A Travellerspoint blog


Vive la Pondy!!


We arrived in Pondicherry and had unknowingly stumbled into possibly one of the busiest times of year. It was Republic day on the Thursday and a four day holiday/celebration over the weekend. Our blasé attitude towards organising accommodation proved to be a right pain as we spent the first 3 hours going from hostel to hostel with everyone seemingly booked up. We did eventually find an overpriced damp room with a horrendous ceiling and a freezing cold shower.....that'll teach us for not booking early hey!! We put our accommodation woes behind us though and headed out to explore the city of Pondicherry.


Pondicherry is an old French Colonial fishing port with around a million inhabitants, roughly 7000 being French. The old part of the city is broken into quarters with the French quarter consisting of picture postcard cobbled streets, beautiful old French houses and a rather decent bakery (we did eat too many lovely croissants, yum!!). There is a nice promenade along the surprisingly clean sea front where every evening local families and couples stroll up and down admiring the view with a customary ice cream.

We decided to get up early on our second day in 'Pondy' and take part in a cycle tour of the old part of the city. It was a great introduction to the city and interesting to see our surroundings before it awakens fully. The city has very distinct quarters of Muslim and French and it was fascinating to see the architecture differ so suddenly between them. Post cycle tour we thought what better way to spend the day then with a massage, a look round the city and some yoga in the evening. My massage was great and with a guy who talked to me about his life, his beliefs and his hatred of cricket (first guy I met in India who didn't like cricket). Susie came back from her massage and mentioned the word 'torture chamber' and said she was in a room which wouldn't look out of place in a Jack Bauer 24 episode. Luckily we both survived and spent the rest of the day wandering around the city looking at the BFG sized Ghandi statue and various churches and temples dotted about. In the evening we partook in a yoga session which was an opportunity to prove how unfit and inflexible I am panting and struggling along whilst the seasoned yogis effortlessly contorted their bodies into weird and wonderful shapes. Our dinners in Pondicherry were expensive compared to the rest of India (£12+ for two) whilst being pretty average and we never really got a 'decent' meal despite our best efforts.


The one big difference we noticed between Pondy and other Indian cities was the lack of rubbish. Yes there are the other 'typical' Indian city life stuff; lots of street dogs, plenty of hungry cows, hassling tuk tuk drivers etc, but for some reason very little rubbish. I can only assume that the infrastructure is there to deal with it more efficiently owed potentially to the French, Vive la France!! The quantity of rubbish has been one of our biggest frustrations whilst travelling as beautiful landscapes have often been tainted by the piles of rubbish left. Anyway more about rubbish coming up in another blog post, bet you can't wait hey!!


We left Pondy and headed to our last destination before flying out to Sri Lanka. This stop was to be Mahaballapuram, a very small costal ultra touristy resort. I tried a bit of surfing as the waves looked very small and perfect for the beginner surfer. I had never tried surfing before and realised that it's really tough and I'm not very good at it. I just (literally just) managed to stand up after an hour of failing miserably so was quite chuffed on my walk back despite the sunburnt back and bruised ribs. Mahaballapuram was the perfect way to spend the last few days and we were both sad our time in incredible India was up. It was now time to look forward to a new country which awaits. Sri Lanka here we come!


Love Rob and Sus.

Posted by SusieRout 21:54 Archived in India Comments (1)

On the buses, India style!

sunny 14 °C

India bus journey trip.

I have only been truly terrified a handful of times in my life. These times have mostly been when I was rock climbing, the sudden rush from the fear of falling can, for a split second, paralyse you. This fear I can mitigate for the large part as I have pretty much full control of the situation and my actions. Today's experience on an Indian bus was one of the most terrifying experiences in which I had no control over whatsoever.

I genuinely feared for my life at multiple times during our 14 hour bus journey from Mysore to Kerala. I spent a large part of the trip figuring out the best position to sit in if we were to crash (which felt quite likely) so that I would suffer minimal damage. There are no seatbelts on any of the buses that I know of so holding a metal bar in front of me with white knuckles was my only way of protecting myself from catapulting through the front windscreen.


As we started the journey I noticed some key differences between driving in the UK and in India. My favourite difference, and the most dangerous of these, is the use of the invisible 3rd lane. Most roads in India are single carriageway and the need to overtake EVERYTHING seems to be the number one absolute primary importance to the driver. Enter the 3rd lane, it is technically the quickest way to overtake small transport (cows/scooters/tuk tuks) hence why every larger and quicker vehicle uses it. This results in the largest and deadliest game of chicken I have ever witnessed. Its an unofficial game of 'whoever's largest wins' and when 2 vehicles of the same size come together then it is a battle of wills. Only at the very last minute one will back down and concede defeat, millimeters away from a head on collision. This game of chicken lasts hour after hour after hour. Just as I thought it couldn't get worse enter my 2nd favourite difference between UK and Indian roads. I remember watching the film Speed with Keanu Reeves when i was about 13 years old but never imagined that I, 17 years later, would literally be part of it. Bus drivers try to avoid slowing down using any method available to them. Usually this involves copious amounts of increasingly frantic horn blowing or undercutting on dirt verges... why not, it all counts or the bomb goes off!!!


After 14 hours I manage to peel my white knuckles off the thin metal bar in front of me. I thank God (I can see why religion is popular in India) and get off the Steven King inspired journey. I got given the advice after the journey that the best way to deal with 'the fear' is just to 'let go'. I'm not sure if this was just a knuckle saving method or a mental hurdle I need to overcome. Either way i know me and this metal bar in front of me are pretty inseparable! Until the next bus journey and fear inducing trip, I can't wait!!

Rob x


Posted by SusieRout 08:03 Archived in India Comments (0)

Taming the Tamil cities

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We brace ourselves for another long train journey (7 hours) knowing that this time we're entering Tamil Nadu which is meant to be a lot less westernised and we've heard less friendly too. Travelling as a couple certainly makes me feel safer. I'm generally left alone whilst they talk to Rob asking the usual where he's from and what he does for a living and then asking him to be a part of the countless selfies they take everyday. I am seen to be rather more of a second class citizen and as I'm not "available" they don't want to know which is fine by me most of the time.


When we arrive in Madurai at 11:30pm the train station is insanely busy. There are sleeping bodies to wade through and intense stares - it already feels like a very different atmosphere. A helpful man, who has been talking avidly to Rob (telling him to just pop off the train during the stops to buy some food; I had visions of him standing on the platform in the middle of nowhere as I speed away on the train stuck with all the baggage - I expressly forbade him to go!) helped us find our hotel and we rather hungrily and tiredly went to bed.

The next morning we headed to breakfast and decided on a place teeming with locals. Normally the cheaper the food the tastier it is! Sorry Lonely Planet but you haven't helped us much except find the most expensive and rather poor food places to go in comparison. As it turns out the cashew dosa was the most delicious we've had but it was the first place we'd been where most people weren't happy to talk to us. In fact some people refused to sit next to us which was a shame.

Then we went on a search for the temple which was pretty easy considering all the touts. Before we knew it we were rushed up stairs in a tourist shop to be shown the view of Meenakshi temple which is a huge Hindu Temple and the main reason why people visit. The view is impressive and although I don't buy something there I do somehow, unconsciously so, get led into another shop where after much bartering end up with a much desired cashmere/silk scarf which is the most expensive thing I'll buy here but the momento I've wanted. Having lost my sandals and Rob having his stolen (don't ask) we finally get to buy some much needed but rather unintended matching sandals for our tired feet.



In the afternoon we walk for miles through the streets watching all the local children who flock to Rob for "selfie selfie" and end up at the Gandhi Museum which provides a comprehensive and harrowing account of the struggle India had in gaining independence. It was an eye opening experience and provided us with a lot to reflect on.


That evening, with many local people as it's Republic Day, we enter the temple. Its huge! 15 acres , 4500 pillars and 12 towers to be precise. The purpose of our visit is for the architectural splendour which is so different to the sacred reasons why the Hindus visit. We watch in awe as they express their devout loyalty to their faith shown by lying in front of different Gods to pray, paying the priests and sharing offerings. Its a hub of frenzied activity and quite a sight to behold. They're getting ready for the nightly procession where they carry the statue Shiva (husband) to Parvati (wife) for a night ceremony. This is meant to happen at 9:30pm but having experienced Indian timings of things before we know it may be a way off and decide to drag our weary bodies to bed.

Our experience of city life has been more positive and we leave the next day with a changed perspective of what city life has to offer.


Onto Trichy, a chaotic and authentic Tamil City where there isn't another tourist to be seen. We're so used to government buses now we navigate our way to the oldest temple in India which is pretty impressive considering how unhelpful the local people are being. In order to get to the centre you walk through pillar after pillar filled with market stalls as well as ATMs to pay for your goods which is a bizarre experience. The temple offers some beautiful stone carvings and a nice walk around and then we're off,back to work out the buses again.


The next day we get up early to walk up the Rock Fort Temple which is a 400 step climb to a place where you make offerings and get a good view of the city. I always like to look over the colourful skyline where people paint their houses in such fluorescent colours and hang their washing on their roofs. Its so different from a skyline you would see at home. This time it's me who's asked for the selfie and the children are huddled around forced by their parents to have the photo. It's an odd experience and one I'm not quite sure of the reason. Does it give them luck? Do they post it on FB and pretend to have new friends from abroad? Or do they simply laugh at how white we are in comparison? Who knows.


Our last few days of city life has been more successful than the last but we are now looking forward to Pondicherry which is a French Colonial Town that is meant to be rather more Westernised than the other cities we've experienced. We're rather curried out now! But first the always eventful bus journey - wish us luck!

Susie and Rob xx

Posted by SusieRout 16:00 Archived in India Comments (0)


sunny 35 °C


As we relax on the beach (we are really enjoying the amazing beaches here!) we think over the past 10 days of travelling. Our time in India seems to be running away with us and yet it feels like a long time ago since we left. Christmas seems a distant memory and our 'travelling lifestyle' has well and truly kicked in. Its a funny thing when you first begin a big trip with no real end in sight. We've passed that 'holiday hump' period, our clothes are getting a bit grubby, Rob's beard is out of control and our perception of a short bus ride is no less than 5 hours! Here's what we've been up to over a busy 10 days.

We've escaped the grasp of the suffocating city and arrived at the coast where the pace of life slowed. We were instantly calmer and more relaxed although I did encounter my first quick bout of sickness which luckily had passed by the morning. Fort Cochin was certainly more touristy than Mysore with art galleries and fancy cafes around every corner. The Chinese fishing nets on the harbour side were particularly fascinating. They were based on a cantilever system using 10 or so heavy boulders to counter the weight of the structure and catch whilst 6 or so hard working men pulled on ropes to help get the cantilever moving until the boulders took over and finished the job. We expected to see a bounty of fish in the nets but to our surprise there was barely enough to feed a family of four on a Friday night! As we watched we saw in the harbour a groups of dolphins who by the looks if it were having a much more successful time than the fishermen continually encircling a school of fish and filling their bellies. We spent the rest of the day in and out of art galleries and headed off to Munnar the next day. In the evening we enjoyed the most incredible authentic kathakali dancing where an all male crew dress up in extravagant clothing and tell an ancient tradition through their expressions and dance - no talking allowed!

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A definite highlight of our trip. The unrelenting heat does get to you after a while so it was a relief to climb the mountain and reach a cooler climate. The tea plantations are breathtakingly beautiful. The mountains always hold a special place in our hearts and as we rode around on a scooter into the national park away from the tourists we encountered a lot of native and real village life. The stares were pretty intense but the people were friendly and we had an incredible day.


The next morning we got up at 4.30am for a 'sunrise trek'. To our surprise we were the only ones on the trek and had the mountain to ourselves. Our guide, Jobin, was an excellent host although his speed up the mountain was a jogging pace for the both of us! As we sat and drank our masala chai at the top of the mountain we felt the most satisfied we have been since we arrived in India. It has never failed to surprise us with how lush the greenery is and how diverse the landscape is - it is a truly beautiful country and the people are so vibrant and friendly, its difficult not to fall in love with it all (although at times love isn't quite the word we'd use).

The hub of Munnar was hectic and overcrowded so we ended up eating in the same place every night to avoid it. We enjoyed cheap and authentic food (back to curry for breakfast, lunch and dinner) and when we ordered the waiters looked with dismay, shaking their heads and reordered what they thought would be the best option. The last time we were there the food simply arrived whilst we were looking at the menu. It was a funny experience and we wondered whether other tourists are treated to the waiters 'suggestion' as we were.


We left the cool of the mountains and into the mosquito ravaged location of Alleppey backwaters. A 'must see' according to Lonely Planet but it didn't really live up to expectation. It was a great place to meet other travellers and we ended up opting for day cruise in the backwaters as opposed to spending 10x price for an overnight stay. We we paired up with a lovely Austrian couple called Anatole and Verena and we exchanged numbers and hope to see them in New Zealand. Its so nice to hear other people's stories of their trip and get to know their adventures, picking up tips of what to do and learning about their lives. We've had the opportunity to talk to more strangers in the last three weeks here than we have in a year in England. The travelling lifestyle opens people up and they're willing to share. In the end a big group of us went out to dinner and it turned out our experience in Allepey was more fun due to the people we met rather than anything else.

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We've decided to spend the last few days in Kerala at the beach. It isn't the nitty gritty "incredible india" but it is beautiful and relaxing, full of restaurants with the freshest fish and we have finally had a break from curry. The beach is at the bottom of a cliff and a ripcurl forms on the shore every time the waves lap the water. The sunsets are beautiful and now enjoyed with a beer in hand (after our two weeks of abstinence not out of choice) and we get to catch up on our reading and writing, enjoying a slower pace of life.


Looking towards the next part of our trip.
Our last week will be spent in the chaos of Tamil Nadu cities. We're preparing ourselves for the certain craziness of it all and each city stop will be short and sweet, cramming in the sites and moving onto the next place. It will be interesting to see what we make of it all. For now we're going to soak up the rays and put back on the calories we've lost from the rest of the journey.

Love Susie and Rob x


Posted by SusieRout 23:58 Archived in India Comments (1)

City life...

sunny 33 °C
View Rob and Susie's Big Adventure on SusieRout's travel map.


We arrive in Mysore at 9.15am surprisingly sprightly after our 12 hour train journey through the night. We met some lovely people in our carriage and shared our stories about India so far. One thing we love about travelling is the opportunity to meet new people who are so friend!y and willing to chat and you get to share a bit of the is crazy experience with them. For example, meeting Zoe and Ian resulted in finding somewhere for breakfast together and exchanging numbers and it turns out Zoes from New Zealand so we will have friends for when we arrive. I'm hoping we get to catch up then and continue our chat about our travels.

As far as the city goes we learnt pretty quickly that its not for us. It is clear that the city beats to a different drum and the laid back gentle lifestyle we have become accustomed to has been replaced by a hectic and unrelenting environment where you have to keep your wits about you at all times. Crossing a roundabout is a terrifying experience and our usual mode of transport has been replaced by taxis due to one hair raising journey when we crossed many a junction with no regard of traffic and no headlight to be seen.


We have been able to go to some cool sights though such as the Royal palace, in which we befriended an Australian family and hopped on their tour for free, was well worth seeing. It lights up with a 1000 bulbs at night!! The 1000 step climb up Chamundi hill was a bit of type 2 fun. Whilst running away from monkeys (I didn't realise I was so scared of them) and sweating up the long pilgrim path we were rewarded by a beautiful view and some temples at the top plus a monolithic bull halfway up for good measure. We also checked out a bustling fruit and veg market which was certainly an overload on the senses.


It seems however that there isn't much else to do here. The city is sprawled out and difficult to navigate but we have learnt lots in our time here about what we like/don't like and how to manage our trip better. We've learnt lots about ourselves too- how we react to an alien environment so different from our own.

Tonight we look forward to leaving the city and going to Kerala where we have heard about such amazing things. I'm sure we are going to feel much more at home there. First we have a 10 hour bus journey through the night to contend with -eek!

One things for certain - I'm very lucky to have such an amazing companion to share this experience with who is always there to keep me safe and keep me smiling all the way. Hats off to people who manage this on their own.

Onwards and upwards on the next part of our journey.

Love Susie and Rob x


Posted by SusieRout 08:50 Archived in India Comments (0)

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