Over half way

Our trip is 34 days long. We left Majorde for Hampi on early on the morning of our 17th day in India. Since then time has just flown by. Even though we have slowed the pace a lot (5 days at Palolem beach have whizzed along as a lazy blur) and now suddenly it is just over a week till we fly home!

We initially considered skipping Hampi as it was a full days journey inland and we were loathe to leave the beach. Luckily the monsoon and the advice of our guest house prevailed and the timing worked well as a trip to Hampi and back meant we could meet our friends who were heading down to Goa too but were a few days behind us.
We arrived in Hampi and my first thought was how small it seemed. It really is tiny. The bazaar is dwarfed by the huge sites around it and has only a handful of places to stay and stalls. We later learned that recently whole streets were given 10 hours notice before being bulldozed to preserve this world heritage site. Considering the huge amounts of space everywhere this seemed very extreme!
Lonely Planet recommended hiring bikes to get around the Hampi. This seemed hugely over ambitious once we took one look from our guest house roof at the dramatic hilly landscape around us and the number of km between sites on our map. Instead we paid a fiver each for a tuktuk for a day and met our favourite driver yet. He was hilarious in a non creepy/ are you on something way, and whenever we came back to the tuktuk he was surrounded by fellow drivers engaged in anything from a bear hug to arm wrestles. We felt like we were the looser kids he was showing around the school as he had to..
The various old palaces and temples at Hampi are fab but generally what makes it special is the unbelievable landscape of boulders who look like they have been plucked from mountains and carefully balanced at crazy angles by some meticulous giant all over the place. This, lush greenery and a meandering river and two great sunsets made Hampi one of our favourite places to just amble about and relax. Even in the heart of the bazaar everything is so chilled and we met lots of other tourists as much in love with the place as we were.

The best bit of Hampi we found by accident. It was not in our guide book! The holy grail that is our jumbo India lonely planet book let us down! The best way to find out what to do and where to stay will always be word of mouth. This was how I found myself climbing to monkey temple. About a gazillions stairs later we reached a plateau with said temple, the most amazing view and monkeys EVERYWHERE! Baby monkeys playing and being dragged along backwards by their tails by angry parents was hilarious to watch. It was absolutely worth the sweaty climb and the Indian men who stop on the stairs to walk behind western women. Honestly they constantly find new ways to be gross.
Looking back at our golden happiness once we had reached the top, I do now wonder if It may have been a side effect of a combination of stairs, exhaustion, thin air and not enough breakfast. Honestly it was ‘magical’…
Cringe moment aside, the next day us and nearly all the other English people in Hampi gathered in the streets at 5am for our lifts back to the train station. We had made friends and everything with some of them (nothing like a mass game of uno to bring strangers together) and it turned out most of us were heading back to Margoa and then on to Palolem.
However our plans of a drink by the sea that evening were scuppered by a 4 hour train delay. Nevertheless we made it in the end and immediately bumped into our friend we had arranged to meet. Lack of Internet or reception had made planning this pretty haphazard so it was a great surprise to see him! Sadly the guy he was travelling with had to go home but it was good to find just the one familiar face still.
We leave Palolem tomorrow and it has been amazing. A group of about 6 or so of us have stuck together which takes stress out of activities as you know someone is watching the bags etc. We rented motor bikes which was the best fun but felt secure with a few bikes infront and behind. Alone on the road we would not have risked I don’t think!

Palolem is a gorgeous crescent beach over a km long and bordered by palm trees. When we rented the bikes we also checked out Agonda beach which was totally deserted and eerily beautiful with mist in rising from the trees at its corners. Ofc there were still a good few cows and dogs padding around however…

We will be sad to leave Goa behind but have to scoot down the coast to Kochi in Kerela to meet our two friends Harry and Abbie for our last week!

With our flight home looming nearer for all of us here ATM everyone agrees they want to come to India again. Some people have already been here for months and months and they have the most incredible stories.

I have to go now for another attempt to beat Charlie at chess. A game I really do not have the concentration discipline for but I am determined to crush him just once!

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Udaipur -> Goa update

So we are now in Goa surrounded by palm trees and greenery. We are by Majorde beach which is amazing and have been exceptionally lazy since we got here. Our most strenuous activity so far has been planning a trip to Hampi, at which point I realised we never wrote up one of our earlier trips – our stay in Udaipur.
I had read a lot about how Udaipur has been distorted by tourism, how the centre is stifled with travel agencies and hotels and how fake this all was… However our first impression as we wandered around at dusk was how peaceful and lovely the place was, with music playing and a nice breeze it felt like we were by the med. I then realised this peace was not that of a chilled Indian lakeside community, but was because the area by the lake caters exclusively to tourists and it was off season. Instead of people thronging the streets and night markets we passed by hotels and small touristy shops. We also saw more white people in a ten minute stroll than in our entire previous wanders. It was sad that due to all of this we felt more comfortable and relaxed than in any previous large city! Even hawkers and drivers seemed more chilled – perhaps understanding from experience that most tourists shirk away from those who shout at them!
We had dinner at a hotel with unbelievable views of sunset over the lake and the lake palace hotel. We managed to get the last table outside and had a nice chat with an Australian couple and an America lady. We also had such good chicken tika that we ordered it twice!
The next day charlie nearly abandoned me through sheer boredom as I went on a shopping spree. As he sniffed disprovingly at me spending at a silver shop, a book shop, a bag shop… I kept repeating ‘well I would only buy the same in England at some point for like 500 times more, really I am SAVING money’ (a line I repeated several times in a textiles store in Jaisalmer where after several hours I left with a new best friend, Santosh, and a significantly reduced bank balance..

The weather over these last few days in the north was less good – a fair bit of rain and cloud. Consequently we lost our heads like classic Brits when yesterday in Goa we were blessed with perfect blue skies. We are now both severely burnt. I am not sure what we even did today apart from sleep eat and read. We are in the most lovely place which feels like being on a boutique sleepover. It is a gorgeous renovated Portuguese house with a few guest rooms, run by an ex pat British brother and sister who are very interesting and encourage all guests to meet and chat away and have insisted we take the books we started reading us. We met a very nice guy who works for the British gov doing the accounting for their aid abroad department who is staying here too (and got equally burnt with us).

I recommend to any one ever thinking of visiting the area to stay here (vivenda did palhacos, Goa). It was the upper most end of our budget but was worth it and they have let us stay another night for free since the room was empty! Such lovely people.
We are off to Hampi early tomorrow (mmm 7 hour train ride) and I miss the beach already. Even when it was cloudy today it is so calming to sit and do nothing. Except fend off creepy Indian men who get a kick out of not subtly taking photos of any girl in a bikini… Ah well keeps things interesting!