Monday, May 28, 2007

A Quick update from Europe

We've had such great summer weather but today the weather has turned...It's a cold and rainy day in Hemmenhofen, Germany. I thought I may as well take the opurtunity and update the blog as you might think that we've dropped off the face of the earth.

I arrived in Frankfurt on the 16th of May, spent 2 days with Bernd and Marianne in Bad-Soden Salmunster. On the 18th I left for Plzen in the Czech Republic to spend 4 days with the Wood's. We spent a weekend in Karlovy Vary and a day visit to Prague. It was great to see Hayley, Colin and the girls and to see how they live and "just love" the Czech life. I arrived in Singen on the 22nd where Hans and Nola (Marc's Mom and Dad) collected me and on the 24th we collected Marc from the train station in Stuttgart.

We are leaving for Frankfurt on the 30th and on the 1st of June we leave for London. We will spend 5 days in London before returning to Bangalore on the 5th of June.

Detailed blog update to follow soonest!

Friday, May 11, 2007

Good Read - PS. I Love you

I thought PS I Love You was a fantastic read I couldn't put it down and whan I had to I couldn't wait to pick it up again to see what was next on Gerry's list. It was a funny and emotional book. I can't wait to read the next one "Where Rainbows End".

PS, I love you
by Cecelia Ahern

Holly's husband, Gerry of seven years dies after a losing fight with brain cancer. What then happens to Holly happens to many who are bereaved. Friends seem to not know what to say or do, and so the new widow is left to her own devices. A few close and cherished friends hang in there, to help Holly recover from a trauma she is not sure will ever end – and she is not even sure that she wants it to end. It is the “List” messages from Gerry that he leaves behind with a series of challenges to be carried out each month during the year following his death, which helps her through it.

PS. You might cry!!

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

Trip to Gokarna

On Thursday night the 6 of us started our journey to Gokarna. A train ride, 2 bus rides and a couple of auto rides later we arrived in Gokarna at OM Beach.

Click on the below two links for more photographs!

Not without a real (TII = This is India) story behind it though.
When I booked our tickets I had to carefully consider the option of how to get there, via which city and by which mode of transportation. After a lot of research on the internet and a discussion about it on the Sunday with the official at the train station, I went back on the Monday to finally book the sleeper for the 6 of us (all girls) to Hubli (an overnight train).

Marc dropped me and Edith off at the Cantonment railway station where we met up with Jacqueline and the other 3 girls (Lauren, Abigail and Naomi). We were all very excited and psyched ourselves up for a real “Indian Travel Experience”. We were standing on the platform looking around trying to make sense of the ticket e.g. what train we were on, what platform it would be leaving from etc. etc.

At about 10:52pm (Train is suppose to depart at 11pm) Edith asked someone and to our “shock/horror” and my embarrassment (as I booked the tickets) we were at the wrong station. It turns out that the official that helped me with purchasing the tickets neglected to tell me the most important detail; that the train was in fact NOT departing from the station where I bought the tickets. Go figure!!!

Needless to say we got to the Bangalore City Railway station in what could only be described as an auto chase (a dozen NDE’s (near death experiences) at least) within minutes.
We probably would have made it in time but after all of that our train was delayed. We finally pulled away from the station shortly after 12pm.

We arrive in Hubli at 9:30am where we climbed on two autos and headed for the new bus station where we got onto a bus to Ankolo.

From Ankolo we waited about 40min for a bus to Gokarna and from Gokarna we grabbed auto’s to OM beach. We finally reached OM beach at about 3:30pm. We dumped our bags in our rooms, put our bikini’s on and ordered a cold beer, while unwinding to the sound of the ocean which is about 10meters or less, from the OM Beach café. Namaste 083-862-57141

Namaste on OM Beach has rooms available. Dormitory style as well as “luxury” rooms. Jacqueline and co. shared rooms for Rs.150 = R13 per person (don’t think Edith and I would have been able to stomach the communal squat toilets for a whole weekend) so we opted for a “luxury” room each. The rooms are very basic but at Rs.450 = R75 per night you can’t really expect more. It was all I needed thought, I had a bed with a mosquito net, a fan and en suite bathroom (cold shower, which was actually great in the sweltering heat). O and don’t forget the visiting rat…

Saturday and Sunday was spent on the beach (posing for the occasional “oogler” that insisted on having us in their picture), reading, chasing cows of our beach towels (very funny), walks to Kudle Beach and to the top of the hill overlooking OM Beach and Halfmoon Beach and great lunches and dinners at the Om Beach Café.

Notice the "ooglers" in the background. I guess it must be really strange for them to see westerners in hardly any clothes on. But they go as far a following you arround. Always within a couple of meters away. I suppose it's just one of those cultural differences that are hard to get use to. "For us and for them"!

Naomi trying to get the cow off her towel.

Jaqueline singing us a song...

Edith took this amazing photo at a small temple in Gokorna!

Jacqueline, Edith and I took a taxi back from OM Beach to Hubli to save on traveling time and to ensure that we didn’t miss our train. We made a quick stop in Gokarna Town and then headed to Hubli. We had a quick bite to eat in hubli before we went to the train station where our train was surprisingly on time and ready for boarding.

We found our couch and our bunks with little hassle (thought it was too good to be true) when a guy kindly pointed out that we were on the S3 couch and our tickets are booked for S4. No problem, it was an honest mistake we thought and walked through to our couch. To our disappointment S4 wasn’t quite as nice as S3 and we had a man sleeping on one of the bunks in our section (feet on the floor) and the floor was wet.

We stood there for a few minutes, laughing, cursing our luck of having a drunk, passed out man with his fly open in our space (just hope that it wat "water" on the floor). We must have laughed and giggled so much that someone called the conductor who promptly escorted the very drunk man from train.

A family (Mom, dad, 3 sons) arrived and soon after the train started moving everyone settled down…everyone but ME as Pappa bear right next to me was snoring (sawing wood) so loudly, I didn’t sleep a wink. I tried the iPOD, finger in the ea; pillow over my head methods but alas no joy. When Edith heard me complaining loudly she offered me earplugs (THANKS, EDITH!!!) and I could finally block out enough of the snoring to catch 40 winks.

At 9:30am, Monday morning Marc was there to take us home to a hot “Dettol”shower.

THE END of our very exciting weekend in Gokarna! We had fun and I enjoyed every minute of it. Thanks, Girls…Oh and Humphrey.

Me, Edith, Naomi, Lauren, Abigail and Jacqueline....Really giving the "ooglers" something to look at ;-)

We had an absolutely fabulous time. I would have enjoyed staying a couple of days extra as there is so much to see and do around the area. Marc and I will definitely be planning another trip to Goa and Gokarna soon!

About Gokarna:
Gokarna is situated on the west coast of India, sout of Goa. Literally meaning the cow's ear, Gokarna is formed by the ear-shaped confluence of two rivers. Belief is also that the place derives its name due to Shiva emerging from the ears of the cow. Whatever the history or legend, Gokarna itself definitely has a certain 'aura' about it.

This place is famous for religious Hindu rituals, as well as it’s wonderful (and not so secluded anymore) beaches. These beaches are sparated by cliffs. There are four main beaches: Kudle beach, OM Beach, Halfmoon Beach and Paradise Beach.

OWC Pink Elephant Sale

I volunteered to help with the annual Pink Elephant Sale. We tagged the items a couple of weeks before and on the day of the sale we (I got Jacqueline to help out on the day) managed a table.

The event was held on Wednesday, 2 May. Nearly 95,000 rupees was raised for the OWC charities. Of the 86 boxes of donated clothing, toys, homewear and shoes, books, accessories etc. There were seventy empty boxes at the end of day. The remaining goods will be distributed to the OWC charities. Wednesday was truly a win-win day.

Everything moved seamlessly, giving credit to long hours of behind-the-scenes preparation work of all the volunteers.

I walked away with a few items myself which I’m very happy about. I’m looking forward to next year's sale!