Badami caves, in the heart of Selfiestan

India is sometimes also known as Hindustan, and has regions such as Rajasthan. ‘Stan’ means ‘land of’.

Selfiestan was a word I picked up from a road-side advertising board, it seemed to suit how India had changed since our last visit in 2011: everyone was taking selfies, and everyone had much better phones than me!

We all loved Badami, the caves were great, our hotel was good with great food and the place didn’t have any western tourists…well, there were 3…us. It does seem strange that we’re at our most comfortable when we’re the only westerners in any particular place, not sure why this is, but we’ve noticed it several times. The lack of westerners and particularly blond-ish haired teenagers was clear when it came to the photo requests.

Badami, up to this point, was the worst – or is it best? – place for photo requests. Most of the time we didn’t mind, and only once or twice we said no for some reason or another. We certainly didn’t mind the requests, it was the candid shots without a request we did mind and it wasn’t a surprise as I try to always ask permission before taking someone’s photo. Except that I’m quite shy in this regard which is why you’ll see very few people photos in my collections.

Here’s a little video of the caves, the surroundings and a few photo requests:

Aihole and Pattadkal

No real time to write about about these two places, except…

They are superb, and we especially liked the spread out ruins of Aihole. Pattadkal was also great but much more compact and remind Jane and I very much of Khajuraho.

Here’s some pictures:

Amy at Aihole:

I loved this carving:

A very old step well:

Cow adorned with India’s flag colours:

Amy and Jane looking at the dusty town of Aihole:


Badami Caves and the ‘I’d rather live in your country’ conversation

A few things drew us to visiting Badami: its rock caves – something we enjoyed in Ajanta and Ellora; its closeness to Hampi – which we loved last trip; its nearby temples at Pattadkal; it was a halfway stopping point between Mysore and Mumbai.

We’d had a great overnight train journey, sharing our 6 berth area of the train with two chaps who joined at Bangalore (two hours after Mysore) and stayed with us all the way. Whilst their thick accents were at times very difficult to understand they were fascinated by our ways of life in England in comparison to theirs. They started off saying how wealthy our country is, just viewed from TV/films, but once we’d told them how our life is they changed their minds, surprised that our kids are unlikely to own any land or a home, and the student debts they’ll carry for most of their lives. I think we all agreed that India’s focus on family before than money was for the better. I love that there is no quibble in India if a relative needs your help you just do it, putting up with hardships for the benefit of others. I’m not confident the majority of the UK is the same, I see this around me, instead of caring for elders it’s easier to spend money than time, it’s easier to put them in a home than put up with caring for them in their/your house. It’s easier to blame a busy life on not having the time to call the lonely parent. Makes me quite sad.

Anyway, on to Badami, or Bad Amy as we like to call it.

Arriving at our hotel, the Heritage Resort – its lovely – at 8am and they check us into our room and I fall asleep for two hours, catching up on the intermittent sleep on the train. A little food and we catch a ride into town.

Badami’s quite different from a transport point-of-view as there’s no empty tuktuks plying the road between us and the town. They’re all much bigger ones and everyone shares, there’s no personal hiring arrangements here. Our hotel guy crosses the road with us, stops a tuktuk and tells him to take us to town for Rs30 for all. The price comes back as Rs80 (£1) to drop the other passengers off in town and take us on another 1km to the cave entrance. Seems, fair enough, we’ll do it.

The UNESCO World Heritage Site caves cost Rs200 (£2.50) each to get in, 7 times that of a local, but still no money to us. Although the irony is that many locals who visit here drive here from Bangalore in their Audis, they’ve clearly got more money than us.

Rather than tell you all about the caves I’ll use pictures, but as an overview, there’s 4 temples built high into the rock, dating back possibly to the 6th century, some caves have only been discovered in the last couple of years.

Jane and Amy enjoying visiting the caves:

The view across from the caves, more stuff to visit although we ran out of time:

Jane and Amy, a respite from ‘selfies’ with the locals, to get hounded by photo requests from me 😀

Down at the lake for a drink break, watching the women wash and dry their saris:

A stroll from the caves to town, through the market with its vibrant colours:

This kid saw my camera and asked me to take a photo of her, that’s handy, thanks:

Badami caves turned out to be the place with the most photo requests so far on the trip, though Mumbai was soon to change that:

Type 1 Diabetes didn’t stop Amy backpacking in India

If I’m honest I thought I’d be doing lots more posts about how Type 1 Diabetes affected our trip, which ends in 3 days. Although we backpacked in India in 2011, 8 months after Amy’s diagnosis, this trip involved more trains, lower class hotels/homestays and we’ve visited more middle-of-nowhere places far away from big cities and their big hospitals. It was also the first one where she is using an insulin pump.

Here’s a picture of Amy at 7am after 15 hours on a train, as we reached our penultimate stop of Badami, well off the beaten path.

If you think about all the potential problems too long, you’d never travel very far at all: the potential loss of much needed medical kit; electronic medical devices failing; consquences of small issues turning into larger ones; worries about not having a major hospital within a few minutes drive; running out of insulin; running out of acceptable glucose treatments; getting food poisoning and potential DKA hospitalisation. And that’s on top off all the normal day-to-day management issues faced.

Well, honestly, we did think about all of the above, we did worry about them (a lot), where possible we planned for each potential issue, but once we’d planned or thought about it we decided to no longer worry about it.

Diabetes-wise: she’s had a few hypers, often waking around 11 mmol (probably down to purposefully underestimating carbs); very few hypos (we’ve still got the European Dextro Mountain in our rucksacks); ketones of 0.6 or lower only twice; one failed set highlighted by pump occlusion warnings and caused by a bent cannula; one set which came off, probably due to heat/humidity. Fantastic going considering that everything is laced with sugar and/or ghee and it’s hard to buy a diet drink where we’ve been, so many full-‘fat’ sodas have been consumed. Throughout the trip Jane and I have had very little involvement as Amy’s managed her diabetes by herself, doing exceedingly well with the carbohydrate guessing game. Amy’s not been wearing CGM for this trip and we’ve not been using Nightscout, it’s all been down to finger-stick checks.

It’s been a wonderful trip.

Nothing has stopped 16 year old Amy from having a brilliant time, doing many life ‘firsts’ – she’s kept a list which runs at over 50 things so far – and gaining such wonderful insights into different cultures, people, food and ways of life.

And one of her highlights of the trip, well, it’s got to be this:

NOTE: For the animal welfare concerned people: this was in an elephant santuary and rescue centre, where elephants are cared for very well. In fact, they’d all be dead if the sanctuary had not rescued them as not many are willing to take on the £50 a day feeding/caring cost of elephant who is not allowed to work. All walks are conducted in the forest, the elephants are fed and bathed well, and the mahouts treat them very well indeed.

Schoolkid humour at place names all the way in India

The names of many towns in India have been translated into English from their native pronunciation in languages like Tamil, Kannada, Malayalam and Hindi. Then many of them have been relatively recently renamed back since independence with Great Britain. As an example, Mysore is now Mysuru, Bangalore is now Bengaluru, Bombay is now Mumbai. What’s interesting for me about all of these is that all locals refer to the old name, regardless of age. What he a very long chat with two guys sharing our compartment in the train two nights ago and every time we said Mysuru, they said Mysore, everytime we said Mumbai, they said Bombay.

Some places are also quite humourous to us.

Let’s start with the place we’re currently at: Badami, pronounced badda-me.
Now, Badami isn’t funny really but when you’re travelling with your well-behaved-daughter named Amy, it then becomes ironic Bad-Amy.

Today we visited a great set of monuments named Pattadkal, or Pattakal, or Pattadakal, or Pattadkali, Pattada Kallu, all spellings used for the same place. That’s not funny of course but just beforehand we went to the spreadout set of ruins in the town named Aihole. Now, if I’m honest I have no clue how this is really pronounced, but for us it’s A-hole.

Special mention should be given to Aihole’s Kunti temple, see ‘J’ above.

Saving the best for last, it can only be the place we travelled through 5 days ago on our way from Periyar to Madurai.

Ladies and Gentlemen, I give you…
*spits out tea*

Kochi’s Kathakali Culture Show

Way back many days ago in Kochi – we’ve stayed in 4 hotels since then – we spent our last evening at a Kathakali culture show. Kathakali is an ancient method of dancing which is probably fab, if you like that sort of thing, or more importantly, you go and see a different performance. For us this was, well, erm, dull and surprisingly both Jane and Amy wanted to leave early, although to be fair this was still 90 minutes into a performance which is probably still going on now as it showed no signs of finishing anytime soon.

We watched the actors ply themselves with the Kathakali make-up, that was interesting. Then we got demonstrations of the eye movements (very interesting), hand movements (not so much) and expressions of emotions (standard).

Watch the video to see how fast the actor can move his eyes, it’s pretty amazing.

Long story cut short: I won’t be attending a Kathakali evening anytime in the (not so) distant future.

Indian railway stations and a very long walk

Having just completed our penultimate overnight sleeper train – this one took 15 hours, from 4pm to 7am, to take us 733kms to Badami – I thought you might enjoy seeing a little bit of Madurai railway station, some trains and then laugh at our long walk.

To explain the long walk: when you book a train you know exactly which carriage and which seat is yours, it’s possible to view online stuff to see exactly where your carriage is likely to be, in this case we knew we would be carriage 4 of 23. So we positioned ourselves accordingly, using the signs on the station to get to where the fourth carriage should stop. BUT, our train was going in the opposite direction so we were positioned where carriage 19 of 23 would stop. Cue, a little stroll, carrying 18kgs, 500 metres up the platform.

Badami accommodation – Heritage Resort

Rs3000 £36
It’s always been a toss up whether to stay in the center of this apparently dusty town – I don’t know, we’e not visited it yet – or to stay 2km outside Badami at this hotel, The Heritage Resort, which is a small hotel with one block with a/c and non-a/c – like ours – rooms, or the nicer looking cottages. The room decision is easy for us: a/c isn’t really required as it’s only 30C here right now, positively cool compared to some places we’ve stayed – and the room we’ve got is a proper 3 bed room, whereas the cottages would need a mattress on the ground, something Amy would prefer not to have.
At the time of writing it was apparently top out of 6 B&B’s – although it’s not a B&B, it’s a hotel – and averaged 4 stars from it’s 233 reviews. Some reviews slated the restaurant here but we’ve just eaten a hearty breakfast and it was delicious, going to prove you should rely on everything you read.

Kev gets a new job in India

I’m not one to really have a bucket list, I either do it, plan to do it soon or shut up about it…well for most things.

There was one thing though… I’ve always fancied driving an autorickshaw / tuk-tuk.

Well, today I got the chance.

Yesterday we got an autorickshaw from our hotel in Mysore for Rs70 (I gave him Rs100, that’s £1.15) with a driver named Pappu, well I think that’s what he said. Pappu was very informative on the way, pointing out places and when we arrived at KR Circle, the happening place in the center of town, he gave us lots of warnings about scams and how to be careful. We liked Pappu. He asked if he could drive us around all day for today, total cost Rs500. Without even trying to bargain him down from £6 (for all day!) I agreed.

Our second stop today was at the huge Lalita Mahal Palace and after some lunch I went outside to photograph the building whilst Jane and Amy went to view the Viceroy’s suite. They looked out of the window and saw Pappu driving around and around the large empty driveway and parking area in front of the hotel.

Except it wasn’t Pappu, it was me, he was teaching me to drive his tuk-tuk. I had purposefully engineered the situation, asking him how difficult it was to drive, “I used to have a motorbike, the throttle and brake are the same”, “ah does the left grip control the gears and the lever is for the clutch?”. Pappu said “come on, sit here, I’ll show you”.

That’s me in front of our own small hotel, the Green Hotel, which is rather lovely.

This was seriously good fun, I loved it.

And here’s the video:

Madurai and the Meenakshi Temple

After three lovely days near Periyar we headed off in a taxi to the 2500 year old city of Madurai, dropping down very quickly from the cool 1200m-above-sea-level zone to the tropical plains of Tamil Nadu. Three hours later and we arrived in Madurai, mad, busy, noisy Madurai. It’s not like Madurai is any different from other cities but after spending the last four days in serene countryside the noise was deafening.

Straight off to the railway station to check our rucksacks ahead of our overnight train several hours later and then it’s time for some food at the rated Kumar Mess and shopping at Chennai Silks, which is massive.

After lunch and shopping we head straight for the Meenakshi Temple which was potentially built in the 7th century, making it the oldest temple I’ve visited. It’s 1:30pm, it’s closed until 4pm, or is 2:30pm or is it 3pm. It’s so confusing, even the entrance guards don’t know when it opens. Either way we’ve got time to kill, it’s boiling hot, it looks like it’s going to rain and we’ve got nothing particular to do. Ok then, time for more shopping I’m informed.

Foreigners only have to pay Rs50 (65 pence) to visit the inner temple, the outer courtyard is free, but we are quite rightly restricted to the non-sacred parts. In the outer courtyard there’s a queue for the inner courtyard, it’s very long but instead of queueing we decide to go for a little walk around it. At the entrance it turns out you can queue for 1 minute and pay the Rs50 to get in, it turns out queueing gets you in for free…after about an hour.

What we can see of the temple complex is stunning, its painted ceilings, its ghats, the carved pillars, all of it. With only so much to see we didn’t spend long here and we left feeling happy to have visited such an historic pla

Afterwards we headed to the Hotel Supreme’s rooftop restaurant where it duly pissed it down, leaving us to eat at a table just under shelter, watching the rain and lightning over the Meenakshi Temple a few yards away. We had a great meal and Jane’s Kashmiri Naan, with its layers of fruit, nuts and raisins went down very well.

Here’s a little video of the template: