Archive for August, 2011

Journey back

August 15, 2011

Train travel

We had not made any arrangements to get back home (almost a pointless exercise on this kind of trip in India). On enquiry at hotel reception they said the best bet was the 10 am Mangalore-Verna passenger train from the local station. We’ve already traveled on this train and not in any degree of comfort. A passenger train is the lowliest option on India Rail. It stops at all stations. It has only one class. The carriages are basic. They can be very, very slow and it costs next to nothing.

Anyway it seemed the best option, so we duly arrived at the station and were pleased to barge ahead of fellow travellers and secure a window seat. We’ve given up being polite and adopting the ‘after you’ attitude. Unlike last time, the train was not overcrowded and we didn’t have stand for five hours. The train kept up a good pace and arrived on time. It turned out to be an enjoyable journey up the monsoon-soaked West Coast of Karnataka and Goa.

216 kilometers for less than a £1… and that was for both of us.

Murudeshwar – The Big Shiva

August 15, 2011

The God Shiva


We wanted an early start as it was at least a five hour ride to Murudeshwar and it was our last day before returning to Goa. We turned up at the hotel restaurant at 7.00 am to be told that breakfast was not served till 8.00am. Not too concerned about losing an hour, we turned up at 8 to find the restaurant in full swing and that we were too late for our desired local breakfast. Bread omelette was the only option at this late hour. Silly sods! Don’t know their a**e from their elbow.
Madikeri OK. But well out of the tourist loop unless it happened in the 5 star resorts.

We’d not been sure about going to Madikeri because we’d been advised that getting out of the place heading west was difficult, but various sources had assured us that the road was now repaired and fully open. It was and it wasn’t. The road’s been closed for eight months (instead of the scheduled four) and all for about 10km of navigable tarmac. Either side the road remained in the usual Indian state of collapse.

However we did make it to Murudeshwar, which turned out to be a delight. A rocky promontory has been built on with a new temple, huge Shiva statue (Murudeshwara is one of the multitudinous aliases of Shiva). Apparently one of his four arms fell off recently, but it has now been stuck back on. Araldite rules OK. Our accommodation felt as if it was built out over the sea with the beach stretching out behind us. Unfussy and beautiful. And only about four hours drive south of Goa. A second visit is well required once the rains stop – think we’ll take Hari Enfield, the Bullet.

Madikeri – a blast from the past

August 15, 2011

Museum -Madikeri

Madikeri is up in the Western Ghats and the temperature dropped noticeably as the bus climbed up the slopes through coffee plantations. All very pleasant and cool. We stayed at a hotel in the centre of this small bustling town. We had intended to hike a few kilometers to see local sites but were already a bit under the weather with travel conditions. We hired a taxi to take us to the local waterfall and assorted ‘places of interest’, which turned out to be of little interest until we wandered into a church, converted to The Madikeri Museum. In the church were two memorial plaques of men with English names. William Leefe Robinson’s name immediately leapt out at Martin, to be shortly followed by Major George Vardon’s name. Instant recall wasn’t there for him, but later research unfolded the following:
Leefe Robinson was a WW1 VC. He shot down a ‘Zeppelin’ at night over England. His was indeed a hazardous occupation. Vardon had been a friend of Livingstone and a big game hunter in Africa (probably trained in India – another hazardous occupation). Livingstone gave Vardon’s name to the newly discovered species of antelope, the Puku.. Anedota vardoni .
Neither of these facts seemed to be available at the museum. We know that history has little importance to the Indian, but – hey – both these men could be an extra selling point, if only to foreign tourists.

We wanted to try local ‘cuisine’ and were directed to the only restaurant that does this. Open at 7.30pm but doors locked with staff gawping at the soap opera at 8.10. Menu was mostly local, but only one local dish available. It was a pork dish ; OK but not inspiring, although we felt that with a bit of care and attention in its preparation, it could have been superb.

Guess what – no coffee. You’re in the center of India’s coffee growing country, and every other shop in the high street is a coffee merchant, but no, you can’t get a coffee in the local restaurant.

Time was up for Madikeri and the next morning we traveled on to Murudeshawar.

3 M’s Tour – Mysore

August 15, 2011

Mysore Palace

Our next break was supposed to be 6 days touring in the south of Karnataka in the Mysore area. First up was a new business project which sliced off a day and a half, then India Rail managed to slice off another half day because of late running trains. As usual landslips between Mumbai and Goa during monsoon were the cause. This meant that we had to skip a look at Mangalore. We made our train connection with one minute to spare. If we hadn’t made it then another half day would have slipped away!

Arrival at Mysore was at four in the morning and we arrived in a decent hotel a few minutes later. After a quick wash and brush-up and breakfast we headed for the Mysore Palace. Arriving at what appeared to be the magnificent front gate, we were told that this was the tradesman’s entrance! So we skirted the walls and twenty minutes later arrived at the general entrance. Once inside the tidy grounds we could see the third ‘Raja’s’ entrance and the amazing spectacle of this early 20th century Anglo-Indian building. Anglo money and know-how – Indian imagination and glitz.

The interior was even more striking than the exterior, with obvious British input, such as a grand hall most of which was constructed in, and shipped from, Glasgow. This hall also contained paintings of the Dussera Festival parade c.1925. These are painted directly on to the walls and faithfully re-create the whole spectacle, even down an advertisement for Players Navy Cut cigarettes with the iconic bearded Royal Navy sailor. They took fifteen years to complete.

That was it for Mysore except for what is supposed to be the best market in India and some well-known local sweet and some fine curry. Mysore is one of India’s more pleasant cities.

We shipped out early next morning by bus for Madikeri and a coffee plantation.

Tradesman's Entrance

Primitive State

August 15, 2011

Waiting on Margao station, we met a well-to-do gentleman when we asked him if he could clarify some unclear instructions about where and when our half-a-day late train was going to arrive. He was returning home to Bangalore after a package holiday at one of Goa’s five star hotels. He had thoroughly enjoyed the stay within its confines but when we enquired what he thought about Goa and would he return, we got an emphatic ‘No’. ‘Goa is very primitive’ he said. ‘Very disappointing with its garbage problem, poor infrastructure and greedy people’. We don’t need reminding about this state of affairs, but we did find the word ‘primitive’ a striking and curiously insightful description of Goa.
Not to worry, recent reports in the paper say that the politicians are going to remodel their capital city, Panjim, on Nice on the Cote d’Azur. St. Tropez in Goa? We can’t wait.