Zanzibar, India and France
24.05.2013 - 07.07.2013
My blog posts have definitely not been very frequent of late, and for that I apologize. Here's what I've been up to since my last post.
After my safari I spent another week in Tanzania on the island of Zanzibar. I explored Stone Town, went on a tour of a spice plantation and enjoyed the white sand beaches and sparkling water of the Indian Ocean. After finding the only pair of contact lenses in (approximately) my prescription that were available for love or money in Stone Town, I managed to go snorkeling as well. I also got to know some locals, drank quite a bit of beer, and learned to eat ugali.
From Dar es Salaam I flew to Delhi, India. After a day or two in Delhi, during which time I managed not to get ripped off by the tour operators despite their best efforts, I took the train to Shimla to the north. There I went on numerous walks in this mountainous region until my knees insisted that I visit the local hot springs for a soak and a massage to celebrate my birthday on June 3. On the way back to Delhi I took the narrow gauge Unesco World Heritage 'toy train' which has lovely views. It also goes through 105 tunnels and when passing through tunnels it is customary for the children on the train to scream at the top of their lungs, which was pretty fun.
Back in Delhi I met up with some other travelers and we set off to see the sites together. We toured Delhi, saw the Taj Mahal in Agra, visited a wildlife sanctuary and toured Jaipur. The first leg of the journey from Delhi to Agra was by 'local class' train, which although it wasn't quite a scene out of Slumdog Millionaire, was quite an adventure. Trains in India are really very good, with the bonus of hot samoas and other treats available from vendors at every station and masala chai for about 10¢ per cup. Two of us continued to Ajmer, Pushkar, and Udaipur and then on to Mumbai. Highlights were the Taj and Udaipur. Although it was incredibly hot (47 degrees at some points) we had very good weather.
Mumbai however was another story, where the monsoon was in full force. It was pretty soggy, but we managed to get around and see some things. Mumbai has an interesting assortment of colonial era buildings in various states of repair or decay.
On my own again I experienced what was definitely a low point of my time in India when I missed my nonrefundable flight from Mumbai to Kerala through a combination of incompetant or dishonest rickshaw and taxi drivers. I took the next flight and made it to Cochin. Kerala has a history of communist state governments, far less of a gap between rich and poor, very high literacy rates, and really good food. I toured Fort Cochin and then headed for the hills in Munnar, where I visited the gorgeous tea plantations in pretty much continuous but relatively light rain. Travel to Munnar and back to Cochin was by 5 hour local bus which careened around the corners honking to avoid collisions on the narrow winding roads with blind corners every 500 m. Even the driver was holding on to the edge of his seat with white knuckles.
I then visited Alleppey where I spent a day and a night on a houseboat in a region that is far more water than land and everyone gets around by canoe. The experience was only slightly marred by the presence of a bachelor party on the boat moored next to mine.
I flew back to Mumbai and spent one more day there before catching my red eye flight to Paris. I am now on a farm in the South of France, trading my labour for food, lodging and gorgeous views. I had my first lesson in English riding and swim in the spring-fed swimming pool daily. La belle vie!