I am finally on my tod, swallow’d up by the subcontinent somewhere beside the Bay of Bengal. Back in Hampi, Charlie felt too settled to move on. He’s found a hut for 50 rupees ran by this cheeky chillum-toking baba – in fact the place is called Baba Cafe – who sits on a matress in the all-day smoking said chillums. Charlie’s also furiously writing two books – his life story & an account of his trip to India. I don’t blame him, the place where he’s staying is gorgeous, right by a river & one of the bouldery hills. Thus, happy enough that he’s in safe hands, I’m now embracing the rest of this fabulous country & find myself properly alone for the first time in a good, good while. Its like someone lifted me up out of Edinburgh & a couple of cyclones later plonked me in Vizag – Visakapatnam’s nick-name.
Just over twenty -our hours ago I was in Hampi, contendly waiting at Smiley’s place, before being inundated by fifteen young-uns from Halifax & Leeds. The roses banter was friendly enough, but a Yorkshire lad did start to raise the banter levels the longer he had to wait for his eggs – ‘are you waiting for the chicken to lay them’ – followed by a rude comment as to my county persuasion. In fact, it was a decidedly busy session, for the police were yet again in town – this time with a couple of JCBS knocking down any restaurants & houses that had been built withouout permission. During all this I was told that the boat to the other side of the river (& freedom) had been cancell’d for the day – stranding me on Hampi Island. However, it evemtually came & with a few warm hugs & ‘happy journeys’ from the locals I was on my way. I collected my ticket from this travel agents – which had happy journey written on it – & was wished a happy journey by the seller. The ticket was 300 rupeees, But I’d had to pay bakshish to get the last seat on the train a week ago. I didn’t mind, because it took me where I wanted to go – the other option being a two week wait & a crappier route.
I caught a bus to Hospet. halting once when this oldish woman was trying to blag a free ride, & a loud argument ensued. Keen to continue, I bought her ticket (13 rupees) & we were happily trundling along when there was another screech to a halt. This time the bus had knocked a guy off his scooter. He was proper dazed & confused, with snot coming out of his nose, but a few bottles of water over his head & he was compus enough to begin an argument with the bus driver. Then we were all shunted off the bus onto another one & finally we made Hospet, where a big board above the station wished me a;
It was while waiting for my train to Gunttukal (where Id wouldchange for Vizag) that a very funny four hours began. There was this cute Israeli girl – a 24-year-old called Gal – who I approach’d, as one normally does when surrounded by Indians in a case of ‘I’ll watch your bag if you watch mine.’ I said I’d also ‘protect’ her from any cheezy sleezy men. Anyhow, & quite hypocritically, something happened on that train, a wee spot of Cupid I think, & found her gazing at me with these big, brown, dreamy eyes. The Indians around us thought us man & wife & after a while it actually felt like we were. Once at Guntakkal, we were stood on the bridge over the platforms, the sun just setting, & making out like crazy. Sensual spontaniety at its most romantic, yet I felt a wee bit hyporitical as her protector had ended up hitting on her. We had two more hours together. My train was heading east & hers was heading west to Mumbai & her flight to Tel Aviv. Unfortunatly the railway retiring rooms were closed (we were both up for it) so we found a bench on a quiet platform & hung out. She was a great kisser by the way.
After one last snog to the sound of engines & cacophonic tooting I left Gal & I got on a sleeper train to Vizag. For seventeen hours. The experience is worth doing & is an absolute neccessity in India. Ther’es plenty of food being touted up & down the aisles, from Iie cream & samosas to full meals & packets of sweet cherries, with the beggars not far behind; the blind, the limbless & the decrepit. There were also two ladyboys who did their weekly ‘shopping.’ They turn up with an agressive clap of hands & basically demand money off the men – which they invariably get. Apparently they are only allowed to do it on Fridays & Saturdays – something for the weekend I dare say.
Thus, I am now in Vizag, the so called ‘City of Destiny.’ So far its nothing special – but I’ve only seen the train station & a couple of streets. I’ve got the feeling, however, its gonna be a great place to hole up & explore for a few days!