(from Saturday the 10th of December, the wifi to upload has not been my pal!)
For some reason, we decided not to chill out in Goa and instead moved on to the next place on our agenda. Whilst in Anjuna, we booked ourselves a bus to Hampi, which is more mainland and further South. North Goa in general is a very party area (they claim that Psych Trance was invented in Anjuna in the ’90s…) and we really were not about that scene. The neon paint looked like it belonged at my Year 6 School Leaver’s Disco rather than an even relatively good party. We would rather have a week longer in a place we love than spend money on going out loads, so we realised we weren’t really in the right area for what we wanted: a nice chilled-out area with lots to explore. I know, are we teenaged or retired?! (Ironically, a large population of Anjuna was older ladies who had found themselves and were now teaching yoga).
In our experience, buses are really easy to book as there are travel agents everywhere. We have always been advised to book at least 2-3 days in advance as they will sell out. Unfortunately we have found that you can’t book online – where prices are way better – with a foreign card, but some of our new friends from Germany were luckily able to get their hostel host to book for them and then charge it to their room price, which is a good way of reducing the costs. We try a variety of travel agents to compare and make sure we’re not being mugged off! It seems to be common practice in touristy areas that price increases as the scale of skin colour gets whiter; and trust me, we are pretty white.
We got on a local bus from Anjuna to Mapusa, the biggest city in the area. The bus was metal and rattley and pretty packed, with the driver swerving like a maniac and Indian pop music blaring. I absolutely loved this despite the driver shouting at us to sit down faster – every single thing is so rushed in India! This journey was about 10 rupees a person so around 25p for us both which was fabulous; I would have taken being crammed onto the roof holding a chicken for that price. I have to say that I’ve never felt more uncomfortable in a place than I did in Mapusa. I hate that cultures can be destroyed by tourism, and that towns are totally taken over by it, but this place was utterly un-set up for any tourists at all.
The cafes were dark or up thin steps or underground, and I was looked at grossly everywhere. The men’s stares were really intimidating – I was wearing shorts which I understand is something they don’t see from any local women. Still, I can’t say that I think flashing an eyeful of my kneecaps means I deserve being looked at like a piece of meat.
We noticed our bags being eyed up and discussed, and we had to be wary of our belongings. Child beggars were approaching us which is obviously really hard to deal with as, whilst it is a horrible thing to see, we do know that they are often trained to say the right thing or act a certain way to play into the hands of tourists. I think it was just a culture shock to feel so intimidated and we just felt really uncomfortable, especially as there really were no cafes or parks or benches we could escape to in order to spend our extra time in. I will never take a British bench for granted again – you don’t know what you have until it’s gone. Plus, I’m really fiesty so if I’m ever cat called or stared at when I’m at home, the person will get an earful about it, so it’s really hard having to just suck it up.
We had to queue for about half an hour for money – but I have just found out that women are actually able to skip any queue for safety; especially if you are a traveller. I will be sashaying my way to the front of the queue next time and a part of me will die inside if it was just a joke and I have to queue with Ollie. We did about 3 transactions and for 6000 rupees (about £70/£80). This is against the rules but when we know there are no ATMs anywhere near where we are going, and a weekend is approaching (it feels like Harry Potter, no cash on Sundays), there is not a lot more we can do. We saw lots of people taking cash out on multiple cards so we are not alone in what we are doing! We had a look round in search of somewhere to eat, but just discovered dirt everywhere and no luck on a place to sit. Eventually we had to sit in about one of 3 cafes, which was dirty and they were cleaning the floor with their feet. Funnily enough there wasn’t one of the “we’ve passed the health and safety checks!” stickers in their window.
We used the public loos which they ripped us of for, as you have to pay to use them. Ollie was told it was one rupee but they charged me 10, which I completely denied. My friend Lydia saved my LIFE by telling me to bring a SheWee, so the squat toilets are not an issue! A woman was washing herself in the sink, which is completely bizarre but seems common here; literally undressing and scrubbing yourself from the feet up. I waited until she had walked away to use it, but when I stepped up she came back and launched herself at me, screaming at my face. I’m not much of a runner but I’m sure my pace out of those toilets could have got me into an Olympic qualifying round at the very least. Maybe Usain’s training is just being scared by crazy women in public loos.
Feeling thoroughly crap and run down, we found a wall outside an overpriced ice cream shop and sat there. Crossing the road to get there was a hilarious waiting game, trying to get up the courage to run in front of scooters and similar mental buses to the one we had been on earlier in the day. Luckily we have the mental age of 10 year olds so occupied ourselves with eye spy and thumb wars.
We winged it and went into a dimly-lit restaurant and ordered some veggie things we had never heard of. The food turned out to be incredible so the miserable grey cloud of a day finally had a silver lining. We ordered 4 litre bottles of water for the bus (I have honestly no idea why we got so much) and the waiter looked at us like we were insane. By this time we had to find the sleeper bus, which was a huge task in itself! As we arrived it pulled away, and the travel agents sent us on a goose chase to find it. We paired up with two lovely German girls, Claude and Mo, and had a chat about their travels whilst trying to find the bus, shooing away people offering rickshaws and water and maps along the way.
When you’re about to board a bus for 11 hours, I don’t think it’s too much to expect when you think there will be a toilet. Alas, there are none on Indian buses! Needless to say, the 4 water bottles went untouched. After a quick safety wee we were off, and lapped up the luxury of having a double bed on a bus. Indian pillows are basically bricks in a pillow case – and here the cases were cracked leather. We met Faith and Reuben, two English travellers from London, who were on our bus too.
After half an hour of the journey, the bus stopped and our curtains were opened, with the man shouting at us to leave the bus. We showed our tickets to prove that we were on the right bus, but he was having none of it. He did a lot of exasperated sighs with his hands in the air when we couldn’t understand his Hindi. My approach was to pretend I couldn’t understand, but when he repeatedly shouted “off!”, this act was pretty hard to keep up. In the pitch black and with no idea where we were, Ollie and I left the bus and luckily found that our “correct” bus had just pulled up, so we hopped straight on. The beds were far more luxurious so I stretched out as if I was being fed grapes in a chaise lounge instead of being thrown from side to side on a bus.
Many bumpy hours later with no sleep, we were blessed with a toilet break at a restaurant, before we got on again. We were in AC class (Air Conditioning), which costs more than regular, as we thought we would need this. For some ridiculous reason we packed absolutely nothing for the bus, and we couldn’t turn the air con off. Shivering in my vest and shorts, I got maybe half an hour of sleep! I would never go for AC again as it’s actually just freezing as opposed to pleasant. If you do go for air con, wear trousers and a jumper and take a blanket! Don’t be stupid and literally only pack enough water to refresh a camel.
Finally we arrived in beautiful Hampi and the driver started shouting for us to get off. Ollie got off just before me and as I stepped down, I was circled by men waving maps in my face and pulling my backpack and offering tuk tuk rides. I could feel that I looked like a deer in the headlights, with my eyes wide open and feeling completely overwhelmed. Ollie stepped over and had to shout “NO!” after lots of me politely turning them down, and they scuttled away. Whilst walking along, school children waved and asked our names, but I had no idea what they were saying so just replied saying “pardon?”. The rest of the walk had a soundtrack of shouts of “bye pardon!” as, bless their little hearts, they thought it was my name.
One tuk tuk driver followed us the whole way to the hostel, lying that it was on the other side of the river when it was really five minutes’ walk. He started planning our day and all the tuk tuk rides we would do when we had explicitly said no from the start, and continued to do so the whole time. They were not taking no for an answer. There was an adorable baby at the hostel which I played with whilst having a cup of coffee (which is weirdly very different to ours!) before we checked in and paid up, and headed to our room. We are now going for a nap to get some energy before heading out and about into Hampi – which just seems beautiful. I’ll let you know if it lives up to its scenery next time!
If you would like to watch this; Ollie vlogged it all just for you! Have a little click: