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Exciting experiences of our first days in India
Since arriving in India we have been bombarded in Bombay, found an English paradise in Goa, got the dreaded Delhi belly and I've ended my love affair with curry.
We landed after no sleep at Mumbai/Bombay airport - the two names seem equally used. Within minutes we’d disobeyed our only advice ‘not to leave the airport without a prepaid taxi'.
Like two sitting ducks, we entered the arena of talented sales men and entrepreneurs in search of water.
Moments later we were in a "free taxi" being sweet-talked by a friendly Indian man, and then we paid no less than 3000 rupees (34pounds) for a room with wallpaper hanging off, a very potent aroma of wee and placed in the middle of nowhere. To put it into Indian context most rooms since have cost around six pounds and they have been far nicer. We left after a quick stroll around the exterior of the hotel shack proved we were nowhere near the city centre.
After an hour of trying to find someone to help us escape, we took a tw- hour bus ride to where we'd hoped to originally.
It felt like someone had cranked up the volume as soon as we got to India. On the roads there is a policy if you are overtaking you beep a few times, and in Mumbai there were several 'lanes' (and I use the word loosely as there are no road markings) of overtaking so the beeping was constant. There was almost a frantic dance beat made from the hectic drivers.
This was the first layer of sound, then came the shouts and spitting harmony from the hundreds and thousands of men walking past, finally there was surround sound melody of the wild animals, dogs, cows, squirrels, also wandering the city.
Once at our destination in the consuming heat and feeling almost like collapsing, after paying two taxi drivers and being dropped off in the wrong places both times, we decided that the best thing to do was to get to Goa straight away. We'd planned to meet friends there and having no energy to deal with the lively Bombay, we booked a sleeper bus. We were told this transport would take 12 hours. 24 hours later, we arrived.
But first the buses themselves are a marvel worthy of description, with double beds stacked on double beds, wild drivers who take steep bends at 40mph (maybe), and old roads leading onto new roads, with the change in road surface making the bus rock to the point we had to cling to each other to stop from rolling off the bunk.
Along the way we stopped at tiny diners, mostly shacks with toilets (I'm too polite to go into the smell). But these diners had a real charm. We were the only tourists so it felt like a true authentic Indian experience and while we couldn't work out what we were ordering, everything there was delicious.
When we stormed into north Goa on the sleeper bus at speeds of probably 100mph, we spent our first night at Arabol beach, the most northern point in Goa. It reminded me of being at Glastonbury festival, with fairy lights dotted around, candle lit bars and very chilled-out music.
We slept in a hut on the beach with the sea at our feet, and that night was definitely the scariest time when I heard wild dogs howling throughout the night. Not having an en-suite making the journey to the toilets in the middle of night did feel like I was taking my life in my hands. But I soon learned these animals were mostly friendly and just liked howling at the moon.
The next day we took three buses south to meet our friends at Palolen beach at the very tip of Goa. It's a beautiful place, with lots of interesting cafes/bars to eat, but it does feel like being back in England, with menus serving chicken tikka, pizzas and beans on toast. It's been very relaxing here for a few days but it isn't the experience I was hoping for. But there is plenty more time and for now the sandy beaches, blue sea, trips out to dolphins, sunsets and card games will all suffice.
Sadly while here the Delhi belly caught me and it isn't the nicest of bugs. Being an avid curry lover I'd often wondered was there a limit? Or could I happily eat the spicy treat day after day? Well following a mere four days of curries morning, lunch and evenings I'm afraid to say I've had enough. My lifelong love affair with the hot dish has come to a sad Delhi belly break-up.
My first impressions of India have been of its beauty; it's landscape, people, clothes, buildings and buses are all so beautiful and bright. There is an intoxicating energy that seems to spring from everything.
There is also the contagious Indian head wobble. Instead of saying thank you most Indians seem to wobble their heads from sides to sides in a slow motion mirroring almost he movement of hypnotized Cobra. Everyone does it and the more I see it the more I am doing it.