Sanjay wants a list of prices of various commodities in Britain, and the incomes associated with various jobs and professions. Discover the extent of my ignorance on such matters. He is a student of sexuality (aren't we all) and we got onto the question of morality. He admitted that to most men in India, sex was for the pleasure of the man, and that the man cannot understand that women also should enjoy the act. I'm sorry if that paraphrases what he said, but I'm finding it difficult to think in this heat, and my rotten writing is due to the bumpy train.
Sanjay took me on his motor-bike to find the post-office and to buy some shirts. They cost 120 rupees, and were "Western" in style, I really wanted something more 'ethnic' but couldn't persuade them that I didn't want the latest in fashion. Together with 28 rupees for posting my cards that's the only thing I've paid for lately.
We had a rather touching farewell ceremony with Dr Khire and the institute staff, I was presented with a bunch of flowers, and two letters to post in England, as Dr Khire has had problems communicating with a co-researcher in the Netherlands.
We had a frantic car journey, and a run along the platform in the noon-day sun, neither of which have helped my state of mind. I have a litre of water in my bag, the family opposite have a gallon. I'm in a compartment with a man, his wife and his son. That should prove interesting tonight.
Ten minutes out of Pune and we've ground to a halt already. If this is a first class carriage I hate to think what 2nd and 3rd are like.
Other images of India: Jain lorries with rows of tiny chains hanging down the front so that they don't run over anything, sari lengths drying in the sun on the railway embankment, sugar cane growing in the fields, green and fertile, unlike the journey from Bombay to Pune, sugar beet factories by the railside.
I have just ordered curry for 8 o'clock. Vegetarian I hope.
Realise I'm going to miss seeing Marathi script. From what Dr Navrate was saying Sanskrit is like the root language, all other languages being derived from it. Indeed in the examples he quoted even the latin and germanic languages seem to derive from it.
I'm told that in the south more people will speak English because they refuse use Hindi, that being seen as a northern tongue. India seems the inverse of England, "They're hot-headed in the north" I was told more than once, yet the south seems to have less jobs, poorer pay and more revolutionary fervour.
13:45 Arrive somewhere which is obviously the lunch stop. The lady opposite, having had her snooze, opens a tiffin box and starts on the family meal. At this moment she is peeling onions, the skins and roots going out of the window of course.
I am now trying to ignore a beggar who has appeared at the open window. He soon realises he is not onto a winner and wanders off.
The people opposite have a sort of mosquito netting sleeping bag which seems a good compromise. I begin to wonder if all my sample in Pune were Brahmin. According to the guide book Sadasiv Peth is a Brahmin area. Incidentally areas of the city used to be named after war heroes, but are now named after "social workers" what we would call social reformers.
14:05 We move off. Children here stand and wave at the train. I muse a while on our reasons for doing this. See my first steam engine. See maize and rice growing in the fields.
15:55 Stop at Wadsinge. and at 16:55 Solapur. At every stop people come up selling chai, omelette, ice cream, here even a barrow loaded with saris, pillow slips, and other fabrics.
18:20 Dudhani, saw my first gopurams. A wrecked and battered train lies at the side of the track here the first of several I see on my travels.
Have finally made contact with the family. He is from Rajastan and serves in the air force as an instructor. They gave me 'Bombay mix' which was quite hot, but then gave me some apple which was very pleasant.
19:00 Appear to have ground to a stop in the middle of nowhere. Can't find my mosquito repellent. The two locks which were on my bag, and which Rajesh said I didn't need, have also gone missing. I suppose its my own stupid fault for leaving them unlocked and I can't decide if they fell off in the car, or if the old man nicked them, he did seem to have a thing about locks. I rather suspect the old man because I think that if they were on when I packed I would have locked them automatically. Oh well, another John Hawkwood! [For those not in the know, John Hawkwood told us that farmers often bought very cheap calves at market, but that they always had scour and died, and usually infected others in the herd as well. He then went to market, bought a cheap calf, which developed scour and subsequently died, but not before it had passed on the infection to an expensive calf he had bought from a reputable source, which also died].
The airman is now teaching his son from a book on sanitation. We pass through a town, and I can see colour T.V.s in all the houses. Evidently they only have one state-controlled channel.
19:25 We pull out of Gulbarga, one of the major stops, frutti sellers, the works. I ask the airman whether I have to go and get my dinner, but he says they will bring it to me.
20:55 Total misunderstanding about the dinner. A man walked in and said something. The lady opposite said "You don't want meelk?" or so I thought. The man went away. When the husband returned from the 'latrine' as I have learnt to call it, he said "Are you not having dinner?". I explained what had happened, realising there had been a misunderstanding, and he kindly went off and collared the tiffin-wallah who came back with some sort of official. Meanwhile the train is at a station and waiting to depart. Everything grinds to a halt while another meal is found. Eventually one arrives: two trays of curry soup, two of some sort of vegetable, the only recognisable one being peas, four puris, and rice. I try the first lot of veg with a little rice. Its red and green chillies. When I come back down to earth I try the other, which is much more pleasant. A tub of very watery curd accompanies the meal. I finish the meal with a little curd and rice, but avoid the water.
The airman thinks the cost will be about 100 rupees. When the tiffin-wallah comes and says seven hundred I ask if he means 70 rupees. No says the airman, seven rupees only. It seems a very cheap way to get galloping gut-rot.
28/01/89. 06:50. I don't think I would recommend travel by sleeper. The advantages are that you get somewhere while you are sleeping and that it is cheaper than an hotel, though in practice you get little sleep.
When I went to the latrine last night our compartment door jammed. I could see the airman thinking "Stupid westerner incapable of opening a sliding door", but then he went out and the door jammed on him. He must have reported it to someone in authority, for at 11:30 two hours after we had all settled down for the night, a man turned up to repair the door. Can you imagine that happening in Britain?
You also stand the risk of freezing to death. I only had a sheet sleeping bag, for it started out very warm last night. In the ceiling are four wire-clad fans, one aimed at each bunk. I couldn't work out where they switched on and off, but I must have looked cold 'cos someone finally switched it off for me.
I was offered Bombay mix and biscuit breakfast by the air-force chap but declined.
The scenery now is flat and arid - almost desert-like, with sudden patches of green, and the occasional plantation of spindly trees.
We stop at another station where I buy a coffee for 1.5 rupees.
Its now starting to get rocky and hilly, like a scene from a bible epic, with bare earth and big boulders.
We are ten minutes out of Bangalore according to the timetable.
So much for the timetable. Arrived at Bangalore at 10:10. Shook off pestering hordes of bag-carriers, direction givers and taxi-touts and found the reservation office. Its the first place I've been where they haven't scribbled all over my ticket.
I owe at least half an apology to the little old man, I found one of my locks in my trouser pocket, I probably just lost the other one at the Prabodhini. Having said that I awoke on Friday morning to find the door locked from the inside, after I had left it unlocked for Rajesh. I could get quite paranoid about this, but decided it could be somebody's idea of a joke - there is another way out through a door to the kitchen, which was bolted from the other side, and possibly the cook, finding the door open had locked it from the inside then gone out through the kitchen.
It seemed to take ages from first seeing Bangalore to getting here, you go round in a large sweeping arc, stopping at Bangalore east and Bangalore cantonment first.
I should mention the development of the sitting stoop. Both auto-rickshaws and trains have very low tops to their windows, or open sides in the case of the autos, so that, in order to see out, you have to sort of slump down in your seat.
I am now in the first class waiting room at Bangalore station, awaiting the train to Mysore. Am about to leave luggage unattended while I look for the loo.
Have been to the loo and the reservation office again and luggage is still here, suspect first class waiting rooms are slightly safer than second class.
I feel quite happy and on top of things at the moment. I have just worked out my itinerary for next week and I seem to be on schedule at the moment, if not a little ahead. Still I'll have to see how hot it gets.
Someone has kindly switched on the T.V. monitor and we now have raucous advertisements, for soap powder, saris, even cigarettes, as well as for the national economic programme, these are relayed all over the railway station in full colour, with edits that look as though someone has pulled the plug between each take.
I saw my first minaret in Bangalore, and a load of hippies in the reservation hall, mainly Australian and German.
The train to Mysore is very crowded. There are eight in our compartment, two of those on the top bunk. The girl opposite looks as though she has broken her leg, and winces every time someone brushes against it. The people have a more aborigine appearance than those further north, they are considerably darker, I nearly made some comment about the flashing Negro smile then!
A lady I labelled the Memsahib came rushing in at the last moment the train from Vellore having arrived late.
A whining hippie type I had studiously ignored at Bangalore came and borrowed my Lonely Planet guide, it was only when he went off with it that I felt a surge of panic and realised how much I relied on it. The lady next to me (I can't write Memsahib when she is this close) is now using it to find hotels in Mysore. She is a pharmacist here on a scholarship, she spent three months in the states studying the A.I.D.S. problem, and was telling me about their problems with old people, insurance companies over there are getting very worried. She went to San Francisco, Texas and Florida, and has just spent a week in Vellore. Its nice to talk to someone from England in some ways, though it has made me feel kind of lonely and homesick. However I'm beginning to think this feeling is also something to do with blood sugar level as it always occurs at this time of day.
The scenery seems more like Australia than India, strange red rocks poking straight up into the sky, and the brown, aborigine type people.
The vegetation has changed again, it is now paddy fields and sugar cane. The long view could be anywhere in England, until you notice the odd cactus in the foreground. Around Bangalore was more Mediterranean, vines and bananas.
16:00 Still quite warm. Vendor came round selling iddly and dal paste which Memsahib urged me to try. With coffee it cost 2.50
16:20 Stop at Mandya which looks a pleasant place. There is a very pleasant smell from somewhere.
Memsahib tells me she works at a civil service chest hospital in Kent, she reminds me of Beatrice in "Tenko". I asked her if she would phone Sue when she returned to England, and she said she would, so I gave her my card, having learnt that one always has a stock of business cards to swap in India.
Couldn't get in the first hotel I tried so came to the Metropol. The hippy to whom I lent the guidebook got the last room in the hotel so I am now in the garden annexe. Its a little room, with a bed, fan, European toilet and shower, with which I am currently experimenting. The button has come off my yellow shirt so I will have to practice my sewing skills. Hope my tetanus is working, have already jabbed my finger half a dozen times.
Dinner tonight is in this faded Raj place, where all the diners seem to be European. The menu is uninspiring, all that practice I had in Pune and there's not one Thali on the menu. Ended up with vegetable au gratin, undercooked vegetables in a bland cheese sauce - perhaps my taste buds have been numbed by all those real 'meals'.
22:10. Must write to Sue now as I am going to Somnathpur tomorrow. The little man at the information desk in the hotel was very helpful, he arranged all the details for me, and insisted on my visiting Sravanbelagola - perhaps his mother has a shop there or something.
Mosquitoes starting to bite, and there's something chirruping away in the bathroom, I'm not sure if its friend or foe. I foolishly drank a little water at dinner, I hope I don't regret it later. (I did!). Memsahib recommended iodine and a dropper bottle for sterilising water, she said it kills more organisms than chlorine. It was her that pointed out the parrots flying free - I hadn't really noticed that was what they were, I thought you only got them in Africa.
06:35 a.m. Awoken an hour ago by Muezzins calling the faithful to prayer. Since then have been to loo three times, my insides are running like a tap. My own fault for drinking the water I suppose, I must find out where you buy bottled water, everyone at dinner last night seemed to have some. The dawn chorus started around 06:00, and sounded like parrots and mynah birds. There are also a lot of crows everywhere.
I wish my insides would settle down, I want to set off for Somnathpur but daren't be too far from a loo at the moment.
07:00 Another siren goes off. I think it is probably a starting buzzer at the railway works, as my room faces north I can hear the steam engines at Mysore station from here.
I've still got galloping guts, I feel a hot water bottle against my tummy would be nice.
I had a 'continental' breakfast, I'm still suspicious of their fruit juice so I bought a bottle of mineral water, at Rs17 a litre.
I'm going to find the bus to Somnathpur once my guts have settled down.
I got halfway to the bus stand and realised I had forgotten to bring any spare film. Returned to hotel, but couldn't face another walk, so hailed auto-rickshaw. The driver didn't flag the meter, and charged me Rs4 just to go to Gandhi Square. The first bus I approached was the wrong one, and everyone I asked pointed east, and I ended up walking another quarter of a mile before I spotted the bus stand.
I sat next to someone who looked like a farmer, and the fact I had my feet on a large sack of something added to the impression, but he said he was an advocate. He was very helpful, and told me all about getting to Somnathpur.
The bus ride to T. Naisipur was quite good, it got very crowded, about forty people sitting and the same number standing, including three children wedged between me and the seat in front.
At T.N. I caught the local bus to Somnathpur. I'm glad the advocate told me it was only six kilometres for I would not have enjoyed much more of that trip. I was standing in the centre of the bus, and it was uncomfortable, hot and dusty.
At Somnathpur the conductor waved a hand towards a side road. Two men were walking in front of me, but they turned to go into one of the houses, I was on my own, in India, in the noon-day sun.
The trip from Mysore took from 09:20 to 10:45. The temple was only a short walk away, and soon after I arrived a coachload of tourists turned up, but they did not stay long and it is very peaceful now they have departed. I'm wondering whether to see noon out here.
My initial impression is that the temple is much smaller than I had anticipated. The central square, about the size of four tennis courts, is surrounded by 'cloisters', each 'cell' in which contains a stone carving. It says "no flash" at the entrance, but others are using it so I shall risk doing likewise. All they can do is throw me out!
In the centre of the courtyard is a cruciform plan temple with a tower at the 'altar' end and one above each 'transept'. There is a small 'side-chapel' under each side tower, and a large one at the 'east' end. The main entrance is at the 'west' end, which actually faces East-North-East. A party of schoolkids have just arrived, so I think I shall go.
I had a great time standing under a huge tree in the centre of the village, awaiting the bus to Bannur. The bus is again crowded, but the people are wonderful. I'm now standing in the main square of Bannur, surrounded by inquisitive people who are also waiting for buses. I quite like Bannur, people smile and look friendly even when they clearly do not understand a word I am saying.
The bus conductor on the bus to Srirang was not as friendly. I saw the temple passing by on the starboard prow, and rose to my feet, but the next stop was about half a mile away. It was a good 15 minute walk in the hot sun (13:40) and then, when I got to the last bus stop, it was another 10/15 minutes up a side road. Its obviously a tourist trap, an autorickshaw wallah solicited me as soon as turned up the road.
At the first village I collected the usual gaggle of kids "What is your name?" over and over again. I tried "What is it to you?" and other such witty rejoinders, but then had a stroke of genius. "Je ne comprendez pas" in a broad Yorkshire accent. Wonderful. If I don't speak French very well I'm sure they don't.
Finally shook off gaggle of kids and was promptly importuned by a tonga-wallah wanting to show me the sights. He started at $4.50 then got down to $4.00. Right now I've got a beggar and his female who will not take "No" for an answer. A dismissive sweep of my left hand accidentally catches his begging bowl. I forgot that the left hand is unclean, but it had the desired effect.
I'm now sitting in the shade by Srirangam temple which is closed until 16:30. On the way here the strap broke on my sandals, so I'm working up a whole new set of blisters. I hope this place opens on Sundays otherwise I shall be here a long time.
I'm beginning to think there are some similarities between Hinduism and Roman Catholicism. Buses have rows of garlanded portraits of deities above the windscreen, though with the condition of the roads and the way people drive they need all the help they can get. There is also this idea that if you have a really raw deal in this life, you'll do better in the next. I suppose it helps to keep the masses in their place.
I suppose these temples are a bit like western cathedrals. Even though this one is closed people still turn up, genuflect and leave offerings in the doorway. The man who has just arrived is carrying an open umbrella, it seems quite a good idea in this heat.
Someone has just turned up and told me that it does open at 16:30 so I shall just have to practice being patient.
I seem to have outwaited the Indians. I now have a replacement tonga-wallah who is telling me something is one century. It involves 6 kilometres, then 12 kilometres there and back, and then 24 kilometres, but I keep asking "Where to?" and he does not seem to understand.
We've now been joined by a melon seller.
To my left is an amazing wooden cart with what looks like a half-completed gopuram on it. With five-foot diameter wheels and towering some 25 feet to the top platform and another 15 feet above that, the first 5 feet or so are carved, and one panel is painted. It will certainly take a few oxen to shift that. The kilometre man is still standing over me as I write.
Various people come and go, including a man selling star fruit, a pear-length fruit with a star-shaped cross-section. He sprinkles red powder on the fruit after he has split it lengthways, not sure if its pepper or candy.
16:10 Things must be hotting up. A "Tipu's palace out of sandalwood" seller, two ice cream vendors, a fruit stall, a beggar and a sacred cow have all arrived on the scene. About two dozen adults are waiting to go in plus a dozen or so children. I am now being nuzzled by the cow (well bullock actually).
By the time the doors opened there were over a hundred people waiting. There was a roll of drums, a gong and cymbal, and the doors opened. Everyone rushed in, straight past the price list, I don't know if there was a charge for admission or not, I suppose that is one of the penalties they pay for abandoning English and adopting Hindi as the national language.
I'm afraid I found it a big disappointment. Four little cubby-holes, each with a very expensively decorated statue in it and each complete with attendant priest. People gave money, and in return received a handful of oil or something. I chucked in 10 paise but turned down the goo. Then we charged on to the other cupboards and at these people got spots on their foreheads. I was told last week in Pune that evil enters through your third eye and the spots prevent this. I learnt from the film on the plane coming over that married women, (or brides) wear vermilion spots.
After a crowded dash through the pillared arena we went to the poster stand and gift shop. I then tried to go round the back to photograph the towers, but the grass had thorns in it so I didn't get very far.
I'm getting a bit sick of all the hassle. After the bus dropping me off at the wrong spot, the walk in the blazing sun, the pesky kids, the tonga wallahs and then the crowds in the temple I was pretty fed up. I wish I'd brought the Lonely Planet book but I thought it was too bulky to go in my bag with my water bottle and my camera kit.
The final image in the temple appeared to be a golden bull, another reminder of Roman Catholicism, expensive treasures in the church while people beg in the streets. I'm now in the first class (!) waiting room at Srirang, you can probably see more of the temple from here than you can see from inside.
When I left the temple the shoe minder was offended when I offered him 10 paise, and demanded one rupee. I then set off to look for the railway station, not realising it was just behind the temple. An auto-rickshaw driver collared me and offered to show me Tipu Sultan's palace. I haggled him down to 20 rupees which I still think is extortionate.
Tipu Sultan's palace is obviously where half of India goes on a Sunday. I think it is probably of more interest to the Indians than it is to a Westerner, Tipu Sultan held out against the British for a long time. The wall paintings around the outside were quite good but inside was a "look, don't touch" museum with pictures of Tipu and his family, and a model of the town. I wish I'd seen that first, I would have known where everything was.
29/01/89 15:38. Although I had agreed with the rickshaw wallah that the railway station was next, he tried to take me to some Muslim palace 3 kilometres away for another 30 rupees. Even when it came down to 20 rupees I still declined. He wouldn't take "No" for an answer, but I eventually got him to take me to the station, only to find there was a two hour wait for the train. Oh well, at least I'm used to waiting now. There's only one other person in here so its pretty quiet because he's asleep.
I'm terribly afraid I'm going to be burnt to a frazzle, and I've not got any after-sun soother with me. I slapped factor 10 on my face and neck before starting out this morning but I did not anticipate my noonday walk.
I'm very annoyed about the strap breaking on my sandals. I could have understood it had the thing pulled out, but just to snap shows very poor quality materials must have been used.
I'm finding that with getting up at sunrise or before, I start to feel very sad/lonely/homesick/depressed about this time of day. I'm sure its due to blood sugar levels or something.
I do think its a good idea travelling by bus in the noon-day heat. As long as you sit or stand in the centre so you don't catch the sun, its bright and cheerful, the breeze is cool, you see a lot, and the people, on the whole, are pretty friendly.
To cap it all I have just found that I didn't change film speed when I changed film during the two-hour wait at the temple, so the few photos I did take will be too dark. Ho hum!
19:25 I feel much more cheerful now its a bit cooler. I have just amused a bunch of giggling kids and their parents. The father did a degree in political science, the mother wanted me to take her son back to England with me. I said there were a lot of people in England who wanted to come to India with me. I found out from them that the 7.30 train to Mysore actually goes at quarter to eight.
The train finally arrived at eight o'clock. I jumped on, asked the conductor if he'd any seats, showed my Indrail pass, he seemed very pleased with it. I hope it works that well tomorrow.
I limped back to the hotel, went to dinner, asked for the vegetarian indian meal and the waiter said "Curry, not too hot?" I said "Fine" and got something like chicken supreme. Ho hum again!
I read the guide book when I got back and it turns out that as a non-Hindu I shouldn't have gone into the inner temple, but I wouldn't really know if I had.
I spent the whole of dinner telling my insides that they didn't really want to go to the loo. They disagreed and I was just unlocking the door to my room when I had what, when I was five, used to be euphemistically called "an accident". Its funny really, on the train back tonight I was wondering if I should wash my trousers, now I have no choice.
I feel much happier than I did earlier, once you get into this rising before six and collapsing between one and four things don't seem so bad.
I really enjoyed standing under that tree at Somnathpur watching a lady arrange grain in pretty patterns to dry in the sun and another lady scraping the insides out of a pumpkin sized thing, the stuff she scraped out looked like coconut, and it was only later I found out that was what it was. She gave it to the children as a moist food and drink combined.
I brought some baby wipes with me in case I got a sore bum, I think I should have brought nappy-liners! As I sit on the loo I consider one of life's unsolved mysteries, why does diarrohea make one's nose run?
30/01/89 07:00 Up again to muezzin and toilet. Daren't have breakfast, and begin to suspect even bottled water. Left hotel just before 07:00 to walk to railway station. Found train to Hassan and am now awaiting departure. I feel quite content, though my bum is very sore. I realize I have left my zinc and castor oil cream in the bag which the hotel are minding for me. The total hotel bill came to 495 rupees which is less than $20.
The train started at 07:40. We pass various lakes in an otherwise arid countryside.
08:35 Grind to a halt in the middle of nowhere for no apparent reason. Guy opposite says "Very boring journey isn't it?". I tend to agree in part, but its another side of life in India.
09:05 Grind to a halt at Krishnasomething - mind you every other station seems to be Krishnasomething or other. Most of the passengers have leapt off and are milling around on the platform.
There's an interesting looking temple by the riverside at Krishnajarang, I think it was called. It has a gopuram with 5 gold spikes and balls on the top, and then a smaller technicolour central tower.
A vendor comes along selling "Kipply henna" which appear to be oranges.
Manadagere. A sign says "Alight here for Sravanbelagola". I feel I ought to remember that. The railway inspector opposite tells me that the best place in Mysore to eat is the Hotel Dasprakash. He tells me it will cost 13 rupees for a meal. In the north, he says, this would be served with wheat, rotis and puris, whereas in the south it would be rice. There are more vegetable side dishes in the north, he says, he's very chatty, and obviously a V.I.P. on the railway, they all turn out and salute him at each station.
Mavinkere, amazing rock formations, which look as though a giant has been building a house and its all fallen down.
11:15, whatever day it is. Random jottings: you don't get a sun-tan in India, you get a dust-tan. The dust is like sea sand at the side of the road except that it also contains excrement, sputum and litter, substitute vomit for sputum and I suppose its much like any English seaside resort.
I experienced buses to the full today, one of these "stuff everybody in so that the conductor can get on", with a complete set of plumbing and wiring gear on the roof at one stage - including soil pipes and plastic conduit.
Got to Hassan at 12:!0, walked to Hotel Ashok. The manager said a car was going to Belur and would I could have a lift, and suggested that I have lunch in the meantime. I still wasn't fancying food so I drunk a pint of tea, and wondered if the reason the Indians drink scalding hot tea is to try and sterilise their digestive tracts. (Did I mention that the loo at Mysore didn't flush, I had to use the bucket, filled under the tap - like all Indian toilets you get a bucket and a small jug in case you prefer the Indian method, whatever that is).
I can feel my insides complaining, I hope I'm not going to have a repeat of last night.
After coffee I returned to reception and he said the car hadn't turned up so I better go for the bus. I went to the bus station where I found that very few people spoke English, a a few were quite rude, switching from Hindi to Kannada quite deliberately, I can tell the difference though I can't speak either yet, and yes, I know that's very arrogant of me, but which of the 13 languages do I learn first? I rather fancy Marathi, the writing is much prettier than Hindi.
I finally found the bus to Belur. A one hour trip on the express bus cost Rs 5, so Lonely Planet is wrong again. I got to Belur and realised that Lonely Planet didn't say which way the temple was. I went south by instinct, (in the blazing sun) and was soon assailed by a drum beating, raffeta waving dervish demanding alms. I avoided her, and found the temple, and looked round it. I still prefer Somnathpur, I don't know if it was just because it was my first one, or because of the scale, and the quietness of it. Inside, Belur was very dismal, full of lathe turned stone pillars, which reminded me of those souvenir chess sets you get in Welsh slate caverns and the like.
Outside I was hassled by a group of kids. There were quite a few little "chapels" within the main courtyard, which reminded me of the mausoleum next to Liverpool cathedral, by position rather than style. Round the back of one of these outbuildings the kids started getting quite pushy, so I headed back towards the main temple - seeking sanctuary - and the kids were finally scared off by a lathi waving security guard, which I thought was a bit much.
I find it odd being stared at again after 10 years without it, I should think it could be a little disturbing if you had never been used to it.
I returned to the square at Belur, and waited for the bus to Halebid. Belur is pronounced "Bela" with an Italian accent, and Halebid is pronounced "Hally-beed" or even "Hally beed-oo". The bus did not arrive for an hour, during which I learnt that the best way to find your bus is to approach every bus as it arrives, because before the panic starts, the conductor jumps off, and he is usually able to recognise place names in English, if he says "Yes" you're well into the throng for when the rush starts.
One occasion was particularly bad, the woman in front of me went down under the rush of people and the guy to my left tried to climb on the bus by stepping on her. I braced myself against each side of the door to let her get up, and he still tried to push his way on, so I started the nasty tactics, large European trainers are no match for small bare feet.
Once you are on you have to get a seat, and on the last trip an English speaking youth on a seat for three moved his pals up so that I could sit down. I was pretty knackered by then and I said "Thanks very much", to which he replied "Don't mention it". He later explained that the conductor scribbling on my ticket meant that he had no 50 paise coins and that if I presented the ticket on my way off, I should get my change. Paise incidentally is pronounced Pisa, like the place in Italy, are Hindus really closet Italians?
The fan in here seems to have a mind of its own, I still haven't fathomed out the control box. It seems to do one complete revolution, then stop.
My insides strike again - that just about pins it down to hotel bottled (mineral) water. I didn't mind having lively insides last week, I expected that living on curry, but now my colon is just running like a tap. The glucose tablets have been a life-saver. I'll give it another 24 hours, then resort to chemical warfare. Where was I, oh yes Belur bus stand, so called because there's nowhere to sit down I reckon. Its quite funny really, there are no signs or anything, but the people tell you, "The bus to X goes from there", pointing to another area of dust indistinguishable from the next. And sure enough, it does.
I reckoned I would hardly beat the light at Halebid, so rather rushed it - felt annoyed by the guy at Mysore who suggested you could do both in a day, mind you guy on train said it was actually quicker by bus as train stops at every station, but they're also renewing track so some bits are very slow. The last bit where they had completed the new track was really quite fast.
I got to Halebid about 17:00 - had decided to come back in morning if it was interesting enough. Found enough light to do areas with standard lens on shady side, and by time I had finished sunny side film had run out so I put in a 200 A.S.A. and think I got all of it. By the time I left the sun was setting so I headed back to the centre of the village, taking advice from "Lonely Planet" again. Where the bus had dropped us, right next to the temple, was now deserted.
I waited in the village for over an hour, during which a few people who recognises "Does the bus to Hassan stop here?" said "Yes". After a bus had gone past in the direction of the temple and another in the opposite direction, both without stopping, I began to get a little concerned. Finally a black-maria type vehicle turned up (only it was white) and people started getting into it. I said "Hassan?" in a questioning tone, and someone said "Oh, no, up by the temple". So I returned to the temple bus station where I now found an inspector. He said there was only one bus to Hassan, at 20:30 and implied it would be pretty crowded. He said I would be better off returning to Belur and getting the bus there. Another hour to wait for the Belur bus. Finally the 18:45 bus came at around 19:00 and arrived in Belur at 19:30. After asking several conductors I deduced that the Hassan bus left at 20:45. It finally arrived at 21:00 and I got to Hassan at 22:30.
I went straight to the restaurant and had asparagus soup (with real asparagus), but I'm now suspicious even of their bread and butter. The Indian imitation of white bread is foul. Then I had "gratinated" vegetables, followed by coconut pudding which the guy said was like custard. It was a cross between coconut ice and egg custard. I also had some lassi, I'm not sure if it was a good idea or not, but I am very thirsty, and am not even sure if I dare drink bottled water. I suppose I have to, I even sterilised today's lot, just in case, the problem with my insides can't be the sterilising tablets 'cos I used them all last week.
Have just found indian showers are as useless as everything else they do - the old jug and bucket is more efficient than this. I wanted to wash my hair, but I can't get my head near enough to the wall to be under the trickle.
Ten past midnight, must try for some sleep, its an 8 a.m. start tomorrow, if I wake up!
06:30 Woken by stomach cramps and traffic noises. Determined not to let the former get me down, but did think, "Oh no, not again".
Content copyright Jon Rouse 1997