes up in steps and on both sides of it are souvenirs stalls. All over is the sound of videos-films, with other words it is a pilgrims place.

We walk upwards and then through the village, the panorama over the land around us is beautiful. At the end of the village is a long stairway to the temple on top of the hill. Wies is not interested so I climb alone. Halfway I must leave my shoes and then I stand in the queue, happily a ward opens a gate and now it goes twice as quick. All the pilgrims have coconuts with them which are blessed by the priest, I only have my day-pack and walk on. It is possible to climb still higher but for my fear of heights this is enough. When I go down I observe two women who are carried, the fat one on two, the other on one bamboo stick. During my excursion Wies sits under a tree chatting with other pilgrims. The women sit close to her, the men stay on a distance.

We walk back to the cable car and descend with the same couple we went up, they are from Mumbai. With an even more overloaded landrover, the passengers are hanging outside, we go down the hill. Just a few weeks ago, as we saw such an overloaded vehicle, we said “it is madness” and now we do it ourselves.

When we search for the bus to Vadodara someone directs us to a private bus, we can sit on the bench next to the driver. As the bus leaves we sit there with nine and when I try to look how many people there are inside I see just a wall of men. During the one hour drive even more passengers come aboard. In this way the travelling itself is worth the trip.

In the late afternoon we want a bucket hot water for a shower but it is not delivered so we go out for diner. As we are back we ask again for it. At ten we get two buckets, one is hardly warm so it must have been filled some hours ago.

Thursday 8 – 3; Vadodara - Jambughoda
We wake up quite early and that is good since Vikram, our travel agent, is in the lobby before eight. We settle our business with him and go to the car where we meet our driver Pandit. He is about forty years and speaks sufficient English for the daily communication.

This first day of this trip is part of the original proposal of Vikram so more or less a surprise for us. We drop Vikram at the station and go with our Indicar to the same highway as yesterday. Now there is a traffic jam and Pandit passes it through the verge. The accident is a crash between a truck and some cows. When we are on the move again we are soon back in Champaner. Now we drive direct to Jami Masjid, a beautiful mosque not far from the main road.

We visit it and continue, via a rough country road, to two other mosques. Not that fine but still impressive, here workers restore the buildings. By hand two men unload a truck filled with enormous stones. Others, with just a chisel and a hammer, process the stones in the right shape. It is done in the same way as when the mosques were build , some ages ago.

According to Pandit there is nothing special to see in the walled city so we continue our trip. After a ride trough the woods we arrive in the tiny village Jambughoda. Here is the palace of a maharajah, the stables and other buildings on the estate are converted in hotel rooms. But a company has booked all this rooms for a seminar. After some talks between Pandit and the hotel staff they find a nice resolution.
In the original guest house of the palace is huge chamber, now this is used as a storage room. If we agree the personnel shall clean and furnish it. Of course we take it.

A courtyard separates our building from the palace and in between these is the kitchen. As we observe that the servants take off their shoes before entering this compound we realize that all is part of the ' masters house'.
Since the maharajah is away we may lunch in his dining room. It is a big chamber with many windows and a table for at least fifteen persons. The other half is furnished as a sitting room with a large swing bank. Behind this room are the other private rooms and we get a guided tour. Just like as in the museum palaces everywhere are family pictures and also from gatherings of all the Indian rulers with the English viceroy.
We have a fantastic lunch of rice, chappati's, prapad and four delicious gravies. For desert we get some baked sweet. When we are finished our room is ready and we rest until four.

In the afternoon we go to a tribal settlement, one of the personnel goes with us as a guide. First we drive through the woods and past many small farms. We stop by a hamlet consisting of a few houses. The house we visit has walls of clay and dung, the roof consists of tiles. They live here with a family of twelve persons. There is a common room and a store room. The cattle consits of two ox's and some cows, goats and chickens. The family cultivates peanuts, maize and mustard seed. The wall of the common dormitory is beautiful painted with all kinds of images, full of colour. We get a demonstration of grain grinding, Wies takes a turn and it is very hard work. Also we get a draught of mava(?), a strong alcoholic drink made from flowers.

The hotel servant lives in a farm near the road with his mother, wife and three children. We stop and he shows us around and explains what they, or mainly his wife, cultivate. Via a footpath we walk back to the hotel.

It is getting dark now and we sit quiet in the inner-court by the light of candles. Then their sounds a loud 'hello' and with wild gestures a tourist enters. He wants a room and the manager explains to him that the hotel is booked up. From his accent we hear that the tourist is from Italy and as in a hilarious movie he loudly explains that he reserved it by telephone and insist to have a room. The staff doubt about it and try to find a solution with the group business guests. But then the Italian says that he is with more people and needs six rooms so now it becomes clear that he is bragging and the manager tells him to leave. After an hour the man tries again and then gives up.

We eat by candlelight, it tastes fine but not as good as the lunch. The greatest surprise however is that, as guests from the maharajah, we are allowed to use his alcohol-permit and can order a beer. As we go to our room we get some more blankets.

Friday 9 – 3; Jambughoda – Bhavnagar
It is good that we had these extra blankets since it was a cold night. Wies is still coughing and has lost her voice, we hope that she not will turn really sick. After breakfast we get the account, 2680 rs for a night in the palace. By a different way we drive back to Vadodara and then go westward.

In Borsad we stop and visit a modern temple devoted to Surya, the sun deity. Pandit goes with us and explains the names of all the gods and saints, for us this is a little overdone. Behind the temple is a festival with music and dancing women. The visitors have a complete new kitchen equipment with them so we guess it will be a wedding party.

The scenery becomes more desolate and although it looks as if nothing can grow here large herds of cows, sheep's and goats roam around. The herdsmen are nomads who live in the Rann of Kutch during the monsoon. Whole families, in scenic clothings, walk along the road and accompany a long row of camels. The grown up people and animals walk while the camels carry the furniture and the young children as well as little dogs and goats. We take all the time to film this prehistoric spectacle.

As we drive to the south the surrounding becomes even more lost and dull. There are salt layers under the surface and nothing grows here. During the monsoon this area is flooded now it is dry with bridges that cross broad sand rivers.
The salt is explored on a large scale, we stop by one of the explorations and as the manager observes our interest he climbs in the car and leads us into the site. Water is injected in the ground to dissolve the salt, they pump the brine up and store it in large basins. After three weeks the sun has done the job and all the water is evaporated.

On a site across the road the salt is dry and a bunch of men and women dig it in baskets and carry these to a lorry. We film it from the road but they gesture us to come closer. They wrap old scraps around their feet and hands to protect themselves. It is again very hot and it must be incredible heavy work.

During the last part of the trip the surroundings becomes wet again as the sea-water still floods the land. Around four we arrive in Bhavnagar and Pandit suggests us first to look at the annex of the Nilambagh Palace Hotel. The new build, large rooms are situated around a inner court, it is 1200 rs a night and we take it. We dine in the garden restaurant of the real palace. A lot of tables but just five guests and the same number of waiters. But the ambiance and the food are good.

Saturday 10 – 3; Bhavnagar – Junagadh
The plan is to leave at eight but since Wies her coughing stays on we decide to see a doctor first. There is one associated to the hotel and he arrives within half an hour. He examines Wies accurate and the diagnose is bronchitis, a injection and three different types of pills must be sufficient to cure it. A hotel boy goes to the pharmacy and comes back with the message that one pill type is not available. The doctor, who is still with us, does not believe this and sends the boy back. To be sure he writes an extra cure on the prescription and then he leaves, the consult costs 400 rs. The boy comes back with two cures and we think that will be enough. (Back home our physician sees the prescription and thinks that one cure was enough).

By ten o'clock we leave and the first stop is Sihor, in this place they melt old copper and make then new objects. Because of a wedding the factory where they make these things is closed, except of course the sale department.
So we go to the copper foundry a few houses away and stay there quit a time to observe the complete production process. Here it is extremely hot and noisy.

A hole in the floor with an oil-heater serves as the melting-furnace. Men put old copper and tin in it and as that is melted they bail it out with a basket and pour it into a mould. In a few minutes the copper is sufficient cooled off to remove the moulds. The plates, a few centimetre thick, are subsequently rolled, heated in an wood oven, rolled again in thin plates, and then cut into circles and other forms. When the workers have a break we drink the chai together, all of them are bucked that we film there labour. Of course we go back and buy some items in the store.

We drive further through a scenery that is not as flat as yesterday but still barren. We want to stop for the lunch but Pandit says that he knows a better place. His choice is a restaurant where we only can sit inside and it is filled with flies. We refuse to stay there and Pandit feels him selves insulted, as the next restaurant is a long ride away, the atmosphere in the car becomes a little tense.
This restaurant looks fine and the waiter speaks good English. There is no menu but we will get all the local specialities. There is plenty to eat and it tastes fine but I'm shocked over the bill, it is 400 rs., this is too much but I pay it.

At four we arrive in Junagadh and Pandit wants to go to the hotel he knows. It is the hotel of the tourist organisation but it so dirty that we leave at once. More and more we get the idea that Pandit is used to drive with tourist that let make him the arrangements and that he cannot cope with people who want to make their own decisions. At least we are in the hotel we want, it is hotel Relief where we get a clean room for 500 rs.

It is hot but at six, as the sun sets down, we go into the city. We walk in the centre which is very crowded. The road goes steep uphill and when the rickshaws go down the drivers switch off the engine so we must watch exceptionally if we cross the road.
Wies is feeling better but needs paper handkerchiefs, no shopkeeper knows the existence of those and so she uses napkins instead. The food in the restaurant is fine but there are just a few guests. In our room it is broiling, we open the window as well as the door and with the fan on the maximum speed we try to get it colder.

Sunday 11 – 3; Junagadh
In this way is stays cool enough to sleep. We are up at eight and go to the fort which is of course on top of the hill. From the hotel we go straight upwards but fortunate in the shadow of the houses. The entrance to the fort is a massive gateway and from there we climb further to the water tank. In this part we don't see any other visitors, only monkeys, birds of prey and peacocks. We walk along the walls with big canons and the remainders of towers, meanwhile we overlook the city .

We ramble further to the more tourist area. Next to a Hindu temple a man is collecting fruits from a tree and gives me some, they taste as raw field beans. Then we come by a fifty meter deep well. It is an early form of the step wells, by this one the steps are constructed at the outside of the well. I go down but not to the bottom since it is quit ruinous. In every hole pigeons are nesting.
Near an old mosque is a cemetery, the graves are covered with coloured cloths.

By this time it is heating up again and we have seen enough. Now we have to walk in the bare sun to the centre of Junagadh. There is a fruit juice bar, something we haven't seen so far during this trip. They serve amongst others a delightful pineapple lassi.

At noon we are back in the hotel and take a nap. Later on we go into the city to look for a place to lunch. We cannot find a decent eating house so we go back and arrive just in time since the restaurant closes at three. In the town we visit another mosque and some mausoleums. The latter can right away be used in a fairy tale movie with towers and balconies everywhere. It is not possible to go inside the monuments, on the terrain around it is a herd of goats.

The internet café here is on a store attic and the connection is very slow.
Tomorrow we have again an early start, before the breakfast service in the hotel begins, so we buy bread and jam. And then of course we take another fruit drink

Monday 12 – 3; Junagadh – Bhuj
After another warm night we rise early. A man sleeps in the hall of the hotel and opens the front door, but we must carry the luggage ourselves. At seven we leave, just before Rajkot we get a flat tire. After changing it we go to a tire-centre to fix the old one. But the inner tube is totally worn out. Pandit has a new one with him and after three quarter we are on the road again.

Soon we ride through the Little Rann of Kutch, during the monsoon this area is filled with seawater but now it is mostly dry and covered with a thick layer of salt. It is not as pure white as the salt near Bhavnagar but nevertheless it is gathered. Along the road there is a thick irrigation tube for the transport of drinking water to the hinterland.

As we come closer to Bhuj everywhere we see new built villages, erected after the earthquake of 2001. There are also a lot of industrial settlements varying from modern electronic companies to chemist factories. Sometimes these are situated in the middle of nowhere with apartments for the workers and surrounded by a wall.
We visit two villages where the textiles are dyed in the traditional way. The most impressive is the block technique, it needs fourteen turns of printing and washing before the merchandise is finished.

Tomorrow we go to the tribal areas to the north of Bhuj and as we arrive in the city we go to the police station to obtain the permit we need. Here reigns the bureaucracy, we wait before the fence, behind it sits a man shifting papers and talking in the phone, next to him sits another doing nothing. After a while we get the forms and fill it up. The man takes them, waits a while, makes an entry in a book and disappears with the papers. Quickly he is back and tells us to wait half an hour since his boss is not present. After nearly an hour this official arrives, sets his signature and we get our free permits.

From the information in Footprint we selected Hotel Lake View and tell this to Pandit, it takes some trouble to convince him. We get a nice room for 900 rs., it is spacious with a working hot shower.
In the tribal region we shall visit tomorrow are hardly facilities, so we have to take our own lunch. The hotel cannot arrange this and we go with Pandit to the market and buy bread, water, fruit and biscuits.
We eat in the hotel garden next to the empty swimming pool. The whole day it was not that hot and there is a stiff breeze, now it cools off so much that we go inside for the coffee.

Tuesday 13 – 3; Bhuj
In the morning we leave Bhuj for a day trip to the tribal villages into the north. After a small stretch of cultivated land we drive through a sandy desert with just thorny bushes. At least this is how it looks but there must be food since we see many herds of buffaloes, goats and camels.
In a tiny village we stop to look around. The people boil milk with sugar in three hours down to a solid substance which they sell. As we understand this the only place they make it. A blacksmith and his helper manufacture axes, his wife operates the bellows.

In the next village we go with our permits to the police station. Although we have three copies of it they still need another one. We wait some time, go into an office, write our home address on the permits, the police puts them in a drawer and that is the last we see of it. Inside the police station there are two cells, one for men and one for women, the latter is used as a storage room.

We continue on a good drivable road until we take a sharp turn just before a roadblock. As I look at our map I see that the main road goes directly to Pakistan. Since we are in the frontier area we see some army camps. The landscape becomes hilly and the road gets worse. At last we drive through a rocky dry river-bed to the top of a hill and stop next to an army camp in Kala Durhar. We walk over a few hills and then look down over the Rann of Khutch. This part is still filled with water, and on the opposite side, to far to see it clearly faces Pakistan.

Around eleven we continue our trip to Khutdu and Lundi, villages established by the government after the earthquake. The, once nomadic, tribal people who live here are tall, the women wear colourful dresses combined with a large shawl. The men wear long jackets over a pair of trousers of the same colour, mostly white.

The villages consist of merely round houses, beautiful decorated. The inhabitants are used to tourists and invite us inside their house and try to sell clothes, carpets and other stuff. They act as if these are locally made products but we have the idea that they buy it somewhere else. Another activity is the making of charcoal, a lot of the bushes are used for this and I am afraid all the wood will vanish soon.
The government also build new schools, but here are too few children to fill all the classrooms, only one of the six is used.

Our own lunch we eat in another village where an education centre for women is situated. Apart from some attendants we don't see anyone and the dust in the library indicates no activities at all.
We have much too much food and share it with the local children.

Next we go to Dhoria again a long ride through a barren landscape. Here lives a Muslim family three kilometre from the Rann and is the last village before the border. It is a rich family with computers and stuff like that. They reason for this prosperity is the ownership of the local well so they sell the water.
We drive back to Bhuj, near the city is a film location and there we film the making of another movie with a malicious English officer and poor Indians.

During this day we discussed the rest of the trip with Pandit. I want to go to Dholavira but that is awkward as a day trip from Bhuj and we decide to visit it during the journey to Patan.
We eat in the cheerless dining room of the hotel, but the quality of the food and the friendly employees compensate this.

Wednesday 14 – 3; Bhuj
Today we make a trip to she south of Bhuj in the direction of Mandvi. Our fist goal is the Vijay Villa Palace. It is situated a few kilometres outside Mandvi in a large ecological garden. I don't see anything but bushes, probably nothing else will grow here, since it is sandy and close to the sea. The palace is well maintained, at the entrance a boy waits and shows us around. Then we climb the stairs to the roof by the outdoor. Here an older man tells what there is to see around the palace, such as a tennis court and a swimming pool. Very special is that the guides don't accept a tip.

On our way to Mandvi we see large groups of cranes, gathering together for their flight to the North. We go to the beach, it is to early for the daily visitors but there are camels and horses for hire. Along the tourist beach stand modern wind mills for electricity.
On the banks of the nearly dry river are the shipyards to build and repair big wooden dhows. Large groups of workers work manual on about twenty ships. As usual we take our time to observe all of it before we continue.

Over a lot of narrow roads we arrive in Tundah Wandh where the Rabari's live. According to Pandit these are 'strong men', in any case they are tall. One family gives us permission to take pictures and we also enter into their house. Inside are a few beds and the walls are covered with cloth and decorated with mirrors. The roof is made from branches and other wooden materials.

Back to Bhuj for the lunch and since we tomorrow leave early we settle the bill now. Without an invoice we get a discount of 100 rs. pro night.
In the afternoon we visit the palaces in the city, first the Sarad Bagh Palace, this is close to the same lake as our hotel is situated. Next to the palace is a plant nursery, in the trees in the garden hang huge bats. From the palace is only the part with the dining room open for visitors, the main building is heavily damaged by the 2001 earthquake and closed.

After this we go the palaces in the centre, here is the damage from the disaster also obvious. From the outside the Prag Mahal looks unharmed but as we walk to the backside of it we see the broad gaps in the tower. The inside is also damaged and totally neglected, it must have been a impressive and beautiful palace. Now it is sadly with defecating pigeons and the indications of mouses and rats everywhere. There is an overwhelming hall but the cloth hang down from the ceiling, with some fantasy I still can see the splendour of the past.

The Fuvura Mahal is so badly damaged that it is closed, the Aina Mahal is also a museum and better maintained. We wander through the shopping area, the road plan is old but the shops are rebuild, and in the side-streets we see a lot of ruins.
Bhuj is still a nice place but I guess it has lost a lot of the splendour it had before the earthquake.

In the meantime Pandit has read our Footprint and wants to show us everything that is mentioned in it. We skip the rebuild mosque and the museum is already closed so the first stop is Rakund, a fantastic restored step well. Next we go to the cenotaphs at Chattaradi, many of these are also destroyed and now partly repaired. From here we have a great view over the lake and the city.
Before we go back to the hotel we buy tomorrow's breakfast.

Thursday 15 – 3; Bhuj – Radhanpur
At seven we leave Bhuj and drive back over the partly finished highway. This is not pleasant and we are glad that after a few hours we take the detraction to Rapar and Dholavira. The road runs through a very dry area and gets bad and narrow, at least there is just one lane left. As usual Pandit moans when the car hits a hole in the road. We are happy that there is barely any traffic and tourists we don't see at all.

The people in the villages are traditional dressed, the man wear white trousers, jacket and a turban, and as usual the women have more colourful clothes. We drive again over the bottom of a part of the Rann, an eight km long road right across the salt fields, it is an unearthly sight. We cross the next 'island' and, as we see the Rann again, a very tiny road leads us to Dholavira.

Just before the excavation there is a sign to a tourist resort but we continue and half past eleven we arrive at a large empty parking zone.
Next to this is a brand new museum, men are busy to set up the exhibition. We ask if we can take pictures on the site, according to my information it is forbidden, but there is no problem as long as we do not use the video.
Over broad paths we walk to the ruins. I estimate that the terrain is 500 m. long and wide, apart from a group workers we are the only people. The walls we see are in such a perfect condition that it looks as if they are heavily restored. But as we see the workers digging it is obvious that after 4500 years the walls come undamaged out of the sand. We talk a while with the supervisor and then explore the site.

We are allowed to walk everywhere and there are boards with clear explanations on it. Some of the walls are completely excavated whilst from the most buildings only the upper rows of the stones are visible. Clearly you can see how impressive this stronghold was. As usual on places like this I want to see everything and go on while Wies takes a rest in the shadow of a tree. I feel a little overwhelmed by the idea of walking through the remainders of one of the oldest civilisations. But we have to go on and after 1½ hour I have seen enough and we leave.

We are hungry and go to the tourist resort for lunch, there is a new restaurant and a hotel. It looks as if the restaurant never has been opened, in the lobby of the hotel a man sleeps, the doors are closed. So no food and the first place were we can eat is in Rapar, more than two hours driving from here. In a village we buy some biscuits in a small shop and then we have a lot of luck.
Just as we crossed the Rann again we arrive in Ravi and a restaurant has opened since five days. The cooking is done in the open air and the cooks enjoy that we film the preparing of our meal. Everything is so brand new that the price stickers are still on the tableware but the food is fine.

From Rapar we drive by another road to the highway and from there the only memorable thing is that we must stop for four crossing Nilgau.
The first city with a hotel is Radhanpur. The hotel is close to the highway and not that good but it is six o'clock and for 600 rs we take a room with AC but without chairs. I take a walk through the city, it is dusty and absolute not touristic. At seven the sun sets and all the shops close. I suddenly realize that compared with Orissa, where we were some weeks ago, there is an hour difference in the time of the sunset.

Friday 16 – 3; Radhanpur - Meshana
The breakfast is bad and the price of mineral water is a mystery: 3 bottles for 49 rs. After an hour we approach Patna, we drive around the city and stop at, at least that's how it looks, a lawn with a fence around it. But in reality we stay before the Ran-ka-Vav stepwell. Just as always a form for the video must be filled up and this time I have to do it myself. The ticket seller gives the impression that he sees the form for the first time.

Above the ground level there is nothing to see but as we walk towards it we discover that the well is fantastic restored with sculptures everywhere. We go down as far as it is allowed and that is quit deep.
Then we go to the Sahastralinga talav another large water tank in the shape of a great square. Here are also few visitors, a little boy walks with us an insists that we climb down but we prefer to stay at the surface.

Patan is also well known for weaving sari's according to the ikat technique, hereby are the individual threads painted before the weaving process. We get an extended explanation of the way this is accomplished. The dying takes 3 months, the weaving 1½ and then you have a sari for 90.000 rs. Also the smaller shawls that they sell are above our budget.
We leave Patan to see the big sun temple in Modhera. The temple itself consists of two buildings and before it is a great stepwell. And, as on the other places, just a few visitors.

We stay the night in Mehsana in the Sahara Bridge hotel, it looks very luxurious but we get a nice clean room for 800 rs. In the afternoon we make a trip to Vadnagar. There, in the middle of a ordinary neighbourhood, are two very tall triumphal arches decorated with sculptures.

After that we drive to one of the old town gates and from there we make a walk through the city. By many of the houses the upper part is build with beautiful carved wood. The last stop is by an again lovely old temple. The carvings are so well kept that we think they are restored although it looks original.

At five we are back in the hotel, Vikham, Pandit 's boss, phones him and we briefly talk to Vikham telling that we are satisfied with our trip. This hotel has two different dining rooms with different prices, we take the cheaper one.

Saturday 17 – 3; Meshana - Udaipur
Since Wies her coughing is nearly over we both sleep well again. By the payment the clerk needs a calculator to determine the change (1000- 788) and it takes some rides with the elevator before the boy and I are on the same floor to collect our luggage but it was a nice hotel. About eight we leave and after an hour or so we reach the high-way to Delhi.

In Gujarat we drive through an agricultural environment but that changes immediately after the border and we are in a barren and dry hilly country. The green colour comes from cactus hedges planted up and down over the hills.
The border between Gujarat and Rajasthan is as between the European countries a decade ago. The freight trucks have to go to the customs on both sides of the border and Pandit needs a travel-permit for Rajasthan.

The landscape and the road stay the same until we enter Udaipur. We go to hotel Mahendra Prakesh, they have just one room left and since we stay for five nights we get a discount and pay 1200 rs. It is a big room and there is a lawn and a swimming pool, just the luxury we need for some days.
It is one o'clock and we say goodbye to Pandit and I guess that both parties are relieved as persons we could not go on together very well.

After lunch we take time to relax and late in the afternoon we walk to the lake. We stand at the back entrance of the City Palace and can not walk alongside the lake to the centre. So we walk around the palace, it is hilly with now and then a stout climb. And of course everywhere tourist shops and the customers they need. This is a big contrast with the last weeks, or actually with our whole journey so far.
We go back and buy some Kingfisher, it tastes good after our dry period. We dinner in the garden of our hotel. There are some tourist groups but we sit there quiet and happy with another beer.

Sunday 18 – 3; Udaipur
We take our time this morning and at nine we have breakfast in the garden. Then we walk to the centre and visit the City Palace. The maharana still lives in a part of the palace and he just arrives in his Mercedes. From the travel book I got the idea that there are many different palaces but in reality it is one big complex. Every ruler has added his own chambers to it and every extensions
they call a palace.

It is very luxurious and there is a lot to see, many beautiful rooms and objects while the views over the Pichola lake and the town are magnificent.
There are a lot of visitors but there is a one-way route through all the narrow corridors and stairs that connect the different parts of the palace. Due to this it is possible to look at everything in your own tempo.

For lunch we go to a rooftop restaurant, the kitchen is below and there is just one person to do all the work so we take a rest at the same time. And that is necessarily too because afterwards we walk to the clock-tower, and the walk goes up and down. Happily we find another way along the foot of the hill and so back to the hotel.

We have a quit afternoon in the garden and go out for dinner. The first rooftop restaurant is near the hotel. It is dark up there and just one table is occupied, but we have a nice view on the palace. We sit down and wait for the waiter. It takes a long time and just as we want to leave he comes and of course we can eat. After again a long wait he brings the breakfast menu, that settles it and we leave.
Next to the Ray Palace, this is more pleasant and the food is perfect. On the way back to our hotel we walk to the lake. In a pubic garden are enormous luxury wedding parties. On the hill is an temple, this and the contours of the lake are lightened and so is the Palace Hotel in the lake.

Monday 19 – 3; Udaipur
The hotel desk mediates for trips, this afternoon we want a rickshaw (500rs.) for a tour through the city and the surroundings. For tomorrow we hire a car (1400 rs.) for a trip to Kamblagarh and Ranakpur and they will take care also for tickets for the bus to Jodhpur on the 22nd. Now all this is settled we stay the rest of the moning in the garden and as that becomes to hot in the hall next to our room. They have a filled bookshelves so we have something new to read.

Although we have another fortnight before we go home we feel that our ambition to explore a lot is declining. We have already decided to go to Jodhpur from here. During our previous trip we stayed there in Durag Niwas. We decide to take that as a base for the remaining days and I mail to Govind, the owner.
After lunch we must pay the food and drinks we had until now. I see that a beer is 120 rs. so in future I go to the shop where I pay 25 rs.

Half past two we go with the rickshaw amd a driver who speaks reasonable English. First a ride to various markets in the city. As the rickshaws are not allowed to park here we just take a quick look.
Next we go to the cenotaphs, officially it is not allowed to enter the enclosure. But when we pay the guard 20 rs. and write a few lines in the guest-book after the visit there is no problem. It is an large complex with about 700 cenotaphs. We visit just a part of it, the older monuments are situated in lawns, the newer ones in a sandy terrain.
In the Jain temple we visit after this, a monk guides us around. He tells that all the sculptures are original, I don't know if this is true but they are beautiful.

Then to Moti Magri, a court around the remainders of the oldest castle of Udaipur. Here is much attention for the famous horse Chetak just as in the City Palace and at many other places in the city. From the park we have a fantastic sight on some of the lakes around the city.
The following court, Sahelion Ki Bari is constructed with many and mostly working, fountains. There is also a natural science museum for children.

A little outside the town is Shilipgram a craft village intended to show the tribal live in these region. But to us it is more a tourist trap with many shops and space for a lot more. An old camel is to hire for a ride and musicians and dancers start their performance as you stand still before them. We don't stay long.

The final is a trip to the Monsoon Palace, high above the city. There is a gate at the beginning of the road where tickets are sold. For the video the tariff is 200 and we do not want to spend that. The driver, I did not mention it but he is a nice companion, has overheard this and assures he will fix it with the guard by the palace for 100 rs.
The road turns upwards and it is nearly to steep for the rickshaw but again it is a wonderful trip with great views over the lakes and the surrounding mountains. The driver goes with our money to the guard while we look around a little. When the guard ask us for the video ticket we point to the driver. The guard ask “what did you pay” and as we tell we gave 100 rs. we may enter.

The monsoon palace is merely a tower in a terrible state of disrepair, but the reason to go is for the indeed amazing views. Since buses are not allowed here it is not very crowed. On the ground floor of the tower is a small exhibition of the flora and fauna of the region. We go upstairs in the tower, sit on the broad window-sills. The swallows fly around us. We want to see the sunset but since it is cloudy that is not so spectacular and as the city lights go on we return. Down hill it is not necessary to switch on the engine.

Back in the city the driver asks if we want to go to a school for miniature painters. As foundation for the paintings they use silk or plates of crunched camel bones, the latter as substitute for ivory. After the demonstration there is of course the selling.

Tuesday 20 – 3; Udaipur
It is nine o'clock when we are on our way, again we are lucky to have a driver who speaks sufficient English. Soon we go into the Aravalli Range, this also is a fantastic scenery with barren hills and small-scale agriculture in the valleys. We drive along the river through a lot of small villages where the people mostly wear traditional clothing.

In a somewhat bigger village we drive into the mountains and go through an old arch. Then, on the top of the hill we suddenly see the Kumbalgarh fort before, or better, above us on the next hilltop. From where we stand it is an impressive sight, the long wall seems to go on everlasting.
We drive to the entrance and start to climb to the top of the fort. It is a steep path with hairpins and many arches for the defence. As we look at the impressive surroundings we can follow the long outer wall, in the area it encloses are many temples. The fort is build on the last hill of the range and in the distance we see the flat areas.

The older buildings and defence bastions are ruined. An old woman allures us inside the remainders. There are the statues of some gods and we get once again a clot of paint on our forehead for the price of 10 rs. She wants to guides us further but we go on together and clean our head. On the top of the hill there is a newer palace but nowadays this is also abandoned. We go to the top roof, it is frightening how steep it goes down from there.

We walk back to the car and want to lunch here but according to the driver it is better to eat in Ranakpur. Through a just such impressive area we drive towards it. There are many wells, the water is pumped up by mean of the so-called Persian wheels.

An endless chain of buckets is slung round a large vertical wheel. A system of tooth-wheels and bullocks which walk in a circle make the vertical wheel turn and every bucket comes up, filled with water. We visit one and after a little payment I make some rounds on the shelf behind the bullocks.

In Ranakpur we lunch in an worn out collection of cottages.Big signboards advertise it as a holiday resort but we are the only guests.
It is obvious that the main road is close to the Jain temples, bus loads of tourist arrive regular. But it is a beautiful temple with many sculptures. The biggest temple has so many pillars that I cannot get a good impression of its real size. We may film everywhere except for the holy centre and guards look after this. There are also two smaller temples which attract much less visitors. By the smallest one is just one guard and to ban the boredom he guides us around. For a small fee we may film here realy everything.

The drivers drops us by the nearby sun temple, we have actually seen enough for this day but since we are here we walk barefooted through the hot sand. The trip back is again wonderful with the low standing sun and we are thirty past six back in the hotel, again a fascinating day.

Wednesday 21 – 3; Udaipur
After a slow start we walk at ten o'clock to the city to explore the markets on which we briefly where at our city-tour. We find the vegetable market easy but the spice market is a problem, everyone we ask points us in a different direction so we give up and just wander through all kind of shopping streets and allies.
It is maybe just a quarter of hour walking from the lake but here are hardly any tourists. In a small stall we have a delightful chai and then do some shopping. On a squire we see our yesterday driver, today he is a rickshaw driver. We chat a while and he offers us another chai.

Slowly we wander towards the lake and want a lunch. In a row of houses is a very modest entrance to the Red Herring restaurant. We enter the alley and arrive in a small eating house with a terrace for one table above the lake. It is gorgeous peaceful, the food tastes fantastic and we enjoy the panorama over the lake quit some time.

On the way back we look after a bracelet for our daughter. The shopkeeper has a lot of bracelets but not in the colour we want. His son has a shop a few blocks away and he has other stones. As we walk to it the father is already waiting for us. The colours are good but now we don't like the model and on the spot he fabricates a new one.

This evening we want to visit the daily dance demonstration in the museum at the lake. It starts at seven and we leave one hour earlier. The streets are crowded, especially with women and children who walk to the centre in their best clothes. Police blocks the road for motorised traffic. We walk with the stream in the direction of the museum, the crowd splits in two, the greater part goes to the lake.
By the museum, of course a palace, are arrows with the announcement this is reserved for ladies and foreigners. So we come at the roof of the museum, in the meantime it is clear to us that this cannot be the standard dance evening.

The roof is overcrowded and we climb a table in the hope to see something. Beneath us, at the bank of the lake, stands a much larger crowd. On the lake drifts a raft with seven women. As it darkens they dance and a wide variety of other boats pass by. These are filled with officials, other dancers, musicians and of course the TV. Since it is so crowded we can only see fragments of the festivities.

Then the police enters the roof and evacuates it, rumours say that somebody has fallen down, I guess there are just too many people. We talk a little with the police and leave as the last ones, it is unbelievable with how many we were. The festival continues and there is a stunning firework.
As we are downstairs beautiful clothed idols are carried from the lake into the city. As we ask for the cause of the festivities the answer we get is that it has something to do with a new year and that it is a typical Rajasthan festival. Later on we discover that this is the start of the famous Mewar festival.

Thursday 22 – 3; Udaipur – Jodhpur
Since our bus to Jodhpur leaves at two o'clock we do not have to rush anything this morning. With a rickshaw we go to a travel agency near the bus station. After a short time a man leads us and other passengers to the bus. Above the seats are berths so we don't have too much space above our heads.

First we make a detour through Udaipur to pick up more passengers. Then we leave the city by the road to Ajmer and after a while we take a turn to a smaller road through a hilly landscape. It is warm and the windows are open but in front sit a few women which are carsick. If they vomit it is wise to close our window so we must be attentive.

In a village beyond the hills we stop and can leave the bus for a while. Then the service continues as a slow bus through the desolate country. The driver stops for everyone who puts up his hand and the passengers can leave where they want. We think it is a private trade by the driver and his assistant. Of course this gives a lot of delay and one of the original passengers gets very angry. It makes no impression.

At six we are on the main road to Jodhpur and don't stop so often any more. But when we drive through Pali we act as a city bus. So it is thirty past eight when we arrive in Jodhpur.
With a rickshaw we cross the city to Durag Niwas where we are cordial welcomed by Govind, his wife Mukta and the rest of his family, it is as we are coming home. We eat something and talk a while in the innercourt with the other guests before we go to bed.

Friday 23 – 3; Jodhpur
Yesterday Goving told us about a ceremony on behave of the first haircut of their son Ayush. We are invited to join the family and of course we have accepted this. It starts tomorrow so today we don't do very much.
After our late breakfast the women of the Sambhali project enter, this is a NGO that Govind has founded in a separate part of his guest house. We want to go to the city but first Wies goes to see what and how they are making.

So it is about noon as we go to the market near the clock-tower. When we were here in 2005 we visited the the fort and other tourist places. Now we just explore the city, walk around the lakes and go to a restaurant that overlooks them.

Back in the hotel we rest and drink and after dinner we discuss the coming trip. Two other guest, Swiss Nigama and Cat from the USA, join the party.
Govind explains about the ceremony. It is a Rajput tradition that the first hair of the eldest son is burned to sacrifice it to the god Durga. Ayus is two now and it is time to do the offering. Govind's own hair is not burned but his mother has kept it, so they have a double ceremony.

The ceremony takes place in the Thar desert from where the family origins. It is in a little village near the small town Setrawa. We will stay there in the old deserted family house. We know this place because we stayed there one night in October 2005. During the chat the bleating of the two goats that will be sacrificed sounds in the background.

Saturday 24 – 3; Setrawa in the Thar desert
It is one o'clock as we leave Jodhpur. In our landrover we sit with ten grown ups, two children, two goats, the kitchen equipment and a lot of food and water. The odd combination, with four white tourists, draws a lot of attention as we cross the city.

We make some detours to pick up more guests but nobody is at home. Halfway we stop in a village to eat a lot of delightful pekora's.

Due to all the detours it is four o'clock when we arrive at the the village. The house is build as a rectangle around an open court of twenty metres. The neighbours have already cleaned the house so we just have to unload the car.
Mukta was only here once, short after her marriage four years ago. Now she and the other women install the kitchen and start to prepare a meal. The propane stove we have taken with us.
The other cars arrive also and Govind installs our sleeping places, the four tourists near to each other on the rooftop under the open sky. As guest we are not allowed to do anything but after some nagging we may peel a large load of garlic.

Everywhere in the courtyard are clods and banks where everyone settles down. Govind's grandmother, a lady in her late sixties, lived in this house when she was young. The people of the village remember her and greet her with great respect. The preparation for the ceremony is lead by an uncle of Govind. In the house there is no electricity but someone makes an illegal tap to the electricity wire of the neighbours so we have one lamp besides the light of the candles.

A niche, normally filed with rubbish, is cleaned and now act as an altar. When the evening falls a big drum is beaten and a man tells a story. This is the start of the ceremony which goes on, with large intervals, the whole night.
The musician plays his organ and sings traditional songs. A priest is there and after the meal he and four other accomplish an extended ceremony by the altar. All of them are clothed in white with colourful turbans. Of course we don't understand anything of the rites, but it is as something of archaic ages and very impressive.

Next to the house is the temple for the village deity and there takes place the next episode. Outside this temple about ten travelling mediums are gathered, inside the temple is a fire. The musicians join the group and together they sing.
After a while we go back inside, the village children are eating and as they finished we get our meal.

The temple ceremony is still going on, the mediums sing and beat together on a big drum. Inside the temple one of them is dancing and meditating. Suddenly he shouts and comes out shaking and rolling with his eyes. The deity has possessed him. Everyone is excited and the villagers approaches him and ask their questions to the god. According to Govind these questions are on the level of “why gives the goat no milk”. After a while it becomes quit again, cigarettes, booze and chunks of opium are shared, I refuse that and go with the others back inside.

Now the ladies who did the coking have at last time to eat. We sit and talk for a while, climb to our bed and lay down. The sky is clear and we see a lot of stars. Naturally it is cold but with some extra blankets it is fine. The men near the temple stay awake the whole night, now and then they sing and by this sound I fell asleep.

Sunday 25 – 3; Setrawa in the Thar desert
During the night I am regular half awake and hear the drums and the priest by the temple. Then, at three o'clock, I wake up by singing of six women on the court beneath us. I put on some clothes and go down to film it, Govind's mother is awake too and says something to the other women and then I am the centre of the fun.

At thirty past six we wake up again as the musician starts to sing. I see the sun coming above the horizon and shining over the deserts and the peacocks who wander around the houses, I walk to the temple, it is obvious the mediums there had a cold night and sit quietly together.
One by one the other members of our party wake up and Mukta has chai, bread and fruit for everyone. Of course there is a queue for the only toilet. All of us go to the temple outside where the priests have got back their energy. Te deity still possesses the same man and he starts again to dance on the beating of the drum.

There are more ceremonies by the altar in the house and outside with another temple. Back in the house the musician get his reward and the men disappear. It is half past nine and already getting hot.

At eleven we walk with the family into the desert for the haircut. Everyone wears his most beautiful traditional clothes. A few hundred metres from the house is a stone in the sand, this represents the deity of the family. Here they kindle a fire of cow dung.
After the preliminary ceremonies Govind's mother burns his baby hair. Then it is Ayush his turn, he stays calm when his hair is cut off very short and burned with the proper prayers. Just a little tail stays on the back of his head. It is impressive, with a little group in the desert fulfilling an ages old ceremony.

We walk back to the house and stay there during the afternoon. The house is thoughtful constructed so there is always shadow in a part it. In the meantime there is still more garlic to peel and other guests arrive.
By nightfall we go with three cars to Setrawa a few kilometres from here. Of course the goats go with us. In the dark we walk along 600 year old ruins to a small temple. There again are ceremonies for Govind and Ayush. We walk back to the centre of the village where the family once again circles around a holy fire and the last tail of Ayush his hair is cut off and burned.
Then the goat is let around the fire, when she shivers the gods will accept him as an offer. The goat waits some time but then she shakes.

Bunty, the man which does a lot of the work in the hotel shall offer the goat. He is going to marry soon and his family warned him not to accomplish the ceremonial killing because this brings bad luck. A boy lies on the ground holding the hind-legs of the goat. As Bunty swings the long knife down the blade flies off and rushes close to the boys head. Happily nobody gets wounded. Govind's Uncle takes over and the second goat goes spotless.
For the return journey there are only two cars so the ladies leave first. We get something to drink and while we are waiting the goats of other families are sacrificed. With twelve man in a mini van we go back together with the slaughtered goats. In the house we get a little to eat while Bunty and others chop the goat in small pieces. The meat goes with 1,5 kg hot pepper and other spices in the cooking-pot on the open fire. While we are waiting we chat and drink a beer or something more alcoholic.

At one o'clock the meat is ready, not many people have stayed for this. It delicious but very sharp, when Wies tells me that her kisses will burn me everyone laughs his head off. An hour later we climb to the roof.

Monday 26 – 3; From the Thar desert back to Jodhpur
At seven thirty the sun wakes us. Early in the morning the temperature is pleasant and again we enjoy the peacocks showing off their