Dearest Friends and Family,
We hope your new year is off to a great start. We are officially in our 11th month of traveling.
It feels so surreal. We left Sri Lanka and are now making our way through India. We started in Bangalore and planned first to travel as far south as we could and then proceed north.
We hadn't seen a movie since we left New Zealand over 7 months ago. Josh was itching to see The Hobbit and as luck would have it, we found a mall that was showing it in 3D on opening day.
After we were stripped searched, sent through a metal detector and handed over the battery to our camera, we made our way inside the theater. India is quite serious about searching everyone that enters malls, theaters, stores, etc. As you may recall, in 2008 there were twelve coordinated attacks throughout Mumbai committed by Islamist terrorists that were trained and came in from Pakistan. Since that horrific attack, India has taken precautions to prevent future tragedies. Maybe we should consider safety measures of this degree in theaters and malls in the States?
O.K., back to a more light-hearted subject. Josh thoroughly enjoyed the movie and popcorn while reclined in a plush leather seat.
While we were waiting for the movie to start, Leanne noticed a flyer advertising a half marathon/marathon race for the following day. As many of you know Leanne is a runner. She promised herself that she would run a half marathon at some point during our trip. We compromised, since Josh got his wish to see The Hobbit, Leanne got her wish to run a half marathon. Although she can count on her hands the number of times she has run a significant amount of miles while on this trip, she decided to sign up for the Bengaluru Midnight Marathon on December 15th. This was exactly two days after we touched down in India. The race took place at this time because the temperatures are cooler and the air is not as polluted at night. Both sound like good reasons to us.
She laced her hiking/running shoes and was ready to tackle 13.1 miles.
The crowd was so entertaining. They even broke out in some Bollywood moves before the race began.
Leanne tried to get Josh to jump in the circle of the manly dancing crowd but he opted for a hot cup of chai instead. Pinky up!
Just before midnight the half marathon and marathon runners took their places at the start line. It was actually quite chilly at that time of night but Leanne still gave it two thumbs up.
The race course consisted of 5 laps. This was the look of a happy face as she rounded the corner for final lap.
A solid time on the finishing clock and a half marathon checked off the to-do list but oh so tired.
It was late in the night and there were no taxis in sight. It was at this point that we asked ourselves how the heck were we going to get back to our hotel that was a 30 minute taxi ride away? Luckily, we found a nice off-duty taxi driver that was at the race cheering on his friend. We bargained with him and he drove us back to our hotel for a fair price. Thank goodness for this nice man otherwise we would have been stranded in the middle of nowhere for the night.
Bangalore is known as "The Indian epicenter of the IT world" at least this is what the locals told us. However, we are questioning the validity of this statement because the internet connection/speed across the country is less than desirable. What was desired was an Indian Santa Claus singing holiday tunes.
We had a tough time figuring out what exactly you were supposed to do in Bangalore besides shopping? We did manage to see the few sights that were highlighted for tourism while getting some comforts from home. Sort of...hamburgers are chicken burgers in India because they don't eat beef. If you order a Big Mac it has a fried chicken filet instead. Strange, but what can you do?
We strolled through some parks.
Visited a few temples.
This is the Bull Temple.
Aha! That's why they call it the Bull Temple. There's a rock shaped like a bull.
We spent a total of six days in Bangalore and got to experience a lot of new things that you would expect to see in a big Indian city. It was definitely time to move on and we were told by several that a must stop is Hampi, India.
Hampi's history dates back to around 100 - 50 years BC and is absolutely unbelievable. There are two sides of the town that you can stay in. One is Hampi Town and is on the side where most of the ruins are located. The down side to this is that it is generally more expensive and much, much louder and more hectic. We decided to stay on the other side of the river. To get to the other side of the river it is required to take a 30-second ride by ferry. We'll go more into this a little bit later.
Believe it or not, Hampi was once home to an empire that was larger than the Roman Empire and many of the ruins are still being discovered. Hampi is an explorers paradise and much of our five days there was spent wandering through vast valleys of boulders and dreaming of days gone by. We felt like a couple of little explorers crawling over hills and walking around ancient stone buildings. It really makes you think.
One of the great bonuses of visiting Hampi was the loads of school children we were fortunate to interact with. The Indians are very proud of this part of their history and it seems that every school child visits the ruins. Many of these children have literally never seen a Westerner except on TV and they couldn't believe what they were seeing. They so badly wanted to talk to us, touch us, take pictures with us, and even get our autographs! Here are only a few of our favorite pictures that we took of each other.
Ancient statues were abound!
The tip of the iceberg...errr...temple.
Cows are sacred animals in the Hindu religion. To put it in the most basic of terms, humans live off their milk so they are considered to be our mothers. They can go anywhere they want because it is their world and they really are allowed to wander around at will. Not in cities obviously but you get the point. This little guy was walking around one of the temples. Josh admitted that he has never considered a cow to be "Cute" but this one changed his mind. There's a first time for everything!
We had such a great time exploring we decided to snap a couple of goofy pictures.
After a wonderful day of meandering around, we made our way back to the ferry crossing. There's a certain demographic that frequents Hampi. We won't go into it any further but everybody who has visited there knows who they are. They believe that they are entitled to pay the same prices as the locals without living the same lifestyle and hardships of the locals. The locals had to pay 20 cents to cross the river and the tourists had to pay 30 cents to cross the river. The certain demographic couldn't have this because "It's not the money, it's the principle." Whatever!! If it was the principle you would wash your clothes in a river and barely scrape by on the pennies you made each day. Apologies, but that saying has quickly moved up to our least favorite thing to hear.
Some members of this group decided to complain to the police about this HUGE discrepancy and because of this "Principle" the ferry was closed down. Around 60 passengers were stranded and forced to take a rickshaw an hour-and-a-half to the other side of the river. It was also almost 50 times more expensive.
We got lucky and teamed up with John and Phoebe from the UK for our hour-and-a-half ride. They helped share the cost and were wonderful company for the ride. We're pretty sure we didn't stop talking the entire way and our friendly rickshaw driver even pulled over for us to grab a couple of beers for the ride.
With the ferry debacle behind us, we set out to see more of what Hampi had to offer via motorbike. Josh loves motorbike days.
We climbed to the top of Monkey temple for a spectacular view of the town.
We went for a hike just off of some deserted dirt roads that we found while cruising along on the motorbike.
We sat and watched the locals wash their clothes in the river. It definitely makes you appreciate what little effort we have to put into this chore with our fancy washing machines back home.
All great days must come to an end. This great day came to an abrupt end for Leanne when this time the food poisoning monster took her in it's grasp. She thought her food tasted a little off that night but didn't think much of it since she is not really a fan of the food in India anyways. She was awoken in the middle of the night, crawled on her hands and knees to the bathroom because the electricity was out and spent that night and much of the next morning praying to the porcelain god. This was the worst she had felt during the entire trip. People have asked us if we ever get homesick. These are the times when we feel homesick the most, desperately yearning to be at home on our couch covered with a clean blanket and getting sick in our own clean toilet. Leanne knew this sickness was going to stick around for a long time. It took almost 2 weeks until she could eat a normal meal again.
We had already booked a 12-hour sleeper bus for the following night so she pulled herself together and made her best attempt at sightseeing during our last day in Hampi.
It was hot, hot, hot so she had to take several breaks throughout the day. She still managed to eek out a smile in this picture.
One of the iconic artifacts is called the Stone Temple Car but you have to pay $5 per person to see it. A rickshaw driver told us to climb to the top of this hill then look down for free. It worked!
If you'd like to see a video from our time in Hampi click below:
After 5 days it was time to take on this sleeper bus on our way to Goa. Both of us had heard of Goa but for some reason we thought it was a town or a smaller area or something. Nope! Goa is an entire state! It was huge but we knew we were attending a music festival called Live at the Console and it was on Cavelossim Beach. We knew nothing else but this small fact. We were told we could hop off the bus in a little town called Concullim and Cavelossim would only be a short 1.5 mile walk from there. The bus let us off at 5:00 A.M. in this sleepy little town. Did we mention it was Christmas morning? A very, Merry Christmas morning to us. It would be hours before the sun would greet us with light so we used the lighting of the Christmas decorations on the neighborhood house to guide our way. Goa is a predominately Catholic town so there were Christmas lights and homemade mangers everywhere you looked.
We had no idea which direction we should head but we remembered seeing Cavelossim to the west of Concullim on a map. We knew the bus was heading north so we took the next street on the lefthand side of the road and started walking west.
We passed the time by looking at all of the homemade manger scenes and watching the locals flood the streets in their finest Christmas attire to attend 6:00 A.M. mass. Leanne was in the Christmas spirit and enjoying the walk while Josh was not in the Christmas spirit nor enjoying the walk.
We weren't even certain if we were heading in the right direction but a few people nodded, pointed and told us to keep going for another 1.5 miles. We figured that wasn't so bad so we proceeded onwards. Besides, there weren't any taxis or rickshaws in sight because it was Christmas morning. We started to wonder where this town was since we had been walking for over an hour now. People just kept pointing and telling us to keep going. Just how far was this town? We kept convincing ourselves to "Just keep going because we've gone this far already." We've all been in that situation before and we are sure you all know what happens next. After nearly 15 miles of walking which included crossing by ferry at one point, calling the guesthouse four times, Leanne almost passing out from being so weak and over three-and-a-half hours after being dropped off by the bus, we finally found the darn guesthouse we were staying at. Josh walked up to the front of the guesthouse and startled the guests eating breakfast by yelling "This place better be worth it!"
We are happy to report that it was worth it! Cavelossim is a quiet part of south Goa and not at all the party scene that Goa is known for. It is quite the opposite with quaint beach shacks sprinkled along one of the top 5 longest stretches of beaches in the world. This was just what we were looking for.
We made friends with Joe (from New Zealand) and Josef (living in New Zealand but originally from Seattle). We spent a wonderful Christmas night at one of the beach shacks enjoying each other's company and acting a bit silly. Leanne still barely could handle the sight or smell of food so she just hung out while the boys ate and drank. While we missed being with our family durning the holidays it turned out to be a very, Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year for us.
After an exhausting Christmas, Santa decided to burn himself to a crisp on the beaches of Goa in his budgie smugglers.
We will fill you all in on the details of our days in Goa and Southern India in our next edition. We are already getting a start on writing the next post so it should be up in the next week.
As always, thanks for following.
Leanne & Josh