Traveller's sickness, this terrible diarrhea hitting you while you're travelling, is very common in India. Everybody I know who's been there has had it at least once ! All in all, I will have had it 4 times, including 3 times the first month. The third time, yes, I was really tired of it, it was the day before my pilgrimage to Tirumala but thanks to anti-diarrhea pills (thank you Imodium !), I could contain all that ! I had to see two doctors (you must get checked after two days of diarrhea) and in the end I recovered every time (even though I have needed antibiotics).
The fourth time was the most epic one though ! I was on the bus from Aurangabad to Ahmedebad when, two hours before arrival, I felt bowel movements in my stomach. I thought I could wait until Ahmedabad and that I will use the time to find a bus to Udaipur and go to the toilets. Unfortunately, I happened to meet a rickshaw driver when I arrived in Ahmedabad who pushed me to follow him if I didn't want to miss the bus. And as an idiot, I followed him, although I could have taken time to rest and relieve myself. Furthermore, he took a big commission on the ticket. Thus, I had to get back on a bus very quickly and didn't have the time to the loo !
Oddly enough, there was not one but several assistants to the driver, selling or controlling tickets. I first asked them when we would stop : "In two hours". Then I realised I couldn't hold it much longer and I harrassed them : "Can we stop now ? Can we stop now ?" ! I went to the driver who didn't wanna stop. Thankfully, young people sit behind me had understood my problem and started laughing. They then askmed me if I needed to go to the toilets and I answered dramatically : "I need to shit right now !" So they went to the driver and talked to him in whatever language and they were laughing (they probably said something like : "he's gonna paint over your bus if you don't stop right now !") and so the driver accepted to stop 15 minutes later.
Indeed, he stopped by a field. There was a range of trees but there was a grid in front of it, it was then impossible to hide, except behind some small tree/bush with a very thin trunk and very thin branches. So I left my dignity on the bus, came down, dropped my trousers and emptied my bowels. I thought to myself, just like in horror movies : "Don't look back ! Don't look back !" but I had a little look and I saw these grandpas and grandmas staring at me taking a dump. WOW.
I wiped myself, I put my trousers back on, washed my hands with some hand sanitiser, went back on the bus and smiled to the driver while thanking him for stopping, went back to my seat while thanking everyone for their patience, especially the young guys for their help.
OH THAT FEELS GOOD !
That's it, it was one of the most memorable stories I have lived in India.
Jaisalmer will have been a very nice stop of the trip. First there's a huge fort which is the last inhabited fort in the world. You can sleep there and there are many options.
Then you have state-authorised "bhang shop" where you can take cannabis in different ways.
Finally, there is the Thar desert where you can take a camel and hang around for days. We did a two-night camel safari.
The first day we met our camels and went through a few villages before spending the night in the dunes. We enjoyedvthe heat of the campfire before sleeping under hot and heavy blankets. The nearly full Moon, the wind blowing... It was beautiful.
In the morning, I could take quite a lot of pictures.
Then we hung around again and stopped in a much less nice village to buy rum.
We kept going towards the dunes where we slept but this time the night was very cold and we woke up in the fog. And without the Sun, no heat ! It was hard but we made our own campfire thanks to Yann.
We went back to the fort where we slept and I was happy I lived this experience especially with Boards of Canada in mind !
We stayed in the Jaisalmer fort for two days, we went around the lake on a boat and we just enjoyed this magical place and its intense history...
And then I said goodbye to the guys who were heading to Goa, while I was going to Amritsar.
I met up with Laurie, Sam and their french-american friend Yann in Jodhpur, the blue city. I first visited the big fort where I met a nice indian musician.
The day after we went to a village tour on a jeep and we could see how the textiles were hand-printed, how the pots are made, how they celebrate special occasions...
It prepared us for the tour we would get in Jaisalmer :) #suspense
I was shocked when I arrived in beautiful Udaipur : I thought I was in Southern Europe, Andalusia or Italy...
I could meet up with Laurie and Sam at a very nice Rajashtani folklore show which mixed tablas, dance, costumes and performance.
We went dancing in a Krishna Temple.
The day after I visited the Palace and toured the lake on a boat where I met a turkish guy and an indian couple who took us to a place where the young Indians go for coffee. Coooooooool. It wasn't an official couple as they belong to high but different castes. They still have to tell their parents.
The last day, I visited my first jain temple thanks to a very nice textile salesman (and whose shop I've bought a lot from) and tried my first "special lassi", which was not a great idea before taking the bus :)
OMG I'm so late !
Aurangabad is the access point to the Ajanta and Ellora caves. This is also where you can find the "poorman's Taj Mahal" and the origin of himroo, a weaving technique.
I arrived in the middle of the night and slept only four hours before booking the tour at the last minute. (I had to be there 30 minutes later !) The Ajanta caves are really nice and I could meet cool people including a indian swiss girl who spoke fluent French (and it wasn't her mother tongue) as well as a young american couple, Laurie and Sam, who were up for a drink :)
The Ellora caves tour included the forementioned "poorman's Taj Mahal" and the impressive Ellora caves who have carved in a single stone !
You could also buy himroo at the end and I couldn't help myself !
The day after I visited a himroo handloom factory and went straight to Udaipur to meet up with the Americans !
Oh I had been waiting for this stop and I wasn't disappointed !
The first shock in Mumbai is how huge and traffic-jammed it is. The bus left me in the middle of the road with my big backpack among the cars, it was cool. A guy kind of guided me and we shared a cab which took me to an expensive but super classy hotel !
Bart and Stefani, that I had met in Kumily, happened to be there and we could meet up and party all the more as it was their last days in India. We drank a lot for Stef's departure :)
I went to a street barber.
Bart and I went to Elephanta Island and it was very cool.
After an hour on a boat from Gateway of India during which we could appreciate the typical view of the endless and pollution-foggy coast of skycrapers, we landed on that island which hosts very old hindu ruins.
Then we went to a bar and he flew to the Netherlands... These two were a really nice encounter :)
I went to a gay party where I met a fashion designer but we didn't do anything since he's got someone already. Nevermind !
On the last day I think I got cursed by a Hare Krishna then I think I saw a guy injecting himself with heroin. I also found myself in a slum by mistake.
But I still enjoyed Mumbai !! And I could do some shopping at the Taj Mahal Palace !!
Hyderabad was halfway through Bangalore and Mumbai and I decided to stay there for two nights. This is where I discovered the onion utappa, a delicious indian dish for breakfast.
I saw the Charminar area and its bazaar (which was very different from what I imagined). I tried to avoid the very expensive richshaws and ended up walking for hours through the city to get to a trendy café whose self management ideology turned me off straight away (you must cook your own food) and so I went spending a lot of money at the Hard Rock Café !!
There's also a stunning palace in Hyderabad where I could pose as a Nizam :)
The bus were crowded so I only used rickshaws. The last day I got mad at a rickshaw driver who clearly was taking the piece at me and I was so angry I got my first anxiety attack of the whole trip.
Before heading north, I decided one last trip to the south with Ooty. The 4-hour journey on a Tamil Nadu bus (thus basic) really wrecked my arse ! When I arrived, I realised I wouldn?t stay long because of the cold ! I found a cheap hostel and spent a cool night before going for a trek with a licensed guide.
The trek was quite simple and we could not go all the way to the top because of the fog but we still would enjoy the landscape. The guide ripped me off at the end by changing the price, which I refused, but it is still very disappointing.
I left that very night for huge Bangalore.
The first thing that struck me in Mysore was the pavement : I had not seen any for one month !
The city is nice, lively and contains the magnificient Maharaja Palace. It is indian architecture with strong european influence. Unfortunately pictures are not allowed inside.
Another interesting place to visit is the bird park whose watch tower enables you to see many different species (alas I couldn't take any picture of the famous kingfisher who was way too fast for me).
I checked for a yoga course but I had to be available for one month and most of all, book one week ahead ! I wanted to volunteer for World AIDS Day but nobody answered my messages ! So I just watched cable TV...
The market is charming but salesmen harrass all the foreign tourists they find and it is sometimes difficult to get rid of them. One day I had 5 sellers after me and I left the market but one of them followed me ! So I had to get mad, which is never a nice thing to do.
I will also remember Mysore's great breakfast - badam milk & chou chou bath ? - and the Domino's posters.
This place will definitely be an important step of the trip. Tirupathi is not tremendous but it is the start of the pilgrimage to the Venkateshwara temple, one of Vishnu's incarnations.
I woke up during the night to start bare feet at 2am. I walked the 3600 steps but thankfully I met a connoisseur, Ramesh, with whom I teamed up for mutual support and guidance - otherwise I would have missed the ticket for the darshan !
The way up, littered with statues of different avatars of Vishnu (that's what I understood), gopurams and altars is gorgeous.
It took us about 3 hours and half to walk all the way up, without going fast but I was dripping of sweat ! Fortunately there were quite a fez small shops on the way for water, chai, biscuits...
Once at the top, Ramesh got his head shaved - to show his devotion to the god - and we left our cameras, mobile phones and shoes at a specific counter. So I don't have any pictures from there :( We went to the Temple and started queueing. we met another pilgrim who confirmed Ramesh's sayings : there wasn't that many people and thanks to our darshan, picked up halfway through, we would auickly get in. Unfortunately, after half an hour in the queue, we got parked in rooms shaped as theatres. 100 seats but 700 people all in all.
People would sleep on the steps. We were given hot milk with sugar and some kind of breakfast looking like idli but much better. In the end we waited 4 hours and half. When the doors opened, it became mass hysteria. We managed to access the temple's core, crushed against each other, with people sreaming something like "Oinda" for the god and then we saw the main temple (yes there temples inside the temples, like chapels inside churches) covered with gold where people, hands praying, would make quickly a wish before the sacred statue of Venkateshwara. It's only a few seconds - the temple's women push you away. Intense !
Once outside the temple, everything is much more chilled out and you can then enjoy the details on the golden temple. The rest is about some altars and a stone where you can write a wish.
Outisdem I waited 45 minutes for my pilgrimage mates who went to get a ticket for extra laddu (personally I couldn't queue anymore) and we got our laddu (food ball) We got our stuff back and swapped email addresses.