14-November 2009 to 16-November 2009:
When I Lokesh noticed I was busy washing my boots at a water spigot near his car, he inquired what I was doing.
"I'm washing sh*t off my boots," I said, squeamishly as my fingers were in the grooves of the boots where water by itself couldn't get the stuff off.
He nodded and said, "I smelled something in the car." I guess that explained it...
Days 14: "NO ONE GOES HERE"
At 6:30am, we woke up. It wasn't easy doing this because we really enjoyed our room at the Panjim Peoples. However, we knew that we had a very long drive ahead of us so we made sure that we would leave Panaji at 8am as the driver (named Lokesh) wanted.
After our quick 7:30am, we checked out and were out at 8am as anticipated. Some mozzies were already inside Lokesh's car so we were busy swatting at them as he was busy driving around town trying to figure out how to get back to the main highway.
Obviously Lokesh didn't know this area too well, but we can understand since he came all the way from Bangalore deep in the Karnataka state.
As we were driving south, we could see that many of the townships in South Goa retained that Portugese flavor.
And by 10am, we were still in Goa. Lots of cows were on the road and there were numerous instances where we had to pass slow moving lorries and buses. All this conspired to slow us down, but by now, we were used to the idea that you can't go as fast on India's roads as we're used to in developed countries like Australia
or back home in the States.
The road gradually got rougher the further south we went. Clearly it seemed Goa was a better off state (financially and infrastructure-wise) than Karnataka.
At 10:10am, we finally made it to the Karnataka state border. After paying the taxes, the driver proceeded another 10 minutes more and then pulled over at some roadside cafe. There, we took a restroom break while he was having some much needed tea.
Not surprisingly, the restrooms were filthy. We knew we weren't going to have anything substantial to eat for lunch today so we bought some oranges as well as some rather expensive (Rs 220) cashew nuts for the road.
At 10:30am, we were back on the road.
As we were continuing further south, we could clearly see that we were entering some very lush forests and we were still within sight of the ocean. We were approaching the port of Karwar where apparently there was a lot of activity going on regarding the exporting of mined goods like iron ore and manganese.
At first, when the driver told us about Karwar's importance to the area, we thought it was interesting info. But little did we know how much it'd affect our trip until 11:15am when we were stuck in a traffic jam.
There was a whole line of trucks going in both directions. The narrow roads made it difficult for both sides of traffic to go by each other. The north-bound lorries and trucks were parked because they were waiting to dump their cargo onto some of the shipping containers at the Karwar Port. And there simply wasn't enough of them to ship out what had been mined and stored on the trucks.
So while the north-bound side was clogged, that left bi-directional traffic to try to squeeze into the one remaining lane. And it got to a point where oversized trucks had to get through and no one moved when there was no space to pass.
There wasn't even a traffic cop or anyone at the time willing to play traffic cop.
So with this downtime, Julie and I came to a few of realizations.
First, India is still going through some growing pains regarding the transport of its goods and people. Clearly the infrastructure wasn't in place to handle the pace of mining and exporting here.
Second, I started to wonder about what's happening to the Nature of India with the pace of mining that's going on in Karnataka. Something didn't seem right even though we were still surrounded by a lot of greenery.
Third, Julie realized that American car companies are doomed because they can't (or refuse) to make money with small cars (opting instead to keep us hooked to SUVs and trucks). And in developing countries like India, big fat cars have a hard time getting around, and it's the smaller, more mobile cars that are more useful. That's why in India (as well as the rest of the world), cars tend to be smaller.
It wasn't until 11:25am when we were finally moving again and broke out of our little thought exercises. This is something you'd never see in the news back at home, yet such observations mean a lot in terms of learning about what's really going on in the world.
As we continued to move about, there continued to be pockets of congestion where immobilized lorries were stuck in the middle of lanes thereby forcing bi-direction traffic to compensate. It just seemed like the road rules in India were as close to chaos as you could get.
As we were going into more twisty mountain roads, we noticed that slow-moving trucks and lorries would indicate to us when to pass or not based on the driver's arm motions out the window. All it took was a honk from Lokesh to ping the driver to respond. It was kind of interesting to see since here was a case where horns served a useful purpose instead of the antagonism we tend to associate with them.
At 12:25pm, we finally got to the Magod Falls turnoff.
From there, it was another 16km to the falls. And as we proceeded on this mostly paved road, I noticed that all the signs were completely in Hindi now. So this prompted me to ask the driver whether foreign tourists come here (kind of half-expecting to hear "no").
The driver said in his broken English, "No. Only locals. You're the first foreign tourist to come here. This is the first time in my career that I took foreign tourist to see waterfalls here. No one goes here."
At 12:45pm, we made it to the Magod Falls car park. There, after paying the admission and camera fees, we proceeded to walk to the overlook of the falls. At the nearest railings, we looked down at the falls, which was flowing pretty well.
This caused Julie to say, "This is the best one so far."
Indeed, the overlooks provided top down views of the two-step cascading waterfall into the deep ravine below. There were walkways and stairs following the rim of the canyon opposite the falls providing views from various angles (some spots were difficult to see the bottom of the falls).
Even though I didn't think we exerted ourselves too much taking photos here, I was sweating bullets. The heat and humidity crept up on me as I was taking photos as my shirt was drenched and my brows were dripping with sweat as I peered into the viewfinder of my camera.
All the signs here were in Hindi except for the trees, which had latin names like Tectona Grandis and Terminala Paniculata. So I had no idea how tall this waterfall was or anything else of interest that we might learn about the falls.
At 1:20pm, we were back at the car. Since our driver had never been here before, he took this opportunity to take photos of the falls with his camera phone.
It took a while for the sweat to dry, but eventually it did by the time we were passing through the town of Yellapur. From there, Lokesh asked some locals where Unchalli Falls as well as Sathodi Falls was since they were on our itinerary.
Eventually, a forest ranger on a scooter both pointed the way and led us to the correct turnoff. It was signposted so it wasn't like the help was necessary, but it was nice of him nonetheless.
A sign at the turnoff indicated that it was 25km further. Clearly, it was nontrivial to get to the falls.
So we continued onwards. We were making fairly good progress until we reached a fork. After taking the right fork, our driver asked a local where the falls was. And fortunately for us, he told us we took the wrong fork. So we turned around and ultimately went the right way.
The drive seemed like it took forever, but eventually at 2:10pm, we got to an area where a local asked us to pay the fee for Sathodi.
Then, we continued on. With about 5km left to go, the road became unsealed. Ordinarily, you'd think 5km (or 3 miles) is not too bad, but considering that this road quickly became bumpy and rocky (not to mention steep and muddy in some spots), the drive seemed like it would never end.
The driver was probably not used to such roads as he was cursing and shaking his head with each kilometer he went. But upon passing by and asking a few locals, we knew we were going the right way.
It wasn't until 2:45pm that we finally made it to the car park for the falls (much to the relief of Lokesh). There was a Swift (a common tiny car in India) as well as a big bus parked here with lots of Indian locals standing around socializing.
Naturally being the only non-Indians here, we got stared at, which kind of made it a little awkward for us (kind of like when we were the only mzungus in rural Africa
After passing through another gate, we were on a trail in a very lush forest. The thing was that it was eerily quiet and we could see that this area bordered some lake. We don't normally see waterfalls near lakes like this so it made me wonder whether the falls were running or not.
So we proceeded onwards in the heat and humidity. Enough of the sun was blocked by dark clouds to make it look rather dark this afternoon.
After about a kilometer of walking while saying hi ("Namaskaar") to some of the locals walking the other way, we finally started to hear the rumble of falling water in the distance.
Continuing further, we finally made it to Sathodi Falls. There were quite a few young couples here, making me wonder whether this was a romantic spot or something. I engaged in conversation with a couple of the folks here in limited English. Nothing deep. Just divulged to them that we came from the States and that we were seeing Jog Falls tomorrow.
The falls itself had a squarish shape that reminded us a lot of Marokopa Falls
in New Zealand
We couldn't get very satisfying views closer to the falls because of the fallen rocks and high water preventing any further progress safely. And given the humidity, the rocks were slippery.
So we took what photos and movies we could of this falls. I'm guessing it's probably 25 or 30m tall. Then, we quickly headed back knowing that we wanted to reach Sirsi (town where our accommodation of the night is located) before nightfall.
So at 3:25pm, we were back in the car. Once again, we were sweating bullets and it took a while for our shirts to dry.
We learned from the driver that the bus was full of college students. That would explain why there was so much youth there and why many of them were couples.
It was interesting that the falls drains into a lake, which I suspect was man-made due to the presence of high-voltage power lines in the area.
At 4:15pm, we were back on the main road. And after a couple minutes more of passing through Yellapur again, Lokesh asked a local which way to Sirsi, got his answer, and we were off. It was another 50km to get to Sirsi.
The drive there was mostly sealed although winding. There were a handful of cars we saw going the other way. It seemed like there were more cows on the road than cars.
It seemed like the driver didn't mind the lack of traffic and the speed with which he could drive (something I'm sure he doesn't get to do much of elsewhere).
At 4:35pm, it was raining. I thought it was very odd since we were under the impression that the monsoon ended in September. But upon asking Lokesh, he said that the monsoon may last until December 15 in some of these parts. So I guess it's not as unsual as we thought.
At 5:15pm, after asking several locals in town where the Shivani Hotel was, we finally made it. And so ended a very long day of driving.
Obviously, we wouldn't be able to make it to Unchalli Falls today. But the signposts on the road saying it was 38km away suggested that it was a significant falls. But our itinerary mentioned that it's a 3.1mi walk (one-way?) to the falls, and I suspected that we may not have enough time to do it tomorrow with Jog Falls, nor did the driver know that it might take several hours to even get to Unchalli Falls.
In any case, after having a brief vegetarian dinner in town (and being stared at since foreigners don't come here I guess), we were driven back to the hotel where we could finally get settled.
We immediately got to looking at my research notes, which had some conflicting information about whether Unchalli Falls required a long hike of 3.1 miles (each way or round trip? We weren't sure) or just 0.5km. In any case, we anticipated spending at least some 3 hours at Jog Falls (to get to the bottom), and with an 8:30am start tomorrow, it seemed like we wouldn't have time to do Unchalli Falls. Besides, Julie wasn't looking forward to more hiking with the mosquitoes as well as the heat and humidity.br>
So it was decided, we'd have to let the driver know that we're going to skip Unchalli Falls. Hopefully, we can make that clear because the communication in English was a bit difficult.
Meanwhile, we finally got to seeing how our room was like once the logistics was out of the way.
Our room was quite spacious, though the red light by the front door was kind of eerie. The bathroom looked filthy and the hot water didn't seem like it was working. Well, this was kind of what we expected in a place like Sirsi (and not in a place like Goa) so it would have to do for tonight.
So it was a cold shower for me, and a reluctant one for Julie.
We wondered about Murudeshwar tomorrow night, but we'll worry about it when we get there...
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Day 15: THE JOG-UNCHALLI DILEMMA
At 7am we awoke to sounds. The walls at the Shivani Hotel weren't very soundproof as they tended to echo voices and noises from downstairs as well as neighboring rooms.
The night wasn't terribly restful because the blanket cover was filthy and there were no sheets to shield yourself from the cover itself. Meanwhile, we kept the fan running to keep the mosquitoes at bay. All told, it was a little cold under the minimal, filthy cover. Plus, we had the back of our minds on the potential for bed bugs.
At 8:20am, we brought our stuff downstairs early and saw our driver. So we quickly loaded up the car and were ready to go. We told Lokesh of our intention to visit Jog Falls first as we were afraid of the potentially long day required for visiting Unchalli Falls.
And Lokesh bought into the plan.
So after a brief breakfast stop at the same place we had dinner last night, we were on our way at 8:40am.
The drive southwards meandered along some rural roads and small towns. It was funny how the signs were either non-existent or they were totally worn out (probably from monsoon rains) and illegible. So Lokesh had to ask locals frequently when he wasn't sure whether he took the correct path at each fork or intersection.
The rural roads also featured many cows.
There were definitely more cows in this part of India than in the north. So we figured this area was probably more Hindu since cows are sacred in that religion. I'd bet that the whole vegetarian movement started from the fact that Hindus don't eat cow meat and only harvest their milk.
Sometimes it seemed like the cows knew this fact as some of them reluctantly left the road when we approached. Even some cows were sitting in the middle of the road.
It wasn't until 9:55am when we finally arrived at the Jog Falls car park. It was quite busy here, and Lokesh was quick to point out that today was Sunday and many of the locals like to spend their weekends here.
With this being perhaps India's most famous waterfall, we were eagerly anticipating our visit. However, our excitement was also tempered by the recognition that we knew the falls might not be as impressive as hoped just outside the monsoon due a hydroelectric dam further upstream limiting the flow of water to the falls.
In any case, we made our move and saw the sea of people at the nearest overlook.
So I moved several paces to the right with a more quieter and direct view of the four waterfalls that made up Jog Falls (Raja [King], Roar, Rocket, and Rani [Queen]).
I guess our plan to visit Jog Falls first didn't really pay off because the morning light casted a nasty shadow and contrast to the bright scene around the falls. This made photography difficult. Clearly, this was really more of a midday or afternoon waterfall. Besides, the four falls were not as impressive as we had hoped.
Julie still thought it was impressive (possibly still better than Detian Waterfall
) despite its compromised state. I, however, wasn't all that impressed (maybe my expectations were too high given the amount of literature and love given to these falls on the internet). So given these factors, we weren't about to spend more time and money (by going down to the base of the falls) than we needed here.
The diminished flow of the falls kind of reminded me of Barron Falls
. But the multiple waterfalls spilling into the same ravine reminded me of Voringsfossen
So we got our fill of the falls from the overlooks and got back to the car at 10:30am. The driver recognized that there wasn't a whole lot of water (obviously he had seen these falls in a more fuller state). But when we openly suspected a hydro facility (due to the power lines nearby), the driver denied this thinking it was just a weak monsoon year. I guess we kind of rained on his Jog Falls parade.
In any case, with the early departure from Jog Falls, we had our mind made up to go for Unchalli Falls - long hike and all.
At first, I thought this was going to be a very quick drive as it didn't take but a few minutes to return to the town of Siddapur, and then turn left at a well-signposted turnoff for Unchalli Falls. The sign indicated it was only 5km from the turnoff so I figured we'd be out and about hiking real soon.
But the driver kept on going. And after 10km, I asked him if we missed it because of what that sign said. So as he proceeded, he'd stop and ask locals about Unchalli Falls, and the local would keep telling him to keep going. So obviously the locals knew something that was contrary to that sign.
Further along the drive, Lokesh asked another local about the falls. This one was a bus driver who was outside his bus.
And when he mentioned that there was a new road to the falls and that the walk to the falls was only 1km round trip, I began to realize why there was conflicting information in my research about the falls.
Apparently, the old trail required 3.1 miles each way from some town called Heggarani. That was probably where the old 5km sign at the turnoff was referring to.
But the new road was the one responsible for the 0.5km each way walk. And that was good news to us because we didn't feel like soaking our clothes with our sweat in the heat and humidity.
It wasn't until about 11:50am that we finally made it to the Unchalli Falls trailhead. There was a bus parked here as well as a few passenger cars. It turned out that this car park was 38km from that sign that said the falls was only 5km away.
I was also battling a bout of diarrhea at this point so I was totally looking for a restroom, but as luck would have it, there was none by the trailhead.
So we quickly made our way down the steep, partially muddy walking road as it curved a couple of times before reaching a busy waiting area with benches. It was busy because a large group of Indians were there. And naturally with us being the non-Indians here, we were being looked at.
After breaking the ice and greeting these folks with "Namaskaar", we received smiles of pleasant surprise and were immediately asked questions like "Where are you from?" and "What is your name?". None of the conversations were long due to the limited English, but it was nice to engage the locals nonetheless.
It turned out that this large group from the bus was actually a yoga group from Shimoga (apparently somewhere not far from Bangalore some 370km away).
In any case, we could hear the falls tumbling pretty loudly nearby so we proceeded to the nearest overlook platform. And from there, we looked down and saw the unusually-shaped waterfall (almost similar in shape to Vidfoss
). The bottom of the falls couldn't be seen from this vantage point, but we were excited nonetheless at the flow of this falls, which was far more satisfying than Jog Falls though it's arguable whether this was better than the Indian classic.
We continued walking down the stairs, past another platform where it looked like some construction work was being done, and finally to the end of the walkway. Here, there was an exposed, unsheltered viewpoint where you could look directly at the falls and even see some of its base.
A beautiful rainbow appeared to the lower left of the falls providing nice color and kept us glued to this falls for some time (even with my stomach aching uncomfortably with the runs).
When we got our fill of this falls from this vantage point, Julie headed back to the car to fetch some toilet paper due to my condition. Meanwhile, I lingered a little longer to take a few more photos as the sun was playing hide and seek with the clouds (thereby making the rainbow appear and disappear sporadically).
Then, I started walking back up the stairs when the workers suggested I check out the platform that they were working on.
Gladly obliging, as I walked to the wet platform (trying not to trip on the metal rods and concrete slabs yet to be placed), I gazed at the falls and was elated as this was probably just as good a view as the very bottom viewpoint.
So once again I was trying to capture the falls in every way I could imagine but with and without rainbow. I was forgetting for the moment that my stomach and bladder was pushing hard. And when I had my fill of this overlook, then I finally headed back up the stairs to that once-busy area with benches (and what looked to be a basic toilet facility almost out of sight).
And before I could fully inspect where I should be doing my business, my body wasn't waiting for me so I just went to the nearest one with an open door and immediately squatted over the latrine.
It wasn't pleasant as I knew mosquitoes were buzzing around me and I didn't have DEET applied where the sun doesn't shine. Plus, the runny waste products excreted from my upset stomach didn't help matters either.
When I finally had time to process my surroundings, I began to realize that there appeared to be what I hoped was dirt that my hiking boots were embedded in. But I knew from the smell that it was probably human dung! Ewww!!!
Anyways, Julie finally showed up with the toilet paper and I spent a good deal of time cleaning up myself but not before mozzies got a few good bites out of me.
It was futile to clean the boots at this point so I just hiked with Julie back up the steep muddy road to the awaiting Lokesh at the car. And once we got back into the car, we could finally get a little relief from the humidity as we were totally drenched in sweat again.
The car had a little bit of dung smell, and I'm sure it was from my boots.
We left at 1:10pm. The driver was going to take us to Bene Hole Falls at first. But I thought seeing both Jog and Unchalli today was a big enough success for the day, especially since we originally came into today thinking we had a terrible dilemma as we could only visit one or the other. So after seeing both of the big ones today, I tolk Lokesh that I was interested in catching sunset at Murudeshwar (where we were staying for tonight) and wanted to skip Bene Hole Falls.
I'm not sure if I'd regret this decision later on, but we needed a little bit of down time after two straight days of long driving.
In any case, we basked in our accomplishment and were able to look around at our surroundings and process the fact that our experience in Karnataka state were some of the most peaceful (relatively speaking) and naturesque as we had in the country. And when we shared our sentiment with Lokesh, he too was glad to be in these parts away from the "horrible traffic" in Bangalore (where he was from).
I'd bet that when we told us that we were the first clients of his to visit this area for waterfalls, he must've thought we were mad. But now after seeing some of the most tranquil parts of India, I'm sure maybe he too has converted and started to see why waterfalling is a worthwhile activity.
Sure, Karnataka has yielded some of the dumpiest accommodations on this trip along with my contact with crap, but it was probably one of the better regions we've been to in India once you've acclimated to the way things are in this country. Now if only more people can see the light.
During the drive back, we noticed the road heading southwest as we tried to leave the inner parts of the Western Ghats were rough in places. So that got us into a conversation with Lokesh about road conditions in India.
We compared what we had observed to our experiences in Zambia
, and we told Lokesh that we thought African
roads were worse.
But then Lokesh countered by saying that the stretch between Murudeshwar and Mangalore (where we're headed) was in very bad shape, and that we were about to get a massage.
And all this talk about bad roads due to neglect led to some talk about politics and corruption. Apparently, he thought some areas of India (like the badly potholed roads) are neglected by government officials until election time when their votes matter.
We could sense some resentment as he lamented the nepotism in governmental positions, the bribes they take, and how the poor stay poor and the rich stay rich. He's of the opinion that India will still be a developing country 50 years from now, and that he stopped voting as he didn't want to give any more candidates (which he suspected are crooks) his vote.
I guess some things are pretty much a recurring theme no matter where in the world you go. But I have to believe India's got some serious issues that haven't really been addressed (from women harassment, to overpopulation, to pollution that we think is worse than China
, to the everpresent litter everywhere, and of course the tremendous disparity between rich and poor). In fact, when we toured Mumbai and Goa, we could see how governors got mansions while the same area has people living on the pavement in slums (perhaps the biggest slum being the Dharavi in Mumbai or Bombay).
It was noteworthy that Lokesh's views contrasted with Akhilesh's views. Maybe some of the more well-off people in North India see things differently than a middle-class wage earner in South India. And personally, I'm more apt to believe Lokesh's story though there is some truth to Akhilesh's sentiment as well.
At 3:20pm, we crossed the Sharavati Bridge which spanned an inlet of the Arabian Sea.
And after that bridge, we noticed the potholes started to show up and get bigger and bigger the further south we went. I guess Lokesh wasn't kidding about the roads getting worse and neglected.
It was also starting to rain heavily so some of the potholes developed pools and it was hard to tell how deep some of them got.
At 3:55pm, we finally made it to the Naveen Beach Resort in Murudeshwar. There was a big Shiva statue and temple building next to it all facing a pretty attractive beach. But it was too bad there were vehicles driving and parked on that beach with litter everywhere (we even saw some locals tossing rubbish directly in the ocean!) and cows even feeding on that litter!
There were also crowds of people out and about on the steamy beach as well as around the Shiva statue. Well, at least the rain stopped.
But our minds for now was to check into our room and get cleaned up. I also had to get the crap off my hiking boots, which was a disgusting job. But since I was already deep in dung earlier in the day, what's a few more touches with the nasty stuff?
When I Lokesh noticed I was busy washing my boots at a water spigot near his car, he inquired what I was doing.
"I'm washing sh*t off my boots," I said, squeamishly as my fingers were in the grooves of the boots where water by itself couldn't get the stuff off.
He nodded and said, "I smelled something in the car." I guess that explained it.
It wasn't until 5:15pm when we were finally ready to go out for a walk on the beach and pay a visit to the Shiva statue.
While we were hoping for a pleasant stroll, we quickly realized that this was nearly impossible as we were the only non-Indians amongst the hundreds (maybe thousands) of people here, and that everyone was staring at us. On top of that, we'd be approached by touts asking if we wanted water taxis or photos for purchase.
We were also bombarded with the familiar questions of "Which country?" or "What is your name?" Or requests for "country coin" upon learning we were from the States.
Not exactly peaceful, but we did our best to enjoy the scene, engage the locals, and try to ignore some of the occasional racist remarks of "Ching chong chang..." It was also a little awkward to be the subject of other people's photographs (without permission) as I guess they'd never seen ethnically Chinese people in these parts. Perhaps now we have a sense of how celebrities must feel being photographed all the time (though we're not seeking the limelight in this case).
Well, we did visit the Shiva temple, which was quite attractive. Perhaps we could come back tomorrow morning when it's quieter. I suspect today was busy because it was a Sunday.
Afterwards, we went to the Naveen Beach Restaurant for more vegetarian fare. Though we were getting sick of dhosas, samosas, and puris at this point. And all that starch couldn't have been good for us. I think it wasn't since Khem Villas in Ranthambhore National Park did we have a pretty healthy vegetarian meal of cooked vegetables that were organically grown and fresh.
And as we were eating at Naveen Beach Restaurant, we noticed that the setting sun refracted by the clouds casted a strange sepia tone to the scene below us. We also noticed that people playing in the water kept their clothes on. This was something we noticed in some of the Bollywood music videos as well where people were drenched in waterfalls or oceans fully clothed. Must be part of the conservative nature of Indians where showing too much skin is frowned upon.
When we were done eating, we saw our driver who was gazing at the last rays of the sun. And when we looked back, we saw an array of orange, pink, red, and purple cast against the clouds on the other side of the peninsula. It wasn't photographable from where we were at, but it was certainly beautiful.
And at 6:25pm, we were finally back in our air-conditioned room away from the stifling heat and the incessant stares from just about everyone there.
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Day 16: "KERALA IS DEFINITELY NOT KARNATAKA!"
At 7:30am, we woke up knowing that we weren't going to leave Murudeshwar until around noon due to our late departing flight from Mangalore to Cochin at 7:40pm. We didn't know why we got such a late flight, but we had to make do with the cards we were dealt.
Last night, it was raining pretty hard accompanied by lots of thunder. I wondered if this was still monsoon season and if this was also the case in Kerala as well, which was the next state we were to visit beginning the end of today.
So with all that moisture, this morning turned out to be unsurprisingly steamy.
We had our breakfast at a little after 9am after getting most of our stuff all packed and almost ready to go. The breakfast selection wasn't much and all we had for the morning were three pieces of idlys (small round white starchy pancakes), which we soaked in some kind of sambar. It wasn't much, but it held us over.
At 9:45am, we decided to give another go at going for a walk on the beach at Murudeshwar as well as paying Shiva another visit. We figured it shouldn't be as chaotic as it was yesterday when all the locals were here to celebrate their Sunday rest day I suppose.
Well, the walk started innocently enough as we were busy checking out cows on the beach (and trying to avoid their dung in the sand). There were even a couple chickens clucking on the beach as well. We also checked out some of the litter strewn all over the beach as well as some guy openly taking a dump right onto the beach.
We were a bit dismayed at how little respect the locals seem to have for their beaches.
As we got closer to the attractions, the touts were dutifully at it again asking us if we wanted the water taxi or have pictures taken of us. At least the adults were a little more respectful about it as one "no" was enough to keep them off us, but the kids were annoyingly persistent and wouldn't take "no" for an answer.
We also got stared at again as there were more locals here than anticipated as well (though not as much as yesterday).
When we got to the stairs beneath the Shiva, we ran into our driver Lokesh. He too was busy taking photos with his camera phone and enjoying the scene.
Meanwhile, we went up the stairs to take more photos with the late morning light while trying to ignore the touts.
During this visit, we did notice there was a trio of Caucasians (I believe they were British) who were also paying a visit to Shiva. I guess we weren't the only foreigners here, but then again, we were the only ethnically Chinese ones here, and I guess it was such a novelty that locals would indiscriminantly snap photos of us without asking. Now we know what it feels like to be a celebrity getting snapped by the paparazzi though it wasn't like we wanted the limelight nor went looking for the attention.
There was a pretty nice breeze on the back side of the giant Shiva, which felt kind of nice as the hot, muggy air already made us drenched in sweat even though it wasn't as if we were exerting ourselves.
When we were done visiting the Shiva, we then decided to go to the adjacent temple building. But the children touts made the few paces of walking just to get there difficult.
In any case, we got to check out the towering structure fronted by two elephant statues. We didn't go inside though.
At 10:35am, we were back at the hotel. So much for the quieter experience we were looking for.
While we were doing some last minute packing and organizing, Julie took another look at her e-tickets, and realized that our flight was at 6:30pm instead of 7:40pm! Unfortunately, Lokesh didn't know this and so we quickly got our stuff together and lugged our belongings over to his car. But Lokesh wasn't by his car.
Julie eventually left the keys at the reception and had them help call Lokesh. From that, Lokesh (who was at the temple) came back in a few minutes.
Even though his itinerary and our itinerary had the later time, the e-ticket is what we were supposed to go by so we had to make a move to get out of Murudeshwar now if Lokesh was right about the road to Mangalore being crappy, and the 150km drive requiring some 5 hours.
After getting through the crowded market at Murudeshwar town, we were back on the road where sure enough the roads were quite full of potholes.
"Now this is more like Africa
," Julie said.
And sure enough, we found ourselves driving on the wrong side of the road to avoid potholes (while the cars going the opposite direction did the same). Plenty of places were pretty much 20-30km/h speeds. And all the crappy road conditions got the conversation with Lokesh and us into some politics and even an explanation of why he has slept in the car each of the nights he has been driving us.
It turned out that he was only getting paid Rs 175 per day (that's just less than $4 USD/day). Clearly we thought this was gross underpayment, and we began to understand why tipping is very much appreciated (as it is usually the case when employees are underpaid and the cost is passed to the customer as tipping).
And this also got me wondering about why many of American jobs go overseas because there's no way workers in a developed country compete with overpopulation and poverty where there's always someone willing to be exploited and work for less. And India certainly fits the bill for cheap labor after seeing the great disparity in rich and poor during our trip.
At 2:15pm, Lokesh made a quick stop in Udupi where he suggested this place that made decent fish curry. He felt we had to at least try Karanatakan fish curry at a "reasonable" price before we left the state (after learning we'd only been eating starchy vegetarian snacks like dosas, samosas, and puris).
The food turned out to be delicious and quite satisfying after going nearly three straight days of only sweets and snacks as well as fruits and nuts that we'd buy off street vendors.
Even though Lokesh thought this place was clean, Julie and I noticed a cockroch scurrying on the ground about half the size of the waiter's shoe. It wasn't a real comforting thought to know the critters were openly in the restaurant, but then again, we knew we weren't exactly in one of the richer areas of India.
At 3pm, we continued our drive.
And at 4:20pm, we finally arrived at the humble Mangalore airport, which involved quite a bit of driving through back roads with Lokesh asking the locals whenever he wasn't sure whether he made a correct turn at an intersection or fork.
And with that, we thanked Lokesh and checked into the airport.
We were surprised to get free internet here of all places since we hadn't checked our internet in probably about a week.
The rest of our time in Karnataka was pretty uneventful. Even our plane started moving at 6:40pm, which was more or less on time! This was the first domestic flight since our Jaipur-Delhi flight early on in the trip that was on time! Quite unusual for us indeed!
We ended up at the Cochin Airport at 7:35pm. And after picking up our bags, we met up with the local rep who then hooked us up with our driver, Dennis. And by 8pm, we were off driving to Athirapilly, which was where we were supposed to stay for the night.
Night driving wasn't the most desirable thing to be doing in India, but we did notice that the towns here seemed much cleaner and less prone to large slums than what we'd seen in much of India up to this point.
As we were headed up the hills on the winding mountainous roads, we noticed there was a large male deer with huge antlers on the road. Fortunately, this occurred at a straightaway where Dennis slowed down with plenty of time to spare so the deer in the headlights could stop being dazed and finish crossing the road.
This was one of my concerns with driving in the dark in the presence of deer, especially in light of my deer incident
, which happened during the day time!
At 9:15pm, we arrived at the resort. When we checked into our room, we noticed there was a partial view of the falls through the darkness. We could also hear the falls thundering as Kerala had received some heavy rains under the influence of Cyclone Phyan. And the locals confirmed that monsoons this late in the year were very unusual and clearly blamed Global Warming for it.
As for the room and resort itself, I couldn't contain my laughter as it was totally posh and resorty, and it was completely unlike the dumps we had been staying at for the past two nights in Karnataka state. All this prompted me to say, "Kerala is definitely not Karnataka!" And this certainly made us feel a little better about the last few days we're having in India...
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