Archive for the ‘Off station’ Category

Days 10 11 and 12 – Srinigar

June 27, 2013

After the exertions of the last few days the remainder of the holiday was very relaxed. We watched the lake people going about their water-borne business. Everything you might need day to day came past in shikaras; food, water, alcohol,flowers, laundry service. We kept an eye on the wild life, did a little (unsuccessful) fishing, embroidery, read books, listened to music. Martin took the little shikara out to try and master the navigation of the craft. We took a cruise with Rasheed, a jewellry merchant who had successfully sold us a few items. And that’s about it until a 5.oo am departure on Sunday morning in a reasonably violent and cold storm.

All in all, Srinigar suited us very well but we ditched any ideas of setting up a third clinic there. We don’t do cold, especially in June!

HB Taif

HB Taif

Blog Srinigar HB Taif (27) Blog Srinigar HB Taif (31)_edited-1

Bulbul

Bulbul

Showing off a birthday present.

Showing off a birthday present.

Up North day 8, part two – finding our way around Srinagar

June 27, 2013

 

Having found a room for a couple of nights at the excellent Hotel Swiss, we did our usual and set out on foot to get our bearings. For once, not a good idea. Distances are quite long and the map in my Kindle Lonely Planet is a weak point. Difficult to read and refer to.

Quality low cost Hotel Swiss

Quality low cost Hotel Swiss

First impressions of Srinagar are not encouraging. In some ways it is any town India, and after the purely of the air in and around Leh, we really noticed the pollution and heat of the reduced altitude. Eventually we did reach our goal of the Houseboat Owners Association. The best place to start viewing houseboats.

As so often, we fell on our feet. We finished up with Rasool and his two boats, the A class Taif and the deluxe New Sherin. We had a choice between the beautifully furnished ‘honeymoon suite’ on the New Sherin – all walnut furniture and Kashmir embroidery on the soft furnishings, or taking both rooms on the Taif and having the boat to ourselves. We chose to have the whole of the Taif.

HB Taif at dawn

HB Taif at dawn

The Taif has its own Shikara, so trips to/from shore and around the lake are all included, as are all meals. Specially for Martin, the Taif also has its own small shikara. Martin loves to row, so every trip on the water we have taken has involved a second paddle, so Martin can help. He is on the water as we speak, practising his steering. Much to everyone else’s amusement. Next stop he’ll be fishing.

Up North day 7- on the road to Mulbeck

June 24, 2013

We said a regretful goodbye to Leh, and set off with a driver, heading for Srinager. We wound our way through the Zanskar range of mountains, which are largely barren, moonscape crags with white-capped peaks behind them.

Camping in the Himalaya

Camping in the Himalaya

We stopped at the monastery at Alchi, a very old establishment combining Indian and Tibetan art. Lots of murals, mandalas and very low entry doors. Atmospheric, too, as long as we timed our entry into each temple just as the Indians were leaving (see earlier comments about noise).

The road is a mix of well-tarmaced and no Tarmac, which can be hard going at times. We were in a Tata Sumo, a big four-wheel drive, which we had hired plus driver for just the two of us. I wouldn’t like to do the journey in a bus.

We finished the first part of our journey at Mulbeck, a pretty valley village where our accommodation for the night was a tent next to a river. Great for star gazing, the Great Bear was directly overhead. Not far from the border with Pakistan.

Mulbeck Children

Mulbeck Children

While eating dessert (bananas and custard, believe it or not), we heard artillery fire. Just like being part of Carry on up the Khyber. We decided to take no notice and go to bed, on the grounds that if Pakistan were invading, there was not much we could do about it.

 

On horseback in Udaipur

January 18, 2012

Bijli

The main aim of the holiday was to ride through the countryside around Udaipur.We were the guests of Dinesh and Francine Jain, who run Krishna Ranch.

They run short and long rides – anything from two hours to 10 days – from their base in the Aravali mountains. We opted for one half day and one full day, keeping in mind that we hadn’t ridden for more than five years and weren’t sure how the old seat bones would hold up.

Manza

All the horses at the Ranch are Marwaris, a fairly rare ‘hot blood’ breed. They are descended from native Indian Indian ponies crossed with Arabs. They were dying out, which seems strange to us as traditionally ‘hot bloods’ make good riding horses (think Thoroughbreds and Arabs). Marwaris are similar in build and size to Thoroughbreds, but have characteristic inward-turning ears.

Dinesh breeds Marwaris and they’re coming back into fashion thanks largely to tourist operations like Krishna Ranch. Apparently they make good dressage horses because ‘they like to perform’. We witnessed a little of this on one ride with three other people. It was difficult to stop the horses getting too close and Dinesh commented: ‘It’s hard to find Marwaris that want to be at the back!’

Paris (on the left)

We had a good time and would like to return to do some longer trails. Thank you to Dinesh and Francine, but also to Bijli, Manza and Paris, all pictured here.

Xmas Holiday Udaipur

January 18, 2012

Udaipur Lake


Now we know why Udaipur has a great reputation. After a trouble free journey we arrived in the pleasant city centre Khumba Palace Hotel, interesting and comfortable room, well laid out garden and a roof terrace, under the city palace walls. A big difference between here and Goa is the people who are very proud of both Udaipur and Rajastan and make an effort to keep the place up to scratch. It is a laid back and (relatively) quiet city.
There are three palaces, the famous Lake Palace, which has lost some of its visual charm because of new buildings towering above it, the City Palace and the Monsoon Palace. They were used by the incumbent Maharajas etc. in turn as the seasons changed.
The Whistling Teal restaurant deserves particular mention; excellent food, service and surroundings and sensibly priced.
The Khumba Palace Hotel owners, Dinesh and Francine (his Dutch wife), are charming and professional in all aspects of their business, the hotel, a farm cum ranch and horse riding.
We shipped out of the city next day to the Krishna Ranch for our quietest holiday in India to date. It was like a farm in rural England fifty years back. Contented horses, cows, goats, chickens, small plots for vegetables, roots and an orchard. The camels however would have looked out of place, as would some of the abundance of birds, peafowl, hornbills, parakeets and treepies. There was little in the way of contact with the outside world to disturb us.

Visa Run Pt 5

October 22, 2011

We didn’t want to leave Sicily, but it was time to start heading back home to face up to a new project at work. So back to Clows Top, pack up with the stuff we have to buy in England because we can’t get in India. One item that no-one seems to get the hang of in India is yard brooms and deck scrubbers. We sense that if these were available India might start to look more finished and less like a permanent building site. Mind you, that’s probably unfair to most Western building sites, which look considerably tidier than most of India, but you get our drift.

Uneventful re-entry to Planet Goa and life has trundled on as normal, with only a weekend conference to disturb the waters between the last week of September and today 22nd October.

Annual Visa Run Pt4

October 22, 2011

So back to Clows Top, Worcs, an early morning run along the banks of the Severn and preparations for a few days in Sicily.
Alitalia flew us to Catania, Sicily via Rome, put our baggage on the wrong plane, which caused a ruckus on our arrival. However the wrong plane came in 90 minutes after ours with baggage. Bus ride along the Autostrada to Taormina Giardini, five minute walk to great hotel/apartment/restaurant set up. The latter was near enough empty as the season had officially finished the week before. Great timing. The Mediterranean out front and the railway line out back. Martin sampled his first Italian coffee and had to agree with Alison that the Italians probably make the best coffee in the world.
Alison’s research had paid off as usual and we found ourselves ideally placed for
1 Catania, second city of Sicily, baroque, easy to reach by bus/train, best fish market in Europe (says Rick Stein), easy going street scene, worth several visits… a million miles from Margao.
2 Taormina, medieval hilltop town, 15 minutes by bus, 40 minutes on foot straight up the hill, complete with (disappointing) Roman theatre, worth two visits
3 Mt Etna, by bus 40 minutes, not sure how long to the top; we didn’t go, just admired the smoking thing from 20 miles distance. She didn’t put on a display for us. Best view was from the incoming flight (sit on the port side)
4 The sea, restaurants, bakeries (how to start the day Italian style), shops, not the branded ones, local ones; clothes, food, wine; all there, right.

Sicilians are delightful. Despite their almost zero English and our almost zero Italian, understanding didn’t seem a problem at all. We saw neither hide not hair of the mafia (disappointing or a relief?). On our last visit to Kefalonia, our previous Med retreat, we felt that the Greek-ness had disappeared, over-run by Euroland. So Sicily has taken over as our Southern Europe hotspot.

PS Despite many trains the railway was so quiet it didn’t trouble us. Even when workmen arrived in the early hours to do track repairs, they made a huge effort to be as quiet as possible. India take note.

Annual Visa Run Pt1

October 22, 2011

VFS office Birmingham

After a busy August we headed for the UK on our annual visa run. The rules are still not clear and as we found out subject to change without notice. The paperwork gathering was tedious and added to a new business project made for a stressful run-up to departure.
We chose the most direct route back Goa-Quatar-London and after leaving home at 2.00am (taxi driver thought we were leaving at lunchtime and was fast asleep when we phoned to find out where he was) we arrived at Alison’s parents in Clows Top Worcestershire in the early afternoon. It wasn’t too warm.
Next day we presented at the visa office in Birmingham to find that the rules for certain letters had been changed without notice. Needless to say this caused problems with 4 documents. However the officer said she would recommend waiving the rules in our case. Result? Visas were issued in the fastest time ever and by the time we arrive back home we will have wasted 4 weeks of visa time! Ho hum.

Better than a mango?

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.