Sunday, 23 March 2014


Hampi is a village set in the northern part of the state of Karnataka and is about 300 miles east of Goa.
It is set amongst the extensive ruins of the capital of a former empire here in the south of India, about 500 years ago. Temples and other monuments are all that are left. Another UNESCO Heritage Site, with about 500 monuments dotted around a large area. A river dissects the village, which is an agricultural area on the northern side of the river, with which the waters are used to irrigate the paddy fields, banana plantations and coconut groves, the views are stunning.

It is charismatic even in its ruined state and in particular is a magnet for backpackers, with bolder strewn hills, unique. An open museum!  Roof top restaurants catch the breezes, we sit about sipping milky chai, on mattresses strewn about for comfort, internet wi-fi and dozing, exchanging information and tales from our various travels. Handicraft sellers, massage, yoga, rock climbing, exploring the countryside in rickshaws and motor bikes. 

I did a home stay with a young family, which gave greater connectedness, seeing much more of their lifestyle and culture. A 100% vegetarian village, which suited me, although I would have preferred brown rice, which is nearly impossible to find in India. The German Bakery did an amazing range of cakes and genuine coffee. Vegetable curries, banana fritters, Mexican and Italian dishes, but no McDonalds!

First sighting of Hampi ruins

The street where I stayed

One of the rooftop restaurants to chill out at

A handicraft display with singing bowls and locks

Virupaksha Temple

Scene with Virupaksha Temple

Three colourful gentlemen at the Temple

Colourful buildings in one of the streets

Boulders behind the Main Street of Hampi

Animal traffic passing dow the main street

Cake display at the German Bakery

Another congested bus (health and safety?)

A yoga clas that I attended

A coracle to cross the river

View of irrigated paddy fields

Newly transplanted banana plantation

Bananas ready for collect and ripening

Women doing the family wash

Boulders as a backdrop to paddy fields

Tranquil rural scene

Bullocks used to plough

Me and my motor bike which was used to explore the countryside


Goa was for about 450 years a Portuguese possession on the West coast of India and was a major trading centre. Missionaries were amongst the earliet of early settlers. India annexed it in 1961. It was one of the major trading centres of Asia. Today the legacy of the Portuguese is plain to see in its architecture, it has a distinctive cuisine, many present day residents are devout, practising Catholics. Many bear surnames such as Lobo and Fernandez. The city of Old Goa had a population larger than that of Lisbon, or London. Known as "the Rome of the East. Malaria and other tropical diseases devastated the region. It is the smallest state in India, and is completely different. The large number of tourists, backpackers and long stayers have transformed the culture to more like a European one. Indian women from the big cities, for instance, will come here to wear a bikini which would just not happen anywhere else.

Today the largest group of the new arrivals are the Russians, when in the villages not only does one hear traders speaking Russian, but also I noticed the amount of display notices in Cyrillic. There are still quite a lot of long term stayers, many can be recognised by their leathery, tanned skins in villages like Chipora, a favourite spot from earlier times. I had a number of conversations with some of these residents, one Londoner told me he had been there for 26 years. He made a living from hand printed tee shirts, which met his modest needs. I liked to hang out there as there was a very friendly atmosphere. The days of the massive beach parties have largely died out. Vigata had a high, red rock cliff above the beach. I would perch there from where it was nice to catch the cooling breeze blowing off of the blue Arabian Sea.

II did not take the risk of riding a motor bike or scooter as there were so many dangerous drivers of all the other vehicles, fired up young tourists and the Indian who does not seem to follow any sort of road safety, or Highway Code. My slower reactions and disciplined riding would have led to my undoing. Driving is done from behind, a hoot means get out of the way, even though you do not know where to jump, left or right. It was bad enough as a pedestrian. Chock-a-block with buzzing engines.

I like the slow pace of life in Chipora, sauntering into the main area of cafes and bars to spent time have a meal, drink or smoke and staying chatting for long periods till late.

Holi is the spring, also known as the festival of colours and the festival of love. An ancient Hindu religious festival. Celebrated as a free for all carnival of colours, powdered paints mixed with water and chucked at everyone, all are fair game. Drums and musical music add to the happening. It signifies the triumph of good over evil.

                                              Part of Chipora's Main Street 

A group of Russians taking a break from paint throwing

Church of St Francis of Assisi dating from 1661

Side view of St Francis of Assisi

Part of the high altar, gaudy and gory. A UNESCO World Heritage site

Basilica of Bom Jesus, which holds the remains of St Francis Xavier

Interior of St Francis Xavier dating from 1605

St Francis of Assisi

Little temple in a local village

Body art of young Russian women

Clothing for motor cyclists

Street scene

Vegetable display

Lovely, delicious fresh fruit and so cheap

Hindu shrine in Chapora

The colourful street of bars and restaurants

Small Catholic Church in Vigata

Interior of Jungle Hostel, really surrounded by jungle

The breeze hits me as I look down on Vigata Beach

Sunset from Vigata Beach

Mumbai and Dharavi

Mumbai does not have a significant history, unlike Delhi and other cities on the North India Plain. In fact it was just a group of seven islands on the coast of the Arabian Sea. The city as it is constituted today can be traced back only just over 200 years, which is when the East India Company got involved, because of it's being closer to Britain than other available ports. Treaties, not unlike Hong Kong's, allowed a toe in the door. The seven islands were engineered into one joined up area into what we now know as Mumbai. The rest, as they say, is history, because of British military successes. Only two large buildings from that period exist, Gateway to India (1911), which became the exit door in 1948, at independence. The other is Victoria Terminus (1848), a truly massive and impressive monument to the British Empire, a railway station, it dwarfs Paddington in scale and grandure. A pic of both should appear below. Britain left behind, te railways, main road system, and legal sytm, all benefited Bitain, for example the railways were built at the expense of Indian taxpayers, but all dividends were paid in London.

I found Dharavi, where I spent two days, in what is the world's largest slum. A truly staggering 1 million  people living within an area of one square mile, making those who complain about Britain being overcrowded exaggerating somewhat! I was awed by the business, entrepreneur ness, both volume and intensity of this inner city. It is doomed in a city with has the highest land values in the world. A large new city of corporate high rises is taking shape, with all the infrastructure involved, surrounding this oases of real productive work. Many of the products that leave the area came in as recycling material. The population is 90% immigrants and communities that find it hard to live elsewhere. 60% are Muslims! the rest are made up of Dalits (Untouchables), Bangladeshis, Southern Indians and. Buddhists.

Most of these pictures came out in a bigger mess than usual, as I had problems uploading

External view of Hajali

Ali's Mosque with me looking suitably penitent

                                       The intensity of some of the worshipers was concerning

My guest house box in Colaba, Delhi, right next to the Taj that was part of a terrorist attack a few years 

      The of the magnificent Victoria Terminus Railway Station

                                              Ceremony in the Jain Temple

                                              Exterior of the Jain Temple

                                               Vitamin A gene added to carrots to help combat disease

                                                          Exterior of Hajali Mosque

                                              Procession to Hajali

                                              Spice and grain shop in Dharavi

                                              Religious garland shop in Dharavi

                                              Potters shop in Dharavi


                                               The open air dhaba (washing) area

                                                         Street in Dharavi

                                                          Tea and food shop

                                              Clothes manufacturing

                                              Finished clothes ready for dispatch

                                                    Leather safety glove manufacturer

                                               Mumbai Metro train interior

        India Gate entry point which eventually became the exit door for the British

                                     Leather being dyed. The acrid vapour caught in thr throat

Some locals with whom I had a pot of chai