Freedom by foot

On the 9th of September 2011 we set out from England to the continent by ferry to begin our adventure in earnest. By foot we will make our way to the first destination, which is Milan, from there we will be flying over to Bangalore for an archaeological conference (as you do) and an escape from the harsh European winter.

At any and all points in our little wander we will be on the look out for interesting and exciting places and people to learn from. Our journey begins with a zeal for experiencing ancient and traditional life & new innovative ways of living for the future.

Wednesday, 8 February 2012

Shudders & Shits

Seems we have both
seen better days

It has not happened often, but on this occasion neither of us have much else to write about, except to unravel the last few days' events, which mainly concern Amiee's bodily functions. Sorry.

Arriving in Kolkata early morn, we bumped into a fellow traveller, Tim, who we had shared breakfast with in Yuksom a week or so previous. Happy to see a friendly face and to share the taxi ride, we headed to the main tourist hub of 'Kal'. This was a strange and bewildering thing for us, having spent the last few months feeling almost completely unaware of tourists. Anyhow arriving we said goodbye to Tim and almost instantly set eyes upon Stuart lane, we headed down and found 'Modern Lodge'. Thanks Rob for the recommendation, full of a rustic urban character, the guest house offers small colourful rooms (ours was a newly bright gloss pink - actually fairly intoxicating) which we heard are often packed full of overseas volunteers. Feeling bad for having woke up the staff, we sneaked out to seek breakfast. We turned onto Sudder street, known to any tourist or backpacker who sets foot in the city. The place has character, some charm, a lot of Indian spirit and we did find a fantastic little place to eat Muesli and real Coffee (bonus of backpacker hot spot) however much of it was pretty grim. There are many families living, washing, breathing, eating and shitting on the streets, most of whom believe that any non-Indian has 'The State Bank of India' tattooed on their forehead, wandering around as a mobile ATM. I think Shudder Street is the more appropriate name (again Rob, credit where its due).

Setting forth, with an aim to see as much of Kolkata as is humanly possible in a single day, we took advice from the guy who made us the coffee and headed straight to the Kalighat temple. After being swindled by a priest, Amiee having a anti-religious rant and learning that they sacrificed two goats a-day, we headed to our next destination.... Ummmm... Uhhh.... To the....

Unsure of what to do next, we did what we always do in time of need; wander towards the biggest grandest building in view. Refusing to pay a trivial amount of ruppees to go into Queen Vicky's Memorial, we decided to head to another bastion of colonialism- Fort William. Hidden from view and apparently now occupied by the India Army, we were turned away and left at a loss. Checking our faithful guidebook, we discovered an arty-farty (perfect for both parties) area of Kolkata- so off we trundled again.

Unsucessful once more, we ended up lost in a myriad of Islamic Bazaars during a religious/politic/health-awareness/education rally. Blow up palm trees and loud speakers blaring out Arabic distracted us for some time, but eventually we were gravitationally pulled toward yet more hints of our nation's past-presence, the 18th century Park Street Cemetery. This was a place of peace among the hectic noise, chaos and confusion of the streets surrounding it, an island of green in the tarmac, concrete seas of the city. We settled ourselves by the grand tombs, aptly audio-ed by the cities crows and decided our next plan of action. Luncheon, a visit to New Market, then an evening at Kolkata's fine Planetarium.

This time round, everything went according to our scheme. New Market was a hustling, multi-layered labyrinth of backpacker bullshit clothing (Amiee's terminology), dodgy jewllery, pestering hustlers and more sari shops than I think is really necessary.

After a bewildering few hours lost within the multitudes of merchants, the moon began to rise and it was time for us to become lost within the limitlessness of the stars. For just under 50pence a pop, I believe Kolkata's Planetarium to be the finest, best-valued and most worthwhile experience in the whole city. It was a jolly good affair, led by an exceptionally fierce elderly female astronomer who appeared in the pitch-dark auditorium and demanded that everyone turn off their mobile phones (the most blessed moment in modern Indian academia)! The following hour within the huge domed hall was informative, inspiring and refreshingly retro (with the talk being accompanied by exceptionally grainy images from a slide projector). Two-thirds through the presentation some fool from the audience made the mistake of turning on his phone (as if to test her initial warning)- we were pretty sure he was close to following the same fate as a temple goat.

After this, feeling in a pleasant wonder of our universe, we strolled hotel-wards and spent the remaining part of the evening traversing the alleys, backalleys, lanes and little roads around Shudder Street followed by a splendid meal in a nearby restaurant, owned by an exceptionally charming and well turbaned Sikh gentleman. We then descended on the hotel and crashed out, content with our visit to this metropolitan mayhem of modern India.

An almost entire good nights sleep flew by until Amiee ran out, battling with the stiff door and returned some 30 minutes later exhausted and distraught. Sometime big cities do no good at all for the body, though it turns out we did have a fair bit to say in the end beyond the fate of poor Lawn's bottom.

I'll take over here thanks Cox:

My night, dawn and early morn continued with regular and unpleasant visits to the loo. Whilst in a hotel I can just about manage this, just let it pass. However we had a train to catch, bugga! Thankfully I happened to have the right man on board. Marc packed the bags, went and fetched loo roll, baby wipes and got me dressed and dragged me out into the hot streets where we fell into a taxi. Kalcutta, Hoara station was probably the last place on earth I would have wanted anyone to be whilst feeling what I felt at present. My head was spinning, sight was bleering and stomach cramping. Of course our train was on platform 21, the furthest away any train could possibly be from me at that point! Marc pulled me through crowds and assuringly marched us up the long train until we reached our carridge. We boarded, I flopped and though I had some pretty sorry experiences whilst on board, I was also relieved. Everyone who shared our section of the train was great, they noted my sickness and even made me bottles of Saline, which I do believe saved me.

Now, after 29 hours and 2,175km we are sat in NIAS, Bangalore, where yes, we first began this whole Indian venture. I am feeling much recovered, surprisingly and we are both fed and watered. Only now we wait for Smriti & Subo to arrive from Chennai before we go and crash at theirs for a day or so. Then heading yet further south/west to Managlore where we hope to meet our dearest of friends, Genevieve. - On board the Duronto Express

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