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99 Cannons

June 27, 2013

We met the 99 cannons (or 15 of them at least) at the top of Khardung La, the world’s highest motorable road. These Bullet bikers had nearly reached the end of a journey from the southernmost tip of India, Kanyakumari. They’d been in the saddle for more than three weeks. This is certainly not a journey for the faint-hearted.

The ride wasn’t just for the hell of it – they were promoting Women Empowerment in India. Despite constitutional equality, women in all walks of life are discriminated against and abused.

Our travel plans coincided with theirs and we encountered them on four other occasions as we journeyed to Srinagar.

One of 15 Cannons

One of 15 Cannons


Up North, day 9 – touring Srinagar

June 27, 2013

Rasool is very taken with Martin, so we had breakfast on the Taif the morning, even though we are not staying there till tomorrow.


Wood Mosque

Wood Mosque

Then Yousuf, who works for Rasool, took us on a tour of Srinagar. Once you get into the old city, Srinagar looks beautiful again. Well as beautiful as it can be given the shabbiness the accompanies the tendency on Indians not to look after things. Many original buildings are wood, with carved frontages and balconies overhanging the streets and waterways. Every so often you get a view reminiscent of the final scenes of David Lean’s film of A Passage to India.


The Khanqah of Shah-I-Hamadan honours the man who converted many of the population in the Kashmir valley to Sufi Islam, when he arrived from Iran in 1372. It’s an ornate, unusual wooden mosque, decorated with coloured wooden carvings and papier-mâché reliefs. We also visited the Jama Masjid, where even as non-Muslims we were allowed to enter and walk round. On important feast Fridays, this mosque can accommodate 33,000 people. Given it sits amidst a crowded bazaar, heaven only knows what the traffic congestion and parking is like.

Blog Srinigar garden (10)_edited-1

After a tour round Dal Lake, we stopped at Nishat Bagh, one of the Mughal gardens that Srinagar is famous for. Even in the rain, it is beautiful, and given the climate here, very recognisable for British gardeners. Magnolias in bloom, borders of Pansies and Hollyhocks, Broom scanning the air. Chinar trees – that’s Maples to Westerners – lining the avenues. They are the official tree of Kashmir. Then there are the roses, set out in classic style beds, either side of the water features that characterise Mughal gardens. And all of this in terraces, down to Dal Lake.


At this stage perhaps a word should be said about security. Kashmir has had and continues to have communal problems, as it is disputed by India and Pakistan. There is a security presence, although we did not feel it was particularly overwhelming. We understand security is tight at the airport, but we have not experienced that yet. It certainly does not feel a dangerous place to visit.

Not a good time was had by all.

Not a good time was had by all.


Some guidebooks still talk about a curfew after 8pm and how it is difficult to get transport after this time, and how the city goes quiet. We had dinner on the Taif last night, returning to land at 9.30pm. It seemed like normal city life to us, so for the time being, there’s no curfew.


It seemed like normal city life to us, so for the time being, there’s no curfew.

Up North, day one – to Delhi

June 6, 2013

We have embarked on a trip to the furthest North we have been in India. The trip will also see us ascend higher than either of us have ever been without being in an aircraft.

First stop,we leave humid, rainy Goa for dry, very hot Delhi (38 degrees). We found our hotel with some difficulty. How can you be a taxi driver at Delhi airport without having a good grasp of the local area at least? The 10 minute journey included a rumpus at the airport exit booth – had either the driver or the money taker done this job before? And a stop on a dusty, rubbish-strewn highway while the driver phoned the hotel for directions.Anyway, we made it, and had a comfortable bed for the night, in a pink and purple room. Plus air conditioning, not something we normally have but beneficial in Delhi at this time of year.  And it’s a relief to only be a short drive from the airport as check in for our flight tomorrow opens at 3.30am.

Changing the address on a driving license in India

February 20, 2013

Having moved house, we now needed to change the addresses on our driving licenses. This project is still in progress, three months after the move and after six visits to the Road Traffic Office (RTO).

This is how it goes.

Visit one – find out what paperwork is required. Including discovering that there is no form for change of address (presumably because Goan’s do not move house?)

Visit two – return with said paperwork, to be asked for more paperwork.

Visit three – return with renewed set of papers, to have to go away and get a photocopy of one set, and hand-write two separate letters saying what we want. Finally get to submit papers and gather the all important chit to say we have made said application.

Visit four – go to collect new licenses, having been assured on visit three that we had done all that was required. Now find out that the copy of the existing licenses left with the previous submission is inadequate and that we have to hand in the originals.

Visit five – return to collect new licenses, and joy of joys collect all papers. Hang on – still no new licenses? No, we have to pay (large queue so elect to go away and return next day).

Visit six – return to pay fees, only to find that there is still a further step involving new photographs, signatures and thumb prints. Martin completes this, Alison is yet to do it.

Finally, Martin should be able to collect his license tomorrow, and Alison two days after she gets her photograph done.

It is truly exhausting.

An outsider’s guide to driving in India

February 8, 2013

Just had to share the following, sent to my Facebook site. It’s so true. Example of article one this morning, while trying to drive out of Margao. I did my best to take out two guys on a motorcycle, who pulled off from the side of the road, straight across the road to do a U-turn, meters in front of me. I could not have stopped in time. Fortunately they did decide to look to see whether the U-turn was safe to execute, but only once they were in the middle of the road. No idea how we missed each other.


Back on the scooter after a few weeks off while traveling…had to check this out to see if I still remembered the rules…turns out I do..and it doesnt get much truer then this : )

Rules of the Indian Roads. A MUST READ if yer gonna drive in India

Article I: The assumption of immortality is required of all road users at all times.

Article II: Indian traffic tends to work on something resembling the olde caste system. The following precedence must be accorded at all times. In descending order, give way to: cows (do not mess with these ever), elephants, heavy trucks, buses, official cars, camels, light trucks, buffalo, jeeps, ox-carts, private cars, motorcycles, scooters, auto-rickshaws (you), pigs, pedal-rickshaws, goats, bicycles (goods carrying), handcarts, bicycles (passenger carrying), dogs, pedestrians, gap year students.

Article III: All wheeled vehicles shall be driven in accordance with the maxim: “To slow is to falter, to brake is to fail, to stop is defeat.” This is the Indian driver’s mantra.

Article IV: Use of Horn:

(IV, A-C): Cars:

Short Blasts (urgent): Indicate supremacy, ie. in clearing dogs, rickshaws and pedestrians from path, and meaning “Im late home for my tea – the wife won’t be happy”.

Long Blasts (desperate): Denote supplication, i.e. oncoming truck “I am going too fast to stop, so unless you slow down we shall both die”

Single Blasts (casual): “I have seen someone out of India’s 1.2 billion whom I recognise”; “There is a bird in the road ahead”, “My word, I had an epiphany” or simply and most commonly “I have not blown my horn for several minutes”.

(IV, 2A): Trucks and buses:

All horn signals have the same meaning, viz, “I have an all up weight of approximately 12 tons and have no intention of stopping, even if I could”. This signal may be emphasised by the use of headlamps (full beam is usually preferred here). Be aware that many truck drivers rest bricks on the accelerator and take up a cross-legged seating position. They will not touch the brake, ever.

(Article IV is subject at all times to the provisions of Order of Precedence in Article II above.)

Article V: All manoeuvres, use of horn and evasive action shall be left until the last possible moment. If the manoeuvre is left until too late then the horn should be used again.

Article VI: In the absence of seat-belts (which there is), passengers shall wear garlands of marigolds. These should be fastened at all times. In the absence of marigolds passengers shall close their eyes.

Article VII: Right of way: Traffic entering a road from the left has priority. So does traffic from the right, and also traffic in the middle.


Lane discipline: All Indian traffic at all times, and irrespective of the direction of travel, shall occupy the left, the right and the centre of the road. If the road is full to capacity, the occupation of the hard-shoulder is more than acceptable.

Article VIII: Roundabouts: These are fondly known as circles in India. Circles in the middle of crossroads have no traffic management function. Any other impression should be ignored. If in doubt use your horn and close your eyes.

Article IX: Overtaking: is mandatory. Every moving vehicle is required to try to overtake every other moving vehicle, irrespective of whether it has just overtaken you. Overtaking should only be attempted in suitable locations, such as in the face of oncoming traffic, on blind bends, at junctions and in the middle of villages / city centres. No more than 2 inches should be allowed between your vehicle and the one you are passing – one inch in the case of bicycles or pedestrians. When overtaking is not possible then undertaking is just as good (sometimes better)

Article X: Nirvana may be obtained through the head-on crash, alternatively, you may find it whilst squatting at the side of the road, emptying your bowels of that ‘bad idea curry’ you had the previous night.

Article XI: Reversing is no longer applicable, since no vehicle in India uses their reverse gear.

Article XII: The 10th incarnation of God was an articulated tanker.

Article XIII: The state of the road is non-negotiable. If there is a road you should think yourselves lucky.

From City Centre to the Jungle

October 13, 2012

Our new home, Casa Mingusta

Margao has its upsides, but it’s not now a place that we willingly choose to live now. Its upsides  have finally been put into second place by the downsides. Coping with daily increases of uncontrolled traffic is the last straw and has finally pushed us into the decision to move.

We are heading inland to a little village called Macazana, three kilometers beyond Curtorim a village we visited six years ago and liked. The headline says ‘jungle’ but it’s not.. but the townies we tell all say Macazana is out in the jungle. The setting is rather special with a view over paddy fields to the River Zuari and the Western Ghats as a background. The building is quite new and has never been occupied; we are taking the upper floor which has three sheltered balconies so we will be able continue with our outdoor lifestyle

View from Casa Migusta, Macazana


Agoraphobic Bulbul

October 13, 2012

About three months ago the bulbuls produced three eggs in the re-built nest at the bottom of the stairs.This was the third nest this year. For some reason, Mrs Bulbul abandoned the eggs after five days. However at the end of September they re-built the nest in the dining room lantern and she laid four eggs of which three hatched about a week ago. Foraging for food has obvious been good as the hatchlings soon filled out, feathered up and overfilled the nest.  As they settled for the night, Mrs B was sitting on a pile of feathers with three beaks protruding.

Today saw the usual preparations for the first flight and the two larger fledglings made no bones, after a trial flight round the dining room, about heading for the trees outside. The runt of the family had other ideas and although flying quite well decided that the great outdoors was not for him/her. It spent a lot of time exploring the house with exasperated parents trying to shepherd it out of a window. Each time it arrived at an open window and looked out it seemed to shudder, then retreat to the safety of the house. It’s dusk now and they’ve given up the struggle and the fledgling is comfortably ensconced in the ‘tool shed’ on a soft rag. We’ll see if it can overcome its agoraphobia tomorrow.

Later. Still there in the morning and looking uncertain, but eventually it took flight into the great unknown,not before the parents had taken a parting shot at Martin by dive bombing him.

No 2 Account

October 13, 2012

We need to open a second current account for our business now that there is a second income stream at work. We have been with our bank for more than eight years.  Simple enough request you might think. But this is India.

Our Personal Banker referred us on to our Business Banker, who referred us to the Assistant Branch Manager who referred us on the Branch Manager, who referred us back to our Personal Banker who had to ask the Business Banker what to do, who had to ask the Assistant Branch Manager what to do. Then they had to find a clerk to find the requisite papers.  All that remains to be done is to complete the forms with identifying photos etc. etc. and try to find the right Manager to process them.

We’ll try again after a good night’s sleep.

Wonky notes

August 21, 2012


Will and Martin were doing a tour of the town centre and on their way home, when they heard a pretty good brass band playing Auld Lang Syne. It’s not what you expect to hear in India and particularly in the middle of June as far away as you can get from New Year. Stranger still when they found the source. It was a dress rehearsal for the 18th June. Can’t quite remember which bit of the Indian invasion took place on 18th June but there is at least one street named after it. This parade was celebrating a man who we believe to have been Goan freedom fighter. Quite why he should be honoured with Auld Lang Syne, an English hymn and then The Last Post we are not sure. Anyway the band was the best Martin had heard in Goa although the notes played by the bugler were pretty wonky.

Arrival of Will

August 21, 2012

End of June and we have found a few minutes to let you know what’s up. Dr Will Thompson arrived on 14th June to take up his position as chiropractor in our clinic for a four month trial period. He’d been delayed a couple of weeks by taking badly to a disease preventative jab and being rushed to hospital in Truro and straight into ICU. He arrived on the overnight train from Bombay, looking as fit as any traveller we’ve seen arriving in Goa. He was remarkably cool as Martin loaded his 6’3’’ frame and all his kit on to Hari the Honda for the completion of the journey. Amazing what these little 100cc scooters can handle.

Will has immediately started to adapt to the alien lifestyle of Goa/India. He has decided that staying with us in the middle of Margao is as good a place as anywhere to start a new life in Goa

Dr Will


We set him to work after four days of settling in, enjoying the remnants of our birthday celebrations and an introduction to the beach. Already he has proved his worth, getting on with stuff we hadn’t attempted and showing how much we’ve drifted into the Indian way of doing things, when keeping up with the Western way of doing things can be very valuable. We find that after five years here without any support or peer groups in chiropractic, we have lost some ground in driving a business forward.

If it all works out, then we expect to see Will joining us in a full time capacity in January 2013.