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Pete and Elaine's Travels

Hello all,
Welcome to our Travel page.
This is where we will try to keep a record of our travels beginning in 2011
-we will update it as often as we have time! Of course we are not continuously travelling, we come home after each journey!!!

Our first itinerary ;-
20th January to 23rd January, San Francisco
23rd January to 19th February, touring north and south islands of New Zealand
19th February fly to Sydney, Australia where we will be staying until 25th February,
26th February, land at Heathrow airport

Second journey;-
We took the caravan through Belgium, Switzerland and Italy, when we did lots of walking, sight seeing, painting and reading.

Third itinerary;-
To celebrate our Ruby wedding anniversary, on Wednesday September 7th 2011, we fly direct to China, with a short stopover in Dubai. On arrival in Beijing, we join the tour with Wendy Wu, spending the next month travelling the length and breadth of China.
We finish off the holiday with a couple of days in Dubai, returning home on October 7th.

Fourth journey;-
29th January to 16th February, South Africa
16th February to 20th February, Zambia

fifth journey:-
USA, September 4th to October 7th 2012

sixth journey:-
Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia, flying January 19th 2013

Seventh journey:-
India and Nepal, flying November 21st and returning December 5th

Eighth journey
Chile, flying January 22nd and returning 4th February

Ninth journey
Namibia, flying on July 24th and returning on August 11th

10th journey
would you believe it, the 10th and off to Western Australia on July 6th finishing off in Singapore on the way back

And so to the 11th adventure, Secret Lapland, January 20th to Monday 25th January 2016

Well unbelievably the twelfth journey, we fly 18th March to Myanmar via Bangkok, and cruise on the Irrawaddy until April 3rd

And onto journey 13, from October 7th to October 18th, the Silk Road in Uzbekistan.

Journey 14 begins on Monday 6th March, 2017 when we travel to Southern India.

Diary Entries

Monday, 27 March 2017

Location: Bengelurup, India

It is already 37 degrees and it is early morning as we leave Mysore on the last leg of the journey. The people are waiting for rain as last year there was only ten per cent of the rainfall in the monsoon. Drinking water will be rationed in April and May, the summer months. This will not apply to Mysore as there are plenty of rivers around. If farmers divert from rice growing to vegetable crops, they will get a water subsidy from the government.
Even the amusement parks have closed down because of lack of water. Yet the hotels don't seem to be affected. At the moment...

There was some water in the River Kaveri as we crossed one of the 200 year old bridges to get to the island which is the site of many battles against the British.

First stop was Darin Daulat Bagh, the summer garden palace of Tipu Sultan, the region's king. Built in 1784, it is rich in carvings and murals. Each of ithebpalace's sides have three arched openings. In the centre is a pillared verandah, convered with murals restored in 1855. One side shows scenes of battle and the other scenes from the court. Unusually there is a scene depicting the women smoking the hukkah pipes. There were also scenes of the rajah in howdahs on top of their elephants. The murals were first painted onto cotton which was then fixed onto the walls. They are in remarkable condition and very detailed giving such an insight into what was going on at the time.
The woodwork was carved and elegantly painted in richly coloured floral designs whilst the ceilings had touches of gold leaf.
Indians consider this metal auspicious and believe that wearing gold ornaments would ensure a long life. Traditionally motifs from nature are used in carvings. Some local mines in Karnataka were repositories of some of the largest gold deposits in the country. Due to the high price of gold, craftsmen mastered techniques of beating gold into gold leaf to turn into jewellery, some exquisite.
A lovely place to visit and also of interest was a small exhibition of drawings and paintings made by the British at the time.

We carried onto the nearby Srirangapattana Fort still on the island, which is now a ruin. A town has built up inside the ramparts. Part of the wall has been knocked down to allow vehicles to get inside the ramparts as the gates themselves are too narrow.
This was the site of several battles between Tipu Sultan known as the Tiger of Mysore, and the British. The British finally stormed the citadel in 1799 consolidating their power in Southern India.
Although in ruins, there are still places of interest:
...the stone marking the spot where the reamains of Tipu Sultan were found.
...Watergate, known as the hidden gate through which the British stormed
...Jamaica Masjid Mosque
...the ruins of Lal Mahal Palace which is still being excavated
...the concrete bunkers used to store the gunpowder
...and the ramparts themselves are intact in some places

From here we carried on the long drive to Bengeluru, our final stop. We stopped at a school to give out pencils , had a brief walk through some paddy fields and stopped at a KFC for a snack, another first experience for us!

Our final hotel is lovely, the Meridian and we could be anywhere in the world if it were not for the hooting outside from some of the five million cars in the city. Indeed there are ten million people here. It is the capital of Karnataka and is a huge industrial cosmopolitan city, 1000 feet above sea level.

And so this will be the last entry for this adventure.

Hindus believe that gods enter their homes and lives as guests so should be made welcome. Indeed we have received a warm welcome, smiles and respect from everyone, who have treated us like honoured guests. We have been privileged to see how the people live and feel that India is a must see place. As long as you go with an open mind and are prepared to learn and accept a very different culture, it will be a most fantastic and unforgettable experience.

A word of warning to would be travellers, please do not use Saga as your travel agent, it's organisation leaves a lot to be desired!!

Sunday, 26 March 2017

Location: Mysore, India

We like Mysore. It is such a vibrant city providing every sensation imaginable.

There is no industry allowed in the centre nor any building of high rise blocks.
There is a golf club and a race course. In October apparently there is a famous race derby. The government only allows betting inside of the race course.

In the heart of the city are lots of lovely colonial buildings which remain elegant in the wide tree lined streets.

In Mysore, there were nine huge palaces. Eight of them are now government administrative buildings and still well kept.

This morning, in 34 degrees of heat, we went to the biggest palace in India, the Amba Vilas Palace. The royal family still live in part of the palace. It is the fourth largest palace in the world, with Imperial Palace, Beijing, Versailles and one in Brunei being bigger.
The palace is still owned and maintained by the royal family, their wealth coming from the gold mine they owned before the government took it after independence.
Indeed his throne weighs 750 kg and 290 of those kg is gold leaf. It is guarded securely and only comes out in major festivals.
Much of the decoration incorporates gold leaf. A lot of the stained glass rooves were made from glass bought from Glasgow whilst the tiles on the floors came from Stoke on Trent. It was William Morris (and his company after he died ), who was commissioned to provide the decoration.
It is a magnificent place which exudes royal splendour. Every room is richly decorated and as sumptuous as the next. It is a treasure trove of arches, exquisite carvings, domes, turrets and colonnades, all designed by Henry Irving in 1898 to replace an earlier structure which was destroyed by fire.
We went from here to an art gallery which housed the last king's personal paintings. This we could easily have missed!

The bus finally dropped us off at the indoor market. .....a whole new world of auction type selling of every kind of fruit, vegetable and flowers, all really fresh, amongst a cacophony of sound and an onslaught of colour.

From here, another hilarious tuk tuk ride back to the hotel.

This evening, we returned to the place to see it transformed by thousands of light bulbs which enlivened the palace's grey exterior.

A fabulous sight.

Saturday, 25 March 2017

Location: Mysore, India

India is currently experiencing exceptional pre monsoon heat, 37 degrees in Bangalore and 40 in Mumbai. In Ooty it was 31 when we set off on our journey this morning with a lovely breeze. This climate is why it is popular with Indians.

The ride down from the hill stations was just as lovely as the way up, passing tea and coffee plantations and a wide variety of flowers by the side of the road. Once on the lower plains, we entered the wild life sanctuary of Bandipur. This is one of several reserves created to protect the last surviving tracts of tropical evergreen and deciduous forests of the Western Ghats. We also travelled through the adjacent MudumalI Sanctuary situated at the base of the Nigirii Hills. It is separated from Bandipur by the Moyar River but the landscape is just the same. Here you find dense forests of teak, laurel, rosewood and scrub jungle interspersed with grassland, swamps and bamboo.
The reserves are home to tigers, leopard, and numerous elephants amongst many other animals but we saw none of these. The wrong time of day and on a busy road, there was very little chance in the first place. We saw lots of monkeys and spotted deer, one wart hog and some domesticated elephants used by the rangers for forestry work.
Disappointing but as expected.

Once we had cleared the reserves, we went across the arid plains leading into Mysore, although with irrigation from the dams, there was plenty of agriculturL activity going on.

The city itself was virtually rebuilt in 1793 and has since developed into an important cultural centre renowned for its ivory produce, its silk weaving, sugar cane and sandlewood products. The latter all belong to the government as every tree has to be registered and counted for, even those in people's gardens.
The manufacture of Bacardi rum is also a prime industry.

As we came nearer to the city, we made a deviation to drive up to Chamundi Hill, 1000 feet above sea level. Years ago, pilgrims had to climb up 1000 steps to reach the temple on the top. Nowadays, there is a road which takes you to the temple complex. As it was a Saturday, the place was buzzing. There was quite an atmosphere with stalls of every kind including the sugar cane grinder and the stone carvers. One hilarious moment was when we saw a couple of langur monkeys diving into a parked coach which had its windows open. They searched through baggage finding food where they could before making their escape the same way that they got in!

The temple itself was the Chamindestivari temple built in the seventeenth century and is dedicated to Parvati. The hill is one of seven sacred hills and every Hindu must come to visit at least once in their lifetime. Non believers were actually allowed into see the idol, but on festival days, there can be thousands of pilgrims so the number of worshippers is regulated to 100,000, when people can be queuing for whole days to get into to make offerings to the idol.

Half way back down the hill we came upon the Nandi monolith, carved in 1659 out of a single boulder. It measures 25 feet long and 16 feet high. And is Shiva guardian. It is a richly decorated bull which looks black. This is from the oil used to keep it moist so that it does not crack in the heat. If it becomes imperfect, a Hindu will not worship it.
According to Hindu mythology, Nandi was ridden by Lord Shiva and is venerated for its strength, devotion and fertility. You are supposed to whisper a wish in its ear who in turn relates it to Shiva. However this is impossible to do as his ear is too high to reach!

We finished the day with a visit to our guide's house. He lives in the city with his wife and two children and we spent an hour and a half meeting his family being welcomed with refreshments and being entertained by his son who is a classical singer. The house was in a nice area of the city and was built by his wife's grandfather in the 1930's.The highlight was the trying on of saris topped with jasmine flowers for the hair.

All in all, a very entertaining visit but the more cynical amongst us thought that it was a way of enhancing his tip........

Friday, 24 March 2017

Location: Ooty, India

We drove out to the station to pick up the rack and pinion train to Coonoor, an hour and a half away by rail.

There was utter chaos at the station as people found their allotted seats, a real scrum with lots of complaints about lack of space etc, mmmm. I think many were frustrated because the dash to get good window seats was thwarted as we were allocated specific seats. I did have a naughty chuckle to myself....I had a good window However, people calmed down once we got going. We were surprised how many of the trees were eucalyptus. The tree was apparently introduced by the British as a cure for colds. The current government is now trying to radically reduce the tree which is widely used for timber. Its leaves cannot absorb water but are distilled for medicinal purposes and it is used for cooking.

Another surprise was the abundance of colourful flowers on much larger shrubs than those at home. The pointsetia here is a tree rather than the small plant that we get in England.

The journey was very pleasant and we got off with the crowds in Coonoor lower down the hills. Our bus was waiting to take us to Highfield Tea Plantation through the lovely scenery. We spent sometime learning about the tea growing business before going into the factory to watch the prices of turning the leaf into tea. There must be fantastic money in this business as there were beautiful villas in the plantations that we passed.

The bus drove us back up the hillside to Ooty and then the day turned bizarre. We were taken to :
..the waxworks, which were in a small shack and were dreadful
..St Stephens Church, built in 1829 for only the British, but it was closed so we spent a quarter of an hour looking round the cemetery!!
..the Botanical Gardens, which were lovely and well cared for, but it was packed.

Disappointingly, we did not get out to the Todas village. The Nilgiris is home to 18 tribal groups but it is the Todas who are the most remarkable. They have their own language and the elders are treated with great respect by lifting their right foot and putting it on one's head for their blessing. The home of the Todas is a small windowless construction which is barrel shaped hut and made of grass, bamboo and cane. Entry is through a small carved wooden door so small that it is only possible to crawl through it.

The Toda village itself is called a mund. We did see a couple of villagers begging outside of the Botanical Gardens so I suppose we can say that we have seen them!

Tomorrow we move onto Mysore. Hopefully the scenery coming down from the heights will be as lovely as it was coming up although Ooty itself has been a disappointment.

Thursday, 23 March 2017

Location: Ooty

The train journey today added a fascinating and new dimension to this experience of India. We had seats in the first class carriage and would not have liked to be in economy!!!! At least we had glass in the windows. Fortunately our seats were booked so we didn't have to join the long women's queue for tickets for ladies only seats.
The train itself left a lot to be desired but you could not fault the service. The train left at exactly the right time. Every five minutes, a tray of various foods would appear, then the ice cream man and then the drinks tray carried in a basket on someone's head. None of us dared to buy anything. Air conditioning came via a switch which turned a fan on which was bolted into the ceiling. At every station, the conductor comes along with his long print out on computer paper and marks the register of names matched to seats. A much needed practice as there was much confusion with people changing seats. A hilarious practice.
But the highlight for me came from another direction. Next to me sat an Indian man who spoke perfect English so we got chatting. It turned out that he was a producer on the Real Marigold Hotel series. He produced his phone and showed me a load of photos of the cast and what was going on behind the scenes when filming. He showed me some photos of himself in the series so I will certainly be looking out for him on the programme. He also showed me some photos of the filming he was currently doing with Joanna Lumley in India which is being broadcast in August/ September. He was such a lovely man and wrote a personalised message and autograph in my guide book of India. It made my day and I was the envy of the women in the group.
The actual journey took four hours and the seats were most uncomfortable. But we arrived at our destination in Coimbatore to the minute. And then for our next adventure. Getting off. What a scrum. The train only waits for three minutes before it moves off so there was much pushing and shoving by people who got on before we got off, and we had to jump off the train.
Utter chaos..
Coimbatore is just a big industrial city so we only stayed for lunch. We picked up our bus again and took the four hour journey up to Ooty at 7000 feet above sea level. It was a terrific drive with one hairpin bend after another past lush vegetation, grasslands, evergreen forests and tea plantations. Dotted here and thee were hill stations and hamlets. The road was lined with hordes of macaque monkeys apparently waiting to be fed by passing motorists.
Ooty is in an area called Nilgiris at the junction of the western and eastern Ghats. It is known as the Blue Mountains because of the lovely shrub kurunj which turns the hills blue with its blossoms every 12 years. There was some flowering and it was certainly a very pretty plant.
Ooty itself seemed a bit of a dump when we arrived but we haven't had time to explore yet so we may change our minds tomorrow.

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Recent Messages

From Mike and Anne
Hi glad your holiday is going well. Enjoying reading your blog interesting as ever. Looking on the bright side a 'dry' March will help with the medication xx
Response: Dry and searing heat, but much better than rain although there was a terrific downpour in the night. Hope all,is well
From Sister
Maybe it is really me, accompanying you surreptitiously to keep an eye on you. I have never been called 'scary' before, even by students. X
Response: Mmm, how do you know that!!
From sister
Looking forward, as always, to accompanying you on your journey. XX
Response: We have an Aunty Dotty look alike with us in the group, mannerisms the lot! How scary is that!!!!!!
From Sister
Delighted to be back on my vicarious travels. Sounds fascinating already. XX
Response: It all seems a bit surreal to be standing in these historic places dating back to the first century BC!
From Kathy & Ken
So jealous - looks like you had another amazing adventure x
Response: Keep stashing away the money whilst you work!!!!!
From Angela and Gilbert
What an experience, can't wait to view the pictures
Response: It was indeed! Now waiting at Bangkok airport for the flight home
From KB
Hola parents,

You look like are having a fab time. Just catching up on your blog. Keep safe xx
Response: Hello babbie
Am trying to get blog up to date, wifi very iffy, hope you had a good easter
From Sue Brockwell
Happy Easter. Sounds a fascinating hol. Now in Isle of Man. House with lovely views out to sea. Drive across island and lunch out next plan. X
Response: Ooh, we liked the Isle of Man, it was like going back in timehope the sun shines for you. It has been forty plus degrees here and feels hotter!
From Sister
Fascinating. Look forward to seeing the photographs. I think I would have been annoyed at being kept back because I was a girl, though. That would have gone against the grain. However, we have to respect cultural differences if we are visitors! XX
Response: Fascinating is the right word to use. Something to see at every turn
From Sue and Les
We are having a BBQ tonight a bit nearer home in the illustrious Padstow. We now have full family complement so not a dull moment. Glad you are having a great time. We are enjoying reading the updates.
Response: I hope it's Aussie style BBQ with plenty of steak and fish. Hope the weather is staying kind for you all, you must be well into the school holidays by now, looking forward to seeing you when we get home.
From JB
Brilliant story on 29th July Mother; did Nana never teach you not to get in cars with strangers (particularly naked ones)!
Response: Nan never knew any naked men I am sure!! I can just imaging her comment!!!! And
Well, I wouldn't have minded but he was over seventy and every inch of skin was a chocolate brown colour! When he got out of the car when we got to dad, his comment' I hope you don't mind your wife travelling in a car with a naked man' Father's comment..'No'
You will be pleased to know that your father has tried to outdo you with the hobo look, as he refused to shave, except he didn't look suave, just a slim version of Santa Claus in the making. Once it got hot, it started to itch and it all came off!!!!'no staying power
From Sandra/Dave
Pleased to read you are enjoying yourselves. Nipped round to yours, everything fine, lawn green and neatly trimmed. Weather here not good at the moment, rained most of yesterday, slightly better today. X
Response: Ouch, rain not good, we are now in the heat, 35 degrees, this has been quite an adventure with lots of stories to tell!!! Off,East tomorrow, we are finding that Australia doen't like yahoo so we are finding it difficult to get and send emails. Thank you so much for popping round to the house.
From Anne & Mike
Enjoying your blog. Glad your having a good time xx
Response: Hello both, tried to ring you before we came away but I guess you had not returned from your travels..hope you had a great time. We are now in Exmouth, wifi very difficult, am sitting in the visitors centre with 30 mins free wifi, will try to update blog when I can, all good here, have had a problem with a broken windscreen, stone from a road train didn't like us, all taped up, trying to get to Broome to sort it out...britz tried to send us to the nearest repair place which was 500 miles from here in the other direction! Just going to book a glass bottomed boat trip over the reef, they are trying to get us to go snorkelling but we wouldn't look cool with the woggle under our arms as we are not that confident swimmers
From Lynne
Looks like you are having a great time. It all sounds amazing. We look forward to reading some more! Continue to enjoy x it was lovely to see Christine and Charles We had a good catch up xx
Response: Are your jaws aching then???
You would also like it here! Just finished the first leg of the holiday, now for the northern bit and the heat. Ironic to be away in the British heatwave!
From Sister
Sounds fascinating. Interesting that Elaine's ancestors may have been among the earliest emigrants-albeit compulsory ones. XX
Response: I think compulsory might have been right, dodgy stock as Pete says!!
From Clare & Mart
Enjoy!! xx
Response: A fab place, you would both love this lifestyle. We'll let you know what the Motorhome holds in store for us!
From Sister
Sounds fascinating! Hope you find a woolly jumper shop! XX
Response: Yep, entrance to fish river canyon sold a fleece, weather now much warmer!!!!!!
From sister
Was there no room in your luggage allowance for me to curl up in a suitcase? Lovely to follow your travels again, anyway. XX
Response: Sorry, no room. It looks as if we shall have some splendid places to visit in the coming days.
From Mollie and Lindsay
Congratulations Elaine and Pete.
What a marvellous account of our wonderful holiday in India and Nepal. Greatly appreciated.
Tummy back to normal at last.
Many thanks for your hard work.
Mollie and Lindsay
Response: Nice to know that it brought back memories, mostly good ones I hope
From Doris
Glad to be back to my vicarious travelling-always fascinating and instructive. XX
Response: Vicarious might be the right word, this is a fascinating place...and tomorrow we leave India and are off to Nepal
From Barbara Keen
Hi Elaine& Pete

Read your log today, and it is a very good reminder of all we did and what we saw during our adventure.

Best Wishes Barbara&Reg Keen.xx
hope I got it right then!
From Sister
Hope the Cambodians are celebrating Pete's birthday in a traditional manner-whatever that may be. Happy Birthday! XXX
Response: Nope they do not celebrate birthdays, but the group have remembered him, very kind of them!
From Mike and Anne
Happy Birthday Pete don't let your advancing years spoil the rest of your holiday! Enjoy:-)
Response: Thank you both, he's had many comments on his advancing years, let's hope there are many more! Hope you are not too snowed in And all is well. Very hot indeed here, will be a shock to get home!!
From sister
Hope you bought me a North Face coat for £35- a nice long one preferably! XXXX
Response: Sorry can't carry more than one, had enough trouble haggling for that one
From Sister
Particularly enjoying the usual vicarious travel as it is snowy and icy here. Thank goodness for online groceries! Fascinating, as usual. I am sure I could have curled up small in your luggage. XXXX
Response: This holiday is again very different as we knew it would be .. The biggest surprise is the food which is delicious.. Many extra pounds will be gained I fear. So no online ordering for us when we get back.