Sunday, 13 May 2012

Madurai, Kodaicannal and Ooty

Met an Austrian guy on the bus station to Madurai. I took a motion sickness pill, and was sleepy all the way while listening yet again to Jeff's oxygen theory and trading strategies.
At the hotel, we booked 2 rooms. Jeff's social awkwardness reappeared when he wanted a room for himself, and I ended up sharing a room (i.e. a bed) with someone who I just met 4 hours ago!
Madurai is very hot, and already a few times I feel like I'm getting a heat attack. It's a term I made up, but I guess people who feel claustrophobic would experience something like that. I just feel that I don't have enough air and water, and I'm going to collapse. It gets worse at nights when the electricity goes off and the fan stops working. Usually I wake up right away in a sometimes small dark room (haha ... the electricity went off now ... it must have read my blog :) ) shining my phone at the fan hoping it would start spinning again. We usually close the windows so that the mosquitoes won't fly in. It's pitch black dark and it's very VERY hot!! I feel like I'm going to die!!
In the evening we went to a very nice roof top restaurant with a city view and a breeze. The service was excellent. You would call them, or tell them to bring something, and would come running (literary!)
In the morning Jeff didn't go to the temple ... don't know, maybe because of me.
It was 1 of the 5 recommended temples in Lonely Planet. My theory is still correct. You've seen one, you've seen them all! And besides, it was way too colorful for me, like in a Disney land. There was an elephant blessing people for money. They would put the money in his trunk, and he would put the trunk on the head and on the offering plate, and give the money to his keeper. Poor elephant! He should be in the jungle, not chained to the temple "blessing" people.
The locals wanted us to take pictures of them on OUR camera! Weird ...
Some store was "nice" enough for us to keep our shoes in. Of course when we came back, they tried every selling technique on us. The shop was of course very nice, and most of nice shops would ship your purchases ... but I can't afford it on my backpacking budget and I told him that I don't have a home to put it in. Right away he stopped with his sales pitch and sympathized with me. Oh yes madam, you have to have a home first. I felt good coming out of the shop alive :) A few moments later, I didn't feel so good anymore ... I don't have a home :(
One woman on the street was following us asking for money and food for her baby. No, no, no, no! We stopped to have juice, just as we started walking, there she is again. No, no, no, no! Don't have babies if you can't afford them! Easier said than done in here as I'm sure most of them just get raped. Go away I yelled! She went away! It seems like "Go away" is my favorite phrase now. If people disagree with you in here, they would never talk to you and say why or why not, right away they start yelling at you. I think if you just reason with them, or tell them no, it's not good enough, as in, it's not something that they're used to, and they don't take you seriously. To take you seriously, you either have to yell at them or slap them, something that I'm not really good at doing.
Jeff wanted to go East and I wanted to go North. I love travelling with him, and I tried to persuade him to go north for a bit with me, and then East. He said no, and that it was fun travelling with me anyway. What does it mean "anyway"?
I asked a bunch of people what time do the buses go to Kodaicannal, and got a bunch of different responses. Well, I thought, if I get different responses, then my chances are pretty good. Besides, if there is no direct bus, there are always hops that you can do. It might take a bit longer, but at least you're not tied to a schedule of a direct bus, but might leave only once or twice a day. At the bus station locals usually help around by asking you where you're going if they see that you look confused, and directing you to the right bus. I don't usually look confused, but it might take me a few seconds to find some information desk, a worker or a normal looking local to ask for info. One guy asked me, pointed me to the bus that was 30 meters away, I said thanks, then he lead me to the bus, said that I can take my luggage with me ... nooooo ... I didn't know that! took me to some seat, put his hand out, and asked for 10 rps. No, I said, go away!
On the bus to Kodaicannal met a modern Indian guy who doesn't want to get married :) He said that life should be lived to the fullest, and everybody is an individual as opposed to a couple. That was very nice to hear for a change. He's 24, and he also wants to study Phd. He has a 2 year degree, and Phd only takes 1 year! WTH? Either they're too easy in there, or way too hard in Canada! He's 24 and already he's a manger in a bank.
Kodaicannal is a hill station, and thus is a very popular destination for locals. I arrived on Friday, on a hill station, and a holiday weekend! Very lucky for me, as most of the hotels were booked, and the ones that weren't were super expensive :( I ended up paying $28 for a room that doesn't even have a shower head! :( I asked the driver about hostels, but 2 were full, and in the other one there were 95% men. He said that I'm like a sister to him, and he wouldn't let me stay there :)) How cute :)
I like Kodaicannal. There isn't much hassle or cheating, everybody is friendly and there are a bunch of homemade chocolate stores! ... although not very good ones :) and everything is natural and organic. It has "No plastic bags" policy, and everything is served in bags made out of newspapers. There is an international school in there, and it's nice to finally hear people speaking good English, dressing up in jeans and have a hair style trying to look cool :)
In the evening, in this overpriced hotel, the electricity was off most of the time, but it doesn't surprise or irritate me anymore, I just calmly find a torch in my bag and light that up. In South America I used a torch to hike in the dark, in here, I use it in rooms when there is a power cut. Then I couldn't fall asleep because the mouse tried to eat my bananas. I put them higher on the shelf, but he even reached there. It was a war between the mouse and me. I finally got up and put them in the closet, and shone a torch to see the mouse climb up my suitcase onto the shelves and trying to open the doors of the closet :) He finally realized that no bananas today for him. But he took his revenge when the bed shook whenever he run beneath it. At 6:30am wake up call, and not a knock on the door, but a long and loud bbbzzzzzzzzzzzzzz sound. I yelled for them to leave me alone, that I'm sleeping, but they buzzed 2 more times. Why why why??? I asked when I checked out why were they buzzing and not letting me sleep. He said that my friends came to pick me up! What friends?? Didn't he see yesterday that I came with a taxi, and the taxi driver helped me negotiate a cheaper room price??!! And made sure that I'm ok and comfortable before leaving?? It's not the first time it's happening in hotels when they wake you up because they think that you're someone else. How hard is it to keep track of your guests??
In the morning I checked into the hostel which must be the best hostel ever! The rate was $7/night, which is expensive for the hostel, but not expensive for in season + holiday weekend rate. I gave him $20 for a deposit because I didn't have any change. It also had the best location of all the locations on the hill. Tucked away on a small alley, away from the street honking, and built right on the edge on a cliff, offering a vast vista of the view below.
I went for what I thought would be a relaxing 6 km walk. No, it wasn't relaxing at all. First of all I started noticing that outside the men to women ratio is about 99 to 1. Second of all, due to it being a holiday weekend, all the locals passed in their cars with their heads out of the window beeping, screaming, laughing, shouting inappropriate comments ... grrr !!! When I was younger I wanted to be famous, now I thank god I'm not, and if you want to feel like one, you should definitely do a short crash test in India to see if you'll like it! On the way I stopped at a green valley, which should be renamed as a white valley since I could see past my nose. I bought a boiled corn, and finished about a third before a big alpha male monkey was coming at me, I tried to move away, but it started to growl :(( I gave up the corn :( People around were funny when the monkeys came, they just screamed like they're on fire, threw everything they had in their arms high in the air and bumped into everything on the way while running away :)
When I reached the pillar rocks I was disappointed. There are too many shops, too many people/buses/cars, and still white. The clouds separated a little bit, but it still wasn't an impressive sight. People were standing next to me to take pictures, I tried telling them that it's not nice to do it behind my back, there were 100s of cameras in my face.
I didn't want to walk all the way back. I asked if there are buses, but it wasn't possible. Last bus already left. What about this one, I pointed to the bus. Not possible, this is a tourist bus. But I'm a tourist! I went to the driver and asked him if I could join for the ride back to town. Of course it's possible! Everything is if you just try. While waiting for it, I bought eucalyptus oil. The whole area is overgrown with eucalyptus tree. It's good for coughs and cold. Best way is to put a few drops in the boiling water and to inhale the steam. I smelled it, and it smells just like halls. Except what I bought is 100% pure ($2) :) On the bus, everybody was smiling at me, pointing and laughing, offering me their seat, food, making sure I was comfortable, and of course taking pictures, but here I just sat and smiled at the camera ... what else could I do??
Then I went to botanical garden which was way overcrowded. People were taking so many pictures of the flowers, and it wasn't even pretty. I guess it's pretty in India, because there are no gardens, and there are no flowers growing around. Everywhere there are signs "Do not pick the flowers". I think there are more signs than flowers themselves. Look, a lonely rose - wow, a lily wooooow!
I took a bicycle to ride around the lake. I can prove that whoever invented math is wrong! 20/2 = 20!! I only took it for half an hour, gave him 10, and he said it's 20 minimum. Why can't they ever say the rules beforehand?? In Munnar I bought a coconut. It was 20, but he gave me a big one, and after I finished it, he said it's 30 because it's big. Well, I didn't ask for big! If he would've told me that it's 30, I wouldn't have gotten it! Anyway, I took the bicycle for another round to prove that math IS correct! ... and because I had nothing better to do anyways :))
On the street a father (I guess), put something in a bag, and gave it to his 1.5 year old child to deliver it somewhere. So this child was barely walking, going from side to side, tripping and falling on a small sidewalk surrounded by 100s of people, cars, bicycles, dogs and cows.
In a hostel, the group on Indian tourists still didn't move away, and I chatted with them for 10 minutes. They bombarded me with questions, mostly about Canada and about our lifestyle, and before they went I was invited to stay at their house for as long as I'd liked. It's so nice. Women in India are very hospitable ... well, men sometimes too, but usually when they're already married. They were shocked that I'm travelling by myself and said that they would never get out of their house on their own. They've only been to Delhi, and here, and even here (a small town), they're scared because they don't know anybody, where to do, or what to do. I told them to read info online, ask taxi drivers for directions, go to a tourist information center, or just wonder around and see what interesting you could stumble upon. Naaaahhh ... too scary for them :)
I was a bit hungry, but not really in the mood for food yet. I ordered something strange looking on the street. Pretty much it's a "dish" made out of a bunch of stuff. Cornflakes, spicy thingis, more spicy thingies, peas, tomatoes, onions, beetroot, coriander, steamed peanuts, green mango, zucchini, all mixed together with squeezed lemon and any spices that you want. It was soooo good ! When you try a lot of unknown things and they're mostly very good, you realize that a world is not such a scary place!
In the evening I watched a movie "man on the wire". It's a documentary about a guy who put a wire between the twin towers of New York and walked it back and forth. But it's not about walking it, it's about all the years of preparation and planning and practicing, and about being determined and reaching your dreams. He's very good at walking the wire. He can walk it when his friends are shaking it, with his eyes closed, backwards, juggling, and while I watched it, I missed being really really good at something. I used to be very good in circus, in karate, dancing, in school, biology, math, physics, but now I'm not sure what I'm really good at ... maybe it's travelling?? I can with relative ease plan a route that will be logical, find a place, negotiate more or less a fair price, get info quickly, find my way around, find the right buses/trains, alter my decision on the spot if the situation is not correct, make friends ... I don't know ... does that count?
At night it was freezing. In Madurai I was wishing to sleep in a bath full of ice, here I wished for another blanket! Even though it was cold, I had to continue with my reiki practice, and got my hands out of the sleeping bag and 4 blankets which I had on top of me. I'm really happy that I made myself do it, because at cold I could've actually felt the heat generated by my hands. The air was cold, I was freezing, but my hands were boiling hot! I had great concentration on that day, and decided to try and do remote reiki (level 2), on someone in Toronto who's neck hurts. A few days later I asked him ... "Did your neck started to feel better a few days ago?" - "It's funny that you ask" !!! Hmmmm ... coincidence or something freaky?!?!? I have to tell you, that I really have no idea what I'm doing!
In the morning the air cleared, and the view from the front lawn was just unbelievable! It was crystal clear, and Kodaicannal was above clouds! There are tours and trips to climb steep mountains for days on end to see something like that, and here it was free, and I just had to get out of my room! I went to book an overnight bus, but it was full. I already stayed 3 days too long in here, there isn't much to do, but with a view like that, and international crowd, I didn't mind at all. I booked the bus for the next day, and a tour of the surrounding area for the morning/afternood, just so I'll have something to do. I randomly walked around the town. I was looking at buildings, scenery, cars, restaurants, but every time I looked up, 90% of the people around me would be looking at me. I got in terms with it. I thought about it, and if suddenly in the middle of downtown Toronto there would be a native Indian with a loin cloth, bow and arrows with a human scull as a necklace, he would get quite a few stares too!
What I love about some places is that in the middle of all the garbage, cows, broken buildings/roads, so much honking that you wish you were deaf, there would be oasis right in the middle of it all in the form of dominos pizza or a coffee chain "coffee day". Whenever I miss something western, want the best coffee ever or want to escape the hassle or the terrible heat, I would go there. These places are so clean it's unbelievable, they have ACs stacked one next to another, colorful clean menu, and staff that speaks good English and wears clean uniforms. As you've noticed "clean" means a lot in here, as in most places when you touch something you immediately want to take a shower. These places would also play western popular music, and sometimes I would sit there for hours remembering that once upon a time there was good music playing on radio :)
People are very nice in this town. The guy at coffee day went patiently with me through the entire menu explaining what each item is made out of. Why can't they put the ingredients on the menu, I have no idea ... I just have to choose if I like "Ice Eskimo" or "Tropical island" based on how it sounds. At the hostel the owner was explaining me all the directions and all the things to see around, and in the bus agency, the guy tried to come up with all sorts of ways to get me to my next destination when the bus was full ... when I couldn't book it, they offered me chai and suggested I would take a sightseeing bus the next day so I won't be bored. India is always an extreme between clean and dirty, rich and poor, sweet and spicy, bustards and people who would go out of their way to help you ... Whenever I am so furious about something, the next minute, I would be surprised by random act of kindness from complete strangers.
I didn't want to see anything else in town this day, since the view was clear, and I figured that nothing would be better than just sitting on the front lawn on the hostel and looking around. I took a book, but couldn't read much, I couldn't take my eyes of the scenery below. It was so beautiful that I almost started to cry.
It's funny how language/rituals/phrases differ from region to region. In here they use "only" incorrectly, and everybody's talking like this: "The bus will wait 2 minutes walk only", "We'll return to town at 3:30 only", "leave your shoes here only" ...
In the hostel I paid for 1 night, he said $4 (strange, he told me $7 at first), then when I couldn't get the bus out and stayed for another night, I give him $4, he says it's $6. Why $6 I ask, yesterday was $4. "Oh, it's because you gave me $20, and I didn't have any change, so I took only $4" ... I give him $6 without arguing. I already understood that the only thing that makes sense in India is that nothing makes sense at all.
On the bus to Ooty (another hill station), I actually was asleep most of the time. Covering myself with sweater and sleeping bag on the top, then waking up and taking everything off when we reached the bottom and wearing everything back again when it was reaching the top. Again Ooty was overpriced. I started feeling bad a bit nauseous and dizzy. The asymmetrical bed design and crooked TV didn't help my dizziness at all. I slept till 1pm, didn't get out of bed till 5, walked around for 2 hours and went back to bed. I didn't eat anything that day, and wasn't hungry at all. I didn't feel like doing anything in the city and got the bus out the next morning.
I waited for my bus to Wayanad which was supposed to be one the most beautiful places in Kerela. Usually at the bus station, the buses stand for some time, and you can easily find it, get a seat, go to washroom, buy some snacks for the ride it's a very peaceful procedure. Well not on this bus. I guess maybe because there are only 2 buses that go there a day, once it started to get into the station, a mob on locals were running with it, holding onto the doors, or trying to climb it on the move. People were shoving themselves in, while not allowing anybody to get out. I was looking at this chaos, and at my suitcase, and figured no way I could board this bus safely without being stomped to death. I waited until everybody got in, and there were no free seats left. I really didn't feel like standing for 4 hours and decided to skip Wayanad and go to my next destination Madurai .... oooops Mysore ... fwweeeef that was a close one!!

pix are here:

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