Tim and I are having a jolly old time over here, and there haven’t been too many ugly mishaps thus far.
We started off in Mumbai, where we stayed for two nights. It took us a while to figure out what was going on, though it didn’t help that we were a bit drunk when we arrived – we managed to hold off drinking between Perth and Singapore, but then we succumbed to temptation of Australian Merlot on the SIngapore – Mumbai leg. We mistakenly figured that this was the only way we would be able to face the situation of landing in a mad new country in the middle of the night with no accomadation. We got a little bit fleeced on the first night, but not too badly, and we have since learned that the locals are generally pretty trustworthy, despite our initial doubts.
Mumbai is very busy, but great fun. There are millions of these black and yellow 1950-something Fiat taxis flying around (honestly every second car), making life hazardous on the streets, especially coming from Kalgoorlie. The secret is just to walk out in front of the traffic with no regard for your life or those around you – I think they must just respect your bravery and slow down or something, unlike in Australia where we would speed up to try and hit the bastards. We had a very interesting and hilarious time cashing in Tim’s travellers cheques – we got sent to about seven or eight different banks, none of which would change them. In about the eigth one, a guy on the ground floor sent us to the second floor of the branch, where another guy sent us to the furthest corner of the room. The guy in the corner told us that this bank doesn’t change them and that we should go to Thomas Cook, which was “near the fountain” – what fountain??? They were all smirking or giggling as we walked out in hysterics – there was nothing to do but laugh at the craziness of it all. We eventually found it about 3 hours and 5 kg of lost sweat later.
Tim also lost his little backpack in a taxi, which was a drama because it had our Lonely Planet India book in it – without this I swear we would never have got out of Mumbai. I vaguely remembered seeing a modern-looking bookshop somewhere on our Great Thomas Cook Hunt, and as remarkable good luck would have it, we managed to find it (and a new Lonely Planet, plus Hindi phrasebook) almost straight away!
Next we went to book a train from Mumbai to Jodphur (Rajasthan), and had some more good luck when we ran into a guy from New South Wales who had been in India for 26 years – he showed us how to fill in the train booking form and negotiated with the Indian lady for some decent seats. Like the Lonely PLanet, without this guy, we would almost certainly still be in Mumbai, or at least trying to walk to Rajasthan – the train booking process is wierd and difficult at first glance, but I think we have a handle on it now.
The train ride itself was hilarious. It was 17 hours long and Tim had a 1 litre duty free bottle of rum in his bag, so we did the only reasonable thing a pair of sane people could do – we drank it all within about 3 hours. It certainly had the effect of improving our fragile grasp of Hindi, and led to us learning off our fellow passengers what we think will become a very valuable phrase “Kanjus makhi cus”, literally meaning “You are a miser and a fly-sucker” – the fly-sucker part means that if a fly flew into said person’s chai (tea), they would suck the tea off the fly before they threw it away. Apparently it is a very valuable phrase when bargaining, but we are yet to have had cause to use it. Anyway, we had half the carriage in raptures with our Hindi until we reached a time when even our grasp of English was becoming loose at best, upon which we retired to bed.
The next day we arrived in Jodphur, an amazing where many buildings are an azure blue colour, and the entire place is backed by a gigantic and intricately crafted Rajput fort – I urge anyone with the internet to look this city up to get a feeling for it. We did the great audio tour of the fort, and then sat in a rooftop restaurant and had some more lovely Indian food talking to some Germans before retiring for the much needed boon of sleep.
Today we had a crazy 7 hour bus ride east to Jaisalmer, another Rajasthani Fort city. Our initial bus got confiscated by police halfway here for being overcrowded, despite the fact that there wasn’t even anyone on the roof yet! So we just got booted off the bus in this random desert town, with no idea of when or if a new bus would come. We made friends with some local kids, then one went and got an onion for me off this cow-pulled cart that was full of onions and driven by this crazy moustached turabned fella. Anyway they wouldn’t leave me alone until I had eaten it so I just ate it as some sort of show of gratitude. Luckily another bus came before they made me eat the rest of it – this was another bus full of people going to Jaisalmer, which we piled up with our whole busload of people. There ended up being about 4 people pre one-man sleeping cabin, but it was great fun and comfortable enough.
Jaisalmer looks good so far, and we are going on an overnight camel ride tomorrow night, which should be grand. Rajasthan as a whole seems quite touristy and we are looking forward to getting off the beaten track a little bit if possible – with 1 billion-plus people, you can imagine that many a track is “beaten”.
Anyway, that’s enough for now I believe. Send any news or reviews, and I will send another email when I get a chance, or when some more wierd stuff happens – whichever comes first.
Until then I remain,
Stumbling dehydrated and delerious around the Great Thar Desert,