Sunday, 24 October 2010
After doing some standard touristy things in Delhi, such as bumping into cool people from Bath that I met in Varanasi (only, what, 12-14 million people in Delhi? Pretty likely really) and being attacked by small children, I got my train to Ahmedabad.
There's something I really enjoy about the actual act of travelling. Sure it can be stressful - missed flights, delayed trains, psychotic bus drivers - but just watching the world go by can be immensely... satisfying somehow.
Take the Ahmedabad-Diu trip - I woke about an hour before we arrived. And, all passing by in fleeting seconds: thousands of steel tubes, big enough to walk through, hundreds of metres long in an enormous field; an entire school of uniformed children doing star jumps to the beat of a gigantic drum; intricately detailed psychedelic Enfield-rickshaw hybrids roaring past; a large ring of men dancing to an audience. Cows, oxen and buffalo pulling carts, pigs and hogs snuffling in the debris. The old man lying on the street with nothing but bones and a beard.
No reliving it, no going back to visit, no phone numbers, no emails addresses, no photos, no names. Just image after image washing past, rolling out of reach. But in a good way. Life going on.
Well that was pretty wiffley and airy fairy, back to reality. Brief review of Ahmedabad: I kinda liked it but I have no idea why. There was nothing to do, or see, no other travellers to socialise with and the place smelt funny. But I still sort of liked it - the casual confidence that is characteristic of Indians has settled upon the place in a type of airy, easy grace. Not a place I'd want to spend much time in though.
Anyways, now I'm in Diu, and it is FRIGGIN' AWESOME. It's a tiny island less than 10 miles across that was under Portuguese rule until '61, and it really shows. The Indo-Mediterranean vibe is bizarre, and lovely. Perhaps it's just that it's an oasis in the desert of chaos that is India, but it seems like a mini paradise - after nearly 2 weeks in Delhi anyhow.
I'm staying at the top of an old church that you can scramble around and explore, my view every morning is brilliant sun shining on a scattering of eccentrically multicoloured Mediterranean-style houses, the odd church, some palm trees, and then the Arabian sea. It's sunny and hot every day but with a nice ocean breeze, there are sandy, empty beaches and the sea is warm. It's quiet, barely any people, no touts, no rickshaws, no cars, no horns, no rubbish. Beer is very cheap and plentiful. They even take siestas here. Basically, if the church I'm staying in had wifi - nothing personal guys, but I wouldn't be coming back.
My daily routine at the moment is: wake up mid-morning, have breakfast somewhere, trundle along on the bike I've hired to a beach, swim and read in the sun, trundle along again to a nice restaurant, eat some awesome food, trundle some more, maybe explore the island a bit, trundle home, drink 60p beers and eat freshly caught shark (gorgeous), then pass out in the wee hours after talking a lot of nonsense usually with a nice/interesting group of people. Rinse and repeat.
Talking of the people one meets - one of the brilliant things about hitch-hiking is that you tend to meet a glorious mix of the great and the eccentric (such as the Polish guy in Belgium who hadn't slept in 48 hrs, had a penchant for going the wrong way around roundabouts or skipping red lights - both at once on one memorable occasion - and fell asleep doing 120 km/hr on a motorway). Backpacking - especially in a place like India - although not quite so polarised, is similar. Meeting relaxed, friendly people that I genuinely enjoy spending time with is, if not common, at least a lot less rare than average. Also, the number of... 'interesting characters' you meet rises dramatically, which can vary from entertaining to frightening.
Take a fellow guest house resident; a smiley, down-to-earth, beer-loving Jordie in her late 30s. Or so I thought - last night she told me, in no uncertain terms, that she was an angel. 'I am God. I am here to save humanity.'
Delusions of grandeur, anyone? They were drunken ramblings perhaps (well, no perhaps about it actually) but still, I'd need something significantly stronger than beer to make me think I'm God. She was literally yelling 'Shut the FUCK UP, I don't care what any of you think, you're all inferior, I'm a celestial being.' Shouting at people mid-conversation to proclaim she was The Saviour. Certainly an interesting evening.
I think I had a point when I started writing about that but I've forgotten what it was, so I'll just leave you with some words spoken by Guillaume, a really nice French guy who was staying here in Diu the last week or so. Imagine the thick French accent.
"I am not religious, I do not believe in God but life, life is... is fucking strange, non?