Scottish Charity Number: SCO36069

3rd August 2010

Pre-Monsoon Travels by Kyle and Sarah

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After a 4 week break to the paradises that are Goa and Kerala we returned to the magnificent foothills of the Himalayas. From the sands, seas and scorching sun we are back to the very green, wet and cold surroundings of the school but we couldnt be happier to see the children and get back to the hard work. Goa was wonderful which was to be expected, fantastic weather and plenty of hustle and bustle on the beach of Palolem for our first 2 days. Everybody then started to disappear as the monsoon slowly crept up on us. Kyle was determined to brave the horrific weather that was forecasted but to Sarahs delight it was 10 heavenly days straight of blissful sun which she managed to soak up quite happily. Kyle spent the majority of his time swimming in the sea getting tossed about like a rag doll caught in the undercurrents and waves (although he calls it body surfing). The last 4 days of our trip to Goa was constant rainfall. We decided it was time to move on to the next part of our journey, Kerala.

The train journey down the coast lasted 12hrs but we were lucky as it was only delayed by 2 hours. We met a couple whose train had been delayed for 22 hours which is interesting as the trains were supposed to leave every 5 hours?! We made our exodus in a sleeper carriage which entailed around 40 beds being stacked 3 high, side by side in a carriage roughly the same size as those in the UK. Our fellow Indian travellers were very friendly and welcoming telling us all about themselves and singing songs, especially at 4am. However, no complaints, we arrived in Kochi feeling surprisingly refreshed.

After first arriving in Kochi, one of the more northern parts of Kerala, we were instantly given the impression that it was a thriving tourist paradise with white beaches, restaurants galore and blazing sunny skies in peak season. We could almost see a palm tree through the rain outside the window of our hotel which was the only one still open on the beach front with us being its only occupants. Even the owner just gave us the key, showed us how to switch the electricity on and off and went home. It was time to hit the beach, armed with sun oil we ran down to the nearest sand we could find as Kyle was adamant that you can still get burnt through the clouds. As soon as we reached the grainy haven of paradise Kyle threw himself into the sea sending the 2 lifeguards (who had been sound asleep) into a panicked frenzy. So we werent allowed to go in past our knees. Now, extreme though this reaction may sound one does have to sympathise with the lifeguards. Let us explain, while sunning ourselves on the toasty beaches of Palolem we met a very worldly educated old gentleman who used to be friends with the Rolling Stones, co-owns a small guest house in India, drinks rum with a shot of Pepsi, uses coconut oil as sun screen, and doesnt know how he got his Indian visa. Bear with me, this does have a point. This gentlemans guesthouse happens to be situated on a beautiful lake in the north of Goa. This lake is very popular for Indians to go on long weekends or even day trips. Quite often the thing to do on these trips is buy a bottle of whisky, drink it within a couple of hours and charge into the lake not realising that it is soft mud on the bottom and drown yourself. Apparently the problem is becoming a bit of an epidemic with 9 unfortunate souls losing their lives in the past month So yes the lifeguards are quite strict and yes drinking and swimming is dangerous.

We decided to head south and squeeze the last of the summer heat out of India before it was completely consumed by the Monsoon. So after only one day in Kochi we decided to head down to the Capital of Kerala – Trivandrum. Waiting for us in Trivandrum was beautiful sunny skies, black beaches (which got hot on the feet!!!!), great hospitality and a group of friends whom we had met in Goa. The beach we stayed on was called Lighthouse Bay and is in Kovalam. There are surprisingly few down-sides to travelling in India during the off season, apart from the rain which was relatively infrequent and the sea (apparently) being too dangerous to go past your ankles in. However one thing that really gets the chilly spicing is the fact that you are not watered down by the number of tourists, so at first this seems pleasant, however, you become a walking magnet for street vendors and beach vendors who will literally follow you around till you actually contemplate the possibility of taking part in one of these drink-whisky-and-run-into-the-sea parties. To be honest their jewellery is very beautiful and extremely well crafted, however, if you decide to cave in and purchase a wee slice of Rajasthan handy craft, word will travel fast and you will suddenly find yourself running to get through the throng of people trying to sell the same products.

As we mentioned earlier, we met up with friends who we spent time with in Goa, two brilliant personalities hailing from the city of Brighton. These India travelling, masala loving amigos had been in Kovalam for a few more days than us so they knew all the hidden restaurants where you could get a full meal for r/s30 approx 40p! These meals were absolutely fantastic and even though it was pretty much the same for lunch and dinner every day, I believe it puts an end to the age old question- if you had to survive on one kind of food everyday for the rest of your life what would it be? They also knew where there was a cinema in the nearest town, so we hopped in an auto rickshaw to see Karate Kid. The local Indians were fantastic in the cinema, it was more like a pantomime, cheering good guys and booing bad guys.

We had so many fantastic experiences in our time in the south of India that it would be hard to put them all in this report, from elephant rides, to helping the locals fishing at 6am. So we will finish as we started. We are now back in the hills of Kalimpong and I swear some of the kids have grown! After what would have to be the scariest car drive ever we had a pleasant arrival back to Dr Grahams Homes in the late evening, entering back into our cottages to gasps and cheers. We allowed ourselves a couple of days to adjust back to our surroundings. In which time Kyle managed to get a fever that almost set his bedcovers on fire and strangely only lasted half a day, getting up just in time to help eat two of the boys birthday cakes. So we are now getting back into the swing of things, braving the outdoor pool in the incredibly beautiful misty mountain forests. And provided all goes well in the hills we are looking forward to another 2 months helping the fantastic children of Doctor Grahams Homes.

Another report soon and hope the photos all work ok.

Love to you all, Sarah and Kyle xxx

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