Munnar is a beautifully cool lush green paradise elevated from India’s usual insufferable heat.
I forgot this when riding my scooter to the top of a mountain one morning around dawn.
It gets pretty darn chilly up there!
Munnar is a beautifully cool lush green paradise elevated from India’s usual insufferable heat.
To day is hoi. So I guess that makes it holi-day. I wasn’t there to celebrate Holi. I was there to photography other people celebrating Hoil. Trying to avoid being sprayed with permanent carcinogenic dye and powered paint would have been futile.
Some people seamed to end up with perfectly symmetrical complimentary colours making them wonderful photographic subjects. The locals however decided that dark green was my colour so I very soon began to look like the incredible hulk. Very fetching.
It seamed obvious that the best shots were to be obtained from in front of the crowed, from within the crowd or above the crowd. I however found myself behind the crowd.
I faced an interesting dilemma. I had decided to use a 50mm lens for its flexibility, but if I was going to get good shots I was going to have to get ‘stuck in’. Getting stuck in would have risked the camera getting wet.
The majority of other photographers had been sensible and were shooting from withing side plastic bags. I however was not. Instead I relied on my cat like reactions.
If powder came my way I pointed the lens down and cupped the lens with my palm. If water came my way I span around using my back as a shield and stooped bringing my arms in to afford as much protection as possible.
Having to be careful, meant that the amount of high energy action shots I could take was fairly limited, but I have yet to see the results of my efforts. Ideally i would have liked the 70-200 f2.8 and an ultra wide.
After 3 hrs I became weary and decided that I wished to return to the guest house to shower. However the crowd was blocking the road and I couldn’t get the scooter through so I was stuck.
Eventually after waiting for what seamed like an eternity I decided to run the gauntlet. The locals took great pleasure I showering the scooter with permanent dark blue and purple dye, which I have just discovered has bonded with the white paintwork and cannot be removed. I have yet to find out whether the scooter owner will try and fine me. I’m not sure how I can be held accountable to other people vandalizing the scooter with permanent dye, but I’m sure I’ll find out.
After arriving at Hampi I set off to find my guest house. I checked the sat nav and to my disappointment it read 45 mins walk away. Ouch. I couldn’t get a tuk tuk as I only had 50r in change.
I did enquire as to the cost but I was advised by someone I can only describe as a ‘wanker’ that it 600 rupees but I should pay in dollars as locals use rupees, tourist pay in dollars.
So I said fuck it and walked. It might have been ‘a bit’ unsensible considering the heat, the distance, and the weight I was carrying, but it wasn’t ‘very’ unsensible because I had water, suncream and a sat nav
Anyway as i waked through Hampi I was blown away by its beauty. I have got into the habit of expecting to be disappointed, but in truth all of the reviews of Hampi’s beauty don’t prepare you for the reality. It is a true paradise.
Upon reaching my guest house I discovered that I’m staying in a mud hut with a bambo roof. This isn’t a bad thing but it has an authenticity and character to it. I could probably do with out the cockroaches though. I still have a month before I need to get to kolkata, so I pretty much immediately decided to extend my stay from 4 nights to 7.
Time to do some landscape photography and chill in a place in India that IS actually nice. Well blow me
I’m going to need to hire a scooter to sus out this place. Turns out that although the guest house is 35 mins walk from the town, its only about 5 minutes walk from the prime photo locations that I’m going to be want to be visiting at dawn. So everything all worked out in the end. Bloody hell
It turns out that Hampi is a chilled out place. It has to be because of the heat. Apparently the thing to do is get stuff out of the way in the morning, hide away from the heat between 1pm and 4pm then get more shit done in the late afternoon, early evening. Suits me.
At some point today I decided to do some high altitude landscapes from the innocuously named ‘sunset point’, or more accurately Mathanga hill. From the name sunset point I imagined (which was obviously my first mistake as its the expectations thing again a gentle road to the top, with american teenagers making out in 60′s automobiles.
I had to take the scooter from my guest house to the local town, park up, hop across the river on the boulders. Climb the steps, go through the market and then look for the big fuck off pile of rocks. By this point I was beginning to think that I had miscalculated time. I reckoned it’d take me about 45 mins to get to the top and there was about 30 mins of sun left.
So I flagged down a tuk tuk and said “take me to the top of that” I thought I was getting a great deal at 50 rupees. However I he drove me to the bottom of the steps which took about 60 secs. I guess he saved me about 5 mins walk. Oh well I paid him his money and set off.
The steps were huge curbs of granite which had been wedged in place. They were not flat, not equally spaced and not easy to climb. And as for me and my imaginary roads, ha!
I raced up the steps stopping every 5 minutes for a water break and mini heart attack. As I got higher and higher something inside of me suddenly reminded me “I don’t like heights.” This hasn’t been a problem for a while, I had almost begun to think that my fear was cured, but oh no.
Eventually I got to within about 10-20 meters of the summit and noticed that the steps stopped. Instead the was one huge boulder right on the edge of a huge drop that someone had kindly etched out some shallow foot holes. I think my words to myself were ” you godda be fucking kinding right?”
I firmly decided that I was going no further. After a few minutes rest I realized why I was not letting myself proceed. It wasn’t the fear of hights, it was that I was weak at the knees with exertion, dehydrated, shaking with fear and had a huge camera bag.
So not proceeding at the point was completely rational, not irrational. Eventually my heart rate slowed down. I drank some water ,had a breather and thought “fuck it”
There were no hand holds, no rails , no nothing. So I did it. very slowly and very shakily.
I reached to top and i’d loved to say I felt exhilarated and like a hero for challenging my fear.
The truth is that I felt so sick with fear that I wanted to vomit. I tried to take photos but I couldn’t hold the camera straight because my hands were shaking so much.
I couldn’t relax at the top and calm down because I knew that I had to go through it again but in reverse.
I took a few photos and hung around to just before sunset, but didn’t stay for it to completely go down. It felt more of a survival priority to have more light on my decent then to watch another pretty sun set.
I descended on my bum shaking like a leaf. The two kids that had been selling water on the summit offered to help me which was nice of them, but I needed to do it on my own.
Needless to say i survived. All I had to do to get home was a cross the river again but in the dark which was fun (not). Luckily I had a torch. An then drive the scooter for kilometers of stony sand track in the complete dark avoiding other vehicles, which usually would have terrified me in its own right if I wasn’t so fecking relief not to be stuck on a boulder hill in the dark!
Today after Holi I decided to risk another sunset point. This time it was the one at Anjanhalli.
What is it they say about assumptions? Well I assumed that sunset points on Google maps meant at least they had a path leading too them.
I asked some random guy where the path was and he burst out laughing saying “You make your own path”
Bloody hell not again. So this cluster of huge boulders was rather smaller than the last one so I was less afraid of the height, but I wasn’t about to set of into the Hampi boulderscape with out a least a trail to follow.
So eventually I found what looked like it could possible be a trail and followed it. Got lost, started again, found another trail which seamed more promising. Eventually I got to what I thought was the top.
As sunset approached more and more people appeared. In hindsight I should have just waited at the car park for people to turn up and followed them. Ah well we live and learn.
I also realized that these young energetic people that obviously weren’t phased by heights one jot were higher up then me. There was another level up.
It couldn’t be that hard could it? Technically it probably wasn’t that difficult but it did involved jumping from one fuck off massive boulder to another fuck off massive boulder with a deadly drop between them.
The gaps were only a meter i reckon, but a meter starts to look a lot bigger depending on the size of the drop. The worse thing was that cursed voice in my head “what if my back foot slips as Im pushing off to jump?”. As i made this jump I started feeling scared and sick again and just said to myself “no, no, no more heights, enough is enough”
The chasm, jump looked even more scary on the way back because you were jumping a ‘v’ shape and the sides were steeper on the return. As I thought about doing it I felt myself beginning to panic, and started to believe that I could not do it, At that moment I just did it, because I had realized that thought was my enemy.
The journey down was a lot easier than the decent because I had others to follow. From now on I’m staying low down, unless there’s a road, a path, steps or a helpful Sherpa.
Today Tristán White and Sharon payed me a flying visit at my guest house in Sanapur. I went with them to see some cave paintings. After this we parted company. They are on their way back to Goa and then home. I am on my lonesome again. Thanks again you guys for keeping me company in Jaipur, Jodhpur, Anjuna and Hampi.
On my way back from Anegundi I stop of to climb up to Anja matha temple (Hanuman temple)
I remember someone saying “575 steps, I’m not doing that”. My internal dialogue however was saying “575 steps, steps?, its got steps!!! ”
It really wasn’t too hard, but then again I adopted the intelligent mature persons method of climbing the steps . I.e a 30 second break every 50 steps and a 1 minute break every 100 steps. Its not like it was a race of anything.
The view was just breath taking, awe inspiring, beautiful and magical. Yes, all of them. Its worth the over description. Luckily for me someone had put little cement walkaways in between the boulders, so I didn’t have to worry about jumping chasms or heights on this one.
I hung around long enough for golden hour but I couldn’t be bothered with the sunset. I think I’m all sunsetted out after the last two days.
Jodhpur actually seams like quite a pleasant friendly place though to be honest I’m not sure whether its India that has changed or me. A handy hint some one gave me last night is that when a kid asks for you to take their photo, say yes, that’ll be 10 rupees. I tried it a couple of times and I ended up with a pied piper following of children after me, some of the onlookers laughing and winking. I’ve love to leave it there as the end to a nice story, but unfortunately the kids being rather excitable ended up surrounding me and grabbing and pulling at me which was a bit full on. I ended up legging it. The next time I got asked for “just one photo”. I just said I’d run out of film lol
Here are some photos
Ok, right Pushkar does feel like a spiritual place one could even go so far as holy. There is deep sense of calm and peace to be found sitting by the lake. But….and this is a BIG but I has a very dark under current.
The beggars dress in orange and pass themselves as holymen, when I sense nothing holy about them. If you take their photo then they get angry and demand money which a true holy man would never do.
AND I’ve just been threatened. Probably by the mafia.
I went down to the lake to chill out and I saw a young girl who had fallen for the lake scam. Basically they give you a flower when you get off the bus, then they invite you to throw the flower in the lake. Then they do a little ritual, and give you a bangle and put some water on your head. Then boom they charge you $100.
I could see the shock hit this poor young girl. She nearly burst into tears at the high pressure sales. It started off with just the priest, but then his bouncer joined in to add to the pressure.
I didn’t intervene at this point as she had already decided to walk away, but I was ready to, if needed. I caught up with the girl and warned her of the scam. Unfortunately the bouncer herd me.
He said ” You make your choice, but you know nothing of the lake, DO NOT TRY AND DISSUADE OTHERS. Do not dissuade others, if you do it will be bad for you, very bad for you. You understand me? Now fuck off.”
This is the real Pushkar.
Every time I give someone the benefit of the doubt they let me down. Two women asked for their photo to be taken. I checked first. Do you want money? No. Are you trying to sell me something? No. So I took their photo and showed it to them. Then I got the “where you from” speal. Here it comes I thought. Then one of them tried to grab my hand and henna it. Yup. Thought so. Wish I had been wrong.
So, this morning I was up at 6:00 am to catch a bus to Jodhpur.
It turned out that it was a local bus which slowly snaked its way to jodpur stopping at every little town and village on the way. Even though the journey took 5 hrs rather than the expected 3, I chose to see it as a free tour of the local country side as a plus to the 200r (£2.40) I paid for the trip.
Previous to this journey, I had only experienced the locals as one dimensional beings. There were the school kids jammed into the tuk tuk for the ride home from school, The street hawkers peddling stuff that I cant imaging anyone wanting to buy, and the women selling grass, or fruit on the street side. Each day the school children were there, the hawkers were there and so were the street vendors.
In my mind they were always there. Since I always saw them in the same place at the same time, my mind never labeled them with more then one dimension.
But then came this bus ride. Street hawkers got on at one village carrying long staffs covered in little plastic bags of sickly pink candy floss, only to get off a few villages down the road. School children got on at one village and off at the next. Women got on the bus carrying curved blades, and steel cylinders with carry handles which I could only assume was their lunch. These women were off to the fields to cut grass, presumably which they would later sell at the market.
As an aside I had been a bit confused about women selling grass at the market, but slowly as i travel around India, things are becoming clearer. The women cut the grass in the morning and then presumably sell it on the streets later. Business owners then buy the grass and feed it to the cows which they presumably believe gives them good luck.
Anyway back to the story. Seeing these people at a different stage in the day enabled me to begin to see them as multi-dimensional. People with lives and jobs rather than people trying to get my cash.
which brings me on to the other matter. I spoke to some people that lived in pushkar which kindly explained to me the whole “seeing white people as a commodity rather than human beings” thing.
The natives see white people as stupid and having too much money. They have learned through experience that if they demand food or money from tourists, the majority will comply. So in our mind what we consider as compassion, the locals see as stupidity and ridicule us for it. There logic is If I demand money off tourists and they give it too me, then I would be stupid if I stopped demanding.
So the harsh reality is that if tourists ever want to enjoy India free from the touts, scammers, hawkers and beggars, it is our responsibility to either ignore them, or to engage in conversation and explain why there behavior is negative.
Until tourist actually change their behavior, we cant expect the locals to change theirs. I reality this is never going to happen, so holidaying in India will continue to be an unpleasant experience for many.
I have read that if you can last 3 weeks without throwing in the towel, then you eventually adapt to the reality of your environment, rather than struggle against it. I eagerly wait to find out if this will be true for me.
These are my favorite shots from Pushkar
I just had the most horrendous experience. I arrived in Jaipur. The 4 gb data and roaming I paid £30 for isn’t working. So I have no mobile phone and no google maps. So I paid a tuk tuk driver to take me to my guest house. At first I can’t find it. Then it turns out it stuck at the back of some grotty flats on the second floor. When I arrive there are two guys asleep on the floor who after 5 minutes gut up to serve me. They wont let me check the room before booking in. so I booked in and get taken to my room. Its a concrete prison sell. I sit down on the bed and my stomach starts to fill with dread and sickness. The doors are metal prison cell doors where you have to provide your own padlock. The cupboards are metal cabinets. The shelving are metal storage cabinets with newspaper on the shelves. Everything just feels so wrong. I cant connect to the wifi to access booking.com. Then the power goes off. I want to leave but its only 1.5 hours to sun set. Do I really want to be walking round an unfamiliar Indian city in the dark with no phone? fuck it, I needed to get out of there.
I said sorry and left. I started walking around Jaipur with my bags in the heat getting tireder and tireder. I found a hotel and asked if there were any rooms. They said “no, sorry sir, indians only”. I found another hotel and a guest house but got a weird look and a similar reply. Then I happened across what looked like a posh hotel, but I gave it a go anyway. I asked the price, but they said would I like to see the room first. Seamed like a good idea. The room seamed lovely. so asked the price. they said 1200 rupees. because I was stressed and tired I got my maths wrong and thought that was £140 so I said no and walked away. Then they dropped the price to 1000 rupees. I calmed down again and realized that that was only £12. Panic over. phew. Travelling can be stressful.
well I’d love to stay in this hotel, but the wifi is limited to 300mb a day. So I cant do any uploading of hi res images which is the whole point of being here
Well it doesn’t get any easier. Got up this morning and got out of my current hotel that didn’t provide toilet paper, towels, unlimited wifi, and whos staff didn’t speak English. I was determined to to make it to my new hotel on foot. maps.me said it was in one location and google maps and booking.com said it was in another. I walked to the first location and couldn’t find it. I walked round and round in circles but only functional map app I had was the one saying it was in another location 1.6 km away. Eventually I gave up and decided too walk to the second location. In the end I got so hot and tired I gave up and got in a taxi. He took me back to the first location. Apparently the name of the hotel that I’d been looking for was actually the name of the chain which was why I couldn’t find it. The hotel itself was called something completely different. Finally I made it into the hotel. I guess what. They had never herd of me and didn’t have my booking….after 10 minutes of nervousness and phone calls to booking.com it turned out that they hadn’t processed the booking yet….
I’m pretty sure I hate this country. Since I’ve been here I’ve been ‘trying to get it over with’ I’m not sure I’ve found anything enjoyable yet. its like being stuck in a small hot loud room full of thousands of flies and mosquitoes constantly buzzing in your face, and in your ears, and in your nose, and in your eyes. Constantly biting you and sucking your blood. I swear i’m not going to bother talking to anyone anymore. I’m going to ignore the lot of them. Constantly having to say no to tuk tuk drivers, shop owners and beggars is steeling energy I simply don’t have. They can all just fuck off. I’m coming very close to shouting fuck off at people. I miss Thailand. It it gets any worse here I might just leave and go there instead.
I’ve decided I need to chill the fuck out. Originally I’d booked this hotel for 3 days, but I need a pleasant stable environment for a bit. Basically I need to stop moving. So I’ve booked another 2 days. Ofcourse the price has doubled, but thats still only £20 a night. So I get 5 days in the same location. bloody luxury that. I hope Jaipur is going to be ok. So far i’ve spent about 5 hrs walking around it looking for a decent place to sleep…
I started ordering food by picking names that I recognized, dal, thali, korma, methi, masala, but I’m getting bored with eating the same stuff, so now I’m just pointing as stuff with an interesting name. I tried asking the waiters “whats in it?” but generally they don’t speak English so I’m just going for it. So far the only disappointments food wise are the two times I ordered thai. My experience is that indians have no idea what what a green or red curry is and make it up as they go along. As long as the resulting curry is green or red, they don’t seam to think anything else matters lol. My green curry was a a very dark green grass colour, full of peas and tasted of ‘generic indian curry’ I don’t think it had ever seen a coconut….
When I came to India I wanted to be self sufficient. Turns out you cant. not really. Not if you want to get good photos. All of the security stop you from taking photos if you are white and you have to bribe them to carry on. If you actually hire a reliable guide and tuk tuk driver they will not only argue with the security for you and tell them to stop being a dick, they will distract them whist you nip in to ‘out of bounds areas’ to get the shot. Interestingly enough, all the prime photospots are funnily enough out of bounds. Mmm.
Well just properly lost my temper for the first time. I was walking up a 45 degree incline, carrying one camera body, two lenses and a tripod, running out of water, against the clock, to reach the summit before sundown. A kid latched on to me and said “hey smoke smoke”. I wasn’t smoking, I didn’t have any cigarettes, which I told him, but he kept on relentless, ” hey smoke, smoke, hey smoke smoke” I just snapped. In a split second I could have either punched him in the face, or shouted in his face at the top of my voice. Luckily I’m not a violent person. These people push you and push you and push you without any any awareness of the effect they are having, or how stressed you are getting. If you pull a dogs tail you expect to get bitten. I don’t understand why people her think you can just keep pushing us. Quite frankly I’m getting sick of the prejudice in this country. Separate hotels for Indians, separate floors for eating at restaurants, security guards making up tourist tax fines all over the place. Quite frankly I don’t feel welcome here at all. They young kids are great though. I guess they haven’t learned all the bad habits yet. I young girl blew me a kiss from a balcony. I wanted to return it so not to be rude, however its seamed inappropriate so I didn’t.
Nearly slipped and broke my neck on a cow pat whilst crossing a busy main road. Yup. This is India. On the plus side I can now cross a crossroads in the dark, with traffic driving directly at me from all directions, constantly beeping their horns at me, and not flutter an eye lid. This is desensitization in the extreme. I expect I’ll be a different person when I do finally get home.
Here are some photos
So I’ve arrived at Agra and the best thing about Agra is there is not Deli. There is less pollution, a little less honking and less annoying tuk tuk drivers. A cow walked towards me and I tried to stroke its head but unfortunately it tried stick me with its horns so I won’t be making that mistake again.
It appears that I made a big mistake in not sorting out all my train tickets and guesthouses before arriving. It’s a nice idea to make things up as you go but the reality is that buying train tickets is such a pain I should’ve sorted out beforehand. I arrived at the train station I shared a taxi with another traveler, when I got my guesthouse I realised that I needed to go back to station the next day in order to buy a ticket before they ran out. I agreed a price of Rs.100 with the tuk tuk driver but when i got to the station he demanded 300 and he was very angry started waving his fists at me and shouting which wasn’t pleasant.
Later I decided to get a tuk tuk around the other side of the river to see the Taj Mahal. There is a road that takes you to the river which is free but it had been cordoned off and soldiers placed there to stop anybody looking at the Taj Mahal without paying. So I had to pay 200 Rupees to get a glimpse of the Taj Mahal through a barbed wire fence. So I took images to reflect my frustration.
I originally set up my camera on a tripod but I got told by security that was not allowd so I took it down. When I tried to leave the security wouldn’t let me and try to fine me for having a tripod, so I legged through the gate and dived into a waiting tuk tuk.
I’m not really interested in following the tourists and just shooting buildings like the Taj Mahal and Agra fort so I spend most the time here shooting in the Bazaars. Here are my favorites.
The full shoot can be seen on flickr
I’ve been in India four days now so I guess its time to update.
I was due to catch a tram at 15:00 on Wednesday to get to the coach station but the trams had been delayed because of a royal visit. This ment that I had to get a bus into town instead and lug my heavy backpack all the way across the city. It wasn’t too bad in the end as I have packed lighter than last time.
Once that little glitch was out of the way it was plain sailing from then on in.
I did feel a bit of a numpty on the flight. I began to second guess whether we were arriving at 11:40 in the morning or 11:40 at night as the planes shutters were open but the sky remained dark as we approached India.
I later learned that I was in a modern plane with auto tinting windows to help with the sleep wake cycle. Who knew.
My guest house is the Smyle Inn, Main bazaar, Paharganj. Its pretty basic. Not the best I’ve ever stayed in, but not the worse. I would’t stay here again.
I’ve spent most of my time so far shooting the markets in Old Delhi. To be honest its pretty horrible here.
The air is acidic and burns your eyes and throat. Its so very very noisy with the incessant car horn beeping. The streets smell of piss. You cant go anywhere without being hassled by taxi drivers and tuk tuk drivers. People will try and help you but they will all expect paying for it.
A gang tried to stop me entering New Delhi train station so They could fleece me no doubt. I just pushed past them. You’ve definitely got to have your wits about you. All in all its a pretty horrible place. Delhi is a noisy smelly crazy chaotic shit hole. If I had my way I’d avoid ever coming back here but unfortunately I need to return to fly home. That’s a way off for now though, but when it happens I may treat myself to staying in a nicer area.
Here are my favorite shots for now.
The manager of Evil Scarecrow put me on the guest list and gave me a photo pass. I thought I’d go along, listen to some good music and see what shots I could get
These are my favorites from the shoot.