The Cambodian Party to be at so we hear
30.12.2011 - 03.01.2012 32 °C
This page is currently under construction. Please check soon for updates.
Annie and Andrew wander a new continent
The Cambodian Party to be at so we hear
30.12.2011 - 03.01.2012 32 °C
This page is currently under construction. Please check soon for updates.
Cruising into Cambodia...
27.12.2011 - 30.12.2011 32 °C
Siam Reap brought Angkor Wat and Angkor Beer and Angkor Beef Roast (well maybe that is not branded Angkor… yet) and after our Christmas decadence we took off from the home of the Cooks to explore the rest of Cambodia with no real plan but a fistful of dreams.
We decided to head to Battambang. This was initially because it has a hilarious name but we found there was much more to it.
Searching out our transport options we were faced with a choice...
1) A three hour bus journey
2) An eight hour boat journey through floating villages on the Tonle Sap River and across the Tonle Sap Lake
No competition when there is some boating on offer. We boarded our craft with 32 seats and set up in a tiny double seat. Then 30 other people boarded the craft and took their seats. Then 142 other people boarded the boat and set up on the roof, the deck, the luggage area, the engine… The boat started a descent closer and closer to the lake water. Fear set in and the boat departed loaded to the brim with locals and tourists. We survived the trip through the channels and lakes of Cambodia’s waterways (hurrah!) stopping at floating convenience store/restaurant (which incidentally also nearly sank with the pressure of the boat unloading it’s human cargo) and saw some beautiful sites along the way. Sitting on the front bow of the boat sunning yourself as you float through lovely scenery makes the fear of sinking much more tolerable.
When making your way through channels in the water growth you suddenly start getting whacked from branches at either side. Prepared as always the driver puts a 9 year old local boy behind the wheel (suddenly a beer is also needed at this point to fend off the fear of sinking as sunshine is no longer enough) while he starts pulling down tarpaulin at either side to fend off the encroaching undergrowth. It is all very reminiscent of the old school ride that my mum remembers from fairgrounds in the olden days…. I believe it was called the Caterpillar where the tarpaulin is bumped around and pushed in and people shout and squeal and try and get out of the way of the walls. I remember mocking when my mum explained this ‘rollercoaster’ to us as kids, but experiencing it in Cambodia is actually pretty terrifying. Arriving in Battambang we were elated at our survival and I think whatever we found in the town we were going to have to love it after the journey.
Luckily what we found was a small and quiet but relaxed and friendly little town (which is apparently the second largest city in Cambodia… we saw little evidence of this development). The town is a former French settlement and is full of crumbling remnants of colonial times. The whole town appears that it has been slightly forgotten and this creates the charming backwater atmosphere. However, the threatening signs of development are showing with building sites and the odd posh hotel springing up and as this little town has so much potential I fear it could be a very different in a few years.
Now Andrew has been missing his kitchen… creating his masterpieces and in the process using as much cutlery and crockery as possible and, setting new records for washing up with each meal. To combat this bout of kitchensickness we decided to book onto a cooking course and spent the morning cooking up a storm in Khmer curries and eating our treats. By the third dish before 1pm we were fully stuffed and instead handed over our LokLak Beef treats to the homeless so we will never know whether that one was as good as our previous spicy concoctions. However, we have the recipes so who knows whether someone at home will get treated to that on our return!
Products of Cooking Class
It was at the cooking class that we picked up a leaflet with a picture of a man holding a crocodile on the front and without pausing for breath Andy was already negotiating with a Tuk Tuk driver the fare and entrance fee to get involved with the crocs. This strange business-cum-tourist attraction is a gate down a back road with no sign. A quick call from the Tuk Tuk driver and a surly looking youth turns up on a scooter and wants a dollar in order to take you behind the gate. With crocs in mind we took our chances and entered the man’s lair. What we were faced with was approximately 1000 crocodiles around two pools with walkways and tiny barriers around them. Some of the crocs were 20 or 30 years old and were absolute beasts. They are kept to sell for meat and their skins and are caught directly out of the Mekong or bred at the farms.
Concerned as to the lack of health and safety and the sheer amount of crocs that were looking excitedly as if we were lunch I hesitantly asked what would happen if I fell in…. The response: “Maybe two minutes of pain”. Annie: “Before?”. Smiley Tuk Tuk cum Guide without breaking the Cambodian grin: “I had a German Shephard puppy that I loved that slipped and fell in. There was nothing left of it within 30 seconds…. So. Do you want to hold one now?” Annie: “No Thanks!” Andy: “I do!” Luckily the croc that was pulled out was a baby one rather than the three meter long beast. Andy had a smile for the rest of the day. I was pretty pleased that Andy waited until after we left to speculate about how good the crocodile farm would be to dispose of a human body if you robbed and murdered someone.
Crocs up Close
Now it has come to our attention that Cambodia has a strange collection of tourist attractions. They have the basic obvious choices, the temples to draw a crowd and some overpriced museums, night markets and floating markets stay favourites with visitors. However, they also have the bizarre side shows, farms, circuses and miscellaneous. After the crocodile experience I thought we had had our strangest bit of the day. I did not bet on the weird and wonderful entertainment that was the infamous Battambang Bamboo Train.
Before setting off to have a sunset trip on the Bamboo Train I thought I knew what we were letting ourselves in for. The principle of the ‘train’ is a small railway line that bamboo platforms travel up and down to transport rice from the paddies to trade in the town. It connects one remote settlement and saves the farmers a ridiculous amount of transport time and costs. Caught up in the image of this trip on a bamboo platform through rural Cambodia we were imagining one of those contraptions from the Western Frontier of the Wild West with two people taking it in turns to push their lever to get the platform to slowly work its way along the railway lines. Thinking the trip would be a languid and slow meander we did the obvious thing and bought ourselves a beer to drink on the platform as we chatted and looked at the scenery sitting crossed legs on a wooden square in the sunshine.
We did not notice that our 1.5m square bamboo platform mounted on railway tracks had a pretty powerful motor attached to the back. Stuff the beer , you needed both hands to hold on as we set off at a speed that was faster than most busses that I have travelled on in Cambodia. Add to it that the locals have found that it is not absolutely necessary to connect the train rails to each other exactly at the right angle as long as you go fast enough for the momentum to reattach you if you raise off it. It was a thrilling and hilarious sprint through the countryside, so low to the ground and on a bizarre contraption that I’m not sure could entirely handle the pressure. Andy insists that that train was actually a lot scarier than most of the actual big rides he has been on in his time. I am suspicious that this is just a ploy for him to force me to go to Blackpool Pleasure Beach when we get home…
I will not dwell on our trip to the Cambodian vin yard but to say that there is a reason that you have never heard of Cambodian wine…
We finished the trip off with watching the mass exodus of over 30 million bats who fly out of a cave in the mountain at precisely 5.45pm every day in a mass formation before dispersing over the surrounding area. The locals sell it to you as the bats following a strict routine every day following the same time and patterns. You get this image of bats with Casio watches counting down the seconds to the minute they can fly out on cue in perfect synchronisation. What actually happens is at exactly 5.45pm every night a few of the kids from the town bring gongs, with a tone that sounds terrible to a bat, to the mouth of the cave and bang them causing them to get a little peed off and take off into the night to find an altogether quieter joint in which to go sit and produce ammonia. I think if I was a bat I would stop going back to that cave to be put through that every night. I’d find a nice quiet cave without the noisy neighbours. That being said, watching the waves of bats move across the sky was impressive to say the least.
Satisfied with Battambang and that we had literally done all the activities the town has to offer, New Years Eve and a Beach Party beckoned and we boarded our bus to the Southern Coast….
Cambodian Christmas with the Cook's
20.12.2011 - 27.12.2011 31 °C
Some of the best decisions one can make are spontaneous and as such we changed our plans to go north from Bangkok to Chang Mai in favour of going south west to Siem Reap in the northern region of Cambodia. The other factor in going to Siem Reap was that one of my best mates Mr James Cook has recently moved there to pursue his dream of nursing in a developing country, furthermore we could seek refuge for Christmas time, and have ourself a party!
The journey from Bangkok to Siem Reap appeared to be a good deal; $7 each and 9hrs including the border crossing. However, we couldn’t have been more wrong! On closer inspection of the Lonely Planet book, the said journey is nicknamed the ‘Scam Bus’. Oh dear what had we gotten into? The journey involved us stopping 4 times for toilet/’refreshment breaks’ in what should be a 3hr straight journey to the border. Again, and to our dismay and whilst we could see the glistening Cambodian border, like a knight in shining armour, the bus pulled up at a restaurant. This time we were met with a friendly man who spoke English really well.
One thing we have learnt in India is to never trust what tourist offices say to you therefore we held this in mind when the Thai man politely told us that we could easily hand over our passports so he can get our visas processed for the sum of $30 dollars and we could wait in the restaurant and have some lunch whilst he processed the necessary paper work for us. The Thai man also asked us for the bus ticket so he could change it for the Cambodian bus ticket. We stood firm and politely refused. We were met with a barrage of abuse from the Thai ‘gentleman’ and I will not shock you by documenting his language here. If anything seems too good to be true, it generally is. It all turned out to be a con, over inflated visa prices and a sneaky attempt to get us to buy our bus tickets back on the other side. We didn’t get conned fortunately, but we heard stories of people being $30 each out of pocket from what me and Annie paid. To put the icing on the ‘Scam Bus’ cake, the bus drove extra slow for the 100km journey from Poipet to Siem Reap – all on purpose, so that tourists get cranky and settle for an inflated price hotel when we arrived at 10pm!! (14hrs after we set off!) Thankfully, Annie and I were fine and in Cookie’s spanking new flat that evening enjoying a nice cold beer. Incidentally the border crossing was relatively smooth and I even tried my first ever fried cockroach from a little woman at the side of the road. In fact I ate about five of them! Not bad taste either (compared to Annie’s cooking!!)
Siem Reap is a modern city with all of the mod cons available to cater for the western and eastern influx of tourists. The town centre has a night life zone called Pub Street, which is a small version of Ko San Road in Bangkok but with more street performers and beggars. We also enjoyed drinking half litres of beer for $0.50c each, which was amazing!
The local mode of transport in Cambodia is the tuc tuc, but isn’t actually a tuc tuc. A true tuc tuc is a three wheeled vehicle which fits two people (more can fit in) into a carriage, whilst the driver rides up front. The Cambodian tuc tuc is a two wheeled carriage bolted onto the back of an often small motorbike/scooter. To the naked eye, they do look rather rickety and a little unsafe, however, they do give the passenger a unique visual experience being able to see all around. I’m not sure these vehicles would be UK road worthy, but definitely points for ingenuity.
Cambodia is probably most famous for the fantastic and grandiose array of temples that are collectively known as Angkor Wat. In fact, temples are spread across the most of Cambodia but the Angkor wat temples are the most renowned. They bring in masses of tourists and much needed income for the locals. They also give their name for the local beer, food, cigarettes, hotel names and is also represented on the Cambodian flag. Yes, Angkor Wat is Cambodia’s most valued and prized asset.
If you want to visit the complex in a day, realise that you can’t see all the temples in the complex, and instead you will just see the best ones. Alternatively you can visit them over two or three days. We only did one day from 9am until 6:30pm there, but I could have happily sat there for another day just taking sketches of the buildings or just meandering for another few days. I don’t want to spoil it for you, but I probably enjoyed Angkor Wat more than the Taj Mahal or the Golden Temple. This was mainly because it doesn’t seem like real life, because its that different, something built by tribal indigenous and engineering masterminds. It is early Khmer architecture (a sort of early Indian architecture), built for Vishnu (who is a Hindu god) but later changed to Buddhism. We went to several temples, Angkor Wat is grand and powerful, Angkor Thom and Bayon temple paints a picture about life, Khmer civilisation, culture, obedience and power, while the Tree temple to me represents the planets almighty power and destructive capability. I can’t imagine how the French man who discovered the temples felt over 100 years ago when he finally rediscovered the Angkor Wat, but I imagine he needed to change his pants.
Christmas is a time for being with family and friends. Since we are half the way around the world, it was such a great time to hook up with Cookie and his family. Now Cookie isn’t the best of chefs and I had missed cooking up culinary delights, so we offered to put on a Christmas party, complete with balloons and roast beef (not on the same plate I hasten to add), which went down a treat. Cooking Christmas dinner was a little difficult since my learned best mate did not possess an oven, but only two gas hobs. Being able to cope with any situation no matter how difficult or dangerous, I set out on a task to negotiate some fire for the evening. A $5 note does come in quite useful in such circumstances, and not for burning, no matter how much hatred you might or not have for the Americans, but for bribing the local pizza house to use their pizza oven. Roast beef with all of the trimmings was prepared by myself and su chef Annie, and then placed into two trays with a tin foil wrapping for the pizza oven. Christmas dinner was served later on that evening to the gleaming Cook family and ourselves with love and Christmas wishes.
I love a good impromptu party, perhaps not as much as a party that I organise myself, but, this particular party was on the street, with a bunch of local tuc tuc drivers on Christmas day, at about 9pm in the evening. Me and Annie had wandered to our hotel (as Cookie has gone to pick up his Dad from the airport) and sat in the restaurant drinking beer when there were lots of people congregating for a sing song outside on the street. Not one to pass up on vocal chorus of Christmas songs (and some others which resembled a load a load of jumbled up songs!) whilst pissed up, we happily obliged.
It was so good to see Cookie, Annalisa and Matthew, they are in a very different environment, and doing so well. I didn’t mind us not actually doing that much sightseeing apart from Angkor Wat because we were in great company, and loved spending time with little Matthew.
COOKS AT CHRISTMAS
The reverse culture shock
15.12.2011 - 20.12.2011 28 °C
The best way to explain the contrast between walking the streets in India and then in Bangkok is that it is similar to the difference between a nunnery and a brothel. Getting out of the taxi on the Kho San Road in Bangkok we walked into a world of decadence unknown to us for three months. We must have looked like people recently returned from some kind of war as we trudged, wide eyed and shell shocked through the crowds of white skin as Westerners drank, danced and partied on the streets wearing next to nothing. All lit up with neon lights and advertisements, ‘Chang Beer Girls’ stood outside the bars calling at you to come and have beers and buckets of alcohol that they promise are ‘Very very strong and contain very little mixer’…. After three months where our decadence involved a hot shower in the room, possibly a TV and if your lucky three bottles of Kingfisher to share between two, it was initially quite scary seeing anything you could possibly ever want for a night out offered to you so blatantly! Needless to say, we adapted quickly, found a hotel room and took off into the streets of Bangkok to get our share of the party.
Just to cement the fact we were not in India anymore and had now reached the commercial capital of South East Asia was the toilet in the first bar we went to. That may sound a little strange… I’ll explain. When you are away from your hotel room in India there is a great trepidation that comes along with needing the toilet. Even when the restaurant or café looks pretty clean the cleanliness of the toilet cubical can be a whole new unexpected level of filth; sometimes leaking water, sometimes no water at all and once quite clean… apart from a bucket full of poo in the corner. As such when someone in your group has to succumb to nature and be the expedition party to investigate the toilet everyone wishes them good luck and sympathises with their plight. Imagine our surprise when the first toilet visited in Bangkok was a Japanese style toilet with heated seats, buttons with sound effects to cover up indiscretions, water flying from every angle and both toilet paper and air freshener to hand. Might be a simple thing but we laughed for a good 30 minutes and decided that this part of the trip was going to be very different to the last! Bangkok started well.
The city is huge, bright and glittering and in the days we were there I think we only scratched the surface of what it has to offer. No worried there as we are returning in a couple of months to meet the Hobson for her holiday escape to the Thai Islands!
Around a visit to the spectacle that is the Grand Palace Temple Complex to see the Emerald Buddha (which is actually made of Jade but hey ho…) we explored China Town and the centre. With few expectations we packed up and headed out on the Saturday to the Chatuchak Weekend Market. Somehow to our delight we ended up lost in the animals and pets section for at least a few hours and witnessed the strangest menagerie of animals for sale as we wandered further into the covered market. Starting out with pedigree puppies we felt comfortable. Further in, the baby rabbits with hair clips keeping their fur out of there eyes were slightly more disturbing but equally as cute. However when we got to the trained squirrels who were wearing a dress and a floral bonnet as they fetched and carried things for their owner we were thoroughly entertained but also questioning our moral compass and therefore skipped out (with another quick stop at the puppy farm), past the impromptu cock fight taking place in the central ring of the market, and back into the light in order to get a beer and avoid any further animal cruelty.
There was one thing for which Andy could not hold out for in Thailand and that was to see Thai Boxing and although slightly perturbed by the prize his commitment was sure. Imagine the delight when a friendly local informed us, ‘festival today! Big Fight free in square!’ Hoping for great things we headed out in a Tuk Tuk and arrived at the square where a huge open air ring and seats had been set out in front of a floodlit government building, with strobe lights and TV cameras announcing, “Thailand VS THE WORLD”. A succession of Thai fighters paraded like cockerels across the stage before taking part in… well beating the crap out of each other. Don’t worry, they all prayed beforehand and bowed to the picture Thai King which means they are guaranteed to survive. It was as entertaining watching the crowd’s make up and reaction. Thai boxing is such a part of the national culture and there were older people, children with mothers and grandparents all cheering away for the fighters kneeing each other in the neck. A strange but entertaining tradition…. I am starting to think that ‘strange but entertaining’ summarises Bangkok as a whole!
With our fill of the city complete for the moment we made a split second decision on a whim to skip out on our plans for Chang Mai and head instead to Cambodia to visit the Cooks for Christmas… Onwards on the international bus which seemed such a good deal at $7….
An Indian Conclusion from Kolkatta
10.12.2011 - 15.12.2011 26 °C
Disembarking from our mammoth journey across internal India we arrived in Kolkatta and were struck by the fact that this was not only our last longhaul trip on the Indian railways but also our last destination before we depart Indian shores for South East Asia. Kolkatta has hit the headlines in its history for all the wrong reasons, the poverty, the illness, the famines and the good reasons via the help of Mother Theresa (some may disagree that it was all good help - including Annie). However, we were both pleasantly surprised by what we found in the Old Capital of British India and thoroughly enjoyed exploring the new city.
New development stands next to the crumbling remnants of colonial residencies, left to wither due to poor rent control policies. The infrastructure is impressive by Indian standards and Andy was highly impressed by the sheer number of public transport choices, tram to underground, rickshaw to taxi. Now we had become used to seeing, sympathising and occasionally using cycle rickshaws, more out of a desire to help the poor bugger who waits for hours at a time to get a fare and then has to cycle around the chubby Westerners and equally chubby rich Indians from their hotels to shops and restaurants and back again. It is back breaking work. However, we were not expecting to see the hand pulled rickshaws still operating in modern Kolkatta that we had seen in the books and pictures of 19th century Kolkatta, it conjures up that famous Banksy painting with the fat Americans being pulled by a 5 year old Indian boy! Now that gives a whole new meaning to back breaking work! Despite Andy’s pleas to have a quick go, I did not want to actually damage the blokes back after all our curry feasts after the last three months! Actually I (Andy) wanted to have a go by myself to give the poor guys more business, but Annie looked unimpressed.
Kolkatta sites are spread across the city and we sampled a few including the Victoria monument. Needless to say, we had a look to see if the Victoria statue genital display was international (Liverpool and Manchester chaps will understand…). It is international. To experience this yourself, find any statue of Queen Victoria (you can generally find one in every British town or city). Walk around the said statue 360 degrees leaving approximately 5 meters between yourself and the statue. Keep your eyes fixed on the crotch of the monument as you walk in a circle around it. When you reach the angle where the staff she is always holding is pointed down from the crotch area… wallah! You have Queen Victoria with what appears to be a willy. It is massively immature, but equally as hilarious each time!
However, the strange highlight of our trip was when we wandered towards the ‘Mother House’. When in Kolkatta you feel as though you should have a trip to see what is left of Mother Theresa’s legacy. Now we were not expecting when approaching her house for it to be a convent (I know, it seems obvious now). Andy was also not expecting when we walked through the open door to be faced with who he thought was Mother Theresa herself back from the dead. He quickly remembered that all nuns wear the same outfit and therefore it was only another nun! We were quietly asked in shushed tones whether it was our first visit, to which we replied yes, and were quietly shepherded from the busy Kolkatta street, through the convent until we were in a room with Mother Theresa’s tomb and people worshipping her. In a matter of seconds our surroundings had unexpectedly and massively altered and we were at a bit of a loss. We followed the crowds, sat quietly on wooden benches until it seemed we had looked serious enough to leave. However, before departing we had a quick stop over in Mother Theresa’s bedroom which had been preserved from when she left it and then we were back amongst the beeping horns and crowds in the street wondering exactly what had happened in the last half an hour! All in all a very strange way to spend an afternoon!
A visit to the Kolkata museum in the Victoria Monument building summed up Kolkata for us very well. “Kolkata perhaps gained the most of any city in India from the British residence in it, but with partition it paid for its privileges with as many scars”. It was actually in 1919 when the British left Kolkata, due to pressure from the Indians and a tired British force when King George V announced a new capital city in New Delhi. Kolkata gained infrastructure, architectural gems and an intellectual community who went through many of the educational institutions established in the city. But it also suffered with the withdrawal of the British as the buildings and infrastructure were left to dilapidate under pressure of thousands of refugees and migrants fleeing the bloody partition and famine in Bangladesh. The city has come through this with a positive atmosphere and is all together a pleasant and friendly place to visit despite its hardships. I was thrilled to witness a little girl who nemasteyed us in the street with both hands, and it is this image that stays with us from Kolkata.
Our final destination got us a’thinking about what we had seen and experienced and we spent some time reflecting on our time. As such our final Indian blog could have ended up being reflexive and dull. So we decided to take a different approach which is almost entirely accurate…. Andy and Annie Present…. 1ND14 BY NUMB3R5
Time Spent in India: 91 days
Distance Travelled By Land: 10,006 km
Aeroplanes Slept On: 1
Deserts Slept In: 1
Trains Slept On: 6
Night Busses Slept On: 7
Beds Slept in: 32
Measurement of Things Mislaid
1 x 2 of Clubs Playing Card
1 x Jaipur Section of Lonely Planet Guide Book
1 x Pair of Diesel Sunglasses
1 x Multifunctional Piece of Leather Cord
1 x Victorinox Card Style Penknife
2 x Shoelaces
Big Cats (Wild): 2
Cows: 3 million +
Auto Rickshaws travelled on: 78
Boats travelled on: 14
Cycle Rickshaws travelled on: 9
Scooters travelled on: 6
Number of Breakdowns: 1 (Flat tyre)
Bad Hair Cuts: 1
Attacks of Delhi Belly: 6
Minor Allergy Attacks: 1
Curries Eaten: 276
Mosquito Bites: 421
Photographs Taken By Us: 6200
Photographs Taken Of Us by Random Indians: 3,250,004,221
Incidents of Police Brutality Witnessed: 7
Number of Helpful Policemen Witnessed: 12
Conclusions on India
Andy’s Conclusion: I have to say that our time in India was amazing. I was a little apprehensive prior to our journey starting due to the differences in culture and seeing the poverty. The poverty was horrific as expected, but Annie and myself felt at home in a number of places and we would certainly be back to do it again – possible to other places, and some of the same. My favourite places were Manali, Kochi, Goa and Jaisalmer, and my least favourite places were Hyderabad and Bangalore. I also believe that there is something for everybody in India, be it a honeymoon, family holiday, luxury retreat and of course a backpacker extravaganza. All in all, a unique blend of everything you can imagine.
Annie’s Wittering: What can’t be put down in numbers is the images that will be left with us from our time in India. Whenever I think of India I think it will be what remained my favourite time of day for the whole time we were there, the Indian sunset where the sun starts to sink in the sky and you clearly see what it is, a burning ball of fire lighting up the whole landscape as if you are literally looking through rose tinted glasses. The heat begins to retreat and the cows on the road begin to make their way home for their dinner as the road becomes congested with otherwise feral cattle who by day roam the streets. For a precious few minutes all the noise of the day seems to quieten as incense fills the air as sunset puja prayers are performed in temples and houses all around you and fresh marigolds replace those hung outside the houses which have withered before in the heat of the day. As soon as the sun sets the moment is gone and the hustle and bustle, horns and sirens, shouts and traffic all returns to the putrid smell as people burn the rubbish of the day on the road side… this is India after all! But it is that contrast that makes those few minutes each day so peaceful and fantastic. We will miss the spectacle that is India but we are happy that as one country comes to an end for us, we are now free to explore further afield.
Peace and Love Andy and Annie xx
The journey through the inland center of India
01.12.2011 - 12.12.2011 26 °C
Hydera(very)bad and Secunderabad; the Twins
I'm writing this blog on the train from Hyderabad to Kolkata since there is nothing else to do other than drink cheap dark rum and sprite, or watch another chick flick on my laptop (acquired from a traveller – honestly). The reason for our trip to another city you ask was out of hope, intrigue and a desire to learn about the cities in which my Grandfather John Lancashire spent 10 years here from 1920-1930. My Grandpa unfortunately died in 1961 from the onset of malaria which I presume was picked up from India whilst serving King and Country keeping the Indians under the control of the British for entirely exploitative reasons. Now I am not one to get on my high horse for anything which seems perfectly reasonable to the political masses (crescendo of laughing ensues) however, I will actually agree that the British were success in India, and my Grandpas efforts were not in vain. The slowly moving, intelligent elephant and massive beast that is India, is loving, inspiring, forward thinking and diverse. I love India, and I admit that most of this is not down to the British, in fact we only gave them a kick. The Indians are peaceful, morally loving, righteous and have more drive and energy than the average Brit, not to mention more intellectual. However, there are issues with gender inequality... pervs a plenty!
Moving onto the delights of Greater Hyderabad and I'm told that it is the fifth biggest city in India that is also called Cyberabad on account of its technological and computer wizz kids in the city. I cant help think that the city probably looks better in cyber world if I'm honest. The city wreaks of excrement and urine, but there are a few little gems tucked away. The Charminar is quite an imposing mosque which is set 50m high on four columns and is a certain highlight of the city. Golcanda Fort is another fort on the outskirts of Hyderabad.
Secunderbad is where the old British Army Cantonment used to be located. Annie and myself went to the original site called the Tremhulgherry Cantonment (now Indianised and called Trimulgiri), as expected, it is now inhabited by the Indian Army and appears to be a mega army base with lots of facilities from officers training, houses, shopping complexes, HQ, sports, recreation and lots more. We of course were not allowed to enter the base but Annie took a few happy snaps from outside, including one of a very British building which is the old Officers Mess. This now appears to house a museum of engineering for army personnel only. Apparently the old British Fort was pulled down years ago which is a shame. It seems that the legacy of the British is actually something that has been erased without much love lost. Unfortunately there was not a museum in the city which advertised military history, or anything about the British here, but there is an area called 'Little England' on account of the amount of Anglo-Indians in the city – possibly the reminisce left over from prior to independence in 1947.
Secunderabad also has quite a few street names which are clearly English, such as James Street which is the main high street and source of fanciful culture (any inspiration for calling my Dad James?), Wellington road, and a club called 10 Downing St. I only wish I knew more about Grandad John, but as I collate my thoughts, he must have been a brave soldier to travel half way across the world (as all soldiers are) and to hold out for 10 years against a very determined country to free themselves.
Bangle Bore (Banglore)
Don't go to Banglore unless want to get ripped off by Rickshaw drivers and/or you want to do some clothes shopping and then get drunk in the city's many bars and clubs. Banglore is just another city that fails to excite so we got out as soon as we could book a bus to Hampi.
Hampi is a world heritage site on account of its many monolithic temples, structures and archaeology sites. On top of the historical activity there is lot of cheap hotels (about £5 per night!!) overlooking the river which are so relaxing and chilled out places. We spent a number of nights just eating food and playing cards which is very important for the soul – ie. Doing nothing, vegging around!
My gorgeous and delightful better half Annie Louise Thornton turned a quarter of a century whilst in Hampi, which was a cause for serious celebration – temple walking and cavorting!! The highlights of the birthday day can easily be summarised;
1) The fact that the main temple in the complex has its own sacred elephant who will bless you if you cross it's trunk with silver. What that means in practise is you put a ruppee coin in its trunk (which it sucks up and then fires at the mahout sitting in the corner who pockets it... safekeeping for the nellies retirement fund when it is planning to get a nice bungalow in Eastbourne). The elephant then strokes you on the head with its trunk for good luck. It can also peel bananas with its trunk in a matter of seconds.
2) The impromptu party on a rock by the river. Sitting down in a quiet spot for a can of coke and an orange we were quickly mobbed by a group of kids who were swimming in the lake. Led by us in a rendition of heads, shoulders, knees and toes they then treated us to a series of songs and dances in Hindi... all enjoyed the Bollywood dancing talents of Lancashire and they returned the favour by proudly demonstrating how they could count in English up to 37. When they found out it was Annie's birthday they promptly took all our possessions away from us and then took it in turns to give them back to Annie saying 'Happy Birthday!'. One little girl immediately took off her Bindi from her head and put it on Annie as a birthday present. They were a little upset we didn't bring any sweets to the party so next time some better preparation on our part!
3) Chilling out around the temples and getting up close with all the sculptures, almost unbothered by any other tourists, or any other people.
All in all a birthday to remember!
On another note, have you ever felt like a complete knob for doing something which was a little bit dangerous but you do it to look cool or adventurous but then it backfires? Well, we went swimming in the lake and noticed a current, so didn't swim far from the sides, then saw someone attempt to swim across to the other side (error – big error) and yes he got sucked under the bridge whilst screaming HELP with about 30-40 Indians just stood still watching (not that Indians need an excuse to gather and watch)! He did manage to cling on to a rock and then had to endure about 20 minutes with people pointing an laughing whilst a boat came to get him – gutted!! This was possibly made worse for him when he did get out as he had not gone swimming in trunks or in shorts, but in tight red underpants. From his landing point to his clothes storing area he had to cross back over the main road and through the crowd of congregating Indians. He got a round of applause from the English at this point.
Hanuman is Monkey God and is recognised as a very important a Hindu diety. Legend has it that he used to be really small, until he was powered by the gifts of strength, wisdom, and courage from Vishnu and Parvati. Hanuman then grew so tall that he created the mountains and put the sun in to the sky. Hanuman is worshipped by Hindus for this great feat, and also honour him with a party for the end of the crop season. Whilst Annie did not come with me to the party, I attended with some friends from the hotel to witness the locals burning wood in a huge fire whilst dancing around it. Not a bad way to honour Hanuman I would say.
25.11.2011 - 30.11.2011 26 °C
Expecting a mammoth journey we set off from Kochi to Alleppey. Two hours later, surprised and amused, we arrived in the town which has one major claim to fame... the starting point of the Keralan backwaters; a maze of canals and lakes that stretch back from the coast for a mammoth area connecting villages throughout the state, inaccessible by means other than boat.
Now we have been a bit savvy when it comes to arriving in bus stations. Everyone who approaches you is a guesthouse owner/tout ready to say anything they think you want to hear in order to get you to their accommodation. When we arrived in Alleppey we were expecting the harassment of “Hotel? Hotel? Guesthouse? Rickshaw?”... what we were not prepared for was a friendly bloke politely approaching us and asking us if we would possibly like to visit his home which is a guesthouse and whether we might want to stay there? He assured us that the rickshaw there would be free and he would bring us back to the bus station if we changed our mind. We went with it which is against the grain and ended up in an absolutely lovely homestay near the lake which was absolutely amazingly clean, really cheap, ridiculously comfortable four poster beds, real pillows... with free wifi and a hilarious little pug dog called Jacko. The place was like an oasis after some of the rat pits we have ended up in. The owner and his wife were lovely, and Polish. This all goes to prove one thing which I have been told before and continue to prove true, I can locate the Polish community of literally anywhere we visit without even trying!
As soon as you arrive near the canals you cannot avoid seeing luxurious house boats floating down the river. When I saw luxurious I mean double glazing, LCD TVs, on-board cook and outside veranda. People we have met have told us that you can spend 24 hours cruising the backwaters to see the villages and wildlife from the water. Now as lovely as this sounds... it was a little out of our price range... so instead we opted for a canoe. Perhaps the canoe was not quite as luxurious... no TV, bit less leg room... no sides so no double glazing... but it was more our scene.
The canoe floated down tiny canals flanked by palm trees and the occasional isolated village. Snakes swam in the water around us and Kingfishers perched on trees and lines over the water. Women were washing clothes and pots in the canal water every ten meters and every so often a local lad would pop up from under the water next to the boat to shout boo and giggle at your surprise. We stopped off a couple of times at villages where we accidentally crashed both a funeral (we kept our distance although I think we may have been invited in) and a christening (to which we were warmly welcomed to meet all the guests). We then stopped for dinner at the home of a relative of our boatman. We were served delicious food, fish, spicy potato, rice and papaya... all served up on a palm tree leaf rather than a plate.... saved on the washing up perhaps but pretty entertaining. Ignoring the rain storm which soaked us through it was the most relaxing experience. In fact Andy was so relaxed with the sway of the tiny boat he fell asleep on the return journey...
The experience on the backwaters has given me and Andy a new business plan to put in place if we ever return home, Leeds Liverpool Canal backwater canoe trips for American and Japanese Tourists. Imagine, a canoe down the canal driven by a local resident who knows the water like the back of his hand (Steve Thornton, if the post office doesn't take off...), getting up close to the wildlife (the amazing Armley water rat which has reached a size incomparable to the rest of the UK) and taking in local fishermen and local sites. A stop over at Armley Mills is the historical element before stopping off for a traditional meal with a local family (Aunty Andrea? You fancy boat loads of international tourists paying over the odds?) before being dropped off at the Granary Wharf for a traditional ale in easy transfer distance from the train station. For the adventurous groups we would take a two day tour with night stop over in a traditional Yorkshire/Lancashire home further afield into the lands of Barnoldswick, otherwise inaccessible but by canal. A night in the Green Street with James Lancashire as local tour guide will bring the tourists into contact with a community who has never seen outsiders before (I'm not sure about this quote Annie!- Andy). The highlight of this section of the trip would be the trip to Fouldridge where Annice Brown will meet the group to show them the location of the internationally renowned cow that swam the mile tunnel and survived to be worshipped by the local community (this will have particular resonance with the Indian tourists). The rest of our family and friends should not fear, we have jobs for all... we need touts to jump on moving buses as they pull into Leeds National Express Station to spot tourists and provide them with flyers of our service etc... commission is offered. So at least we have a plan b if Australia doesn't work for us...
Back on dry land and with another amazing sleep behind us we decided to head to the Alleppey Beach, 2km from town. Wandering down the beach was a simple but relaxing day which swiftly became entertainment for the locals. When on the sands we slipped very easily into gender stereotypes. I relaxed on the sand soaking up a few rays. Andrew took up tools and began to construct a sand replica of Jaisalmer Fort just in reach of the waves. Searching back to Geography GCSE he decided to construct comprehensive sea defences for his prize building. Andy's seemingly simple activity swiftly became beach entertainment and proved to us two points;
a) We can attract a crowd of Indian men by doing actually anything. 'White man building sandcastles' initially attracted a crowd of two men. At its peak there were 15 spectators.
b) Indian men will do absolutely anything to have their picture taken with us. This includes becoming a labour force for Andrew's constructive vision. I am sure that a meagre photograph is below minimum wage levels even in India.
Returning back for a swift shower we departed our little sanctuary of a homestay for the lights of Bangalore...
Kochi to Munnar and Back again
20.11.2011 - 25.11.2011 26 °C
You can't watch television for more than 12 minutes in India without an advertisement for tourism in Kerala popping up. Lush palm forests, elephants, luxurious boats passing through grids of canals and lakes and diving kingfishers (actual ones this time and not the beer) are all pulled out by the marketing gurus to encourage tourism. Needless to say, it worked and we headed South from Goa totally drawn in by what the Indians call 'God's own country, Kerala'. Now, we have slanged Indian media a little since we have been here... particularly the advert that suggests you become a giant by using Anbuja Cement and the body building shops everywhere that claim that their treadmill can make a body builder of a skinny Indian youth in ten days. However, over the last week in Kerala I can admit that the Indian PR men have got this one spot on! Kerala is beautiful.
We headed out on a night train to Kochi. The city is based on a number of islands and peninsulas linked by bridges and ferry boats. We jumped the ferry to Fort Kochi, the historical peninsula where goats are plentiful and people wander freely down the winding roads with only the occasional rickshaw and truck full of spices to block their path. It didn't really feel much like a major city as we wandered through the eclectic mix of buildings and cultural centres that has developed through the cities time as a major port. It was a nice change for us when, in one day in an Indian city, we visited a Dutch Palace and a Jewish Synagogue as well as hanging out by the Chinese fishing nets.
As Kerala is mainly Christian most people we met were Sebastians or Abrahams which was a massive change from everywhere else in India. It is also the first place we have visited where people have understood Andrew's name without question and can pronounce it. In Kerala it is the name of a Christian disciple and therefore “Very Good Name Sir!”. In the rest of India, Andy is a Hindi word, meaning 'big wind'.... I will let you all make your own conclusions as to whether this is appropriate or not. No fear! It is not only Andrew that became accepted as like a religious icon in Kerala. Kochi is the location of the first, and probably only, time in my life that I have been told that I resemble the main woman, the Virgin Mary. Chatting with six fishermen on their fishing platform they wanted me to stand under their photo of Mother Mary so they could admire the resemblance. I left the platform pretty swiftly unsure as to whether I was upset or flattered... well Grandma Thornton would be proud I suppose! We stayed just long enough to help them haul up the net and admire their catch from earlier in the day, the toothiest fish I have ever seen!
We had heard rumours that Kerala was a popular destination with elephants and when we had the opportunity to visit the elephant sanctuary to see the nellies who had been rescued from the forest as babies be bathed and looked after we were straight on the road. Chilling out by the lake whilst elephants were having a wash next to locals brushing their teeth was a pretty memorable morning. One of the elephants took a liking to Andy and came up for some stroking. Both Andy and Trumpy were pretty pleased with the affection. We then went to visit the elephants at home and saw babies that were 45 and 65 days old that had fallen down holes in the forest and couldn't get out. Their mothers had left them as there was no way for them to survive in the wild if they couldn't escape. The mahouts had found the babies and brought them to the centre to bring them up, feeding them with elephant milk (I am still not sure how they got hold of it to be honest... I don't envy the elephant milking wallah after seeing the big elephants up close).
Now with our elephant fill for the day we headed up to Munnar in the Keralan hills. Munnar is the tea capital of India. Heading up into the amazing scenery of the misty mountains you are suddenly faced with deep green tea fields as far as the eye can see. The blanket of green is punctuated with tropical flowers of every colour and women picking tea like machines moving from one bush to another picking the freshest leaves to take to the factory. It makes you appreciate where your morning brew comes from when you see the speed that these women work at! The journey was amazing; driving past working elephants wandering up the road, then stopping at waterfalls, next to crowds of monkeys and men climbing palm trees to get to bees nest to nick their honey and sell it at the side of the road. Topping off the day was a visit to a spice farm where we took a tour round finding out what plants herbs and spices grew on, their medicinal properties and how to spot them. Andy was in his element dreaming of the past days of his allotment.
After a mad day we got dropped off at a guest house in the middle of a tropical forest, about 10 miles away from civilisation. We took off up the path for a wander so that we could put our new coffee and cardamon spotting skills to the test. We had a vague idea the path led to a waterfall. We were wrong! It actually led to a cow farm where a little old lady met us at the gate and chatted away to us in Malayman as she presented to us her dogs, her rabbits, her chickens, her cows and her prize bull. We chatted back in English and although neither of us had any idea what the other was saying we did manage to come to agreement that one of the dogs was a Corgie. The lady seemed highly amused by my hair and my face and touched both quite a lot. If you wandered uninvited onto a farm in the UK speaking a strange language and started having a look around there is a major possibility that you might get a gun pointed at you... in India you get welcomed in, no questions asked and an impromptu tour. You then get offered chapatti. You have got to love this country.
We headed out the next day to the Tea Museum. Set up by the Tata Tea Company you are guided round the whole tea making process and surrounded by machinery. You are also provided with a healthy bit of propaganda on the social welfare put in place by the company with a compulsory VHS viewing. It is a bit like an Indian version of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory ( perhaps; Tamwar and the Tea Factory is more fitting) and you are given a cup of Chay and tea at various stages of the process to have a sniff of. A day out that I think the whole Lancashire family would have enjoyed!
On the way back to Kochi we had one more stop off and it was the highlight of the trip... we needed another daily elephant top up and this time decided that washing was not enough. Today we wanted to be on the beasts and go for a meander through the tropical forest. Andy was holding out for a bull with big tusks but we ended up with Maneesha, the most dependable elephant in the world. Maneesha's mahout chatted away to her throughout the trip and at any point he just had to mutter something and she turned or lifted her trunk as he wanted. No worry about mistreated elephants here. Where other places we have seen working elephants being hit by sticks when they misbehaved... our elephant carried her own stick to free the mahout's hands up as he fancied himself as Jans Artur Bertrand when he got his hands on our camera. No worries about our elephant riding not being documented there then! Feeding our nellie a few pineapples and corn on the cob we were back on the road to Kochi and snoozing all the way after our active time in Kerala!
Kochi was a stop over before our next essential Keralan experience.... the Backwaters....
13.11.2011 - 20.11.2011 35 °C
If Mumbai is the slick modern city, a symbol of India's wealth and prosperity, then Goa is colourful party state, a symbol of the cultural diversity, especially the mix of religions creeds and colours. Arriving in Goa was a refreshing change from the hustle and bustle of the big smokes and desert landscapes. Goa has a clean and enticing coast line, many rivers and lakes (filled with Crocodiles!) whilst the rest of the landscape is made up from jungles, forests and scrub land.
We wanted to stay in Goa for a week, and we didn't really want to travel around so we flipped a coin as to going North to Anjuna, or South to Palolem. Heads it was, so we headed to Anjuna via Mapusa. Anjuna was lovely, a little bit rough around the edges, lots of bars and restaurants and lots of beaches – all within walking distance or a quick trip on the scooter.
Within the first day of being in Anjuna, I learnt how to ride a scooter, which is pretty simple if you know how to ride a push bike: go, stop, left, right. The Indians drive on the left hand side of the road and I didn't need to worry about traffic because Anjuna and the surrounding areas were very quiet. The scooter was fantastic. It enabled us to ride to Vagator beach and Mojim Beach which was quieter and the sea was calmer. The sea at Anjuna was quiet dangerous owing to the ferocious current and amount of rocks on the sea bed, it didn’t deter me though, I still swam in it!
Whilst at our little hotel, we met a nice couple from London (Jaime and Becky) who had been in Australia for two years working, so we got chatting and ended up going to a nightclub (£10 a couple all drinks included!) so we got wasted and chatted cod shite all evening! Needless to say we didn't see the next morning due to our hangovers.
I would recommend North Goa to anyone wanting a package holiday type experience with nice beaches, beer and food (the fish is amazing), but its nothing more than that.
After 6 days of sun sea and sand we headed to the Capital City of Goa; Panjim, with many water ways, Portuguese colonial buildings, casino boats and little parks.
A day trip from Panjim was advised by the Lonely Planet, and our own tourist advisor back home in England Stevie T. Old Goa is an abandoned capital city due to an outbreak of disease in the 16C. Apparently it used to be larger than London in the 16C before it was abandoned, which seems a little exaggerated to me, however Old Goa is a world heritage site owing to its historic, architectural and archaeological importance. There are so many large and grand churches here. Its like having the Vatican, St Pauls Cathedral and a few Kirkstall Abbeys all within a few hundred metres of each other. Annie got excited by all of the figurines of St Francis of Assisi and the local hero St Francis Xavier, but did not buy one; I think she's holding out for a Gandhi figurine.
It seems that the Old Goans are also good at carving larger models of world heros and religious icons because there was also a Multiethnic Wax Works Museum including sculptures of the last supper, Gandhi, Genghus Khan, Mother Tereasa, Sai Baba and my personal favourite scene called 'DRUGS ARE BAD'.
An overnight bus (14hours) awaits to the state of Kerala and Capital City Kochi.
Udaipur to Mumbai
04.11.2011 - 13.11.2011 27 °C
Now sudden celebrity is a hard thing to stomach for any civilian... the constant pressure of the press, being recognised in the street and having to maintain that public image that people recognise and adore. Andy took to the lifestyle of a sudden celebrity footballer with real style... but the pressure of the paparazzi was difficult. As such we chose to get out of Pushkar and get to the quieter shores of Udaipur where many a Bollywood and Indian TV personality hang out to escape the constant publicity. Life as a WAG was not something I anticipated for myself.
Udaipur is in South Rajastan and after time in the camel towns of the desert we thought we were having a mirage when we saw the giant lake at Udaipur's heart. The town is based on the shores of the lake and at it's centre is a massive palace which looks like it is floating on the water. If you have seen the James Bond film Octopussy then Udaipur is where it is filmed. If you haven't seen the film you can rent the film from blockbusters or go to Udaipur where you can catch a viewing of the film... on any street... in apparently every bar and restaurant... back to back... at every hour of day or night. Needless to say we ended up catching it a couple of times.
Come 7pm Udaipur begins to resemble Beirut as the sky explodes in bangs and flashes of fireworks. One thing we have come to appreciate about India is that they love a good firework. Udaipur is the trendy place to get married so firework displays light up the sky every night from all sides. Not a bad view when you are sitting on a roof top with a bottle of Kingfisher overlooking the lake!
Refreshed, relaxed and recuperated we headed on a new night train to Mumbai/Bombay. We had reservations as we had become accustomed to being in laid back small towns rather than the scrum of the city but we were impressed with the spectacle that is Mumbai from the moment we disembarked the train/rickshaw/train combo which got us to the centre of Mumbai from Rajastan in the express time of 20 hours.
The night we arrived, we walked down to the Gateway of India to see the buildings on the front lit up. Sitting and watching the milling crowds of tourists, salesmen, sailors, boatmen, beggars and imagining the changing face of this tiny jetty over the last 200 years was something I won't forget in a hurry. Suddenly, from nowhere I was handed a baby and acquired a five foot tall old lady in a multicolour sari hanging off my arm whilst photo-wallahs had a field day snapping away. Now I was back to being the celebrity instead of Andy... a return to Indian normality.
Whilst in Mumbai we had agreed on two priorities, a trip to Elephanta Island and Gin and Tonics at the Taj Mahal Palace Hotel. We did both in one Big Day Out in Mumbai and it was one that neither us, nor the credit card, will forget in a long time! (Only joking Mum! We are being financially responsible!)
On Elephanta Island, Andy became a real lover of ancient temple carvings; he bought a book, he gazed in wonder and spent a long time admiring each sculpture in detail. I was initially impressed with Andrew's new found love of ancient history. This was until I cottoned on to the fact that his real motivation was the absolutely enormous pair of baps that are carved on the Goddess Parvati on each sculpture. When we found a little cafe that served Chicken Handi and cold Kingfisher for a post temple pick me up, Andy was very chuffed with his cultural day.
Now I never realised that smog could be beautiful or romantic, but coming back on the boat from Elephanta to Mumbai it managed to be just that. As the sun was setting over the city you could see all the historic buildings of the water front and all the skyscrapers of today glowing red and orange though the haze hanging over the city. Mumbai may hold the record for the amount of rats I have seen in one place (Record: 2. And one of them was eating toast inside the entrance of our less than sterling hotel) but pulling into the Gateway of India at sunset you could easily forget that and just appreciate how stunning the skyline is.
After a quick change in the Rat Pit and an excursion onto the streets to buy Andrew some shoes we were dolled up and ready to play the part in the top class Taj Mahal Palace Hotel. Full of images from books and stories I was pretty chuffed with myself, pulling up in an old school Ambassador taxi, getting in (that was the first hurdle we were worried we wouldn't make!) and then settling down for Gin and Tonic in the Harbour Bar! I bored Andy for at least an hour trying to tell him the plot line of 'A Night in Bombay' whilst Andy tried to get his moneys worth from the extortionate drink prices by eating the place out of the complimentary crisps, fried beans and nuts. After we spent up (it didn't take long!) we headed into the hotel to explore the luxury from the inside. A quick stop in the toilets, where they have attendants who volunteer to do everything but wipe your bum for you... I think you have to ask for that service if you need it.... and they ensure that your cubical is squirted with perfume before you enter (bear in mind the Rat Pit Hotel had shared unisex squat toilets...) we wandered into the hallways and the posh shops inside. We were home and dry until we got the camera out and then the Secret Service of the Taj Mahal were on us very quickly and politely enquiring as to whether we were guests at the hotel? (code: Get out you backpacking imposters). We left and found an altogether more affordable drinking hole to end the night. Memorable to say the least!
Mumbai was topped off with a visit to the Dhobi Ghat, which is essentially an area where all the washing of clothes is done for the whole of Mumbai. It is a bit like a giant, human powered washing machine with men, women and children beating the dirt out of clothes continuously in a kind of ancient times conveyor belt. I agree it is a strange thing to go see but it is a real spectacle! Andy was less than impressed as he has grown a hatred of hand-washing on this trip. However, when wandering round he found a reason to be there as a kid threw him a cricket ball in the backstreet. That was that, Andy was suddenly the star bowler of the street cricket match. The cricket field was the general street, the boundary for a four was the buildings on either side and the wicket was an old trailer. The fielders were stood on the tin roofs of the nearby buildings and the crease was the line down the middle of the road. The game was occasionally interrupted by laundry vans, cows and general cars wanting to use the cricket pitch to get to their destination (selfish or what) but my word did Andy get a crowd (maybe he was missing his celebrity status as footballer after all).
Again leaving a sporting legacy in our wake, we departed for pastures new.